Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Ladies of Mad Men

Yours truly in her vintage/Mad Men best with
the obligatory and delicious martini
With the new season of Mad Men right around the corner, I feel it's the perfect time to  explore the fabulous ladies of this spectacular show and what we, as ladies ourselves, can take away from them and their struggle, as well as from the show and its themes in general.  Perhaps the most obvious thing to be learned from both the men and the women of SCDP is the importance of knowing who you are.  The enigmatic Don Draper is perpetually in flux over who he really is, sometimes reverting to his Dick Whitman self at all too inopportune moments.  Other characters similarly fluctuate between personas, such as Pete Campbell, who oscillates between being a self entitled jackass some of the time and a sensitive but world weary soul the rest of it.  Being uncertain of your footing as a person will result in nothing but mid-life crises and/or pleasing others at the expense of yourself.  Hammer your true self out in stone, however, and no one will shift you or bend you to fit their will. 

As for the ladies themselves, let us start with Peggy.  She's a woman who has changed in the most visible and drastic ways throughout the series, and is in a prime place to change more in the new season (confirmation that she will be in the next season:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/26/mad-men-peggy-is-trying-on-new-things-elisabeth-moss_n_2558152.html).  She has learned the careful art of breaking out of the role that others have defined for her without alienating those around her, and her skillful handling of this new position of power in her life has allowed her to excel and eventually move beyond the gilded cage of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce.  In watching her it's excellent to remember that when (and/or as) we, as ladies, rise through the world we are not beholden to play nice or humor those who would disrespect us or those around us, and when we have a position of power we are free to exert it at our will, as Peggy did when she fired one of her sexist artists.  Being a stern boss does not make us less feminine.  It simply makes us less willing to put up with viciousness when we have the power to stop it, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Betty, by contrast, serves more as a warning than a hero for ladies of the world.  Her personal difficulties have come to a head with her losing control of herself completely, though this ultimately is only the swing of the pedulum of self-loathing in her case.  It is not that Betty's gaining weight is inherently a problem - it is that such a drastic gain in such a short period of time implies that something bigger is at play in Betty's mind.  Most likely, she began with enjoying her freedom from the restriction she felt married to Don, but by carrying that too far she has begun to hate herself all over again in a different way and eats as a response to this stress, resulting in a snowball effect of self hate and her abrupt ballooning.  If there is one thing to take away from Betty, it is simply that excessive fixation on your body rather than your self as a whole will only result in pain and sorrow. 

Joan is, of course, is in many ways the darling of the Mad Men female cast.  She is certainly my favorite, and if there is one thing that Joan can pass on to us ladies it is a simple lesson that one can be beautiful, strong, and intelligent all in one package, all bound up with a will of pure steel.  Joan has shown some of the most striking turn arounds in the show's history, proving herself willing to go it on her own when she threw her abusive husband out the door.  Unlike Betty, she did not make sure she had another safe haven to fall back on with the ejection of Dr. Rape; she simply pitched him out on his ear because she knew, intrinsically, that he was only going to cause more pain in her life.  Her personal happiness and self confidence were more important than appeasing the ideals of her time.  As such, despite the often difficult (and sometimes outright miserable) circumstances she has had to face, Joan still pushes forward harder and climbs ever higher every time the world tries to drag her down.  Also, like Joan, it is always important to present your best self to the world, no matter the circumstances.  You may be miserable, but holding fast and standing tall and beautiful will bolster even the most battered resolve, no matter the squall you face. 

Meghan is still a newcomer to the ranks of Mad Men in contrst to Peggy, Betty, and Joan, but she in turn has her own strong will and persona to contribute to the mix.  Simply put, she does NOT allow Don to get away with the same deceptions he pulled over Betty's eyes, or at least Meghan has in season 5 (what occurs in season 6 is yet to be seen, given the ambiguous ending to last season:  http://www.idigitaltimes.com/articles/15750/20130305/mad-men-season-6-spoilers-don-betty.htm).  Where she will go from here is uncertain, but we can absorb some of her refusal to have the wool pulled over our eyes or settle for anything in our romantic lives.  There is no benefit to be gained from smiling and letting things that our lover does go, only to have them get under our skin.  Better to get it out in the open (whether gently or roughly is up to you) than let it fester into an explosion of frustration at the one you love.  We are worth too much to let someone else make us suffer for no good reason other than keeping a peace that is not be worth it. 

