Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Aaagggghhh!!!  AAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!  My hair stylist just informed me that he’s retiring.  Can you believe it?!  How could he do this to me??!!  It’s not that I begrudge his putting down the scissors and putting up his feet.  It’s not that I think he should work until he keels over.  But does he have to retire now?  Couldn’t he wait until he’s, say, ninety?  You know, just another 30 years or so until whatever hair I have left is a shade of blue and can be done by the same person who is changing my Depends.  Is that too much to ask?  Am I being selfish here?

I do love my hair stylist and Lord knows the guy works really hard.  He deserves to enjoy his golden years relaxing.  But where on earth am I going to find someone to cut my hair?  It’s just not that simple.  Since 1978 and my first “Peter Pan” I’ve worn my hair short and boyish.  Oh, there was a minute there when I got the bob and perm bug, but I quickly came to my senses and went back to the look that suits my face and lack of hair styling expertise.  I don’t even own a comb.  So the cut, a good cut, is ESSENTIAL.  And since Brian has cut my hair, the experience is not only stylistically satisfying, the entertainment factor is immense.  The guy is hysterically funny.  Many are the times he’s had to wait for me to sit upright to finish my hair cut, while I, doubled over with laughter, gasped for breath.  And since he owns the shop and only has one other operator, it’s quiet and easy going (except for the sound of my cackling, that is).  When I was preparing for my wedding and felt like my hair wasn’t doing what it should, he cut it again, for free!  He just cares.  He cares.  Did I mention that I drive three hours there and back for this little slice of salon heaven?

The fact is I’ve been really spoiled and now must find another spot to spoil me.  A friend recommended a place very nearby that seems to be where all the hip people are going.  Her hair always looks great so I figured she must be in the know.  I called to speak to her stylist who also happens to be the owner, just to see if there was a rapport there.  To see if she would be someone I’d like to spend an hour with every five weeks.  First a supercilious assistant insisted that I make a fifteen minute consultation appointment.  Said appointment could not be for another month however, as this person is so busy that she can’t squeeze in two minutes to look at my head and say hello.  Okay.  I understand.  See you in six weeks.  Then, when the appointed day arrived I walked into the salon to find myself in the midst of a bee hive, and I don’t mean the hairdo.  There were about twelve operators and they were all yakking away over the drone of high powered hairdryers and the bass line of piped in techno music until I thought my head would pop off.  “Are you checking in?” the receptionist says to me.

“I’m checking out.”  This place is definitely not for me.

Now I’ve had my hair done in almost every major city in the country at one time or another, so it’s not like I can’t handle a big, busy salon.  I mean the flip side of my local experience is Elizabeth Arden Red Door in Washington, DC, where you feel as if you need to take your shoes off and then curtsey when the intern to the assistant to the hair washer comes to fetch you for your audience with the stylist.  But honestly, unless they’re wearing little green and white checked pinafores and singing “Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, and a couple of tra-la-las.  That’s how we laugh the day away in the merry old Land of Oz…” I prefer to not feel like I’m on the conveyor belt of a grooming assembly line.  A little personal service is all I’m asking.  Look at my head.  Look at my face.  Talk to me for a minute to know my personality and what I expect.  In other words, GIVE ME A LOOK.  Is that too much to ask?

In the meantime I will continue to walk up to well coiffed strangers and say “Who cuts your hair?”



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In Formal


JZ and I attended a gala a couple of weeks back for one of Boston’s cultural institutions.  Because it was a museum, along with the usual black tie dinner and dancing deal, there was an “open” party for the public where, for thirty bucks and a cash bar, anyone could come and enjoy music and dancing and lovely passed-around desserts, all while strolling through the exhibits in the evening hours.  It was a wonderful event but I must say the most intriguing displays were the outfits.  You cannot believe what passes for formal wear these days.  Or maybe you can.  Anyone who has watched the Academy Awards or, heaven help us, the Grammys, knows that men’s formal wear has become decidedly, well… informal.  Some of the things I saw at the event I attended: wrinkled shirts, no cummerbund or suspenders, brown shoes, buttons instead of studs, bad ties, NO ties.  Okay, okay, this is not the end of sartorial civilization, but there is a reason these events are called FORMAL.

