A little over a month ago, I boarded a plane headed to a city I had always dreamt about going. I romanticized it in my mind. I built a pedestal and placed it there. I was in love with somewhere I’d never seen with my own eyes. This type of fantasizing can be treacherous territory and upon takeoff, my stomach and mind were aflutter with mixed feelings and emotions. Could it live up to my ideals? Would I be disappointed? Was my mental image better than the reality? Was it going to be like your favorite book being slaughtered when made into a movie? Would it be meeting your favorite movie star only to find out he/she is a grade A asshole? Nothing a few mini bottles of wine couldn’t mask for the next six and some change hours. Watching movies on an airplane provide iPad, a little light reading, a full meal, and a few naps later, we touched down in my dream destination. If you kept up with my adventures in parts un, deux, et trois, you know where I was and how deeply in love I fell. I’ve even threatened my beloved Manhattan of abandonment. While, I touched on a few things I learned on my journey in my last installment, there were plenty of other helpful traveling tips that I meant to write down in the moment, but will have to do now. Full disclosure: this is by no means a list that Conde Nast is going to stumble upon and syndicate. This is simply an American amateur’s take away from her first (of many future) visit to Paris, the city of light.
A tip I actually did pick up from Conde Nast Traveler, was to skip the ritzy (and very pricey) hotels and rent an authentic Parisian apartment. You could go the Airbnb route or there are plenty of specifically dedicated vacation apartment rental companies in Paris. I used Paris Perfect and they were a dream to work with (not to mention the view of the Eiffel Tower from our claw foot bathtub).
Learn this phrase, “Anglais, s’il vous plait.” (English, please). Everyone speaks English in Paris for the most part, however, many will start speaking to you in French (probably praying that you do, in fact, speak French). A lot of people will greet you in both French and English to see in which you respond. Also learn “bonsoir” (good evening), “allo” (hello), “merci” (thank you), “oui” (yes), “non” (no), “excusez-moi” (excuse me). Learning “poussez” (push) and “tirez” (pull) will also help you not look like an idiot when it comes to doors.
If you have a little bit of French in your language arsenal, use it the best you can. We asked a native Parisian friend if it was more rude to slaughter the language or to act like an entitled American and not even attempt it. Her take was that it was charming when tourists tried to speak in foreign tongue.
Have the address handy. You may think that you’ve pronounced the name correctly, but with an accent, Montague and Montaigne can quickly be confused by your driver and you’ll end up at the wrong destination.
Drink champagne. The only decision you’ll need to make is rosé or brut.
Eat bread. For whatever reason (though there are theories) many of my normally gluten sensitive friends have reported little to no issues carb loading abroad.
Don’t order a cheeseburger. While the club sandwich seems to be on every menu at every brasserie in the city, slip out of your comfort zone and try something you can’t get in the U.S. or your own hometown.
On that note, don’t be an American cliche. Try and dress the part. Upside: the less makeup, the better. Mascara, lipstick, messy hair, and good shoes.
Tips are included in the bill. There’s no need to tip unless your service was truly extraordinary.
BYOD (bring your own dog). My own dog is still throwing a temper tantrum about being left behind.
Take advantage of the January sales. I didn’t shop the entire time I was there (don’t get me started), but you should.
Do the more touristy things on the weekdays. Don’t forget that Europe is fairly small and many people from countries nearby, come in for the weekend to explore as well.
I didn’t learn this until after I returned home, but flirting is a form of pleasantry. Be prepared to exchange banter with just any member or the opposite sex. My energy tends to be a bit more closed off to this type of behavior, so if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to be a little more open to flattery.
Unlike New York, things close quite a bit earlier. Take advantage of your evening and the extra couple of hours of sleep you’ll get in order to wake up early and do it all over again.
