Ef You DSW!!

For a few years now, DSW has had commercials featuring stylish women breezing through their cities looking fantastic and being stopped by someone who says “Where’d you get those shoes.” And then this fashion icon answers, “DSW.”

And now, Sears has rehashed this strategy. Again, said woman is moving through her life — at work, being seated at a restauant, boarding a plane, when someone asks where she got something. She answers, somewhat sheepishly, “Sears.” (You should be sheepish, what did you do, go back to 1864 and order from their catalog?)

I’m calling bullshit on this. Just like it’s not okay to have dripping wet hair on the subway, it is not okay to ask strangers where they bought something.

Here’s why:

  • It can be judgemental — the Sears woman feared judgement so that was well played, Sears. The other judgement is when you answer and people respond that said store or said item is too expensive and proceed to try to make you feel like a fool. They might even say something ridiculous like, there’s no difference between the designer stuff and what they find at the dollar store (if you really don’t see a difference, then you’re shopping in the right place, hon). And although this is acceptable hazing, the turnabout is not true. What if you told me you shop at TJ Maxx and I told you their stuff is so cheap I’m surprised it doesn’t go up in flames on a hot summer day? Or, what if I said Old Navy is called old because even their new clothes only have one wear left in them? I would be considered just plain evil. And rightly so. It’s okay to call someone on perceived extravagance. Just not someone’s tendency to buy cheap, shakeadag (made up word) clothes as my Aunt Daisy used to call them.
  • It can be presumptuous. Yesterday, I’m rocking a pretty fabulous new red lipstick that I discovered (and then later, unknowingly, my sister gifted it to me at Christmas which tells you it’s fire!) I appreciate compliments. Don’t we all? Saying, “Great color!” as you breeze by is totally acceptable. Stopping me and asking me, “What is that, MAC?” So not acceptable. Why do you assume it’s MAC? I know that brown girls flock to the MAC counter like minimally dressed teenaged girls flock to Lady Gaga concerts. But we can wear more than MAC, thank you very much! I was loyal to Diva, but that was back in 1998. Yet still, people are always trying to put me in MAC! No lie, no lieeeeee. I’ve even been at the Laura Mercier counter and when I asked for a product, the associate clarified whether I wanted it from MAC which was located clear across the store.
  • Find your own amazing — Why should I do all the work for you? Just like Drake said about Kobe’s wife, “You wasn’t with me when we was shootin’ in the gym.”  Put in the work. I’ve gone outlet shopping numerous times and when I arrive at the checkout with my find, the sales girls gather around the counter and ask where I found it. They are the ones putting the items in the bins! If they managed to overlook a pink satin Louboutin evening bag with a chain strap — and a ridiculous markdown, I mean ridiculous like someone didn’t realize the brand — they don’t belong in retail.
  • If you’re a real fashionista, you should already know — There are telltale signs for brands. The cap toe, the tartan pattern, the Tribute style or enormous patent bow; it’s unmistakable which brand it is. You shouldn’t have to ask.

Just something to keep in mind when you’re out and about and see something you admire. Sneak a picture and investigate later, look for labels or even describe the item in a Google search (It has worked for me!). I never ask people where they got something. And if necessary, I send a friend to ask for me.

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And Veuve Ran Through the Streets (with Photographic Evidence!)

I was tricked into living in my neighborhood. First, there was the broker’s confusion on the difference between Wyckoff Street (in a neighborhood I deemed yes) and Wyckoff Avenue (in a neighborhood I never heard of or desired to visit). Yet, the loft apartment on Wyckoff Avenue was amazing and there was zero walking distance to the train. The two clinchers that led me to buy it (not counting the apartment’s amenities) — the broker’s threat that he’d shown me all the available apartments I could afford and his next suggestion was New Jersey. And, his lie that the apartment was in East Williamsburg.

Since all the publications that mattered (New York magazine and the New York Times, naturally) deemed East Williamsburg the “next big thing,” I kept looking for evidence of this “big thing. I didn’t see it. Not helpful that the apartment is actually in Bushwick, a fact that even I lied about.

Fast forward six years and I finally have some evidence that change is underway, and not just the fashion.

Signs That Your Neighborhood May Have Changed:

1. On New Year’s Day, you find Veuve Clicquot bottles in the gutters.

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2. The dogs at the dog park all have on outfits.

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3. Even the big dogs.

