Lip Service: Zelda’s Favorite Sticks, Stains, and Balms

I am not a beauty guru (although I sometimes like to pretend I’m one on this blog). My contouring skills are pretty much nonexistent. I have yet to perfect my cat eye. But the one area where I do claim some smidge of expertise is lips. Berry or burgundy, crimson or magenta, I love a bold lip. It spices up any outfit, adds a bunch of panache to any look, and instantly makes me feel more awake, put-together, and downright sultry no matter what else I have going on. My fellow lipstick-wearing pals often ask me for recommendations in the stick, gloss, and stain department, and so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you, dear readers.

IMG_5568

From drug store finds to Sephora specials, liquid mattes to sheer balms, these are the staples I consistently find myself going back to when I want to put a little smooch in my step. Whether you’re in search of a new spring look, gearing up for a special occasion (*cough Derby Party cough*), or continuing your quest for the perfect red lip (me, always), here are some Zelda-approved products to get you started. And if many of them happen to be in Run for the Roses shades, perfect for pairing with a certain May Saturday and its atmosphere of Bluegrass glam, even better.

2296157.jpgRevlon Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor (I own this in at least six different shades — I wish I were exaggerating — but my favorites are Passion, Addiction, and Obsession): If you’re looking for bang for your buck, this is your winner. A huge punch of color, creamy texture, and nigh-indestructible coverage, all for under $6. This is also where we first encounter the trend of weirdly oversexualized lipstick color names. Sex sells, I guess?

 

revlon.jpgRevlon Super Lustrous Lipstick (in Cherries in the Snow): I stumbled across this color on some “Best Of” list that I can’t seem to relocate, and it has quickly become one of my new favorites. Teetering between magenta and red, with good lasting power to boot. And only $10!

 

 

Soap-and-Glory-Sexy-Mother-Pucker-Matte-Lip-Review-Swatches-3.jpgSoap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Matte-Lip (in Chocoberry): As you’ll notice from this list, I generally stick to the bold berries and reds when it comes to my pucker, but this is one noticeable exception. I bought this on a recommendation from my favorite London-dwelling Canadian beauty blogger Estée Lalonde, and her endorsement rang true. Another drugstore steal, from the cheeky Brits at Soap and Glory, this goes on like a balm, with the color of a lipstick, in an earth rose that hits the millenial pink sweet spot.

800897840310_liquidsuedecreamlipstick_kittenheels_main.jpgNyx Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick (in Kitten Heels): My Girl Scout troupe determined I was a Winter at a formative age, so I have since tended to shy away from orange-y reds in favorite or blue and berry tones (why this was a Girl Scout activity, I do not know, but I hope girls today have done more of the camping and less of the “holding up paint swatches to one’s cheek” of my youth). So I was apprehensive when I received this as a sample in my Birchbox, as it definitely fell more on the Summer side. To my very pleasant surprise, I actually liked it — a bold hit of color with a definite warm-weather vibe — and the incredible staying power tipped me over the edge. It took 26 years, but I had finally found an orange-red I liked.

2306286.jpgSmashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick (in Bawse): When I first heard about this limited edition color, I wrote it off as a gimmick — a collaboration in which Smashbox hoped to capitalize on the brand and audience of YouTube superstar Lilly Singh a.k.a. iiSuperwomanii. But then I started to see the promo photos, featuring members of Lilly’s and the Smashbox teams. Ladies with a whole rainbow of skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors, with lips ranging from razor thin to full-on Jolie, all tried on the lipstick…and they all looked amazing. So I caved, and it did not disappoint. It can be a little bit drying, which keeps it from achieving the status of Perfect Red, but the shade is ultra-flattering (and, I might add, perfect for a Run for the Roses).

Too-Faced-Lady-Balls-Melted-Matte-Liquefied-Matte-Long-Wear-Lipstick-Review.jpgToo Faced Melted Matte Liquified Long Wear Matte Lipstick (in Lady Balls):  I am a huge fan of liquid lipsticks. However, nothing irks me more than a liquid lip that sucks all the moisture out of my kisser, leaving my mouth shriveled and dehydrated. This can be a particular problem with liquid matte colors, and this guy is one of the best I’ve found at avoiding what I call “Sahara mouth.” For my first try, I went with the classic red, but I’ve got my eye on It’s Happening and Bend and Snap as well.

SMASH.jpegSmashbox Be Legendary Lipstick (in Jam On It): I owe this discovery to Z&S favorite Ingrid Nilsen. Watching one of her videos last fall, I found I couldn’t stop staring at her lips. The reason was to be found in the video description — the internet’s version of asking your friend (or, you know, a random stranger on the street): “Oh my god, I love your lipstick! Where did you get it?” A deep berry that layers well, letting you take it from raspberry to plum in a matter of coats.

