weighty issues

On June 2, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

It seems, lately, like I am often thinking about my weight. Not in a negative way, necessarily, or in a positive way, just that I am aware of it. Thinking about the fact of it, wondering what I think about it. Sensing the cultural pressure to be slender, seeing the cultural norm of not being especially slender (of consuming consuming consuming), watching friends and acquaintances care deeply about and suffer over their weight…it is a complex issue.


Today I weigh 136 lbs. This fluctuates easily 3-4 lbs in either direction in a matter of days. I am conscious of wanting to weigh slightly less, not that the number is especially important – in a certain window the number is useless, and not indicative of how I look or feel – but I have a sense of heaviness and lethargy that I know I do not have when I weigh less. It’s incredible how sensitive the body is to these slight changes, we are talking a matter of 5-8 lbs, maybe.  I care about this (being healthier, stronger, more energetic), though not actually enough to try very hard to achieve it at the moment. Lately I eat a bit too much (I prepare too much, and then eat it, and also eat an astonishing quantity of bagels), and my body is getting used to it and now wants too much. To lose the weight is fairly straightforward for me (luckily), I need to drop my caloric intake and ignore the hunger signals my overindulged body will send. To ignore those signals, I just need a very, very good distraction.

Not that I am remotely overweight, here, which is playing into my lack of motivation. The last physical I had, the doctor recommended a goal weight of 125 for me. [And told me to exercise more. I should exercise more, it’s true, though exercising for the sake of exercising is to me the most boring, unsatisfying use of time, and I need to be more strategic.] I have been, at the lowest in adulthood, 123ish lbs, which I can authoritatively say is too low a number for me. I have been, at the highest, 155ish lbs, which is for me too high, though really I was healthy at those weights and all the ones in between, and felt attractive, had body confidence, etc. I am confident now, too, but I  still have a preference. Of the myriad human silhouettes, there are some I prefer over others, and I have  specific ideas about the shapes* I would like to be. I am currently aiming for an athletic 128ish lbs. These numbers are useless to anyone but myself but I give them to show their power (just that I know them, that I was paying so much attention – that you likely know your numbers as well, that we think about size in the confines of this one number rather than in some more useful, nuanced way), which is insidious.

*This plural is so important…perhaps another way to say it is I have specific ideas about the shapes I want at my disposal, my body being just one element of those shapes. Ehhh…I begin to get that feeling that no one has any idea what I am talking about…a topic for another time, maybe.

I give them, too, because it is so taboo to give them, so gauche to ask. This always confused me, the same as the age question taboo confuses me. The fact of the body is visible, the height, weight, age, roughly guessable, the exact number useless, uninteresting to anyone else but you and your mom and your physician and the people coming to your birthday party and such. I am 32, I weigh 136 lbs…who cares? I care, actually, in the sense I am interested in everything about myself (not in the sense that I am somehow ashamed, or think of this as critical secret information), but why should you? Do we want to know exactly how much we have in common? Exactly how much to approve or disapprove, or praise or disparage?

I do remember, as a child, liking when someone was my age. It was more relevant then, with my knowledge-base growing so rapidly from one year to the next. It’s funny, the sense of wonderful coincidence it sometimes had to discover someone was my age, as if there weren’t millions of us. It’s relevant too with babies, who we talk about in months or even weeks rather than years, so quickly are they changing. Perhaps we haven’t outgrown this feeling that it is important, that exact number? Hm. End tangent.

Like so many aspects of beauty and style, all of the anecdotes in the world cannot help me know what to do for myself, and most everything anyone else is doing, while perhaps interesting, is completely irrelevant to me.

I don’t have a point precisely, but I wanted to express that this is on my mind. I consider myself a healthy and body confident person…and still. It isn’t foremost in my thoughts, but it is there. I am so irritated with our culture for doing that to me, and so conscious of the deliberate force with which I have to rebel against the idea that my totally nice and healthy body needs improvement (I compromise by thinking it doesn’t need but could benefit from small improvements, so technically I guess I am still failing at this), and the pressure to be thin, the virtue of which, at the extremes promoted now in the fashion industry and the monster machine of celebrity, are illusory, and socially constructed.