I think a lot of the fashion infractions are committed simply because a lot of young men in particular, don’t know any better.  Dressing up is so rare these days that there are few occasions for a guy to learn what’s stylish and what’s stupid.  It used to be that a man’s first formal outing was the prom.  He’d go downtown with Dad to rent a tuxedo where the owner/tailor would ask about the event and explain all the necessary components.  Not anymore.  Now some part-time, pimply guy, in a tee shirt no less, offers you an outfit right out of Costumes-R-Us, the more outlandish the better so as to one-up the classmates, and hands it off like the basketball in the final seconds of a playoff.  I’ve even seen this with my own eyes at a wedding fitting.  You can bet THIS mother of the groom was saying, “Hold on just a minute.  You can’t be serious!”

So what should I look for, Mom?  First off, if you can possibly afford it, buy a tuxedo.  Even if it’s worn once a year, or even once every five years, you’ll look so much better in your own clothes.  And really, you can find one for not that much do-re-mi considering you’ll only need one.  Pick a classic look and it’ll last for a LONG time.  But if to rent is your bent go for something traditional.  The best dressed man at the Oscars is always George Clooney.  Why?  Because he wears a simple black, shawl or slightly notched collar tuxedo, white shirt and bow tie.  If you’re very trim pleated pants and a double breasted jacket are fine, but unless you plan to star in a Noel Coward play, opt for flat front trousers and a three button, single breasted jacket (only the top two are buttoned).  Pants, which should be worn at the WAIST, should graze the top of the shoe with a slight break in the leg.

Of course you need the accessories!  Choose an all-cotton shirt that will be professionally laundered with light starch.  A pleated front is nice with what they call a “laydown” collar and don’t forget the collar stays!  (Ask the dry cleaner).  Few people can pull off the wing collar and tie so leave that for your local orchestra member.  A proper formal shirt has French cuffs and little notches for studs, so pick up a set.  You can find classy looking ones at any of the department stores and many of the discount outlets like Century 21 and Loehmann’s.  The cummerbund covers the button at the bottom of the shirt.  And by the way, cummerbund pleats are worn facing up, not down, (that was so you could stick your theatre tickets in them!) and it should be snug around your middle.  Go for a black or small patterned tie and if you can tie it yourself, even better.  It’s really not that hard.  Skip the patterned cummerbund and stick with black.  It’s more flattering in the belly area.  If you are buying a tuxedo, don’t bother with vests, pocket squares, long ties, patterned jackets or colored (especially black) shirts.  They go in and out of fashion and never look as stylish as the sales help want you to believe.

Lastly are the shoes.  Traditionally black patent pumps (plain slip-ons with a bow) were worn but let’s get real here.  A simple pair of black patent or polished leather will look great.  Leather soles please.  The better to spin you round the dance floor, my dear.  Don’t forget a white handkerchief and NOT in the pocket of the jacket.  Keep it in your pants pocket for when your date starts weeping at how great you look.

And see you on the dance floor, Handsome!







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These Ghoulish Things Remind Me Of You

Hey, it’s almost Halloween!  As a child I couldn’t wait for that day.  The thought of marching to school and then door to door through crackly leaves in a fabulous costume that my mother always spent hours creating, filled me with a kind of anticipatory glee rarely experienced in adult life.  In 1963, when Dunkin’ Donuts opened its 100th restaurant and their popularity surged, my mother dressed me as one of their trademark pastries, complete with a “steaming” cup of coffee for a hat!  Suffice it to say, Halloween was big in our house.  The words “wear a coat over your costume” were never thought, let alone uttered.

Now, as soon as I see those fake cobwebs in the store windows (why DO they do that??) a feeling of dread comes over me.  Is it because I’ll be answering my front door forty times in one evening?  Is it that I’ll lie awake wondering if I’ll be drinking my morning coffee picking wet toilet paper off the shrubbery?  No.  It’s because when I look in the mirror on November first I don’t want to see a witch!

