Monday, March 16, 2009

When Opportunity Knocks, Go Shopping

You are perhaps familiar with the oft quoted, misquoted and herein paraphrased declaration about every difficulty offering an opportunity? And of course the inverse, but we're here to see rays of sunshine, not clouds of gray. 

(I'll be back to the subject of gray in a moment, but first I shall digress as I am wont to do.)

As mothers-of-the-bride a positive attitude is essential. It's the only way to prepare for our big day with the least stress, strain and StriVectin. We have a lot of work to do and though we dare not whistle while we do it -- that pucker business only deepens those barcode lines above the upper lip -- we must approach our tasks with diligence, rigor and probably a sense of humor when all else fails.

Back on message, true story, names changed to protect the guilty and the innocent -- a little complicated, but I shall explain in detail: Surely you expect no less.

In fact, I don't even know the name of one of the parties involved (the MOG) and the other is a friend of a friend of a friend, whom I met fleetingly years ago. No matter. In the official rules of the wedding game -- those to which we must adhere and pretend we're enjoying while our hearts and minds are truly focused on pressing personal priorities -- it's the MOB who gets first dibs on choosing her ensemble. After the bride obviously. (But what do we care we would never wear white or its derivatives under any circumstances.)

Of course a graciously generous MOB could if she wished throw the issue on the dressing table and discuss with the MOG what colors, styles whatevers she might be considering for the occasion thus making the ultimate pre-emptive gesture toward civil negotiations between two disparate families about to be joined in holy matrimony for the foreseeable future if not for eternity. (Of course we hope for eternity.) 

Now comes the "difficulty".  The MOG in this saga, apparently seeing and seizing upon a once-in-a-lifetime radically reduced price tag on a Big Name designer suit at a painfully chic boutique, could not resist and protocol be damned, bought her wedding outfit without consulting the MOB.  She informed the MOB the fait accompli is gray. I'm told no further details were forthcoming.

Reaction to this information could go either way -- consternation and a breakdown in pre-marital relations OR and here's where the "opportunity" presents itself: The MOB, ever the perfect lady and a confirmed pacifist, says to herself, "excellent, gray's out of the running." 

Or if, and this is not the case, she were petty minded she could think: "Merci for giving me this golden opportunity to wear color(!)" 

My friend who related the drama to me the other day said the future MOB is hell-bent on finding something spectacular. Well hello? Of course she is. 

She's thinking dress/coat. I'm thinking fuchsia, vermilion.  Just discovered vermilion isn't on the color wheel because it has a touch of gray in it -- too funny.

Now I ask you, in all those photo ops who is going to pop out of the de rigueur line-up? Someone in gray or someone in say Schiaparelli pink for example?* Precisely.

My friend, a one-time MOB and one-time MOG, suggested she, her friend the future MOB, and I have lunch and shop 'til we drop.

It's on the calendar. I'll keep you au courant.

*Click on pink above and you'll see the color I'm talking about. Walk into a crowded room in that and anything could happen.

*A couple of fuchsia choices. . . Look two is a coat and a dress and a jacket, that's a lot of stuff in one outfit(!). The other is Alberta Ferretti -- imagine it with loads of pearls, killer sandals and a great hat.  (Not that anyone cares or anything, but I'm not taking a fashion position here -- it's a color statement. Are you with me. . .?)

*** One glance at the color wheel tells us our possibilities are many and magnificent.

*As much as I love Meryl Streep, I'm definitely on the fence about her Oscar ceremony Alberta Ferretti choice. I think it looks a little too MOB, an error one must avoid at all costs, or markdowns. Shoulders and shoes are nice though.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances -- For Posterity

It's been well-established throughout, but for those arriving late to the party let me reiterate: Our primary preoccupation leading up to, and on the big day?  Exactly. 

Clearly the lovely bride does not require the time and effort we need to prepare for W-Day. She already has the advantage. Apart from the premise everyone is coming to see her in the show-stopping dress, etc. She's at least 20-some to 30 years younger than we are and no matter how desperately we want to believe 50 is the new 40; 60 the new 50 (and I admit in some cases it appears to be true). Fifty is not the new 30 and most definitely not the new 25, no matter how intimate one's relationship with the medical community.  