Ideals of beauty are social constructs. Construct your own ideal.


in praise of bar soap

On May 4, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I like the sense of artistry behind fine bar soaps and enjoy the tactile process of using all but the most poorly formulated exemplars. I’ve mentioned this before in the context of the soap dish, and perhaps it is not a coincidence that I prefer the kind of soap that requires its own accessories. Mentioned again in the discovery of Saipua’s excellent packaging and figured I’d share a few more favorites. There is no common ingredient here that determines my preference, I like all sorts; glycerin, vegetable, triple-milled, whatever smells and feels good.


I like picking them up and putting them down, sudsing them up, feeling them slip between my hands. The washing of hands with bar soap is one of those small rituals during the day that requires a slower pace and a certain attention, and something about it always brings me back to consciousness or awareness.

The chemistry of soap is also interesting, and a mastery of that chemistry is something I can appreciate.

L’Occitane Magnolia & Mûre Soap – L’Occitane’s soaps are solid across the board, I’ve found. Those from the Grasse collection are distinctly perfumed in a way that lingers nicely on the skin, and produce a satisfying lather. ‘Mûre’ means musk, which combines beautifully with heady florals like magnolia. I think this is my favorite scent from the collection but they are all pleasant. 

Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap  – a barely-there-yet-still-somehow-extremely-appealing scent with salt crystals, randomly available through Anthropologie. Their seaweed soap smells incredible, too.

L’Occitane Shea Butter Soap, Milk – smells the way you hope babies will smell (the more obliging babies do smell this way), that is: virtually of nothing, yet with a hint of something creamy and healthy about them. Shea butter is a nice ingredient to watch for.

La Lavande Jardin des Senteurs Soap, Milk – more French shea butter soap, can’t go wrong.

Bee & Flower Ginseng Soap – a nostalgic nod to this soap, which I used growing up and which smells unmistakably, quintessentially, of soap. Nothing artificial, which I like in a soap. A basic, no frills bar.

Pacifica Persian Rose Soap – I’ve been through a few bars of this, and keep extras in my bureau where they gently perfume my clothes. Pacifica is a great natural company, and these soaps have a strong and lasting scent. They feel so nice in the hands, and are more oily than creamy (they are translucent rather than opaque, for example). The Persian Rose has to be my favorite but I’ve also liked the Tuscan Blood Orange, the Tibetan Mountain something something, and the Brazilian Mango Grapefruit. Often turn to this line in the warmer months.

Yardley London English Lavender Soap – a classic, and one that, like the Ginseng soap, smells of soap. The other scents don’t tempt me but I go back to the Lavender again and again.

I’ve liked a number of indie soaps, too (try typing ‘handmade soap’ into Etsy and just see the legion of soap makers), and am always browsing the aisle in Wholefoods, looking for something new. I’ve also liked the vetiver and linden soaps from the Pre de Provence line, Japanese charcoal soap, goat’s milk soaps… Let me know if you have any suggestions.

sublime packaging from Saipua soaps

On May 2, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I was completely won over by this soap packaging from the brand Saipua, stumbled upon in good, a charming boutique in Beacon Hill.


I love vetiver anyway, and I am a staunch believer in fine bar soaps (I don’t own any liquid hand soap, in fact). Saipua makes olive oil based castile soaps, a family business out of Brooklyn with the mother and father making the soaps and the daughter designing the packaging.


This soap dish is everything I want it to be, too. I picked this up as a gift but I’ll be going back for my own.


The packaging for each scent is different, each with it’s own charm. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before but I’m into tarot (I’m into all manner of endlessly elaborate symbolic systems), and if I weren’t already sold on the vetiver I would have been by this Marseille deck inspired wrapper.

IMG_3093This is the Pamela Coleman Smith Commemorative edition of the Rider Waite Tarot, if anybody’s wondering.

A favorite deck of mine for the muted color palette.


