Friday, April 29, 2011

Momentary Rant

Please allow me a moment to "rant".

So this past Wed was National  Administrative Assistant Day. A few weeks ago I told my mother that I was going to throw a hissy fit if someone tried to honor me on this day. At one point my boss and I had to decline an invitation for me to join the A-Team (A for Assistant not Amazing).

I'm no one's Assistant.

I have a title that does not have the word "Executive" "Administrative" or "Assistant" anywhere in it!

I'm tired of people looking at me and asking if someone is available. How the hell am I supposed to know? Ask them yourself.

Well the "day came and went and not a word was mentioned. *Phew*

Well. I was wrong.

I just was given a coupon from our catering lady for a free lunch for all the hard work I do. She said that she wants to acknowledge the people who work with her and play the go between (since the school doesn't do anything special for Admin Asst Day). I smiled and said thank you.

I feel guilty about using it. It's meant for admins. And while I end up (begrudgingly) playing the Admin part often....I'M NOT AN ASSISTANT! *sigh*

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My 28 Day Challenge.

I read a friend's blog today about a 28 day challenge in May and I think it's such a great idea. It's so much harder to get into a good habit than (continue or re) start a "bad" habit. 

I've been trying to increase how much I exercise.
Nothing extreme.
I'm just trying to start a good habit. 

I'm not preparing for a marathon (please, with these boobs? Even if I was fit enough to run a marathon I'd need to duct tape the girls down). 

I'm not looking to loose X amount of pounds (although looking at pictures I have noticed an increase in weight - especially in the face. Yes I'd like to loose this weight but I'm not buying a scale. I'm not taking measurements or stressing about my BMI....see my opinion on BMI here). 

I am (usually) happy with my body. I can stand in front of a mirror naked and not criticize my thighs or my love handles. It's taken work but I'm comfortable in my skin. Doesn't mean I can't try to be a healthier (and happier) me.  

I'm going to try exercise every day for 28 days (since May has 31 days that allows for 3 days of "freebies"). Whether that's walking laps in my office building (hooray for an old building with three stories and four different stairwells allowing for loops), water aerobics in the pool, (doing my best) riding the (semi-broken) stationary bicycle in the clubhouse or speed walking around the condo complex. 

I'll try and be good about posting updates here (I think accountability is a good motivator), so feel free to send your inspirational and positive support this way. 

Here's to a new good habit. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fearless Women

I was lucky growing up. Not only did I have a family full of strong and independent woman but they also encouraged me to read and gave me a number of books with strong female characters. I am so glad more and more authors are giving young girls more female heroes and women to admire. 

*     *     *
Picture Books About Fearless Women
By Pamela Paul

In the 1980s, biography-loving schoolgirls had to content themselves with predictable accounts either of a few favored first ladies like Dolley Madison (with the inevitable ice cream associations) and Abigail Adams, or of the courageous nurses Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale.

Remarkable women, for sure. But in the last decade especially, authors of children’s biographies have put their “Free to Be” ideals to paper, not only writing sophisticated history, but also exploring the lives of women quite different from the usual girl-crush suspects. Two new biographies, the bittersweet “Queen of the Falls,” written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, and the rollicking “Nurse, Soldier, Spy,” written by Marissa Moss and illustrated by John Hendrix, are admirable and enlightening examples.

In “Queen of the Falls,” daredevil heroism comes unexpectedly from a former charm school teacher, 62-year-old Annie Edson Taylor. Widowed and poor, with few marketable skills, Taylor had the inspiration to barrel (literally) over Niagara Falls as a way to fame and fortune — an early-20th-century David Blaine. She was the first person to perform the stunt, and remains the only woman ever to go over the falls alone.

Best known for fiction, in particular his Caldecott Medal winners “Jumanji” and “The Polar Express,” Van Allsburg adeptly turns an oddball historical footnote into an accessible adventure story for young middle-grade readers. The language is straightforward, and Van Allsburg’s trademark sepia-toned pencil drawings are, as always, superb. The book’s only shortcoming is its failure to explain what could have been going through Taylor’s mind, though perhaps such folly is ultimately unknowable.

“Nurse, Soldier, Spy” tells the fascinating story of another nonconformist, the cross-dressing Civil War hero Sarah Emma Edmonds, who, under the name Frank Thompson, joined the Union Army at age 19, becoming a battlefield nurse (“something only men with the strongest stomachs did”) and later a spy. Moss, best known for her winning middle-grade series, Amelia’s Notebook, is a lively prose writer, and Hendrix’s illustrations inject humor into what is actually a serious, if somewhat improbable, subject.

Edmonds’s life story (described in an 1865 memoir, “Unsexed; Or, the Female Soldier”) will appeal to a wide range of readers — girls hungry for heroines, Civil War buffs, adventure story lovers. The only question is for what age. Moss treats Edmonds almost as a transgendered man, calling her “Frank” throughout the story — though still using the feminine pronoun. It’s a decision that may confuse less sophisticated readers (and perhaps merits the publisher’s recommended age range of 9 to 12, though the book would otherwise work well for 7-year-olds). Refreshingly, however, “Nurse, Soldier, Spy” doesn’t shy from historical specificity, naming battles and addressing issues like desertion and treason.

Both books are well researched and include historical afterwords as well as photographs of their subjects — women who deserve this newfound recognition.

Follow my blog with bloglovin

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vibrators on a Shelf Near You

Vibrators Carry the Conversation
By Hilary Howard

Toothpaste? Check.
Tampons? Check.
Vibrator? Check!

For years, vibrators were bought quietly in sex shops, and later online, arriving in discreet unmarked packages. They were rarely discussed, other than perhaps during a late-night girl-talk session fueled by many glasses of pinot grigio. But now you can find them advertised on MTV and boldly displayed at Duane Reade, Walgreens and other mainstream drugstores, mere steps from the Bengay and Dr. Scholl’s.

