General Awkwardness

And that’s how I wound up naked in a building in the middle of Manhattan.

Hmm? What’s that? You find my Tarantino-start-at-the-end-and-work-your-way-back-to-the-beginning-style of writing alarming?

Well, DEAL WITH IT. It’s called a hook. Consider yourself hooked.

Anyway. Though it ends with me in the buff, this is a story that starts with trying to get buff.

As I may have mentioned, I recently joined a gym near my office. It’s a bit pricier than any other gym I’ve ever paid for (in my life), but it’s actually moderately priced for the area thanks to an employee discount I get through work, and it’s so dang convenient that I can’t even get home without passing it. Which, as we learned from my Brooklyn Y experience, help ensure I actually go on a regular basis.

For the last couple of years, I have been a staunch evening exerciser. While I would prefer to start my day with a trip to the gym, my crazy-long commute prevented that from being a viable possibility. (Unless I wanted to get up before 5 a.m. Or die at the hands of a (possibly) homicidal homeless man.)

Thanks to our recent move, however, my commute is much, much shorter, meaning I don’t have to wake up as early unless I want to work out.

I think you can imagine where this is going.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been telling myself that it would be a good idea to wake up earlier, go to the gym before work, shower there, and then walk the four blocks to my office. I’ve been telling myself this, but had yet to actually act on it.

UNTIL THE FATEFUL MORNING I DID. Also known as…this morning.

For the record, it had always been part of the plan that I would shower at the gym. And this is not the first time I’ve showered at a gym. It had just been a really long time, and I had completely forgotten how unbelievable awkward it is.

To be perfectly honest, I rarely even change at the gym. I’ll usually change my clothes at the office, in the privacy of the spacious handicap bathroom stall, before making my merry way to work out.

I mean, on one hand, I know I’m being silly. I know pretty much everyone averts their eyes awkwardly just like I do when I see someone half- to fully naked in the locker room. But I just…I don’t know. Nakedness. In front of people. Ehh.

I’m a prude, is what I’m saying.

Today, though, it just had to be done. Lest I want to become known as the “sweaty girl” in the office. (Not a very clever nickname, but it still stings.)

So after working out, I stripped down only to discover that…

1. …GOOD LORD those towels they provide are tiny. Who are they made for? Toddlers? I normal-sized woman can barely keep her dignity in one of those.

2. …few things make you feel less like a grown-up than showering in flip-flops. Though I was grateful I remembered to pack them.

3. …those hairdryers you’ve been seeing in the locker room for weeks and telling yourself “are so convenient!” because now you don’t have to pack your own? They suck. You still have to pack your own.

4. …showering at the gym is not your favorite thing.

Plus, as we covered in the first sentence, there’s something about being naked in the middle of the city that just makes you feel more…exposed.

So! My fellow morning gym-goers. How do you survive showering at the gym? Do you skip it? Do you bring fancy shampoo to make yourself feel more human? Tell me your secrets!

 

So I guess I forgot something in my State of Justine Address from yesterday. Something anyone who has ever taken the plunge would probably admit can be a kind of major thing.

I got bangs.

Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s what that means visually:

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Ok? We see the difference?

Even though I got them cut on Saturday, I held off posting about it because, well, partly because it’s sort of awkward to talk about your looks. I try to tackle that subject from time to time because I feel like this blog is a place of honest self-assessment on all fronts, and I’ve experienced first-hand how our own assessments of our looks can affect every other part of our lives.

I also didn’t post about it earlier because, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure how I felt.

At first, I was a little freaked out when my stylist made the first serious cut.

I mean, I was excited about getting my hair cut. (Just ask the girl who sits next to me at work and who had to hear about my impending trip all week.) and I’ve had bangs for most of my life.

See?

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{Ohh those sexy middle school years. Why yes, that is a flute in my hand. And yes, I am at a solo competition. Thank you for noticing. But sorry, no, that skirt is no longer available. I know, you’re devastated.}

In fact, not having bangs anymore was sort of a spontaneous decision (that took a year to carry out…). And I’ve always sort of felt like my face needs bangs. I mean, I have a big head (thanks, Dad), which, especially in photos, can translate to a big face. It’s a lot of flesh, and a little hair curtain over a quarter of it doesn’t hurt anything.

