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.

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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.

x

introductory henna

On July 14, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve been wanting to try to do my own mehndi for a really long time now, years. I really like the concept of a tattoo— and have a healthy appetite for tattoo reality shows—but I’m not yet drawn to any idea so powerfully that I want to wear it permanently. Enter henna, that clever, versatile dye.

It’s a different creature, really, than the etched precision of ink. It has its own history, and its own style, which varies from one culture to another, and lends itself beautifully to modern hybrids of tradition and innovation. Many designs have ancient origins and ancient meanings to match, ranging from simple patterns and shapes to those astonishing intricacy. You know how I like astonishing intricacy. If it is somehow tied up with wearable decor, so much the better.

henna paste cone

Somehow I wasn’t able to make the time for the project until I gave up, at least temporarily, on the idea of mixing my own henna paste, and got the ready-made cones (thank you, eBay).  I also needed a fair chunk of time, as the henna can take a while to apply and to achieve a dark, long-lasting stain it stays on the skin for at least 4 if not more like 6-8 hours. I had to decide on a pattern, too, which we won’t talk about how long that took. I opted for something geometric and straightforward to start.  If you are one of those people who can’t bear to look at feet, you’d best tap out now.

Designs on the feet connect the spirit, mind, and body to the earth. I like this kind of physical symbol or reminder, perhaps because my memory seems to need all the help it can get. And I like my feet. I like them as they are, just as I like my face as it is, but it’s appealing to embellish them all the same. It’s not exactly that I like them more when they are embellished…but I like the novelty and the energy of embellishment.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

I washed my skin and and rubbed it with eucalyptus oil (diluted) to prepare it to receive the dye. Henna also has an earthy, peculiar [though not exactly unpleasant, though not exactly pleasant] smell, which the eucalyptus combats. You snip the end of the cone to the desired diameter and essentially pipe the henna paste on, like frosting a cake. You can use a transfer to create the design or just freehand it as I’ve done here. I had a pile of cotton buds and toothpicks on hand to quickly remove errors before they became part of the story. I looked at a few hundred images and cobbled together two that I liked to make this design. You have to take care with anything around, as henna will stain a good many things if given the chance.

You keep your design intact for as long as you can manage, moistening it periodically with a lemon juice and sugar solution (I only spritzed mine with diluted lemon juice because I’m always going off-recipe, which seemed to work fine). It eventually starts to flake off and, in my case about 6 hours later, you scrape the remainder off.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

The initial stain is a bright rust, sepia, basically my favorite color ever.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

As it oxidizes it darkens into a deep, warm brown stain that lasts about 2-3 weeks. There are strategies for making it darker and longer lasting but I was only willing to be inconvenienced up to a point, and I’m delighted with the results of my first foray.

I don’t like to miss an opportunity to decorate myself in a new, personal way. And it’s so like me to want to do it myself, though I have seen mehndi artists at some of the Indian shops in the area. [Perhaps I’ll visit them after botching something with my non-dominant hand.] I find it extremely appealing, fitting, beautiful.

I absolutely love it.

I’m already thinking of what to try next, I like this medium so well. It’s versatile, flexible, it needn’t be too precise, neither in execution nor interpretation, and its duration is a comforting balance of not-quite-fleeting and not-remotely-permanent. And it’s beautiful.

Have you tried it?

x

 

under it all

On January 30, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve been meaning to talk more about lingerie, which I enjoy and have just as many opinions about as any other style category. Really I think I’ve only done this post, on bras I like for small breasts, which is my sort. Here, finally, is a beginning, though an atypical one. Almost all of my bras are black or beige but in this instance I made an exception.

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My neutral preference is partly practical, bright colors often don’t work under tops, obtrusive and not so versatile, and partly personal…I just find it more to my taste, more sophisticated, more clean and simple to have a limited palette when it comes to underthings. Easy for it to match, as a bonus, which I do find appealing (though I’m not militant about it, as you see here), regardless of whether or not there is an audience.

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L’Agent Provocateur, Vanessa bra

With more expensive brands (which can be very worthwhile when it comes to lingerie), though, I’m often looking at styles from previous seasons, and bright colors are more likely to be on sale and in stock in my size(s), so this was one of those playful purchases. L’Agent Provocateur is usually too elaborate for me—too “sexy”—but now and then they have something simple.* I am not really interested in being sexy in that way, I find, or, more accurately I don’t think it is that sexy, and I’m wearing it for myself, after all.

Sexy is a silly word, often, and not one in the forefront of my mind (or even seriously in my vocabulary, my personal vocabulary of words that are useful for me), though I do have other concepts in the forefront, I would say, that could coincidentally translate to it. A slightly undone elegance, a natural freshness, a careless insouciance…these things I might strive to achieve.

*If this bra didn’t have the tiny ribbons on it—which I really don’t get at all, this need for tiny ribbons on bras and underwear—it would be just right. I plan to take them off.

IMG_8275In this case I just got the bra in black as well. When lingerie works (fits), I tend to take advantage. My underwear is black, white, or beige, and typically briefs, though sometimes boyshorts, and typically cotton. You are dying to know this, no?** These are Victoria’s Secret (not bad for basics, if you skip over the logo-heavy/tacky stuff, I’ve featured a bunch of their swimwear), though I’m really liking the brand Commando at the moment.

**Let’s talk about bodies later, too. For now: this is my current body. Some of it, anyway. Bodies cannot be too much of a surprise, can they? Clothes only conceal so much.

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I have functional T-shirt bras as well but a little lace, a little silk here and there…these can be pleasant indeed.

Once you’ve got lace and silk, you may as well add pearls. This beautiful peacock freshwater tin cup necklace is from the Etsy shop LiliasTreasures (which I’ve mentioned before, here, here, and here), currently sold out but her work is lovely.

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The earrings are stunning rose-toned gold metallic ripple pearls from the UK shop Pearlescence, also wonderful, with excellent customer service.

x

all about that bass

On September 24, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Just want to be sure you know about this Meghan Trainor track, which I find eminently catchy, and which has a fine message for women of all ages. Pretty great video, too:

That’s all.

image via pinterest

just right

On July 4, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve mentally bookmarked this photo as a superb example of the loose, effortless look I want as my touchstone for summer style.

For style all around, really.

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The simple lines, solid colors (more or less solid, perhaps I would like it still more if the pants were a true solid), minimal palette, clean demarcation of separates, contrast of bared skin on top and legs entirely obscured, slick, low ponytail…

Just right.

This is Swedish blogger Kenza, with whom I wasn’t familiar before coming across this photo. On the radar now, though.

So difficult to find a tank top like this, that falls just so. I seem to try so many on (on the hunt for what we see here) only to be astonished at how unflattering the cut is.*

*When clothes do not look good on you, you should definitely blame the clothes. Or try a different size, potentially, but most clothes are cut horribly. It could be that it would suit a different body, there is some slight chance of that, but usually, in my experience, they are poorly made, and would not truly look good (I mean really good, I mean really FIT. I do not mean fine/OK/alright) on anyone. I hear too many people blaming their bodies. While a body can always be healthier in some way or another, it is the job of the clothing to look good on the body, not the job of the body to look good in the clothing.

image via pinterest