Month: January 2014

What the Heck Is: Vaginal Atrophy

In this advice column we try to answer all of your confounding “What the Heck Is…?” questions. We’ll be getting advice from experts, but — beware — we may not always have the best answer. Feel free to share your own advice in the comments below . [dropcap]Q: [/dropcap] I recently visited my gynecologist complaining of painful intercourse. “Oh,” she said peering through my parted knees, “that’s because you have vaginal atrophy.” Whereupon we just blinked at each other. The advice she gave me? “Try HRT” (hormone replacement therapy). Seriously? At my age?! I am not ready to be dealing with menopause in my mid 40s, but then again, I’m not ready to be done with sex, either! Bottom line: Vaginal atrophy has turned sex into a painful ordeal, rather than something I desire. As you might imagine, this also deals a crushing blow to the libido. Where do I turn for a truly effective, long-lasting solution to this problem? Signed, Silently Atrophied in NYC [dropcap]A:[/dropcap] Whoa, ouch. Agreed: Mid-40s is waaaay too early to be done with …

Having It All: The Advice of Helen Gurley Brown & George Eliot

I’m not sure if I have ever paired two more different books. The first one, which comes out on January 28th, is already one of my favorite books of 2014. Since we’re only half way through one month this new year, how can that be? Put it down to a combination of an unusually talented writer (The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead), her subject (which is inarguably one of the world’s greatest books), and my own lifelong attachment to the same book. My Life in Middlemarch is Mead’s paean to George Eliot’s magnum opus, but it’s also a memoir, a meditation and an excavation. Mead, who first read Eliot’s novel at age 17, revisits it every five years or so. She has found many parallels between Eliot’s life and her own, which keeps the book lively — but the wonderful thing about this volume is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve read Middlemarch once, twice, or never. Mead’s search for meaning between two covers becomes meaningful in and of itself. Even if you don’t care about …

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten: “Don’t Be Sorry, Be Smart”

“Don’t be sorry, be smart.” That pithy piece of advice was given to me — and a couple thousand high school students over the years— by my English teacher, who I’ll call Mr. Blake for the purposes of this essay. It may sound glib or even obnoxious at first listen, but this clever tidbit has stuck with me for over three decades. It was originally doled out as a rebuke to those sorry souls attempting to apologize for their forgotten homework, their tardiness to softball practice, or their lack of comprehension of Faulkner’s indecipherable prose. But really, it applied to just about every issue large and small in our adolescent lives, from safe sex to sobriety to basic human kindness — none of which were paramount to the reckless, thoughtless teenagers we were at the time. Kids can sniff out pretty quickly who’s preaching and who’s teaching and it was clear Blake was no pastor. Perhaps his words meant more than they might have had he remained the righteous Pilgrim his Yankee ancestors probably were. …

5 Helpful Tips For Hanging Out With This Alcoholic

Recently a friend of mine, who was a prominent figure during my drinking days (but not an alcoholic himself), asked me: “So, like, what are we gonna do when we go out now? Do we always have to go get coffee?” Um, no. But it’s actually a very fair question, as I’m sure it’s hard for my friends, who all know I’m now sober but who also know that my favorite pastime — for many, many years — was drinking. Happy hour? Check. Karaoke 2-for-1 night? I’m there. Super Bowl party? You’re goddamn right (even though I hate football). And so on and so forth. When I first got out of my third rehab in April 2012, I stayed on the down low for quite a while. Because at that point, I couldn’t be around alcohol at all. I literally did not trust my arms; I feared they might come to life on their own, grab the first open bottle they saw and slam it to my lips. Then I got to the point where …

My System: Running With Manicure

  Who: Lili Schwartz, Graphic Designer System: ”Before I go running, but after I tie my sneakers, I put on nail polish. Then my nails dry while I run!” Inspiration: “My husband hates the smell of nail polish so I had to put the polish on outside the house.” While twiddling her thumbs, literally, waiting for her nails to dry, she got inspired: “I needed to find an outdoor activity that didn’t require my hands. Since I often need motivation to run a few miles, having freshly polished nails at the end of a workout became a great incentive!” Pitfalls? “This is a seasonal system. I don’t run outside in winter.” Favorite polish color?  “Currently I’m wearing Milani’s NY Apple Red.” Any polish work better than others? “All shades work, but I only apply one coat of color at a time. I don’t run far enough for base and top coats!” illustration: Kat Borosky

