My lobby’s front desk has been covered in flower deliveries all day long. These aren’t the carnations and baby’s breath variety either. There are a lot of people being spoiled florally today. And florists are making their first quarter sales marks in a stride.
After getting up this morning and heading to yoga at Strala, I walked home from Soho and spent a solid ten minutes at my favorite flower stand off of 6th Avenue deciding which shade of roses I wanted to give myself for Valentine’s Day. I proudly carried the bouquet in the crook of my arm the rest of the way home while bopping along to my latest iTunes playlist. Years ago, I would have felt embarrassed about being my own Valentine, but after years of anti climatic and at times even traumatic Valentine’s Days, I’m happy to be a party of one.
I think the largest flaw with Valentine’s Day lies in the fact that so many people set themselves up for disappointment. Movies, and TV shows, love stories, and even tabloids have given us these grandiose ideas of what love is all about. When we are met with hand written notes instead of shiny new Maybachs in the driveway, we end up thinking that we are missing the mark. We’ve been fed an ideal of what love is that can only lead to unmet expectations and resentment. However, love comes in so many other forms than romance. Also, romance doesn’t always necessarily guarantee love. There are very few people you can always count on. If you have more than a few, consider yourself lucky. And without getting into spiritual beliefs (which I have), there’s really only one person you can count on and that’s yourself. The only person’s behavior you are in complete control over is your own, so if you want to be spoiled, or loved, maybe it’s time you start doing it yourself. This is a practice called “self love” and while it does include the stigma you are thinking of, that’s not all that it equates to.
There are plenty of ways to pamper yourself- whether material or mental and below are some thoughts on how to show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year for that matter:
Yoga and meditation
A long shower complete with your favorite sugar or coffee scrub.
A bubble bath that rivals Pretty Woman.
Indulge in spa day or just splurge on a footrub at your favorite spot for pedicures.
Enjoying a bottle of your favorite bubbly all by yourself.
Watching every single episode of your favorite guilty pleasure.
Getting lost in a library and then lost in a book.
Decking yourself out just because.
Getting your hair blown out with no plans in sight.
Cooking your favorite meal.
Buying yourself something instead of waiting for someone else to (and because you’ve worked hard for it, dang it!).
I have always tried to emphasize to my readers- because I know most of them are female and some of them are quite young- that taking pride in one’s appearance is certainly an extension of self worth, however, banking only on good looks is a serious gamble (hence, why I created Smart Is the New Pretty). In tandem with primping and priming our exteriors we should also be grooming our interiors. A shiny car is great until you slip inside only to find it full of garbage and leftover McDonald’s wrappers that even a Febreeze ad couldn’t cover up. Sure, we’re careful about what we’re feeding our bodies (as we should be), but also being conscious of what we’re feeding our minds is what makes us complete packages.
I live in a city full of 400,000 more beautiful women than there are men. Most people see only see Maybelline and Victoria’s Secret commercials on their television screens. I’ve seen them in the flesh on more than one occasion, especially around February and September. And even if you don’t live in a real time perfume ad, women all over the globe are constantly being bombarded by sexy sirens on TV, in magazines, and now even our Instagram feeds. (Uh, belfies anyone?) Here’s the thing: the women who stand out are the ones who can stand on their own.
Most of us still subscribe to women’s magazines or at the very least, “like” them on Facebook so as to have stories about losing those pesky extra five pounds, tips to make your man hot, and how to be basically perfect streaming into our lives on a regular basis. Taking cues from Cosmo and other women who don’t know what men want any more than the rest of us seems like a case of the blind leading the blind. I could tell you multiple tales of what not to do, but I decided to go straight to the source. I asked actual men what they thought about certain things we wear and the qualities they find most desirable in women and the answers were pleasantly surprising. Though they wouldn’t shock Susan Patton.
While this “study” couldn’t even come close to being considered “scientific” (although one of the classes I easily aced in college was chemistry), it does give a little insight into the male brain, which while complex is much more straightforward than our own female version. To be perfectly transparent, my sampling really wasn’t that random. It was a slightly homogenous mix made mostly of the men my friends and single ladies I know would like to date and probably pine over between sips of pinot on lonely Thursday nights. They are the guys who would delight your parents should you show up to Thanksgiving dinner with one of them rather than that terrible ex of yours from college who only wore fleece vests and pleated chinos. You know, the one who gave your younger brother an unsolicited course in the birds and bees after insulting your mother’s candied yams. My pool of respondents are educated, successful, and worldly- not to mention handsome. I suppose I also could have asked guys who frequent nightclubs because I know those guys too, but I don’t have their email addresses. I can’t even be sure they have email or know what email is. In any case, I compiled a questionnaire consisting of ten questions that can only begin to scratch the surface of what makes men tick.
