Friday Five: An Amazing Ladies Edition, Plus The Zara Dress That Makes Me Feel “Swaddled With Joy”

After last week’s rollercoaster of emotional lows and cultural highs, this week was kind of a steady slog of work, #momlife, work, #momlife and…sigh! The snow blanketing the ground in layers of white didn’t help, either. I think I’m going to cry if it snows one more time! I’m so dreaming of spring right now; I keep visiting shopping sites, loading up the imaginary shopping carts with imaginary clothes. And daylight savings hasn’t made things any easier — it’s thrown my toddler’s sleep off, which hasn’t been fun to deal with as a parent. Eh, whatever…at this point, I just remember that nothing ever stays the same when you have a child. Nothing easy and predictable stays, but nothing really hard, either. Here are the things that brought some brightness to life, despite the relentless grey…

+ Laura Marling is someone who crept onto my musical radar slowly. I think somehow I got a download of one of her earlier albums from somewhere, and I was into her low, husky voice, her stripped-down folk sound and her smart, literate but not convoluted lyrics. She has the trick of sounding bold but not dramatic or overly theatrical, and her albums have gotten progressively intricate without losing track of her original vision: dark, elegant and intelligent. Her new album, Semper Femina, just came out, and it’s still minimal but emotionally rich, focusing on relationships between women. I’m still getting to know the record, but it’s well worth checking out.

+ Sometimes I think I write too much about TV, but there’s so much good stuff to write about! Right now I’m binging through Netflix’s ‘Love,’ starring Gillian Jacobs and Paul Rust as an odd couple trying to make it work. They’re both neurotic in their own ways, with Gillian seemingly the wild party girl with serious self-worth and self-destructive impulses and Paul Rust as a seemingly ‘nice guy’ with a bit of passive-aggressive controllingness behind it all. I love Gillian Jacobs — she’s obviously classically beautiful, but there’s a sharpness and darkness to her that works really well here. (And also when she appeared on a guest role on ‘Girls,’ as Adam Driver’s rather supercilious and intimidating artist girlfriend Mimi-Rose Howard, which is still one of my favorite character names ever!) I’m not the biggest Judd Apatow fan — I always tend to wonder at the fucked-up gender dynamics of his own movies — but ‘Love,’ which he produced, digs a lot deeper at the relation between the sexes and gets a little more complex. And their characters feel real, and after spending hours with them, you find yourself drawn into their highs, lows and struggles. It starts to make sense why they like each other so much — they seem to genuinely see and accept each other, warts and all. But you also see why they are combustible, because their mutual neuroses create a storm of codependency that just doesn’t bode well for a healthy relationship. One thing I dig is how it shows how people do grow and change, but in a realistic way. There’s no sudden epiphany and then everything is dandy…the characters have insights, move forward, regress, do damage control and step forward again. To me, that’s so much more true to life, and still dramatically interesting and even riveting.

And, as a bonus, Australian comedienne Claudia O’Doherty co-stars as the friendly yet offbeat roommate, and she pretty much steals almost every scene she’s in. I hope she pops up in more movies and shows, because she’s such a comic gem.

+ I wouldn’t say I’m a Chrissy Teigen fan, but she recently wrote an essay for Glamour about her post-partum depression that I just have to stand up and cheer for. Yes, sometimes it’s easy to be cynical about celebrities and their ‘big reveals,’ but I can’t help but support anyone who shares their own struggles with PPD and PPA. What I like about her essay is that there isn’t a big happy bow at the end of it, where she’s basically like, “I conquered it and now I’m totally fine!” You get the sense of the everyday struggle it is to live with PPD, and what a challenge it is to manage mental illness with the usual stresses of caring for a small child, even for someone who is as admittedly privileged as she is. She’s very much right — PPD can hit anyone, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone either. I definitely related to her lack of energy, her irritability and her profound detachment, even in the face of her obvious adoration of her daughter, Luna. Anyway, I wish Chrissy the best, and I really commend her for sharing a unbelievably common yet difficult experience that most women keep silent about. I would like to ideally for our country to have a parental leave and child care policy that allows parents to accommodate PPD/A if they need to, and I would like to see better support and intervention for it. (Honestly, pediatricians should be trained for it as much as OB-GYN types…I see my kid’s pediatrician way more often than I see my own doctors!) Part of that is simply bringing awareness to stories like Chrissy’s — and Adele’s and Hayden Panettiere’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s and others — and making it perfectly open and acceptable to talk about.

+ So my outfit for this week was actually from the tail end of last weekend, but it’s a dress I picked up on a whim at Zara in Chicago. (It’s a bit like this dress from Zara, only in black and white gingham flannel instead of poplin.) I know, I know, shopping + whim = danger zone. Plus, I’d sworn I wouldn’t get another ‘pilgrim dress’ (as my sisters call them) and I thought gingham was a bit too weird for me. (I don’t do well with what I call preppyish ‘Americana’ looks.) And I looked at this dress and thought it would never work on me: this kind of dropped-waist quasi-grunge dress doesn’t usually work on my mama body anymore, though I wore these kind of dresses all the time in the 90s.

And yet when I tried it on, I found it just made me SO HAPPY. It didn’t look too schlumpy, but instead managed the trick of making me feel cute without increasing my self-consciousness. Even the gingham was surprising — it’s at such a small scale that it doesn’t really read as gingham, and it’s in such an untraditional shape that it almost feels a little ironic. The material is a soft warm flannel, which is so wonderful in these tentative springish/winterish days. I get a lot of commentary on it from strangers. A lady at the tacqueria where I had lunch said it was ‘super adorable’ and a dude came up to me at a cafe where I was working and said it was ‘weirdly sexy.’ So there is that! But it doesn’t matter. I just feel swaddled in joy when I wear it, which is the best feeling you can have for clothing, no?

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