Dear Gentlemen, it’s too bad about this whole feminism thing

image

I stumbled upon a sad little blog the other day full of angry little trolls huffing and puffing that white men had become the marginalized minority, discriminated against, marginalized, and silenced. Between the venomous lines of hate, I read quite loudly the longing these men shared to return to the “good old days” of masculine power and white privilege.

I couldn’t help but want to scream, “You chose this! You gave your power away; you squandered it with violence, war, greed, and tyranny.”

The problem is, gentlemen, that the men who came before you destroyed the status quo you loved so much; they proved that you are not to be trusted with power.

For centuries, we gave you a pretty good deal: at home your woman provided three hots and a cot (made up with linens hand-washed, starched, and embroidered with dainty flowers as symbols of our devotion) and the great privilege that comes with assumed male superiority, and all you had to do was foot the bill and not behave like neanderthals.  But, too many of your brothers and fathers took advantage of these Sevres handcuffs. You left bellies empty, black-eyed wives,  and wounded young bread winners on the battlefield of pointless wars, and so we got fed up.

We warned you with small actions like Abigail Adams’ letter where she urged our newly formed Congress:

“I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

But, you gentleman refused to listen. You refused to concede your complete rule over female education, bodies, finances, suffrage, and sexuality and so we warned you again, louder, refusing to be quieted until full rights of citizenship were granted.

But, still, you refused to recognize our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You attempted to block our access to effective birth control, to reduce our income through unfair wages, and to pass insulting laws and laughable sentencing guidelines against sexual predators and domestic abusers. And so again, we expressed our displeasure, burned our bras, marched in the streets, and reminded you to keep the promises of our founding fathers. Instead, you patted us on the head and gave us Cosmopolitan Magazine and Roe vs. Wade, but you didn’t listen.

That’s okay. We don’t need you to listen. Because quietly, behind your backs, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We started to make things happen, one college degree, one Tupperware party, and one pink-collar promotion at a time.

We became doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and politicians – in spite of your tush pinching, bra snapping, subtle discrimination of low expectations.

We earned spots in your armed forces, even though sexual violence against our female troops was routinely used to humiliate, degrade, and marginalize those who tried.

We bought trucks, guns, groceries, houses, and tickets to NFL games – and you listened to our dollars, even when our words were silenced.

We shaved our legs, or not, on our own wims, and many of you started a little manscaping of your own.

And then one day, after ignoring our requests for millenia you looked around and realized that the laws of physics you’d enjoyed so much, had changed. White men no longer controlled the conversation simply by nature of less inky melatonin and the existence of your dangling participles. You’ve now arrived at the day where you have no choice but to listen to the women who surround you.

You report to us, appeal to us for leniency when you run stop signs, and pay $29 per month simply hoping one of us will decide not to swipe left on your selfies.

Oops! Sucks to be a late adopter then find out the price went up, doesn’t it?

Into Everyone’s Life A Little Motivation Will Fall

Six hours

I have six hours until I need to be on a flight to the UK, followed by three days “on”, a day to fly home, two days of laundry, groceries, and prep then four days in Chicago, five days in Rome, and one week home. Then it’s on to one week in New York, a long weekend in Louisville, a few days of baseball practice, birthday parties, and laundry, a week in Dusseldorf, a week at home … two weeks in Eastern Europe. Then, finally, I’ll get a nice long six week break before I start it all up again.

I’ll earn this year’s Gold Medallion status in just one quarter of work travel.  But, today, I just can’t seem to must two f*cks to give. 

I love my job. I love to travel. I love to pack, and head out on a great adventure.  But sometimes, I love to sit on my bed, with a nice glass of Pinot, and watch Keeping Up With Kardashians.  And, until July – there will be no time for such luxury.

So, right now, instead of going to get the mani-pedi I desperately need, or packing up my still empty suitcase, or tackling the laundry mountain that is threatening to swallow me whole, I am wallowing. I’m still in last night’s T-shirt, snuggled under the covers, too pre-emptively tired to even reach across the bed for the remote control, and Pinteresting packing ideas (as if that will magically fill my suitcase with clothes).