When asked about their favorite outfit on a woman…
As I’ve often said, “Keep it simple, stupid,” or K.I.S.S. This holds true for business and personal matters as well as your wardrobe. Though answers to this question garnered some pretty scattered results including fitted jumpsuits, lace, sneakers with skirts, maxi dresses, and rompers (which were, ironically, listed as something we should stop wearing- but we’ll get to that), the answer that kept popping up included a variation of white tank/tee and jeans/jean shorts (here is an example of keeping it simple). So, basically, your drop crotch Hammer pants and ruffled crop top are best left to be worn on a night out with the girls because your beau either did not notice, does not care, and as one of my respondents replied, is turned off by your wearing of labels. Two other honorable mentions were the cult favorite, yoga pants, and his old t-shirt with a pair of boyshorts.
And what we should stop wearing…
Animal print may be a continuing trend for fall, but don’t expect a man to fall for you when draped in pelts. Sadly, many of the answers to this question happen to be some of our, as women, favorite trends. As a matter of fact, many of the answers dealt with men’s distaste for women following fashion trends too closely. The “arm parties” (can we stop calling them that yet?) that we so love are driving men crazy and not in a good way. All of the clanking is not only creating an imbalance in arm strength for you, but also distracting and annoying him. Wearing things that don’t fit your body (I have rephrased the answer much more eloquently than its initial iteration) and showing too much skin, namely cleavage are surefire ways to end a date early. And that bit of underwear showing? They hate that too but, don’t think that high waisted anything is going to be the cure all. Last but not least, they may love you in jeans, but definitely not boyfriend jeans.
So, who do they consider to be style icons?
Sorry, Miley Cyrus, men seem to be immune to your raunchy high cut leotards (not to mention antics) and Katy Perry’s cupcake cleavage seems to be lost on the male species. As a matter of fact, one of the only young A-listers to be mentioned was Taylor Swift. It would appear that most men who answered tend to favor classic (and covered up) beauties like Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly. Other responses included Jackie Kennedy O’Nassis, Audrey Hepburn, Charlize Theron, Olivia Palermo, and the great Kate Moss.
And regarding makeup: Done up or au naturale?
Save yourself some time and trouble when getting ready by paring back on the effort spent spackling your face in the bathroom mirror. Though a few of the respondents preferred completely natural, most preferred makeup that looked natural, emphasizing your God given beauty, but not masking it with thick foundation and crazy eye colors.
Do they notice and/or care about our manicures and pedicures? What about that leg stubble?
Sadly, and I can speak from experience, men do pay attention to details when it comes to our fingers, toes, and the limbs in between. One respondent summed it quite well with, “It is the overall impression of being ‘together’ not any one particular aspect.” Others said they notice, but would never comment on chipped nails or an unsavory shade choice. As for unshaven legs, they were a bit more vocal. Having a bit of blonde fuzz on or around your knees wasn’t a big deal so long as it didn’t imply that other regions may be overgrown as well.
What makes a woman attractive?
The beauty industry is $400 billion dollar industry globally. We spend hundreds of dollars a month on creams that will rid of us wrinkles, painful procedures to banish unwanted hair, and makeup that guarantees to cover up any minor imperfection. But what is it that really makes a woman attractive? Turns out, it’s not solely long lashes, flawless skin, or toned thighs. What do men find most attractive in a woman? Sorry beauty industry, but it’s brains. From having a job and her own interests to a strong yoga practice and spirituality, it seems men are more interested in women who have their heads on straight. Men find women who are interesting attractive.
On what makes a woman interesting…
Much like what makes a woman attractive, the most succinct answer was, “Her brain,” and that response was echoed and elaborated on time and time again. Having a positive attitude, a sly smile, the ability to hold a decent conversation with well thought out opinions, and confidence were just a few. A woman who has traveled on her own, can navigate a city solo, possesses her own style, and has something to add to a conversation or is able to teach others also makes her swoon worthy. Having a little bit of “fire” doesn’t hurt either.
