The Little Red Dress

After my interview with the New York Post on Thursday about what makes me the most desirable single in the city (Disclaimer: I still have no idea!), the reporter sent me an email about the photo shoot.

Now, I’ve had photo shoots before (thanks to many photographer friends in college) but the idea of having my photo taken for all of the five boroughs to see with a headline about being the most eligible single – that just felt like a whole lot of pressure I wasn’t quite ready for.

Or rather, my closet wasn’t prepared to handle.

Quickly, I texted my friend E, who is  a sassy, talented designer for a small label that sells to big labels, like Anthropologie, begging for her expert advice. We met post-work and scoured the racks of H&M, then the sale section of Bebe and just as we were about to brave the mayhem of the Times Square Forever 21, we stumbled across Cache – a store I haven’t been in since my pageant days in the deep South.

And there it was: the red dress.

E and I both spotted it instantly and I hesitantly looked at the tag, hoping and praying it’d be under $50 and thus, on budget. When the numbers almost quadrupled that, I sighed and reminded myself there was always the wear-once with the tags and return option, should the dress be exactly what I was looking for and I couldn’t resist.

And it was exactly what I was looking for: it hugged in all of the right places, showed a little skin but not too much, a sexy back opening, past my knees and looked great in heels. As I stood in front of the mirror in the terribly hot dressing room while E took a picture to see how it would look in print, my anxiety started to build.

I knew I needed to save money for Europe and watch my spending before I leave. I knew I was making every effort to spend as little as I could during the week so I could splurge on the weekend. I knew there were so many more responsible, reasonable things I could buy with nearly $200 but if there was ever a dress that was made for me, this was it.

Forget a little black dress -I rarely wear one. My color has always been (and let’s be honest, will probably always be) red. I handed over my card, caught my breath and vowed that I wouldn’t keep it – I’d just wear it for this special shoot and I’d always have a newspaper page to remember it by.

Or, so I thought.

When I walked out of the studio to show the photographer my selection, she said two words: “Wow. Perfect.” And as I stood in front of many bright lights in six-inch heels, sucking in what I could, standing up straight, trying to hold Lucy so she faced the camera, smile and pop my foot all at the same time – I did feel rather gorgeous. (And a little uncoordinated.)

I could hardly sleep Saturday night, anticipating the arrival of my first big feature in a daily paper, wondering what the article would say and what I would look like.  I raced at 8 a.m. on Sunday, unable to sleep a wink more to the newsstand a few blocks down. When I saw it, I couldn’t help but jump up and down in the street and buy 10 copies, excitedly showing the not-English-speaking vendor my photo.

After updating every social platform I could, I went back to the red dress, hanging up with pride in the front of my closet, the tags still on, the receipt hanging from my bulletin board. And even though I probably can’t afford it – I decided to keep it. Off with the tags and goodbye to my proof of purchase – I wanted this beauty as a staple.

Because everyone needs a little red dress.

Or a little yellow one or blue one. A little something to make them feel a little (or maybe a lot) good about themselves. Besides – red is a great dress to wear on my next great first date…

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This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize! Learn more here. Submit here

7 Things With Tiny Hearts That I Love

When my friends or family give me gifts, they almost always have one of two themes: covered in hearts or miniature in size. I love delicate, small things and anything that promotes love, I will wear. My father bought me a huge gold necklace that says “Love” in cursive for my birthday, and for Christmas, my mom bought a tiny “Amore” on a long chain (in honor of my upcoming Italian lessons!). I also have a heart-shaped teacup set that I absolutely adore and won’t let anyone drink out of (because that makes sense). Most of the decor in my room has some sort of heart emblem and admittedly, if given the chance to scribble on something, you’ll likely see a heart in my poor, unorganized handwriting.

We all need just a small little bit of love in the new year – in whatever form that might be – so here are some products to inspire you:

Little Hearts Necklace
heart-necklace
$11 on Etsy

Gold Love Print
love-print
$25 on Etsy

 

In Love Sunglasses
in-love-sunglasses
$16 on Urban Outfitters

Infinity Love Scarf

scarfy$35 on Etsy

Heart It Ring

heart-it-ring$8 on Urban Outfitters

Moschino Heart Red Leather Gloves

354X490TMPL
$220 at Forzieri

Kate Spade Heart Tights
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$32 at
Bloomingdale’s

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize! Learn more here. Submit here

It Looks Great On Me

After weeks of bipolar New York City weather, the clouds parted just enough to allow a sliver of sunshine to grace the Hudson river. I felt the breeze tickle my back as the light warmed my face, and even though I didn’t have anything particularly exciting or enlightening to smile about, a grin appeared anyway.

