Reading celebrity gossip is one of my not so secret pleasures--from British tabloids (preferably in print but by necessity too often online) to US Weekly and online sites like dlisted.com, I enjoy the soap opera narratives, laugh at the imagination of some of the scribes and parse the cultural discourses that capture so many readers, most of them women. It's more than convenient that I'm also able to fold this pleasure into my own profession--I teach courses on celebrity culture (more difficult than you'd imagine as the material could so easily devolve into gossip and students often have no interest in its history or theory) and am writing a book on celebrity (along with another on femininity in popular media).
If you believe, as I do, that celebrity coverage involves a culture's efforts to understand itself (a self-absorption that itself reveals much about our society) two recent stories suggest we're at some kind of cultural tipping point--the kind that pulls together my not unrelated interests in femininity and fame. First there was the story of Heather Locklear's breakdown, which, like her career, was reduced to the margins. Second, and more visible, was the narrative of Demi Moore's collapse. Both offered opportunities for bloggers, commenters and the press to excoriate these women for aging in a culture that either expects women approaching 50 to become invisible or to package themselves into some limited niche (the quirky fashionista like Carine Roitfeld or Sarah Jessica Parker, or the actress who doesn't care about how she looks, per Meryl Streep or Glen Close). While it is purely coincidental that two women who not so long ago were being praised for their beauty, then their seemingly miraculous ability to shun the aging process are now being derided for their self-absorption while commenters crow on that they should be sent out to pasture, call them hags and lambast them for their narcissism (which clearly individualizes a broader social problem), the convergence of these stories speaks to far broader social issues.
Some of the literature on postfeminism (most notably Diane Negra's work) points to the time crisis within contemporary femininity--not just the idea that we are all swamped with competing pressures from work, family, technology and the care of the self, but rather the sense that women are increasingly compelled to do more in the brief period between their twenties and early-mid thirties. As she points out, youth has become not only commodified--ostensibly a blessing inasmuch as it is no longer the province of those in their 20s, but one that comes with its own sting. If youth is commodified, then there is a pressure to maintain it, and once those efforts start to fail or if the labour becomes too obvious, too extreme, then the woman is ridiculed, critiqued and scapegoated. Of course, her failure is our failure--if she ages, so can we, and that seemingly overnight change from an early 30-something beauty to a 40-something under pressure to maintain her effortlessly dewy looks might affect us all. Cameron Diaz is only the most recent celebrity to face these charges and she won't be the last.
It's easy to join these dots. It's also easy to opine that maybe these recent collapses might constitute a tipping point in a beauty and youth obsessed culture. Again, history suggests this will not be the case. Hollywood is littered with stories of fallen stars and starlets--this book makes sad and compelling bedtime reading. In the 1910s, Fannie Ward (pictured below) was praised not just for her acting but her youthful beauty--something she maintained with parafin injections and other experimental treatments--but even as the magazines wondered at how young she was for 40 when she appeared in The Cheat (DeMille, 1915), she was lying about her age and was actually 43. For the record, she does look really young and less plastic that today's stars. Significantly, she did not face the backlash seen today--even though she worked in an era where the 18 year old Lillian Gish decided to lie about her age when she started her career in 1912, knocking off three years that would remain missing until her death at 99. If there was ever a youth-conscious era in movies, it was the 1900s-1910 where rumours that film cameras could make babies look like old men proliferated--perhaps to mask the cultural standards and fears that really underpinned the social fascination with young women. 100 years later, I know see how insane these standards were. In 2012, it is evident that anybody born in 1993 is very young, that a starlet born in 1986 is not borderline middle age. Yet growing up reading about 1910s cinema (I was a very strange teenager), I took on that culture's values and was often staggered at the youthful appearance of a star like Marguerite Clark who was born in 1883, thinking how amazing it was that she could pass for a young woman or child in 1916's Snow White and a number of other successful films.