GS000934.jpgBenefit Full-Finish Lipstick (in Espionage): This is a long-time favorite of mine, the first shade beyond the classic reds that I truly loved. It breaks my heart that Benefit no longer makes it, and makes me incredibly sparing with how I use it and cautious about how it gets tossed in my bag, since one tube is all I’ve got. The color looks intimidatingly dark as a solid but goes on with just the right amount of sheer, while still packing a deep enough punch to make any wearer feel like a goddamn vixen.

TARTE.jpgTarte Tarteist Creamy Matte Lip Paint (in Frenemy): Speaking of dark, this is one of the newest additions to my lip arsenal, purchased for a Halloween trip to Sleepy Hollow with friend-of-the-blog, and my sister witch, Katie. Applying this guy can be a bit tricky, since the color is dark and tends to set very fast, but even so it goes on smooth and doesn’t dry your lips out, plus it has a surprisingly minty scent to give it that extra oomph.

 

Fresh-Sugar-Berry-Lip-Treatment.jpgFresh Sugar Lip Treatment (in Berry): There are lipsticks, and lip stains, and liquid mattes that toe the line. But sometimes, you just want a hint of color, and for those moments, there is Fresh. I have loved these sugar treatments for years, starting with the Original formula. They are incredibly moisturizing, they smell great, and they have just enough color to give your natural lip shade a boost without making you feel overdressed.

 

s683490-main-Lhero.jpgSmith’s Rosebud Salve: Last but not least, if you just want to let your natural lip shine, allow me to suggest this timeless classic. It smells like a Derby winner’s garland and seeps into your lips like rain on a racetrack, leaving them soothed and refreshed. Or, for a twist, you can layer it over a lipstick or lip stain to soften the color and give it a bit of shine.

IMAGES VIA: ULTAWALGREENSYSIS LORENA, NYX, ULTA, MAKEUPANDBEAUTY, GLAMBOT, BLOOM, SEPHORA, MUSINGS OF A MUSE, SEPHORA

 

On S-Town and Stories and Why They Matter

“John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama.” That was the subject line of an email that Brian Reed, a producer for the radio show This American Life, received in 2012. John B introduced himself. He talked about his shit town (known more widely as Woodstock, Alabama). He asked Reed to help him solve a murder.

Like millions of other people, I spent the past few days falling headfirst into S-Town, the podcast that emerged from years of reporting by Reed, all sparked by this missive. I’m going to warn you now, if you have not yet listened to S-Town, this post contains spoilers as to the content of the podcast. So please, do yourself a favor, and go spend a few hours journeying through its seven chapters now. I’ll wait.

s-town

The podcast was produced by This American Life and Serial, Sarah Koenig’s true crime wunderkind. I was a huge fan of Serial, so when this new show was billed as an outgrowth of that one, a murder mystery cut from the same cloth, I was intrigued. The actual show would turn out to be so much more.

S-Town is a murder mystery, it’s true. But not of the one the previews introduce. It is also an investigation, an autopsy, a celebration of a life cut short. John B killed himself, you see, a few years into his correspondence with Brian. And what began with one death — that of a local kid, whose murder John believed to have been committed by the son of a local lumber scion and subsequently covered up, and which turned out not to have happened at all — turns into a deep examination of another. The podcast traces the aftermath of John’s death: the battle over his estate, the feud between his relatives and friends, the aftershocks that ripple through his community and, more slowly, through his spiderweb of friends. More importantly, it grapples with who John was and the life that he lived, restoring clocks and rescuing puppies, caring for his mama and seeking human connection, building mazes and inhaling mercury and loving and losing and worrying and hating Shittown.

BRIAN

The podcast has been described in several reviews as Southern Gothic, and I believe the label is a fitting one. Wikipedia, the internet’s number one source for all cursory knowledge, describes the term: “Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in hoodoo, ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.” Its characters, “madness, decay and despair, continuing pressures of the past upon the present.” S-Town unfolds like a novel — even the episodes are called Chapters, numbered I-VII — weaving through time and space, from interviews to digressions into fire-gilding techniques or climate change. It visits characters mysterious and strange (and yes, definitely eccentric), from John’s friends and family to former professors and fellow horologists, his mama and cousin, proteges and friends. While there is very little hoodoo, there is much exploration of gender roles and ambivalent sexuality, especially when it comes to John himself, who describes himself at different times as various percentages of straight vs. gay. The setting is either lush and verdant or horrifyingly decrepit, depending on whose eyes you see it through. There is poverty and crime, violence in the form of murders that weren’t and suicide and self-mutilation that, heart-breakingly, were. And there is madness here, although whether it arises from the environmental decline of the world or the poverty of rural Alabama or too much mercury or simply bad genes, or all of the above, is anybody’s guess.