All of a sudden, or so it seems, come the end of fall, my skin seems to dry out like an old sponge.  I don’t remember seeing those wrinkles in the summertime?  And what’s with the flakiness?  Ugghh.  It’s because, where I live, once the heat comes on and the last bit of summer humidity is gone, it’s time to haul out the big time moisturizer.  Don’t get me wrong.  I use moisturizer all year round, but once I’ve eaten that last candied apple it’s time for serious intervention.

There’s a HUGE selection of skin creams out there.  The choice is mind boggling.  People swear by La Mer but those are people with a lot of disposable income.   Somehow I can’t bring myself to spend $155 for one ounce when there are so many other reasonably priced alternatives.  And I’ve found that, just like clothing in colder weather, layering produces the best results.  Here’s what I do:  Every morning (and evening too) I wash my face with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.  It’s fragrance free, gentle on sensitive skin and at five and a half bucks a bottle, it’s a bargain.  Forget about toner.  Leave the toner in your copying machine.  Your face doesn’t need it.  All it does is dry out what you’re trying to water.

Next I use some Jergen’s Natural Glow for Face because 1) daily use will give a little color to my otherwise ghostly skin, 2) it’s oil free and, most important, 3) it’s SPF 20.  Whatever moisturizer you choose should have an SPF of at least 15, and 20 is even better.  It may be winter but it’s the same sun up in that sky.  After the Jergen’s I use Clinique Repairwear Uplifting, but here’s a trick; first I wet my fingertips and then use a little dab mixed with the water on my hands.  I forget who gave me this tip but not only does the cream go further but it puts more hydration in the face.  I love this stuff.  Lastly, I use a tinted moisturizer for foundation.  I used to use a regular liquid foundation, but really, who needs it?  Tinted Moisturizer is lighter, looks better and it’s moisturizer!  I love the one by Laura Mercier in Nude.  If you don’t want to spend $40 (it does last a long time), Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Enhancer is excellent and about $12 at any CVS.  Either one of them is SPF 20.

At night when things can get really spooky, I have a different routine entirely.  I start with a Retinol treatment like StriVectin-AR or Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle Moisturizer “Night.”  A little dab’ll do ya so go easy with this stuff.  Then I swear by the Ahava products.  Their Night Replenisher is just the best and I use it undiluted.  It’s a treat for the face.  But that’s not all.

Back when I was a cheerleader (okay, WAY back), my coach, Mrs. Van Dyke, told us that we should start using eye cream every morning and every night.  “Eye cream, girls.  Eye cream!” she’d shout to us after practice.  That was when I was a freshman in high school and I’ve never strayed and really, I must say, I think it’s paid off.  But even if you’re starting your skin care late in the game, eye cream girls!  Eye cream!  I like to use the thickest, most water-retaining goop I can find and it’s Vaseline.  Yup.  Vaseline Original Skin Protectant is my eye cream, and while I’m dabbing it under my eyes I rub a little on the lines around my lips as well.  And I NEVER go to bed with my make up on.

So treat yourself.  And Happy Halloween, Pumpkin!



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Ol’ Four Eyes

Mia Farrow was in the news recently.  Seems in the November issue of Vanity Fair magazine she discloses that her son Ronan (once called Satchel) MAY be the child of Frank Sinatra and not Woody Allen as long presumed.  Huh?  Have you seen a picture of this guy?  He is the spit n’ image of Ol’ Blue Eyes and apparently he’s got a voice to go with.  There have been all kinds of denials and refutations from Allen and others.  But just take a look at him.  On the other hand, he’s a Yale grad and a Rhodes Scholar, so go figure.

Anyway, Ol’ Blues got me thinking about Ol’ Four Eyes which would be me, and practically everyone in my family.  (I know it’s a stretch of a segue but just go with me here.)  My father was an ophthalmologist and I often wondered if we were a reality advertisement for eye correction.  I might add that I was in high school before I was allowed to use pointed scissors. When I was initiated with my first prescription, shortly after my Bat Mitzvah, I was horrified to think I would have to wear glasses. GLASSES??  ON MY FACE??  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  At the time, the wire-rimmed aviators were popular so I had a pair of those.  Then I switched to contact lenses.  But as I got older I decided to embrace my myopia and now eyewear is a part of my whole look.

