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Fun with Coffee

Let me tell you about my great grandmother’s hair.

Wait, no, first let me tell you about my great grandmother.

  • She was Scottish. I mean really Scottish. Descended from the historical Lady Macbeth, her two children were Andrew, after Scotland’s patron saint and Bruce, as in Robert The.
  • In the middle of the Great Depression in New York City, she demanded and summarily received a large baby grand piano, which she moved around by getting on her hands and knees under it and crawling it to her desired location.
  • She was a devout Scottish Presbyterian until one fateful day when the choirmaster took away her solo. She flounced off to the Anglican Church across the street and that, friends and lovers, is How The Plumcakes Became Episcopalians.
  • Her hair, the same shade as mine, kept its natural espresso hue well into her seventies, though a colorist’s brush never touched her precious mamie bangs.

***record scratching to a stop***

…back the truck up.

Lady Macbeth Thing: Fine. I’ve met the women in my family and I assure you, all the perfumes of Arabia would not sweeten our collective hands.

The Piano Thing: again, fine. Not everyone suffered in the Depression, and it would go a long way towards explaining my atavistic urge to buy a baby grand piano in the middle of the last recession.

Flouncing off to the Episcopalians: Anyone who doubts the veracity of this has clearly never been in or near a church choir.

Deep brown tresses into her seventies: ay, there’s the rub.

It seem great grandmother Plumcake had a teensy trick. Instead of setting her hair in curlers, she’d set them around damp black teabags. Tinting her hair ever-so-slightly with each wash and set.

Her caffeinated little secret sprung to mind the other day.

Harsh water and daily dips in the Pacific have not been kind to my hair. While I understand natural summer highlights and beach textured hair are both sought after (for the latter, skip the spendy products and use what the runway hairstylists use: non-iodized salt dissolved in warm water. Apply with a spray bottle) my dark brown Eton crop does not benefit from either.

I’m not especially interested in coloring my hair, but I don’t want to lose its natural hue either, so, like my great-grandmother before me, I went to the kitchen to improvise.

Coffee Hair Tint

3 tablespoons instant coffee
2+/- tablespoons sour cream/plain yogurt
2 teaspoons hot water

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water and add enough sour cream to make a thick paste. Apply to towel-dried hair. Wrap hair in a shower cap, let sit at least an hour and wash out with a gentle shampoo in the coolest water you can stand.

Okay, those are the basic directions. Here’s what I did:
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The Good Sweatshops

They dot the east side of the marginally paved highway about an hour outside my village; yawning concrete warehouses, no windows, with faded names painted over the corrugated steel loading docks that also serve as doors. There’s no ventilation except for the open docks, and tired women in blue or maroon smocks shuffle along the side of the road to the bus stop or stand under the shade of a makeshift dragon fruit stand waiting for their rides.

These are the sweatshops of Mexico.

“But they’re the good ones!” Hot Latin Boy was quick to point out.

What is a good sweatshop, exactly?

I knew he’d worked in a not-so-good one when he was quite young –I’d say “barely legal” but he wasn’t legal at all, plus I always get creepy Googlers when I use phrases like that– sewing the left shoulder seam into t-shirts using a treadle machine. His best friend sewed the right.

A “good” sweatshop is one where you actually make minimum wage and they don’t hire kids under 12.

Here in Baja minimum wage is 57.46 pesos a day which translates to $3.97 USD as of last night. It’s the highest minimum wage in Mexico.

Four dollars a day.

There might be places in the world where that’s a good wage. Here, where goods are considerably more expensive than they are stateside, it’s not.

A gallon of milk here costs close to five dollars, a gallon of gas about four fifty.

Benefits are minimal, though some run on the old company store model and will sell you your medicine on credit…with interest, of course. Maternity leave? Protection against sexual harassment? Don’t count on it.

Come in late? They dock you an entire day’s pay.

Call in sick? Two days.