The newest model on the shelves is the Tri-Phoria ($39.99), created by the condom company Trojan after a study the company conducted in 2008 in partnership with the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University revealed that over half of American women had used vibrators, and of that group, nearly 80 percent had shared them with their partners. James Daniels, vice president for marketing at Trojan, said: “The idea really came from consumers. They kept telling us vibrators, vibrators. And we just laughed. And then we realized they were serious.”

The Tri-Phoria joins the A:Muse Personal Pleasure Massager by LifeStyles, which arrived in stores in January, and the Allure, by Durex, which made its over-the-counter debut in 2008; both models are $19.99. Alan Cheung, senior brand manager for Durex, said that sales of the company’s vibrating products are up 60 percent over the last six months, compared with the same period last year. “Consumers are definitely not shy about this kind of purchase in the retail environment,” he said.

This comes as no surprise to Rachel Venning, a founder of Babeland, a chain of sex-toy stores that opened a store in family-friendly Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 2008 to nary a ripple of protest. “I know women will buy them at Duane Reade, and as a lifelong cheerleader for sexual empowerment I’m thrilled at this development,” Ms. Venning said. “It’s one more step in the evolution of vibrators to just another consumer product, unburdened of its freight of shame, sexual defect and sluttiness.”

Liz Canner, who directed the 2009 documentary “Orgasm Inc.,” agrees. Her film confronted pharmaceutical companies that suggested women were dysfunctional, and therefore needed some sort of medicinal or therapeutic help, if they could not climax during sex. “It’s easier in a repressed culture to have a disorder than go to a sex store and get a vibrator,” Ms. Canner said in a recent interview. “Vibrators have been shown to enhance sexual pleasure for over 100 years now. Why not partake?”

Vibrators made occasional cultural cameos in the 1990s, with scenes in films like “She’s the One” and “Slums of Beverly Hills.” But it wasn’t until an episode of HBO’s “Sex and the City” —called “The Turtle and the Hare,” featuring an actual device called the Rabbit Pearl — that the vibrator truly emerged from the nightstand drawer.

“ ‘Sex and the City’ did as much for women’s sexual comfort as really anything has done in the past couple of decades,” said Dr. Laura Berman of “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman,” on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Dr. Berman, a prominent sex and relationship expert, also has a line of sex toys (, which she said grossed $5 million in 2010, up from $100,000 in 2005. After one appearance on “Oprah” that focused on adult women who had problems climaxing, one of her top-selling products, the Aphrodite, “was back-ordered forever,” she said. And in 2006 she sparked a national debate when she encouraged mothers to buy vibrators for their teenage daughters. “If she gets hot and bothered on a date,” Dr. Berman said about the daughter, “she can go home and self-stimulate, instead of getting pregnant.”

(Of course, a plastic battery-powered device is not needed for self-stimulation, but there is no market potential in that idea.)

Assessing the vibrator’s current ubiquity, Dr. Berman said, “Women are getting less and less caught up on an unrealistic and puritanical vision of what a good girl is. When they can embrace their self-stimulation, they can take ownership of their sexuality.”

Men interviewed proclaimed themselves not only unthreatened by the addition of accessories to their partners’ sex lives, but downright enthusiastic. Jeremy, 31, a content strategist in the entertainment business who lives in New York and wanted his last name omitted for privacy, said, “From my perspective, a woman who has thoroughly explored her own body, both alone and with or without whichever toys she finds interesting, makes for a significantly better lover.”

Kate, 29, a programming coordinator in New York who has been Jeremy’s girlfriend for a year and a half, calls herself “an evangelist for vibrators.” In college, she recalled seeing a Hello Kitty-themed one. “I wanted it just because it was kitschy and cool,” she said. “I thought it was so ridiculous that I ended up doing a bit more research and started to take it seriously.”

Kate, a devoted Babeland customer, said that at one point she asked her friends to pool their money and buy her a fancy vibrator for her birthday, which she promised to review for them.

And when Lou, 44, who lives on Long Island and has been married to Sarah, 47, for 20 years, was found to have prostate cancer, he used a make-your-own vibrator kit to make a mold of himself for his wife before having surgery.

“It never entered my mind that, oh, my God, this was bad,” he said.

Carol Queen, who is the curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum and a staff sexologist for Good Vibrations, a sex-toy retailer since 1977 that bills itself as the “original clean well-lit place to buy vibrators,” attributes more-honest discussions about sex and pleasure to fear of H.I.V./AIDS in the early 1990s, which led to frank discussions about condoms. She also mentioned a shift in published erotica at that time.

“There was something of a pendulum swing from the sex conservatism of the ’80s to the lively sex publishing of the ’90s, zines, anthologies, small presses,” she said. “Then people in more-mainstream venues heard about toys. As soon as mainstream culture looks at an issue, it becomes fair game for everyone else.”

And now, thanks to Suki Dunham, 43, vibrators also have an iPhone app.

Ms. Dunham, a former business manager for Apple, was a stay-at-home mother for four years before founding OhMiBod, a line of vibrators that synchronize rhythmically with iPods, iPads, iPhones and other smartphones. (But, she said, “Our product line won’t be sold at the Apple store any time soon.”) She got the idea after her husband, Brian, who was then traveling frequently for his job at Tyco, gave her an iPod and a vibrator for Christmas.

He later quit to help his wife market her invention, which has faced some hurdles. Nylon Magazine refused to run an ad, Ms. Dunham said. And the federal Small Business Administration denied her loan application because they said she ran a “prurient” business.

“I can sit with my 10-year-old daughter during prime-time TV and watch a commercial for Viagra,” Mr. Dunham said, “but I can’t advertise our OhMiBod fan page within Facebook.”

OhMiBod’s Freestyle :G is more expensive than the drugstore versions, at $120, a price comparable to other models from Jimmyjane, Lelo and Je Joue. Perhaps the top of the line is the Lelo Inez, which for $13,500 offers a “virtually silent” engine, according to the company, and either a 18-karat gold-plated or stainless steel finish.