As of late I’ve been in a bit of an emotional tailspin. All I want to do is sleep, eat carbs, and speak only to Smitty or my mom. Some would reason this is merely a natural feeling with the impending doom that is winter on its way, but I haven’t even been to Pilates in two weeks, which is basically unheard of, so you know something’s up. You may have even noticed my sluggish blog posts and somewhat infrequent social media presence indicative of my mood. My father often refers to this behavior as “going dark.” I don’t know precisely what’s throwing me off, perhaps Mercury in retrograde, but I do know that wallowing in it won’t help.
One of the best ways to get out of a major mood slump is to stop obsessing about yourself and your own problems and find ways in which you can help others. Seeing as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I couldn’t think of a better cause to get involved with. I have been fortunate enough to not have been affected personally by breast cancer (knock on wood), but I have breasts and I have a lot of best friends and women in my life who also have breasts. As mentioned yesterday, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and that’s not a statistic to take lightly.
Every year, one of my very best friends, Katie (you may recognize her from her playlists and general craftiness), walks in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure and she does it with such spirit, fun, and flair that it hardly looks like volunteer work at all. Now, this is a woman who is always the first person to help somebody out. I can attest to this as she was on an airplane from Florida to California to help me move back to the Big Apple the moment she heard my decision. If anyone knows what it means to be selfless it’s Katie and that is why I’m joining her this year on her three day walk for Susan G. Komen on November 21-23 in San Diego, California.
Please help me raise funds as well as awareness for Breast Cancer by donating on my personal page (net proceeds go to research, scientific programs, and community based breast health and education programs for women and men facing breast cancer) and read more about ways you can get involved (like joining the walk as well!). You’re the breast!
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.
Since I started devouring women’s monthly magazines like Seventeen and YM as an angst ridden pre-teen, one of my favorite parts of the glossy ritual besides brushing my shoulders off in front of my brothers for having received something in the mail specifically addressed to me was to tear right to the back for the ever prolific horoscope. Besides finding out what my future held, it usually consisted of some sort of power color sprinkled with product placement for that issue’s forecast. Once it had been confirmed that I’d be ruling the lunchroom that month, it was then time to flip to the quiz that would give me deep insight as to whether or not my crush was sharing mutually mushy adolescent feelings. Like there was any question. My headgear said it all.
Sure, these catchy little fortunes could have very well been written by a trained parakeet or editorial intern, but sometimes it felt reassuring to have someone else tell me how my month was going to pan out whether it proved to be accurate or asinine. Many would argue that horoscopes are just catalysts for self fulfilling prophecies and if one puts too much weight into a reading, it’s entirely possible that he or she will experience precisely what was set out for him or her by someone else who wrote that fortune with one hand and ate a turkey wrap with the other in a tiny office cubicle.
I still receive my share of recyclable monthly magazines, however, I spend a little bit more time with the trend forecasting and less with the life forecasting. And while my flipping has become more fashion than fantasy, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t read my monthly horoscope and decide between the two depending on which was more favorable as I’m a Capriquarius. This past week, as I acted like a PMS induced terrorist, declaring my life sucked and that I was basically destined to die a penniless old maid in bad shoes, my friend sent me a link to a weekly horoscope from AstroStyle. Beyond shooting me with a tranquilizer dart, it was all she could think to do to quell my petulance.
In this particular instance, it was terrifyingly accurate. My preexisting anxiety mounted. One part that struck me, was something that she and I had been discussing all week: patience. Much like Instagram can spawn, I was drawn into a blackhole of astrology. I checked one against another and it was uncanny how many times the word “patience” came up. Without delving too deep into my personal life- we’ll get there, this was something I needed to hear and put into practice. The final clang of my wakeup call came when I received my daily reading (yes, I’m a spiritual hippie who was recently mocked by a friend visiting from LA for my love of the beach, kale, yoga, and hiking) that told me to cool my jets, breathe, and be patient. After basically being smacked in the face with the message, I decided to take it as a sign.
Somewhere my father is rolling his eyes and taking deep cleansing breaths at this (don’t worry, dad), but these seemed to be the types of signs that are worth perking up for and paying attention to. Much like seeing that you and a guy you’re dating have the same book, “The Psychopath Test” on your nightstand, which may be telling you something entirely different than having shared interests. Something more like, “Run!”