Yes, it's all about us.  Of course we'll play our official role; fulfill all our duties dutifully; support our darling daughters through the traumatic labyrinth of preparations for our big day. However, none of this precludes losing sight of our major objective: Our up-coming public appearance.

Until recently I had forgotten yet another argument for why we must look gorgeous on W-Day, apart from the well documented reasons:  ex-husbands; new and old ex-wives and girlfriends; various children involved in all those alliances; friends and relatives we haven't seen in decades; relatives of the family into which our offspring is marrying; people we've never met (and will probably never see again as long as we live) and obviously all the photo ops.  

What did I leave out? Paintings(!)

Yes indeed, an oil painting commemorating the grand event to hang in pride of place chez the newlyweds for the rest of their lives.  Too exciting.

Now this is a tad delicate, but with our usual aplomb I have no doubt we can pull this off with grace and grandeur.  Note artwork above by one of my close friends.  She paints under the name "Bouchon" (when I asked her if I could use her real name here -- because bouchon 
means "a small, rustic restaurant"* -- she said, "no," actually she said, "non" -- she's French.) As you can see these are her naive paintings of weddings.  Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.  

In fact, in the last picture above Andrea is the third bridesmaid from the left in the mauve dress she has never worn since. She and a group of friends gave this commemorative painting as their gift to the bride and groom.

I bring this up because "Bouchon" who lives in France paints wedding from all over the world using the photos and the directions (hold this word in your mind) from the gift giver.  Are you following me?  If we're in charge of the directions, who do we put up front in the painting? You've got it.  And our control doesn't stop there. We can ask the artist to make the following adjustments in her final oeuvre, for example: make us look 20 pounds thinner; nip-in the jacket at the waist; touch-up the hair to a more caramel than platinum shade, or vice-versa; reverse that shocking spray-on tan; make the pearls larger than they were in real life and whatever else we didn't have the time or the prescience to correct prior to the big day.

I do not recommend changing one's clothes or miniaturizing the newlyweds.  I believe that would reflect badly upon us and our raison d'étre is to burnish our image on all fronts. But I see no reason why we cannot request people we do not like to appear the size of fly-specks if for some familial obligation it would cause an enormous brouhaha if they were completely eliminated from the canvas.

A short review of the paintings from top to bottom:
  • Excellent size and placement of the MOB, i.e. front-and-center. The eye is drawn right to her.
  • Well placed, note bride has back turned to viewers -- not bad at all.
  • Iffy, it seems the MOB is next to the bride which is obviously a well thought out position, however we can barely see her.  I would suggest Bouchon darken her outfit slightly. (Who's going to remember?  Dark grey, light grey?  Not to worry. I would also change the color of her shoes from black to something else, but that's just me. . .)
  • Well-balanced with a generous positioning of the couple, but perhaps the MOB could be slightly larger(?)
(*Yes, I know for all you oenophiles, bouchon also means "cork" but that's not the way Bouchon is translating the word.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Details, Details, Details

It's true.  I am relentless.  And with good reason.  Rarely does life offer occasions on which one can not only burnish stellar reputations on all the superficial levels for which we care so deeply OR --  and here is where we have a truly exceptional opportunity -- where we can re-establish, re-create or completely re-invent ourselves.  

Hello?  That day has come (or is coming).

Once again I must emphasize:  Every detail counts.  I realize you may think, ever so fleetingly, all I do is carp, carp, carp, but au contraire. When one seeks perfection, one must be rigorous. We're planning for one of the most important events in our lives.  

Nothing is insignificant.  For precisely that reason, I bring up a subject some might consider inconsequential:  Handkerchiefs.  They are not.

Under no circumstances should your lovely little shoulder bag (in the future we'll be discussing the pros -- there are no cons -- of shoulder bags for the MOB) be stuffed with tissues.

On the outside chance you forget you paid a makeup artist to apply every hi-tech, light-reflecting, beauty-enhancing product that exists and you feel a tear spilling over your lower lashes: For heaven's sake catch it with an exquisite, lace-trimmed handkerchief. 

You see what I mean about details?  A kleenex could be a reputation breaker.  Seriously.  

