Sunday, June 26, 2011

Manscaping tips from my guest hunk

Glitterfish Studio
Guest hunk X debuted on this blog with a treatise on kissing styles. He returns with a vengeance...
It struck me recently how much our society EXPECTS personal grooming. It struck me at a moment when I was hypnotized by a wayward nose hair protruding like a spider leg from the small cave of the nostril of the person to whom I was speaking. It vibrated a little with every exhale and it hung there, just one snip away from allowing the words he spoke to reach my ears. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but I know I said, “uh huh” a lot.
I went home that day and examined my own caves so I didn’t inadvertently distract from the words I so carefully choose in my conversations. Whew! No spider legs, I was okay…for now.
I began to take inventory. Anonymity allows me complete freedom to disclose my regular manscaping and skin cleaning routines. It surprises me to think that many have no regular routine (made apparent by Mr. Spiderleg). I am reminded of a New Testament verse (paraphrased): “It is a fool who looks into the mirror and takes inventory of himself and changes nothing (James 1:23).” No one can ever call me a fool. I speak of the following from the male point of view, but I know that some things will apply to my female friends too. 
Miss Betty's Bungalow
Grooming from the neck up: Haircuts are an obvious starting place. Most people take a little time every morning to comb, curl, gel, mousse, or at least tie or pin back their hair (scrunchies are so eighties). I can pretty much accept any haircut. Any effort to show that someone actually cares about their hair is fine with me. 
Quick side note: One haircut rubs me the wrong way: the Justin Bieber. Maybe it’s because I’m in my forties now (though just barely), but it’s the whip back of his head as a way of getting his hair reset that really annoys. I imagine that the young lad will end up with the older version someday and things will cosmically balance out again. The Bieber will eventually give way to the Trump. 
Much of my grooming takes place from the neck up (below the neck grooming will be addressed later). As I became older I was amazed at the fact that certain hair areas became more unruly and some areas where hair did not exist before suddenly began to sprout like the avocado pit my grandmother used to put in a water glass on the kitchen sill. 
This brings me back to Mr. Spiderleg. Maybe he didn’t realize that his hair growth spurt had begun in his right nostril. I’d love to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m just glad I had noticed my own growth many years ago. 

Stephanis Cherry On Top
The first time I had trimmed my own spiderlegs was when I was getting ready for a date when I was in my early twenties. I was performing my final face inspection before my date and there it was, poking out of my nostril. 

I retrieved a pair of tweezers and grabbed it firmly and…well, let me just say that sometimes young, grown men DO cry. I needed a new approach. I retrieved a pair of professional haircutting scissors and carefully trimmed away. When I was finally done, I felt like I could breathe better than I ever could before—like I had Superman’s olfactory capabilities. 
Art by Alejandra Oseguera
Hmmm, what else can I trim? I began to search. “My eyebrows look a little bushy,” I thought. I blame some of it on my Latin roots, but I could manage and maintain my brows. Plucking? Uh, no! I’ll trim them up just like the spiderlegs. I carefully snipped and made certain that I had two SEPARATE brows. This was easy now. I think I had it all handled. 
Now as I have become a little older, I have noticed that hair in the general ear area needs a little attention. It wasn’t growing out of my ears, but on my ear lobes. I have a set of electric clippers (more on those later) and all it took was a gentle pass over both lobes to rid myself of the Middle-earth look. 
I found myself becoming a little addicted to the idea of manscaping. I would work from the neck down now. I’d prune away any unruliness. I hadn’t planned on walking around naked, but if I CHOSE to, I’d not get a complaint about looking like an extra from the original Planet of the Apes. I was relieved that I didn’t have any chest hair to contend with, nor shoulder or back hair for that matter. 
Pretty Girl Prints
I have a friend, Magilla (not his real name), who has so much back and chest hair that his shirts float over his body. I gave him a bro hug once and felt his hair vest under his shirt. I declined a future visit to the lake so I didn’t see his full hirsute condition. By the way, here’s an easy way to remember the definition of hirsute, just think of it like two words: HAIR SUIT. You’re welcome. 
Now, manscaping would not be complete without a discussion about the bikini area. I know women generally maintain their lower garden. There are a bunch of terms that describe their hairstyle of choice: landing strip, triangle, heart, floating V, and the Brazilian. There's even a name for a wig a woman would wear down there: a MIRKEN. Apparently it is some sort of pubic toupee. Who knew that there was even a demand for such a thing. I had no idea that pattern baldness even struck that area of a woman.

