Show Season

I am struggling with some real First World Fashion Girl Problems.

How does one properly prepare for a whirlwind five weeks of apparel markets, black tie parties, runway shows, and endless meetings with buyers?

In my line of work, in addition to all of the professional prep, appearance matters, so I’m needing a head to toe beauty detailing.

My Fashionista To Do List:

1. A manicure that can make it through five runway shows
2. The perfect black strappy sandal and/or peep toe pump
3. Pretty pink Burberry shellac pedicure
4. Eyelash extensions
5. Root touch up for a sunny golden blonde
6. Quick trim for a sideswept bang
7. Spray tan
8. Little black dress and a suburban vamp ballgown
9. Racer-back nude push-up bra
10. Seemless nude boy shorts

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That is my “prep” list for the next week in anticipation of the Fall show season. While my sensible, college-educated, mature self finds this list ridiculous, my inner tween is squealing that I landed a job where personal appearance maintenance is just as important as boning up on the Wall Street Journal’s top read articles.

Golden Rays of Parenthood

I look forward at a horizon punctuated by two golden heads pressed together digging in the sand,
as once-tiny palms clutch a treasure, to be buried then washed out to sea.
This moment, if I am fortunate, will become a treasure as well, clutched in the palm of my memory,
brought forward on future days, when those golden heads are grown and gone.
The sun peaks through the marine fog, and lights their hair with a coppery glow, and I want to capture that exact color and paint my entire life in the shimmery summer hue,
of two young men, grown too fast, and one beachy, summer morning.

To Soar, To Fly,

I will soar I will fly
This world will know who I am
And part of me will die
I will succeed
I will be what they tell me
For the time being
But I will be me at the same time
I will not let myself lose my self
The world will know who I am
Through my intelligence
Through my music
Through some way some how
That is what I have been told
That is what I want!
I will not be content with a normal life
I will soar I will fly, and in the process this world will know my name
Who I am
But in that process part of me, my soul, will die
Is it worth it, do I want to lose a part of my self
Do I wish to let it die?
But I do wish to soar
I wish to fly
I would not be content with a “normal”, “typical” life
I don’t want to be another person just going through the motions of life
But I don’t want to lose a part of myself
If I choose that path I will soar
I will fly

But I won’t let part of me die

– Aaron Burr

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Made in China

It begins, the trip that tests if I’m actually qualified for the job I have.

When Sheryl Sandberg told women to use our power to “Lean In” she didn’t address what happens next. How do I go from landing the dream job and impressing my colleagues to actually believing all the hype about myself? Does everyone secretly believe they’re a complete career fraud? And, does that nagging fear ever go away?

Stamp my passport, it’s proving time.

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Dining From the Kids Menu

This morning marked a “last” for me.  Today was the last time I will ever drop my sons off at school together. They finish out their final week of school on Wednesday (our school years are painfully long here in Utah) and after school ends my oldest will unofficially be a teenager … headed into the thrill and the terror of junior high school. If life had an “unlike” button I would be clicking that thing with ferocity. During this time when my boys are growing up way too fast, I am preparing for a whirlwind summer – Asia, France, the UK, Chicago, New York, LA, and Amsterdam.  But, tucked in between all that work travel we are taking a short family getaway to the Bay. This will be a different kind of trip for us as a family.  One boy is too old for Disneyland and one is too young for MoMa (though we’ve drug them both to museums and historical monuments all over the world). They are both too active for sight-seeing sunset cruises and pretend to be too mature for jungle gyms and playgrounds.  So, setting the itinerary will be a challenge in options – switching things up regularly to make sure everyone gets a little of what they want, and not too much of what they hate. All that in mind, the destination: San Francisco. Jack London SquareSan Francisco Itinerary

  • Day One: Taking the late flight, staying in Oakland at Jack London Square
  • Day Two: Lazy morning exploring Jack London Square followed by lunch at Golden Gate Park and dinner in Chinatown
  • Day Three: Alcatraz, Angel Island, and dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf so that we can watch the LED lights illuminate the bay
  • Day Four: Visit to the Walt Disney Museum for the afternoon showing of Peter Pan
  • Day Five: Early Sunday morning flight home to get ready for summer camp, and summer vegging

Not a Victim

When I tell people about places I’ve been, or where I’m going, I occasionally get “The Look”. The Look is that face of disapproval that screams, “Do you want to be raped, murdered, sold into sexual slavery, and then dumped into a septic tank?”

