The Beauty Experiment

Author Archive

Mama Barbie’s Waterbirth

by on Jan.30, 2014, under gender, nurturing others, self-image, what is beauty

This series  by photographer Katie Moore very gently bends your brain, I think, making the eternal teen grow up. I wonder what this artist has in store for B. next? Curated from Bust Magazine.

See the whole photo essay at Bust Magazine.

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I Like Updike

by on Jan.27, 2014, under time

It’s nine degrees here, but this Updike poem outside the school library warmed me utterly.

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by on Jan.27, 2014, under books

Interesting Huffpo piece on the unwillingness of brick-and-mortar bookstores to take risks on small press or self-published authors, whereas Amazon will sell any old thing you get an ISBN for. I was part of a panel at the Morse Institute Library in Natick recently with the author of this piece, Deborah Doucette. At our house we’ve had many discussions recently about the necessity, or not, of “Gatekeepers” vs. “The Market.”

 Brick and mortar vs Amazon

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The Lady Project

by on Jan.27, 2014, under clothes, happiness, media, self-image, time

Many thanks to The Lady Project in Providence, RI for a great book club event on Saturday 1/18! Wind nor sleet nor mean parking attendants kept us from our brunch/inner voice workshop amid artisan wearables at CRAFTLAND. Good News; The Lady Project has brought their networking, community-building and philanthropy to Boston.


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All the World’s a Stage

by on Nov.26, 2013, under happiness, self-image

In the past month I’ve had two opportunities to talk  about The Beauty Experiment– and the years that have surrounded it–to a live in-person audience. As a writer I’m often secluded in my attic office, with only my tea and my inner editor to keep me company, and it seems I’ve  forgotten how exhilarating it is to connect  with living humans via eye-contact, laughter, and questions!   I spent nearly every semester during high school and college in rehearsal for some theatrical creation or other, often writing my own monologues for the experimental shows.  In graduate school I taught sections of several different courses, sometimes calling up my then boyfriend, now husband John to tell him how  well my 39B section on Parody went that day.

Of course my kids know all about my performative side; they see it on a daily basis, but the universe of adult behavior frowns on silly walks and loud singing in public. Just yesterday my daughter was apalled by an elderly woman belting it out near the granola in our local grocery. Granted, there were other markers of unusualness in this woman, but Hattie’s reaction made me realize how narrow the strictures of public behavior are, and how a healthy dose of skepticism toward them is something I want my kids to have. The larger-than-life self is a very useful tool for everyone, not just the property of professional performers.

We’ll be watching more flash mob videos on YouTube, I think.


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Act While You Are Still Uncertain

by on Sep.30, 2013, under change, spirituality, time

Although this  article was meant to be full of environmental lessons,  the Buddhist admonition to “act while you are still uncertain” shocked me out of my morning stupor. Really? We can go ahead before every stone is turned, every base is run, every outcome explored? Why did no one tell me? Why have I been living for 39 years believing that the only right choices were ones in which I could see through to the conclusion? I find this admonition curiously freeing and comforting, although I might not have five or ten years ago.

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On Messiness

by on Sep.30, 2013, under criticism, happiness, self-image, what is beauty

I’m reading Katie Roiphe’s book of essays “In Praise of Messy Lives” and her literary criticism  has me feeling, all at once, the thousands of reading hours I’ve lost in the past 7 child-rearing years.  I suppose the solution is in reading now, and in praising my messy life that preventind all that page turning, but I get the feeling  Roiphe would not allow that domestic mayhem within an ordinary marriage is truly, properly “messy.” I probably should have had dealt with substance abuse/had an affair/had children out of wedlock/ published a scathing cultural commentary . Oh wait, I did that last one, marginally disguised as a self-help book. But whoops, Roiphe’s got me there too, in a different essay—trite confessional memoir masquerading as  plotline. I can’t win.

In losing, perhaps, I score? Maybe I will not recommend this book to other mothers who already score themselves too often.


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Fancy Feathers on the Men

by on Jun.28, 2013, under biology, gender, make-up, self-image

As an anthropology person, I love this project for putting the sexual display feathers on the men— just as in the animal world, males are often the showy ones while the females are dun or grey. While I’m not ready to give up my teal, peach and gold, these pics do a good job of stretching, toning and re-conditioning the mental schemas.  Note your first reactions on a memo pad for insights into your own bias.

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School’s Out and I’ve Learned Something

by on Jun.28, 2013, under time

Blogs can be interesting.  I like blogs and I read blogs. But instead of  blogging, I’ve decided to import my frequent social media posts to this Blog page. I love participating in the lightning-quick online universe of news, pop culture and current events, but I do my best and most artful writing several steps (months, years) removed from it.  So look for my more polished literary art  in published essays and a new novel; and join in the spontaneous internet interplay of   questions, comments, observation and moments of appreciation through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or tumblr –some of which posts I’ll import here.

Happy Summer!

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Neon Optimism

by on Feb.19, 2013, under time


I have some, you have some, we all have some and probably want a little more on the soles of our shoes, around the inner edge of our eyeglasses and lining our purses and handbags. Maybe it’s simply the end of a trendy trend pegged to the eighties fashion throwback, but I think it’s something more. I had a little run-in with color psychology during my beauty experiment so I’ll share what I found.

“In the final quarter of my experiment, I decided to try out deliberate badness in dress. In preparation for my daughter’s  playdate, I dressed myself in an olive-green shirt and a pair of pants in a browner shade. I wore sneakers; I left the shirt untucked. I felt uncertain as we left the building and fretful in the cab. Later, my friend Corinne asked me “Are you sure you’re feeling all right today? You look a bit gray.”


            When Hattie and I got home and spotted ourselves in the elevator lobby, Hattie’s bright-purple romper prompted her to smile. I squinted at myself with a bleary clinical eye, wondering whether the woman-zombie before me needed a blood-transfusion, some sun, or an antidepressant.

I’d known that color psychology was a big part of marketing and package design (fast food wrapped in appetite-enhancing red and orange; ecofriendly detergents bottled in morally pristine white) but I’d not realized how much it affected me and everyone I encountered. Did I want to feel like Nauseous Kermit and present myself thus? Or did I want to present something, anything, sunnier?”


I think we want sunnier, and not just because it’s winter. I think we wear neon to convince ourselves that we can be faster, hotter, brighter and louder, and that we have enough superpowers for whatever we’re facing. This year, there’s a lot to face, so I’m grateful for the neon-loving closet optimists. They may blister retinas, but secretly they’re trying to save the world.

Note: this post was also featured on actress Liz Banks’ website. Check out her crazy neon kicks here.

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