And what makes for a total dealbreaker…
We all have our dealbreakers when it comes to dating and mating. These are the quirks that can’t casually be overlooked and just deemed cute. While mine include things like lacking self awareness and wearing sports jerseys, men had some very specific responses to this one. Interestingly, as one respondent pointed out, “Each [sic] woman is unique. Something that is awesome about girl A could be a huge turn off for girl B.” So, while one man’s dealbreaker may be another man’s aphrodisiac, here are some of the more interesting answers and it’s probably best to just bullet point these:
Saying “like” too much
Seeing her read a celebrity mag
If she’s a bad kisser
Inability to manage money
Not having command of they’re/ their/ there and you’re/ your
Lack of common sense
Being outspoken with a low quotient for relevant and interesting content
No awareness of current events
Using “hahahaha” and “lol” in texts
One thing men wished women knew about them…
This question held some of the most valuable information in my opinion. One gentleman wanted us to know that men aren’t as tough as we think they are and they stress about work and their need to provide. Another added that they don’t think nearly as much as we do… about anything. One pointed out that threats, ultimatums, and games aren’t effective because social media and apps like Tinder have leveled the playing field (Ouch!). To soften that last blow, one response was, “Real men prefer a woman who values herself enough to be ‘hard to get.'” Follow that up with, “Women please, as long as you’re being insane in your body desires, please, please, please move towards Misty Copeland and away from models/women who look like prepubescent boys.” My favorite response came in the form of a video (below) and much like my YouTube experiences of getting sucked into hours of puppies, I watched several more videos by the same man, Mark Gungor (this one was life changing).
And luckily, men do know the difference between leggings and pants…
Leggings are just a single piece of fabric. kinda like thick tights. pants have some kind of discernible feature (pockets, zippers, etc)
Leggings are incredible for any situation but if we are going out to eat or somewhere special throw a pair of pants on please. Preferably leather pants.
I’m probably wrong but: I feel leggings are tighter and comprised of a stretchy material. Pants can also be tight, and stretchy, but not as stretchy as leggings. I also feel like pants have seams and leggings may or may not.
A true fan of a good prop and almost all excuses for a theme party (except for 80’s and ugly Christmas sweaters- I will not participate, so just don’t ask), I began to think about role playing. Not only why it is so fun to slip into someone else’s persona even if only for an evening, but where some people fit into our lives and why they ever bothered showing up– especially without RSVP’ing.
My human wrecking ball reared his ugly head again and this go round completely demolished me and basically left me for dead. An abandoned building with no plans for reconstruction. Needless to say, it was a very difficult breakup to shake. One that even after an extended stay in California post Smitty surgery I couldn’t manage to completely cut off. Either that or I truly am a masochist.
I’d boarded the plane in Monterey late January/pre-birthday after having no contact for nearly two months, until ol’ Wile E. Coyote realized he was blocked and started bombarding my iCloud email with “I miss you” messages and invitations to cover seedy stories with him in Las Vegas. True romance. How could I not be hooked? I kindly declined and upon arrival back in New York, I felt strong and assured that I’d kicked that nasty habit once and for all. Sixth time’s a charm, right? But just as all men must be born with one, his radar went off and he was able to track me down and catch me during a moment, wherein I was lonely, cold, and a few too many glasses of wine in. The instant the door shut behind him the next afternoon, I immediately regretted having given in so easily. His half assed apologies and falsified justifications were hardly enough to have allowed him to even take me to a shitty bottomless brunch. Yet I had suffered what would be considered a relapse which had adorably been renamed by my friend- the only way of making it sound less tragic than it actually was.
Numbers were re-blocked. iMessage turned off. Celibacy sworn. Don’t worry, I was sure to repeat steps one through three two more times before finding out about his other concurrent victim girlfriend. True to form, it had taken something terribly awful for me to finally throw in the towel. This was ultimately the point of no return and surprisingly, it didn’t hurt as bad as I’d expected though it did disturb me a little for more than many reasons.