PODCAST

But what I think makes S-Town such a vitally Southern story — setting the, well, setting aside — is that its roots are so clearly grounded in the region’s storytelling tradition. The South is rich in lore, a region that can’t shake the shadow of its history and digs deep into its roots, pride mixing with surrender. This tale is one of a town grappling with a complicated history and an ugly present. It’s also the story of a community that comes together, cobbled together from parcels of land and sheer resolve. It’s a saga of families both biological and chosen, of the scars our parents leave on us, of the legacy we leave behind. It’s complicated and messy, and the gears don’t always seem like they’re going to fit. It is exquisitely real.

To be a human being is a lonely thing. We are all, each of us, trapped inside our own minds, starring in a movie of our own making without a ticket to anybody else’s cinema. And we tell ourselves stories, as one of my favorite writers says, in order to live — to feel less alone. The last chapter of S-Town in particular asks a question: “What gives a life meaning?” The question is specific — what did John B think defined a life as worthwhile, and did his own, when he ended it with a swig of cyanide, fit the bill? But it also endlessly broad. What makes a life worth living? What can each of us hope to accomplish with our few precious days on this earth?

maze

I believe we can listen. I believe we can tell our story. And I believe, if we’re lucky, we can help to tell the stories of others, especially those whose voices are often muffled. That’s why I’m a writer. I write because I do not understand, as a way through the darkness. I write to puzzle the knot of my life into something slightly less kinked, and to tell the stories of the folks I meet along my way. We all live in bubbles — whether in hipster corners of Brooklyn or small towns in Alabama — but stories, both journalistic and fictional, help us to see beyond our sphere. And what Brian Reed does so brilliantly here is to follow the witness marks of John B’s life, to reconstruct as best he can what all the gears and pulleys of his mind looked like, and to invite us inside for a spell. In another’s hands, this would have been the story of a crazy dude in a shitty redneck town, who subscribed to conspiracy theories and wasted his resources on obscure projects and died writhing on his front porch. But Reed tells his story with curiosity and respect. He always questions, never assumes. He listens. He looks at every angle. He tries to find the whole, messy truth.

John B McLemore is dead. He died in the same Shittown where he was born and raised, never straying too far beyond its borders. But his life, which at first glance seem small, left a mark on this great wild world that continues to ripple out. And a storyteller named Brian Reed helped, is continuing to help, him do that. To borrow from another of my and Scout’s heritages, it is one of the greatest mitzvahs a person can do. To really listen to someone. To see them. To celebrate them. To tell their story, without reducing any of its complexities or quirks to stereotype or a cheap joke. To make them remembered.

IMAGES VIA: FORBES, SHEKNOWS, PASTE MAGAZINE, PEDESTRIAN

Six Badass Southern Women You Should Know About

March is Women’s History month here in the United States (and also the UK and Australia), and while we believe that any day is a good day to celebrate women and their accomplishments, we will happily take this opportunity to turn the well-deserved spotlight on some badass, brilliant ladies. These six were trailblazers in their fields, which range from athletics to advocacy, TV to torah. They are brave, they are fierce, and they all hail from below the Mason-Dixon line.

wilma

Wilma Rudolph (Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee): Rudolph was a premie, entering the world as the 20th of 22 siblings and weighing a mere 4.2 pounds. At 4, she suffered a bout of infantile paralysis, which left her with a twisted leg and foot, forced to wear a brace. By the age of 12, she had also contracted polio and scarlet fever, battling back every time. The odds were undeniably stacked against her. But in 1953, while playing on her high school’s basketball team, she was spotted by Tennessee State track and field coach Ed Temple, and everything changed. Temple coached Rudolph, who joined TSU’s summer program and ran with the Tigerbelles for two years. At 16, she went to the Olympics for the first time, bringing home a bronze medal for the 4×100 relay. And four years later, at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, she took gold in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, and the 4×100 relay, making her the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics. She was hailed as “the fastest woman in history,” and her homecoming parade and banquet were the first fully integrated municipal events in her hometown of Clarksville’s history.