Now anyone who has had to buy a frame and fill it can tell you that glasses are not cheap.  At least, unless they’re cheap they’re not cheap.  But considering they sit on your nose I think it’s a worthwhile investment to get something great.  It’s funny but people who will spend hundreds on a hairdo or garment or other fashion item, get stingy when it comes to something they’ll be wearing every single day.  I’ve heard people say “I don’t want them to show.”  What?  Is there a way for them not to show?  Underwear doesn’t show. Glasses are in the front row seat, so why not make the most of them.

Here’s the thing, not all opticians are the same, and like any other retail business, they don’t all carry the same merchandise.   I look for a store that has a hip selection in the window and has someone who knows how to suggest the right shapes for my face.  A good eyewear place shouldn’t just let you pull stuff off the wall and try them on, hit or miss.  Don’t get me wrong, they should show you any frame you’re interested in. But they should have the expertise to guide you to the shapes and colors and sizes that will flatter your face. It’s like what dress buying use to be fifty years ago. A knowledgeable optician will save you time and frustration, and hopefully, looking like a weirdo.

One of my favorite brands is Anne et Valentin. They’re made in France and although somewhat pricey, their whole line is fabulously cool looking and really holds up to wear and tear.  When I was in Paris on my honeymoon all I wanted to do was see the Anne et Valentin flagship store, for me, the holy grail of eyewear. Interestingly, when I inquired about one particular frame, the lovely salesman, Phillipe, said, “Those are too big for you.”  Actually, it was “Zohs ahr too beeg fo yu.”  He was right. I bought another pair that he suggested instead.  I know there are many online eyeglass vendors out there, but buyer beware.  Poor quality plastic and weak hinges can mean broken glasses just when you need them the most (getting in the car to drive home from the airport?).   I also like to have someone local make the lenses. Did you know that you can purchase frames anywhere and take them to your local optician and they’ll fill the prescription, i.e. make the lenses for you. I did this with my Paris purchase.  And many places will regrind the lenses one time for free if you put on your new specs and it feels like you just got off a merry-go-round.

A reputable optician will also make sure your glasses fit properly, which is why I never let anyone try mine on. They’re made for my head.  To me it’s like asking someone to try on her wig.  But that’s just me. And if you take good care of them, glasses should last easily until your next prescription. You ARE getting your eyes examined every two years, right?  You only have one set of eyes.

And no running with those scissors!



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Goody! Two Shoes

Now that September is over it’s time to put away the sandals (you with the Tevas, I’m hoping to see a burn pile in your backyard) and think about fall shoes.  I store my cold-weather footwear in plastic boxes in the attic.  But even after inspecting what I have, and I must say, a lot of it looks pretty good, there’s always room and a fashion need, for some new shoes.  If, like me, you live far from any decent shoe retailer, there are LOADS of options on line that provide free shipping and free returns.  I have a regular relationship with Zappos, but there are others as well, including the shoemakers themselves like Cole Haan and Stuart Weitzman, two of my faves. 

Now I’m certainly all about savvy shopping and finding the bargains, but there is one area I never compromise.  It’s the feet.  The agony of de feet.  If a sweater or a tee shirt or a dress has some little flaw, it scarcely makes a difference, and that’s if I can even discover what it is.  But a shoe that isn’t right can make me miserable.  All it takes is one little scratchy thing digging into my foot to make my day hellish.  So I may save big on an outfit, but I never scrimp on the shoes.  Good shoes last longer, generally look better and, most importantly, are way more comfortable.  Way more.

Many years ago when I was in retail, I shared an office with the shoe buyer.  This was an eye opener and a fantastic education in what makes a good shoe.  I learned that price isn’t the only barometer.  There are basically three things I look for. 

