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Posts from the ‘beauty’ Category

lice, you ain’t nice

Every time I see an email about lice from my kids’ school, I read it with a shudder of revulsion and then try to figure out which kid in the class has the lice. Then I try to prevent my kids from coming in contact with the perp, all without actually mentioning the word “lice.” It’s tricky.

Me: “Hey Finn. So how about those Blazers, huh. Say, anyone at school get a haircut recently?”

Finn: “What?”

Me: “You know. A haircut. Like anyone cut their hair super short? Or…I don’t know. Any of your friends get a new hat?”

Finn: “Like what kind of hat?”

Me: “You know. A hat. Like, a baseball hat. Any kind of hat.”

Finn: (Long pause). “No.”

Me: “Ok, that’s cool.” (Pause). “Hey, maybe don’t do any reading today in the reading corner.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: (Pause). “Well, you can read. Just don’t, you know, touch any of the pillows. Don’t do any lounging. And maybe, you know, don’t touch any of your friends today.”

Finn: “Why not?”

Me: “Because.”

Finn: “Because why?”

Me: “Because I said so, ok?”

Finn: “But why?”

Me: “BECAUSE THERE MIGHT BE BUGS ON THE PILLOWS OK?? Now eat your breakfast.”

The thing about lice is that centuries of human familiarity with lice hasn’t robbed it of its power. It’s like leprosy. I haven’t heard of anyone having leprosy in a really long time. But anyone who has seen Ben-Hur knows that leprosy is no joke. Your skin falls off, and then your fingers fall off. I don’t want leprosy, and I don’t want lice. Lice isn’t a sexy old-timey disease like consumption, which makes you think of Chopin coughing delicately into an embroidered handkerchief and seems kind of romantic. Yes I know that consumption is technically tuberculosis. But do YOU know that lice is BUGS? In your HAIR??

Feel free to start screaming. I did, when we got the call. I buzz my kids’ hair on a regular basis and we’d avoided five rounds of lice at my kids’ school, so I thought we were home free. Nope. Tate had a bug near his ear, and needed to be picked up. The school checked Finn as a precaution and said he was clean, but my older son was leaving for outdoor school the next day, and I wasn’t taking any chances. My car screeched into the school parking lot and I left the engine running while I ran in to grab Finn. Tate had already been picked up by Tom and with any luck, was at home being fumigated. Inside the school, Finn sensed my distress and reacted accordingly.

Finn, digging in his heels: “Wait, why are we going home early?”

Me: “Ha ha, happy to see you too, sport. Hey Chandra!” (Waving to another parent). “I just, you know, felt like picking you up early because…I missed you.”

Finn: “But I want to play soccer!”

Me: (Leaning close, grabbing shirt, and hissing). “Listen, buddy. Your brother has BUGS, ok?? IN HIS HAIR. We need to leave. RIGHT. NOW.”

With Finn in the car, I sped off for Lice Knowing You. The only nice thing about lice in the modern age is that there are places like Lice Knowing You. Lice Knowing You is a real place that actually exists. It is a salon, just like any other salon, except that this salon isn’t marked from the outside and the only service they offer is the removal of bugs from your person. The school had told me that Finn was clean, but, no offense to the school, I needed a professional opinion. I screeched into the parking lot and dragged Finn into the salon, where I tried to be really chill about not touching any of the surfaces. There, a lady sprayed conditioner in Finn’s hair and then gave Finn the first combing of his life. No lice.

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I packed Finn into the car and we peeled off for home. I arrived to find Tom and Cuz stripping all the beds. Tate was running around the house stark naked. I waved to Tate from a safe distance and turned to Tom. “So, did you do the lice treatment?”

Tom looked up from spraying a mattress with an expression that suggested that he had been dealing with lice and spraying the mattress for approximately seven years, instead of the 45 minutes that had elapsed since he’d left the school with Tate. “I didn’t find anything,” he said.

What did he MEAN he didn’t find anything? Tom wasn’t like Finn, who often asks where his glasses are, when they are on his face. Tom is a FINDER. Tom’s ability to find things is like number 4 on the top ten things that I love about my husband. If Tom didn’t find lice, there were no lice. But still. The school wouldn’t have sent Tate home on a TUESDAY unless they had found some serious lice. Would they?

“What do you mean you didn’t find anything?,” I asked. “Do you even know what lice look like? They look like little white grains of rice, Tom. Like little white eggs. Did you even look at any pictures??!!!” I could feel myself sounding and looking like a howler monkey and was powerless to stop it. Tom stopped spraying and pulled his body up to full height. “Yoona. I know what lice looks like. I know what nits look like. I looked at the pamphlet in the kit. He didn’t have any lice.”

Well. He didn’t have to get all hysterical about it. I gave him a look and hauled both my boys to the bathroom, where I clipped on my trusty Number 1 guide and buzzed them clean.

Try clinging onto that fuzz, you nasty lice. And you nasty nits, too. ‘Til next time.