You will note in the Picasso painting "Woman Crying" (with handkerchief I might add) her makeup is a complete mess.  

Some women have a shoe fetish, I have a handkerchief fetish.  (I happen to know two other perfectly normal women -- well, one is a little crazy, but the other one seems OK -- who also collect handkerchiefs.)  We needn't discuss this further, suffice it to say you will need at least one beauty for your bag, just in case.  Not to be a priss or anything, but a lady should always have a beautiful hanky with her at all times even if it's nestled up against a plastic pack of paper tissues, just for the sake of appearances.   And what do we care most about in this world? You've got it:  Appearances.

Almost forgot.  While searching for handsome hankies to illustrate my point I found one embroidered with the following message:  "This loving reminder, For all the years, You dried my tears."  I guess the bride is supposed to give it to her mother. . . I thought about including the photo in a "don't even think about it" postscript, but was afraid someone might try to sue me.  The others pictured are from the Irish Linen Company.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stop, Slooooow Down & Listen To Me

No matter how many self-improvement projects you've scheduled on your calendar before W-day (you know, wedding day, our big moment) do not and I must request your full-and-undivided-attention here:  Do not do anything rash.

If you do, you could end up with an irreversible regret that I can guarantee will be documented in albums, digital cameras, computer photo "libraries", throw-away camera glossies, DVD's and other people's elephantine memories for decades to come.

Let me define rash:  
  • A new hair color.  (This could be good, this could be very bad.)
  • A radical cut.  Ditto.
  • A fussy -- operative words "old-looking" up-do. (Not good.)
  • No weird nail polish colors.  What's the point?
  • Ensembles that scream "mother-of-the-bride."  This is a delicate subject, which will be covered at length in the future, but I suspect you have an inkling about my references.
  • Coats and jackets that fly open at the slightest movement of air in outdoor photo ops or during a lively dance in which you will most certainly be participating.
  • Anything strapless that requires that exceedingly attractive wiggly-winged jumping haul-up movement.  You know what I'm talking about.
  • Skirts that hike-up mid-thigh when seated.  You may think that's what tables were invented for, but in my experience religious ceremonies often precede receptions.
  • Bottom line anything uncomfortable that has you handling and adjusting stuff all day and night is to be avoided no matter how gorgeous you think you are standing motionless before a mirror while the salesperson enthusiastically endorses your impression.
  • Corsages or any other live flowers on your body (see Dec. 10th post which discusses this at length).  I say "live" because there might be a splendid location for a Chanel camillia for example.
  • Killer stilettos.  (As gorgeous as these Jimmy Choo shoes are, they are lethal in this context.)  You haven't worked this hard to get this far to break your leg. 
  • A badly thought out hat.  Little else will draw more attention to you -- in a bad way -- than a chapeau, so it better be great.  We'll discuss.  (Isn't this Philip Treacy hat fun?)
  • Plunging necklines.  Been there done that.  Enough already.  It's neither the time nor the place and perhaps that chest area is not as taut as once was.  No offense. 
  • Realizing in the cruel light of day (or night) your bare arms days are over, do yourself and everyone else a favor -- cover them. Think sleeves or jackets. Shawls are not an option, they slip off and require constant adjustment (except on French women for reasons I've never completely understood).
  • Putting your face into the hands of a makeup artist whom you will meet for the first time two hours before your grand entrance.  (Schedule an appointment well in advance to see if you look better or worse with your daughter's designated makeup applicator.  If you're not happy, scurry out immediately to find another and try, try again until someone gets it right.)
  • A head-to-toe liquid tan.  (Please see Jan. 2nd post wherein I confess to my most outrageous miscalculation.)
All of this is not to say you shouldn't experiment.  One must.  We're striving for perfection after all and with trials there will be errors.  These "missteps" as I like to call them, must be experienced in private, witnessed solely by strangers or those one trusts implicitly (or better yet those over whom one has some sway like knowledge of terrible secrets from their pasts).