When a new (and wonderful) girlfriend asked that I please accompany her to meet up with some friends in the East Village one Sunday night early this spring, I was not expecting to walk into a startling and bewitching mix between Johnny Depp and John Lennon. As someone who is normally all but immune to the male mystique, I was completely thrown off guard while being simultaneously drawn in. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my mouth had actually dropped open onto the vintage wooden table where he and his bearded friends sat. Covered in tattoos and stone cold sober, he wasn’t my standard breed. He was actually nearing the polar opposite of the past, but after some bonding over Lionel Ritchie lyrics and exchanging of Instagram handles (the new phone number), I was sold.
Turns out, the feeling was mutual. At least for the next week and a half. We made plans soon after and we spoke all day everyday following our outing. We shared the same quick, sick, twisted humor and had similar ideologies as well as professions that complemented each other’s. Though I thought he could potentially have had some staying power- there are very few people who can keep up with my undaunting and sometimes indecipherable wit- he all but fell off the face of the earth after having made lots of “future plans” with me and Smitty. Oddly enough, this actually ended up upsetting me more than being dumped for someone who can’t legally buy a beer in the US. After a few pow-wows with girlfriends and coming up with nothing but a lot of shoulder shrugging and ice cream sandwiches, we chocked it up to the “blackhole of dating” that is New York City. The best way I was able to come to terms with the jilt was realizing that while he may not have been a forever in my life, he was an all but crucial bridge in the road to my recovery and healing. And even though his behavior was only slightly north of total douchebag, I am so grateful to him for getting me over that little week long hump that could have just as easily sent me right back down the rabbit hole straight into another relapse.
It would have been just as easy to start wondering and obsessing about what was wrong with me and feeling angry at him, but instead I was reminded that I can not only be incredibly attracted to someone else, but there are other interesting fellows still out there. Gentlemen who like you- if only for a moment in time. Even if they do wear weird jeans and in retrospect probably wouldn’t have fit into your life longterm, it’s nice to be reminded how it feels to be pursued. To be reminded that you are smart and funny and worth being treated with more respect than a dirty dishrag at a C grade sushi restaurant.
So, you see, not everyone is meant to be a lifelong soulmate, friend, or boyfriend. Sometimes people are strategically placed into our lives at the exact moment we unknowingly need them to teach us lessons, save us from ourselves, and prepare us for what lies ahead. And instead of feeling bitter and holding onto the anger about being abandoned, passed over, or neglected it’s best to look more intently into their ultimate purpose and thank them for coming to our party. Even if they left without cleaning up, they technically did bring a hostess gift and it’s up to you to figure what that was and be grateful for it.
Note: Smitty is not in this photo. He was busy. Being coddled by his new mom/soul mate.
I remember sprawling out in the grass in Central Park with my girlfriends one sunny afternoon. We were killing two birds with one blanket: catching up on the latest gossip and checking out what kind of hunks Manhattan had to offer. Forget the Meatpacking District, Central Park was a pure meat market on that particular Saturday. While scanning Sheep’s Meadow for Big Apple’s buffest, one Adonis-like gentleman caught my girlfriends’ eyes. As they began to “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” I lowered my Oliver Peoples, assessed the situation, and stated very matter of factly, “His nipples are HUGE!” and resumed scanning that month’s issue of Elle. My friends gave me a lot of grief for my observation and it became a bit of an ongoing joke, but here’s what: I’ve always known exactly what I’ve wanted and never seen any reason why I shouldn’t have it. And that includes the circumference of my potential mate’s areola.
Whether it’s been a dress, apartment, hairstyle, or shoes, I knew it the moment I saw it. I have laser sharp focus when it comes to such things and I really can’t be bothered with anything subpar. I’d rather have nothing at all than second choice. Now, I get that I may sound cold and some people may call me critical, but I’m not suggesting we go around judging everyone and everything. That’s not our job. Plus, I doubt I could stand up to my own scrutiny. I’m simply suggesting that in matters of the heart, we should have some standards. If I’m willing to hold out on a pair of shoes, why wouldn’t I do the same for love?
Many times I’ve referenced the sweet, sweet love of my life, Smitty. He’s the best friend and longest relationship I’ve ever had… and he was the pick of the litter. I got first dibs on the four maltipoo pups and I don’t think any of this is a coincidence. I saw him and I knew. Now, granted, he really had no choice in the matter… he was coming home with me whether he liked it or not, but it’s a prime example of seeing what you want and going for it rather than taking the little one in the corner who looks sad because you feel bad for him.