But inconspicuous consumption remains the industry standard. Dr. Berman said she packages her toys in what look like “perfume boxes.” Trojan offers a discreet lavender box. Passion Parties is a direct sales company that offers products at in-home parties, during which women place orders with a salesclerk in a private room. “We don’t have a porn star on the package. To us that’s just degrading,” said Pat Davis, the company president. “There is still a strong desire for the confidentiality of it.”

The ability to shop online has surely helped the rising popularity of vibrators; Good Vibrations’s business has grown by 60 percent since the ’90s. “I am all about the Internet,” said Ellie, 32, a student and Babeland customer in Old Town, Me. “People want them, but they don’t want to go to the creepy stores with the creepy people.”

But the creep factor has also decreased significantly since vibrators began to be portrayed in popular culture. Dr. Berman’s vibrating panties appeared in the 2009 movie “The Ugly Truth,” starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. “That scene would not have been in a major Hollywood movie 10 years ago,” Dr. Berman said. Her products were also in a recent episode of “Private Practice” on ABC, though they remained in the boxes. And Kandi Burruss, a singer-songwriter and one of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” has decided to create a line of vibrators with Ms. Dunham’s help.

The history of the device is an ongoing source of fascination. In a poke at early 1960s prudishness, an episode in the first season of “Mad Men” featured a wired girdle called the Electrosizer. Sarah Ruhl’s critically acclaimed 2009 Broadway play, “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play),” explored the socio-cultural reasons behind the invention of the vibrator, which was to treat “hysterical” women medically, in the 1880s.

And “Hysteria,” a romantic comedy in post-production that will star Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy, will recount the same point in Victorian history. The plot revolves around Mr. Dancy’s character, a young earnest doctor who takes a job massaging women’s pelvises into “paroxysms.” But when the doctor develops carpal tunnel syndrome, his best friend (Rupert Everett), who is obsessed with electricity, invents a device that has impressively efficient curative powers.

“Americans are ready to laugh at the vibrator as a medical device,” said Tanya Wexler, the director of “Hysteria,” whose movie takes a winking look at what Ms. Canner alludes to in her documentary: the medical treatment of women who aren’t perfectly orgasmic — about which Ms. Wexler feels similarly perplexed.

“People don’t need doctors for it,” she said “They just need a little bit of freedom.”

Banning Barbie?

What do other people think about Barbie?

I have to make a confession here. While I understand and am right with folks that she gives a false representation to what women's bodies look like. I also just don't have the fire in my belly to get angry about it. I played with barbie growing up and maybe it was just the way I was raised but I never wished I looked like her or hated my body because it didn't.
*     *     *
Banning Barbie
Mattel, via Associated Press

Ah, Barbie. Fixation of generations of little girls. And their mothers — but for different reasons.

Rebecca Fitzgerald is struggling with the Barbie dilemma at the moment. Not whether she should buy her 3-year-old daughter the doll; she is quite clear that she would never do that. No, her problem is how to keep her father from showing up with one. And she is looking for advice from Motherlode.

She writes:

I was hoping to get help from you and your readers on explaining to my 60-something father why Barbie isn’t an appropriate gift for my 3-year-old daughter! I know there’s been research on the effect of Barbie on body image in kids as young as 5, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find. He’s a physician and a father of three girls raised to think they could be president — as long as they were pretty, too.

What kind of explanation would prevent him from buying makeup kits, high heels and fishnets when he thinks a busty gal in a tiny dress is a good role model for my preschooler?!

Many thanks,

My first thought was that Rebecca show her father the work of Galia Slayen, now a senior at Hamilton College, who has built herself one big Barbie doll. Hers is a life-sized depiction of how Barbie would look if she were “real,” and by Ms. Slayen’s calculations, poor Barbie would measure six feet in height, with a 39-inch bust, 18-inch waist and 33-inch hips. Made of chicken wire and paper maché, she was a project for National Eating Disorder Week when Ms. Slayen was still in high school. She is dressed, literally and symbolically, in the “size double zero” skirt that “used to slip off my waist when I was struggling with anorexia,” Ms. Slayen wrote in a post on The Huffington Post earlier this year. “I put it on Barbie to serve as a reminder that the way Barbie looks, the way I once looked, is not healthy and is not ‘normal.’ ”

You can see Ms. Slayen’s appearance on “The Today Show” with her mutant Barbie here:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

After Galia Slayen, I thought Rebecca might get some good advice from Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture” (who happens to be appearing at the 92nd Street Y in TriBeCa Tuesday night on a panel titled “Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Sponge Bob Ate My Son: The Reality of Marketing to Kids.”)

So I forwarded the note from Rebecca, and here’s what Ms. Orenstein had to say:

Dear Rebecca,

Well, first of all, as with children, you need to establish limits with grandparents in general. The grandparents’ role is to adore the grandchildren, yes, but also to respect the parents and their wishes whether or not they agree with them. So answer No. 1 is your father shouldn’t give your daughter a Barbie simply because you don’t want him to. Regardless of whether he thinks that’s foolish or wise. Anything else overrides and undermines your parental authority.

So that’s the Dear Abby part. Let’s move on to Barbie. Barbie is really a symbol of your larger concern, right? It’s not Barbie in a vacuum. And it would be simplistic to say that A+B=C; that is, that if you play with Barbie you’ll grow up to have an eating disorder. In fact, I wish it were that simple.

But what you’re battling against here is something larger and more complex — a marketing and childhood culture that encourages girls in an unprecedented way from an unprecedentedly young age to define themselves through appearance and play-sexiness, that defines femininity through materialism and narcissism. There’s a marketing notion called kids getting older younger: products are pitched initially to older children, but younger kids, wanting to be like cool older sibs, soon adopt them, at which time the older kids instantly abandon them as babyish and move on to something even “cooler.” And for girls, being cool means looking hot.