Historical digressions aside, the contemporary examples also came with some personal cultural aftershock. I've made no secret of my anger and frustration with my body and its inability to fit my own vision of what it should weigh and how it should look. As a very skinny child (my parents were often asked if I ate) and a very slim teenager and young adult, I didn't like the weight gain that the 30s brings. As someone who likes to eat, I've been torn--exercise and healthy eating haven't really led to any substantial weight loss and I can't diet--I know myself and I know it doesn't work. But these older stars--like Moore, several years my senior--seemed to have the magic secret. I assumed trainers, tiny portions of less appetising food (I really doubt she eats pad kaprow with vegetarian duck and sticky rice, or shredded potatoes and green peppers with spicy cumin fish, or salmon masala with garlic naan or vegetarian ham bahn mi). I suspected appetite suppressants and smoking. Maybe recreational drugs or adderall. But it turns out all of the above plus anorexia.
As a media scholar, I don't subscribe to the idea that we imitate what we see on screens or that we passively absorb what's around us--the processes are too complex and variable to be so easily dismissed. But I have realized that as I get marginally larger, the bodies I see get smaller. I do not for one minute want to be as skinny as Demi Moore--even on the teenage models I see around Union Square, that kind of weight is not attractive in real life. But there is something there--and it is sobering and perhaps relieving to recognize that such skinniness post-30 doesn't come naturally or easily.
On a personal level, though, I still believe I need to lose weight but my goal is only to fit into the clothes I wore a couple of years back (none of my jeans fit and I want that to change). But the issues around female visibility, aging and weight remain ones that I think should trouble us even as we celebrate beauty, glamour and the fun and diversity inherent within femininity.
I've been awol for a while writing syllabi and preparing for the start of another semester, as well as recovering from back to back viruses. First a bad cold, then a headache/stomach ache combo kept me out of circulation and out of the blogosphere (it's tough to look at a computer monitor when any light makes you feel sick). I'm annoyed that the time passed and the work didn't get done, but it is not too late to start afresh and try to get that chapter written soon. I just hope the remaining dull ache in my head finally goes away soon.
My blog has been low on original photos for a while for two reasons. First I lost the camera cord so I couldn't download photos. Then I lost my camera. (Mislaid is perhaps a more appropriate term.) In the midst of one of my bursts of spring cleaning/throwing out/recycling yesterday, I found the cord but the camera remained awol. As I was waking up this morning, I remembered showing photos of Peeps to my grad students, which meant my camera was in one of my book bags. When I get to the end of the semester, I usually switch bags because the one I've been using is filled with miscellany, and this was no exception. At the bottom of the bag pile, I found the bag and my camera.
While this may appear the world's dullest post, I do have something of a point. Found camera/cord means I can post some of my surplus wardrobe and accessories for sale. Most are either unworn or worn once, and the pieces for sale include the Lyell scallop coat below, two pairs of unworn Mayle shoes/sandals, Mayle knits, jackets and possibly dresses, three Rachel Comey dresses, unworn Prada, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs collection, Rag and Bone and other shoes and a variety of other pieces that either never fit or just don't fit my lifestyle, my climate or my style.
I'll be posting pieces here and on CCS on Wednesdays, in case anybody is interested.
Cindy is in town, albeit not for long. I saw her all too briefly today and will get to spend a little more time with her tomorrow. It's so wonderful to get to have some quality time with such a dear friend who loves all too far away.
I got my new Rachel Comey shoes from eBay. Besides being comfortable, they are as pretty as I remember--far shinier and a much nicer colour than in the promo pictures. This picture gives some sense of what they look like.
Still kicking myself that both Evan and I assumed the other one would have set the DVR (we missed the first hour and effectively all the Ricky Gervais bits). As for the dresses/best dressed, it's almost too predictable who will shine on the red carpet these days. These were my favourites (from those I've seen so far). All the usual candidates are here--Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, etc.
Loved this Lanvin--the colour, cut and drape.