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the tattooed baby

When I was pregnant with Finn, the time would come at the end of my OB appointments where my doctor would ask if I had any questions about the pregnancy. I had lots of questions, but they were mostly about food. Not food for the baby. Food for me. Like, “The French drink wine while pregnant, so why can’t I,” “Can I eat oysters, and if so, how many;” and “What, exactly, is a ‘soft’ cheese?”

My OB is one of the more attractive older men I’ve met, and I’m already predisposed to developing crushes on men who are responsible for my physical well-being. This is why I developed a crush on the dentist who removed my wisdom teeth, and why I currently have a crush on my spinning instructor even though I hate his class. Anyway, with my OB, I developed a crush that was disturbing (to Tom) in its intensity. I liked my OB so much that I needed him to like me. This all seems irrelevant, but it’s not, so stay with me. This background explains why I couldn’t ask my OB the only question about my baby that I really wanted to ask, which was “Can you tell from an ultrasound whether the baby has a large birthmark on his face?”

Finn came out with no discernable birthmarks although he was so pale that he glowed. But Tate. I should have known from day 1 what I was getting into with Tate, because he came out with all sorts of marks. A lightning-bolt shaped mark on his forearm, a dark thumpbrint on his wrist, and best of all, huge Mongolian spots on his rear end that made his butt look blue. Most of the marks have since faded, but he must have been born with a taste for skin art. Because now he wants tats. And he wants ’em bad.

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I am sympathetic. Every few weeks I see a cool tattoo on some nubile 20-something in my yoga class and I’ll ask Tom if I should get a tattoo, and he answers as he always does, by staring stonily out the car window in long-suffering silence. If he’s in a lighthearted mood he might say something fun, like “I will divorce you if you get a tattoo. I really will.” But mostly he just stares out his window.

The worst is when Tom plays along and asks what kind of tattoo I’d get. That always gives me pause. The only thing I’ve ever considered is a tattoo for my dad, who is gone. And then I take an even longer pause while I consider that while we never talked about tattoos, I’m pretty sure my dad hated them. And what kind of homage would that be? It would be as if my kids decided to honor me after I’m gone by engraving my name on a pair of man sandals and wearing the sandals everywhere with tube socks. That would be terrible. I can’t do that to my dad.

So maybe a tattoo is not in my future. But something tells me we will be visiting this issue again, when Tate is old enough to beg. Last week he padded up the stairs and stood next to my bed, in the dark. Tate’s voice is at approximately the same pitch/frequency as a dog whistle, and sounds particularly shrill at 5:45 AM. “Grandma says we can go to the tattoo store and get real tattoos.” I poked Tom, who played dead.

When I asked Grandma about the tattoo date, she said that she felt really bad for Tate when she caught him soaking stickers in a plastic bag full of water, trying to make them into tattoos. I tabled the discussion, and Grandma, in turn, brought home some fake tattoos to tide Tate over. He flipped through the tattoo book and landed on the one he wanted. I placed it square in the middle his chest, as directed.

In the mornings, Tate picks out v-neck shirts that will show his tattoo off best. In the evenings, when I try to wash it off, he pushes my hand away, or screams.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when he’s 18.

Have a tattoo? Even better, have a kid who wants a tattoo and is coming of age? I’m all ears.

naked in a korean spa

When I was young, my mom would break out a little red mitt every few weeks and scrub my skin in the tub. The red mitt was like a sandpaper envelope that she stuck her hand into. She’d leave me soaking in the hot water, then pull out an arm, and then start scrubbing the shit out of it. And I’d watch as my dead skin would fall into the tub in gray rolls. Then I’d shower it all off, and feel reborn.

Ok, that’s a lie. When I was a kid, I didn’t feel reborn, I felt harassed—nay, tortured. But now, I crave that feeling. That feeling of being clean, stripped of all the dirt and grime and sweat that a body can accumulate, just from the business of being alive. There’s only one place you can get that feeling as an adult, and that’s at a Korean spa.

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I’ve been to Korean spas in Seoul, LA, and NYC, but I forgot about them until my friend Kathryn mentioned that she’d heard of one near Seattle. Around the same time, my mom and her friends started taking day trips up to Federal Way and would return with pink, glowy skin and bags full of Korean groceries. That’s when I really started paying attention. You know a Korean spa is legit if a bunch of Korean moms will drive two hours to get to it.

Kathryn and I started planning, and made the spa the first stop of a girls’ weekend up in Seattle with Linds. Linds was working on Friday and couldn’t go to the spa anyway because she’s preggers, but it was clearly for the best, because the first thing to know about a Korean spa is that you have to be nude in order to partake. There are numerous hot and cold pools and steam rooms and showers and everyone moves between these things buck naked. I’m not 100% clear on the reasons WHY you have to be naked all the time, but rules are rules. Anyway, Linds would rather pull out her fingernails than be naked in front of other people.