The inside lining is called the sock by those in the biz, and I always make sure it’s leather.  Sometimes it looks like leather but it’s actually pleather.  Ballet flats from J. Crew that they say are made in Italy?  The sock is pleather.  Look carefully and smell it if you have to.  I know, holding a shoe up to your nose in a store is a little weird, but quality control is a dirty business.  Leather on the inside breathes and molds to your foot.  Would you rather wear leather or rubber gloves?  Same concept.

Next is the sole.  A better shoe has a leather, not plastic, sole.  If you turn the shoe over and it says “Man Made,” drop it.  The difference is in the walking.  Just like with the inside, leather gives and molds to your foot and it will feel better than plastic.  It just will.  They’ll also be safer on the pavement.  Michael Kors charges a lot for his shoes, but the ones I’ve seen have “man made” soles.  A rubber sole is a whole different matter.  Nothing wrong with a rubber sole.  Love ‘em.  What I’m talking about is that beige, slippery business that, when you walk, sounds like a spatula clapping on a marble floor.

Finally, I look for the quarter panels (that’s the side of the shoe that runs from the heel to the toe) to be one piece.  No seam in the middle.  I paid a lot of money for a pair of Brian Atwood high heels and I was astonished to see a big ol’ seam on the inside quarter panel.  I returned them.  Even some Jimmy Choos have it.  Look carefully at the side of the shoe that faces in.  It should be one piece.  I have gotten really good shoes that have a seam.  Aquatalia, a brand I swear by, occasionally does this.  But generally no seam equals a better shoe.  And if there is a seam it should be sewn, not glued.  Check it out. 


Fortunately sites like Zappos,, Piperlime and many others give descriptions of these components.  I look for terms like “leather upper,” “leather lining,” and “padded footbed.”  And I watch the video if there is one.  That can show you a lot about a shoe.

Oh…Wait a minute.  Someone’s at the door…  It’s the UPS guy!  Gotta run.  My shoes are here!  Goody!!!


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Pajama Game


I just got back from Bella Italia and I think, in the not too distant future, the airlines will have to pull up right into passengers’ driveways, the way the Super Shuttle does when it picks you up to go to the airport for your flight.  Have you seen how people come dressed to the airport?  Clearly they’ve just rolled directly out of bed and into the “Departures” area.  Is it too much to expect that they change out of their pajamas and put on some shoes?

I realize, as well as anyone, that travel has become a hassle; the delays, the screening, the endless lines.  There’s no question that it pays to be comfortable.  But comfort doesn’t mean treating everyone to a glimpse of your usual Sunday morning pancakes-and-reading-the-paper look.  I’ve seen people waiting to board who must not own a comb or a toothbrush and don’t feel it necessary to put on underwear.  I’M NOT KIDDING!  Have we lost all sense of pride and discretion?  Has the effort to be comfortable completely superseded basic human dignity?  Am I on a rant here?

My flight home was eight hours.  Not short, but definitely not an extended sentence, and one guy, I’d say around sixty-five years old, was attired in a pair of short shorts (mid-thigh) and a baby blue tee shirt stretched over a huge belly that said, “best papa evah.”  Just like that.  All lower case as if some Bostonian child had written it.  With this ensemble he chose Teva sandals which he removed before even the safety doors had been latched.  No socks, of course.  Now, okay.  We’re on a closed aircraft, he’s in his seat.  Who’s going to care?  But is this how the grandchild, who is now in college, because the shirt was at LEAST ten years old, wants his Papa to be seen out in public?  Evah?

So what constitutes appropriate travel wear?  I know it may not seem egalitarian but travelers who are dressed a little nicer are more likely to be upgraded, to be taken care of faster, to receive help at the ticket counter, to get a better seat.  It’s true.  Provided, of course, it isn’t coupled with a hostile attitude. I know this directly from a ticket agent to whom I was once related.  And if you’ve been reading my blog thus far you know that I don’t equate “nicer” with dropping a wad of Euros.  And honestly, isn’t it worthwhile to consider safety?