There are many other women and ladies throughout Mad Men, who I may dicuss more as season 6 premiers, but for now enjoy these four and their growth, struggles, and strengths.  We all can learn and emulate the good and learn to recognize the bad in ourselves through fictional characters, and Mad Men's depth and charisma is wonderful at letting us view the benevolent and malevolent traits in ourselves. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

A lady's guide to choosing a perfume.

Perfume, ultimately, is the most significant calling card of a lady.  More than expensive clothes, more than diamonds, more than the parties we attend or people we know, the odor we announce ourselves with reveals so much about us and inspires such responses in others that it behooves any lady worth her salt to choose wisely in the way she scents herself.  As such, here's a small guide on how to find the best scent for you as well as a list of the perfume houses and makers I find to be the best in the business.
My perfume collection
1.  The first, biggest thing you must consider when picking a scent is, simply, what kind of scents do you like in the first place?  Are you fond of certain flowers or spices?  Do you like smells just for themselves or do they conjure up specific images for you?  To explore your nose if you haven't previously, find your way to a shop like Sephora and just work your way through the perfumes, sniffing and sampling.  Note which ones you like most and try to identify what similar elements, if any, exist between them. 

2.  The second thing that comes into play with picking a perfume is body chemistry.  This tends to be more applicable for essential oils, which are more volatile and capricious in how they manifest, but it crops up in perfume with an alcohol base as well:  certain scents may react badly on your skin.  It may smell delicious in the bottle, but, for whatever reason, it doesn't smell good at ALL on you.  If this is the case and you still really love the perfume and just must have it, you can always apply it to handkerchiefs or other odor neutral things for your own pleasure, just don't wear the perfume in public.

3.  Scent is not a place to skimp as far as expense goes, ladies, and cheap perfume is easily the greatest sin a we can commit.  Plastic, artificial smelling perfumes you buy at your drugstore are not going to give you the scent that you want.  Neither is a dime a dozen eau de toilette from Victoria's Secret.  You are trying to pick a scent or scents that will define you, and if that scent is so unremarkable as to be available virtually everywhere then it begs the question of why, exactly, you consider yourself a lady if you're so willing to blend in with the masses.

4.  Feel free to create quite a collection of perfumes, with different functions applied to each.  I have certain scents I wear to exude a businesslike attitude, some to turn up the sensuous and seductive side of myself, some just for when I feel happy, and even a few worn specifically to indicate anger or combativeness.  Having a wide, ever growing range of perfumes means never feeling at a loss for a scent to suit your mood.

5.  At the same time, however, have a deffinitive 'YOU' scent.  This is your Chanel no. 5, your iconic odor, the one that describes you best.  Wear it often and build up the association between you and the perfume.  Let this be the ribbon of scent that allows people to know that you have just walked past them.  This is particularly useful in a romantic setting, as building a strong scent association between you and the perfume in the mind of your lover will cause them to become weak in the knees at the very hint of the scent.  (My own iconic scent is Lubin's Gin Fizz perfume.)

6.  Speaking of Chanel no. 5, however, beware of using perfumes that have become too classic or generally well known, regardless of price.  Chanel no. 5 is a perfect example of this, as while it is a beautiful scent, it is so iconic and, to a degree, dated that it will be associated more with a certain era than with you.  In simpler terms, you may love your grandmother, but you don't want to smell like her. 