Now listen, I’m not going to get on my steel-reinforced soapbox any more than I already have. It’s dizzy up here and I’m still recovering from my fall last week.

We all pick our battles, and these sweatshops, along with their kinder, gentler (though not by much) cousins the maquineras do provide some income, though nowhere near a living wage, for families in need.

Plus, it’s hard out there for everyone now. Sure it’s easy to say only buy American or ethically-made, but if you’ve got fifteen dollars in your bank account and a kid who just outgrew his last pair of pants…well, priorities change. I get that.

All I’m saying is most of us have become more environmentally ethical consumers in the past decade and maybe it’s time to broaden that net.

We’ve moved away from the wasteful and toward the enduring, yet many of us still humble-brag about not spending That Kind of Money on clothes as we gladly pop into Old Navy to pick up a bit of cheap and cheerful that will be useless after four washes, happily ignoring the price of oppression, danger, systemic abuse and degradation that someone not lucky enough to be born into the first world had to pay so we could get that five dollar tee.

As many of us get ready to buy our summer wardrobes, I invite everyone to think a little more about what we’re saying when we hand over our money to a company that pays its workers so little that a day’s wage can’t buy a gallon of milk. Cheap, yes but not very cheerful.

 

It Doesn’t Get Better: A Note to Fat Kids, Former and Present.

It Gets Better is a noble sentiment, and maybe for some people part of a stigmatized group it’s true. I certainly hope it is.

But I’m not convinced it’s an accurate statement for the fat kids out there; especially not those who grow into fat adults.

For people of size, I’m not sure it does Get Better, at least not naturally.

Left to its own devices, the Western Beauty and Culture Machine will happily crush you underfoot –for your own good, of course– for being too big for their britches.

Everywhere you look there will be pop-up ads and billboards and interchangeable vapid reality TV “stars” admonishing you from photoshopped pages to change your body into something society deems acceptable. Only then will you get invited to the cool parties, have a partner who loves you and finally be worthy of full human status.

Oh, and don’t you dare be angry. They’re just doing it so you’ll feel better about you! They’re “just worried about your health”. Did they mention you have Such A Pretty Face? Did they make the Pointed Sigh?

Sigh.

It’s not like people really need much of a push to treat fat people as sub-human anyway. We’re manifestations of weakness, of the laziness and sloth they fear in themselves, we deserve our bad treatment because really, we’ve brought it upon ourselves. (You can try pointing out science refuting the claim that size is more than just a case of calories in vs. calories out, but be aware it’s dancing-with-a-pig futile in many if not most cases.)

Nope, you’re a lazy cow and there’s nothing sacred about cows in this culture: They just get slaughtered…or worse, slaughter themselves.

Bullying is now news, after too many –one is too many– kids, perceived or identifying as something other than cut-and-dried hetero, committed suicide.

But bullying, we all know, is not new news and it’s not solely the domain of gay kids.

Yet how many front page human interest stories do you hear about the plight of the fat kid being bullied in school?

Whither our tearful congressmen? Where’s the garment-rending when a bullied fat kid commits suicide?

More importantly, where are our 24-hour specialized hotlines to stop those suicides before they happen?

Tormenting fat kids is less of a headline and more of a forgivable rite of passage, swept neatly under the Children Can Be So Cruel rug (Children Can Be So Cruel, a fully-licensed subsidiary of Boys Will Be Boys and She Was Asking For It In That Skirt Partners, International)

Yeah, children can be so cruel.

Is it a newsflash that adults can be too?  The “War on Childhood Obesity”, however good its intentions might be, is just another way to codify and institutionalize size discrimination against the people least capable of defending their own interests: children.

Regardless of age, if you’re fat, Society, either openly or covertly, wants you to hate yourself thin. Except we can’t hate ourselves thin, at least not in the long term. Sometimes only thing that sticks from years of being hit in the head with the anti-fat hammer until our ears ring with self-hate is…guess what? Self hate.