11 Pieces of Advice You’ll Want to Read Right Now

I mean, yes, 11 great life suggestions are in this article, but they’re way down at the bottom. However take my advice, there’s juicier stuff up top. Wow, unreliable narrator… Take My Advice                                                                                         The world is full of advice. Do this, don’t do that. Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen. There are bits of advice that we all have lodged in our memory banks from teachers, parents, mentors, big sisters. “Always keep your closets clean.” Something my Mom likes to say. It always makes me think of some dire home invasion incident where robbers come in, open my closet and, after pushing aside the jumble of boots, sneakers and flats are stunned, nay SHOCKED, to see the mess. But really it means, you never know when you’re gonna go, so, delete those …

Four Films with Sage Wisdom; One, Well, Not So Sage

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.  1. Moonstruck (1987) Director: Norman Jewison Essential Characters: Loretta Castorini (Cher), Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage), Cosmo Castorini (Vincent Gardenia), Rose (Olympia Dukakis) Circumstance: Married more than 40 years, Rose knows her husband, Cosmo, is having an ongoing affair and is troubled by the implication. On some level, she can’t understand it, but feels pretty sure that it’s a way men stave off their creeping mortality. Advice Dispensed: Rose: “I just want you to know. No matter what you do. You are going to die, just like everyone else.” Result: Eventually, in front of the rest of the family at breakfast, Rose tells Cosmo he must stop seeing the other woman. He rises up menacingly, slams his hand down on the table, then sits back down …

A Student Took My Advice and It Worked! Then, He Helped Me

I give advice for a living. Naturally, I always try to give the very best advice that I can. I have been a community college counselor and teacher for a long time, and it’s not a job you do for immediate gratification. There are no bonuses or commissions, and very few reminders that the pearls of wisdom I think I’m dropping on a classroom full of Snap-Chatting young adults are even getting through. Rarely do I see, first hand, any paying rewards in changed lives and lessons learned. But there was one time someone took my advice and ran with it, totally surpassing my expectations. I had a student in my first year seminar course, who we’ll call K,  a 17-year-old student who was really smart. He was also a hyper-verbal, former star athlete, and was chief among a group of guys who made fun of a young lady in my class whose disability caused her to speak many of her — often inappropriate — thoughts out loud. They don’t tell you when you sign …

Becoming More Bendy (Or Why Balance is B.S.)

Bendy people are not necessarily happier people. That was my yoga teacher’s pronouncement as she watched her students struggle with backbends and pigeon poses. I chuckled along with the rest of the class at the ridiculousness of that statement, but in truth, her words had real resonance. Even after years of practice, I am not particularly bendy. I sometimes glance sideways at my mat-mates, envious of those who can wrap themselves into pretzels or place their palms flat on the floor while standing with their knees perfectly straight. That will never be me. The good news is that flexibility is neither a virtue nor a talent, at least not in yoga class. But outside of the studio — in real life — I’m working like hell on getting a whole lot bendier. As I evolve, so does my definition of balance. It once meant finding that elusive spot where work and family life meshed, and I was able to successfully keep many juggling balls in the air. But now I’m past that. Balance is less …

My System: How to Have Perfect Hands

Who: Lauren Young, Wealth Editor, Thomson Reuters System: Brooklynite Lauren Young has had a love affair with her hands for as long as she can remember. Below are her tips to caring for and maintaining perfect paws. What products do you use?  “Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, Fragrance Free, and Essie nail polish. I usually like Essie’s Pink Glove Service. I keep hand cream by my bed, on my desk at work, and in my bag.” What’s so great about that hand cream? “You just need a dab – it’s very thick and rich. I also use it on my feet. It creates a wonderful seal to protect skin from soap and cold weather.”  How long have you had this love affair with your hands?  “I’ve always had long, very hard nails, so I’m lucky. I probably started using this hand cream in high school when I worked at Gladwyne Pharmacy (outside of Philly) and got to try lots of products. All of the women in my family have beautiful hands. My dad also has lovely hands.” Did …

My System: I Steam My Clothes Every Day

Who: Marie Robinson, celebrity hair colorist extraordinaire. System: “I steam my clothes every single morning.” Why’s that? “I have pretty nice clothes, but I usually end up messing them up with hair color. I’m in very small living quarters right now so I don’t take things out to iron them. It’s easier to just steam them.” Not that I wear couture all the time, but I was told when you have nicer clothes, steaming is actually better for the colors and the quality of the fabric than dry cleaning or washing them too much. The steam also kills any germs or whatever. Some of the stuff I’ve had from Chanel stays nicer longer because of steaming — the colors haven’t changed at all. Obviously things that need to be dry cleaned or washed I do. But dry cleaning can become time-consuming and expensive.” What inspired you to start steaming your clothes every day? “I made a lot of changes and sacrificies in my life to quickly get out of a marriage that wasn’t working. The one thing I was …

