Friday, May 28, 2010

Dieting in The Land of Milk & Honey

Pity, party of one? Pity, party of one...

Nobody likes someone who's feeling sorry for herself.

Now I know that many people experience true hardships, real experiences of self-denial that are for their own good. And we all feel for them--for the guy trying to quit smoking, the couple pinching pennies toward that first new house, the diabetic forgoing the dessert cart. We might even listen to a little of their struggle with a sympathetic ear.

To an extent.

But let's face it--no one wants to hear that guy whine about wanting cigarettes. No one wants those sugar-starved eyes staring down your Oreo. None of us like hearing someone else complain that they can't* afford something. We tip our hats to the stoic decisions, but we recoil from the demand for pity.

Simply put: the Pity Party is a party of one.

And it was Shannon Kelly's party last weekend in Vegas. For awhile, anyway.

Seriously, I'm embarrassed. But this is a sort of tell-all blog about giving up something FAR less serious than cigarettes or killer sugar, so I 'fess up by saying that I was throwing myself a major pity party while shopping with the ladies during our Girls' Weekend in Fabulous Las Vegas.

I'm not proud of it. But here it is. I was already a bit bummed out with the clothes I'd brought-- a couple of dresses I was sure I'd worn a million times. I was stuck with them, and I was feeling sorry for myself.

Seriously, if Hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned, then it definitely hath no bitchy mood like a woman not feeling pretty. Without something new to wear, I was feeling very dull and wanted only to park by the pool and read Harry Potter. And even then I was hating the swimsuit I brought.

But I found myself at the mall with Sarah and Kelly, immersed in a sea of glittering, gorgeous shoes. All of my own accord, of course. After all, hadn't I suggested that mall in the first place? Hadn't I led us to that huge shoe selection?

Hadn't I, in a buzzed and giggling fit on the airplane, made a list of all of the things the 3 of us had expected to find in Vegas, many of which were clothing items?

And I really did want the girls to find the fabulous shoes and clothes enumerated in our Vegas Wish List. I wanted them to know the thrill that is Shopping in Vegas. So of course we were at the mall. And I was bummed out.

I waaaaaanted. We were surrounded by gorgeous summer stuff, and it was calling to me. A funky white dress at French Connection. Light, breezy colors at Ann Taylor. And sandals, oh the sandals. My toes looked disappointed as we dove into the sweet sea of strappy strappiness and began to find stuff for the girls to try on.

What was I doing? Why had I entered into this stupid agreement with myself and then taken a plunge into the best shopping city I've ever known? In the place where every pleasure can be yours, I was forgoing one of my greatest. And I was pissed off about it. I pouted and quit trying things on altogether.

Eventually our dinner reservations demanded that we abandon the shopping. My gloomy self-pity was chased away by a giggling hour of primping in the Venetian Suite. Kelly was dancing on one of the beds while Sarah handed out champagne, and all of us were singing to Britney Spears and Lady Gaga.

And even though it was Sarah who was wearing the super-hot dress just purchased that day, the compliments were flowing as free as the bubbly. They didn't care that I was wearing a dress I bought over 5 years ago--they gasped when I strutted across the room in it. Vainly we snapped photo after photo of ourselves, posing and laughing and honestly commenting on how stunning everyone looked.

So perhaps it was the champagne, perhaps it was the air guitar solo I did with the hairdryer while perched on the railing in the room, but suddenly I felt awesome. Gorgeous. Big-Haired and Confident.

We marched our beauty to dinner, where we had the backstage view of the Bellagio fountains and an amazing array of num-nums to choose from. The breeze was lovely, the company fun, and the conversation pretty hilarious.

And when we went shopping again the next day, things were different. Embarrassed at my Debbie Downer-ness of the prior day, I attacked the stores with everything I had. No dressing room was safe, no pricey pair of pants was going to elude me!

We made the required trip to Anthropologie, and of course we went to Banana Republic. There I put together a lovely outfit for a safari and pretended to be gracefully scouting giraffes while in the dressing room.

When would I need silk high-waisted shorts that tie and have pleats & cuffs? In Africa, obviously, while holding binoculars in Muffy and Spencer's Land Rover. Along with this perfect little (organic) cotton white tank. Because Muffy cares about the environment.

At Ann Taylor I insisted Sarah try on their white pants, despite the hefty price tag, and I tried some, too. Just to see how they looked. There's something luxurious about trying on the really nice stuff and not just going for the sale rack. Like flying first class or drinking Perrier. I went a little over the top, trying them on with heels and a silly formless shirt, which I decided would look better blowing in the wind at the beach. Kelly helped me create that effect:

And finally, the French Connection once again, this time to get Kelly's dream dress. FCUK had come through for us the day before with Sarah's stunning little number, and now it had been determined that the green one was going to be The One for Kelly.

Totally enjoying prancing around in front of mirrors, I grabbed a blue one and somehow managed to paint it on.

Dude, it looked pretty awesome. Kelly was looking like a rockstar down the way in green, and I was kinda glued to the mirror in the blue. The girls were super cool, too, telling me it looked great, even telling me I really ought to just go ahead and get it.

