How To Be Woman-Smart

Pic from @whatfranwore

There's a big difference between being book-smart and being woman-smart. Being book-smart usually comes by way of flaunting a degree from a fancy university; being woman-smart, on the other hand, comes from experience. Of course, they're not mutually exclusive, but I will say that there are definitely women out there who are book-smart yet possess absolutely zero woman-smarts. (And, if it has to be said, it goes the other way too.)

Being woman-smart, as it pertains to relationships, is a matter of knowing yourself, knowing what you want, and knowing how to get it. What you want to do is thoroughly observe, absorb, and understand what's at-hand to inform an action–not a reaction–which elevates your situation. If you're especially skilled, everyone wins. What you want to avoid is rationalizing the situation, a learned behavior from being book-smart. It's a formulaic approach that lacks presence and clarity, and is, above all else, a turn-off. 

The intention is to wield your womanly powers in such a way that there's always an element of grace involved. There should be little to no trace of aggression or contempt. (Think more of a cat's pounce than a grizzly bear's attack.) She who is woman-smart knows how to employ mental and emotional judo while steadfastly maintaining her own vibe. 

This is obviously easier said than done and I am, by no means, an expert on this. I am plagued with an array of self-esteem issues. I tend to yield too easily to guilt, paranoia, confusion and anxiety (most of which, I hate to admit, is self-generated). I also manage to either get myself trampled on or entangled in emotional snafus. These are clearly not my shining moments, but I'm working on it.

Politics aside, I must confess that I find Melania Trump to be a great exhibitor of woman-smarts. She has an aura of self-assuredness that radiates straight from her core. Her interview on Larry King Live from May 2005, soon after she married Donald Trump, pretty much sums it all up:

Larry King: You worry about women and him–being attracted to him?

Melania Trump: No, I don't worry about that at all. I know who I am. And if a man doesn't want to be with me or I don't want to be with a man...

LK: Goodbye and good luck.

MT: That's right.

Ultimately, it boils down to knowing who you are–knowing that you're worth it to yourself, first and foremost–and knowing when to say "Goodbye and good luck."


The Ease of a Minimal Wardrobe

I have a bit more than what you see here–but not much more.

Six years ago, I had twelve huge boxes' worth of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Today, my entire wardrobe could probably fit into one (if I really smushed it in, that is). I've long come to the realization that I actually despise having to think about what to wear. I've spent the past three years culling the best of my wardrobe and happily bidding farewell to the rest. Getting rid of old clothes feels like shedding off the many skins of the past. It's highly therapeutic and cathartic in that way:

Arrivederci to the many Prada sleeveless shift dresses that I will never wear ever again!

So long to all of my H&M and Zara emergency mistake purchases!

Au revoir to my vintage Courrèges silk faille top that would look so much cuter on my friend Amandine!

At the end of the day, I'm left with very few basic pieces, but they're the ones I love to wear most often. That's the goal, really, to just have pieces of clothing that are versatile and mix well together, then scour for inspiration* to fill-in-the-blanks with for the rest. How great would it be to just pack up everything in a giant suitcase and go, knowing you'll look good anytime, anywhere? 

My current wish list includes: a nice handbag, a nice jacket or blazer, a nice overcoat, and a nice pair of statement earrings. Once I have the baseline covered, I'd like to throw in: a really interesting pair of shoes, a special dress, a really elegant and sexy top, some one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, and well-tailored pants. Adding jewelry to the list might be a little bit of a reach, I think, but I do love great jewelry!

*I've always liked Angelina Jolie's monochromatic, anonymous style; Vanessa Traina has an unfussy yet chic and pulled together look; Emmanuelle Alt and Barbara Martelo nail it with everyday looks. If only I could emulate any or all of these muses...


Diana Vreeland, On Her Husband

He had fantastic glamour for me. And he always retained it. Isn’t it curious that even after more than forty years of marriage, I was always slightly shy of him? I can remember his coming home in the evening–the way the door would close and the sound of his step... If I was in my bath or in my bedroom making up, I can remember always pulling myself up, thinking, ‘I must be at my very best.’ There was never a time when I didn’t have that reaction–ever.
— from "D.V." by Diana Vreeland

The Lonely World of Acquired Tastes

A page from Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook

Oysters, caviar, anchovies, sea urchin, tripe, bone marrow, pâté, testa, blue cheese, chicharrones... My affinity for acquired tastes definitely comes from my mother, who I would say is my original #singlegirldinner muse. I remember very vividly catching her make her own #singlegirldinner for the first time as a child and this has always made an impression on me. 

It was an odd hour for my mother to be cooking. It was late in the afternoon—much too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. I was in my room doing my homework when I smelled a buttery and garlicky perfume waft down the hallway. What is she cooking? I wondered, and trotted down to the kitchen to investigate. 

There she was, hovering over a sizzling frying pan on the stovetop, nudging its contents gently with a wooden spatula. She spooned a steaming scoop of rice into a small bowl and scooted her secret dish onto a plate.

"Is that steak?" I asked, with my mouth watering.

"No, it's something else" she responded, carrying her little meal over to the kitchen table, "Do you want to try it?"

I examined the plate, She had cut the liver into strips and seared it with caramelized onions and crispy garlic. It looked like steak that was perfectly charred around the edges and still pink in the center. I had never had liver before, but I wanted so badly for it to taste like steak. I nodded.

She put a little bit of everything onto a fork and fed it to me. I grimaced, "Yuck! The texture is so strange! What is it?" I had expected to chew and instead it just became a paste in my mouth. I was weirded out yet intrigued.

"It's liver," she said, with a sigh, "See? I could never make this for dinner. Nobody would like it except for me."

You might protest: "But she was married! And she was a mother! She wasn't a single girl!" Oh, but it doesn't matter, you see—it doesn't matter where we are in our lives, if there is a moment to steal to ourselves to have our cake and eat it too... We will! 

It didn't stop at liver with my mother. She had her own stashes of things, like jars of homemade kimchi, blue cheese dip (which, to my own dismay, I once confused for ranch dressing) and papaya (which looks so much like cantaloupe to a child when it's all sliced up). I thought it was marvelous that she preserved her own little world, in spite of having a troop of five children.

Her snacks were particularly quirky. She would pair bananas with Laughing Cow cheese, dip grapefruit segments into chili salt, and mash soft-boiled eggs into stinky tofu so that she could dip sprigs of watercress into the mixture. I've even caught her sautéing ramen noodles with garlic and French's Yellow Mustard, which—believe it or not—became a hit with her friends. Many of her acquired tastes eventually became mine. But I draw the line at pickled chicken feet. That, I can't do. 

Now I understand why she had all of the #singlegirldinners that she did. It's not easy to find dining partners who share the same craving for those off-the-beaten-path tastes; the pungent, bitter, sour, unctuous, mineral sorts. And that's fine.

More for me.