My System: How to Spot a Celebrity on the Down-Low

  Living in NYC, you’re bound to spot the occasional star hunkered down over a plate of pancakes at Buttermilk Channel or walking their dog in the East Village. For New Yorkers it’s a bit of a quiet sport. To make matters easier, Rentenna.com just released its 2014 map of NY and Brooklyn celeb abodes. But heaven forbid you call attention to the fact that you actually notice them. (There you are repeatedly elbowing your husband pleading, “Look, look honey it’s…it’s that reporter from…from NY1!” Oh, the horror.) Instead, my husband and I simply say the word “Rutabaga.” For example, Susan Sarandon strolls by us in Chelsea? All I need to say is “Rutabaga” and my husband will casually glance about until he sees said celeb. Easy and no one gets hurt. Or embarrassed. This was adopted from a  system I used as a teenager. Back in the day, by using the code words “MT” (which stands for “my type”) or “YT” (“your type”), my bored sister and I could quietly acknowledge a random hot guy in …

My System: Gretchen Rubin on Her “Power Hour”

Who: Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. System:  At 6 a.m. Gretchen has a “power hour” of solitude and focus where she can write, catch up on emails, tweet, before her day “officially starts.” ”At 7 a.m. I have to get my children up, get them fed, get them to school. So, I have this precious early morning hour when everything is quiet and I don’t have any distractions. It’s just for me.” What prompted the idea? “I realized that our family mornings were hectic and unpleasant, because I was racing around trying to get too much accomplished at once. It finally dawned on me that if I got up an hour early, I’d be able to get a good start on my day.” Do you consider yourself a morning person?  ”I think some people are larks and some people are owls and you really have to know where you are. And so for an owl I don’t think that would work at all to get up early, to fight their nature. But …

My System: Geeta’s Top 10 Uses for Duct Tape

Who: Geeta Simons — Philadelphia mom, radio producer, musician and instructor at Girls Rock Philly. System: “I use Duck tape for just about everything. It’s a musician’s best friend, but I also use it for baby stuff and fashion mishaps.” By the way, is it Duck tape or Duct tape? “I always thought it was ‘duct’ as in ‘I am finishing this duct work with my duct tape.’ And it is, but the brand I use is called Duck.” And originally it was made from cotton duck cloth. So it’s actually both. Geeta’s Top 10 Uses for Duck Tape: 1. Band promotion. “For taping up band flyers to a telephone poll. Works really well on brick walls.” 2. Multiple music uses. “For taping extra guitar picks to a mic stand; muting a snare drum head or cymbals; keeping the nine-volt battery in a guitar effects pedal; taping set list to monitor; taping guitar case shut (note: don’t do this if you actually like your guitar).” 3. Fashion Mishaps. “For taping a stiletto heel back onto a shoe. (Note: …

Four Women Share a Real “Day-in-the-Life”

If we really look at how we manage our various tasks every day , it’s probably not quite the pretty picture we’d like it to be. Our daily lives are a succession of triumphant wins , mini fails and emailing from the toilet. As our own Adrianna says, “more often like the ups and downs of a seesaw than a constant juggling act.” But that doesn’t mean we’re unbalanced. It just means we each have our own unique strategies for getting stuff done. To that end, four TueNighters jotted down a typical day, or summary of our typical wins and “fails” — in our own fashion, of course. Click the plus sign to read each person’s “day.” [accordion] [acc title=”Adrianna”] BOO! Daughter standing next to my bed at 3 a.m. with wet pants and sad eyes. Time to clean up an “accident.” YAY! 7 a.m., secretly reading the NYTimes app in bed on my phone surrounded by sleeping, hot-breathed girls — they’ve climbed in and nearly squished me off the bed but this is my favorite time of …

Movie Night: Four Even-Keeled Films and One Very Off-Kilter

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here, is our fifth pick will actually serve to prove as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme. 1. After Hours (1985) Director: Martin Scorsese Essential Characters: Paul (Griffin Dunne), Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), and a cast of thousands Gist: Poor nebbish Paul, a midtown working schlub, thinks he’s suddenly hit the jackpot when he meets the radiantly beautiful Marcy, an artist who lives downtown in SoHo. On uncharacteristically spontaneous impulse, he agrees to meet her in artsy, peculiar SoHo for a date he believes will change his outlook. Instead, he gets deeper and deeper embroiled in an ever-more ridiculous series of events and subsequent misunderstandings that leave more and more people chasing after him. Balancing Act (1-10): Perfect 10. *SPOILER ALERT* By the end of the night, with various different factions trying to hunt him down, Paul ends up, er, dropped …

Margit’s Note: Balance?!?