But the cool thing was, it was satisfying enough to just feel good in it. Honestly, it was a big ego boost to see it on and like how I looked.

I felt just as awesome later that night in my own dress. Yeah, it would have been great to flaunt all over the casinos in that blue one, but it was great, well, flaunting all over the casinos in the one I had. And I got to enjoy the company of 2 other ladies who were really enjoying themselves and what they were wearing.

In fact, my stupid pity party aside, we enjoyed everything we did that weekend. Laying by the pool, eating fancy meals, gambling, and--yes--even shopping, we really just lived it up. It was delightful and exhausting, and by the end of it, I wondered how I ever really stressed about what I had brought in my suitcase.

I know this whole dumb experiment has made me appreciate the clothes I already have, but I think that lesson is a little bigger now. Not to get too after-school-special here, but I have to say that I'm thankful for what I have beyond my closet. Like friends who are confident in themselves and who build me up, too. Like being comfortable in my own skin and really enjoying that reflection in the mirror.

So I am renewed in my promise to myself to not purchase anything til 2011. I endeavor not to ever entertain Pity Party Shannon again.

And honestly, I hope for the opportunity to shop with the girls again sometime soon.

*Kelly, this non-homeless asterisk is for you ;)

For the record, I don't like saying that I "can't" afford something. Why don't we say that we "don't" afford something?

If I choose to put ALL my money in a mortgage and car payment and only leave myself enough money leftover to live on saltines and tap water, then I am choosing not to spend money on fancy restaurants. No one's forcing me.

If I quit my job for something with saner hours and a salary cut, I'll have less money for non-shopping trips to Vegas. I'll be choosing not to afford them.

We budget our money toward what we consider a priority. We spend on some things and, consequently, choose not to spend on others. So maybe we should just say that something isn't in our budget rather than, "Oh, I can't afford that."

I'm trying to remember this when I say, "Nope, I'm not buying that," rather than, "Ohhh, I can't buy that!" Because I really don't want end up alone at that Pity Party again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What This Means for Packing

Ladies: does packing stress you out?

I think it does for most of us, but this is usually overshadowed by the thrill of going on a trip, that fun little holiday that necessitates those agonizing moments (hours) over the open suitcase.

I ask the ladies specifically, because I don't think the guys have to break it up in pieces like we do, nor with such care and consideration.

Pieces, you ask? You know the drill: there's What You Pack The Night Before, and then What You Shove in the Bag Last-Minute Once You're Finished Beautifying Yourself Right Before You Leave for the Airport.

That in itself is a challenge. I know you all know. Staring at the outfit you chose to travel in the next morning, wondering if you should have packed it and instead should wear the closed-toed shoes through the airport so you only have to walk through the crusty security line in socks rather than pad through in your recently, ready-for-vacay, perfectly manicured footsies.

Grabbing 10 extra contact lenses in case...what? You get in 9 different staring contests within a few feet of a concrete saw? Why do we do that?

Always, always, always forgetting your razor in the shower. Your perfect razor, with the 6 or 7 blades on it, so you know you'll have to make do with those old-fashioned 3-bladed ones you'll pick up at the drugstore.

And then there's the matter of where you're going. Is the climate the same? Probably not. Is it for a special event involving folks you don't know with an ambiguous dress code? The Triple Trauma? Most assuredly.

Honestly, I think this is the universal moment here. When all of us, maybe even you dudes, look at our closets and are certain that we have nothing to wear.

And how do we work through the anxiety of those 3 foes? Seriously, can any of you imagine what 55 degrees feels like when it's been 90 degrees for 5 days in a row? I can't. I can hardly look at a sweater after this past week. It makes my skin crawl.

And how do we represent ourselves to folks we've never met, but who have heard lots about us? Hm...must look good, obviously. But if it's family on his side, must also look respectable. And don't want to dress down too far, clearly. But dressing up too much makes you look snooty.

Ah, ye olde dilemma de damsel: Must Look Hot Without Looking Skanky, Appear Effortlessly Dazzling Without Ruffling Feathers.

Is your partner helpful in such times? Never. "Nah, just wear jeans," he says. You ask if he's going to wear jeans. "No, probably nicer pants. But you could wear jeans." What? Argh.

My go-to answer, always: Pack Black. Though I love the browns and greens, black comes through again and again. Dangly earrings and heels instantly turn the black shirt/jeans into "nice" (but not ho-baggish). Little Black Dress? We all know and love you. Black heels? Thank you for all you've done for me, you know I love you.

And then, the Clincher. The ultimate backup, the thing that reminds us that it'll all be okay, the thing that helps us get proper beauty sleep the night before the trip:

If we really need something, we can just go out and buy it.

Yeah. The Beauty Sleep wasn't quite what it ought to have been last night.

Oh, well. San Francisco, here I come. Family reunion-ish thing on B's side, I am comin' at you with a suitcase full of black and a lovely variety of earrings.

And if no outfit works tomorrow night, I've got a date with a hotel bathrobe and Harry Potter. I think that'll help me sleep.