For those who’ve never experienced it, pre-emptive exhaustion is the practice of being exhausted not by what you’ve done, but by what you’re preparing to do. I haven’t yet flown for 15 hours straight, haggled to get a trunk full of sample merchandise through customs, and then been charming and “on” for four days of double-face-kisses and global sales dominance, before washing, rinsing, and repeating in another city, another W hotel. But, I know it’s coming, and right now, just the thought of it is more than I can handle – exacerbated by the fact that following her performance review, the world’s worst assistant quit, with no notice, and an inbox full of To Do’s.

Damn, I wish the liquor store opened before 11:30, it’s the perfect Pinot-and-Kardashians kind of morning.

I

One Day in Rome

The thing which never happens, has happened! On my upcoming trip to Italy I will have 24 full, unscheduled hours – all to myself.

No colleagues to entertain

No meetings to attend

No children to attend to

Just me, my map, and an ungodly amount of Frascati

I’ve visited Rome before, years ago, and after two weeks in Venice, Sienna, Cinque Terre, Bologna, and Florence I found it a sore disappointment: dirty, crowded, and overrun with tourists too lazy to do more than visit the big ten greatest hits.

But, Rome is the Eternal City for a reason. With a history that spans nearly 3,000 years Rome is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. Rome is commonly considered the birthplace of western civilization and was the capital city for the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.

So, yeah, I get that it is important … but so is Detroit; I don’t exactly want to visit every Christmas.

In fact, I’ve always kind of considered Rome the Italian city that tourists visit when they don’t really take their time to research the beauty that is Italy (hence the endless brigade of tourists marching nose-to-tail behind a flag wielding tour guide).

As for my interests, want amazing ruins, visit Turino, want breathtaking chapels – Venice, and don’t forget the art, culture, and food that is Florence!

However, I recognize that I’m sorta … well … wrong.  In 2011, Rome was the 18th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the European Union, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy (which is exactly the type of description that would keep me away). But, people love Rome. People eat, pray, and love their way to Rome and back year after year.

Rome is ruination and reinvention, thriving, bustling, sleepy, and special.  There is no denying that moment when you walk around a corner and come face to face with iconic ROME – the Trevi fountain, the Vatican, Hadrian’s Arch, or any of a thousand other spectacular glimpses into the astounding history of this eternal city.

So, I am putting on my rose colored glasses (they fit quite nicely after a catastrophically shitty trip to Bali, strep throat in Istanbul, and a July heat wave in Shanghai) and prepping for the next great adventure.

My itinerary for one day in Rome:

1. Skip the Caesar Shuffle and the Vatican, I’ve been there and done that. Instead I’ll start the day with a leisurely stroll and cappuccino in Trastevere.

2. Then, I’ll continue across the Tiber to the Parthenon, a visit to the daily markets of the Campo De’ Fiori, and a stroll through the Piazza Navona .

3. After a full day of wandering, I’ll end the afternoon with the Dolce Vita stroll (as coined by travel guru Rick Steves) starting with a glass of wine and snacks at the Piazza del Popolo then a saunter down the Via del Corso and up Via Condotti to the Spanish Steps to surround myself with smooching lovers and that feeling of being painfully alone … for just long enough to make a Skype call home to my family as they settle in to their day.

And, hopefully, this time Rome will leave me aching to return, understanding what those nose-to-tail tour group tourists have been raving about for years.

One Year in Review

The LaBelleValise blog is now one year old.  This blog started as a travel log on all the places work, life, and wanderlust takes me and over the past year the adventure has been better than I hoped.

Here are a few of the highlightswpid-20141203_115451.jpg

Christmas in Berlin

Planes, trains, and automobiles – I am in the midst of a 30 day journey that will take me from the red rock deserts of Southern Utah to the domed spires of the Milan cathedral, from the salty shores of the Adriatic sea to the warm Caribbean waters of Jamaica.

I’ll pause and post when I return to civilian life, but for now, my greatest hits.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Zen and the Art of Sightseeing

image

I am one of the fortunate souls who doesn’t get jet lagged. Perhaps that’s just my biology, but I think it’s probably my approach to International travel.