So it’s hard to say It Gets Better because really, it’s going to get worse. Subtler, to be sure, but worse.

What’s the solution? We can’t wait for it to GET better. We have to MAKE it better.  Individually. Put on your own oxygen mask, then help your neighbor.

Make it better by applying a critical eye (and okay, sometimes a critical finger) to anti-fat bias.

Surround yourself with positive, thought-provoking friends and resources. Read The Fat Nutritionist. Understand Health at Every Size.

Reject any media that celebrates a culture where our bodies are punchlines and our feelings don’t count but still want our precious, precious dollars. I’m not the smartest girl on the block (and it’s not even a very big block) but even I have a problem with giving companies money to insult me.

Stop watching E! and its equally abysmal coterie (Those channels make you stupid. They just do. Read a book. Watch a documentary. Just step away from the “Reality TV” before mindless describes more than just your choice in entertainment).

For the love of all things holy, stop buying women’s magazines.

Watch the runway shows if you want to be up on fashion, at least you’ll only subject yourself to the models and not hot pink headlines offering quadruple chocolate fudge bombs, plastic surgery tips and “630 Ways To Drop Fifty Pounds By Thursday You Pathetic Spinster Cow!” on the same cover.

Find your own path, define your self BY yourself.

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My So-Called Feminist Eureka

Last month on Twitter, reader Leah Gates asked me to share my Feminist Eureka moment on the tumblr blog The Eureka Moment.

I didn’t have a eureka moment per se.

I never had that cinematic money shot where I jumped on my desk in the middle of my social studies exam and suddenly declared “This is patriarchal hegemonic bulls**t of the most rank and venomous order and, as God as my witness, this misogynistic outrage shall not stand!

After all, I was popular and being Popular While Fat, especially in high school was radical enough. I didn’t want to ruin my chances at Prom Queen.

The truth was, and still is,  I’m a pretty girly girl on the outside and my highly-polished candy shell has served me well.

It’s not fake.

I point that out because  we’ve all run into sugar-coated vipers from time to time — in the South their distinctive hiss is, of course, blessherheart— but I believe for every poisonous powder puff there are a dozen women just like me, whose almost cartoonish femininity is just one letter in their persona’s alphabet soup.

It has always been thus.

I loved classic movies as a kid.

I still do, but as pretty as Audrey Hepburn looked in all her Givenchy frocks, I never related to the easily-digestible non-threatening Professional Naif. Where were the female rugged individualists with opinions and guns to back them up? Except Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun. Screw that trick-shooting traitor.

Sure, I wanted to DRESS like Holly Golightly but I wanted to BE The Duke.

And as much as I wanted it, I knew it was out of reach and it was out of reach because the Rules were Different For Girls.

I didn’t even know what the rules were.

I knew they didn’t involve  pushing for the front of the line or trying out a new and exciting dirty words only to have it excused away with the mysterious “boys will be boys“.

I knew it involved being a Nice Girl, since the worst thing in the world –with repercussions so terrible I never exactly found out what they were– was to have your name whispered along with the pointedly capitalized phrase “Not a Nice Girl”.

Nice girls did (or more often didn’t) do this, that or the other thing and the finishing school finish line always kept moving.

I was walking a moving tightrope just to make sure I didn’t fall into perdition before the training wheels fell off my bra and yet somehow when my brother acted up it was —say it with me now— “Boys will be boys“.

Sure he got punished –I still can’t believe he thought making pornographic calls to 911 from a payphone and then hanging around the phone after was a good idea– but for he was punished his actions, not as a judgment against his character.

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Bullet-Dodging Fat, Cake and the Truth About Donkey Shows

There aren’t many situations where I’m grateful for my fat.

Other than when I’m clothes shopping or that brief moment of anxiety approaching an unusually narrow turnstile or arm chair, I don’t really think about my fat much at all.