mae

Mae Jemison (Decatur, Alabama): Jemison may have grown up in Chicago, but her first three years were spent in the Deep South. The daughter of a maintenance supervisor and an elementary school teacher, Jemison loved science from an early age. She loved nature and dinosaurs and stars and space, watching the shuttle launches on TV with her classmates. But something bothered her: “At the time of the Apollo airing, everybody was thrilled about space, but I remember being irritated that there were no women astronauts. People tried to explain that to me, and I did not buy it.” Jemison fell in love with dance, went to Stanford, served in Peace Corps, watched Sally Ride shatter that annoying glass ceiling. And in 1987, she was accepted into NASA’s Space Program, one of 15 applicants chosen from a pool of over 2,000. She served as Mission Specialist on STS-47, from September 12 to 20, 1992, making her the first African-American woman in space. With her, she took a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; a photo of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to fly an airplane; and a few small pieces of West African art, to symbolize that space belongs to all nations. Now retired, she’s a professor-at-large at Cornell and a tireless advocate for science education, especially for young girls and minority students.

penny

Penny Ann Early (Kentucky): Early earns her place on this list for two famous firsts. Number one: In 1968, she became the first licensed female jockey in the United States. She entered three races at Scout’s and my hometown race track, Churchill Downs, but her male peers were so incensed that they boycotted, refusing to ride with a girl. But Early wasn’t done. Hearing about the controversy, the now defunct Kentucky Colonels basketball team decided to sign Early — all 5’3” of her. Coach Gene Rhodes was less than amused by the stunt and protested to management, claiming he would not let her play (to be fair, Early hadn’t so much as picked up a basketball in her life). But on November 27, 1968, in a game against the Los Angeles Stars, Early got her moment. Clad in a mini skirt and a turtleneck with the number 3 on it (representing the three races she’d been prevented from riding), Early subbed in and inbounded the ball to Bobby Rascoe, who immediately called a timeout. Early was subbed right back out, her basketball career amounting to mere seconds, but it still made her the first — and, so far, only — woman to play on a professional men’s basketball team.

Mia_Hamm

Mia Hamm (Selma, Alabama): Hamm moved around as a kid, bouncing base to base as an Air Force brat. At one such base, in Florence, Italy, she was first introduced to soccer. Hamm had been born with a club foot and wore corrective shoes as a toddler, but she immediately took to the sport and quickly excelled. As a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, she led the women’s soccer team to four NCAA championships; of the 95 games she played on the team, they lost only one. But the truth is by the time she got to UNC, Hamm had already made a name for herself as a soccer star. She joined the U.S. women’s national team at just 15, the youngest player ever to do so. In 1991, she played in the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup — at 19, again, the youngest member of the squad. She scored the game-winning goal in their first match. She scored again in their second. And in front of 63,000 spectators, she and her teammates beat Norway 2-1 to become the first ever women’s world champions. Hamm would go on to lead the U.S. to another World Cup victory in 1999, as well as two Olympic gold medals. She was twice named the women’s FIFA World Player of the Year, was one of two women on FIFA’s list of the 125 best living players, and until 2013 she held the record for the most career goals ever scored by a soccer player, of any gender.

paula

Paula Ackerman (Pensacola, Florida): Born and raised in Pensacola, Ackerman moved to Meridian, Mississippi, in 1922 with her 15 month-old son and her husband, a rabbi. The family was active in the Reform Judaism movement, and Ackerman taught confirmation classes at their congregation, Temple Beth Israel, and would fill in for her husband when he was sick or out of town. Then in 1951, when he died, the congregation asked her to take his place. She accepted, making her the first acting female rabbi in the United States. Although she was never officially ordained (that wouldn’t happen for a woman until 1972), she led the synagogue until 1953; even when the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations rescinded his permission for a woman to assume such a role, the congregation insisted on keeping he. At the time, when asked about her appointment, Ackerman wrote to a friend, “I also know how revolutionary the idea is—therefore it seems to be a challenge that I pray I can meet. If I can just plant a seed for the Jewish woman’s larger participation—if perhaps it will open a way for women students to train for congregational leadership—then my life would have some meaning.”

laverne

Laverne Cox (Mobile, Alabama): You may know her from “Orange is the New Black,” from “The Mindy Project” or “Doubt.” You may know her from the wisdom she drops on Twitter or the love she spreads on Instagram with the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful. Cox grew up in Alabama, bullied and harassed throughout her youth because she did not fit in. At 11, she even attempted suicide. But, luckily, things got better. After graduating from Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in acting and working as a drag queen at a Lower East Side restaurant, Cox entered the public scene when she was cast in Jenji Kohan’s Netflix blockbuster as Sophia Burset — a hairdresser serving time for credit card fraud. Both Cox and her character are transgender women; in 2014, she was nominated for an Emmy for her performance, a first for an openly trans actor. But it’s her advocacy off screen that truly earns her a spot on this list. Her role on OITNB gave her a platform, and boy has she used it: to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, for trans awareness, for women’s rights, for intersectionality, for suicide prevention — just to name a few. She takes her position as a role model, especially for trans youth, very seriously, telling them that things get better and that self-love can be a radical act.

