Drug of choice

Posted: December 14, 2012 in beauty, health, mental health, women
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Caitlin Moran, author of “How to Be a Woman,” had a terrific article in the WSJ this year about food addiction, which is apparently the vilest, most despised of addictive disorders when ranked by addicts themselves (and the general public, for that matter…)

…I’m talking about those for whom the whole idea of food isn’t one of pleasure, but one of compulsion. For whom thoughts of food, and the effects of food, are the constant, dreary background static to normal thought. Those who walk into the kitchen in a state bordering on panic and breathlessly eat slice after slice of bread and butter—not even tasting it—until the panic can be drowned in an almost meditative routine of chewing and swallowing, spooning and swallowing.

In this trancelike state, you can find a welcome, temporary relief from thinking for 10, 20 minutes at a time, until finally a new set of sensations—physical discomfort and immense regret—make you stop, in the same way you finally pass out on whiskey or dope. Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction, and self-obliteration.

Yet, paradoxically, unlike other addictions, it allows its victims to be surprisingly functional:

In a nutshell, then, by choosing food as your drug—sugar highs, or the deep, soporific calm of carbs—you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, stop in on your parents and then stay up all night with an ill 5-year-old—something that is not an option if you’re regularly climbing into the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back quarts of scotch.

Overeating is the addiction of choice of “carers,” and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of screwing yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the “luxury” of their addiction, making them useless, chaotic or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that is why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice.

And unless the public and the media quit despising fat people, in particular fat women, this isn’t likely to change.

(Hat tip to Hufflington Post’s Best Articles of 2012.)


My good friend Sue Bergin — writer, hospice chaplin, collage artist, musician and all-around deep thinker — has a new book out, Am I a Saint Yet: Healing the Pain of Perfectionism (available here).  I’ll be attending her book launch Saturday, and I’ll review it here when I finally have a copy.


As soon as the Christmas noise is over, we’ll likely be inundated by the media with recommendations for New Year’s resolutions. That’s all well and good (I mean, who couldn’t stand to lose five pounds?) but I think we should temper our expectations. I say, if the resolution is the result of your comparing yourself negatively with others, rethink it.  Or, better yet, drop it.

My resolutions will likely run along the lines of slowing-down-to-smell-the-roses kind of stuff.

How about you?


“I like to do nothing, to escape from purpose: to brood, to think back and forth; to sit by a fire in Winter, or in a garden in Summer; to loaf on a sea-beach with the sun on me; to hang over the wall of a pier-head watching the waves in their green and white tantrums; to sit in a brasserie on a Parisian boulevard with a common bock, and the people moving to and fro; to idle in parks or public squares, or in the quadrangles and closes of colleges, or the Inns of Court, or the great cathedrals; to forget haste and effort in old empty churches, or drowsy taverns; to rest by a road-side hedge, or in a churchyard where sheep browse; to lie in a punt in the green shade of the willows; to sit on a fence–these things please me well.”

Holbrook Jackson, The Anatomy of Bibliomania (via the fabulous Terry Teachout)

Le manicure

Posted: September 11, 2012 in beauty, fashion, style
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I usually choose a demure, ladylike pink, but I was feelin’ a little bad*ss today. Kind of a mud shade, not red or brown.

Hey, it’s still a neutral! (OPI “You Don’t Know Jackie,” to be exact.) The toes are a more conventional “cathouse red.”


My life in shoes

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Money, shoes

I had this dream last night that I went to the new chi-chi upscale Nordstroms and bought a $1,000 pair of shoes. (Taupe suede mules, not even that cute.) I immediately had Buyer’s Remorse and took them back, and the saleslady (who looked like Joan on “Mad Men”) explained that their new policy required that the refund be made in cash, so she handed me a $10,000 bill! (It had Millard Fillmore’s picture on it, and the weird thing is that I recognized him as Millard Fillmore…) I didn’t realize that I had been grossly overpaid until I got to my car, and then I was frantic that the saleslady would lose her job, but I couldn’t get back in the building to take the money back. And then I woke up.

I hope she didn’t get fired.

What’s the most you’ve ever paid for shoes? (The $100 I spend on a pair of tall black motorcycle-style boots is my biggest indulgence. And I had a gift card.)