For example:

I’m grateful for my Big Girl status now that I live in Mexico because it makes me potentially harder to kidnap.

Before you get all up on my magical-thinking Kool-Aid, I know there’s a whole mess of flawed logic that goes into this, not the least which is kidnapping isn’t a problem in my state.

Still, I imagine potential abductors seeing me –almost certainly bigger than they are in every regard and clearly able to cause some damage, not to mention the difficulty of transporting me– and opting for some smaller victim, at least until the day they can ransom by the kilo.

I’m also grateful for being fat when it comes to dating.

No, seriously.

I read Kate at Eat the Damn Cake’s hackle-raising article  The Chunky/Gorgeous Woman on the Subway and was flooded with borrowed anxiety and personal relief.

At one point Kate, a woman who was once quite thin and is now merely slender with the most adorable hint of belly, butt and boobs pointed out a gorgeous woman on the subway.

Her husband dismissed the woman as “chunky”.

Kate told him:

“It’s just hard. I am a lot heavier now. And the whole world is full of people who say ‘chunky.’ I am chunky. I am chunky and beautiful. And even if you don’t think I’m chunky—I want to be able to be chunky. I want to be able to gain more weight without having to feel ugly. And I don’t want it to be because I have a pretty face.”

Anxiety because I cannot imagine being in a relationship where my partner’s attraction to me would balance so precariously on body size with a relatively small margin of error, and relief because, for the most part, my larger-than-life size kicks those unacceptable applicants from the Get-Inside-My-Jeans pool before they’ve even inflated their floatie wings.

I’m sure Kate’s husband Bear would love and be attracted to her regardless of size, but I know of so many relationships where I’d be willing to bet my life savings (which you know means giving up my dreams of a bionic liver) that a woman’s weight gain of 30 pounds would spell splitsville for the couple.

Meanwhile, it’s been my experience men who are attracted to bigger bodies have a wider appreciation for variation and a swing of 30 pounds in either direction might not even register as long as she still packs an extra scoop in her sundae and her hourglass –provided she had one in the first place– still tells time.

Case in point:

When I went back to Austin in July to tell my stunned friends and family I was selling the Cadillac and moving to live on the beach in Mexico, there was a lot of cake.

There was International Move Stress Cake, Too Sick To Eat Anything Else Cake, Better Eat This Because They Don’t Have Real Texas Sheet Cake in Baja Cake, Goodbye We’ll Miss You Cake, Are You Really Sure You Want To Do This Cake, Vague Racist References to White Slave Trade Cake, New Birth Control Makes Me Want To Eat Everything Cake, Wake Up in the Middle of the Night Wondering If They Really Do Have Donkey Shows in Tijuana* Cake…I think you get the picture.

The upshot was, I gained 30 pounds from July to January.

I knew this wouldn’t bother Hot Latin Boy, my body has done crazy things since we met (and not just in the dirty way, though also totally in the dirty way) but since my vanity knows no limits, I was concerned the small stable of admirers I’d collected during my previous stay wouldn’t find me as attractive.

I still wasn’t going to give ’em any, but I still wanted them to want it.

And they did, so the Duchess of Neediness-Two-Bourbons was satisfied for another day.

 

Which isn’t to say my dating history as Professional Fat Girl has been all Ativan-covered roses.

Just like the FDA allows a certain number of grasshopper parts in your peanut butter, any romantic career spanning over a decade has to allow its share of freaks, pervs, fetishists and nogoodniks who spread rumors about you and several members of the Episcopal clergy having  such loud and enthusiastic orgies (clorgies?) at conventions that a bishop had to pass a resolution to make you bite the pillow. Fantastic had it been true –you can’t buy that sort of press– but more than a little worrisome when made up by someone whose five year plan includes the hope of ever seeing you topless.