With only a few more blocks to go, I slowed my pace just enough to enjoy the walk but not enough to be late to meet my friends at the Boat Basin on the Upper West Side. It was a night dedicated to a children’s charity and to buying (many) glasses of wine in support. When I finally met up with J and entered the establishment, a few brilliant rays of light beat into the patio, putting a stunning haze over everyone. And in my red off-the-shoulder dress, feeling the heat of the sunset seep into my eyes, I felt something that I haven’t felt in a while:

Beauty.

Maybe it’s been the unpredictable weather or my Accutane hangover, but it’s been some time since I’ve truly felt beautiful. Sure, after a long shower and the right spritz of perfume, I’ve felt attractive enough to flirt up the bars. Or at least confident enough to pretend I felt prettier than I really do. It’s taken longer than I ever expected — nearly two years — to shed the lingering effects of the end of my relationship with Mr. Possibility. It took me nearly a year to realize how his snide comments or constant effort to compare me to other women took it’s toll on me. And it’s taken me another year to release those negative words from my memory. For all the good he gave me and the things he taught me, pointing out my flaws was something that I didn’t fully digest the harshness of until I was completely emotionally removed.

But you know, it’s not all his fault. It’s actually more my fault — I have, after all, been repeating the you-must-be-perfect mantra since high school. The song didn’t stop sounding sweet until I finally faced what I didn’t like and well, took control of it. I officially ran my first 10K this past weekend, I’ve lost nearly 15 pounds in the past 9 months and by some stroke of modern medicine miracles — I don’t have to wear makeup anymore.

And sure, those things matter but what matters more is that I feel attractive from the inside out. Cliche, for sure – but truth all the same. Before you can create that simple confidence and bask in the natural, not-even-close-to-perfect beauty that is yours — you have to believe it.

You have to believe it until you actually feel it.

Maybe it’s by humming a new tune to remind yourself that you’ve got it going on. It could be as easy as putting your focus on being happy instead of being the best. Or it could be taking time to dream and fostering those positive thoughts into everything you do. It can be remembering to smile in a city that’s full of grimaces and frowns. Or teaching yourself to look past the faults of others to discover beauty in places you didn’t see before.

However you do it, however long you have to try to find it – once you do, something remarkable happens:

People notice it.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been called a goddess by a barista at Starbucks. A man with a vintage camera asked to take my photo on my way into Chelsea Market because he wanted to capture my glow. At the charity dinner, I caught more glances than I have this entire year. A handsome stranger stopped me on the side of the street just to remind me that I was beautiful. My friends have noticed my clear skin, the freckles they’ve never seen because I’ve always worn so much coverage and a kick in my step that hasn’t been kickin’ in months. I’ve finally started showing my teeth in pictures — going against the advice of Mr. P who always told me I didn’t have a good enough smile for that. I’ve gone out on two quite successful dates with a guy who I’m excited to go on a third date with — and I didn’t do myself up either time to see him.

Instead, I came as myself.

And you know what? Being natural, smiling, laughing, confident and dare I say it, beautiful… it looks great on me.

This Baby Loves Her Back

My boobs were bigger when I was 10 years old than they are now.

Something happened the summer before I started middle school — my mom let me shave my legs for the first time (at our lake house in a bikini, terrified of cutting myself), acne snickered at my skin and well, every top I owned suddenly was a bit too small. And though I had always waited quite impatiently to look like a real woman, when those curves arrived sooner than expected, I wished they would go away.

Having an inappropriate body for a young girl brought all sorts of things — unwanted attention from older guys, untrue rumors at school because surely if my body looked sexual, I must also be sexual in nature. The truth was I found myself wearing a 32 D-cup and sincerely had no idea what to do with such a massive and speedy physical transition. I hadn’t “french kissed” a boy and yet I had a chest to insinuate I was ready for quite more than that.

Sixth grade was really the first year I started cursing my own body. I was too heavy on top. My stomach pooched more than the other girls in gym class. I couldn’t run as fast because my breasts were too heavy. My skin was speckled. My teeth weren’t perfect and I didn’t want braces. The other girls were prettier. They were skinnier. They didn’t have awfully huge knockers that I hated so badly I kept them only in sports bras for years until one of my friends demanded I wear a proper underwire freshman year of college.