The Hag packs her bag

Posted: August 31, 2012 in books, favorite things
Tags: ,

Headed for a long looked-for Labor Day weekend in the mountains with The Spouse and an iPad full of books.

Hope you’ll be doing something you love! See you next week.

My life in shoes

Posted: August 28, 2012 in fashion, shoes
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Ermahgerd. Unefemme has a post today on shoes that has totally sidetracked me. I WANT these:

The color! The little stacked heel! The possibilities! But I don’t have THREE HUNDRED FREAKIN’ DOLLARS to spend!

(Le grande sigh…) I guess I’ll poke around on eBay and see what I can find. I’ll keep you posted.

Update: Not quite the same color, but they have the cute stacked heel. Twenty bucks.

Good news, bad news

Posted: August 27, 2012 in beauty, health

The good news is that I went to my first MWF noon-hour spinning class.

It was sponsored by Ye Olde Salt Mines’ wellness program, and it was free! And I did great! (For me, anyway…)

The bad news is that I am SERIOUSLY going to have to rethink my hair post-workout.

HagRags: All mixed up

Posted: August 16, 2012 in beauty, fashion

When I was six or seven, I had a cherry red sleeveless polka dot top that I delighted in wearing with a pair of red-and-white plaid shorts. I remember looking at myself in the big round mirror of Mother’s 30s-era dressing table (the one that came with its little matching stool) and thinking that I was all that and a side of fries.

My delight, alas, was to be short-lived.

“You can’t wear that,” said The Older Brother, who, at 11, already considered himself the absolute Last Word on what was fashionable or cool. “That looks dumb.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I think it looks good.”

“You can’t wear two patterns together,” he said. “Gosh, you are so STUPID.”

I was crushed. I had no sisters to consult (and Mother was no help), so I swallowed his opinion whole and never wore that lovely little ensemble again.

(Fast forward about, oh, 50 years…)

AHA! I AM VINDICATED! One CAN wear two patterns together! Even plaids and polka dots! ESPECIALLY plaids and polka dots!

Actually, pattern-mixing has been around for a long time. I remember reading a biography of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that scandalous pair, and the author mentioned that it was the Duke’s penchant for wearing paisley ties and striped shirts with his discretely plaid suits that ramped up pattern mixing, at least in menswear. Also, those wonderful ladies at over at Advanced Style seemed to have no qualms about mixing things up, and they appear pretty practiced at it.

While it’s  taken a few extra years for the trend to catch up to me, or me to it, I think the past six months on the street fashion sites and fashion blogs have been a particularly delightful time.  I may not be as brave as the fashionistas on Everybody Everywhere when it sponsored a pattern-mixing day, but I’ve been dabbling in combining this scarf with that top, or that dress with this jacket. And it’s been FUN. Isn’t that the whole point of fashion?

If you’re still not quite convinced, let me offer some of the best advice I’ve gleaned about mixing things up (with examples from my own closet):

Start with stripes.

This is the safest and easiest route I’ve found, and it helps that I already have lots of striped pieces to work with. Polka dots also work well as a more “neutral” print.

Use accessories. Hey, you already wear jewelry, don’t you? Layered necklaces and bracelets can be viewed as a pattern, and a cute patterned scarf or pair of shoes can be a low-risk way of bumping up the volume. (And, when your children make fun of your outfit, you can always take a shoe off and beat them soundly with it or strangle them with the scarf.)

Mix a large pattern with a smaller print.

This tones down any competition, and helps avoid making you look like you got dressed in the dark.

Stay in the same color family.

This is my most daring combo so far — and it completely breaks with the previous suggestion, which probably should tell you something about following rules in the fashion game. To make it a little less jarring, I used the next suggestion —

Cool down the combination with a block of color or a neutral shade. This is a trick I discovered on my own, and it makes me a little more comfortable with my combos.

A little separation, a little blank space can often quiet any sartorial noise. I mostly use black, because I have so much of it in my closet, but I’m trying to use other shades.

And lastly: Have fun, but don’t push it.

I remember driving by the ESL (English language) instruction labs on campus last year and watching the  Asian chicks stroll to class in their random mixed-pattern outfits, which looked strange to me but that (as demonstrated by their body language) clearly made them feel fabulous. I can’t quite carry that off, and I probably shouldn’t try. (This photo is from StreetPeeper, a fun global street fashion site.)