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4. A Puerto Rican flag and Gay Pride flag on the same building

Every June, the flags come out in time for the parades. This June, near Maria Hernandez Park, a building was sporting a Puerto Rican flag on the second floor and a Gay Pride flag on the third floor.

5. When it’s the Gay Pride flag that’s still hanging there 7 months later.

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6. People lie about living here.

Walking home with a friend, we walked further than I expected. “This is Queens. You said you lived in Bushwick,” I accused. “Please don’t tell anyone,” he pleaded. I guess that blog he writes about Bushwick won’t feel that authentic if I let that secret out.

7. You’re inconvenienced by filming

Girls broke the cherry. Now, there are television and film crews and photographers taking over regularly. One day I almost crashed the car when five long, dark-haired, slim suit-wearing male models were being photographed standing in the middle of the street. And in September, my dog took particular interest in some fake snow.

8. People come to the neighborhood to be photographed in front of the graffiti.

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9. The corner grocery store changes:

  • There’s no longer a “white people aisle,” as the checkout girls used to call it. It’s now “organic.”

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  • They longer play Spanish music. Which I really miss and plan to protest! I hear “Call Me Maybe” enough already.

10. Taxis know where to go

When I first moved to Bushwick, cab drivers would sigh heavily when I piled into the back. First, that they had to go to Brooklyn and second that neighborhood. We’d always end up on Broadway, and thus lost. I live nowhere near Broadway (but that’s what Bushwick means to some people).

Now, cab drivers ask, “J train Bushwick or L train Bushwick?” click on the meter and off we go.

Backlash to the Hype

1. Scandal
Did I catch it too late? There’s no sex and Kerry Washington, dare I say, has been made asexual. The only scandals I see are her sporting those horrible politician-like pants suits and a regrettable weave. She’s a beautiful woman! At least put some red lipstick on her!

2. The food scene in Harlem
Actually everything about Harlem. Maybe like LA vs NY, you’re either a Brooklyn fan or a Harlem fan. There’s really no reason for me to venture beyond 62nd street, except for the museums.

3. Taylor Swift
She has made victimhood a sport. Even though I can’t think of anyone in Hollywood whose legs are open more often than hers, mom-jeans wearing women in fly-over states have proclaimed her a great role model for their little princesses. It doesn’t matter how many men can describe your vajayjay, as long as you have blond hair, buck teeth and sing country music, slut-shaming be damned, you are as virginal as pure snow. Nevermind that someone has peed on that snow.

4. Honey Boo Boo
Today, I was in Midtown and was given some of those enormous plastic glasses that are given out on New Year’s Eve. I assumed that they were 2013 glasses. No, they were NYE glasses with the words “Honey Boo Boo” on them. I was about to throw them away when an excited passerby begged me for them. Why is everyone talking about this child? She’s not even cute!

5. Rag & Bone jeans for women
Trust me, they make your ass look FLAT. Walk on by.

Greenpoint Brooklyn closes out the list, it’s just to hard to get to.

Sasquatch Reporting for Duty

I get an invitation to have hair removed at least twice a day. I’ve pieced together a few factors that lead to such invites: being female, living in a large market and signing up for one or more of the “deal” sites like Lifebooker, Living Social, Groupon and now even Time Out Offers and Scout Mob. Once you have these factors established, your email inbox will be regularly flooded with offers to pluck, preen, prune, wax, laser off and pray over every errant hair on your body.Laser Hair Removal Collage

One of the details I remember about Hunger Games is that they prepared  the tribs by waxing off all their hair. It sounded high maintenance and impractical, but upon further reflection, I realize, it’s not futuristic. We’re already there, folks. We’re living in the Capitol, except it’s not utopian and Nicki Ménage is the mayor.

I’m 100% on board with meticulous grooming, but the constant presence of these hair removal offers in my inbox is more grating than the squealing brakes of an F train arriving in the station. It could be that I’ve always received many hair removal offers, but now they are more noticeable because I feel concerned about reducing the frequency of my own appointments. When looking in the mirror applying my eyeliner in the morning, I can’t help but mentally calculate how long it’s been since I’ve gotten my eyebrows groomed. It’s been two weeks since I had my eyebrows shaped, they’re a mess, I think as I evaluate my face. Applying a little lip gloss,  I assure myself by saying that no one notices those stray hairs. How could they when there are new lines on my forehead for them to check out (Botox time?)  Then, the moment I view email on my iPhone, there it is: a hair removal offer.