Again, the colour is fantastic and I love the feathery look. It's almost reptilian but it works.
Love the colour, love the headband. She really does always nail it.
I saw Jessica Alba in Sephora once and she really is stunningly beautiful. This dress is so
sweet and the color is just amazing.
Because I love the colour, because I love Revenge and because she looks amazing at any age.
I love the pink/red combination here. She always looks like an Audrey Hepburn princess.
I'm surprised about this one too. Normally she dresses lazily and boringly, but this dress really worked.
Given the relatively low profile of Emma Fletcher's first collection for Tocca and its limited availability, I wondered if this collection would be a one-off collaboration. Not to say the clothing wasn't great--it was--but Tocca had previously opted for larger runs and wide distribution so it seemed possible that this was a tentative and limited experiment.
When I went to the store last week, my questions were answered. Not only was the new lookbook available as a series of postcards, but Emma is working on Fall 2012. Here are my favourite looks from the new season (I particularly like the blue and white blouse). One critique: the looks are a bit heavy on lingerie and leotards (from what I see here) but I anticipate that this isn't the full run. I'd like to get the blouse and possibly a dress, but as I am on a more limited budget this semester, that should be enough.
Tonight we went out for a fabulous Thai meal at Ayada with Evan's family. Evan and I split a crispy catfish salad, chive dumplings, fried red snapper with basil sauce and pad kaprow with vegetarian duck. Then we all came home to eat sublime French pastries from Cannelle. I was showing Evan's mother some old photos, replete with evidence of my weight gain. Slim limbs, narrow hips, svelte torso--all proving that I wasn't always this size. I think I need to pull one of them and put it on the fridge, or scan it and put it on my phone. I can and I will return to that size by exercising in ways that worked for me in the past and by being more active and, yes, eating more protein and less carbs.
So, I picked up my beautiful new Tocca coat today. Here's the one I bought:
It's warm and soft--the tweedy one I liked was thinner, a bit cheaper and not as soft.
In order to accommodate this new find I am going to have to sell my beautiful Lyell tweed scallop coat (a great regret as I love it). I just don't have the space. This one is sad but I can't keep both, especially as I have another brown tweed Lyell coat. I've worn it twice and it is in new condition. It's a size 10 but runs very small (as is typical of Lyell)--it's more like a 6-8.
If interested, email me at moya[dot]luckett[at]gmail[dot]com.
After suffering mightily with this cold yesterday, I woke up today to some sniffles but to a spate of good news. I managed to track down one of my oldest and dearest friends last night and emailed her--and received a reply this morning. I cannot stress how good it is to be I touch with her again. We were teenagers together and I think about her often. Our bond is a special one and I am over the moon to know that I can talk to her and see her again.
Second, my book's editor and the series editor approved my response to the readers' reports. I have to do minor revisions and the book will be published within the year! Obviously I'm thrilled.
Finally! I just ordered my number one covet for the year, the navy Tocca Diamond coat. It was reduced but still pricey but worth it as itis gorgeous and will keep my favourite Lyell Girlie coat in circulation for a few more years.
Today I had my first ever facial (other than those you do at home with friends or on your own). During the summer, I purchased a Groupon for a local spa--a vitamin C facial and pedicure for $40 (value $103, mostly for the facial). Time got away from me and I discovered that the spa was located in a gym far from bus or subway. But I lucked out--they moved to a stone's throw away from the 7 train so I didn't have to navigate the BQE, which may not have had sidewalks.
I'm usually cheap about these things--I don't spend money on beauty treatments on a regular basis. My last pedicure (and the only other professional one I've ever had) was in April with my friend before her wedding as an event laid on for the bride and bridesmaids. I was surprised then how much it relaxed me. My facial and pedicure today were both excellent--so much so that I'm going back next month for a cheaper treatment. I think my face looks nice although I don't know if there is an enormous change (there were many treatments involving coffee, blueberries, papaya, pumpkin, vitamin C, vitamin C masks, light, steam, lavender and electricity) and my toes are pink and glittery. But it was so relaxing and helped me recover from my cold--and allowed me to come home and work hard, so it all worked out well.