So now, I’ve opened up a host of new combos from my closet, and I can finally reassure my seven-year-old self that I was right all along. Just file this one under Finished Fashion Business.

And to Older Brothers (and fashion critics) everywhere: PFFFFFFFFFT!


Posted: August 10, 2012 in discrimination, women

Those of us who have been glued to our big-screen quad-sound televisions — or whatever’s handy — for the last week or so should remember that the thrill of watching the U.S. women’s soccer, beach volleyball, and gymnastics teams win gold has been brought to you by legislation that, at the time it was enacted in 1972, was wildly controversial.

The ruling had its roots in the civil rights foment of the 1960s. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation website, Title IX is really very short and simple: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Sounds reasonable, no?

As a result, high schools, colleges and universities were forced to provide for women’s sports programs, in many cases sacrificing smaller men’s programs to make room, both physically and financially.

“While Title IX was never meant to be an overhaul of athletics, in many ways, that’s what it became,” writes Amy Donaldson in the Deseret News. “It certainly bolstered educational opportunities for women, but it was sports and the creation of women’s teams and leagues that made Title IX so visible, so controversial and so impactful.”

“While it opened doors for women that had not only been shut but non-existent, it was also used (some would say as an excuse) to dismantle and reduce the number of athletic opportunities for men — especially at the collegiate level,” she said.

At my college, wrestling and men’s gymnastics were phased out, and I remember that their fans and alumni were really vocal in their disappointment: How could women athletes possibly make up for such a loss? Who would ever want to waste their time or —GASP — pay money to watch a bunch of girls play? The legislation would effectively ruin college sports, critics predicted.

It was the beginning of a long period of transition for women. I had older brothers who were stars on their high school football, basketball, and baseball teams during the Sixties, and my father avidly followed their games and bragged to his friends about their plays and points. Me? I was never encouraged to try out for anything but choir. It simply wasn’t a consideration. My parents pointed me firmly in the direction of academics, arts, and homemaking. The basketball hoop installed at the end of the driveway wasn’t put there for me. I got piano lessons. If I dreamed of gold, it was in a tiara accompanied by a big bouquet of roses and Bert Parks singing, “There she is… Miss America!”

And I think I was the worse for it. I didn’t learn the sort of team-building skills my brothers acquired on the field. I never learned how win graciously, or — more importantly — how to lose, how to shake it off, congratulate the victor, and move on.

I remember at the time the legislation was enacted listening to former U.S. Congresswoman Karen Shepherd describe watching her son and daughter play basketball.

“Why did you keep giving the ball to _____?” she asked her son. “I thought you all hated him.”

“Oh, we do,” said her son. “He’s a jerk — but he’s our best shooter.”

Later she watched her daughter play. “Why didn’t you give the ball to _____?” she asked her daughter. “She’s your best player. You might have won the game.”

“We were mad at her,” her daughter replied. Discussion over.

We girls just didn’t get it. We often couldn’t separate our personal feelings and fears from the possibility of achieving a greater good, and I believe we carried that lack of understanding into our jobs and our relationships. I’m sure I could have learned something  really valuable, even life-altering, from sports.

After 40 years, the benefits to women have been impressive. Consider the following stats, courtesy of ESPN:

  • In 1971, the year before Title IX became law, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports, about one in 27. Today, the number approaches 3 million, or approximately one in 2½.
  • The number of women participating in intercollegiate sports in that same span has gone from about 30,000 to more than 150,000. In the last 20 years alone, the number of women’s college teams has nearly doubled.
  • Before Title IX, only tennis and golf had established professional tours. Today, there are also women’s professional leagues for soccer, volleyball, bowling and two for basketball. Women have even made inroads in the traditionally male sport of boxing.

Don’t forget that, for the first time in U.S. Olympic history, the 2012 team had more women athletes than men. And, as of this morning, CNN was reporting that, of the 39 U.S. gold medals won so far, 26 of them went to women. WOOT!

Despite all these gains, Title !X has yet to be fully realized. The arguments and numbers vary depending on what side of the debate you’re on, but 40 years later, women’s sports program still fall short of the 50 percent mandated by the federal legislation. (If you’re interested, it’s all on the Google under Title IX controversy.)

But I’m not going to worry about that right now,  I’ll think I’ll leave enforcement to the feds — and go back to basking in the glow of all those gold medals. You GO, girls!