Living in a city where we expect to get everything we want within a moment’s notice and expect everyone else to also know precisely what they want within an instant, it can become nearly impossible to not grow impatient. I mean, one of my biggest complaints after moving to LA for that short stint with insanity was that nobody knew what they wanted by the time they got to the front of the line at Coffee Bean. A gasket was nearly blown on more than one mid afternoon caffeine run while someone debated between soy or almond milk in their chai latté. While our New York ability to make split second decisions without breaking a sweat can prove to be beneficial in business, crises, or choosing a restaurant for an impromptu dinner, it may blur our vision when dealing with matters of the heart.
Now, let’s delve into that personal life.
We like to think that when it comes to relationships “when you know, you know.” That would be just great if it were at all that simple and certainly would have saved me from several duds of dudes. I don’t know if that statement differs between men and women, because, well, I’m a woman and the relationships I’ve had (and there’ve been more than a few) that came in hot like fiery bombs being thrust from cannons, have all ended just that way. They bombed. How so, you might ask? Well, there was the one who all but moved me into his Soho loft before suggesting couples counseling a mere two months in or maybe the one who cried three times on the first date and told me he loved me before our Uber driver suggested I get out, find a taxi, and save myself. But, perhaps I’m the one who should have known better. It’s lovely to feel wanted and to be wooed to the nth degree, but maybe dating isn’t the time to make rash decisions or grow impatient.
Overzealous men aren’t the only ones to blame. There have been times when I’ve gone all in, only to later realize that had I taken a bit longer to get to know my suitor, I may have never bothered to schedule that third date or go away with him for the weekend. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and momentarily be optimistic about the outcome, but this can lead to some rather awkward moments. For example, one weekend I decided to lock lips with a handsome stranger who happened to be staying in the same summer beach house. The next morning, the very sound of his voice out in the living room made my skin crawl and I spent the rest of the weekend finding clever ways to avoid him. I like to think of that as buyer’s remorse. It’s kind of like shopping online. You put all those items in your cart and then delete 80% of them before checkout. The difference is, dating is in real time.
And then there is my most recent example of why patience of the heart is paramount. Having dealt with several borderline psychopaths (that book has helped me spot them), I finally met someone who fit none of the criteria on the PCL-R checklist. He was handsome, interesting, and very much interested in me. So, what did I do upon meeting such a gem among rocks? Well, I did what any self respecting, intelligent, jaded city girl would do. I sh*t all over that relationship. Instead of seeing all of the good that was right in front of me: the sweet and playful banter, the respectful compliments, the promises to make Smitty love him, I pushed the fast forward button and inadvertently pushed him away. I had gotten so used to men who sped right through getting to know me that I was freaked out by the prospect of an actual gentleman who wanted to take his time.
After drinking unidentified liquid from a coconut at a beach birthday party, I delved into some old habits: drunk texting. The poor chap on the receiving end wasn’t aware that I was the same girl who used to light the match, toss it, and stand back to watch those bridges burn like a hungry pyromaniac. Well, he knows that now. Looking at the messages the next day, I wanted to light myself on fire. He was kind enough to accept my apology and view a few Snapchats, but the damage had been done and I haven’t heard from him since. While there is nothing I can do now to push rewind and slow things back down, I can take away a very important lesson… because I haven’t learned enough of those already. When it comes to love and matters of the heart, patience is truly a virtue.
We’ve all seen the quote above. Maybe we’ve even posted it somewhere. We pass around all these inspirational quotes on social media sites and we like the shit out of them and put the “raise the roof” emojis in the comment section, but how long do those messages actually stick with us? In a society with fleeting attention spans being diagnosed as ADD, we’re on to the next photo, conversation, or task in the swipe of a finger. As great as all these digital “good vibes” are, how many of us are actually living them?