Work-Life balance? Ha. Magazines tell us we need to achieve it — that we need to streamline our to-do lists and apportion our “me-you-them”  time until we get the perfect, world-wide recognized system of yin and yang. Well guess what, not gonna happen. Ever. This week we’re sharing real stories of daily balancing acts, how we juggle and keep the plates spinning all at once. How they come crashing to the ground. How we get by. We’re also introducing a new/ old column. We’ve brought my old Tumblr, “What’s Your System“, into the TueNight family as a regular column.  What’s Your System is about real people’s tricks for getting stuff done; life hacks, if you will. We all have those little tweaks we do every day to make our lives easier, and sometimes they’re incredibly creative, and sometimes they’re incredibly strange. Over the next two weeks we’ll highlight some of our best posts (you can find the rest of the posts in our archives and for now still on Tumblr. Until we figure out how …

How an Unimaginably Nasty Online Comment Haunted Me for 13 Years

I am very, very easy to Google. On one hand, this is great for the ego; because of my unusual name, I’m the only me on Earth! But there’s a downside, too, which is quite plainly that I’m very, very easy to Google. I often envy the anonymity of the commonplace name. When Apple executive Tim Cook was elevated to CEO, my college pal with the same name receded into the vanishing point of the internet. Lucky bastard. For people like me, a semi-annual check of the results of a Google search of my name is a prudent, if not necessary, task. Some database glitch could attach “Cheryl Botchick” to a story worthy of @_FloridaMan, and there it would be for all my colleagues, clients and potential employers to see. Best to head these things off at the pass. Having spent the ‘90s as a writer for a popular music magazine, there’s generally quite a bit to go through: reposts of features, one-on-one interviews, album reviews, music industry mentions and the like. It’s a housekeeping …

Policing Outrage: Are We Too Sensitive About Insensitivity?

Folk singer Ani DiFranco is criticized for scheduling a retreat at a Louisiana plantation. Musician and popular DJ Questlove mocks how Japanese speak English by reversing his Ls and Rs. MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry features a panel on her show that makes fun of Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson. Educator and school reform advocate Grant Wiggins refers to the practice in many schools of separate bathrooms and lunchrooms for teachers and students as “apartheid.” What do all of these incidents have in common? Charges of racial insensitivity, individuals on social media coming together to express varying degrees of disgust and disappointment with the person’s behavior, and, eventually, some sort of “apology” from the actor for any unintended offense. The cycle of outrage and apology for insensitive statements has become all too familiar. But have we become too sensitive about insensitivity? [pullquote]Who has the right to tell another person, “You have no right to be upset about that”? Who has the right to dictate what topics are and are not worthy of someone else’s ire?[/pullquote] Online, …

Movie Night: 4 Deeply Emotional Films & 1 Callous Comedy

In which we explore the filmic concerns of a given theme, and find new and novel ways of putting together yet another Internet-based list of movies. The wrinkle here is our fifth pick will actually serve as the counter argument, the best representation of the direct opposite of our theme.    1. The Elephant Man (1980) Director: David Lynch Essential Characters: John Merrick (John Hurt), Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) Plotline: Well, you have this poor, miserable man with an awful, face-and-body disfiguring disease who is literally a circus sideshow until he’s rescued by a kindly doctor and found to be a sweet and deeply caring individual. Only he still can’t escape the essential cruelty and intolerance of his fellow humans, even as he’s given a second chance. Particular Sensitivities: Emotional. Based on a real-life story, David Lynch’s first studio film treads upon extremely powerful themes. As absolutely nightmarish as John Merrick’s life has been, he remains such a wonderful human being, it’s almost unbearable to watch. Like a wildly abused dog who still sweetly wags his tail when …

You Are So Sensitive! No I’m Not!

You are SO SENSITIVE! It’s kind of a slimy word, all those sssses. I hate that insult. Being sensitive is awesome. Especially, um, you know, in the erogenous way. Were you ever called “too sensitive?” I AM ALWAYS CALLED TOO SENSITIVE! Sorry, was I shouting? Ouch, you hurt my sensitive ears. But here’s the thing: I have sensitive senses. i.e. I hear more than most people, I have a great sniffer (I can always tell what perfume people are wearing), and my emo sensor is set to ultra-high. My eyes, however, they age. I too have a very strong sense of smell. There are pros and cons to that. (Peee-yoooo)  But you can’t be creative without being sensitive. Funny thing: being “sensitive” has a negative implication. Yet, expressing “sensitivity” is a plus. But seriously, I’mma say it again: The word sensitive always makes me think about sex. I see you, I feel you. See! “I feel you” = sex. You get to have sex. You’re married. I’m just a sensitive ship alone on the sea. …