How exactly does this all relate to love? Well, having grandiose ideas about what you’re looking for in a partner can be off-putting to many. They may think you’re being idealistic or just too picky. A lot of people will try and sell you on the dream of, “Oh it might not come in the packaging you think” or, “You should give him a chance.” AKA, lower your expectations. You know what that’s called? Settling. And guess what? I’ve done that… and look how well that turned out!
So many times I’ve gone out with guys who are “meh” out of sheer boredom or just hoping that they would grow on me and turn into some fabulous Prince Charming once I got to know them. Well, here’s the thing. They grew on me, alright. Like barnacles. Nothing good will come out of dating a guy who you aren’t initially interested in. If I don’t like your face now, I’m certainly not going to like it ten months in once I’ve found out all of your bad habits like leaving your socks on the floor and never folding your towel.
So, I’ve just stopped doing that. I no longer spend time on the “so-so.” I don’t bother wasting my new Alexander Wang on just any ol’ schmoe. I’ll save it for someone worth impressing. I turned down multiple gentlemen callers on more than one night this past week because I’d really just rather sit home and hang out with my dog, a glass of wine, and an interesting book than exert the insincere effort. In the past, I’ve found myself gazing across the table thinking… let’s pretend for a moment that I care…
There is nothing wrong with holding out and being a little bit picky. Perhaps my “near marriage” experience has changed the way I feel about rushing down the aisle just so I’m not “alone.” Alone is a whole heck of a lot better than a bad relationship. So, if the guy is wearing a gold watch at the gym, you don’t need to cut him a break. Move along and wait for your pick of the litter. Here’s to being picky. I will gladly sit here solo with my glass of wine, Smitty, and Anna Karenina until Prince Charming does, in fact, show up.
They say “Third time’s a charm,” yet that leaves me wondering: Who is “they”? and in what reference? Because in my experience, especially in love, the third time has been anything but charming.
You see, I am a hopeless romantic and have a bit of an overactive imagination, which is great for writing, not so much for relationships. Combine that with the dramatically romanticized television shows, movies, and books of our time and you’ve got a recipe for one hot mess of a love life. I love love, I love seeing people in love, and I am, without question, capable of love. While some argue that to be a good and even enviable quality, I find it to be a bit of a double edged sword. The upside is pretty obvious, but as for the downside, well, that’s where things get a bit messy.
For six years I tricked myself (with the aid of a “gentleman”‘) into believing we had some magical “connection.” So, we had an on again-off again, long distance, lacking all substance, but seriously there has to be something there relationship. Not kidding, six years. (I realize this either dates me, or you can’t believe my mom let me start dating at the tender age of 10). It was as if he had some type of sonar/GPS/radar on my heart. Each and every time I was in between a relationship, or a relationship was washing up at shore, lo and behold, there he’ be. Either that or he was a total stalker. Not even blocking his phone number kept him away, thanks to Facebook. (Zuckerberg, you trying to ruin my life?). This couldn’t be coincidence, right? Of course not! We were quite clearly very deeply connected! So what if I don’t think he even knows what I do for a living and the only reason he knows my birthday is because he needed it to book a flight? None of that matters when you and a person share an indescribable bond. Therefore, I continued to let it play out. Time and time again. Even after swearing I’d never let it happen again.
Every time I’d see him, I was left in a puddle of tears when he’d leave. Our latest installment, however, was, by far, the most dramatic. Without going into details, I left the situation feeling totally humiliated, shocked, and somewhat depressed. How was it possible that after all of this time, we could never manage to get things right? Oh, silly, silly girl, here’s the thing: there was no “connection.” All the going back and forth and showing back up in my life was merely a game to him. Cause, guess what? A guy who “knows” knows. He doesn’t allow a near decade to pass without so much as a whisper of commitment. I was writing the next epic romance novel and he was playing a cheap game of cat and mouse. I had successfully faked a relationship by allowing all the drama to cloud my judgement. Drama doesn’t equate to love and passion. Drama equals drama. I’d painted this person out to be a Mr. Big, when all he really was was a Mr. Big Asshole.
Speaking of which, a recent study even proves that you can “fake” being in love and actually fall in love. If that’s the case, I’m in love a few fellows at this very moment (call me). And while I now know that there was never any connection, let alone love, I also know my phone will ring sometime in the near future with that same familiar number on the caller ID. I certainly won’t be answering and I most definitely am not expecting him to show up in Paris to whisk me off my feet.