The Mouseburger Chronicles

A couple of years ago, I went looking for a copy of Having It All by Helen Gurley Brown after seeing it mentioned in Lena Dunham's own memoir-slash-self-help book, Not That Kind of Girl:

When I found her book, I did not yet understand Helen Gurley Brown’s position in the canon, that she had been written about and reacted to by the women who would come to guide me, women like Gloria Steinem and Nora Ephron ... All I knew was that she painted a picture of life made much richer by having once been, as she calls it, a Mouseburger: unpretty, unsocial, unformed. She believed that, ultimately, Mouseburgers are the women who will triumph, having lived to tell the tale of being overlooked and under loved. Hers is a self-serving perspective, but one I needed more than anything. Maybe, as Helen preached, a powerful, confident, and, yes, even sexy woman could be made, not born. Maybe.

Admittedly, I still haven't read Lena's book in its entirety because I found myself more intrigued by her original source of inspiration: Helen Gurley Brown, the real deal herself. Helen, the legendary editor of Cosmo, was fearless when it came to talking sex, careers and her brand of girl power, which encourages young women to go experience life to its fullest before settling down. This, according to her, sometimes included taking on a married lover. (Well! She wasn't a controversial figure without reason!)

Her book is written as though you're sitting down to lunch with your very fabulous and very confident mentor. I can just imagine her wearing a pink Chanel skirt suit with coiffed hair, speaking dramatically with expressive eyes and hand gestures while occasionally pushing around the salad on her plate with a fork to trick you into thinking she's actually eating. She's Yoda–but in a very Legally Blonde kind of way.

As you flip through the book, her nuggets of wisdom jump out as bold headlines:




Each section contains powerful insights and refreshing new perspectives, as well as appalling and endlessly amusing pieces of advice. ("At any rate, after someone has made love to you with skill and grace, an orgasm is a way of saying you enjoyed yourself, even as you compliment a host on a wonderful spinach quiche.") It's one of my most cherished books. I find myself coming back to it again and again. The fact that she goes out on a limb and is unabashedly herself at all times is highly inspiring.

The book begins by examining what a "mouseburger" is: "...people who are not prepossessing, not pretty, don't have a particularly high IQ, a decent education, good family background or other noticeable assets." This is not seen as a problem, however; to her, it's a launch pad. She includes a brief quiz to help you determine whether or not you qualify. Mouseburgers, you see, are self-assured in their own cleverness. They're intuitive, observant and possess a bottomless reserve of drive. They're the embodiment of infinite potential. If you are one, all you need to do in order to "have it all" is simply apply yourself. With her book, you can mouseburger your way to the top!

To date, I have now purchased a total of three copies of this book. My boyfriend's daughter was reading it when she came to the ranch for the Christmas holidays a few years ago. She was so engrossed in it that I gifted my cherished copy to her. It didn't take me very long before I replenished my personal library with another copy for myself! It's one of those books that makes you want to spread its gospel to worthy friends. A couple of years ago, I showed it to my friend Aura and she took to it instantly. She's been referring to the two of us as "mouseburgers" ever since. 

I decided to surprise Aura with her own copy last week when we met for lunch at Croft Alley. She was overjoyed and hugged it to her chest. After lunch, we wandered along Melrose Place and went to Violet Grey, where she stood in awe of the store's innate glamour. "You've never been here before?" I asked. She shook her head. "This company was built by a mouseburger!" I whispered proudly.

Violet Grey

8452 Melrose Place

I, myself, do not wear a ton of makeup on a daily basis, but I love experimenting with new products and absolutely cannot resist a beauty counter. When I was living in New York, I'd pop into Sephora on my way home from work every day out of sheer habit. At one point, a sales associate congratulated me on becoming a "VIB Rouge Member." I asked her what that meant and she said: "It means you spend a lot of money here."

When I moved to the ranch in 2013, I was immersed in the mundane of country living and felt robbed of my secret pleasures–playing with makeup being one of them–so, after a year, I mustered up the courage to tackle the four-hour drive to L.A. alone, in hopes of reconnecting with my former self. (Me, the New Yorker, who had not been behind a wheel for thirteen years!)

Enter: Violet Grey, the brilliant editorial website-cum-boutique that was hatched from the mind of its founder Cassandra Huysentruyt Grey. Inspired by Old Hollywood glamour, this beauty Mecca showcases the crème de la crème from the industry's leading makeup artists and stars, and it's located smack-dab in the middle of Melrose Place which is, in my opinion, the chicest street in all of Los Angeles.

Stepping into this tastefully curated atelier was akin to being in Coco Chanel's opulent apartment. Everything felt intensely exquisite and luxurious. Every jar and compact and tube of lipstick was displayed like jewelry. There's also a marvelous vintage Murano glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling that looks as though hundreds of white flowers are on the cusp of showering down on you.

I think I must've swanned around in the store for about two hours, trying on everything cream, mascara and lipstick within reach, and the girls there couldn't have been more welcoming. Wouldn't it be fabulous if I had a pièd-a-terre in Paris that looked like this? Thank you, Violet Grey, for the tactile fantasy.