Girly girl

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Dear Daughter,

I’m not really much of a girly-girl. I mean, I am in a way, maybe now not as much as when I was younger or a teenager. I love an occasional trip to Sephora for lipstick, I adore getting manicures and pedicures a couple of times a year (but I despise going to the hair salon). I love purses and love changing them up according to the season. I’m not a shoe fanatic. I like wearing mascara, face powder and lip tint, but not much else (again, that’s different from when I was younger, in which I loved experimenting with eye shadow). I don’t like clothes nearly as much as I did when I was in my 20s, and yes, I’ll blame that also on age, not being as fit as I’d like to be, and the age old excuse of being a mom, jetting around the village picking up kids, in which case a trench coat with a hood (because pushing a stroller means I can’t hold an umbrella) and comfortable Converse is what works best on a daily basis. (That said, just this morning I bought a swirly flowery skirt, it kind of goes with the lightness that arrives with spring).

So I’m not much of a girly-girl, but I am really looking forward to introducing you to certain beauty routines, when you are a little older. It’s a minimal list, granted, but they are things that I think are important. I’ll list them here :

-Brushing your hair at least 35 strokes a day, with a good-quality boar bristle hair brush. That’s one thing I’ve learned, that it pays to invest in a good hair brush. The plastic bristles are not the same.

-Cleansing your face at night, using good quality products from la pharmacie. Never never never go to bed without taking your makeup off first. Also, steaming your face once a week is great for deep cleaning pores, followed by a face mask (I like plain oatmeal). My mom steamed her face once a week with chamomile tea, and she had a great complexion.

-Having fun and experimenting with makeup when you are young. It’s there to have fun with and see what works for you, both for day and night.  But wearing minimal foundation while your skin is still fresh and dewy. This is including and especially if you have acne. Skin needs to breathe. Otherwise, enjoy your youthful complexion for as long as you can (I have only recently in the last few  years reached a point where I can no long get away with no foundation, and even before then I was really pushing it).

I’m looking forward to buying you your first lip gloss (flavored ?) and blush. Maybe around age 10 or earlier, or later. I don’t know. But it’s such a nice rite of passage, before moving on to heavier things.

-I’m also looking forward to buying you your first perfume. Something French and classic, for sure. Coco Mademoiselle or Miss Dior Chérie maybe ? (For the record, if you are interested, my first perfume was L’air du temps by Nina Ricci.)

-On my seventh birthday, my mom gave me some jewelry she had been keeping for me, a little pink heart necklace and matching bracelet, with my aunt’s initials on it. I’m looking forward to passing this on to you as well. She would give me jewelry every so often, every couple of years or something. I don’t remember exactly now, it’s just the seventh birthday that sticks out in my head. But maybe I can make a schedule of what I’m going to give you on which birthdays.

-Your grandma, my mama, always had beautiful hands and nails. This was her signature. Her nails were always, always, always perfectly manicured, with absolutely no polish chipped. She always did her nails once or twice a week. She moisturized her hands religiously with a basic cucumber lotion that she bought in bulk from CVS.

(She once told me a story of being in business class on an LA-Paris Air France flight, and putting lotion on her hands mid-flight. She looked up to notice an elegant French woman watching her. The woman said « Ca sent bon », so my mother offered the woman some, which she gladly accepted. My mother thought it was amusing that this elegant woman was so impressed with the smell of a generic pharmacy lotion).

On her hospital bed when she passed, one of the most distressing things for me was to see that they had taken off her nail polish. I still wonder if I should have asked them if I could paint her nails. I sometimes wonder if that bothered her, or if she had other things on her mind…

…anyway, sorry Daughter, this is meant to be a light-hearted post, I don’t want to go off on a sad topic. I wanted to say that I haven’t really inherited my mother’s talent for beautiful nails, but that I think keeping them filed and buffed once a week is a minimum. And all that said, I do absolutely love nail polish, especially painted toes in the summer time. There is nothing like catching a glimpse of painted pink (or blue, or purple) toenails peeping out from sandals on a warm day, to give you a boost.

