A Few of My Favorite Things

Sure, the holidays are over (and thank God for that!), but there’s always time to stop and reflect on things in our lives that just make everything better. So without further ado, here’s a list of my favorite things.

1. Free (!) cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. I sure am glad I don’t live close to a GTown location, because otherwise I’d have more trouble keeping the pounds off than I already do. So every day, GTown tweets and posts a Facebook status with its not-on-the-menu flavor. If you ask for it at the counter, the clerks will give you one from 100 the store gives out every day. How sweet (literally!) is that? I went twice like week for a peanut butter and chocolate blend (It’s heavenly. GTown really does have the best PB frosting ever. It’s got that bitter taste of the peanuts, but it’s creamy enough to remind you it’s still frosting. I’m starting to salivate just thinking about it.) and a white chocolate peppermint mix (peppermint is my favorite–especially during the holidays). If you’re ever near a GTown, be sure to get a free one.

2. Speaking of peppermint, Twisted Peppermint by Bath & Body Works is my new favorite scent. It smells refreshing and just makes me feel more awake when I use it. The lotion even tingles when you put it on. And even though it smells strong when you first apply/smell it, it’s got this subtle vanilla flavor that lingers after you’ve left it on for a while.

3. The water. I NEVER thought I’d ever love the water. My summers as a kid were spent dreading showing my body in a bathing suit–I’ve got a stylish one from Athleta that I love wearing now–when I was at the pool so I have a pretty negative association with it. But then I hurt me knee. Since it was painful for me to do any weight-bearing exercises (thankfully I’m almost healed), the water was my best option. And even though I still hate the chlorine smell (it just won’t come off, goddamnit), I really do love the water. It’s the only truly pain-free exercise out there. I love that it’s naturally resistant and easy on my joints. And I enjoy the long, warm post-workout shower plus applying tons of lotion after that.

4. Cherry Bombe. This indie magazine really is the bombe (see what I did there?), but I’m not exaggerating here. The book is printed on thick, luxurious paper that makes the magazine nerd in me swoon. But best of all is the content. It’s packed with gorgeous, I-wish-I-could-pluck-that-cupcake-right-off-the-page photos. The text appreciates and celebrates women, food and fashion. Maybe you think those things don’t go together, but they do, and beautifully so, in this gem of a publication. And it’s intelligent to boot. Plus, with so many websites focusing on critiquing food, it really is refreshing to see a publication that’s so positive. Get yourself to your nearest bookstore STAT to snag your copy. It really has reinvigorated my love of magazines. And I was sure that wasn’t possible.

5. Death Cab for Cutie. I’ve loved this band since 2005’s Plans. This album became my own personal soundtrack for my last year of high school and will always hold a special place in my musical heart (say awe, everybody). I first heard “Summer Skin” on the radio and the rest is history. I’m writing about the band because I’ve been listening to its older works and falling in love all over again. Even though Plans will always be my favorite, I officially adore Transatlanticism’s “Title and Registration” in addition to a handful of other tracks from that critically beloved CD. If you’re not familiar with the artist (and you should be), it’s a mix of poetic-lyrics, innovative piano/electric guitar sounds and upbeat tracks set with melancholy subjects. It’s both optimistic and sad and unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. I must see this group live; If only they’d get on releasing a new album and touring.

6. Covergirl’s Perfect Penny rose gold nail polish. I’m a bit of a nail polish freak. OK, I’m a huge nail polish freak. But recently Butter London posted a photo of its rose gold nail polish, and I had to have to have it. Except I don’t (let’s be real here). And Butter London charges $15 a pop for each bottle. So that’s why I had to have Covergirl’s version of it for about $10 less. Let’s be honest, it’s probably the same stuff anyway. I’m just happy to have a winter color that isn’t red or green on hand.