Dad sounds like a science-y guy, so lob some hard stats at him to explain: when she was first released in 1960, Barbie’s original demographic was 9- to 12-year-old girls. Now a girl is done with Barbie by 5. Fifty percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls in a survey by a market research group say they regularly wear lipstick or lip gloss, and the percentage of 8- to 12-year-olds wearing mascara and eyeliner doubled between 2008 and 2010 (why isn’t the percentage of 8-year-olds wearing mascara zero?).

I’m sure you saw the recent fracas over the push-up bikini top that Abercrombie & Fitch was trying to sell 7- to 12-year-old girls. That top is still out there; they just changed the name, not the product. The point is, the pressure on girls to define themselves from the outside-in rather than the inside-out is enormous. And confusing. And alluring — because it’s fun. For a while, anyway. I mean, makeup! Sparkles! Fashion! Who doesn’t like that? And it can be creative, but in such a well-worn, narrow way, right?

Meanwhile, a large-scale survey by Girls Inc. found that between 2000 and 2006 the percentage of elementary school girls who were worried about being thin went up far faster, and was much higher, than the percentage who worried about the quality of their school work. The percentage of the same girls who believed you had to be pretty and thin to be popular went up, too. The pressure girls expressed to be perfect (good at school and sports and pretty, popular and thin) went up. And the American Academy of Pediatrics — an organization I’m sure your dad respects — recently put out a memo to its members telling them that eating disorders were on the rise among children under 12 and they needed to be more mindful of the signs.

Beyond that, when we were children (or at least when I was) Barbie was a doll. Basta. She was not a lifestyle. There were no Barbie toothbrushes, Barbie tricycles, Barbie scooters, Barbie breakfast cereal (I don’t know if there’s really Barbie breakfast cereal, but there are now Disney Princess grapes, so there might as well be, and believe me, if you haven’t started fighting with Dad about Princess, that is coming). Do you really want your child to be subject to that kind of training: that her role in life is to advertise and consume licensed products to the hilt? Forget the girl stuff — your child does not exist to be a marketer’s land grab.

O.K. Now I’ve scared you. I’ve scared him. So what’s a mom or grandpop to do? I say, fight fun with fun. I’m wondering why your dad is so obsessed with Barbie. Because he liked watching you play with her? Because he thinks she defines cute, innocent girlness?

If it’s the former, why not suggest a present that would involve the three of you doing something, making some memory together? If it’s the latter, well, I get that. Girls are adorable when they play with Barbies or Princess. And little girls also have a developmental need to find a way to assert that they’re girls (more on why another time) in the most extreme way with whatever tools are at hand. When I was a child that mean baby dolls, strollers, doll houses. Now it’s spa makeovers for 4-year-olds.

That means, though, that countering with generic toys is really not enough. Besides, it’s hard to convince your daughter (or your father) that you’re giving her more choices by saying no all the time. So you need to offer her other ideas, playthings, books, movies, clothing that signify girl and signify fun yet broaden her idea of femininity. I have an evolving, idiosyncratic list of resources for this on my Web site (and if you have others, by all means let me know). Maybe you could suggest one of them to Dad as an alternative. If he’s looking for a doll companion, how about a groovy girl or a go-go sports girl? Or troll eBay for a Mulan doll (they’re out there; hard to find, though). You know what my daughter adores? Her Lennon Sisters paper dolls. I kid you not. Tell him that she will have so many messages beamed at her every day of her life that only a particular look and a particular body are acceptable, and you don’t want them to come on her birthday from one of the men she loves most in the world. In fact, you could just leave it at that.

Full disclosure, I’m personally harder core on other issues, so a few Barbies infiltrated our home. I just got ridiculously picky about which Barbies. No Barbie Basics No. 10. Not even those dopey fairytopia Barbies. We had Wonder Woman Barbie. Indonesian Barbie. It was ludicrous. But there was one of my (many) compromises. And then I put a dollar in the therapy fund.

But again, it’s not Barbie per se that’s the issue, it’s the whole culture coming at your daughter. Barbie is just the symbol.

And hey, maybe for her birthday you could give him a few presents: “Packaging Girlhood” by Lyn Mikel Brown and Sharon Lamb; “So Sexy So Soon” by Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne; “Pink Brain, Blue Brain” by Lise Eliot; “Consuming Kids” by Susan Linn; and, of course, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” …

Good luck,

Monday, April 25, 2011

One Size Fits Nobody

I read this and had oh so many thoughts along the way. So to make it easiest I'm going to just color my thoughts/comments as you read along.

One Size Fits Nobody: Seeking a Steady 4 or a 10
By Stephanie Clifford

In one store, you’re a Size 4, in another a Size 8, and in another a Size 10 — all without gaining an ounce.

It’s a familiar problem for many women, as standard sizing has never been very standard, ever since custom clothing gave way to ready-to-wear.

So, baffled women carry armfuls of the same garment in different sizes into the dressing room. They order several sizes of the same shirt online, just to get the right fit. I often times refuse to buy online just because I don't have the chance to try clothes on first - and I don't want to be out the shipping costs. However, then I'm reduced to the limited number of clothing stores/styles/options for plus size women that don't include online shopping.

Now, a handful of companies are tackling the problem of sizes that are unreliable. Some are pushing more informative labels. Some are designing multiple versions of a garment to fit different body shapes. Lane Bryant has this with their pants/jeans. You're either a "square", "triangle" or "circle"...of course I'm none of the three. I've gone in with the same pair of pants in the three different shapes and there's always something not right. Too much sag in the butt, too tight in the stomach, makes my thighs look bigger around then my hips. Etc. And one is offering full-body scans at shopping malls, telling a shopper what sizes she should try among the various brands.