For some reason, I only remembered the nakedness on the day before the spa. I’d be naked all day with Kathryn, whose standards for personal grooming generally seem a lot higher than mine. I texted Linds in a panic.

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Too preoccupied with my own panic, I forgot to mention the nakedness to Kathryn until the drive up to Federal Way. Kathryn is pretty game, but she refused to believe that she would be required to spend a spa day naked with someone she’d have to see again. “Wait,” Kathryn said, shaking her head while navigating I-5. “I’ve been to a Korean spa in Santa Monica and they gave us these pajama things.”

Santa Monica? I didn’t have the heart to tell K that no self-respecting Korean would go for a scrub in Santa Monica. I highly doubted the spa had even been Korean. More importantly, my authority on the matter was being questioned. I couldn’t believe that K had the nads to believe that she knew more about Korean spas than me, a real Korean. It was as if she’d offered me a recipe for kimchee.

“No, you have to be naked the whole time,” I said. “That’s what my Mom said.” I felt proud of myself for leaving off the “So there.” K still wasn’t buying it. “No, but not the ENTIRE time, right?” I stopped being annoyed, and started to be concerned. Because she sounded nervous and unsure. And she was about to be naked in that mind state, for four hours.

Once inside Palace Spa, we were each handed a pink shorty pajama set. “See!” Kathryn said, the relief palpable in her voice. We received a tour of the facilities, and peeked into the wet area. “No clothing allowed in this section,” our guide announced.

Whatever. I was fully on-board with the nudity by this point. None of the women walking around were exactly hard-bodied. Plus I’d noted at check-in that the shorty pajama set had an elastic waistband and a high v-neck. I knew what I’d look like in that outfit, and what I’d look like, wouldn’t be female. I’d happily be naked all day if it meant I could avoid that outfit.

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you’re not entirely naked. you also wear this hat

Kathryn and I spent the next hour getting our skin nice and wet for our scrubs and trying to avoid one another. I steamed in the steam room, sliding around like a trained seal on the wet tile benches. Kathryn alternated between cold and hot plunge pools, where I overheard another woman asking K if she was a triathlete. I felt happy for my friend. Getting asked if you’re a triathlete while you’re naked has to be the equivalent of winning the damn lotto. I wouldn’t know. No one asked me if I was a triathlete.

At 2:00 pm, we met up in the communal scrub room, which consisted of a long row of massage tables. Kathryn was already face down on her table, being pummeled by a short Korean woman wearing nothing but a black bra and panties. I barely had a chance to absorb the indignity of it all before I was told to lay down on my table, by another Korean woman wearing surprisingly saucy lingerie. Don’t get excited. The women have to dress that way because for the next hour, they will be scrubbing your skin with wet mitts and sloshing hot water on you with buckets. Wearing clothes while doing that work would be pointless.

How to describe the scrubbing? Let me just say that at one point, when the lady was working on my shinbone, I imagined my leg gleaming like fine alabaster in the midday sun, to divert myself from shrieking in pain. Worse was when she unceremoniously threw my legs open and got her scrubbing mitt uncomfortably close to my lady parts. She flopped me over and scrubbed my back before shoving her elbows into my neck for some light reflexology. Face down, I wiggled my fingers and felt my fingers graze something. My eyes opened to see what I’d grazed. Little pieces of black stuff all over the table.

My dead skin. Nasty!

No longer part of me! Glorious.

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scrub glow. much easier to attain than pregnancy glow

That night in Seattle, K kept asking me and Linds to feel her elbows. “You guys! Feel my elbows!!” I understood her excitement. Every part of me felt immeasurably softer, cleaner, glowier. Not even Kathryn’s alarming discovery that her spa lady had scrubbed freckles off her chest could kill my buzz.

And all for $99!! We are hooked. And we’ll be back.

smells like a dad

Every day is father’s day in my house. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

Unfortunately, there is an actual Father’s Day on the calendar, and it’s Sunday, June 16, and if your husband is like mine, he’s been dropping hints about his gift for a solid month.

To be fair, Tom stopped dropping hints when we got our last Amex bill. Now he drags a huge imaginary cross across the floor saying things like “I don’t need presents,” or alternatively, “We can’t afford presents.” The latter is particularly cutting because the implication is that we can’t afford presents because I spent all our money on fripperies. Wait, where was I going with this post?

Right, Father’s Day. It’s in the works. Tom requested a ratchet set, so I’m working on that, even though every time I buy tools for Tom I feel the money would be better spent as kindling for a bonfire. When we first got married Tom bought a bunch of tools at Home Depot. I remember an orbit sander, in particular. He sanded a lot of stuff for a while, down to the nub. Today, despite the fact that he never uses his own tools, he continues to light up when he hears about the tools of others. “Wait,” he asked our neighbor Bill last night, while taking out the trash and discussing (theoretical) shelf-building, “You have a chainsaw?”

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Tom’s not getting a damn chainsaw for Father’s Day. He’s getting a ratchet set, as soon as I figure out exactly what that is, and assuming Amazon Prime sells it. And then he’s getting some cologne.