7. lululemon’s In the Flow crops. This brand has received a ton of flack recently, but I still love it to death. The company’s best pieces are innovative, stylish and ultimately motivate me to get to the gym. These crops are an example of lulu at its prime. They’re seamless and somehow manage to make my legs look leaner and slimmer.

I hope your life is equally filled with things you love too.

The Best $8 I Ever Spent

photo_handswithbluepolishYes, yes, this is another beauty post about a product I adore. But this one is special. This time last week, I decided to take one day off during the week as I worked throughout most of the previous weekend. I saw “Silver Linings Playbook” in the morning (great movie, by the way) and then went on a “hunt” to find Essie’s Mint Candy Apple shade of nail polish. I saw this ad in a couple of magazines and could not get over it. The nail polish (which is the perfect blend of mint and turquoise) was shown dripping all over an apple, and I had to have it. Ah, the power of advertising.

So I drove to Target, two CVSs (who had cardboard displays featuring the shade, but not the product itself) and finally found the last bottle of it at Walgreens. And it’s just perfect. It reminds me that spring is coming even though winter is still lingering around.

I’ve gotten numerous compliments on it. Someone told me that it was the perfect shade of robin’s egg blue and made her think of spring. It just goes to show you that sometimes you just need a little retail therapy to brighten your day. Sure, $8 is a lot to spend on a tiny bottle of nail polish, but this one was worth every penny.

photo-bottleofnailpolish

Why I Love and Loathe HBO’s “Girls”

I’ve never wanted to like or connect with a show as much as HBO’s “Girls.” I thought this would be the perfect show for me. That it would speak to me like nothing else. I watched a handful of interviews with its creator, director and actress, Lena Dunham, and figured that I could relate to a show that a slightly overweight, awkward white girl had created. I interned in New York City three times and know first-hand what it feels like to be young, ambitious and a failure. But all the high expectations I had had for the show are probably why I didn’t end up liking it.

Now, before I launch into my criticisms of the show, I do think it’s solid entertainment. It’s funny, insightful and different. (SPOILER ALERT) For instance, I enjoyed watching the lead character Hannah’s ex come out to her as gay. This has happened to friends of mine, is perfectly normal and an issue worth covering. It also was hysterical. I also loved Shoshanna’s character. Although she is irritating and exaggerated, it’s nice that it shows that not all young people are hook-up obsessed and can be thoughtful.

One of the most common arguments against the show is that Dunham is not your typical starlet and is overweight. This is the dumbest critique of “Girls.” Dunham is maybe ten pounds overweight and apparently this is just too much for people to take. They need to get over that. Fast. With so much of the American population overweight and obese, you’d think viewers would be used to seeing larger Americans, but apparently not. But hopefully “Girls” will change that. I’d love to see more real-looking women on the big and small screens and maybe that will happen. However, although Dunham herself may not look your average Hollywood starlet (plus one for the show’s authenticity factor), the rest of the cast, for the most part, could be models.

When most people attack “Girls” what they usually bring up the fact that the main cast all have famous, well-to-do parents, unlike the characters they are portraying. And what most people are questioning about the show is its authenticity. And they’re right to do so.

“Girls” wants to feel real. And to some extent, it does achieve this. The show portrays fights among friends, an almost-hookup a nanny has with the father of a family and awkward sex sessions with a refreshing take. However, the show is too narrow-minded. The characters almost always pick the most humiliating choices for themselves. That’s why Marnie smears cake all over hers and the man she’s flirting with face during the season finale’s wedding. That’s why Dunham lets herself primarily be shown in the nude having sex, taking topless pics or lying on the gynecologist’s table. However, Dunham was smart enough to realize that humiliation sells. It’s the formula that has lasted reality TV for so long. However, we shouldn’t necessarily call a script that puts its characters in humiliating places as innovative or brave. I don’t hear anyone calling Honey Boo Boo or Snooki brave, but they humiliate themselves regularly to gain attention. Plus, simply showing Dunham’s nude, slightly overweight, not really toned nude body on TV doesn’t make something more real. Sure, it’s different, but it’s not innovative.