“For the consumer to go out and navigate which one do I match with is a huge challenge, and causes frustration and returns,” said Tanya Shaw, an entrepreneur working on a fit system. “So many women tie their self-esteem to the size on the tag.” Sadly this isn't just because of the frustration of poor labeling. Thank you media.

As the American population has grown more diverse, sizes have become even less reliable. Over the years, many brands have changed measurements so that a woman who previously wore a 12 can now wear a 10 or an 8, a practice known as “vanity sizing.”

In men’s clothes, the dimensions are usually stated in inches; women’s clothing involves more guesswork.

Take a woman with a 27-inch waist. In Marc Jacobs’s high-end line, she is between an 8 and a 10. At Chico’s, she is a triple 0. And that does not consider whether the garment fits in the hips and bust. (Let’s not get into length; there is a reason most neighborhood dry cleaners also offer tailoring.) The length issue is also one of my biggest issues (aside from finding cute clothes in my size). "Averages" are usually at least four inches too long and sometimes petite's turn into high-waters! I'm only 5'1"-5'2" but this shouldn't be that big of a deal.

Ms. Shaw, the entrepreneur, is chief executive of a company called MyBestFit that addresses the problem. It is setting up kiosks in malls to offer a free 20-second full-body scan — a lot like the airport, minus the pat-down alternative that T.S.A. agents offer. Oh great. One more piece of invasive radiation filled equipment to scan our bodies.

Lauren VanBrackle, 20, a student in Philadelphia, tried MyBestFit when she was shopping last weekend.

“I can be anywhere from a 0 at Ann Taylor to a 6 at American Eagle,” she said. “It obviously makes it difficult to shop.” This time, the scanner suggested that at American Eagle, she should try a 4 in one style and a 6 in another. Ms. VanBrackle said she tried the jeans on and was impressed: “That machine, in a 30-second scan, it tells you what to do.”

The customer steps into a circular booth, fully dressed. A wand rotates around her, emitting low-power radio waves that record about 200,000 body measurements, figuring out things like thigh circumference. <- No thanks. I don't need to know how round my thigh is. Thank you though.

Next, the system matches the customer’s measurements to clothes in its database. MyBestFit currently measures clothes from about 50 stores, including Old Navy, Eddie Bauer and Talbots.

Customers then receive a printout of the sizes at each store that ought to fit the customer best. The retailers pay a fee when they appear in the results, but they cannot pay to be included in the results; the rankings are based solely on fit. (The company saves the data, with ID numbers but not names, and may give aggregate information to retailers as feedback.)

Don Thomas, who manages the Eddie Bauer store at the King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia, said the system was helpful to shoppers. “Nine times out of 10, if left on their own, they will choose the wrong size pant,” he said. With a printout, “if it says they’re a 4 or a 6, they’re a 4 or a 6, generally. So it’s really good for the customer who’s time-starved, which we all are.”

Ms. Shaw says there are plans for 13 more scanning machines in malls along the East Coast and in California by the end of the year.

The sizing variations are a big contributor to $194 billion in clothing purchases returned in 2010, or more than 8 percent of all clothing purchases, according to the National Retail Federation.

The scanners are a modern solution to an old problem. Studying dress sizes in Vogue advertisements from 1922 on, Alaina Zulli, a designer focusing on costume history, found clothing sizes have been irregular for decades.

A woman with a 32-inch bust would have worn a Size 14 in Sears’s 1937 catalog. By 1967, she would have worn an 8, Ms. Zulli found.

Today, she would wear a zero. I'm sorry but maybe it's because I've never been a size "zero" but I don't know how this can/is a size!?

Plenty of people have tried to address these arbitrary sizes. Advocating a labeling system called Fitlogic over the last few years, an entrepreneur, Cricket Lee, discovered just how difficult it is to change manufacturers’ approach to size.

Her labeling system divides women’s bodies into three shapes, straight, hourglass or bottom-heavy, and a Fitlogic label carries both the standard size and the shape. What about those of us that are two of the three? Or not 100% of any one?

Ms. Lee did tests in the mid-2000s with manufacturers like Jones Apparel and retailers like Nordstrom. But retailers said consumers had trouble grasping the concept. “The manufacturers were so afraid of producing more than one fit in the very beginning,” she said. And that my friends is why we have the muumuu in many plus size stores.

Still, she said, she will soon try to sell the sizing system again.

Some brands are taking their own approaches to make the fitting room less demoralizing. Mary Alderete, vice president for women’s global marketing at Levi’s, said, “When we try on 10 pairs of jeans to buy one, the reason you feel bad is because you think something’s wrong with you.”

Last fall, the company introduced Curve ID, a line that offers three styles, depending on how rounded a woman’s backside is — slight, demi and bold. (Levi’s is now testing a fourth style, called supreme curve.) Each of the three styles includes about 29 fits and colors, and dozens of sizes. Ms. Alderete said the company had sold more than one million pairs of the Curve jeans.

Marie-Eve Faust, the program director of fashion merchandising at Philadelphia University, called the Levi’s effort “a good start.”

“The next step is to have the major players sit together, manufacturers, retailers, brands, and say ‘This type of label should be appropriate for all of us. Let’s standardize,’ ” she said.

Dr. Faust said she had been discussing a new kind of label that takes into account the wearer’s shape, but expected retailers to bristle.

Still, Dr. Faust said, change is needed. This is something I have to agree on. The fact that an obscene number of women are walking around with the wrong bra size on - you can only imagine how many are squeezing into a too tight of dress because they're "always a size 8" or drowning in pants that make them look like they've got a loaded diaper because "they are comfortable".

“It would be nice just to take the pant, look at the label and say, ‘That should fit me,’ ” she said.

Friday, April 22, 2011

One of those Days.

It's just one of those days when I feel I barely have my head above water......