7.  Respect other people's sense of smell.  If you are going to be on a plane or in some other tightly enclosed area for a long period of time, don't wear your strongest perfume.  Do not douse yourself in scent; one spritz on the neck and one of the wrists is sufficient.  Do not wear overpowering or overly sensuous perfumes to work.  Avoid having your scent rub off on those around you (this can be avoided by not dousing yourself in it). 

8.  Always wear perfume.  Even if you have no other makeup on, even if you aren't sporting fancy attire, perfume gives a touch of class that brightens everything about a lady.

And now, some of my favorite perfume houses:

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab:  This is a good place to start your perfume collection, as the small bottles of essential oil are not in the least pricey while still being masterfully blended.  I recommend ordering imps (scent samples) first, however, so you can decide whether the scent is to your liking and works on your skin.  (See point #2).  Also go to the BPAL Madness forum for added information and reviews of the different scents.  Victoria's personal favorites:  Manhattan, The Last Unicorn, Ozymandias, and Peacock Queen.

Jo Malone:  These scents are wonderful to play with and layer, while also being classy and excellent on an individual basis.  Some perfumes are blends of scents, such as their signature '154' or the popular 'Lime Basil Mandarin', while other are single note in nature, as are their rose and grapefruit colognes.  Victoria's personal favorites:  154, Rose, and Grapefruit layered over Orange Blossom.

Lubin:  The most expensive of my favorite brands, Lubin is a French perfume house with one hell of a pedigree, having started in 1798.  Their perfumes are wonderful, multi-faceted olfactory experiences, with hosts of notes interplaying with each other to create a scent that is so much more than the sum of its parts.  Victoria's personal favorites:  Gin Fizz (my iconic scent, see point # 5) and Black Jade. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Lady Reviews: Brave

I recognize that I may be coming to this party a bit late.  Nevertheless, it behooves me to write a review of what very well may be the most ‘lady-oriented’ movie of this summer.

A lady is a lady regardless of whether she
acts as a diplomat...
For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, the story of Brave is set in the wilds of Scotland, and focuses on the turbulent relationship between a local king’s daughter, Merida, and her mother, the Queen Elinor.  Elinor wants Merida to be the stereotypical ‘proper’ lady (or so it seems on the surface), while Merida wants to be free to live her own life.  When their desires clash in the middle of a tournament for Merida’s hand in marriage, things get thoroughly out of control and, through one thing and another (spoiler alert!) Elinor is transformed into a bear.  The rest of the film focuses on Merida and Elinor rebuilding their mother-daughter bond and returning Elinor to her rightful shape, which involves a fair bit of humor (and even some horror) along the way.
I suspect anyone who has seen even the trailers for this film can tease out the lady related conflict that crops up in Brave:  Merida is wild and independent, while Elinor is ‘proper’ and dignified.  Each initially views the other as misguided and either uncivilized (in the case of Merida) or stuck up (in the case of Elinor).  Over the course of the film, however, one comes to realize that both sides of this coin are necessary for a woman to be successful in her life.  Merida’s physical prowess with a bow and on horseback allow her to live comfortably regardless of location and take care of herself.  Elinor’s social skills, however, prove to be just as important, as she is able to bring a group of brawling Scottish clansmen to a standstill with one cold look or talk them back from open warfare.  Both women discover that the other’s point of view is still valid over the course of the film, even as they grow closer as mother and daughter.
....or wields a weapon.
Any woman hoping to call herself a lady should take heed from their lesson.  A lady should be skilled in any number of ways, so as to give her the advantage regardless of the situation.  And no skill should be viewed as somehow off-limits.  Combative or athletic pursuits do not diminish one’s womanhood, and being polite and well-spoken does not prevent a lady from wielding great power of her own.  Instead, one should seek to find and cultivate a balance of mind and body, action and diplomacy, the exuberance of youth and the wisdom of old age.  All will serve you well in your life as a lady.
So, in the final assessment, go see Brave.  It’s my favorite movie of the summer, hands down, and a great example of all the virtues a lady should hope to have for herself. 

