Meet Me at the Barre

Darlings!

Like most middle class little girls, I took ballet lessons from age 4. I continued doing ballet up to my teen years, not because it was something I particularly enjoyed doing, but because it was routine and I thought it was “expected” of me to put on a leotard, scrape my hair back into a bun and show up once a week (it later became twice a week) at the studio.

It was around my pre-teen years when I started to really hate going for classes. I didn’t understand what I was doing, and nobody told me why I had to do it – I was just expected to do what I was told. Show up for class. Spend the first 10-15 minutes sitting uncomfortably on the floor, crammed with my classmates, copying notes off a whiteboard into a notebook (I hate hand-copying notes and my handwriting is atrocious), then go to the barre and go through a series of plies and tendus and battements, then to the floor and saute and changement and chasse, then go through choreography, then one by one take turns on the floor and be roundly criticized.

Eventually I hung up my shoes and threw away my leotards (as well as thousands of dollars of my mom’s money) and quit. What’s the pointe?

However, I love ballet. I just hated classes. When I got older, I finally understood why we had to take notes (so we can visualize the steps in our head and internalize it). Why we had to do the endless plies and releves and tendus at the barre (to strengthen our muscles and perfect our form in order to execute choreography). Why we had to saute and changement at the floor until we felt like dying (to build up stamina so we can last through a two-hour ballet). Maybe if this was explained to me when I was younger, I would’ve had more purpose during class, and who knows, I might’ve become a professional ballerina.

Maybe not.

Anyway, for a magazine article I went and tried out a barre class at a new studio. I was hooked. It’s like ballet, but it made sense. It had a purpose, and that purpose, though not as “noble” as creating art in motion, is valid all the same: to sculpt and tone your body and improve your strength and stamina. So I went back. And back. And back again.

And guess what? I ended up doing it so much, I’m going to teach it. That’s right, darlings. I’m now in barre instructor training, and it starts next weekend!

Advertisements

How to be Loved

Darlings!

Ever since I could remember, I’ve always had unrequited crushes. My first crush was at 9, and he was a goofy-looking piano prodigy at school. We were excused from P.E. that day due to illness, so we sat at the sidelines and chatted.

I don’t even remember what we talked about, but I remember that afterwards, I fantasized about marrying him and living in marble mansion together.

Since then I’ve had so many crushes (most of them questionable) I can’t recall who, how and why I was ever attracted to them. But what I do remember is that horrible, desperately sad feeling when you’re desperately trying to get the attention of someone who isn’t at all interested in you.

I didn’t understand then, but it’s near impossible to find someone who loves you unless you love yourself first. No one will you put you first, ahead of themselves – only you can do that. The books and TV shows and movies I watched had me convinced that out there, there’s someone who will notice me when I’m invisible (The Princess Diaries, anyone?), who can see my beauty that I’m unable to see in myself (The Princess Diaries, anyone?), and will love me because of all my flaws and quirks and weirdness (The Princess Diaries, anyone?).

It also didn’t help that I had such low self esteem and yearned to be loved and noticed so much that I ended up attracting and dating people who took advantage of this and broke down my boundaries bit by bit until I was nothing but a shell of misery and resentment. Perhaps they never intended to – after all, I allowed them to continuously test my limits, shift my goal posts, and act against my values.

Because I thought that by doing that, they would love me more and treat me the way I wanted to be treated.

But of course, it doesn’t work that way. No one can treat me the way I want to be treated unless I held myself to that same standard. And the person who treated me the worst, was myself.

I gave to people who were only interested in taking, and I gave them the impression that I only wanted to give, not take. So how could I blame them if they didn’t give me anything in return? I was the one who convinced herself that the more she gave, the more she’ll be loved, and maybe one day they’ll realize it and then cherish and appreciate her.

No darlings, most of the time, things don’t work that way.

When I broke up with my exes, they were shocked. To them, everything was going fine – I seemed okay, I did what they told me to without resisting or questioning, I had “gotten over” our last fight. There didn’t appear to be any serious problems – at least, I wasn’t acting like I was unhappy.

But to me, it was months, even years of unhappiness, tears and resentment, hidden away for fear of not being loved, for fear of conflict, for fear of looking like a bad girlfriend, the kind of women they loathed and condemned (jealous, controlling, impatient, demanding, spoiled, combative). Then – finally – I could no longer hide.

My change didn’t happen overnight. Like I said, exes. But as each relationship went by, as my world expanded beyond home and school, into the office and the rest of the world, I learned my worth (it’s a lot). I learned to defend my boundaries. I learned to love myself and put myself first. And when I loved myself and put myself first, I found out something amazing:

I didn’t need anyone else to love me.

And if someone didn’t love me, that’s okay! I know someone who does: me. And because I was secure in my own love, I attracted positive people into my life, people who wanted to add to the love, not take from it. And I don’t mean other “givers” like I used to be, but people who are also secure in their own love.

I have a theory that unhappy and unhealthy relationships are due to people who don’t have enough love for themselves. They become extreme givers or takers: the former give because they believe it’s the only way they can be loved in return, filling that void, and the latter take because they also want to fill that void. Eventually, the relationship turns abusive (and I don’t mean just physically) and codependent, and neither party never fully matures into happy, secure people.

So darlings, before loving anyone else, you have to love yourself first. Show yourself the same level of respect you want to receive. Treat yourself the way you want to be treated. You’ll find it goes both ways – if you want to be treated like princess, first you have to be willing to treat yourself like one. If you want to be put upon a pedestal and be worshipped, you have to be someone you would deem worthy for worship and idolatry.

Don’t let anyone else define your worth. Don’t let anyone else determine how you deserved to be loved. Don’t wait for someone else to notice you when you’re invisible, to love your flaws, to see your beauty.