(vendor image)

Here is the other that caught my eye. Always love a good Alice reference.

This is how good packaging is done.


skincare: brazil nut oil

On February 21, 2014 by theseventhsphinx


Brazil nut oil smells so incredible, like cocoa butter and vanilla and roasted hazelnuts rolled into one. This one from c. Booth smells great if you like gourmand scents and smelling vaguely edible. As it is a dry oil it doesn’t linger on the skin or stain clothing (at least, I haven’t noticed it staining anything, though it does have some dye in it). This Brazilian Nut spray is discontinued, I gather (I found it randomly discounted), but they make a Tahitian Monoi one I fully intend to try after this, and a Honey Almond one that sounds good, too. The spray bottle is convenient for getting the middle of my back, and generally seems to speed things up.

I’m always using oils in the winter (all year round, really, but with especial faithfulness in the winter, and on my face as well), which is great for both conditioning and protecting the skin. I often find their effects more lasting than a standard moisturizer, and I often find them to be less expensive, too. That is, inexpensive oils condition better, to me, than inexpensive moisturizers. I apply oil immediately after showering, when the skin is still damp, and (especially in the case of sweet almond oil, another favorite, or any non-dry oil) give it a moment to be absorbed before putting clothes on*. I’ll often add a bit of a pleasant smelling oil (often a more expensive blend) to an inexpensive base oil (say, avocado, coconut, olive, or sweet almond) to luxe it up, and extend the life of the former.

*I really only run into problems with oil transferring onto my clothes when I have tried to put too much on (more than the skin can take), or am wearing light, fussy fabrics. In the latter case I am simply more careful, or will moisturize with something else.

The Body Shop also does a Brazil Nut Oil, which isn’t a dry oil but smells great, too, and I find the texture of their oils to be light and pleasant.


On November 21, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

I recently completed the invisalign process and wanted to give a shout out to my dentist, Dr. Rebecca Paglia.

I went to Align Dental in Back Bay, which had excellent service. This from me is high praise. I am that person who does not hesitate to call customer service and complain. I was a particular and demanding patient, and they handled that well. If you are looking into invisalign in Boston I recommend them.

There was nothing especially wrong with my teeth before, some slight spacing and crookedness, but there was a generous groupon for Align Dental and I needed to do something about the fact that I grind my teeth in my sleep. This was more expensive than a professional mouth guard but have you seen those things? I predicted a future of never wearing a mouth guard but with the retainer I am diligent. It was also in line with my general goal of improving the self, bit by bit.

Let’s see…a photo of my teeth before…


Eh. It’s hard to see…it’s challenging to find pictures I like of myself smiling with teeth. So often it goes awry and is some horrible half-smile. The slightest laziness or hesitance on my part and the smile is doomed.

[tangent: Then, too, I rebel against the American ordinance to smile for photos, and to smile in general, which I find oppressive in its ubiquity. I smile when I please. The smile does not suit all occasions, nor would I want it to. We all have an image of the perpetual smile, and that is the image of the madman.]

That’s Marianne. Isn’t she cute?

It’s not so obvious for people who don’t know me well, a lot of people never noticed that I was doing invisalign at all (I found this so hard to believe but it is true), but for me, knowing my own face so well, the change was dramatic. Not only how the teeth looked but how the shape of my mouth looked as the teeth closed ranks. A face is not a very large sort of thing…small changes have an impact.


I don’t expect you to see the difference really but, well. I tried.

I am so pleased with the results and so glad to have made the investment. Teeth, such important indicators of health, are well worth investing in. I completed the treatment in about 12 months and, while it required a fair amount of effort, attentiveness, sacrifice (difficult to eat in public, sometimes, no snacking), and discomfort (if not, on occasion, pain), it was so worthwhile. The level of preoccupation* results in great oral hygiene and establishes good habits. The teeth are healthier and do, I think, look nicer.

*Isn’t it strange that teeth will, in the absence of the retainer, migrate back to their original positions? Even many years later? I am baffled by this. Why should this be?

I’m still getting used to the new look myself.