The point is, bangs should not have been a shocking change.

Except, when the stylist finished blowing out my hair and a took my first look in the mirror, a was a bit taken aback. Because there, staring back at me, was myself in high school.

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{Actual me in high school. I’m using a picture of me and my high school (and middle school, really) friend Joe because he is kind enough to read my blog fairly regularly and I know this type of post really doesn’t interest him that much. So, in return, I give you pseudo fame on the blog. (I know, not much, but admit it: You’re a little more interested in this post now.)}

In the weirdest way, I suddenly felt seventeen and wracked with a 17-year-old’s insecurities. Did this hairstyle make my face look fat? Did it make me look like a baby? Did it remove any sex appeal I had managed to garner (by the skin of my teeth, folks) in the last eight years, replacing it instead with that (at times) back-handed adjective “cute”?

It was a moment wracked with emotions.

So, I did what any other insecurity-ridden girl would do and posted a photo to Instagram to get everyone’s assessment of me.

As predicted, I was cute. And the next day, someone else pronounced how young I looked. And therein lies the crux of my concern.

My mind flitted back longingly to the inches of blonde hair wafting to the salon floor. I swallowed hair and fiddled with my hair some more, hoping that simply shifting its position could somehow make it look like it had before I’d cut it.

I know this sounds like the ultimate #humblebrag to whine about being described as “cute”, but I swear, I’m being serious. Not everyone will get it, but any girl who has been “cute” for most of her life (and I say “most” because we all saw that flute picture) has grown weary of the term at some point. I mean, we’d rather be cute than nothing at all, but sometimes you just want a more grown-up descriptor. We want to be sexy. We want to be hot. We want to be stunning. Just once. (Which isn’t to say I don’t appreciate those of you who called my haircut cute. I know you had good intentions!)

Anyway, I wasn’t completely decided that I didn’t like the bangs. For the most part, everyone was being complimentary in their commentary. My parents (while, admittedly, not the most objective source) loved them. My husband has always liked me with bangs. (He has a theory that they give a girl a sense if mystery.)(He’s weird.) And, honestly, I never had that much sex appeal anyway, so I was willing to embrace the mantle of “cute” for the rest of my life if necessary. (Poor me, right?)

But yesterday at work, something was different. I don’t know if my hair just fell in a different way or I just got better at styling it or I just decided to embrace my face and my hair no matter what they looked like, but my bangs started to look a little less school-girl, a bit more, I don’t know, intentional. I felt a bit more grown-up. And while, sure, a few people called them cute, one of my coworkers stopped me in the hall and said, “Your hair is looking foxy today; did you do something different with it?”

Side note: “foxy” is now my new favorite adjective from now until the end if time. We’re bringing it back, folks.

The point is, I think I finally got to the point where I’m wearing the hair instead of vice-versa. I’ve said a million times that your hair has an emotional effect on your outlook, and I like to think it’s a sign of self-assuredness that I’m slowly getting over that. (Slowly. Ever so slowly.)

So when my friend Madison asked me for a post about the new hair over Twitter yesterday, I finally felt ready to talk about it.

And you know what? I feel good about this. I feel like I actually look like I have a hairstyle instead of the hair just sitting there in my head, and I think once the bangs grow out a bit, I’ll feel even less like my high school self.

And just because Madison also requested lots of photos, here’s one more for ya. I mean, at the very least we can say I’ve improved from the flute days, right?

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Do you ever sometimes randomly remember something about yourself as a child and think, “Why wasn’t I bullied more?”

Because, seriously you guys, I was a weird little kid. For about a six-year stretch, I had braces and then glasses and then braces again. (By some miracle, however, the two never coincided. God isn’t that cruel.) I played the flute. I was in show choir. I was in the theater group. I was in the top mock trial team. (#mocktrialnerds4life)

In fact, if I stopped to think about it, I’m not sure I could point to a singular moment in my adolescence that I was like, “Yup, that was a cool moment right there. So smooth.”

