My Eye is the Beholder

My southern upbringing, every journalism class I ever took, and each article written about what to do on a first date or when attempting to pick up a dude, have all taught me an important lesson:

Always look someone in the eyes.

Seems simple enough and typically, I’ve followed this rule of thumb throughout my love and career life, and I have always utilized its full effect from across dimly-lit parties in midtown. Somehow when striking up a conversation or luring someone into your presence is easier when you not only come across as confident and secure, but when the other person feels like they can trust you. Maintaining eye contact is a non-verbal way of saying, “Hey you, I’m listening to you. I’m understanding what you’re saying. Keep looking at my baby blues and keep talking – you can feel comfortable around me.”

I’ve never been coy or shy and at times, I could probably use a little more reservation, but keeping a friend, a man’s, or a source’s attention hasn’t been a difficult task for me. Those who know me would credit this fact to my outgoing personality, the self-assurance I carry as easily and frequently as my purse, and to my fearless, relentless spirit. But perhaps there is a secret weapon that gives me an extra burst of boldness:


Now, before I start sounding like an infomercial promoting any beauty brand who offers me free loot -let me say I’ve had a love affair with makeup since I was a little girl. I remember my mom sitting at her antique vanity with one of those porcelain mirrors that had a handle, powdering her face, rubbing lotion on her hands, and spraying perfume in selective places. I used to lay across her bed after I finished getting dressed for school and just admire her morning routine. She was (and still is) the most beautiful lady I had ever seen, and I wondered when I’d finally be able to have my own set of blushes, eyeshadows, and have that imprint in my lipstick that defined the curve of my lips. Before my dad and her would go out for dates, she’d always let me dab a little of her signature smell from Oscar de la Renta on my wrist along with a little shimmer on my eyes – and I’d always feel like I was really, truly, a woman. Even if I was only ten.

Little did I know at the time that my mother was wearing more than sparkles and orchid-pink lip color, but she was putting on makeup to hide what she perceived as flaws. As a young girl, makeup never meant anything more than playtime and a symbol of being a grown-up who was allowed to wear such lovely things every day. Really, it wasn’t until middle school that I realized these toys were actually needed to cover up problem areas. Or as I’ve always not-so-lovingly called them: zits.

I’ve never had incredibly bad skin, but throughout high school, college, and even now – I have breakouts that I can’t quite predict or fully prevent. It wasn’t until recently, about a year ago, that I finally gave in and tried Proactiv. I’m not one to shamelessly promote anything because I know everyone’s skin, life, opinions, and tastes are different – but for me, this has been the only formulation that’s actually been a solution. I’ve tried antibiotics, topicals, dermatologists, everything you see on beauty and health shelves, and Proactiv has been the one to give me actual results. It dries out my skin something fierce, but I’d still pick a little tenderness over a face freckled with pimples.

Even so, before I tried this product and reaped of its rewards -I spent over a dozen years dealing with problematic skin. And thus, all of the times I popped and applied pressure that made my issue worse – left me with some scars. To anyone but me, these not-so-ghostly-shaded reminders of past problems aren’t that noticeable. However, being the admittedly somewhat-vain lady I am, I’ve tried everything I can find to mask them.

Why? Because when I’m not covering what I see as imperfections and I’m out in public, especially when talking with guys, I feel like instead of looking at me in the eyes, everyone is staring directly at the things I believe makes me look…ugly.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have champagne and cupcakes with Julianne Hough, best known from Dancing with the Stars at an event for Proactiv (see, I really am a huge fan). With her puppy Lexi in tow, she shed some advice not only about clearing up skin and her road to success, but she said something that stuck with me: when you don’t have to worry about something on your face, you turn your attention towards yourself. Or, basically, focusing on inner beauty becomes more important than outer beauty.

Sure is easier said than done when we’re all our worst critics. Right?

As I left from the event a tad tipsy and overly bubbly, I thought how every man I’ve dated has always told me that I shouldn’t wear as much makeup, that I was simply beautiful without all of the gunk. Most of the time, this sentiment has pissed me off and made me feel like they were trying to boss me around -but perhaps I was just missing what they’re saying. I mean, they had all seen me totally naked- emotionally, physically, and makeup-less, so they could have a point. Plus, they are dudes and when they have a zit or two, it isn’t as popular or socially acceptable for them to buy some Maybelline. Maybe its true that we all have flaws, that we all can’t be airbrushed before we leave for the day, that leaving our insecurities at the door isn’t always possible, but if we turn our attention inwards instead of caking on the confidence outwards – we’d eventually feel better about all of the things that make us, us. Even if that happens to be a few leftover marks from bumps months ago.