IMAGES VIA: KNOW SOUTHERN HISTORY, WIKIPEDIA, TRIVIAHAPPY, MIA HAMM FOUNDATION, JEWISH CURRENTS, WFMT

Required Reading, Volume Nine: Love Stories

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! I know this holiday can be controversial, whether you’re aggressively single and feeling lonely, or in a relationship and resentful of the capitalist complex that compels you to drop wads of cash on flowers, chocolate, stuffed animals, and more on an arbitrary February day. But personally, despite my usual status among the perpetually single, I love it. And I’ll tell you why.

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love. But while traditionally that love is directed at a romantic partner, a boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse or lover, I choose to use this day to celebrate all of the love in my life, particularly for the family members and friends who we maybe don’t tell we love them as often as we should. Just because you’re not involved with anybody in a non-platonic way does not mean you don’t have beloveds in your life, and this day can be a day to honor that…and to eat massive amounts of chocolate.

In the Heart Day spirit, this month’s Required Reading is a compilation of love stories (most of them in the traditional, Big L sense). From classics to newcomers, young adult to experimental, non-fiction to graphic novels and everything in between, these are some of my favorite books about what it means to love and be loved.

82ebcf8435a2d403014064eee495d8f2

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen: A classic for a reason. Whether it’s your first or fifth or fiftieth time reading it, you can’t help but get swept away by Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and their tempestuous path to love. The movies are great, the web series delightful, but nothing beats this masterpiece in its original form.

“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.”

51qflwpcuul

The History of Love, Nicole Krauss: I’ve mentioned this book in a post before, and with good reason. It is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read; I’ve recommended it to countless friends and bought it for birthdays and Christmases and just because. It tells the story of romantic love, yes, but also of the love between parent and child, brother and sister, friend and friend in a multi-layered narrative that spans continents and decades.

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

love-affairs-nate-p

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman: The most accurate portrayal I’ve found in literature of what it’s like to date in New York in your 20s. If you are a twenty-something, or you were once a twenty-something, you will find characters and misadventures here that you recognize.

“Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You’re sizing people up to see if they’re worth your time and attention, and they’re doing the same to you. It’s meritocracy applied to personal life, but there’s no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact – to keep from becoming cold and callous – and we hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, these prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and explicitly anatomized again and again.”

6334

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro: Warning: Read this one with a box of Kleenex. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grow up together, students at a strange boarding school called Hailsham. But what starts as a seemingly typical love triangle quickly devolves into something much darker as the trio discover their history and grapple with their inescapable reality. Like the best of Ishiguro’s work, it will devastate you, enlighten you, and make you reexamine your humanity.

“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how it is with us.”

7354

The Shipping News, Annie Proulx: A quiet love story set among the cliffs and crashing waves of Newfoundland, this novel sneaks up on you. Quoyle is a man who has grown accustomed to being overlooked, scathed into submission by his unstable, unfaithful wife. When she dies in a car crash (having abandoned Quoyle and their two children to run off with one of her lovers), he moves the small family back to his family’s ancestral home where they all set about the task of learning to love and be loved. The colorful cast of village characters will amuse you, the descriptions of the desolate landscape will dazzle you, but it is the love story at the book’s core that will creep quietly into your heart and sit there long after you’ve turned the last page.

“We’re all strange inside. We learn how to disguise our differences as we grow up.” (I also love “One of the tragedies of real life is that there is no background music.”)

tiny_beautiful-680

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed: The best book I’ve found yet that teaches you how to love and be loved. Strayed is gentle but firm, kind but unflinchingly honest. This is another favorite one of mine to give friends or family members as a gift; there is something in it for everyone. My only regret is that there isn’t a way to bring the real Strayed with me everywhere as my fairy godmother and advice dispenser to guide me through life’s ups and downs.

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

51gfkfjupcl-_sx322_bo1204203200_

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern: This star-crossed tale about two young illusionists is positively enchanting, much like Le Cirque des Rêves where it takes place. Celia and Marco have been trained their whole lives to compete against each other in a magical duel (which, unbeknownst to them, only one magician can survive). But when they meet, their connection is instantaneous, passionate, and spell-binding. And the book is as enchanting as the illusions they weave, spinning whole worlds from paper and will.

“Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.”

5125nq6fd9l-_sx314_bo1204203200_

The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan: Brilliant and beautiful and sad, this slim volume, as the title suggests, tells the story of a relationship in dictionary entries. Each definition treads the line between prose and poetry, and as the words pile up a picture of a romance (and, spoiler alert, its demise) gradually emerges. It is a deceptively fast read the first time through, but deserves many a revisit (and as a bonus, Levithan continues to write new entries on his Twitter).