Sometimes an item just gets in your head and you can't get it out. I'm a sale stalker and usually find that waiting for a piece you coveted just causes the desire to ebb away. Occasionally the price drop makes the item more attractive again, but often not.
This year, I saw a pair of sandals/shoes I'd quite liked in person, so to speak, for the first time at the Rachel Comey sample sale. Still overpriced at nearly $250 (and more than that with tax), the crackle taper wedges caught my eye across the room. I'd liked them online--but not loved. But after pointing excitedly and showing them to Emilie and Monica, I searched through the boxes and there was nothing above a size 8.5. The next time I saw them on sale was on Christmas day at Saks.com. Just $125 this time (so with tax, we're talking about $135 or so, and probably another $9 for shipping) but only one snag. All the sizes were available except my size 10. Anthro had them in red suede (nice but less practical) but they sold out at about $250 in my size. An internet search came up empty in size 10--clearly the other girls with big feet liked them too, which might be a good sign, but it wasn't much use to me.
Finally, last night I searched ebay--just my general search for labels I liked--before heading off to bed. There they were--unworn, crackle, taper wedges, one pair, size 10, BIN $149 plus shipping (just a shade more than the Saks pair). So, I put them in my basket, went to bed to sleep on it, and there they were at 3.30 p.m. today when I checked ebay. So, I paid for them and now they are on their way. I just hope they are comfortable and that they fit.
I suspected I'd get sick after everybody else I know came down with colds. Of course, it was only in hindsight that I realized that might be the reason behind my limited strength in pilates and my lack of coordination at zumba. After spending Saturday in bed with a splitting headache a cold was *just* what I needed. Realizing I was not feeling my best yesterday afternoon and then getting that tell tale feeling in my throat, I decided to do what I could to get some work done. So I stayed up until 4 am and submitted my article to a journal. Perhaps not the wisest step in fighting off a cold but that was already evidently useless, so I worked while I could and now feel utterly exhausted.
I managed to get some not-so-great writing done today (but it can always be edited later) and hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to deal with a couple of more important tasks. I am determined to get a full version of this chapter written in the next three weeks.
We're at that time of year where, under normal circumstances, I'd be alternately showing off my finds and worrying about having spent too much. It seems the topsy turvy economy--a recession combined with a still very affluent luxury sector--have combined with limited production runs to produce a dismal sale season. We are now into January--a month that usually sees 50 and 60% reductions quickly increased to 70% or more, yet many stores have at best offered 30-40% (as I write, Creatures of Comfort is at 35% off and many stores have announced final sales--i.e. final reductions--with less than 50% off). Inventory looks to be low so I'm not anticipating much more in the way of discounts, which is disappointing. I had my eye on a few pieces--admittedly not so many this season--but few of them have been reduced more than 30% and my newly reduced income doesn't permit much extravagance so either the sales have to improve or I'll have to pass.
It's still early in January (thankfully) so matters could change. But I have a feeling stores efforts to reeducate consumers away from the 70% or so discounts are now firmly in play. If I can get a couple of those very special basics, I'll be happy. And if my shoe repairs work out, then, maybe I won't need shoes even though I'm still waiting on reductions on a couple of items that have spoken to me from afar. And if I don't get anything, if prices stay high, that's likely better for my wallet.
I'm now half way through the holiday and still dealing with the work from last semester. I had more grading this year than ever before and still have papers left to grade, all of them needing to be done by Friday. I have letters of recommendation still to write for students. I had a record semester there too and as each letter takes a few hours, I decided to go alphabetically. I'm up to S. Grad schools often ask for letter insanely early (files don't get looked at until mid-late January yet letters are due in early December--officially that is, but most of the schools don't need them until a month or six weeks later). It's tough when your time is so stretched, where you have to make the decision to write a letter or prep class/grade papers. The fact that I'm still in this situation doesn't bear thinking about, especially as I have a lot of my own work to deal with--a paper to finish, a chapter to write--and the impending deadlines associated with this work.