Moving along:  What one must not do is experiment too closely to W-Day.  The national U.S. average from proposal to final engagement is 15 months.   As you know I had only nine months which is why I can tell you with the greatest concern and compassion: Listen to me when I implore you not to do anything bizarre to yourself that cannot be quickly and easily rectified or immediately rinsed off.  Plan well and 15 months --  or if you're really, really lucky even longer -- should be enough time to obsess over every-single-detail until you can say (to yourself) without equivocation:  "I look absolutely fabulous."

And don't forget: I'm here to help.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Re-defining Family

It is incredibly annoying when circumstances beyond one's control intervene on one's well-laid plans.
As the MOB there is so much to do -- and in my case, as I've mentioned, in such a protracted period of time -- I was getting twitchy (and testy).  The digital read-out on my nutritionist's high-tech scale wasn't moving fast enough in the correct direction; my shoes weren't even close to the perfect crystalline beige, yet not quite beige hue of marron glacé I had specifically chosen; and my hair wasn't growing fast enough.  I had more than enough to deal with on a purely personal level. 

Now really, what do I care about my body fat/muscle ratio and what percentage of the number on the scale is water weight? In a perfect world perhaps, but my world was closing in on me and I was simply wishing, hoping and actively working for an overall reduction in the big numbers, not a detailed spread sheet -- so to speak.  (The "more information than you need to know" scale pictured below is from Escali, with it you can see if you've lost an ounce -- how exciting is that?)

Really, I was overwhelmed and felt this was not the moment to be confronted with any extraneous requests or meaningful lessons in life.  I had appointments.

I was busy trying to schedule all the make-up, treatments, diet, hair-streaking, figure camouflaging tricks and interventions without scalpels I could cram into my nine months of pre-nup prep.  I had neither the patience nor the interest in an epiphany.   At a time when my priorities were focused exactly where they needed to be -- on me -- I neither expected nor appreciated life intruding on my agenda.

I still hadn't found someone I could trust to clean my divine, coral suede Chanel evening bag; decided on what I was going to wear to the chi-chi all girl dinner party preceded by salsa dancing lessons hosted by friends of Andrea's I hadn't seen in more than a decade -- I mean, pressure, pressure, pressure -- and on top of all that decisions, decisions, decisions.  Should I or should I not wear white pants to the rehearsal/out-of-town guests dinner where I would be meeting Will's family for the first time and seeing ex-in-laws I haven't laid eyes on in at least 15 years or more, even though I had packed a VERY long black tunic top. . .

Well, you get the picture.  I needed to concentrate on me.

Then along came Catherine.

Catherine is Andrea's half-sister and was her sole attendant.  I had met her over the years perhaps a half-dozen times, briefly and coolly at graduations, a brunch, a huge buffet dinner party, but we barely spoke.  

Just weeks prior to the wedding, Andrea informed me her sister would be bicycling through France and wanted to use us as "home base" and furthermore she would also be spending Christmas with all of us this year.  Was that o.k.? 

Ah, well ummm, sure.  Who can say "no" to a bride who days before the main event was still making tiny ceramic apples and pears as favors for the guests and wasn't getting anything close to her daily eight hours of bed rest?  

So in the midst of my primping the decision was made and the rest is history.  Alexandre and I now introduce Catherine as "our niece" because it's too complicated to explain she's Drea's sister and wait while one's interlocutor registers the word and then tries to work out the family ties.

And it's thanks to Catherine with her infinite patience, that my blogs exist. Truly she has been a life-changing experience and it's lovely for us to know Andrea's sister.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Making Up Is Hard To Do

My daughter does not like strangers, translate -- make-up artists -- fiddling around with her face.

Obviously, this is my fault.  Apparently I introduced her to the wonders of eyelash curlers at such a tender age that she is now terrified by any beauty instruments used to apply cosmetics
in the hands of anyone but herself.

I started using an eyelash curler when I was eight and felt 10ish was an appropriate age for her initiation.  I had no idea she would pull away in mid squeeze and leave me holding a curler with several of her severed lashes.  I give 
you my word I explained AND demonstrated its use before her first and sadly last lesson in the fine art of eyelash curling.

Result of this phobia, we -- and I admit this could have just as easily been a singular pronoun, but my maternal guilt kicked in and once again I went along with the program -- had no professional makeup people doing our faces for the big day.  Big mistake.