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Support (more than just) the Ta-tas

I came across this article in the LA Times and it is so true. I understand the importance of getting the word out there. I understand that a percentage of the retail profit goes towards research. But how about teaching the importance of exams (both at home and by a physician) and connecting that real people are dying of cancer. It's not "cool" to just wear the bracelet or's cool to step up and support the people in your life. 

This article focuses on breast cancer but I think the sentiment rings true for all causes: breast cancer, testicular cancer, any cancer, AIDS, wars, etc. Make a donation, join a walk/run, volunteer at a hospital, do something more than buy a bracelet.

*     *     *

The trouble with those boobies bracelets
There are better ways to fight breast cancer than wearing a titillating bracelet or shirt.

by Peggy Orenstein
April 19, 2011

Last week, a federal judge stopped a Pennsylvania school from suspending two girls from school for wearing breast cancer fundraising bracelets that proclaimed "I ♥ Boobies!" with a nod to their 1st Amendment rights.

Well, score one for free speech.

And zero for breast cancer.

Those ubiquitous rubber bracelets are part of a new trend: sexy breast cancer. There is "Save the Ta-Tas." "Save 2nd Base." "Project Boobies." "Feel Your Boobies." "Jingle Jugs." And, of course, "I ♥ Boobies" itself.

These campaigns aim to bring a fresh, irreverent approach to the youth market, but beyond that, their agenda is, at best, mushy. There is "breast cancer awareness" of course, but given that each October everything from toilet paper to buckets of fried chicken to the chin straps of NFL players look as if they have been steeped in Pepto-Bismol, I think that goal has long since been met.

Sexy breast cancer groups say they promote (with a wink and a naughty nudge) the importance of breast self-exam for young women. Sounds good, right? Yet experts no longer recommend self-exam for anyone, let alone high school girls. The unfortunate truth is that even when scrupulously performed, self-exams neither detect cancers earlier than they would be found otherwise nor offer any survival benefit. So where's the "awareness" in spreading that misinformation? The only "♥s" involved are those of women who have or have had cancer, women like me, and our hearts break at the thought of millions of dollars wasted.

Let me be clear here: Young women should touch their breasts. Not out of fear but because they live in a world that continually encourages them to act sexy without understanding their sexuality, to care more about being desirable than about their own desires. Kittenish cancer campaigns reinforce that message, simultaneously pathologizing and fetishizing women's breasts at the expense of the bodies, hearts and minds attached to them. In that way, they actually suppress discussion of real cancer, rendering its sufferers — those of us whom all this is supposed to be for — invisible

I mean, really, forget "Save the Ta-Tas." How about save the woman? How about "I ♥ My 72-Year-Old One-Boobied Granny?" After all, statistically, that's whose rack is truly at risk.

There's so much young people could do to show they care about breast cancer: They could organize childcare or meals for mothers of small children going through treatment. They could volunteer in cancer resource centers. They could hold fundraisers for affected families whose mothers can no longer work. They could spearhead projects on potential carcinogens in beauty products (which, to be fair, is something "I ♥ Boobies," in the wake of criticism of its mission, has now begun to emphasize). All of that would take effort and time, but it would be more meaningful to women with cancer and, I imagine, to teenagers themselves. Because, among other things, the idea that you are taking action merely by wearing a titillating bracelet is not a great life lesson.

I recently suggested as much, ever so respectfully, to the "Feel Your Boobies" campaign, in a comment on its Facebook page, beneath a photo of a Betty Page-type young woman on a pink bicycle. It was instantly deleted, along with posts by others who felt the campaign trivialized cancer or questioned how the funds raised were being spent. Yet the moderator left intact comments such as "I wanna feel ur boobies," "I like feeling people's boobies for them" and "Never wanted to be a bike seat more in my life!!"

I guess, then, make that score: breast cancer zero, free speech zero.

Peggy Orenstein is the author, most recently, of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the New Girlie-Girl Culture."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let Children be Children!

A friend had this link to this article on her facebook this morning. I had no idea that I would be sitting at my desk holding back laughter and nodding my head, in agreement with the author, as I read. LZ Granderson hits it on the head when he asks the question about what is going through the heads of marketing teams creating these products and what is going through the heads of the parents purchasing these items for their little ones!

*     *     *

Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
April 19, 201

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie "10" (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her "Xtina" phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.

You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word "Juicy" was written on her backside.

Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see all right. ... I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she's not even in middle school yet.

Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire this spring for introducing the "Ashley," a push-up bra for girls who normally are too young to have anything to push up. Originally it was marketed for girls as young as 7, but after public outcry, it raised its intended audience to the wise old age of 12. I wonder how do people initiate a conversation in the office about the undeveloped chest of elementary school girls without someone nearby thinking they're pedophiles?

Push-up bikini controversyVideo

What kind of PowerPoint presentation was shown to the Abercrombie executives that persuaded them to green light such a product?

That there was a demand to make little girls hot?

I mean, that is the purpose of a push-up bra, right? To enhance sex appeal by lifting up, pushing together and basically showcasing the wearer's breasts. Now, thanks to AF Kids, girls don't have to wait until high school to feel self-conscious about their, uhm, girls. They can start almost as soon as they're potty trained. Maybe this fall the retailer should consider keeping a plastic surgeon on site for free consultations.

We've been here with Abercrombie before -- if you recall, about 10 years ago they sold thongs for 10-year-olds -- but they're hardly alone in pitching inappropriate clothing to young girls. Four years ago the popular "Bratz" franchise introduced padded bras called "bralettes" for girls as young as six. That was also around the time the good folks at Wal-Mart rolled out a pair of pink panties in its junior department with the phrase "Who Needs Credit Cards" printed on the front.

I guess I've been out-of-the-loop and didn't realize there's been an ongoing stampede of 10-year-old girls driving to the mall with their tiny fists full of cash demanding sexier apparel.

What's that you say? Ten-year-olds can't drive? They don't have money, either? Well, how else are they getting ahold of these push-up bras and whore-friendly panties?