I Spy: How a Simple Game Ignited My Senses

When I was a kid, I was sick all of the time and missed many days of school. I almost got held back in first grade because I was absent more days than I attended that year. I don’t remember the actual sickness too much, but I do have memories of spending time in the doctor’s waiting room with my mother. “I spy something yellow,” she’d say. “Is it the chair?” I’d say. “No.” “Is it the doll’s dress?” “No.” “Is it the flowers?” And so went this looking and guessing until what was spied was discovered. On the surface, this simple game helped to pass the time while we waited. But on a deeper level, it cultivated skills of observation and required us to open our senses and notice what was around us. This rooted us to the reality we were in, which, whether my mother knew it or not, is a useful thing to do during moments of stress. The technique is called grounding and I came to know it decades later in …

The Complexity of Friendship

In recent months, we’ve learned that reading fiction enhances our ability to feel empathy — and even more recently, we’ve learned that reading fiction increases our brain’s ability to make connections. Since we already knew that neural connections lead to increased empathy — bingo! Read novels, love more. I can’t imagine a book that will tug harder at your tear ducts than Perfect by Rachel Joyce, which comes out this week. Some of you may have read her last delightful and poignant novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, in which an Englishman in the early stages of dementia treks hundreds of miles on foot to seek forgiveness from an old friend. If you have, then you’ll know that Joyce doesn’t tell stories in the same way as anyone else. Perfect seems like one thing and turns out to be another, and that “another” packs an emotional wallop. Joyce, like her fellow British citizen J.K. Rowling, has an affinity for people at the margins — but unlike Rowling’s overly complicated and deeply dark attempt to portray those …

Margit’s Note: Why So Sensitive?

We’re just talking about feelings. Nothing more than, feelings. (In the great words of Morris Albert.) And “sensitive” is our theme this week. We’re kinda wondering if we’ve all become too sensitive — and is that such a bad thing? When insensitive statements fuel social media outrage and nationwide apologies — are we becoming more attuned? Or are we too sensitive to insensitivity. (Not to make your brain hurt.) Either way, allow us to become a little, sniff, emotive this week: Susan finds the art of crying and “real tears.” Carolyn explores recent, insensitive racial gaffes and asks, can you police outrage? Cheryl tackles a nasty online comment  that’s plagued her for 13 years. Piers offers 5 movies with feeling. In Front to Backlist, Bethann suggests a few books about friendship. Kristy plays I Spy to ignite her senses. Stacy and I battle our sensitive wits in She Said/ She Said. And finally, TueNight mascot pups, Dailo and Lola, give us their take. Be gentle. Love, Margit

Our Wintry Mix: Watch Margit “Phone In” This Week’s Issue

Hey y’all, This week we thought we’d bring you along with us, deep into the snow banks of Brooklyn, in 10 degree weather. Bundle up, people. This week is all about Winter — whether you’re in the East Coast, West Coast or somewhere in the chilly middle. Bethanne gives us her favorite, cozy-up-by-a-fire reads in this week’s Front to Backlist. Lauren actually does that Polar Bear Plunge. What?! Kim gives us 7 warm-you-up recipes. Susan shares  her struggle to stay sober during one of the hardest times of the year. Jenna tells us what winter is like on the West Coast. Please. Palm trees. Adrianna takes us on a snowy spin through Brooklyn. With award season on the horizon, Piers tells us the best (and worst) movies of 2013. And I need to figure out how to shed my snuggly wintry layer of “extra me.” Think toasty. Love, Margit

Here’s Why I Did the Polar Bear Plunge

Usually, I spend the first day of the new year like any normal person would: hanging out in flannel pajamas, watching TV, nursing a hangover and maybe going to a movie or a New Year’s Day brunch with friends. But, to usher in 2014, I jumped into the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Accompanied by my sister, boyfriend and nephew, I joined hundreds of others as part of the 20th Annual Polar Bear Plunge in Margate, New Jersey. I have to admit that I always thought the people who participated in Polar Bear swims were completely nuts — albeit fun-loving lunatics. Most of my knowledge about them came from those images of the New York City’s annual Coney Island dip on New Year’s Day. (Cue my father, pointing to the television, saying: “Can you believe these people?”) The Coney Island Polar Club was founded in 1903, making it the oldest in the nation. It attracts thousands of zany polar bears and onlookers every January 1st, including my brave Reuters colleague Peter, who participated in the group’s 111th New …