It’s a rhetorical and silent question, but if I had the nerve to challenge them, my answer would sound something like: “I would rather live today, and experience that life, than live in fear of what might happen, and still find myself in the exact same circumstances in a parking garage at the library one night, ten minutes from my own home.”

Women are safe, everywhere and nowhere.  

It isn’t the traveling that changes that truth, it’s the horrible hands of fate, forgetting the “rules” of being a woman alone that apply in Des Moines or Demascus, misreading cues, ignoring your intuition, or just plain bad luck of stepping into the wrong place at the wrong time.

I strongly suggest that any woman who wishes to travel alone reads The Gift of Fear. Author, Gavin De Becker, examined hundreds of violent attacks against women and found that the single best defense mechanism we each have is our intuition.  Honed for thousands of years our primal survival instinct tells us how to interact, who to trust, and how to respond when we find ourselves in harm’s way.

Years ago, as a victim’s advocate who was called to the scene of a number of sexual assaults, I always found Gavin’s findings to hold true.  The victims always had some statement indicating dis-ease – with a person, a situation, or the way someone had disregarded their earlier barriers – that set off their intuition, but they chose to silence that voice in favor of being polite or “not appearing racist” or thinking that they were “being silly”.

For me, when I travel alone, I’m rude if I need to be.  I don’t feel compelled to politely answer questions about where I’m going or with whom I’m travelling.  I don’t smile without purpose just because I make eye contact.  I don’t chat up strangers or respond to their chattiness without first evaluating my threat levels.

Have I occasionally been socially pressured, or situationally pressured into making choices I’d rather not have? Yes!  And, after the fact, I always kick myself for ignoring my inner voice. That voice was designed to keep me from being eaten by a mastodon, or raped by Ted Bundy, and I should view that voice as my most precious travel companion. But, she’s getting louder with every trip I take, and I’m getting more attuned to her importance.

Knowing that I can rely on my intuition in some circumstances, does not mean that I ignore the truth of the horrible acts that have been perpetuated against female travelers who just had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and experiencing the lightening strike that can be fate.  One quick Google search turns up reports of endless counts of violence against female travelers, with and without male companions.

“A 51-year-old Danish tourist was gang-raped [in Paharganj, New Dehli] after she got lost and asked a group of men for directions back to her hotel, police said. The attackers … dragged her to an isolated spot, stole her iPad and cash and held her hostage for more than three hours. Six of the men raped her.”

“On Jan. 3, a Polish tourist was allegedly drugged and raped by a taxi driver near a main railway station [in New Dehli]”.

“In July, an American tourist was gang-raped in the tourist town of Manali in the state of Himachal Pradesh [India].”

But, the problem isn’t just in India.  Last year when I spent time in Bali, a male friend jokingly reduced the threats of violence against women traveling in that area by saying that I would be completely safe because I was a “white woman, in Bali”.  He ignorantly forgot the world headlines last year when a serial rapist targeting the peaceful towns of Ubud, and the 20-something party destination of Kuta, attacked an Australian woman in her villa while seven family members slept nearby.

“A serial rapist is believed to be behind a terrifying attack on a 28-year-old Australian woman in Bali. The woman … had a knife held to her throat during the assault … while seven other members of her family, including children, slept nearby in the property.”

Stories like this permeate our travel consciousness, and each time we hear them, at the back of our mind we judge the traveler:  “Where were you? Why would you go there? Who were you with?” 

But, just as often these stories take place when the woman is traveling with her male companion. In South Africa a couple was kidnapped at a highly traveled picnicking spot, they were held for 14 hours, and she was raped repeatedly while men from local villages watched and taunted the couple and cheered on their assailants.

The stories are terrifying, but they’re also exceptionally rare. Which is why they make international headlines.  Just as one wouldn’t refuse to leave the country due to the likelihood of lightening storms, so to should we refuse to be limited to certain segments of the world, and only travel with male companions, due to the likelihood of a lightening strikes of a different type.  Yet that’s what people want.  They want their women – sisters, mothers, girlfriends, and daughters – safe, and to them, safe means home.

Women’s Travel Fest, held in March of 2014 was dedicated to the question of “How can women safely see the world?” And featured travel journalist Samantha Brown, and journalist Sarah Shourd who was held captive for 410 days in Iran with a friend and her now husband, among others. The conference discussed women’s travel openly and honestly, touching upon everything from traveling as a solo female in the middle east, to traveling with kids, and plotting a female-friendly itinerary.