P.S.  Brave also has awesome, awesome music.  I dare you not to feel happy after listening to it. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Lady Reviews: Snow White and the Huntsman

So, what does ‘How to Live Like a Lady’ think about Snow White and the Huntsman?  Quite frankly, I, for one, like it (reviews from other writers of the blog may differ).  I feel that while there are definitely issues with aspects of it (yes, I will address the Kristen Stewart aspect), the inherent premise, the look of the film, and the ultimate execution are all more than satisfying if you are willing to accept the basic tenants of fairy tales and their un-ironic use in a film. 

First and foremost, let’s deal with the downsides (i.e., Kristen Stewart).  And, in my opinion, Kristen Stewart is not necessarily one of them.  Now, please do not misunderstand – I have a hatred of the Twilight Saga that burns as bright as a supernova.  That however does not extend to my inherently hating the actors (though Robert Pattinson still looks like a foot in my opinion).  They were hired to do a job and I will not allow my dislike of a film to ruin my opinion of them.  As such, Kristen Stewart, in my opinion, while not the world’s greatest actress, is well suited to play Snow White.  Kristen’s flat facial effect serves well as the na├»ve yet noble Snow White, much as Keanu Reeves’ flat effect works in his portrayal of cold hard badasses and/or stoners.  There is one moment on film where her performance is genuinely painful (the coronation scene, look for it), but that hinges on bad script writing that leaves both actress and audience hanging as to the appropriate facial expression.  Aside from her (and she is a highly polarizing aspect of this film, with some praising and some damning her performance), there honestly isn’t much to pick at for flaws.
As such, once one gets past Kristen’s (debatable) performance, one finds a film that, ultimately, is a well rounded retelling of a fairy tale that holds to its roots while simultaneously delivering a fresh new tone to the story.  The inherent plot is exactly the same as virtually every version of the Snow White tale.  Snow White’s mother wishes for a daughter, Snow White’s mother dies after said daughter is born, her father remarries, the Queen becomes rampantly jealous of Snow White’s beauty, Snow White is forced to run for the hills where she meets up with a bunch of dwarves, almost winds up poisoned by her stepmother’s apple, is revived by a kiss, and returns to seek revenge on said stepmother.  What makes Snow White and the Huntsman differ from the usual tale is the extensive character building received by all the characters (but especially the evil queen, Ravenna,) as well as the fleshing out of the bare bones of the story from a basic fairy tale to an epic film. 
Thus, while the acting of Kristen Stewart may be up for question, Charlize Theron’s performance as Ravenna is beyond reproach.  Rather than functioning as the average, vain evil queen, Ravenna is a near primal force, crazed with a need for immortality, control, revenge on men, and maintaining her beauty.  She conquers and kills with chilling impunity, a woman on the warpath who is still human even as she is never presented as anything less than outright deadly.  To maintain her beauty and power she devours the youth of young women (how Elizabeth Bathory of you, Ravenna), and discovers, upon consultation with her magic mirror, that she can gain unfading strength in both areas by ingesting the heart of Snow White, which she proceeds to go about doing so by any means necessary.  Her madness and sorrow are palpable things, and her power as queen is enough to make you get down on your knees and swear fealty in the movie theater.
Besides Ravenna, one has the titular Huntsman, (whose name is Eric though I don’t think that it’s ever mentioned), who, as portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, is by turns gruff and sweet, and, for the ladies of the audience, most certainly attractive even when covered in mud.  For the ladies who prefer more clean cut men, however, do not despair:   There is also Snow White’s childhood sweetheart, the prince, who doesn’t serve much purpose other than to be a foil to the huntsman and jump around shooting a bow and being cute.  The dwarves, meanwhile, are amusing to a man, and the rest of the cast does their job quite well.  It’s an all-around win. 
Ladies going to war in full plate armor. 
The unabashed strength of the women is perhaps one of the most surprising and surprisingly well handled aspects of the whole film.  Ravenna and Snow White are never relegated to the position of damsel in distress, and on the rare occasion where that may seem the case (such as when Ravenna is first introduced), they turn the tables on their would-be rescuers in seconds.  And when the last fight scene rolls around, Snow White and Ravenna rally their troupes and lead their soldiers into battle, culminating in one-on-one combat between both women.  Without needing to scream their independence to the rafters both women are leaders and, Ravenna’s madness aside, well worth tipping one’s hat to as ladies of a high order.
Finally, there is the appearance of the film, which is drop-dead gorgeous.  Sweeping landscape shots of Germanic looking mountains are punctuated with lush enchanted forests, spooky marshes, and Ravenna’s palace, located on the coast and surrounded by an ever roiling ocean.  The costumes are equally lovely, with Ravenna’s outfits being some of the most jaw dropping pieces of work I’ve ever personally seen (one, which wasn’t used in the film unfortunately, was trimmed with umpteen iridescent beetle wings).  If nothing else, this is by far the most aesthetically pleasing film I’ve seen this summer. 
So, to go see it or not to go see it?  That depends on whether or not one is fond of fairy tales that take themselves seriously (and whether you do or do not mind Kristen Stewart).  It is a common trope that films based on legends or folk stories tend to take a more sarcastic or excessively gritty tack on the plot.  Snow White and the Huntsman, however, skirts the line of gritty without ever crossing over it excessively and completely ignores the cynical aspect.  As such, if you don’t like the idea of fairy tales where a woman is referred to un-ironically as ‘the one who will bring balance’ (and no, she is not bringing balance to the Force), then look elsewhere.  If that doesn’t bother you, (and neither does Kristen Stewart), then you should love the film. 
P.S. Florence & The Machine’s song ‘Breath of Life’ is used in the credits, thus making this lady a very happy panda. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A lady’s guide to basic house keeping