NOT A SINGLE THING.

But the thing that I just remembered? In middle school, though I always had nice clothes (courtesy of my stylish mother) and was always dressed in something different every day, I would go weeks at a time wearing the same over-sized sweatshirt over whatever I had on. And not just any sweatshirt.

I was just sitting here eating my favorite pre-race breakfast (Nutella on toast with coffee, inspired by my runner friend Emilia) before my 5-mile turkey trot later this morning, drinking out of my hilarious “duck tape” mug:

…when I had the following thought process:

“I love this mug. Where did I get it again? Oh right, my childhood bestie Jackie bought it for me because I had a sweatshirt with the same thing one it. …that I used to wear EVERY DAY in middle school. A middle school that I had just moved to. …Why the heck did no one pick on me in middle school?”

Because, for realz, you guys. Every day. I don’t even know why I thought that was socially acceptable. (Though, looking back, there were a lot of things I did that now I’m like, “Yeah….okay, baby Justine. Ya weirdo.”)

But then I started thinking, “Well…but I wasn’t bullied. Like, at all. I was very fortunate that way. My middle school days were fairly blissful. In fact, that is probably the weirdest part about my middle school experience.”

So what was the difference? Maybe I wasn’t quite as crippled by my fear of embarrassment back then? Maybe I was even more accepting of my weirdness, delighted by it, in fact, and that inner peace and happiness somehow warded off any cruelty?

I really don’t know.

The point is (I think?), that I was the weird little kid who wore the forest green (ohhh, baby Justine…) “duck tape” sweatshirt every day for weeks. And I was so, so happy. And I turned out just fine. So maybe, even if I’m weird and embarrassing occasionally now, I’ll turn out even more fine in another twelve years.

I mean, it is a pretty snazzy coffee mug. #weirdkids4life

Last night, I had an incredibly stressful dream where I had nothing to wear to a friends’ wedding in a cramped mansion. (Actually, it might have just been a fancy party…no one really clarified.)

What I do know is that everyone was dressed in incredibly trendy outfits, and I was there in, like, a colonial woman’s traditional dress.

The worst part was that I finally found a dress that I deemed suitable (though, in hindsight, I have no idea why dream Justine was so pleased with a brown suede embroidered cocktail dress with brown tights…no idea at all) when suddenly I realized that my (for whatever reason) phosphorescent lime green underwear was blatantly visible through the back. After shaking off the irritation that none of my friends (all of whom were present and milling around the mansion’s foyer) had pointed this out to me, I quickly ducked into one of three “dressing rooms” made up of heavy velvet draperies that someone had conveniently set up in the sitting room in case guests needed to change before the party.

Because that’s something that happens.

The problem was, the dressing rooms were crammed with old clothing (I think someone was also moving into/out of the mansion…?), and the second I took my dress off and put it down, I could not for the life of me find it again.

I kept picking up dresses that looked like mine when they were on the floor, but as soon as I put them on, they transformed into something dowdy or just plain hideous. (You know, something not nearly as fashionable as brown embroidered suede…)

I vividly remember that every dress was this weird length on me, hitting right at that spot on my legs necessary to achieve maximum frumpiness. I vividly remember this, guys.

The worst part was that everyone was getting impatient with me, so every time I picked up a new dress, I was like, “Don’t stress, guys, I found it,” and they would start clearing away the unwanted clothes and tearing down the dressing room curtains, and then I would realize this was not, in fact, the right dress and try to stop them and grab something different, but there were fewer and fewer options the more they cleared away and my friends were starting to abandon me to go to the party/wedding without me instead of waiting.

And then I woke up. And I’m obviously still a bit rattled because when was the last time I told you about a dream I had? (Just kidding. I know the answer to that question. It was September 24, 2010. THIS IS WHY I WRITE DOWN MY LIFE.)

But the point is, I don’t understand my brain. And I may be mildly too obsessed with clothes.

Anyway.