Tom has come a long way in his personal grooming. When I first met him I would watch in horror as he would wash his face with soap and then strip it with cotton balls soaked with Kiehl’s astringent. That was it. No moisturizer, no after shave, no nothing. The cotton balls would leave little puffs of cotton residue on his dry, thirsty face. I have no idea where he learned to do that, but it was less a skincare regimen than an exercise in self-flagellation.

He’s come a long ways, my Tom. But he’s always dismissed cologne as an unnecessary step in his grooming. And you might agree. But scent is a dangerously powerful thing. My first boyfriend wore Obsession, an ambitious choice for an 18-year old, but the scent of it on his skin has left an imprint on my brain and I can’t shake it no matter how hard I try. And don’t get me started on Drakkar Noir. My love of Drakkar Noir and the songs of Nickelback are the two things that most negatively impact my self-regard, but the heart wants what it wants.

Anyway, Tom seems to want some cologne. A few weeks ago, while we were getting ready to go out, he grabbed a scent out of my hand and spritzed it on himself. It was amusing the first time, but then he kept doing it. I love Tom but there’s a chance that the cologne could smell better on him than me, and I can’t have that. So I’m on the hunt. To find Tom’s signature scent. Something that makes him smell like this:

More or less, anyway. I’ve admired this ad for years but I fear that M7 may not be the cologne for Tom. The ad copy promises that M7 embodies “male sensuality,” but I don’t know if anyone at Tom’s office needs to experience that. I’ll probably go with something cleaner, more bracing. I’m soliciting recommendations. Please help.

a chest so full

I don’t know a single woman who is fully content with her looks. But I know a lot of men who are. It’s an odd truth, but one I never really thought about until my six-year old son began going around shirtless.

In the universe of cute things, I find little-boy torsos to be right at the top. The big head, teetering on gawky, narrow shoulders. Skin so pale it’s translucent in spots. A mountain range of ribs. Tiny baby moles, some in the same spots as my own. Nothing makes me happier than sticking my nose into Finn’s neck and feeling his laugh vibrate. I can feel his life blood beating there, the humid warmth mixing with the almost powdery freshness of youth.

I love Finn’s bare torso, but that doesn’t mean I’m not alarmed when I see it out in public. First to go were the pajama tops. “Where’s your shirt?,” I’d ask, when he’d come down for breakfast in the chill. He’d shrug as Cheerios fell from his mouth to rest on his bony chest. Spring came, and the temps got into the high 50’s. And then Finn started taking his shirt off at every opportunity. He takes off his shirt to play outside. He takes off his shirt to eat dinner. He takes off his shirt to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He’s always fully dressed for winter on the bottom, which makes it even weirder.

I don’t fuss. If I’ve learned anything from my six years as a parent, it’s that odd behavior explodes exponentially the more you remark on it. A lesson I learned the hard way, with booger eating. Some things are better ignored.

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As with all things, Tate has started taking his big brother’s lead with the semi-nudity. But at least Finn has some meat on his bones. Tate’s 3-year old torso looks exactly like E.T.’s. That’s what you end up with when your favorite food is watermelon.

I don’t know if Finn associates bare torsos with athletes, which is a possibility. Or if he is taking a cue from Tom, who will start walking around shirtless after any two consecutive days of gym visits. “Do I look bigger??,” Tom will ask, while flexing his chest. Or, stretching luxuriously after a shower: “Do you want to touch my muscles?” I always try to nod yes. Because these are the kindnesses that life partners owe to one another.

I laugh at my guys, but I wish I had more of their confidence, their ease, their comfort with self. That extra five pounds? I’m fooling myself if I think anyone cares but me. Sometimes the constant struggle to be stronger, thinner, better—it just leaves me feeling hungry. And I want to feel full. Sated. Not by food, but by the knowledge that all the big and small pleasures in my life make me whole.

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downers: sweaty pits

Finn is on the cusp of something. I don’t know if it’s the beginning of manhood, or the end of babyhood, but I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t smell right.

As usual, Cuz voiced it first. “Finn smells,” she said. I had noticed it myself, usually after one of his soccer games, but had been in denial, for months. Normally, Finn smells like warm, active boy—a very good smell. Possibly, the best smell. More and more often, however, that boy smell comes with a dash of Gouda.

I can’t even tell where the smell is coming from. At bathtime, I stuck my nose under his armpit as he grumbled about privacy. It didn’t smell good, but neither did it smell like cheese. I think it’s his feet. I almost keeled over this week when he sat down next to me and pulled his feet, sockless, from a pair of Nikes.

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How did this happen? Finn is half Asian, and Asians don’t have B.O. I know, because I know a lot of Asians. And in general, none of them smell as bad as white people. It’s not a scientific sample, but take the Asian and white guys I know. The Asians might smell like a shit ton of Polo Sport, but they aren’t going to smell like rotting vegetable matter, like Tom does after a summer day in a suit. I’m just saying. Sidle up to an Asian after your gym class. Maybe not exactly roses. But not so bad, either. I can’t explain it. Might be the lack of body hair.