But what really bothers me about “Girls” is how it portrays its central cast. If it really does want to have a generational appeal (and judging from the “voice of a generation” joke, it probably does), it fails too short. None of them are shown as being ambitious, driven women (it’s not like everyone is those things or even needs to be, but most post-college young people are looking to further their careers or make one for themselves), but chances are pretty high that Dunham herself is. She’s probably fairly ambitious and savvy to convince HBO to give her her own show after just one fairly successful film. And it’s a shame that she chose to create characters that don’t reflect that. She chose to create bumbling, idiotic, self-centered women. She chose humiliation over reality because that’s what sells.

I have trouble accepting “Girls” as authentic when its obvious that its creator and cast are not leading the lives they are portraying on screen. Dunham is a 26-year-old millionaire who has a mother who once sold work to Jay-Z, went to an expensive high school and college, and, as far as what’s been reported, has never held a job outside of filmmaker. When people bring up the “you shouldn’t criticize children of famous people because that’s the life they were born into,” they always mention people like Sean Penn, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie and say, “You wouldn’t criticize those artists simply because of their backgrounds.” However, the difference between them and Dunham is that none of those aforementioned artists tried to make work that attempts to so accurately capture what it means to be a confused twenty-something navigating the adult world. Now, you might say that it’s not fair to use an artists’ personal background and judge their work against it. However, in the case of “Girls,” I think it would be impossible to ignore Dunham’s own life.

She discusses in interviews how she draws from her own personal experiences and uses it as creative fuel. Most artists do this for a variety of reasons, but one key one is that good art is usually seen as sincere. Something that came from a pure, human experience that many consumers can relate to. “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner (I realize comparing “Girls” to TV’s most gorgeous, brilliant TV show isn’t fair, but bare with me for the sake of the argument) talks about how he conceived of the idea for “Mad Men” when he “had it all”—a great job as a “Sopranos” screen writer, a wife and family—but still felt unsatisfied with his life and how he cast the show using actors who had been working for years but never achieved mainstream success so they could bring their knowledge of what it means to struggle professionally to the screen. I have no doubt that he shared this to add authenticity to the show. Weiner or any of the actors never worked in advertising in the 60s, but they can bring their own very real emotions to their parts and viewers can, and have, heavily connected with it. Honesty is powerful.

But with “Girls,” Dunham conveniently leaves out the part where she got so damn successful so fast. She recently bought a half-a-million dollar apartment in Brooklyn, signed a more-than-three-million dollar book deal and has a hit show on HBO. Dunham has triumphed in the adult world and has had more success and made more money than most of its viewers ever will. And somehow I’m supposed to believe she understands what it feels like to be me?

I also find that some of her humor is tasteless. Her “voice of a generation” joke wasn’t funny. A title of generational spokesman is always given, it’s not joked about and not something an artist calls herself. But the jokes that really bothered me were how she portrayed the lead character Hannah in the workplace. If Dunham’s character Hannah really wants to succeed in the workplace, she does a piss-poor job of showing it. And it’s a real shame that she decides to portray young people like this when she herself is probably pretty savvy. Plenty of people my age work hard for what they have. But Dunham’s makes it seem as if the reason why young people have trouble holding jobs is because they’re all idiots—which is downright insulting. As someone who has spent more time crying in office-building bathrooms because of an assignment gone wrong, taking on countless mind-numbing assignments to please an editor and at the age of 23, had seen layoffs, one firing and had been laid off, I feel insulted that she would do this. Especially when she herself is a member of my generation who (probably) does work hard.

As a young twenty-something that this show is clearly targeting, I just can’t accept this as sincere. I just can’t accept it as real when it’s so clearly lacking the authenticity department. It’s defeated by its own success. Dunham and the cast has made it, and I’m not sure that they know how it feels to be me or millions of others like me. “Girls” is a good show. It will never be great.