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.

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Margaritas, Mayhem, and Meagerly-Dressed Men

What happens when you mix three pitchers of highly-intoxicating margaritas, five flirty friends (including a wonderful gay work hubby), free blowouts and styling, unlimited drinks, and half-naked men dancing within three inches of you?

One hell of a hangover and one fabulous lesson about being a single gal in New York City.

With the kickoff for New York’s Fashion Week (where I enjoyed a lovely presentation from Timo Weiland), an online women’s magazine and deal/coupon site, The Luxury Spot hosted a Bachelorette Party that instead of celebrating the fact someone was ending their days of singleness, they invited people to commemorate that flying solo could just be beginning.

Intrigued by this spin on a typical girl’s night out that involves tiaras, phallic shot glasses, and bridesmaids drinking themselves into a depressed oblivion, I gathered a group of my favorites and headed to Chelsea to play tribute to my unaffiliated with a man relationship status.

Like most great evenings, the gang hit up a spot the work hubby, J and I discovered a few months ago where prices are cheap and the tequila is abnormally strong. Well, stronger than usual, anyways. In my leopard print pencil skirt that’s probably a tad too tight (but I rock it like its not), we devoured chips and salsa while discussing current events that really matter – like the Biebs and our anticipation for the Grammys, sexual positions that hit the right spot, and LLilo’s latest disaster. Filled with warmness – both from the great company and the green magical liquid – we hopped a cab to Juliet Supper Club, where we were greeted with many women (and men) dazzled to dance away and toast to The New York Singleland.

Once one of The Luxury Spot’s leading ladies led us out of the crowd and into the festively decorated space, the group found its way to the open bar – where all of the Southerners squealed over a drink named Scarlett O’Hara. The intention of the drink was rather clever and by about number two, when you swear a male dancer is locking eyes with you, you frankly, don’t give a damn.

Or at least I didn’t and that’s when from across a bedazzled room, as a Remington stylist curled my hair while I sipped my red concoction, I started doing The Look at a man I’ll call Mr. Thong.

Oh dear.

Of course, its part of his job to flirt with the lovely, eligible or taken ladies who feel a little less guarded than normal, but Mr. Thong formed some sort of strange attraction to me. Maybe not strange, but by my somewhat reserved upbringing in the rolling hill of North Carolina, seeing a man roll his peak in such an enticing (and hilarious) manner, was quite the experience. And being a newfound lover of my single title, was curious to nail the story. I mean, I heard this particular has his own bobble head and all – though I’m pretty sure my friends and I were more distracted by his other gyrating one.

After posing for a few pictures with us, where Mr. Thong attempted to liplock with me, I returned to my seat, where my friends and I, captivated by our first experience with nearly nude dancers, continued to snap pictures and well, giggle, continuously. As I was looking at the shots with my friend E, Mr. Thong came over to our booth and cuddled up next to me.

“So, my name is Mr. Thong. What’s yours?” He smiled, as the light reflected off of well-oiled, chiseled, and tan body. Even in my haze, I made a plea to someone (not sure who, at the time) that he didn’t get his goo (from any place) on my silk top. Ew.

Never mind my distraction of his stickiness, I was stunned by the fact this dancer-dude was speaking to me, I somehow managed to tell him my name, what I did, and hand him my business card. You know, the one with my phone number, email address, and link to this blog?

Smart move, Linds. Smart move.

My friends, equally tipsy from Scarlett O’Haras and the residue of margaritas a few hours earlier, found themselves hysterical over my willingness to entertain the entertainer and we cheered again to the absurdity of the evening.

After gathering our goodie bags and coats, and splitting a cab uptown, I thought about how long it took me to get to this place. To a place where I could freely let myself and my inhibitions go. Where I could enjoy an evening without expecting a phone number, without wondering if someone would hit on me, without hoping Mr. Right would be at the next door, the next bar, or the next street corner. That an interaction with Mr. Thong didn’t mean I’d met my match, but that I just had an interaction for the books. Or the blog, I suppose.

That instead of focusing on the fact I was alone, I relished that I had the opportunity to be selfishly fabulous with my friends and enjoy their smiles as much as I would ever enjoy the grin of a stranger. That without a man, without the desire for one, without valuing the validity of anyone’s approval or interest, I was still happy. If anything, I was happier to not be obsessing and not be upset about things that fate has a hold on anyways.

Walking a block to my apartment, shivering in the cold, my hair curled up something fierce, and designer stilettos carefully avoiding New York’s influx of black ice, I realized I was actually living a phrase I’d always sang and quoted, but never really embraced:

Sometimes, girls just wanna have fun. And J, too, of course.