It sure as hell isn’t the lack of sweat. I am 100% Asian and I sweat profusely in situations requiring even the most minimal amount of physical exertion. Once, after a Zumba class, I passed by a nice old lady in the locker room. “I hope you enjoyed your swim!,” she chirped. Listen, friendly people: sometimes, it’s better not to make assumptions. Sometimes, in fact, it’s best not to say anything at all.

At least my sweat doesn’t smell. I know, because, duh, I’ve touched my sweat and smelled it.

Sweating really creates issues when it comes to clothes. I remember when I wore a pair of tight pants to go dancing, way back in college. They call it vegan leather now, but back then it was called plastic. Imagine dancing in a hot room in skintight plastic pants. I’d dance for a few minutes and then go to the restroom to roll down my pants and sop up the sweat with toilet paper. For the record, it’s really hard to look sexy in your tight plastic pants if people think you have a weak bladder or uncontrolled diarrhea.

Sweat is also really bad with silk. I wear a lot of silk, because it drapes nicely over my A cups and skims over my love handles just so. But for me, even thinking about sweat while wearing silk results in immediate pit stains of man-sized proportions. I’ve spent many a wedding with something wedged under my arm, to hide the evidence. Try hugging someone with a wedding program tucked under one arm, and an evening clutch tucked under the other. Or don’t. Best to wait to be hugged in such scenarios. You can participate in the hug by leaning in. I’m a great leaner.

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linds and me, leaning

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time googling stuff like “extreme sweatiness” and “excessive sweatiness” and “does Certain Dry cause cancer.” Linds turned me onto Certain Dry, which she says keeps your armpits sweat free. I’m sure Linds wouldn’t mind me sharing that as a white person, she worries about sweaty pits even more than I do. If there’s someone with B.O. in a room, she immediately assumes it’s her. Even I don’t do that. Anyway, the Certain Dry. It works, Linds says. Of course, she had to stop using it when it started causing her to scratch at her armpits uncontrollably in public. There’s always a catch. Why does there always have to be a catch?

Why can’t they invent a silk that makes sweat invisible? Can you put deodorant on a six-year old’s feet? That Asian you know who smells really bad? I’m all ears.

shot through the ear

I recently turned 36. I’m a fatalist. Anything above 35 and I’m 40. If you’re older than 40, don’t be offended. I’m looking forward to (the jewels I will hopefully receive from Tom at) 40. But I feel like I’ve barely settled into my 30s, and now I’m being forced along, and I really don’t want to go.

The signs are there that change is happening. I was at the mall and picked up a cute pair of flats from a display only to realize they were Borns. Fucking BORNS. Either Born no longer makes old lady shoes, or I’m developing old lady taste. At the gym, I flipped through an issue of More magazine and found every article to be highly resonant and relevant to my life. In fact, the magazine could have been called “Yoona: The Magazine for You.”

Once I noticed these small indicators that I was aging, I was resolved. I wouldn’t go gently into that good night. I would fight like a wild and untamed she-cougar. But how?

Good thing I have a 20-something in the house. Cuz showed me articles on Vogue and Into the Gloss about piercings, and said she was getting some. YES. I could pierce myself! My new piercings would reaffirm that I was young. That I had LIFE.

When I told Tom I was going to get a double helix piercing, he grimaced and went off in search of his jug of Advil. When I mentioned it again the next day, he turned mean. “Were you serious? Because Kathryn thinks you’re having a mid-life crisis.” Damn right I was having a mid-life crisis. Tom was lucky I liked my skin too much to tattoo “T&Y4 EVER” on my knuckles. I’d text Linds about the piercing, only to get supportive responses like “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Cuz herself was no help. She wanted to wait to do it in NYC at NY Adorned, and kept putting me off when I tried to set a piercing date.

Well. Game on, losers. Like a 13-year old, nothing makes me want to do something more than a passel of doubters. There’s a piercing parlor a block from my office, and it looked spacious and clean. On Yelp, it had almost all 5-star ratings. Done. I dragged Cuz in on a Thursday night.

The thing about piercing parlors is that they are intimidating for naturally non-subversive people like me. At Straight to the Point, they had a bunch of art on the walls showing piercings so crazy that I started to rethink the whole thing. It was like walking into a hair salon and noticing that all the photos on the wall are of Carrot Top. That might scare you. You might think, this place is not for people like me.

The jewelry on display made things worse. It’s not that the pieces were so large, it was that they were so foreign. They had a whole case with items that looked like wooden salad plates. No idea what they were for. See? That would be intimidating, right?

The parlor didn’t have the right equipment that first night so we left. Even if they’d had the equipment I’m sure we would have left. We needed time to get comfortable with this world we were entering.