SPEAKING OF FASHION AND STYLE (sort of), I have another Influenster Beauty Blogger VoxBox review to throw your way. (And so ends the least graceful segue in history.)

I have really thick hair. (On my head…I’m not a wildebeest.) It’s also pretty long and I tend to have it cut with a lot of layers to keep it from feeling like a 100-pound tapestry on the back of my neck. The only problem with layers, though, is they make it pretty difficult to create that blogger-favorite hairstyle, the topknot.

For the record, the Internet is a little conflicted about whether or not the topknot (or ballerina bun or whatever) is still in, but I say any hairstyle that gets all your hair off your face and out of the way will always be in in my book.

But anyway. Sometimes it’s not the easiest look to execute. So when I received a pair of Goody Simple Styles Spin Pins, I was pretty jazzed to see if they worked.

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All you do is create a bun or twist, and then twist in the spin pins like cork screws, one on each side of the style, to hold it in place. And since they come in the same color as your hair, they virtually vanish.

I created this bun with my two:

Total disclosure: I had to use a couple of hairpins to tuck in some shorter layers that were sticking out, but the rest of the style is kept completely secure by the spin pins. And if you’re not as Type A as I am, you might not mind a few piece-y bits sticking out anyway.

So there you have it!

Anyone else use these spin pins before? Or have a dream they want to share with the class? Tell me about it in the comments.

Welp, I survived the rest of American Made. It was a pretty incredible event when you think about what went into making it happen. There were also some insanely talented people from all over the country in attendance. The whole thing was pretty dang inspiring.

But if I can be honest with you guys for a second (and I like to think I can), I am what you might call “le tired.

My boss actually gave me and our Assistant Digital Editor (who was covering the event with me) today off. BUT GUESS WHO HAS LIKE SEVEN MEETINGS TODAY, ONE OF WHICH IS WITH TWO PEOPLE VISITING FROM CANADA THAT SHE CAN’T RESCHEDULE?

So…I’m going to work today. But I’m using my free day on Monday, goshdangit.

A three-day weekend! Such luxury. I’m already trying to plan all the things I want to do on the day off. I’m cleaning the apartment tomorrow, so I won’t have to worry about that. I’m thinking a run and maybe some crafting?? Since I’m so inspired by the crafting event I just went to?

I know, you guys. I live fast and loose. You either keep up or get left behind.

Anyway.

The event ended with a panel of bloggers who I have admired a looong time who were all giving advice on what it takes to be a successful blog. The one thing I wish they would have said is that, while great content is incredibly important, sometimes you just get lucky. You happen to know the right people and make the right connections, and you get a following. Sometimes that part does just happen. (Gosh, bitter much, Justine?)

But I’m not really bitter. My blog is not my full-time job. (At the moment…) It’s a side thing I do to keep myself writing. Heck, I don’t even think my blog knows what it is yet. Ya know, three years later.

There’s probably a metaphor about me and my life somewhere in there that I should be acknowledging, but I’m too tired to get all meta on you at the moment.

But the point is, the blog kind of inspired me to figure my blog (and, fine, me) out in the next couple of months. Is it just going to continue to be a random pseudo-diary with the occasional how-to? Should I go back to giving unsolicited advice more regularly? SHOULD I HAVE A THEME, YOU GUYS?

Two of the main themes of advice I heard over and over were:

1. Know who you are and make sure it’s something that isn’t out there already.

2. Take better pictures. Invest in a camera. WE LIVE IN A VISUAL WORLD, Y’ALL.

The second one takes fundage that I’m not ready to cough up yet. But I guess I also need to stop taking crapping pics in crappy lighting. (The trials of a working blogger…)

The first one I feel like I can actually do something about. I feel like the thing I have that isn’t out there already is, well…me. My voice. But maybe I’m just flattering myself.

I don’t know, you guys. And this is getting ramble-y, and I have to sign off and head to the train. So…help me out? What do you come to this blog for? Why? How did you find it? What do you think I should do with my life…er…blog?

This isn’t as life or death as I’m making it sound. As I said, my blog is not my main way of supporting myself, so there’s not nearly as much pressure. I’m just curious.