Alright, I know very few people actually enjoy cleaning, but it’s still a necessary part of life, and, if you get good at it, it can work in your favor.  I’ve always kept my college dorm spotless and organized, and the result was that my friends loved coming over for tea or dinner.  Despite the fact that I occupied a room roughly the size of a broom cupboard with a refrigerator box sized bathroom, I still managed to make it an elegant little abode.  So, here are my basic tips and tricks, as well as the benefits, of having a well-kept room:
1.        A general rule of thumb is keep clutter to a minimum everywhere.  There are certain exceptions to this (old libraries in Victorian houses are, by default, allowed to be cluttered and mysterious, the better to hide arcane books that will become the focus of horror films.  College professors, meanwhile, are also permitted to accrue in their offices piles of paper so large that they begin to resemble leaf piles), but other than that an effort should be made to prevent or disperse heaps or messes of any kind.  Clothes belong in a hamper or a drawer/hung up in a closet, not scattered all over the floor like an ersatz carpet.  Books belong on shelves, not stacked in piles, and for the love of god don’t leave them open and face down – that breaks the spine and damages the book.  Papers are harder to corral, but I’ve found that astute use of alligator clips to keep them all together usually reduces the chaos.  Bulletin boards also help.  I could go ad nauseam in the vein, but I’ll summarize by saying that if it’s in a pile/all over the floor, it shouldn’t be.  So your job is to figure out where it should be and arrange it as such.

2.       Yes it takes time to clean, but that doesn’t excuse not doing it.  If you find yourself bored by the task, put on music or an audiobook and, for lack of a better term, get over it.  Chaotic rooms are unpleasant to live in, whether you realize it or not.  You wind up tripping over/breaking your possessions, losing stuff, and generally not making good use of your things, with the added detriment of needing to replace lost/broken items.  Also, the brutal reality is that no one likes a slob.  People will not want to visit you if your dorm room/apartment/house/residence of an unspecified nature looks like ground zero for a nuclear war.  Furthermore, there are few things less lady-like than having to dig your lost panties out from behind your desk or greeting your guests with a heap of dishes festering in the sink. 