My Routine for Avoiding Jet Lag:

1. Sleep En Route: While people will encourage you to avoid alcohol when travelling I am a strong advocate for a glass of wine, or two, to help ease into sleep while flying. Every hour of sleep you can get while flying is one less hour of sleep lag when you land; and wine makes me sleepy.

2. Hit the Ground Running: According to travel Guru Rick Steves (and one of the toppers on my Five List ’cause I’m kinky like that) one tip for avoiding jet lag is to start your vacation on local time. “On arrival, stay awake until an early local bedtime. If you doze off at 4 p.m. and wake up at midnight, you’ve accomplished nothing. Plan a good walk until early evening. Jet lag hates fresh air, daylight, and exercise. Your body may beg for sleep, but stand firm: Refuse. Force your body’s transition to the local time.You’ll probably awaken very early on your first morning. Trying to sleep later is normally futile. Get out and enjoy…”

3. Limit Caffeine: On day one, avoid using coffee to keep you awake. Instead, use your body’s natural rythyms to rise as close to sunrise as you can and then call it a night early.

4. Sleep with The Curtains Open: To aide that “rise with the sun” idea sleep with the curtains open so that your body can adjust to the new sleep schedule more naturally.

5. Imbibe, But Just a Little: In a recent article for The Daily Mail, Orlando Bloom gave his tips for avoiding jet lag, and that included avoiding alcohol. Now, while I agree you shouldn’t go on a minibar binge of Tequila and Tobblerone, two glasses of wine before bed on the FIRST night in a new timezone, followed by an early lights out is my proven method for getting a decent night’s sleep in a new environment and waking up on local time. I do the same thing on my first night home.

6. Don’t Bring Your Pillow: It makes you look like a travel noob and subconsciously reminds your body that you’re not at home. But, mostly because it looks ridiculous.

7. Pack Sleepwear AND Loungewear: Change out of your day clothes and into your lounging clothes to tell your body its time to relax; then change again when its time to sleep. Set new routines in hotels to teach your body what to expect, and when.

8. Triple Alarm Clocks: Nothing will mess with your sleep like tension that you might miss a critical appointment. Solution: set your cell phone, the room clock, and request a wake up call so you don’t wake up worried that you missed your alarm clock.

9. Water, Water, Water: Dehydration will make you fell run down. Stay hydrated to avoid wearing yourself down which will leave you feeling slugish.

10. Whitenoise: Find something that masks the unfamiliar noises and helps you relax into sleep. I’m fond of leaving the TV on, at a super low volume, so that it drowns out the street sounds, and those frisky neighbors

The Spring Collection

wpid-img_181077518542952.jpeg

American designers launch their collections twice per year: the Fall collection is introduced at fashion markets in the spring and the spring collection in the fall (a calendar disconnect which makes it nearly impossible for me to speak about a collection without pausing to correct myself first).

The spring launch is out of sync with European markets, which launch once per year, beginning in April in Paris then sweeping through Europe until finishing in Moscow. (Unless, of course, you’re talking couture labels, and then the schedule begins in October, in New York, with Fashion Week, or Asia starting in February).

Basically, fashion is all over the map, and that means so am I. But, when people ask me “What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?” I draw a blank.

Truth is, I don’t visit interesting places. I hit all the destinations any Octogenarian would hit on their Viking Cruise. Then I rinse and repeat.

Least you think I am complaining, I am not! I love my job, but now that I am on the “repeat” phase of the rinse cycle I’m developing a hunger for the unmannecured, unwashed, underdeveloped corners of the planet – corners that don’t buy couture.

image

I’m craving the steamy pulse of Southeast Asia, or the rhythmic sway of South America, or the bustling grime of India.

I want to be covered in bug bites, glistening with sweat, and sipping a cold beer in a warm breeze while laughing with locals.

To me, that means Columbia – the Santa Marta islands, Cartagena, or my friend’s coastal farm a harrowing day’s drive outside of Bogota.