This hair grooming trend isn’t unique to females. Men are doing a surprising amount of hair maintenance — even things like removing all the hair from their man bits. Unless they’re a porn star, that is weirdly extreme. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all on-board with manscaping. You gotta clean up the junk. Bottom line, it’s a requirement. But a complete Brazilian on a man? I find that to be an oddity. Especially when they leave hair on their back and or butt so that the front of their body looks like a plucked chicken and the back looks like a bath rug.

All of this hair removal action has to be helping our economy. If you calculate the cost of regular appointments — that would include a visit to get your eyebrows, bikini area and maybe even your legs, arms or some other spot defuzzed, that would add up to at least $200 a month per person. Jackpot!

I’m going to continue to ignore those offers for myself and reluctantly embrace my periodic Sasquatch status. But, no worries as a verse in Lil Wayne’s latest song well explains the lack of concern about such  furriness (followed by some indecipherably yet memorably yelled sounds). Yet, I’m going to do my part to stimulate the economy by sharing these deals with those in need of maintenance. That’ll be my contribution to helping avoid the fiscal cliff.

Red Soled Shoes Spotted on the L Train

And I wasn’t wearing them. New York being the fashion capital, this may not seem like news. Yet for a Rockaway bound-L train — beyond the Lorimer stop — it was indeed an odd sight.

In my neighborhood, the white girls don’t comb, brush or regularly wash their hair. Clean hair is so unusual in fact, that one day, held captive on an elevator, a girl behind me stuck her face in my dreadlocks, inhaled deeply and said, “Wow, they don’t even smell.” No sweetheart, stinky is not cute. You millennials can keep that. Oh, and put some makeup on, already.

Bushwick fashion includes tights and stockings with holes developed so meticulously that they snake their way all the way up the right thigh, with just one hole on the left for a smidge of symmetry. These hipsters are redefining style to their own tastes, which I respect. And I’ve even accepted that I’ll never understand their flea market shopping and combat boots worn with flowery, loose, yet belted dresses in the middle of summer. Actually, they wear those terrible boots with everything. The boots often look as if they’ve been worn through actual combat, not just the streets of Brooklyn. These hipsters do, however, carry the super colorful and super cute Cambridge Satchel bags in every color — including fluorescent pink (LOVE). Bushwick fashion is like a mix of the 1970’s hippies and 1980’s punk at the same time.

When I mentioned the red-soled-shoe sighting at one of our so-Bushwick bars that requires walking past a leaning, unpainted poultry shop that will allow you to walk in, pick a live chicken that they then kill, pluck and butcher, then hand to you, still warm, so you can take it home and cook it up for dinner that night, they didn’t believe me.

“I’m serious,” I huffed to my friends between sips of red wine on tap — another Bushwick experiment. Interesting, but I wish they’d get some Malbec by the bottle already.

They insisted the shoes must have been Payless knockoffs or those Miu Mius. I wouldn’t have been fooled by such! The Miu Miu shoes have pink bottoms and if I can’t tell the difference between Louboutins and Payless, I should be required to relinquish my Pink Platinum Fashionista card. Someone wearing their Loubies on the train though — it was hard to believe considering that just that a few years ago, it wasn’t safe to have white earbuds stuffed in your ears because thieves assumed they were attached to an iPhone 2.

Several weeks after the red soles spotting, I was again on the train, almost at my stop. I noticed a MAN sporting the exact same tote I talked about and coveted for five years before finally buying it in Paris this year. I had to think about yoga to remember how to breath. First of all, a MAN was carrying my bag. Not only that, his looked crisp, like he’d just walked out of the store with it. It was a gut punch. But you know what made it worse? He was ROCKING it. I mean killing it. Better than I could. It was the cut and color of the rest of his outfit, his slimness and his posture that made him pull it off so well.

I have no beef with men carrying purses. They usually carry bags that I wouldn’t be interested in having. There’s no risk of a sample sale fight over the last remaining handbag with a man. I thought. Now they’ve crossed the line. This man and I made eye contact. Suddenly, the two of us couldn’t wrench our eyes away from each other. Romance blossomed — between a girl, a boy and a bag.

All I Want for Christmas Is a Loo

I wonder how the Virgin Mary would have fared had she been required to look for a bathroom in New York City. Finding a bathroom is like a rite of passage. One that’s only meaningful if you’re surely and truly desperate to go. On those occasions, you’d welcome a manger to squat in for a moment.

I’d picked up a cafe au lait and a sweet treat at Amy’s Bread in the Village and had already paid and taken a bite before I realized their bathroom was out of order. Nevermind that I just saw an employee come out of there.