Throughout my many growing body pains, my pants and dress size fluctuated too. Following a stressful period my sophomore year of high school, I gained close to 20 pounds and kept it on until I graduated. To compensate for my insecurity, I covered up the extra weight in loose-fitting clothing and cardigans to cover what I saw as embarrassing rolls in every place. When I went off to college, I not only had to walk — uphill, literally in snow — everywhere I went, but I discovered a newfound love for running, too. The thing that triggered my actual shedding of the baggage around my midsection and thighs wasn’t anything healthy though — it was the depression I fell into following that terribly awful thing that happened on my 18th birthday.

And then I was thrown into a dark world of strange feelings about my body.

Not only was it slowly shrinking due to quite a loss of appetite and desire for much of anything, I also felt foreign to my own limbs. And maybe more devastating to me, that power I had always felt sexually since I lost my virginity to my high school sweetheartfaded. I didn’t want to be naked and I really didn’t want to be touched — unless it was a touch of love. And love was pretty much void for most of college. I didn’t know how to get back all of that fire that got me through everything, so I took the advice of someone special and I faked it until I made it. I led one of the sections at the student newspaper, I volunteered, I became an orientation leader and I went on dates with men I knew I’d never actually care about. And inside, I felt like the ugliest person alive. Like this body I had, was damaged or broken, that it wasn’t worthy of what I once thought it was.

But after lots of counseling and even more determination to pull myself back up, I found myself interning in New York and starting to finally feel beautiful. Or maybe glamorous is the right word. My bra was not only significantly emptier but my waist and heavy heart was too, making me feel unstoppable and vibrant in a city that mostly defines itself by beauty. Or at least being surrounded by it, that is. But when you spend your time trying to be social and liberated and basking in the light of a bright new chapter, you also start drinking more. When I returned to finish my last year-and-a-half of college, I found myself staring at yet another number on the scale I didn’t like and pulling out those hefty bras I thought I could throw away.

And so this pattern continued pretty frequently over the next five years… until last summer.

Mr. Possibility was still in my life — in and out — and though he did help me get over my intense hatred of my acne (“Those are only your freckles!“), he didn’t do much for my body image. His love (and constant praise) of those 5’10-and-up skinny, long-legged gals made my shorter, curvier, womanly frame feel unworthy. Unappreciated. Not good enough for any successful man in New York. While almost every guy I’ve dated (Dr. Heart included) has adored the little extra I’ve always packed, I’ve never felt quite comfortable having them like it so much. If it jiggled or wiggled or moved at all, surely it’s not an attractive sight for a man to see.

But in the sweltering heat of the July sun, after a knock-down, drag-out fight that ultimately kicked Mr. P out of my life for mostly good with the shocking slam of a taxi cab door — I made a decision to be beautiful.

Scratch that — to feel beautiful. To embrace my beauty. To accept it. To know it’s there.

And as much as falling in love with myself is more than my mirror’s reflection, a positive, accurate body image is part of the courting, too. I got back into running after a long-delayed absence, I starting drowning myself in water, I went on Accutane to get rid of 15-year-old acne and I stopped comparing myself to every girl that I saw.

That last one was the doozy.

I had been measuring myself up against every pretty lady I passed, wondering if she had all the things I wanted because her thighs were the size I wished mine were. Or her skin had never seen a bad day. Or her teeth were aligned so symmetrically it blinded me. Instead of seeing perfection in everyone around me — and ignoring my own shine — I started reminding myself about how superbly awesome my body is.

And maybe more importantly — how incredible it will be one day.

Now, it can run 6 miles and not be out of breath. It can make it through an intense Pilates session and hit the pavement minutes later. It can endure the brutality of the city and stay in step with the fastest New Yorkers who push by. It’s hand can comfort a puppy who has a nightmare in the middle of the night. It can hold the head of a friend in need or embrace a celebratory moment. It can rock out a black mini and a red dress, and then look equally good — and damn it, curvy as hell — in tight workout pants and t-shirt an hour later. It can curl and go straight, it can go natural or pageant-faced and be just as pretty. Even if the beauty is in the fruitful flaws.

But one day — it’ll even be better. It’ll produce life. It’ll carry a baby. It’ll give birth to that baby. It’ll grow and stretch and sag and wrinkle and change and with all of that, it’ll just get more astounding. It’ll get lines and have scars that hold meaning — ones that were caused by things I survived. Or memories that were worth every bit of pain. It’ll be touched by a man worthy enough to be loved by me for the rest of his life. It’ll be held delicately because it’s precious and one of a kind.

And it’s mine.