Their parents?

Noooo, couldn't be.

What adult who wants a daughter to grow up with high self-esteem would even consider purchasing such items? What parent is looking at their sweet, little girl thinking, "She would be perfect if she just had a little bit more up top."

And then I remember the little girl at the airport. And the girls we've all seen at the mall. And the kiddie beauty pageants.

And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the "Ashley", the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergartners if they didn't think people would buy it.

If they didn't think parents would buy it, which raises the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?

It's easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents who think low rise jeans for a second grader is cute. They are the ones who are spending the money to fuel this budding trend. They are the ones who are suppose to decide what's appropriate for their young children to wear, not executives looking to brew up controversy or turn a profit.

I get it, Rihanna's really popular. But that's a pretty weak reason for someone to dress their little girl like her.

I don't care how popular Lil' Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn't always makes me popular -- and the house does get tense from time to time -- but I'm his father, not his friend.

Friends bow to peer pressure. Parents say, "No, and that's the end of it."

The way I see it, my son can go to therapy later if my strict rules have scarred him. But I have peace knowing he'll be able to afford therapy as an adult because I didn't allow him to wear or do whatever he wanted as a kid.

Maybe I'm a Tiger Dad.

Maybe I should mind my own business.

Or maybe I'm just a concerned parent worried about little girls like the one I saw at the airport.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls issued a report linking early sexualization with three of the most common mental-health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. There's nothing inherently wrong with parents wanting to appease their daughters by buying them the latest fashions. But is getting cool points today worth the harm dressing little girls like prostitutes could cause tomorrow?

A line needs to be drawn, but not by Abercrombie. Not by Britney Spears. And not by these little girls who don't know better and desperately need their parents to be parents and not 40-year-old BFFs.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson. 
Editor's note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for A senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, he has contributed to ESPN's "Sports Center," "Outside the Lines" and "First Take." He is a 2011 and 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism and a 2010 and 2008 honoree of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for column writing. 

*     *     *

While I am a big supporter of freedom of expression. Freedom to dress yourself however you want. I am also a big(ger) supporter of letting kids be kids. They grow up quicker than we realize without social media and marketing pressuring them to get their faster.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Questioning Interracial Relationships

I came across this "article" [blog] last night and it really sat uneasy with me....Here's the blog first and then I'll rant afterwards.

*     *      *

"Have you noticed a recent surge in Asian men and white women being together lately? Bruce Lee and Linda Lee Caldwell were one of Hollywood’s first Asian man/Caucasian women celebrity couples … and that was in the 60s! So what’s changed?

The question is, why is this interracial combo not as widespread as other interracial combos?

There is definitely a higher percentage of Asian women with white men than ever before. Why?

The above video [I took it out - visit the website to view video] was taken by video crew who asked random and predominantly Asian guys and girls “Why Asian girls are attracted to white guys”. Stereotype… stereotype and more stereotype!

According to this video, most respondents described Asian men as being too shy or unassertive. The woman also stated Asian men were too effeminate and even too short! Apparently this is turning Asian women away and they are beginning to look elsewhere.

Asian stereotypes have been created by society in general. Enough articles have been written about what I would like to call stereotypical racism in the Asian community – for instance, how Caucasian men actively seek an Asian woman because of their exotic looks and supposed submissivenes?. How many have this so called Asian fetish or yellow fever?

Asian females, on the other hand, have constantly been disgraced and labeled “white-washed” women busy trying to climb the social ladder by their own communities and are finding more acceptance with races other than their own.

So what about the rise of interracial relationships between the Asian man and Caucasian woman? Is it that Asian men are fed up with their female counterparts and that they take revenge by dating Caucasian women? (just a thought) Or just that there are fewer Asian females in their dating pool so they are expanding their own horizons?

My conclusion is that maybe it’s not that at all. I think people should be intelligent enough not to allow trivial stereotypes to conform to their preferences on who to date. Why do you think there is a rise in the Asian man-Caucasian woman interracial combo?"

*     *      *

First, I think I need to remind the author that the title of this article and the first sentence point that he is going to discuss Asian men-Caucasian women relationships....but instead talks about Asian women and Caucasian men....not the same....yes, same cultural/ethnic combination but he didn't go into the article saying we're going to discuss the rise of Asian-Caucasian relationships. 

Mildred & Richard Loving
Next, why does there have to be a reason other than people are finally becoming more accepting to the concept behind interracial relationship? That we're in a place today where people fall in love with a person and not a race? Why does it always come down to a fetish or rebellion? 

People forget that it hasn't been that long (historically speaking) that interracial marriages have been allowed in the United States....only 44 years. Think about it. How many of us have parents older than 44?

Or maybe it's because I'm dating a man who identifies as Asian-American (a child of an interracial marriage) but it angers me to think that people want to discover a sociological reason behind our relationship.  Does there have to be some underlining psychologically repressed reason for us being attracted to the other? Can't it just be because we love each other?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beauty at a Price.

At What Price Beauty? Check Today’s Deal
By Tatiana Boncompagni

Jasmine Chess had long wanted to try eyelash extensions, but the high cost had kept them off her beauty shopping list. Then Ms. Chess, 25, saw an offer to buy the service at a reduced rate ($225 instead of the usual $450) on Gilt City, an online portal that sells vouchers to fitness boutiques and spas (along with restaurants and other attractions).

“I wouldn’t have bought this on my own,” said Ms. Chess, an actress who had previously bought a juice cleanse, hair blowout and makeup on the site. “I did it because it was a deal.”

Thanks to the rise of social coupon Web sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, beauty consumers are able to bargain-hunt for goods and services that were once rarely, if ever, discounted. Recent sales include an oxygen facial at Bliss Spa in South Beach for $112 (30 percent off) on Gilt City and two 60-minute massages at Balanced Health in Boston for $95 (53 percent off) on LivingSocial....