Men, however, do not have any special names for their own shrubbery. We need to trim our stuff up, too (in my opinion). They risk looking like the Koit Tower in San Francisco surrounded by a Brillo pad. I do believe that men should trim things up, but should avoid looking prepubescent. I’d recommend leaving something behind, though I’d stop short at giving it a cute name like, the goatee, the fu Manchu, the mohawk, or Mr. T. I made up those names — feel free to use them if you like. Again, You’re welcome.  
I should add that there are benefits to manscaping. First, things just look neat. You’ll want to walk around naked and accidently catch yourself in the mirror. With the shrubbery trimmed back, the tree looks much larger (even if it was a redwood to begin with). What man doesn’t want that? The long and the short of it (no pun intended) is that regular maintenance in this area is something that must be regularly maintained so you don't look like a day three Chia pet. 
Chia Hats
One cruel thing that I was not entirely prepared for was ALL hair has the possibility of turning grey. I’ll let you fill in the blanks, but let me just say that I was a bit surprised when I discovered this fact. “Out of sight, out of mind,” I guess. If I didn’t see it regularly, then it couldn’t turn grey, could it? It could. It did. They don’t sell hair dye kits for that. It’s just one of those things we have to accept. I’m working on that. I guess the desire to look young doesn’t end with a receding hairline. I guess we want to look young all over.
ArtyChick Studios
Electric clippers are a great investment. Just be careful out there (or down there), and make sure you go slow. The truly brave may even try a razor. At the very least though, make sure you start from the top and look out for those spider legs—I really want to give our conversation my undivided attention.
Thank you, X. And now we'll be taking questions from the audience. I'll get the ball rolling: How do they make sure your mirken matches your natural hair color—would you need to send in a sample from the denuded area? But how could you, given the reason you need a mirken in the first place?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

5 meds that got me through nine to five

Photo courtesy of ShyScapes Photography
There are people who won't so much as take an aspirin for a headache. It's almost against their religion. I am not one of those strange people. When you grow up in the Third World, health insurance does not appear on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Now that I have it, I not only use it avidly, I stock our medicine cabinet the way lots of folks keep a well stocked bar. Here is a resource for people who would like to become pharmacy technicians and help people feel better.

In my youth, every tooth in my head save for one molar sustained a cavity. My mouth was the perfect scale model of the Grand Canyon. As an adult in the Land of Milk and Honey, I parried with my orthodontist, who wanted to extract that one perfect molar before encasing my choppers in the torture device known as braces. I sacrificed the unhealthy one next to it, but the ensuing gap meant I had to get a bridge installed. Sometimes having dental insurance just means they will think up numerous ways to rearrange your teeth.

At 14, I went through weeks of stomach cramping and fever spikes without my parents breaking a sweat. One day I came home from school with the whites of my eyes a dull yellow. Then it occurred to them that I might need to go to a hospital. I stayed for two weeks, subsisting on a fat-free diet to ease the load on my liver.

I recount this without self-pity. But I thought you ought to know this bit of background so that you can appreciate how far the pendulum has swung. I will pop an ibuprofen for the slightest muscle twitch. Being that I teach dance, muscle twitches are a fact of life for me. Don't worry; I know to avoid acetaminophen after that liver-busting bout with hepatitis A.

In a previous life as a nine-to-fiver, my willingness, nay, compulsion to pop meds was in prime form. Perusing the pharmacy aisles was a pleasant way to pass the time. Labels were such fascinating reads. I culled the many chemical options down to a manageable five. These were my version of the five food groups:

1.     Cortisol. To keep belly fat from accumulating during periods of stress. Since it was one continuous stressfest, I kept the Cortisol in my top drawer next to the squeeze ball. Note: It didn't work. I have pictures of my belly bumping up against my desk. I was a sluggish blob.

Indolence by Jasper June
2.     Ginseng. To mitigate exhaustion from insomnia on top of commuting 100 miles a day. And to keep from glazing over from unrelenting boredom.

I'm Bored/Je M'ennuie by Letterpress Delicacies
3.     Ginkgo biloba. To improve spotty perimenopausal memory. Crucial in keeping track of which derrieres to kiss.

The Schmooze by begforabag
4.     SAM-e. To elevate mood in the midst of furloughs, layoffs, infighting and irrational demands.

Depression glass at Hoarders Haven
5.     Antacids. To counteract stomach acid flare-up during extreme agitation from keeping my mouth shut.

Heart Attack necktie by Cyberoptix Tie Lab
The meds I weaned myself off the second I stopped working there: All of the above. My pillbox is empty.