I’d like to think most healthy relationships allow room for both partners to change both emotionally and physically, and that most of the men who  can’t find beauty in anything but the narrowest of spectrums end up broadening their horizons or weeding themselves out of the DNA buffet, but I know my size has let me dodge that bullet many times and for that…plus the whole kidnapping thing (hey, it’s worked so far)…I am grateful.

 

 

*They don’t. It’s a scam invented by enterprising taxi drivers in Tijuana’s red light district to take advantage of drunk tourists. They drive around racking up the fare, pretending they’re looking for the illegal event that is forever on the move, finally dropping the boozy pervs off at a barnyard animal-free strip club/brothel with which the drivers have an arrangement, but not before lightening their wallets considerably.

Five Great: Products for a Party Polished Neutral Lip Under $10

Fashion, like every curse, is cyclical, and makeup is no exception. We’ve been having a serious smudgy-eyes, slap of lipgloss moment for a little long while now. That’s great, but as the winter party season is getting into full swing, I’ve noticed the fine art of the polished neutral lip has eluded many, many women who really ought to know better and it’s leaving otherwise perfect party looks a bit haphazard and undone. Have we forgotten how to do an evening neutral?

A nude or neutral lip takes just as much effort as a bright. It’s the colors, not the technique, that changes. Here are the five products I use for my evening-appropriate neutral lip.


N.Y.C. Automatic Lip Pencil in Naughty Nude

I think I’ve already sung the praises of N.Y.C.’s Big Apple cream blush stick as a total game changer and the only blush I’ll ever love, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when this historically inexpensive drugstore brand produced what is essentially a duplicate of Chanel’s “Roux” lipliner with all the payoff at one-tenth of the price.

Naughty Nude is a warm toasted brown, a little darker than you might think you’d want for a neutral lip, but it translates to depth and richness, not darkness once you put it on.

I know it’s been the fashion to line your lips and then fill in with a pencil, but for this application I truly just line the outside and then fill in only the corners of my lips, smudging inward to create a more three-dimensional pout. This is especially handy if you’ve got flat or large lips like your pal Plummy. A bit of depth helps them from visually taking over your (my) face.


Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Rosy Nude

Is it just me, or has Revlon really been bringing their A game to the lip color scene recently?

I honestly can’t tell you the last time I’ve worn straight outta-the-tube lipstick on a regular basis. Probably not since Chanel reformulated my beloved “Energy” but Revlon might just change that.

Rosy Nude reminds me of nothing so much as the sort of lipstick models wear in commercials where they’re not supposed to be wearing any makeup and of course they just happen to look fresh and dewy and flawless because when you’re a model, you just roll out of bed looking camera ready (I, on the other hand, look like a tearful rhinoceros doing her best Winston Churchill impersonation…in a fright wig).

I also appreciate it’s fragrance-free.

It’s not that I really ever minded a little scent in my lipstick, and I know folks of a certain generation love the smell of old school lipstick, explaining the success of the pretty but surprisingly proletarian “Lipstick Rose” scent for Frederic Malle, but it’s nice to be able to pick a lipcolor without worrying whether it’s going to affect your sense of smell, taste or bother anyone you might be smooching.

Revlon ColorBurst Lipstick in Soft Nude

Don’t trust the Amazon image, which is much more lavender than the actual product. I’ve posted the image with the closest color reproduction I could find.

Muchas gracias to the original photographer.

On me, Soft Nude is considerably paler than my natural lip color, so it’s not a shade I’d wear all over unless I was going for a very nude lip, like this Edie Sedgwick look from the always brilliant Samantha Chapman (tutorial here). Actually, I don’t think Sam is even using a lipcolor at all here. If I remember correctly I think she used concealer on her lips. You could do that, of course, but a pale nude is much more wearable.

What I use it for is as a lip highlighter.

For my evening look, I line my lips with Naughty Nude, filling in the outer corners a bit as I’d mentioned, then I apply Rosy Nude all over the lip.

The Soft Nude goes on the middle of the upper and bottom lips in the center half to bring the center of my lips visually forward, a trick Brigitte Bardot used to great effect, enhancing her already perfect pout.