If you want to be loved, darlings, choose yourself.

Love yourself.

Skincare Lesson: Sunscreen

Darlings!

In my years as a beauty editor, the one question that I am faced the most often is, “What do you do for your skin?”

To which I reply, “Cleanse, hydrate, protect.” like a well-rehearsed parrot.

Most people do the first two, but not many actually commit to the last – protect. Despite overwhelming evidence that UV exposure fucks your skin up in many ways, like burning, speeding up the ageing process, making your skin look like a tortilla or a piece of beat-up leather and in general not dainty, I hear excuses like, “Sunscreen feels oily!” and “It’s too time-consuming!” and “I hate the feeling of having too much stuff on my face!”

Well darlings, here’s a little story.

I hated sunscreen and never wore sunscreen until I was 23 and working the counter for a Japanese beauty brand. They carried an SPF30 sunscreen that, while it was one of the lightest and least offensive-feeling, still felt heavy and greasy on my skin. But heck, I get a discount and I have to believe in what I’m selling, so I started using it every day.

And then, I got used to using sunscreen. The “heaviness” no longer felt heavy, it felt normal. I’ve never gone a day without sunscreen since, and I’m almost 29, and I still get asked if I’m 16.

So darlings, the tl;dr version is: you’ll get used to wearing sunscreen and it’ll literally feel like nothing on your skin.

I’ve used many, many brands of sunscreen over the years and I have my faves, including the ones pictured above, which I’m currently using. Sunscreen textures have progressively gotten lighter and less offensively-greasy, with the majority of them now feeling like moisturizer or gels.

Current Sunscreen Rotation

For face: The Skin Pharmacy Silky Smooth Sunscreen SPF50. It’s a Singapore-based brand that makes no-frills skincare, and its products only contains what you actually need on your skin. It feels like a light moisturizer and doesn’t require much blending since it doesn’t leave white streaks. However, it’s a chemical sunscreen, not a physical one. They make a physical sunscreen that I’ll probably check out once I’m done with this.

For body: HABA UV Kids Gel SPF 15. I love the Japanese brand (I went to Tokyo and Hokkaido for a press trip a couple years ago and visited their amazing factory) but it’s sadly not vegan as its signature ingredient is squalane from sharks. Note: although I’m a dietary vegan, the products I use aren’t exclusively vegan because as a beauty editor, I received tons of products and it feels wasteful (and now that I’m a freelancer and not rolling in the dough) to give them away. So I’m working on using up my stash from my working days before putting my money where my heart is and switching over entirely. Anyway, this is a delightfully light gel that disappears when you put it on, and washes off in the shower. I couldn’t find a link to the exact one, but it’s similar.

For lazy: Bioderma Hydrabio Perfecteur SPF30. It triples as a moisturizer, sunscreen and makeup primer, and this was what I used exclusively on my Seoul trip because I can’t be arsed to bring that many products when I travel. It works a dream, left my face looking matte and bright and it has pigments that blur and hide pores.

Taking Steps Forward, not Backward

Darlings!

I have never really talked about my past eating disorder very much, except only to my closest friends. I didn’t want to be defined by it. I didn’t want to be known as the “anorexia girl”, didn’t want others to think that I was weak, deficient or abnormal in anyway.

For a while I tried to ignore that period of my life when it was controlled by calories, exercise, restricting and anxiety attacks. But it stays with you. Even when you’re at a healthier weight, you still subconsciously crave the strange comfort having “control” over your daily intake. When stress hits, you feel tempted to distract yourself by focusing on how little you can eat, how low the numbers on the scale can go, just so you don’t have to deal with real life and tackling the real source of your problems.

It’s a crutch.

Even today, I constantly deal with issues with my body image. I always worry if I’m not thin enough. If my belly isn’t flat enough. If my thighs are too jiggly and thick. If my face looks round and puffy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over these thoughts. But I’m actively working towards it. Towards loving myself so utterly that I can be objectively critical, but not hateful, about myself.

So here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Going for barre classes with the goal of getting stronger and fitter, not thinner
  • Increasing my daily calories to 1200, instead of the 800-900 I’ve been making myself adhere to for the past few years
  • Showing compassion in every area of my life

So darlings, what are you doing for yourself?

A Green (Smoothie) a Day

Darlings!

I love green smoothies for the sole reason that it’s the easiest, fastest and yummiest way to get your greens in. It might also be good for my skin (it has to be). I don’t know about all that enzymes and raw living and cold-pressed shit, I just like drinking them and I feel self-righteous after downing one – which is every day, between 3-4 pm, because that’s how I roll.

There’s a little shop close to my apartment that sells fresh fruit, and strangely, bubble tea. The shop front is laden with pineapple, papaya, bananas and a various assortment of fruit, and then there’s a small counter with a plastic cup-sealing machine where bubble tea is made and sold. I like pineapple, and they sell pre-cut pineapple pieces for the low price of $5 for a fuckton that I freeze at home and it can last for a week or more, so that’s why I get.

My fave combination is 1 cup frozen pineapple, a whole Japanese cucumber (they’re pretty skinny but they taste sweet and crunchy), 2 cups shredded romaine, 1 cup baby spinach and 1 cup baby kale leaves. It’s refreshingly hydrating, not overly-sweet, and you can’t taste the greens (I do like the taste of greens though). Give it a good-ass whirr in the blender, add water if too thick, and gulp it down straight from the blender jar/pitcher/thing.

Boom! You’re a superhero, darling.

Boring sciencey shit: for about 120 calories thereabouts, you get a ton of fibre, vitamin C, some calcium from the greens, and you’ll poop great every day.