“The key to a successful relationship isn’t just in the words, it’s in the choice of punctuation. When you’re in love with someone, a well-placed question mark can be the difference between bliss and disaster, and a deeply respected period or a cleverly inserted ellipsis can prevent all kinds of exclamations.”

51rtuhbeaxl-_sx364_bo1204203200_

Why We Broke Up, Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman: Not all love stories last forever. Min and Ed’s is ending, right now. As she writes him a break-up letter to accompany the box she will drop at his house, filled with the detritus of a relationship, she goes through the objects one by one, weaving a tale of first love that will take you right back to adolescence. Maira Kalman’s gorgeous illustrations add another dimension to this intimate, sweet, honest portrait of first love.

“Ed, it was everything, those nights on the phone, everything we said until late became later and then later and very late and finally to go to bed with my ear warm and worn and red from holding the phone close close close so as not to miss a word of what it was, because who cared how tired I was in the humdrum slave drive of our days without each other. I’d ruin any day, all my days, for those long nights with you, and I did. But that’s why right there it was doomed. We couldn’t only have the magic nights buzzing through the wires. We had to have the days, too, the bright impatient days spoiling everything with their unavoidable schedules, their mandatory times that don’t overlap, their loyal friends who don’t get along, the unforgiven travesties torn from the wall no matter what promises are uttered past midnight, and that’s why we broke up.”

71lklmxqgjl

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell: Speaking of first love, this is another utterly wonderful, not the least bit sappy book about a first romance. To the outside world, Eleanor and Park are an unlikely pair, but these misfits discover that their weird and quirky pieces fit together like a perfect puzzle. That’s not to say that everything is hearts and roses — Eleanor’s home life in particular adds a dark element to their love story — but they love each other, as much as they can, for as long as they can, and they don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks about it. This book is sweet and will give you all the warm fuzzy butterflies of a delicious 16 year-old crush…but you might want to keep some tissues handy, just sayin’.

“You saved my life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you saved my life, and now I’m yours. The me that’s me right now is yours. Always.”

27245634

This Modern Love, Will Darbyshire: Yes, this is yet another YouTuber book, this one courtesy of angsty British charmer Will Darbyshire. But unlike his peers, whose books tend to fall into the memoir/humor category, Darbyshire follows in the tradition of Post Secret with a crowd-sourced compilation covering all things love. Over the course of six months, he posed various questions to his viewers — What would you say to your ex, without judgement? How has technology affected your relationship, either positively or negatively? What single word sums up your love life, your partner, or someone you like? — and then distilled the responses into this book. The letters range from funny to reflective, sarcastic to sincere, and together form a portrait of what it looks like to navigate love in the 21st century.

“Dear —, You are like that one piece of artwork in an art gallery that people spend a little longer admiring. Rosa, UK.”

41uew2hrbll-_sx362_bo1204203200_

Soppy, Philippa Rice: And last but not least, now for something completely different, a graphic novel! British artist Rice documents the everyday life of herself and her boyfriend, a parade of small, everyday moments that add up to intimacy and love. It’s sweet but, despite the title, not saccharinely so. Rice doesn’t shy away from the fights or inconveniences of sharing your life with another person, and the portrait she paints is a complete one, true to the quiet reality of true love.

Keep Marching On

Today’s post was supposed to be about something else. It was supposed to be about Florida and friendship and magic, the power of sunshine and Mickey Mouse ears and how wonderful it is to find a group of people who love you not just enough to not mock your squealing over Cinderella’s castle but to squeal right along with you. It was supposed to be about the squad, the team of four ladies to which Scout and I belong and which we hold so dear. It was supposed to be about long drives down a rainy highway singing along to “Hamilton” and the Spice Girls or crooning Blink-182 with a cockney accent. It was supposed to be about love and sequins and haunted mansions and the feeling of standing in the middle of a fireworks show with some of your favorite people on earth.

Pure magic

A post shared by jharlan12 (@jharlan12) on

But I’ll be honest: I am tired. I’m exhausted and sad and my spirit feels broken. I’ve spent the past 11 days walking around with a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat, each day assaulted by a fresh wave of outrage and despair. I wish those words were hyperbolic. I’ll admit there was a tiny part of me that hoped, in those quiet moments before sleep, “Maybe it won’t be as bad as we think. Maybe there’s a heart under all that Cheeto dust that cares about others. Maybe saner voices will prevail.” Instead each day of the current administration has come with fresh punches to the gut, trampling all over the things that I love about this country and spitting on the values that I believe make America great.