As I nearly melted on the roof of Soho House earlier this week with someone who came quite close to self eliminating himself and is still perilously toeing the line, I explained my theory to him. For a long time I held onto people in my life who probably didn’t want or better yet, deserve to be there. I thought that made me a good friend or a loyal person. I was giving it the ol’ college try. I was expending lots of energy on people and situations that were serving no purpose in my life and adding no extra happiness or value to my existence. In reality, they were holding me back from becoming the person I want to be and from the things I really want from life. It’s a sneaky form of self sabotage that I didn’t even realize– because let’s be real– I excel in self sabotage. I love putting my little hand right on that still lit stove.
When I stepped back and released my death grip on relationships, the good ones survived and the bad ones choked. By basically doing nothing except removing myself from the situation and seeing the relationships objectively for what they were, I eliminated a lot of unnecessary drama, hurt, and general fuckery from my life. I felt lighter, I had more time to spend on things I actually needed to be doing, on people who I enjoy my time with, and didn’t really miss the past at all. It was literally a relationship detox except there were no violent mood swings, hunger pangs, or wheatgrass shots.
The entire process was pretty much effortless, something else in which I excel. I didn’t have to sit and ponder and sigh and shrug causing unneeded wrinkles and excess stress as to whether that person should stay or go. They were doing it for me. They were eliminating themselves from my life by acting like assholes and I didn’t have to lift a finger. I just sat back calmly and watched it all play out. It was survival of the fittest for relationships. Darwinian. Hence, “Darlimination.”
After commenting on the flecks of rose gold nail polish (Essie Penny Talk) still clinging to portions of my nails, he nodded his head in agreement (a real life “raise the roof” emoji). I should probably copyright the name (and probably eliminate him for his manicure commentary, but there’s nothing a chocolate covered cinnamon gummy bear can’t cure).
A perfect example of Darlimination is something that happened a couple of weeks ago. I had sworn off one very toxic and recurring relationship for the 400th time, and a friend of mine who’d I’d been spending a lot of time with had been missing from the scene. During that time period, I woke up every morning and was happy. I didn’t have anything really giddy worthy to smile about- no love life to speak of, still not able to make it rain with hundreds on a Tuesday, and an extra five pounds that seems to have signed a ten year lease and invited over some friends. However, I was happy. Like smiling at strangers (okay, strangers’ dogs) happy. There was absolutely nothing that could bring me down, not even an Instagram feed strewn with photos of an ex and his new Snooki lookalike girlfriend. Nothing.
And then my little Narnia was blown to bits after allowing both of those emotional vampires back into my life. I didn’t recognize it immediately. Well, the bad ex-boyfriend, yes. How many times must I sing that sad song? I was depressed and drained and didn’t feel like doing much of anything with anyone. Poor Smitty. I became aware that I was letting other people’s bad energy, shitty attitudes, and lack of shared goals and values pollute my otherwise very pretty world. As much as I’d wanted to share my happiness and hoped it would rub off on them, they just wanted to flounder about in misery and that’s not my kind of party. So after one too many irrational temper tantrums incorrectly directed towards me and another disappearing act by him, I let them go (“hand wave” emoji).
While this all may sound very selfish, anyone who actually knows me, knows that I’m probably too nice. But we all have our breaking points and when you start to give too much of yourself helping others, you’re not only hurting yourself but hurting them too. If you offer someone a piece of your world and they don’t take it or treat it like garbage, let them go. Smitty is the only one allowed to shit on my floor and even he knows better… most of the time. Not everybody fits into your life and instead of feeling hurt by that, feel thankful you’ve been shown that they don’t. Now you have more time and more space for the people and things that do fit. Rip the Band-Aid off and move on. What is meant to stick will always stick, what doesn’t wasn’t meant for you and will disappear. You just have to learn to be okay with that. If you’re feeling sad and can’t pinpoint the source, do a relationship audit and figure out if you’re clinging to emotionally depletive relationships.
On the flip side, don’t forget that if you want to be in someone else’s life, you need to put in the effort and be the friend, lover, human that deserves to be a part of that person’s life. Think about what you’d expect because remember, you can just as easily be extricated.