If you’re a perfectionist you could blend it with a lip brush, but I’m not so I either buff it with my ring finger or make a few gentle kissyfaces.

Next comes the lipgloss.

Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick in Perfect Peony

Again, the Amazon image on my screen is too blue like it seems to be with all the Revlon images, but it really is a perfect neutral peony.

I apply this in a thin layer all over the lip when I know I’m going to be eating or drinking, or if touch-ups won’t be practical, it’s sheer enough to let the other colors play through but adds longevity to the look.

Admittedly it dries a little sticky, so I wouldn’t wear it without a slicker, more moisturizing gloss on top.

The color is amazing, doesn’t peel or kiss off, but for me this is not a standalone product. It’s great as part of this look an I’d wear it for a regular day look topped with (lots) of hydrating lip gloss, but if you’re looking for one lippie to toss in your bag and be done with it, you’ve got better bets elsewhere.

Revlon Colorburst Lipgloss in Rosegold

Now THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!

I swear this is a spot-on dupe of MAC’s Lychee Luxe Lipglass and just about the prettiest gloss I’ve come across in a month of ice cream sundaes. It’s shimmery without being glittery, shiny without being goopy and incredibly easy to wear.

The shape of the sponge applicator is new and takes some getting used to for those of us used to the traditional doe foot, but I like it and gives excellent one-pass coverage.

For my evening look I just top everything off with a slick of this gloss but if I wanted to do a low-key everyday neutral, I could easily see myself wearing the Rosegold over the Rosy Nude without thinking twice.

Do you have favorite products for a neutral evening lip? Requests for other product recommendations or reviews? Put it in the comments and have a fantastic weekend!

Going to the Lady Doc

Let’s be honest here. Getting a Pap smear is no one’s idea of a good time. There are a lot of items on my list of preferred activities that rate well above getting escargot tongs stuck all the way up my hall of fame.

Shamefully, I put mine off for several years, not because I’m all that shy or, you know, have any sense of modesty at all, but of a terrible experience I had a few years ago at the Lady Doc.

I was all scooched down, feet in the stirrups like any good Texas girl and making as pleasant conversation as I could with this stranger in a lab coat about root around my nethers like a truffle pig with an air horn. She got down to business and when she was what felt like armpit deep in my lady garden, apparently trying to remove my tonsils from the inside, she decided THEN was the perfect time to lecture me about the perils of Teh Fatz.

Now, I’m not really all that sensitive about my size. Aside from a bit of auto-immune wonkiness I’m as healthy as an entire team of really healthy horses. My blood pressure, sugar levels, cholesterol…everything is great because although I’m fat, I’m in pretty damn fine fettle, but I got so mad at this woman, and was so humiliated that not only did I not go back to HER, I didn’t go back to ANYONE for fear of getting the same traumatic treatment.

Fast forward five years.

Before moving to Mexico, I knew I ought to get a complete physical and all the stabs and jabs I need to prevent me from getting the dreaded crud while living it up south of the border and while I was at it, I should probably get the south of MY border checked out as well. I asked my beloved and awesome in every conceivable way GP’s office for a recommendation.

I explained to them what had happened before –and okay, it was a little embarrassing, but it was easier on the phone– and they were gratifyingly aghast. Turns out my GP was able to do it for me, and when it came time to do the oh-so-familiar Scooch and Spread, the three of us in the room literally laughed the whole time.

The moral of the story is the same one that circulates all over the fatosphere: You are entitled to respectful medical care. Yes, even though you’re fat, you’re still a human and are entitled to be treated with human decency.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had your clam jammed by a medical professional, do yourself a favor and make the appointment. Explain –hell, you can even steal my story– how you don’t want to be lectured about your size. If you joke around it’s a little easier, but don’t let the Fat Shamers win. It’s your body and your health. Take care if it, and take care of yourself.

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