So why not love it? Why not be madly in love with it? Big boobs, freckled cheeks, a baby-got’s-back rear end, frizzy hair in all-weather and everything in between belongs to me. And to me, all of it is beautiful.

Getting Naked in Soho

Yesterday, after taking the pup for a quick jaunt around our block, I hopped the downtown train to make an appointment that had me a little jumpy. But no really — it was a trampoline exercise class that brought back childhood nostalgia along with a quick fix for my champagne hangover from the night before. I quickly discovered that while I’ve always had quite the bounce in my step, when I try to actually put some steps to that bounce… it’s not exactly graceful. No matter — I found myself sweating more than I thought possible when it’s under 20 degrees outside, and once the class ended, I graced the streets of Soho without muffs or gloves to get an iced coffee.

When the wind hit my flushed cheeks, I inhaled and smiled at the dirty, yet fascinating concrete landscape before me.

Since I’ve been living in the fog of cold, dreary days and the cloud of a warm, promising someone, I haven’t had much time — or really energy — to just walk around the streets I moved hundreds of mile to walk on. And so, carrying around gym clothes and a book I’ve been trying to read for a month without much progress, I decided to forget about the frozen sidewalks and have a day date with my very first love.

I tried on a dozen puffy down coats because I know I need one, but can’t seem to fall enough in love with one to actually fork over the cash to bring it home. Then I browsed clearance black boots in search of a replacement pair for the ones that my lovely dog not-so-innocently chewed the zipper (thanks, Lucy). I spent a good thirty minutes redesigning my bedroom in Bed, Bath and Beyond, filled up a cart and determined I could find a way to budget it into my savings before concluding that I liked the way my space looked and put it all away. I lost myself in the Container Store because for some odd reason, organizing gets me excited, and I landed a pair of expensive running pants on sale for $2. And then, I walked across some avenues and got naked.

No, but really.

It wasn’t technically in Soho, but at the Soho House — a swanky, members-only establishment in Meatpacking — but saying I stripped down to nothing in Meatpacking just seems very terrifying and kinda dirty. And while I’d love to say that my baring-it-all adventure was caused by a lovely combination of friends who encouraged me to let it all go and some sparkly something to make me feel at ease, it wasn’t that type of situation. Instead, it involved a fancy gift certificate and a massage therapist who knew just how to knead out the soreness in my very tired legs and shoulders.

It doesn’t seem like much of a story, I know — but when I walked out of my relaxing oasis into the women’s changing room, sporting a fuzzy robe and slippers, I caught a look at myself in the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw.

For the first time, probably ever, I saw natural beauty.

Beauty that wasn’t made by Maybelline or lined with liner or pinched with pouty lipstick. Instead, it was me. With some flaws and lines, some scars and teeth that definitely aren’t aligned symmetrically and flushed cheeks from nearly falling asleep from an hour of rubbing. I’ve worn makeup nearly every single day since I was 13, and though my skin isn’t entirely clear yet, with the help of Accutane lately, it’s been rather radiant. I’ve been so amazed with the results and the changes, that I decided I would try the makeup-free thing at the spa. So, I must have looked a tad obsessive, standing there looking at myself, but I realized that in my pure state of just me, I was actually, just fine. Better than that actually — I was, and am, just lovely.

With that confidence, I headed to the steam room, where I decided I wanted to go… robe-less. And though no one came in for me to compare myself to, I know I would have felt comfortable if they did. The past six months, I’ve worked really hard to get myself to the very best me that I can be — both emotionally by letting go of the past and imagining a future that’s better, and physically, by making a commitment to running and putting things in my body that are good for me. Or, in the case of my acne-prone flesh, doing what it takes to feel pretty, literally, in my own skin.

And you know what? Sitting there, naked at the Soho House, feeling the sweat everywhere, I felt so incredibly refreshed… and beautiful.

That feeling, though wasn’t just because of a toned body or a complexion that’s clearing up, it was also from dedicating myself — and the pages of this blog — to learning how to love myself for who I am, regardless of what I have and what I don’t. Who I’m dating or not dating. If everything is perfect or everything is unsure. I still deal with bouts of insecurity and moments where I doubt anything I see — but finally, I’m really starting to see the changes I’ve worked for since I started this journey. The transformations aren’t huge breakthroughs or major events that I’ll remember the date of, but it’s moments like that one, that make me see how far I’ve come.

While I will always have a long way to go, I really couldn’t imagine a better ending to my much-needed time with New York than catching the train home, relishing in my daring bare of a day.