3.       Keeping your room organized will cut down on time you spend looking for things.  If you make a small effort to put your items back where they belong you will save ages digging around in search of a missing shoe or your AWOL car keys.  Am I starting to sound like your mother, dear reader?  Good.  As much as we all may hate to admit that childhood admonishment to clean our rooms served any purpose other than to annoy, the reality is that our parental units were right in insisting that a clean room is, in every way, superior to a messy one.  Not only is it more aesthetically attractive, but it will help make you more efficient in every way. 

4.       Making sure your room clean has the added benefit of minimizing allergies (if you have them), and will keep the creepy crawlers away.  And while not everyone here has a dust/mildew allergy (I do), no human being thrills to the idea of cockroaches, spiders, and other creepy crawlers taking up residence in one’s abode.  Regular dusting, vacuuming, and general scrutiny and care, however, will prevent or at least greatly limit all of the above. 

5.       The way your room smells is important.  This may seem trivial, but scent is one of the most primal aspects of the human brain, and if a room doesn’t smell good it will drive people away and may serve to depress/annoy you.  You can fix the problem with incense (I strongly suggest you invest in good Japanese incense, so your room doesn’t smell like a head shop), scented candles (make sure the scent in question won’t be too overpowering or artificial in execution), sachets (store these in drawers with your clothes to keep moths away and keep your garments smelling fresh), or atmospheric perfumes (again, make sure they don’t smell too artificial).  Avoid cheap, synthetic air fresheners like the black plague.

6.       Make your room interesting!  Allow it to express yourself.  Dull, bland rooms are not the goal of housekeeping.  Clean, interesting rooms are.  And, even more importantly, make sure you decorate to please yourself.  After all, if you don’t like living there, why should anyone else enjoy it either?  Notably, I find a great way to spruce up dull rooms (especially ones with hideous wallpaper/drabs walls) is the strategic use of art prints or posters, and as for the ugly sofa you rescued from the alley, you can cover its sagging self with colorful throws and cushions (and pesticide, in case of lurking insect life) and turn it into a couch fit for a queen.  (Expect future articles to include more information on how to decorate less than lovely abodes). 

7.       You don’t have to do all your housekeeping every single day.  A few things should always get done (putting laundry in the hamper/washing the dishes/making the bed), but other things (vacuuming, mopping, doing the laundry) can be spaced out to weekly or even monthly occurrences, depending on what your individual living quarters require.  The end result is a balanced workload so you, dear lady, do not burn yourself out.

This chaos occurred during my finals. 
Yes, dear reader, I did at one point have a messy room.  Mea culpa.
8.       Lastly, don’t let your housekeeping build up.  If you do, you will inevitably give up on trying to tackle the mess and simply allow it to grow out of control.  At that point matters usually progress until someone stages an intervention or the Hoarders team shows up on your doorstep, whichever comes first.  Instead, just grit your teeth, get the broom, and do your part for the day, so it doesn’t become an added burden for tomorrow. 

Yes, it may seem tiresome.  Yes, you may be busy.  Yes, the fight against entropy is never ending.  The fact remains, however, that keeping one’s home tidy, though sometimes boring and unpleasant, is a necessary aspect of being a lady.  Well-kept living quarters will aid in your efficiency, health, and social life.  Your things will last longer, you’ll spend less money, and you’ll generally feel better.  So put on some enjoyable music or make a game out of your work (a spoon full of sugar and all that, hat tip to you,  Mary Poppins), and get out the dustbuster. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ladies of Fiction: Lisbeth Salander

Lisbeth (and Mikael) surrounded
by adoring fans
Lisbeth Salander, a lady?  I hear you cry in confusion.  How does a surly, piercing studded hacker chick deserve to be called a lady?! 