But, women’s safely is about more than just conferences and catchy YouTube “Tips” videos, it’s about being safe in our own homes first. The truth of sexual assault is that most women who are assaulted encounter the violation not in some remote jungle in a far away country, but in their own home town, by a person they know, and maybe even trust. I live in a first world country, with first world ideals about the treatment of women, and a world-class legal system, and even here women are not well protected from assault. So, why would I allow the potential risk to keep me within the unsafe “safety” zone?

Instead of expecting women to timidly tiptoe around the world through safe tour bus caravans of Mid-Western travelers on July holidays to the United Kingdom, we should begin by addressing these violations in a real and meaningful way in our own country – longer sentencing, faster processing of rape kits, better trauma care during the medical evaluation process, and believing the victim

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Getting Lost to Find Yourself Again

Each of us has a place, a time, or a talent where we find ourselves at our most authentic – the outdoors, an athletic field, plucking at the strings of an heirloom guitar. For me, “Me” exists best when I’m far away from the expectations of who others expect “Me” to be.

In China I can be vivacious and charming, assuming the role of the cheerful, charitable American; in New York I can be shrewd and cynical, unencumbered by the niceties that are necessities in the Western US; and in Europe I can drink wine with breakfast and smoke a cigarette for dramatic effect.

All of these personas are facets of me, but parts of me that only exist in the times when others expect me to assume that role.

I’ll be heading back to Asia soon, a continent where nothing is familiar, and as a silly Bule, nothing is expected of me. I can loose myself in the unfamiliar sights, and scents, and sounds of the exotic Orient, then stumble into Starbucks for the shocking familiarity of home.

Predictably, unpredictable as this next trip will be, I’ll also find the familiar. I’ll surround myself in the silence of solitude

, the frustration of losing my bearings, and that perfect moment when I find that through it all, “Me” was waiting to keep me company, and guide myself home again.

Trading Gifts for Experiences

I can count the number of people I can tolerate for a 7+ day stretch on one hand, using one address, and the status of two members in that exclusive club is dubious at any given moment1. Add to that list the variable that is a 500 square foot hotel room and/or 250 square foot bunk aboard a floating vessle and my tolerance, even at the best of times, becomes rather questionable. But, I recognize this is my curmudgeonly deficit, and not their causing. Plus, as easily annoyed as I can be by travel companions, my work causes me to travel often enough that it is expected a few bones of “travel-perk-kick-backs” will be thrown their way, by means of a luxury vacation for four to enjoy pre-scheduled family fun, gluttonous indulgence in the finest sugars throughout the world, and room service, at all hours, by starched attendants who respond eagerly to our thank you’s with “It’s a pleasure.”

All these elements in mind, it is decided!  Rather than a gluttony of gifts and frenetic holiday parties, our family of four will depart the cold winters of Utah this December to set out on a 16 day adventure throughout the Mediterranean, by air, sea, and rail.

Cinque Terre

In 2009 the DH and I took an 11 day journey through Italy – Venice to Vernazza, Rome to Bologna, and it was delightful.  We relaxed, we rushed, we learned, we vegged, and we marvelled, then we marvelled some more, then we ordered cappuccino, gellato, and “una caraffa di vino rosso della casa, per favore” and we discussed how wonderful it would be to bring our two boys back, to experience it all, together.

But, boys grow, and schedules collide, and suddenly we found ourselves at that moment where making this trip happen could become a serious challenge unless we undertook the endeavor before baseball practice, science fairs, and “participation points” began to truly dictate our schedules.  Plus, year after year during the Christmas morning gift orgy that takes place on the floor of our living room we comment that there must be a better way to celebrate the holiday as a family, reflecting in our appreciation and abundance, rather than growing it. So, it was proposed:

“This year, we’re taking Christmas off!  Instead of stuff, we’re going to experience the world.”

There were grumbles, there were plaintiff whines, there were melancholic wales about new iPods, and peanut brittle, and the fragrance of pine wafting through the house (that one coming from me in a moment of self-doubt).  But, we held firm.  The best of Christmas can be found anywhere, but one more electronic gadget brought into our house might officially push our sons past the breaking point, and turn them into the weebles displayed on Wall-E.  So, we held firm – a Christmas vacation it will be.

The destination: Italy, Greece, and Turkey
The date: December 12 – January 28
The details: Stay tuned

Related Articles

1. To Italy with Your Own Mob (Star Tribune)
2. Burano and Torcello (Sweet Miel)
3. Cruising with Kids (Tbird’s Travel Blog)
4. Essential Travel Gear for Families (Kids Are a Trip)

1. Said, of course, in the most loving way in a moment when the aforementioned members are not currently roughhousing, whining, demanding, or playing “gimme’s” at the grocery store.

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