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On Saturday outside the piercing place, I circled the block in vain, looking for a parking spot. After 15 minutes, I began to take the lack of parking as a sign that God didn’t want me to pierce myself. From there on out, I took everything as a sign of God’s disapproval. Once we got inside, a guy named Evan gave us our paperwork while I fought not to stare at the huge ring in his nose and the studs embedded into his skin near his eye. I asked him how piercings like those didn’t fall out.

“Oh, you just make a cut and then pop the stud in like the skin is a buttonhole,” Evan explained, cheerily. I gave a nonchalant laugh and promptly turned white as a ghost. I looked down and concentrated on my intake form. Had I had alcohol, it asked. Hell yes I’d had alcohol. Who went to a piercing place without having alcohol? “You’re ok if you had it with food,” Evan explained, when I looked up at him in hope. “Oh phew,” I chuckled, weakly. I filled out the rest of the form in a daze. I’m sure that Emily, my piercer, found it really helpful to learn that I’m allergic to cats.

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There were people ahead of us, so we waited outside the piercing room and chatted with Evan. “People don’t cry, right?,” I asked. “Oh, all the time,” he answered. I tried again. “But not, like, SOBBING, right?,” I clarified. “Sometimes,” Evan said, amiably. I began to wonder if Evan and the wall art were the parlor’s way of weeding out people who weren’t fit to pierce. Emily called us in to the piercing room just as the last of the wine from dinner wore off.

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Cuz got in the chair first. I watched her to assess how much pain she appeared to be experiencing. Her eyes got big for the first piercing, but no tears. She winced at the second piercing, but still no tears. I felt comforted. And her piercings looked amazing. After Emily sanitized the chair and pulled out new instruments, I sat in the chair and babbled incoherently about my grandpa and the time he accidentally ate my contact lenses while we were on vacation. Emily laughed, warmly. She marked in pen the spots in my ear where the holes would go, and then laid me back. As my chair reclined, I asked Cuz if it had hurt. “No,” she said. I relaxed. “Well, not the first. The second was really painful.” But by that point I was fully reclined and it was too late to run. “Take a deep breath,” Emily said. And then she stuck a needle into the outside of my ear. Twice.

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Anyway, it’s done. It hurt, but not as badly as contractions. Plus, I once heard that when you’re old, you feel pain less keenly. So there you have it. I’m not old.

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garnier left me for dead

My beauty products keep getting discontinued and it has to stop. I’ve been left most recently by my favorite Nars cream blush, my eyelash curler, and most traumatically, by my Shiseido mascara.

You get burned enough times and you start taking preventative measures. Makeup is one thing, but my hair is another. Given how serious I am about my hair, I have long stockpiled hair products. I buy cans of my hairspray whenever it goes on sale. I had a couple weeks of satisfying styling with a mousse about a year ago and I started stockpiling that, even though our history together was brief and untested.

But I never bothered stockpiling my Garnier Surf Hair. For starters, it was always available. They sold it everywhere, even at Safeway. You know your hair product has entered the pantheon when they offer it at Safeway. And it was cheap. It was $3.60 with my Rite Aid 20% discount. To my mind, something that cheap couldn’t be worth the effort of discontinuing. For $3.60, the stuff gave my hair texture and volume without stickiness or shine. It was perfect. And I took it for granted.

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I should have seen the signs. I couldn’t find it the last couple times I was at Walgreens, but I figured it was a stocking issue. But then it happened again, at QFC. When it happened at my Rite-Aid, I stood in the aisle with my heart racing and braced my arm against the shelf. Breathe, I told myself. Surely it was a fluke. I pushed the red button near the razor blades and waited, pacing the aisle, for someone to come to my rescue. When the salesperson appeared, I told myself to act normal.

“Excuse me. Do you have any Garnier Surf Hair in the back? I’d like to buy eight jars.” The salesperson went to look, and then came back empty-handed to tell me that actually, she hadn’t seen the product in a while. Holy Mother. How had I gotten HERE? I considered asking her to open the razor blade display so I could put myself out of my misery, then and there. I impatiently waited for her to finish talking and then I raced to my car. Then I drove to Target, which is like 20 minutes from my house. If they didn’t have my Garnier at Target for $3.88, I would know that the idyll was well and truly over.

Well, they didn’t have it. I raided my drawers at home and at the gym and took inventory of my rations. The situation was dire, as I’d not bought any Garnier in months. I was down to one container, empty but for the paste stuck in the lid. Soon, I found myself thinking about Garnier Surf Hair around the clock. I’d use ever-smaller quantities of the stuff in an attempt to make it last, which resulted in bad styling that seemed an omen of the hair struggles to come. At dinners and cocktail parties, I’d find my attention drifting from conversation, as I wondered if I could concoct my own paste out of other, inferior styling products. At home, I hid the Garnier underneath the sink, so Tom couldn’t use any. I tamped down the twinges of guilt by telling myself that his hair looked essentially the same with product as it did without. But I was lying to myself. Because Garnier Surf Hair improves everyone’s hair.