Simple, I reply, Lisbeth possesses the raw power and determination that any lady should be proud to call her own.
One of the most vital points of being a lady is learning not to judge simply by appearances.  Lisbeth may not wear the elegant gowns or comport herself in the manner we tend to associate with a lady, but what she lacks in overt appearance she makes up for in her internal fortitude.  Lisbeth’s life, from the start in the novels, is a harsh one, in which she is branded insane and thrust into the uncaring maw of asylums and foster homes.  She regularly is mistreated and/or outright abused, and generally has her life made a living hell.  It has damaged her, without a doubt.  Her withdrawn personality and spike riddled appearance serve as armor against a world that has proven itself utterly untrustworthy. 
That being said, however, Lisbeth does not lie down and die.  She does not give up.  Every time someone tries to destroy her, she rises again with a vengeance worthy of the Furies themselves (notably, my friends and I have recently introduced the term ‘Lisbeth’ as a unit of measurement for female rage).  Given all the suffering she has been through, Lisbeth could be forgiven for shutting herself off completely from the world.  Instead she takes her gifts and fire-forged determination and uses them to fight against those who would hurt her or others.  In spite of everything, she overcomes her obstacles and, in her own, asocial way, manages to develop friendships and even romantic relationships.  It isn’t easy, and at the end of the novels it is clear that Lisbeth is still in many ways her ever prickly self, but Lisbeth’s determination never wavers through it all. 
Every life is touched by suffering to some degree.  Sometimes that suffering is great, sometimes small, but the exact size or degree aside, it can make us want to shut down, curling in on ourselves against the world.  What we can learn from Lisbeth is how not to do that.  Obviously, we can’t (and in most cases shouldn’t) lash out at the source of our suffering as Lisbeth does, but we equally cannot allow whatever tragedies occur in our lives to bind us, blind us, and shut us off from the world.  It may seem impossible, and in some cases perhaps the trauma really cannot be overcome, but if a person does not try, how can one ever find out?  Better to take a note from Lisbeth and fight against that which seeks to damage us, rather than meekly lying down and allowing it to rule us. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Lady Reviews: Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?

My copy of this lovely book
Of all the books I read as I developed this blog, arguably none proved quite as influential as Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?, by Pamela Keogh.  It’s rare to find a book that purports to help one achieve something that still manages to be fun, down to earth, and never hold anything over the head of its readers.  From page one it is established that the reader is, in fact, a Jackie, a Marilyn, or some hybrid thereof, and aims to help you play on your natural abilities.  (Your humble writer, in point of fact, is a perfect split right down the middle between these two amazing ladies.)
This off the bat affirmation that the reader has the traits of Jackie or Marilyn is a huge lift.  All too often, in reading books designed to make one a lady, one finds that the author assumes an obnoxiously condescending tone that does nothing but turn one off.  The implication is that one would have to do eons of work to even become slightly attractive, and even then one would merely be a pale knockoff (I’m looking at you, How to Live Like a Lady, which I’ll be reviewing all too soon…). Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?, however, never slips into this rut.  It maintains, instead, a voice that is reminiscent of a sassy girlfriend, telling you exactly what you need to know and never talking down or demeaning you while she’s at it. 
On top of all this, the book is loaded with information on the two ladies featured in its title.  It handles how they comported themselves throughout life, how both cultivated their respective images of First Lady and Hollywood starlet, as well as providing a peek at the women behind the archetypes they formed.  One is treated to well written mini-biographies of these two, from Marilyn’s rags to riches story to Jackie’s savvy political maneuvering both within and without the Whitehouse.  They were the leading ladies of the age, and their lives of drama, glamour, and all too often tragedy make for a fascinating read. 
And lastly, besides being honest and a good jumping off point for those interested in the two ladies discussed therein, Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? affirms a simple truth for its readers:  You are worth it.  Who can say what it is – perhaps love, wealth, fame, or some combo thereof – but you are worth it, and while it may be a hard road to travel to get what you desire, to settle for less would be a crying shame if not an outright crime.  Settling does nothing but leave one with regrets.  Better instead to strive to be one’s own woman, using the wisdom of two women who lived their spectacular, by turns glittery and grimy, lives with panache beyond telling.