Just take footwear, for example.  Flip flops are probably the worst shoes (if you can call them that) for travel.  They provide no support for all that standing around on hard airport floors, it can be cold on the plane, particularly near the floor, and here’s what really gets me, when someone crosses their legs in the seat next to you, do you really want to be staring directly at his or her feet?  You get my point.  Not to mention that if, heaven forbid, one has to make a speedy exit, how fast can you run in those things?  JMO.

I like a pair of slip-ons—ballet flats or clogs or something of that ilk, that I can get off and into my plastic screening bin easily.  Then, when I get on the plane, if it’s a long flight, I stow them in the overhead bin and put on a little pair of slippers or socks that I’ve brought in my carryon.  Very cozy.

As far as the rest of my outfit, I find knits work the best.  Leggings and a tunic (covering the butt, of course because you KNOW that leggings are not pants!) or knit pants and a cardigan.  When I shift around in the two by two area of my seat the knits move with me, and they’re easy to layer since I find the cabin temperature alternates between blow furnace and arctic.  And, quite frankly, knit pants are easier to get up and down in that coffin they call a lavatory.  Personally, I’ve never found jeans to be a good option for air travel.  Somehow, about an hour into the flight, the creases at the top of the legs start to dig into my thighs like a machete.  And if I spill some of my meal on them (which I ALWAYS do) I can’t just rinse it out the way I can with a stretchy pant.

Not fond of knit pants?  How about a long dress?  It hides a multitude of sins, covers the legs and looks chic.  A nice soft pashmina shawl over it that can double as a blanket and it’s a look.  A pair of sunglasses and you’re very Anna Magnani!

I’m saving my p.j.’s for Mad Men reruns.


September 25, 2013 · 5:09 pm

Business in the Front, Party’s Over in the Back

What’s the deal with the long hair, men? The ponytail is OVER.  Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. I-Was-At-Woodstock!  Why are you hanging on to that thing, especially those of you who have lost some on the top?  Here I must digress to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with baldness.  In fact, lots of women find bald men sexy.  Remember Douglas Brackman on L.A. Law?  The assistant principal at my high school was bald on top and he couldn’t have been more than 35.  Mr. Dietz.  He was very sexy.  Believe me, everybody was trying to get detention.  But dude, if you’re trying to hang on to your youth, or youthful appearance I’m here to tell you that you will look, and perhaps feel, years younger without the Grateful Dead tribute down your back.  Is the wife telling you to keep it?  Wait till she sees you looking like the handsome, modern guy who knows where it’s at and then see how much she misses Mullet City.

For us in the over 50 crowd, the whole long hair, dirty jeans thing went out around the time we were learning the Hustle.  I’m referring to the disco dance, not Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, neither of which has survived very well.  So it’s time for a fresh look.  And the dirty jeans are just not that edgy.  We all love the great outdoors but who needs the great unwashed?

I know that face, that look.  You’re admitting to yourself that perhaps you could use a little update.  You can still keep your own style, be age appropriate and not look like you’re ready to line up for the early-bird special.  Lee and Levi both have a huge selection of jeans, very fairly priced, and not too “trendy” and you can get a pair that will actually fit (did you know that the butt sags later in life?).  There’s a fit for every bod, practically.  Regular Fit, Premium Select, Vintage Slim, Modern Slim.  The list is endless.  And if you go to the official Lee web site, many are on sale right now.  Kohls also carries a huge variety of styles and cuts and I don’t know about you but I must get a promotion in the mail from them every week.

A couple of new T-shirts would make a big difference too.  One or two in a dark blue or black that don’t say “Jack Daniels,” and a couple new white ones because the white get pretty dingy after a year of wearing and goodness knows if you have any kind of beard, after a while the neck looks like the cat chewed it.  Kohls’ “Croft and Barrow” tees wash well, are REALLY reasonable and come in just the right classy colors.   My man has a slew of them and loves them.   Pick up a dark sport coat and throw that over the whole thing and you’re a rock star.

And as Dad said when he handed you the car keys, “Get a haircut!”



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