So, small steps. Today I nearly finished the paper--the conclusion is still unfinished and I hope tomorrow will see the end. I have to write an abstract and send it off this week. I have a conference paper proposal to write by Monday and a letter to write to my publisher. Perhaps the biggest step came tonight (ironically as I was changing the litterbox) as I decided which chapter to write next. While Evan was recording the introductions to the would be suitors from Monday's premiere of The Bachelor, I realized I could use the episode as an intro for one chapter, which catalyzed more thoughts, more structures (confessions, blogging, diaries, self-analysis) that made me realize I could write this thing without doing too too much new research, unlike the other chapter that I was considering starting. That one will get partially written in Feb/March anyway as I'm scheduled to present the first section at a conference in Boston.
OK, so I haven't dealt with some of the more major issues yet, like health insurance. But I will by the end of the week. I just have to ensure fear does not hold me back yet again. I also didn't get to the bank but I'll blame that on getting caught up in work (time always passes me by) and the frigid temperatures outside.
I keep saying I need new shoes--some of this is true, some of it is a consequence of being so busy that I don't have time to get shoes and boots repaired. I realized how stupid this is when I nearly bid on a pair of black Rachel Comey Paypals with a missing heel cap. My initial thoughts were that my pair need to be repaired and these would tide me over. Then the illogic of the situation hit me--I was buying new boots that needed a repair because I didn't have the time to get my current pair repaired and was on the verge of wearing them down beyond a point where they could be saved. None of this made any sense.
So, as part of my New Year's Day clean up, I dug out all the shoes I loved that needed repairs and took them to the local shoe guy. Not only is he just below my apartment but he also has good reviews. I've got a few more pairs to take in but hopefully this will work out and save me money in the long run. I also reordered prescriptions before my insurance runs out (I think the new one will have lesser coverage) and hope I can get one more refill in after this. By tonight, I hope I'll have a decent version of my paper ready to submit to a journal and then I can start on the new chapter tomorrow. After all, it's so cold outside that staying in and writing seems the most reasonable course of action, although I am going to two classes at my yoga studio's new location tomorrow.
I am determined to make this year one to remember--in a positive way. So I'm going to try to start it productively--I read Ph.D. exams today, worked on a paper (one that I've worked on for way too long but is still giving me some trouble) and continued yesterday's spring, or rather winter, cleaning. Today I threw out old lecture notes, exams, photocopies, etc. and I'm planning to plough through more clutter in the next few weeks. While I didn't make it to yoga or pilates, that's on the agenda for the next couple of days--indeed, a miracle occurred and my yoga/pilates/zumba studio found a new location and has a new schedule that allows me to go to seven classes a week.
I have some horrible errands to complete this week and I am hoping that fear won't prevent me from doing them. I want to get them out of the way, finish some grading, write a conference paper proposal and start on a new chapter--a literal, actual chapter for my second book. Hopefully all will go to plan. With frigid weather on the way, I'll be staying home so I have no excuses not to write.
I hope everybody has a happy, healthy, fun, successful and joyous New Year.
After eating in Flushing, we stayed home last night and watched Hulu+. Evan was patient and tolerated The Only Way Is Essex, an English reality show that I'd been dying to watch that's equal parts British tabloid fodder, The Hills and Jersey Shore. I loved it.
Today, we're doing some early spring cleaning. I hope that if we leat out the old the new and the good can come flowing in.
And in that spirit I plan to photograph some Rachel Comey dresses, J Crew jewelry, some Mayle and some Prada, Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs shoes later this week as I clear out my closet. Watch this space and Community Closet Sale for listings.