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body beautiful

February 14, 2012

Fashion Week is happening in New York City, and all the beautiful people have come out to play.

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As a young girl, I wanted to be one of those beautiful people, or at least be a part of their creation. I spent long hours studying magazines, getting lost in the fantasies depicted in the spreads. I dreamt of being a model (too short); or a designer (amateur at best); or someone famous enough (a pop star perhaps?) to score a front row seat at a runway show (didn’t make the cut). Like many little girls, I dressed up in high heels, stuffed two oranges in my t-shirt, sneaked into my mom’s makeup, cut out fake nails from Scotch tape, and crafted elaborate creations from aprons and lingerie. I learned how to sew and crochet at an early age, and as a seventh grader, I took lessons in fashion illustration from an artist who had married into the Capezio family (oh yeah, I wanted to be a dancer, too). I started collecting vintage clothes in high school, and my dream was to go to RISD then on to The Big Apple.

Even though I was blessed with incredibly supportive parents, I was socialized in a religious environment (church and school, both often taking place in the same building) that condemned artistic, self-expressive pursuits, especially those pertaining to the body, female sexuality, or the “frivolity” of fashion. With a graduate degree from URI, which everyone mistakes for RISD; a marriage on the brink of implosion; and little bit of luck (secular education, divorce, and superstition also condemned by said religion), I finally made it to New York at 30. I never did attend RISD, but I now teach at Parsons, so the scales seem balanced.

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I am in the fashion world, but not of it. As an adjunct fashion history professor and a part-time museum curator, I’ve chosen to sit on the sidelines as a critical observer more so than a participant, and I’ve had a subpar wardrobe and sense of style to boot. It’s turned into a love/hate relationship, and I feel I’ve become what Julie Cameron refers to in her book The Artist’s Way as the “shadow artist”: a creative who chooses a career that is close to the life they themselves desire, but are too afraid to pursue. I hadn’t realized until a few years and a couple of major life changes ago that I was scared, and that a significant part of the fear is the discomfort of not feeling at home in my own skin.

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I painfully remember the first time I felt self-conscious about my body. I was 11. I had been invited over to my older sister’s boyfriend’s house to go swimming with his sister. I wore a fuschia, turquoise, and white color-blocked one-piece with a halter tie-string. My hair was styled like Princess Diana’s, and my skin was pasty white. The boyfriend’s sister, who was a little older than me, and very tall and lean by comparison, had long, straight, black hair, an olive complexion, and wore a solid black one piece. Simple and chic. I remember standing at the top of the pool ladder, putting my hand on my abdomen and feeling sick: like my body was inadequate, like I had it all sartorially wrong. After jumping into the pool, I never wanted to get out, even though I knew my wet hair made me look like a bird. I felt weightless in the water, and its ripples distorted the lines of my figure.

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As a birthday gift to myself this year, I joined the YMCA around the corner. The facility is as nice as the private gyms I’ve belonged to in the past: a well-maintained track and swimming pool, updated machines, body wash in the showers and blow dryers at the sink. Although I signed up for a variety of health reasons (lose the last of the baby weight, get back into good shape, etc.), I did it mostly because the Y staff will watch my toddler for two hours a day, seven days a week, for $80 a month (thank you Parsons for the discount), until he is seven years old. They don’t care what I do for those two hours as long as I stay on the premises. Any stay-at-home mom, or any mother for that matter, will understand when I say that this has become the height of luxury in my day. My two-hour window looks something like this: exercise for 20-30 mins., then spend the remaining time meditating in the sauna or steam room, taking a long, hot shower (and shaving!), blowdrying and styling my hair, giving myself a facial, and leafing through fashion magazines in the members lounge. Next month I plan to sign up for massage therapy to round out the spa experience.

Being the new girl, I’ve had to learn the ropes. For instance, members are allowed two towels: the striped one is smaller and better for wrapping up my wet hair, while the solid one is a bit longer for my body, but it’s still really skimpy and barely covers me. It’s also best to use the little plastic stool provided in the showers to hold the curtain away so that it doesn’t cling to my wet body, although the water pressure is so wonderfully intense that if I angle the shower head just right, it’ll blow the curtain out of the way. However, this leaves me exposed like the skimpy towel, which brings me to my next point: there is SO much un-self-conscious nudity in this women’s lounge!

My previous experience with nudity in girls’ and women’s locker rooms has left me feeling one of two ways: ashamed, thanks to religious high school and undergrad, or painfully self-conscious like my 11-year-old self, particularly at private gyms where everyone already seems to be in immaculate shape. But at the Y: women 18 to 80, short to tall, sized XS to XXXL, taut, saggy, perky, droopy, hairy, smooth, ripply, wide, narrow, light, dark, spotty, ALL NAKED. Walking around, naked. Lounging in the steam room and sauna, naked. Blowdrying their hair, naked. Putting their make-up on, naked. Engaging in small talk, naked. Moving about easily and effortlessly naked, like children, all comfortable in their own skin.

It shocked me the first day, as I tip toed around, hunched over, trying to keep myself covered. By my third visit, I was naked with the best of them. Today it struck me how incredibly gorgeous we all are. I wish I could create a centerfold, especially of the ladies in the sauna.

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These are the beautiful people.

And I am one of them, and so are you.

So let’s just praise the lord.

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take me to tulum, please

February 7, 2012

I’ve been thinking about Mexico. A lot.

Despite an unseasonably warm winter in New York City thus far, I want to go warmer, tropical.