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I hate everyone and everything associated with the demise of Garnier Surf Paste. I hate Garnier, who is offering a new formulation (“Power Putty”—how original) that is twice as expensive. I hate the friends who tell me I’ll find another hair product, and then recommend the product they’ve been using, which costs $22 per tiny jar. I hate the soulless pigdogs on eBay who see these things coming and stockpile discontinued product to sell it at obscene markups. I support the idea of a capitalist society, but not as it applies to me in this particular instance. Finally, I am annoyed at Tom, who, as a fellow user, is partially responsible for the global depletion of a most valuable resource.

But the most bitter of recriminations, I reserve for myself. Because I knew this could happen, and failed to act with either purpose or conviction. When I see my cans of stockpiled hairspray and stupid mousse I want to go back and do it all again. The mousse makes me particularly angry, because I haven’t used mousse (mousse!) in almost a year.

It’s sad to have hoarded hair products. But it’s even sadder to discover you’ve hoarded the wrong ones.

the swimmer

About a year ago, I started experiencing knee pain in Zumba. After a few weeks, the knee tenderness would go away. But then it started happening more frequently. I started yoga around this time, in an effort to find a less weight-bearing form of exercise. But yoga, with its one-leg standing poses, isn’t that easy on the knees.

So I started thinking about incorporating swimming into the mix. Swimming is pretty compelling as a form of exercise, given that you aren’t bearing weight and your sweat washes right off of you. Unfortunately, swimming laps also requires that you wear a racing swimsuit. To be frank, there are a lot of hobbies I’d try if it wasn’t for the clothes. Like ballroom dancing (mid-heel t-straps), or soccer (shin guards), or surfing (wetsuits with mock turtlenecks). But I’m 35. It’s getting real real. Time to put the vanity away and focus on preserving my remaining cartilage.

When I tried to put my vanity away, however, it resisted, mightily. I looked at all the one-piece Speedo and Tyr swimsuits on Zappos and Amazon. In terms of style and sex appeal, the suits ranked one step above the mom suits in the Lands End catalog. Every time I get the Lands End catalog I flip to the swimsuits and force myself to stare at them hard. Then I make a pact with myself that I will give up swimming altogether before I wear a swimsuit with a skirt attached to it.

The subject of one-piece swimsuits is a touchy one in our family, ever since Tom insisted that I wear a one-piece swimsuit to Tate’s baby-and-me swim lesson. I had mentioned to Tom that I hoped other moms would wear two-pieces because that’s all I owned. And that’s when I learned that I had married William Bennett.

“Yoona!! You can’t wear a bikini to Tate’s swim lesson. You just CAN’T. PLEASE. Think of Tate.” Think of Tate?? All I DID was think of Tate. I was getting my hair wet, wasn’t I? I looked at Tom as if seeing him for the first time. I was both offended by the implication that my bikini days were over, and annoyed by my husband’s conventionalism. I was so angry about the whole thing that I considered showing up in a monokini with cutouts and a ruched butt seam in the back. But in the end I just skipped the lesson.

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On my laptop, I came back to the ugly racing suits every couple days. For two whole months. Finally I broke down and bought a two-piece Tyr. When I tried my suit on, I was pleasantly surprised. From a distance it looked like I was wearing a black sports bra and black men’s briefs, but that was preferable to the one-piece suits, which appeared to be cut solely to emphasize back fat. The bottoms of my two-piece did not cut into my sides and the top had a sporty appeal, even if it made it apparent that my chest is as flat as a board. For a second, I wondered if I should shove some cutlets into the top. But I shook it off. I was an athlete! (Fake) boobs would just create drag and slow me down. In any event, I had bigger problems to worry about, like my swim cap.

The first time I wrestled my swim cap onto my head, I pulled it right off and fished the packaging out of the garbage can to check the size. Clearly I had inadvertently bought a child’s cap. But no. Adult swim caps only come in one size, and that size is entirely too small for my head. My cap is so tight that when I put it on I swear I can feel my eyes bug out. Generally speaking, the ugliness of my head inside the swim cap was shocking. When I looked in the mirror, I inhaled a sharp breath. The swim cap, with all my hair tucked inside of it, confirmed something I had long suspected. And that is, that if I ever lose my hair, I am totally fucked.

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The swimming. Right. The first time I got in the pool, I looked at the geezers in the lanes around me and felt bad that I was about to smoke them. Then I made the mistake of taking a breath every four crawl strokes, right out of the gate. Why would I do that? No idea. I may have thought that’s how everyone did it, since the only time I’ve really seen swimming is during the Olympics. By the end of the first 50 meters I was clutching the side of the pool as if it was a raft in shark-infested waters, and sucking wind so hard that my wheezing was audible over the lapping of the water. The lifeguard sitting in the chair above me alternated between carefully monitoring my situation to determine whether I needed CPR, and looking away, to save me further embarrassment. As I struggled to compose myself, the geezer in the next lane splashed me while doing a flip turn.