With that in mind, I decided to be a little brave and shy away from my drawer full of makeup. Well…not completely, but mostly. Instead of my regular ritual, I merely applied a dab of concealer under my eyes and around some redness, a swipe of mascara and chapstick and headed outside. At first, it was difficult to hold my head up walking past strangers on my block, but being the zealous lady I am, I decided that I had every right to be proud of who I am, even if my scars felt like they were on display for Manhattan. Pushing myself further, I went to the grocery store to return a movie and buy some goodies for the week, and underneath the floursencts that seem to place a spotlight on my face – I started making eye contact.

And you know what? Handsome men still flirted with me. Middle-aged guys still basically fell over themselves to open doors or help me. A woman even complimented me on my blue eyes. The glimpse of my reflection in the frozen food isle didn’t scare me.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but often times, my eye is primarily the chief beholder who determines how beautiful I am. And maybe, all this time when I thought makeup was making me pretty…it was really who I am and how I acted that gave me a glow. That radiance I have that others seem to notice, must not come from a bottle or from being a model, but from just being me. Pesky pimples and all.

P.S. Confessions of a Love Addict is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little differently this year. We’ll make it more about the single ladies and less about flowers that’ll die in a day. Submit your Valentine here.

Pasta for One

They say you’re given signs in strange ways to let you know you’re on the right path.

For me, apparently, all it took was a box of $1.50 pasta.

Going into this journey, I wasn’t sure if the process would work. I knew I could write about it. I knew I could talk about it. I knew I could actually do it (or I at least hoped) – but for the whole idea to produce results…I had no clue.

Slowly and gradually, I’ve noticed subtle changes in the way I think and the way I talk to myself. I’ve noticed a little bit more confidence and a little less negativity. I’ve noticed different feelings and different approaches and a kinda-different me.

But yesterday, I noticed a sincere transformation…without even trying.

After a very wonderful 40-minute run at the gym (beat my time!) and a lovely nighttime talk with my parents, I headed towards my neighborhood grocery store to buy what I had been thinking about all day: spinach and garlic pasta. Smothered in butter, garlic, and olive oil. Yummm.

I admired the sight and the smell of the barrels of apples on the way in (amazed they put them outside), took a sample of a cheesecake as I passed (hurried actually) by the bakery, and then headed down the escalator for some pasta and spinach.

I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing, stopping to smell the flowers on the stand, taking a double look at the produce, and as I approached the spinach – I about ran right into a handsome stranger reaching for the leafy-greens too.

We both said “Excuse me!” and smiled, and then continued studying what we would like. I figured out which one fit my fancy before he did and I politely scooped past him to head to the aisle over. I didn’t really think too much of the encounter (I did turn around to check out his backside…just because I could) and quickly got distracted by the cookies calling my name.

As I was deciding if I wanted cinnamon, chocolate chip, or sugar, I noticed the same guy walk by out of the corner of my eye as he passed the aisle. Again, I didn’t pay extreme attention to his presence, but then, he stopped and came by the aisle just as I was reaching for my cookies (I went with cinnamon, if you’re wondering). We both laughed and shared a smile as he went by me. He turned red, grabbed a box of something, grinned again, and walked away.

At this point, I’m flattered and intrigued, but not too worried about it. I continued my shopping and then headed upstairs to checkout. I crossed by the sushi bar and again, barely out of my sight I saw the same dark haired, dark-eyed, and handsome stranger in the green jacket buying some meat in the deli.

I got in line and then looked back at him again. My mind started to read into things a little bit, “He is very cute. He is in my sight. I mean, basically he is right in front of me. We ran into each other twice. Not just once, but two times. That means something…maybe? That’s a romantic way to meet The One, right?”

I looked around at the line, which was quickly wrapping itself around the middle of the floor. “If I get out now, how long will I have to wait? I still have Dancing with the Stars and Desperate Housewives to catch up on. And my spinach pasta! I mean…I’m in workout clothes. But hey, it’s spandex. And he is cute…”

I tried to think about if I had business cards or what I would say. I didn’t really need any meat, but should I pass up on this opportunity? What if I never see him again?

And then, I snapped out of it. He’s just a guy. He’s a guy I’ve never heard his voice before. He’s just some guy getting some groceries. He isn’t worth losing my spot in line, delaying my pasta, or making me nervous.

So I didn’t do anything. I turned right back around, waited in line, and bought my groceries. I hit the streets and didn’t look back once.

As I walked home, I realized that I had taken the pressure off myself in an instant. I talked myself back down to reality, out of the love-addict mentality, and moved on. I wasn’t upset or disappointed (as I shouldn’t have been) that he didn’t come chasing after me – I just accepted the random multi-meeting as just that.

When I returned to my apartment, I was so at peace, so excited, and just content with where I was in my life. Of course, my apartment is smaller than most Manhattan cubicles and I’m not living in luxury – but I do have myself. And this gal is making some progress in her love-seeking madness. And this gal is fine – regardless of any handsome stranger or chance encounter happens or not.

After all, sometimes, pasta for one just simply hits the spot.