img_9073

I went to the Women’s March in New York, even though I wasn’t supposed to, even though yet another email arrived in my inbox that morning reminding me and my coworkers that the success of our company relies on its employees remaining unbiased. I understand the reasoning behind this prohibition; really, I do. Especially in a time when distrust of the media is so high, it is essential that we not do anything to further damage our perceived credibility. But when the actual morning came, sunny and crisp, I thought about history and I saw all the photos and statuses flooding my screens and I thought, “I will regret it for the rest of my life if, when my kids or grandkids ask what I did when the world spun apart at the seams, all I could say is that I ate scones and looked at art with their Aunt Sadie.

img_9107

In the crowds that thronged the streets of Midtown, trudging forward slowly, so slowly, one step at a time, I found an unexpected peace. There was no impatience or vitriol. Nobody was rude. Nobody shoved. Instead I found myself exchanging smiles and nods with complete strangers — not an everyday occurrence in this city. We chanted about love and community and democracy, about the value of black lives and immigrant lives and trans lives and climate change and a woman’s right to choose. Someone put a boombox in their window and we boogied our way down the block, marchers calling out requests (mostly for Beyoncé) to our benevolent DJ. There were old folks and young folks, parents with kids and gaggles of friends, people of every skin color and hair color and eye color, every race and gender, every stripe and style. Though our feet ached and our hands grew numb from cold, we marched with determination and resilience. As one of my favorite writers, Cheryl Strayed, put it, at the sister march in Washington, “Yesterday was so sad and it’s still going to be sad tomorrow, but right now, here, we are walking together.” A rainbow of signs floated above our heads, each glance catching yet another instance of creativity or wit or poetic eloquence. And for the first time since the election, I felt hope.

img_9104

That hope has, I’ll admit, proven slippery. It is a fragile thing, difficult to keep hold of. But I am doing my best not to let it go. It is essential not to let go of one’s outrage. Normalization is a dangerous, even fatal thing. But it is equally important not to relinquish one’s hope. The march, and all the protests and postcard writing campaigns and phone banks and donations since, remind me that there are more of us. Where the election broke my heart and made me feel like my country had betrayed me, that it was not the land I thought I recognized, the resistance that has exploded in the face of injustice and hate has started to heal those cracks. There is still work to be done. And it will be long and hard and more often than not it will be discouraging. It will feel like the tide is against us, like we are slogging through quicksand doomed never to reach land before we drown. But we must remember in those moments that we are not alone.

img_9105

It doesn’t always have to be a march or a rally or a protest of thousands. Sometimes all it takes is coffee with a friend or a night spent drinking wine and making candles in your living room. But when you happen upon these moments that remind you of what is good in this world, of all the people around you who care, treasure them. Hold them, and yourself, gently. And then take that spark of love and tuck it in your back pocket. We have work to do.

img_9106

P.S. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and looking for guidance on how to balance self-care with rebellion, I found the article “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind: Self-Care Lessons for the Resistanceby Mirah Curzer very helpful. We must take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone or anything else.

Zelda’s Seven New York Adventures for 2017

‘Tis the season for resolutions, to-do lists and their ilk. This year I’m focusing not on the things I want to minimize or cut from my life, but on the new places and things I want to experience in this, my fourth year calling New York home. This is by no means a complete list — and I welcome thoughts on spots I may have egregiously overlooked! — but a jumping off point. This city has so much to offer, and as long as I find myself here, I want to take advantage of some of the things that make it, as they say, “the greatest city in the world.”

new-museum

New Museum (235 Bowery, newmuseum.org): Admittedly I may be cheating here, giving myself an easy first check since I’m planning on going here this week. But even so, this is a New York museum I have not yet visited. And their “Pixel Forest” exhibit, a survey of the work of Swiss multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist, has been blowing up my feeds for months. It’s high time I experienced it for myself.

breuer

Met Breuer (945 Madison Ave, metmuseum.org/visit/met-breuer): I’ve been intending to go to this museum, an annex of the Metropolitan Museum fo art housed in the building formerly known as the Whitney Museum, since it opened last month. I even attempted to go once, but traffic and time were not on my side, and all subsequent efforts have failed to get past the “Oh yeah, I should check that out” stage. 2017 is the year I actually make it happen, hopefully before their Kerry James Marshall retrospective closes.

tenement

Tenement Museum (103 Orchard St, tenement.org): Scout has written on this blog  about her love for this museum, which taps deep into our cores and reaches the little historical fiction nerds of our hearts. Their tours put you in the shoes of some of New York’s bygone residents, walking you — literally and metaphorically — through the lives they lived and the spaces they called home.