If you’re serving coffee along with treats laden with chocolate and milk and nuts and butter, it’s an absolute sin to not have a bathroom. Moses told us so. Those words weren’t the least bit moving to the less than enthusiastic baristas, and like Mary, I was forced to move on.

I mentally clicked through my usual standbys for a public toilet above which I was willing to expose my bottom.

  • Hotels are one of my favorite options. You just stride right in and acknowledge the bellhops as if you’re a guest. The bathrooms are usually near the elevator, and are oh so nice.
  • Fitness centers — My membership had lapsed at Equinox and I wasn’t prepared to suffer the embarrassment of submitting to the fingertip scan only to be denied entry. And, I no longer have a membership or my New York Sports Club keyfob, so that wasn’t an option either.
  • Starbucks used to be acceptable in an absolute pinch. They are now the litter box of the world. Plus, I was clutching a coffee from somewhere else making that even less of an option.

The Village is one of those picturesque neighborhoods that sometimes makes you feel like you’re on a movie set. Suddenly, I realized I was on a movie set. I couldn’t make out any the names on any of the trailers and none of the trees bore the usual production or No Parking signs. I didn’t know if they were star-quality or the usual Law & Order nonsense that takes over our neighborhoods on any given day.

I did, however, spot that one of the trailers was the women’s restroom! There was no one around. Not even any clipboard-wielding PA — the bane of any movie set. These young Production Assistants typically work the hardest and are given the worse jobs in keeping the set together. To the public though, they are assholes, wielding their power like Attila the Hun; only the result of their empire may or may not make it to the cutting room floor.

“Oh come ye,” the toilet called. I wasn’t going to stand there and keep looking around. Up the stairs to the trailer I went and the door was open! It didn’t even smell like a porta-potty. Hark the herald angels sing.

An Interview With the Original Owner of My Vintage Coat

Dear original owner,

I scored your coat at a vintage shop and have a few questions for you:

Q: If you could afford this couture coat, I have to assume that you had enough money to have help. I imagine that you had a “girl” who looked like me and cooked, cleaned and took care of your kids. (So what did YOU do all day?) Could you imagine your “Girl” one day having a granddaughter who would buy your coat? My grandmother was a “Girl.”

Q: Can you imagine that married women would fight to be accepted into the corporate workforce and then some of them would choose to keep all their household responsibilities as well, thereby having two full-time jobs and thus tons of stress?! Meanwhile, their husbands tend to do the same amount of work that your husband did. Why? Well, there was a Enjoli perfume commercial back in the 80s where a woman touted:

I can bring home the bacon/ Fry it up in a pan/ And never, ever let you forget you’re a man.”

This commercial helped convince a whole generation (or two) of women to be 24-hour women. Many women accepted that philosophy quicker than a cashmere sweater at a sample sale. We’re still waiting on the men’s jingle on how they can work and cook the bacon. Although these days grass-fed beef would be more apropos.

Early 1960s coat shown via catalog ad from that time, alongside me rocking the vintage frock in 2012.

Q: What happened to the original top button? What do you think of the new blinged out button I replaced it with?

Q: Why did you get rid of the coat? Was it because it was no longer fashionable? Or, when you passed away did your children lack fashionable instincts and give it away?

Q: Did you have one of those leopard coats like Jackie O? If so, where can I find it?

Q: What size were you? If it fits me, I’m thinking that in those days, you were definitely considered a big girl. Did you feel beautiful? Did you have lots of clothing options? Did you ever diet? If so, which diets were available? I’m pretty sure that Jenny Craig and Atkins weren’t options back then. Perhaps you did Weight Watchers as your “reduction” program?

Q: How many sexual partners did you have? Did you wait til you were married and then that night think, “Is that all there is?”

Q: Our president today is a black man. What do you think of that?

Q: Did you ever hear Whitney Houston sing or Michael Jackson dance?

Q: Can you imagine two hurricanes, a tornado and earthquake in NYC in an 18-month period? It happened.

Q: Would you believe that we’re still on many of the same political issues as in the 1960s? Yup, we’re still arguing about abortion, are still talking about birth control and people are still fighting for their civil rights. I know, shocking. Hopefully in 40 more years, we can move on to other social, political and environmental issues.

So thanks for your time. I’m really enjoying your coat. By the way, who was the designer? The tag is gone. I can use the Internet — this massive public spiderweb of information — to try to find the answer. But my generation expects immediate gratification, so I hope you can just give me the answer.