When you travel for a living,”getting away” takes on a whole new meaning.

Lunch with King Ding and Snotting Cat-Beef on a Shanghai Lazy Susan

When Kingful Ding of Shanghai, China (no, I am not making that name up) asked me to be the guest of honor at a lunch in his villa I accepted the invitation with enthusiasm. It’s not everyday I get asked to lunch at a villa in Shanghai, and there wasn’t really a polite way for me to get out of it anyway. So off I went, head full of optimism, suppressing that inner voice that nagged about this being CHINA, and my palate being about as refined as a four-year-old’s.

Throughout the meetings preceding this invitation I was suppressing a giggle every time I called him “Mr. Ding” with his bulbous face and puffy hair he looked a bit like a fat penis head, so I thought “Ding” was particularly fitting.

Yeah, about that palate … now would be a great time to mention that I don’t eat anything that lives in the water, and really prefer not to even look at the ugly little critters, especially shrimp, the cockroaches of the ocean.  I’ll make an exception for steamed crab legs on occasion, only as legs, but that’s really just a vehicle for melted butter.

I walked into the King’s “villa,” which was really just a private upstairs dining room at the clubhouse for his gated housing complex, and discovered a room full of dark heads – none of which were ever introduced to me.  I was the only woman in the place except for the lovely serving girls in their skin-tight cheongsam, but that comes up often enough as a woman doing business in Asia, so I was amused but not intimidated.

The table was pre-set in typical Chinese style with small plates on a Lazy Susan in the center and water goblets and wine glasses at every seat.  I was ushered to a seat next to my generous host Mr. Ding.

Now, I am traveled enough to know there are a lot of customs and expectations when dining in China (there are social mores for everything) but I am NOT traveled enough to know what those customs and expectations are … but I do know one thing: when the host is drinking, one is expected to drink as well.

But does this apply to women, at 11:30 in the afternoon?

Unsure of what would be required of me, I took my seat, set my napkin on my lap, and smiled and nodded through the first round of toasts, taking small sips between each speech that were translated for me to basically mean, “We’re excited to work together. Mr. Ding is basically awesome, and we like your yellow hair.”

All was going well until my host began the dining portion of the meal. The sheer number of plates sitting before us was a bit staggering, and the fish eye that was winking at me from across the table kept creeping precariously closer than I’d like him to be.

“Kindly” Ding picked a few morsels on the plates closest to us and placed them before me: vegetables, pickled cabbage of some sort, and a beef-ish looking thing, all fairly innocuous even for my childish finickiness. I somehow got the first bite to my mouth just as another toast started, took a sip of the worst red wine I’d ever tried, and looked down in horror just in time to see Ding place the fish head on my plate.

The King of Ding seemed a fairly traveled fellow, or at least his translator had told me that the big Ding had visited Hawaii a few times, so I had to wonder, “Is he having a laugh at my expense, surely he knows Americans don’t eat fish heads!”

The rest of the food on my plate was fairly inoffensive, so, undeterred by my American girl in the foreign city (pretending that everyone in the room wasn’t watching me) I dug in, “accidentally” moving my food around the plate to cover up my gill-breathing dining companion and contemplated spilling my wine on my plate.

Lunch continued for a few moments, and then another batch of serving plates came out, another round of toasts, and the small rice bowl beside me was filled with a gelatinous stew of hairy crab.

I resisted the urge to Snapchat a quick “Help!”  when I looked down at the ugly little fellas and was relieved that it was time for another toast, which by this point the translator had stopped explaining to me, having decided to fill his mouth with every manner of imperial cuisine presented.

I discovered a great benefit to chopsticks … dropping.  Anything I didn’t want to put in my mouth accidentally got “dropped” a little at a time, and my serving girl swept it away before Ding noticed I had disposed of it.

But, the wine was trickier.  The toasts and resulting gulps that followed them were getting more frequent, and lasted longer. We toasted the crab, we toasted the lunch, another toast to my yellow hair, if all this celebratory drinking didn’t stop soon I was at serious risk of falling off my chair – or taking off my top.