Actually, Andrea looks great in the pictures and since all you see in mine is my liquid tan, maybe it would have been a waste of time and money for me to have hired someone to get me camera ready.  Still, I have regrets.  I couldn't have looked worse, therefore. . .

Having assisted on untold numbers of photo shoots where makeup application can take upwards of two hours with non-stop touch-ups throughout the day, I can attest to the reality
that the better the makeup, the better the photos.  And it takes more products than you can imagine to look natural.
Furthermore, I'm talking about models in their 20s.**

My point:  Do not under any circumstances agree to not have someone do your makeup.  I'm not harping, but just reviewing the facts:  We are slightly older than our daughters and need all the help we can get on all fronts.  Am I right?  You know I am.

If your daughter and her attendants opt out, hey let them look back at their pictures 30 years from now and wish they'd let someone apply alabaster, reflective pre-foundation prep lotion; rosy blush on the apples of their cheeks; the finishing touches on an exquisitely arched brow and the perfect dollop of gloss in the middle of the lower lip to create that enviable insouciant, yet irresistible pout.

**This is a photo of my friend Chad Hayduk (who I wish I'd invited to the wedding and asked to save my face) one of the co-founders of the superb makeup line Three Custom Color who is a brilliant makeup artist, particularly with that tricky "natural look".  

P.S.:  If you want the world's best eyelash curler, and who wouldn't?  Except Andrea.   It's the Shu Uemura pictured above.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Brown As A Berry

Into each life some errors must come.  What we dearly hope, however, is that these little missteps are not witnessed, photographed and remembered for eternity by more than 100 friends, family, complete strangers and people who don't particularly like us and are thrilled by any teeny lapse in judgement we may display in public.

Yes, I prefer to think of my error as a lapse of judgement, but actually it was an egregious miscalculation.  

Let me explain:  Normally I never leave home under any circumstances wearing anything not in my favorite color family -- black.  I do have some navy in my wardrobe and a few gray items, but nothing wedding appropriate.  (My husband says even when you turn the light on in my closet you can't see anything in there.  True enough, but everything goes with everything.)
Now, one cannot in good conscience wear black to one's daughter's wedding because of the implied message it imparts.  Being the good sport I like to think I am, I thought perhaps I could find a midnight blue ensemble or a very charred charcoal number. I didn't or couldn't and in the meantime other forces were at work -- friends, daughter, husband -- trying and unfortunately succeeding in convincing me to wear a light color.

Without belaboring this saga, I'll get to the point.  I wore "vanilla".  Why I did this I shall never know.  In fact the woman in the boutique who sold me the outfit told me she thought I should check with my daughter to see if she had a problem with my wearing a color often chosen by brides.  Andrea unfortunately was THRILLED with the choice.  (She cannot recall ever seeing me in anything but black.)

Feeling vulnerable and lumpy I decided I could pop into one of 
those spray-on tanning salons and feel less exposed.  I figured a head-to-toe, literally, bronzage would give me the same type of security blanket confidence as a black get up, i.e. make me seem thinner, at least psychologically.  


If you've never done this let me tell you how much fun it isn't.  You stand naked or with little knickers if you prefer inside a cold, minuscule cubicle while a complete stranger (obviously) wearing a sort of surgical mask aims a lethal looking machine filled with a maple syrup brown liquid at your body and spray paints you from aft to stern.  While she is protected by a mask you have to hold your breath. Although she assured me the product was made out of sugar (?!) I almost passed out from trying not to inhale the stuff.  Then, she set up a music stand with old magazines -- I guess she didn't want me to get bored while I was standing there -- turned on a bunch of fans and left me alone to dry.  

You see no immediate results except for feeling slightly sticky.  When you make your appointment you are told to wear loose, dark clothing.  I recommend adding "old" to the list. As you hand over your credit card -- insult to injury -- you are warned not to take a shower before retiring.  (In retrospect I realize that was my second mistake.)

It's first thing in the morning when you've forgotten you did this ridiculous little procedure that you practically faint when you look in the mirror.  Of course you can't cry because you'd have little stripes running down your cheeks.

To be perfectly honest some wedding guests complimented me on my "tan" but I think they were just being polite or maybe they were lying.