It all started two years ago, when I was first pregnant but didn’t know it yet, and I went to see my intuitive healer. She sensed strong male energy around me (come to find out, he was in my belly) and recommended a restorative trip to the Mayan Riviera to nurture my “mother within.” Unfortunately, I didn’t budget for a babymoon in time before becoming a “mother without.”

Then, last February, The Selby did a gorgeous spread about Mya Henry and Eric Werner’s restaurant Hartwood in Tulum. After many consecutive sleepless nights with a newborn, my interest and appetite were renewed. Hartwood is LOCATED ON THE JUNGLE SIDE OF TULUM BEACH ROAD. I daydreamed of sun-drenched days and sandy paths, starry skies and balmy nights; sitting down at a candlelit table, surrounded by lush palm trees and good people, to eat a whole roasted fish and octopus salad. Oh, and the tomatoes!

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As per my birthday tradition, I went to see my gipsy (her spelling) Tiffany last week for my annual $5 palm reading. In addition to encouraging prospects for my at-home creative career and my long and healthy life line (although she cut 10 years off of it from my last visit: yikes, I need a vacation!), she saw a trip to Mexico in my near future. Specifically, she said that I was a little bored with my urban home base (so-so), and that I needed to shake it up, to get away and explore, preferably in the warm sun and salt water (and a jungle perhaps?). Soon thereafter, I read Josh Pais‘ post about a few open spots still available for his upcoming Committed Impulse retreat in (you guessed it) Tulum.

I think I’ve seen enough signs. Now, if I could just get the taco truck to take me there.

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One of my favorite writers/bloggers/soul sisters is Danielle LaPorte. Whenever I read her writing, I get goosebumps and break into a song of Yes! Yes! Yes! (Can’t wait to read The Firestarter Sessions when it comes out in April. You can download a sneak peek here.) This past week, she launched a new series called The Burning Question. First up: How do you want it all to feel?

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The Mayan calendar ends on Friday, December 21, 2012, and perhaps the world as we know it does, too. Neptune entered Pisces this past week: dove into the ocean again for the first time since the mid-19th century when, among other world-altering events, gold rushes took place, slavery was abolished, suffragists gained ground, Transcendentalist thought flowered, and industrialization and mass production kicked into high gear. Neptune, planet of the underworld, moves at a languid pace: what I imagine it to be in Tulum. It’ll stay in its home sign of Pisces until 2026, so we have a whole new 14-year cycle of compassion and creativity. Plenty of time to feel how we want it all to feel.

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I want the tingle of goosebumps, as though at any moment I could break into a Yes! Yes! Yes! and do cartwheels down a city street. I want it lush, wild and enchanted, reverberated by the night sounds of a dense jungle and crackling fire.

The warm sun on my face, the burning question.

I’m back.

January 30, 2012

The sun has entered Aquarius. Today is my birthday. I’m back.

Our summer holiday gave way to an autumnal sabbatical. We didn’t return to our beloved city until October. Then, before we knew it, Thanksgiving, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza & various New Years were upon us. We were also sick for a month with a relentless virus that included a hospital stay for my little one. All are well now, thankfully.

During the holiday downtime, I found myself contemplating a friend’s tweet that essentially said she wanted more experiences rather than more stuff. Although there are still lots of things I desire (a bigger apartment, a beach bungalow, an antique daybed, an entirely new wardrobe, etc.), I resonate with her yearning for deeper, richer, fuller experiences.

I particularly want experiences that make me feel lighter & freer in my body, that nudge me out of my comfort zone (is this a midlife crisis talking?). With that in mind, I celebrated New Year’s Eve doing an intense midnight yoga class at Strala (my favorite yoga studio in the city) followed by a Committed Impulse workshop a few days later. (Josh Pais is an actor who trains actors, or civilians like myself; his methods can feel awkward at first, but after writhing around on the floor & pretending I was Wonder Woman, I felt invincible.)

Last weekend, I headed out to catch the final days of Carsten Holler’s EXPERIENCE at the New Museum. It was installation art meets performance art, where the visitor is the performer/participant. Holler, a scientist turned artist, creates these, well… experiences.

I went alone, but quickly made friends with other museum goers as we explored magic mushroom sculptures while wearing 3D goggles, & relaxed on a mirrored carousel while listening to caged birds sing.

Then came the slide that twisted through 3 floors. I felt a slight hesitation, some butterflies in the stomach, before joining the others in line. We donned bike helmets & talked nervously, excitedly like kids waiting to get on a roller coaster. When my turn was up, I was given a sack for my feet (to keep the ride smooth) & told to keep my chin to my chest & arms straight down the front of my body.

The ride felt both fast & slow at the same time. Sheer exhilaration. As a former museum professional, it was such a release to squeal very loudly in a hallowed gallery space without being escorted out.

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I want to cultivate more spontaneous experiences, too. This past weekend, my sister flew in from Raleigh to celebrate my birthday. We’d been (half) joking about trying to run into Lenny Kravitz (a shared secret crush of ours for years), who, according to the tabloids, is looking for love. On Saturday, I happened to come across a post about him playing that night at Radio City Music Hall. We found cheap tickets & good seats on Stubhub, & within hours we were giggling like school girls, dancing in our seats, feeling the beats in our chest & the enormous energy of a crowd who were letting love rule.

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According to the Weekly Weather, this could be one of the most profound weeks of our lives. I can feel the shift. I can feel it in my bones.

It’s good to be back, dear readers. It’s good to be home.

weekly photo challenge: SUNSET

September 30, 2011

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weekly photo challenge: FALL

September 24, 2011

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hair raising

September 14, 2011

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weekly photo challenge: TEXTURE

September 10, 2011

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