coney

Coney Island (Brooklyn, coneyisland.com): Last year, the Rockaways were among my favorite New  York discoveries. This year, I want to make the trek down to their livelier counterpart. True, all the schmaltz of the boardwalk may be a bit overpriced and cliche. But I’ve always been the type to embrace the bells and whistles, lean into the corny, get lost in the twinkling lights of the Ferris wheel. And until I’ve eaten a hot dog from Nathan’s, I don’t think I get to call myself a true Brooklynite.

cloisters

The Cloisters (93 Margaret Corbin Drive, metmuseum.org/visit/met-cloisters): Apparently this is the year I finally visit all of the Met’s outposts. This has been on my to-do list for a while, a combination museum-garden that blends the Medieval with the modern. The four-acres of Fort Tryon Park surrounding the Cloisters are a huge part of the attraction, so this will be an all-day activity for a sunnier season.

trinity

Trinity Church (770 Riverside Drive, trinitywallstreet.org): Acknowledging our efforts not to turn this site into a full-fledged Hamilton fan blog, I do have to slip this one onto my list. Trinity Church is famous for many reasons, but the one that has me intrigued is its cemetery, eternal resting place of founding father Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, and his sister-in-law Angelica. I finally made it to the room where it happens this past November. I feel it is only right to pay homage to the real folks who inspired all the musical, meme-able genius that has followed.

mets

Mets game (Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave, newyork.mets.mlb.com): I do not harbor the antipathy towards America’s greatest pastime that Scout does. As the daughter of a rabid Red Sox fan, I was raised to love the beautiful game, especially when Boston is at the plate. But I do agree with her that baseball is a sport best enjoyed live, with all the peanuts and cracker jacks that entails. New York is home to a great baseball team, and a team that shall not be named, and I’d be more than happy to root-root-root for them…just as long as they aren’t playing the Red Sox.

images via: the new york pass, getaway mavens, fodor’s travel, spoiled nyc, vault travel, untapped cities, eater new york

Thankful

It goes without saying that 2016 has been a bit of a year. From shootings and refugee crises and legends lost to the festering dumpster fire that was this year’s presidential election, there is no shortage of doom and gloom around us. Even in this season of twinkly lights and cocoa, it can be hard to muster up much good cheer after a year this heartbreaking, soul-crushing, utterly devastating in so many ways. I began last week thinking 2016 had dealt us all the bad cards we could take (and then some), hoping to finish up the year with holiday festivities and the quiet hope that somehow next year would be better. And then, I sprained my ankle.

img_8458

I am no stranger to injuries of the pedal variety. In college, I managed to break my foot not once but twice, losing two whole semesters to crutches and casts and physical therapy appointments. So when, as I have done too many times before, I tripped on some stairs last Tuesday, my overwhelming feeling — other than the searing pain at my insole — was anger. I was mad at myself, for somehow managing to do this yet again. I was mad at my feet and their seeming inability to remain in one piece for more than 5 years at a time. And I was mad, so mad, at 2016, for delivering yet another kick when I was already so far down.

But here’s the thing: As I lay on my couch these past few days, a bag of frozen mango chunks on my foot, drowsy from pain meds and hydrating like it was my job, slowly that rage began to be supplanted by another feeling: gratitude.

In spite of everything and against all odds, I am thankful.

img_8301

I’m thankful to have a job with paid sick days, and a boss who was incredibly nice and accommodating and gave me the time I needed to heal.

I’m thankful to work with a group of incredibly kind, smart, and passionate colleagues, whose hearts are always in the right place. I’m thankful for all the emails and texts and snaps they sent me while I was gone.

I’m thankful for my roommates, who picked up prescriptions and made me dinner and watched infinite Christmas movies with me while I convalesced.

I’m thankful for my friends who surrounded me with love and support, offering help and food and puppy gifs to get me through the week. I’m thankful for the ones who gave me hugs, who texted, who brought me meatballs and cookies and refills so I could spend my apartment’s holiday party holding court on the couch. I’m thankful they slowed their steps to match my limps so I wouldn’t have to walk alone.

img_8008

I’m thankful for my family, who are always there for me no matter the geographic distances. I’m grateful for Skype and Facetime and bitmoji, which make the miles not seem quite as long. I’m thankful I’ll get to hug them in person in a few days.

I’m thankful for candy cane Hershey kisses and Seamless delivery people and Good Earth tea (now available online again!).

And I am thankful for art.

img_8382

I’m thankful for the ways artists of every media have helped me make some sense out of this truly surreal year. I’m thankful for the escape it offers, the comfort it provides, the conversations it sparks — how it keeps expanding the definition of humanity. And most of all, I’m thankful for the way it inspires hope. When countries and families — and ligaments — are being torn asunder and it seems that the forces of darkness have won, the best art inspires me to look for the light.