SweetHeartSinner Creations
I want to thank the etsy sellers whose items have handsomely illustrated my ditty to working for myself. Do visit my complete treasury (etsy speak for curated collection) here.

One last:
Mano y Metal
Do you work for someone else or for yourself? How do you like yourself as Top Banana?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Down with Starbucks; what America needs are tea houses

Ashlynn J Designs on
Coffeehouses are noisy. The never-ending whirr of blenders, the yakking on the cell, the click of acrylic fingernails on keyboards. Everyone has to hear what everyone else ordered because it’s announced every few seconds like Ben Stein calling the roll on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Predictably present in each coffeehouse is a faux living room, which only serves to reinforce the type of slob behavior best left unobserved and usually acted out while wearing ratty pajamas at home.
Teahouses, in contrast, are steeped in ceremony. Ever notice how ceremony comes with copious amounts of quiet? In Japan, drinking tea is considered an art; etiquette governs how to serve it and receive it. The preservation of civilized society depends not on domestic oil supplies nor on constant vigilance against terrorists, but on a reliable cause-and-effect system of performing to expectation and being rewarded for it.
When I was in college, we had a shipload of Japanese cultural exchange ambassadors visit campus every year. Reciprocating the hospitality, they invited us to spend an evening aboard, culminating in a tea ceremony. My first year, I must’ve been grinning like a fool, because one of the people assisting in pouring the tea gently chided, “No smiling.” This was quickly amended to “No smiling with teeth showing” to allow for my youthful exuberance. At least I learned what was expected of me. 
The Brits and the Japanese have something in common: they’re reserved, at least in public. Most Americans are anything but. If there had been a shadow of doubt about it, Jersey Shore long ago dispelled it. It’s all good, except when you’re married to an American, with all the behavioral baggage attendant to that, and you hail from the reserved end of the spectrum.
We shan’t go into painful detail about it. Suffice it to say that, um, on more than one occasion, rather than the ubiquitous coffeehouse on every block, I’ve wished for at least one decent teahouse per metropolis.
Phizzychick on
A teahouse in every city would guarantee at least one beautifully landscaped garden in which one could seek refuge from the surrounding squalor. A teahouse, after all, never just springs up like a toadstool in the midst of urban decay. It arrives with its dowry, which usually includes a few needle-leafed maples, several gnarly pines, lots of smooth round river rocks and some weathered stone lanterns.

I also advocate the inclusion of tea ceremony instruction at grade school level. This would most certainly take out a large chunk of childhood obesity, what with the reduction in dependence on soda brands for one’s social standing and relief from nutritional boredom. Not only that, but we could begin to salvage the few from the younger generation who have not completely ground themselves down into a permanent state of uncouthness.
But who are we kidding? The coffee drinkers would secede before they ever convert. Tea houses would never gain a foothold on the market. The lines are as irrevocably drawn as those between PC and Mac users, vegans and meat eaters, and people who install their toilet paper roll to dispense from above or under.
Never mind what America needs. I need a ticket to Japan.


Click here to enjoy this treasury of tea curated by Scrollwork
Tea infuses our lives. We inhale its fragrance, bathe in it, and build rituals around it. We create nuanced shades by immersing objects in it. A culture that lags in tea drinking lacks refinement. To be invited to tea is proof of social acceptance.

Some people have wine cellars; our wine rack is bare. But the tea cupboard runneth over. Among the green teas, we have Mango, Ginger Peach, and Blueberry. Among the white teas, Jasmine and Lychee; among the black teas, Maple Pecan and Chai Spice. There's an excellent Cranberry Blood Orange plus something called Get Lost to curb sugar craving among the red rooibos. Finally, we have the functional teas—Linden tea to quell stage fright before a performance or job interview; Chiro Klenz for detox after holidays or anytime we eat at a Mexican restaurant.

My current favorite is Mangosteen Superfruit. What shall I pour for you?

P.S. A recommended book to go with your tea! 

"In Samantha Sotto's high spirited debut, a young widow travels to a remote and distant island to answer the question, what price do we pay for eternal love. It is a mesmerizing journey transcending time and continents, all to remind that there are many ways to live on forever and to immortalize a marriage. Note to readers: Curl up with jasmine tea and savor the warm, rich writing, as delectable as the recipes for love found within every enchanting page."  -Saralee Rosenberg, author ofClaire Voyant

UPDATE 10/23/13
The teahouse is coming! The teahouse is Manhattan tomorrow, then Seattle around Thanksgiving. Starbucks bought Teavana and will open tea bars—"at least 1000" according to the story in USA Today.