“It used to be, ‘Fifty percent off a haircut, what’s the catch?’ ” said Andrew Unger, a founder of Lifebooker, which began offering deals in late 2007, though it took two years, he said, for consumers to become comfortable with the concept. Since then, “every month has been better than the last,” Mr. Unger said.

According to Yipit, an aggregator of online daily deals, the number of sites offering health- and beauty-related services has nearly quintupled in the last year, to 341, while sales of these services (including spa treatments, dental whitening and hair salon services) reached $78 million for January to March of this year and are on track to reach $312 million for 2011, representing 31 percent of total daily deal sales.

Shopping for beauty services online isn’t something Barbara Fisher, a sales associate for Coach in Manhattan, ever imagined doing, but since hearing about Lifebooker and a half-dozen deal sites through friends, she has bought vouchers for waxing and dental whitening trays and signed up for a free boot camp class...

But are beauty consumers really spending less or just buying more? Jessica Israel, a buyer of television commercial space for an advertising company in Westchester, recently purchased spray tanning, a haircut and a few massages for a discount online, all splurges she would not have tried otherwise....

Yvette Rose, the founder of the Kickstart Diet, said she had more than 5,000 views on her company Web site the day that her deal, 40 percent off a five-day food cleanse, was listed on Gilt City. “I’ve been in Town & Country and Vogue, and neither of them gave me the visibility that Gilt did,” said Ms. Rose, who sold 100 diet packages for $250 instead of the usual $425.

Oscar Blandi, a Madison Avenue hairstylist, offered a highlight and blowout package ($145, down from $275) at his salon on Gilt City last December as part of what he called a marketing strategy to help his junior stylists and colorists build their business. “This gets them in the door,” he said. “It’s up to me to cultivate the client.”

But merchants like Ms. Rose and Mr. Blandi are looking for more than just exposure. More crucial to them is that customers return, and pay full price....

But at what point does a business risk devaluing itself in the name of finding a few new customers? Dr. Steven Pearlman, a facial plastic surgeon who listed discounted prices for chemical peels, laser services, Botox and Juvederm on Gilt City last year, said he would not work with a deal site again for a very long time.

“I don’t want to undercut patients who have been seeing me for years and paying full price, the majority of whom do,” Dr. Pearlman said. “I don’t want to cheapen the brand.”....

Ms. Fisher, the Coach sales associate, said: “Now going to the salon is like getting on an airplane. You don’t know what someone in the seat next to you is paying.” 

*     *     *

I have to admit there's just something golden and alluring about the phrase "__% off". Doesn't really matter what the numbers are- 10, 30, 50 - it calls to me.

I also have to admit to subscribing to more than my fair share of online coupon sites - Groupon, LivingSocial, Sharing Spree and Travelzoo. However, while I may receive many coupons and deals in my inbox they usually end up in my trash right away. Whether it's because I'm not willing to travel over an hour to get my haircut or (like this morning's Groupon) have my "alignment checked".

There have been many times though when the deal is just too good to pass up. A restaurant I haven't tried but has got rave reviews (I'm a yelper too, did I mention?), a 2 for one spa treatment (Mothers Day - check!), a 50% off coupon for a tea shop (perfect give-a-way gift for the tea party themed party I'm hosting) they aren't things I would have bought anyway.

In some ways I think of that as the point. Not looking for that "alignment check" deal because I need one anyway and just have been putting it off. It's a luxury. An opportunity to do something nice for myself (or someone else).

What do you think?
Have you bought anything from an online coupon site?
What was it? Was it for you or someone else?
Did you need it or was it a special treat?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The ABCs of Me.

To keep things fresh, I stole this from a friend and her amazing blog.

(A) Age: 28

(B) Bed Size: Full

(C) Chore You Hate: When I live with other people it's the bathroom. I just can't stop thinking of all the germs!

(D) Dogs? I haven't had a dog in a long time. Living in apartments with (too) busy of work schedules has made me a cat lady. But I do love pups.

(E) Essential Start Your Day Item: My phone. If I didn't have it I would sleep in way too late.

(F) Favorite Color: I don't really have a favorite color. I prefer earth/jewel tones over vs warm....I guess I have favorite color combinations. Pink/Black, Black/White, Blue/Brown....

(G) Gold or Silver? Silver. Or white gold.

(H) Height:5'1"...5'2"...somewhere in there.

(I) Instruments You Play: None.

(J) Job Title: Student Activities & Events Coordinator

(K) Kids: Do the cats count? No... then no, no children.

(L) Live: Portland, OR

(M) Mom's Name: Claudette

(N) Nicknames: Oh my. So many. Mo (and variations of), Mogan, Wife, Wifey, Vida, and Teapot (only my sister Kat can call me this and get away with it though).

(O) Overnight Hospital Stays? Yep. For my tonsils and lymph node surgeries.

(P) Pet Peeve: Oh many...the more bizarre ones though: Not hitting cancel on the microwave, not being on time, and leaving a voicemail that just says "Call me".

(Q) Quote from a Movie: "And the goddess said, "Feed the people and send them out happy into the night." - Home at the end of the World

(R) Right or Left Handed? Right

(S) Siblings: 1 sister, 1 adopted sister, 1 step sister.

(T) Time You Wake Up? 6:40...then I hit snooze for 5 minutes

(U) Underwear: Yes.

(V) Vegetable You Dislike: Overcooked spinach.

(W) What Makes You Run Late: Having to share 1 bathroom with 3 other people and not liking what I picked out to wear that day.

(X) X-Rays You've Had Done: I think only once when I was in elementary school - I jammed my finger playing handball and had to have it x-rayed. But I've had a CAT scan.

(Y) Yummy Food You Make: Give me a recipe and I'll make it happen. :) Lately I've been a cupcake making machine.

(Z) Zoo, Favorite Animal: Large Apes - gorillas, orangutans, and chimps