Then my sister’s wise counsel from a night of too many margaritas came to mind, “If you start feeling drunk, just go boot and then you’ll be ready to rally.” Sweet, solution found! But, I was not going to waste a trip to the ladies just to rid myself of too much wine, this was too great an opportunity.

I began taking lusty bites of the items on my plate then palming them into my napkin.  By the time I excused myself to the bathroom I’d nearly emptied my plate into my emerald-green cloth serviette, and I surreptitiously dropped it into my handbag.

In the bathroom (which thankfully was NOT a squat toilet) I purged like a sorority girl, then unloaded the contents of my napkin into the toilet, cleaned up, and sashayed back into the dining room, feeling rather proud of my quick thinking.

The Horror!

In my absence an entirely new round of toasting liquids had been brought forth, beer. Chinese beer. Served luke warm. Shit! And, another round of who-knows-what had been placed on the Lazy Susan – more food than thirty people could eat, and we were only ten.

More toasts, more helpful servings from Mr. Ding, and the greasiest soup known to man slithered down my throat: sautéed eel was swallowed without a bite, abalone was accidentally dropped onto the ground, followed by more beer, white fish, stewed spinach, more beer, until I looked over at the Big Dinger and saw that he was even more phallic now. His face had turned a bright red, and a glossy sheen of sweat was dribbling from his temples down his face, reminding me a bit of … sorry, I won’t go there, we’re eating here (though the gelatinous salty consistency of our lunch also reminded me of that a bit).

The lyrics to hotel California started to play on repeat in my head, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

Here I was, surrounded by men who were not really speaking to me, all of them starting to look a little intoxicated, pretending to eat/drop ridiculous amounts of food I didn’t even want to look at, and there was no end in sight.  And then, the laughter could no longer be suppressed.  I put my napkin to my mouth and pretended to cough as I regained my composure, and focused my eyes completely on the Lazy Susan in front of me, did that fish eye just wink?

I reached out toward a plate of what in the U.S. I would call Beef with Broccoli and set it on my plate.  I took a bite and it was good!  Really! Tender, really, rich, deliciously good, what joy!

Then, from three seats down I heard it, “Meow.” quiet at first, so quietly I thought I must have mis-heard, so I took another bite, and now it was louder, “Meow!”

WTF!

I looked around and caught the eye of one of the nameless young men who had not been introduced to me and saw a twinkle in his eye, at which point the laughter could no longer be contained. I tried so hard to hold it back I snotted cat/beef up through my sinuses and a tiny little piece flew out, onto the Ding’s plate. Before I could say anything (what would I say?) he lifted the piece, along with the gelatinous detritus surrounding it, to his mouth and swallowed, impervious to what had transpired.

My second trip to the ladies for a boot and rally went down (or should I say “came up” much more smoothly having watched Ding swallow my eruption). Three hours later I made my way out of the villa and the young man who’d meowed at me rode back to the hotel with me, where he apologized in perfect English for teasing me, and explained that what I had eaten was “probably” not cat, but definitely not pork or beef.

Business travel is just so glamorous!

Delightfully Chaotic

“She is delightfully chaotic;
A beautiful mess.
Loving her is a splendid adventure.”

– Steve Maraboli

A colleague once introduced me as “the most fascinating whirling dirvish” she’d ever met.

It was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.

Although, perhaps what she meant was, “She’s a chaotic mess, but at least she’s interesting.”

If I were a perfumer, Chaos would be my signature scent, wrapped in a cerulean paper of make-do, and tied with a ribbon of figure-it-out-as-we-go.

image

Chance and I are longtime friends. The abundance of the universe, combined with trusting my intuition, and a compulsive need to overachieve has never done me wrong, though it has lead to naive hubris a time or two … the limousine with the Irish beer execs, the spur of the moment trip to Calgary, a midnight stroll through Shanghai, even my 18th birthday impulse tattoo all turned out to be charming anecdotes rather than cautionary tales.

Your results may vary, read all labels before beginning any Irish Beer Drinking Tattoo Binges, and if it lasts longer than four hours, call your Doctor.