My mom also dyed her hair red from the age of about 35 or so. That’s what she once told me anyway. I think she started out dying it auburn, and by the end of her life she was a full-blown redhead. It suited her.

I seem to be taking after her in that regard. I’ve started dyeing my hair again now that I’ve reached the age where I can no longer get away with not doing it. When I was in my late teens and 20s, I was a hair color fanatic. Everything from gothic black to strawberry blond to purplish burgundy, to Manic Panic colors. Oh Daughter, I had so much fun with hair color.

Then around age 27, I decided to stop dying my hair, due to what Momie telling me about haivng to start dyeing her hair at the age of 35 due to going gray. I decided I might as well enjoy my natural light brown color while I could. I remember that the last time I dyed my hair was on September 10th, 2001, the night before September 11th. I was living in San Francisco at the time, but had come back that day from a trip to San Diego to visit my aunt. (Man, was I lucky my flight wasn’t the next day) . Anyway, for some reason even after traveling that day, I felt like coloring my hair. So I did a box of dye, I think it was auburn, and did not touch hair dye for another eleven years, until it became no longer possible to avoid.

Anyway, all that to say that I seem to be following my mother’s hair dye evolution. Starting out with auburn in my late 30s, and who knows how fire-engine red it will end up being.

-Drinking water is very good for your complexion. Smoking is bad for your complexion. Yoga and sleep are also very good for your complexion.

-Every morning upon waking, drink a glass of room temperature water with a quarter lemon squeezed in. Great for rehydrating after the night. In the evening, herbal tea offers relaxation and a final bedtime drink before bedtime. I like a mix of lemon balm and lavender blossoms, sometimes with mint or chamomile thrown in.

-Face gymnastics:  This is something I have learned from living in France, where many women do this. You’ll feel pretty silly doing it, but it’s relaxing and feels good after a night’s sleep. Supposedly, it’s good for avoiding wrinkles and tightening the face. Daughter, I can’t tell you yet if it works or not, time will tell.

In any case, every morning upon waking, you silently do the vowels, exaggerating each one: A-E-I-O-U. On the “I”, you stick your tongue out as far as you can and squint your eyes. On the “O”, you roll your eyes in a circle, both ways, as far as you can. Hold each vowel for ten or twenty seconds. I recommend doing this in the bathroom with the door closed. Although that said, it’s true that when I do it in front of you and your brother, you both find it hilarious and try to imitate me.

In yoga, Lion Pose offers similar benefits. It is also a good way to let off tension right before going into a meeting with someone who intimidates you.

-Finally, I hope to instill in you (and your brother as well) the importance of exercise. Daughter, I did ballet as a girl and I have every intention of signing you up for it too. I don’t know if you will like ballet and you know what, that’s totally ok if you don’t. I would be happy if you did it for a few years, because I found that it really helps with grace and posture, and sets the stage for being active and limber for the rest of your life. For me, ballet turned into yoga about ten years ago, which was a good evolution for me. But yes, I can’t wait to put you in a tutu and little ballet slippers.

I guess there’s a bit of girly-girl in me after all.

P.S. Here are some products I really love:

Simple Nivea creme

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse

Avène face products and La Roche Posay Cold Cream

Clinique mascara. My mother always bought Clinique products, including the Dramatically Different lotion, and whenever she would get a gift, she would give me some of the things, including the makeup bag and the mascara. I still have enough mascara to last me till 2017.

Chanel Chance perfume

Lierac eye creams

Essie Nail Polish

Klorane Dry Shampoo with oat milk

Smith’s Rosebud Salve which I haven’t yet found in France, but I stock up when we go to the US

I would also like to tell you, Daughter, that my mom cleansed her face every night with Noxema creme for about 30 years, and she had glowing skin with very few wrinkles right up to when she passed. At her memorial, two of my childhood friends told me they now use Noxema thanks to my mother. This warms my heart. It’s not available in France but I like buying a jar in North America and especially using it in the summertime, when it’s very refreshing.

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