Since freestyle was so hard, I tried a few laps of breaststroke, and 100 meters of backstroke. When I went to pull myself out of the pool at the end of my swim, my arms gave out from under me and I was forced to paddle weakly over to the ladder. My lats were on fire, and my shoulders felt like someone had pulled my arms out of their sockets. This wasn’t the kind of soreness that settled in after a few hours. I felt it as I GOT OUT OF THE POOL. I’m no doctor, but I don’t think exercise is supposed to create that kind of immediate physical pain. I’ll have to write Michael Phelps to confirm.

I was so traumatized after my first lap swim that I considered quitting, but I’d invested a lot of time and mental angst in procuring the swimsuit and accessories, and I felt I owed it to myself to give it another go. It took me another week to get back in the pool. This time, I put on my swim cap, avoided all mirrors, and walked straight to the pool.

And once in the water, I started to get it. I was gliding through the water with more ease, and began to zone out to the rhythm of the water sluicing through my fingers. The voice in my brain, which sounds like a neurotic and chatty 7-year old girl, started to quiet. I stopped worrying that I’d eaten a one-pound bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs by myself over three days. I stopped worrying that Finn had recently started laughing like Beavis. I stopped worrying that Tate sang the alphabet song using only the letter K. In fact, I stopped thinking about anything but the satisfying feel of the wall when I touched it at the end of each lap.

It felt sublime. Who knows. Maybe there’s a swimmer in me after all.

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hurts so good

Nothing disappoints like a gentle massage. You know, the kind you get at a fancy spa, from a delicate woman who is way smaller than you. The kind that starts with a choice of scented oils and ends with you snoring and drooling on the massage table. Or the kind that ends with you snoring and then being woken up by the sound of your own fart.

You’d never sleep through my ideal massage. I like my massage therapists like I like my movie hunks: beefy. And that’s because my muscles—they be tight. I used to think the tightness meant the muscles were strong, until I realized it just means that they are completely f-ed up. A month ago Linds bought me a massage at the Allison, the kind of place that specializes in expensive, ineffective massages. My expectations were low. I expected to enjoy a snoozy hour on the massage table planning what I would order at dinner. But when my therapist came to retrieve me from the lounge, I perked right up.

I’d ordered a man, natch. Jason wasn’t tall, but he was built like a truck, with meaty arms. I deflated a bit when he ushered me into the massage room and offered me a choice of six fragrant oils, all of which smelled exactly the same. I picked lavender because I can’t pronounce bergamot and couldn’t remember the other choices after he said them. But then the massage started, and as soon as he dribbled warm oil on my back and jammed his hairy forearm into my muscles, I knew I was in good hands.

I don’t know how to describe Jason’s massage style other than to say that he’d pick a muscle, and then jab at it with his fingers until something gave, and then the one muscle would relax and spread apart into two muscles, or three muscles. “Your muscles are all stuck together,” he said, right after he asked what I did for a living, in a tone of voice that suggested that he expected me to answer “manual laborer.” He moved onto my shoulder, where he pushed on something that made it feel like ice cold water was shooting through the veins in my arm. Sweet mother it felt good. After we were done, he gave it to me straight. “Your muscles are messed up. You need to go see the guy who taught me, in Portland.”

Which I did, this last Wednesday. Brandon Saggio, LMT. Call him immediately. His website scared me a little because he has long hair, but I’ve come to accept that long-haired men are as ubiquitous in the massage world as those trickling indoor water fountains that remind you of nothing so much as someone urinating. When I met Brandon in person, I was reassured. Brandon is a happy, calm soul who can do things to your muscles that you wouldn’t believe. At one point, he laid me face down and then pulled my arm backwards into a 90 degree angle from my body. I may have felt the tears well a bit. But I was distracted from the discomfort by the nagging sensation that I knew this move. I’d USED this move. When? YES. Two months ago, when I cut up a whole chicken. I had lifted the chicken wing just so, before whacking it clean off the body.

When Brandon was done with me, I hurried into my clothes, because I was late for a dinner with the girls. “Yoona, no alcohol! Your body is detoxing.” I frowned. “Well you can drink one glass of wine, but you need to drink a lot of water.” Ugh. What is with everyone’s obsession with water? But I did as I was told, because after only one visit, I had fallen under Brandon’s spell.

I’m eager to try Brandon’s moves at home on Tom. Tom generally cannot handle my advanced style of massage. He thinks he can handle it, but he can’t. Every few months he pulls a muscle while working the remote and asks for a massage. I flop him face down on our bed, sit on his back, and give him a treatment that I like to call “all thumbs.” It really gets all the pressure points. He says I don’t know where the pressure points are, because I didn’t go to massage school. Details! When I work out a particularly tough knot, I have to push his face into the duvet cover, because the screams can break my concentration. It all just seems really ungrateful, given that I’m really busy, and that the massage is free.

Anyway, borderline-painful massage. It’s the stuff.