Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fight stress by pampering yourself

I have big plans today. With my shower.

Oh, shame on you, it's not like that.

Like 79 percent of American women (according to the National Sleep Foundation), I've been feeling stressed out.

So I decided to do something that only 0.1 percent of American women (according to my generous estimates but no real stats whatsoever) actually does: take care of myself.

I used to gauge my mental stability by my fingernails. Back when "Desperate Housewives" wasn't quite as bad as a Telemundo daytime soap, I religiously set aside one hour every Sunday to manicure and gasp at Gabrielle Solis. If my nails were chipped, that meant I hadn't taken Me
Time that week. My polish served as a sort of cooking timer on my self-care.

Today, my nails aren't chipped; I haven't painted them in about six months. My self-care timer went off so long ago that I've burned myself to the core.

Hence today. I'm working a half day, with Friday afternoon dedicated to making me feel pretty.
I was inspired by a chat with Bobbie Thomas. Yes, The Bobbie Thomas, of E!'s "Fashion Police" and the style editor of the "Today" show. Yes, I am name-dropping to give my naked-fingernailed self fashion cred.

Bobbie (we're on a first-name basis, although she doesn't know it yet) was in Colorado this month sharing beauty tips as part of the Gillette Venus Spa Breeze Tour.

Shaving has always been a sore spot for me, literally. So I asked Bobbie to teach me the tricks my mommy should have. Bobbie recommends a razor for women, with grips so it doesn't slip, a multi-blade head that pivots to the contours of your legs, and a built-in shave gel bar. Wouldn't you know it? Venus makes such a razor.

Having a decent razor is one simple way to treat yourself, especially when a mud wrap at the spa isn't in your Neo-Depression Era budget.

Here are some other ways to make your own spa at home -- with or without Wisteria Lane.

Schedule it in. Literally block out a regular time on your schedule.

Indulge all of your senses. Put drops of lavendar oil on your robe, shower wrap, sheets and pillow. Dim the lights.

Cool down. Make your own "spa water." Add a chopped cucumber, one sliced orange, lime or lemon and ice cubes to a pitcher of water. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour before drinking.

Wrap it up. Throw your towel in the dryer with a dryer sheet so it's toasty when you get out of the shower.

Eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone and computer. Play relaxing music. Dance to said music.

Stock up, especially if your beauty products consist of one bar of Ivory soap and a moldy loofah.

My latest obsession is the Dermaquest Skin Therapy Hydrating Gel Mask, $59.50 at, with ingredients like honey, willow bark, tiger grass, kombucha and green tea and lavendar flower water. This mask leaves your face feeling fresh, without the crusty stiffness of other heavy masks.

My BFF Bobbie loves the Matte Nail Polish by Knock Out, $22, No-shine nails look edgy and totally unique. Plus, you only need one coat. Who needs hour-long awful comedy-dramas?

Photo by Flickr user Jenn and Tony Bot.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Boulderization of the Third World

When I was a little girl, I thought the stars were millions of tiny holes poked through the sky to give us a glimpse at heaven behind the curtain.

Sort of like a Lite-Bright.

As I walked through the Kyangwali Refugee Camp in western Uganda last week, I had that feeling again.

Sure, there was this heavy darkness stretched over the continent -- and on a refugee camp, things get really dark. Figuratively and literally. Zero electricity means zero ambient light. In fact, twice my mom woke up in a panic because she thought she had gone blind.

I laughed, as any daughter should.

But with darkness this dark, the brightness is that much brighter -- you guessed it -- figuratively and literally.

One night, I was busy obsessing over the stars to distract myself from the fact that I hadn't washed my hair in two weeks, when one of the stars seemed to wiggle itself out of the constellations and perch on a mango tree. Then, another. (Insert confused dog-like head tilt here.)

As a Colorado native, I didn't know this version of Lite-Bright. Now, my mom got to laugh. Lightning bugs. Aha. And they seemed to be in some sort of arthropodical turf war with the mosquitoes, which is why we were in Africa. My mom's nonprofit organization, Think Humanity (, distributes mosquito nets and runs an orphanage at the camp.

But then, in the distance, we saw two more yellow sparks. They were on the ground, and shuffling, not floating. As the bulbs drew closer, more appeared behind them. More. Until it was a veritable mafia of radioactive-yellow -- Crocs.

The Niwot-based shoe company's SolesUnited program has distributed more than 2 million shoes to needy feet worldwide, and this summer it left its footprint in Kyangwali.

For the first (and only) time in my life as a fashion columnist, I praised these ridiculous-looking clown shoes. And I felt envy. Turns out the adorable Sketchers I brought were better suited for Chinese foot binding than traipsing around the equator carrying a 40-pound backpack.

But at least my feet underneath looked lovely. Before I left, I got a pedicure at Ten20 spa in Boulder. Miraculously -- and I say this with no exaggeration -- my polish endured the worst of human conditions. In fact, I was the only person in my group whose feet made it out of Uganda with no jiggers.

Warning: Only read the next sentence if you are not currently eating breakfast. Jiggers are parasitic fleas that burrow into your feet and lay eggs.

Does Ten20 have some magic anti-jigger treatment? Perhaps. They have everything else (including M&Ms and poodle-print aprons). Not to mention in nature, fluorescent coloring indicates poisonous. So maybe my bright pink polish scared the parasites away.

Several days later, I ended up in the capital, Kampala. While limping through the neighborhood where we were staying, I stumbled across a familiar sign: BeadforLife.

I had heard about BeadforLife before. The Boulder-based nonprofit organization empowers impoverished Ugandan women to make colorful jewelry out of recycled paper and trash. In fact, I had purchased my mom a few BeadforLife necklaces for her birthday. In fact, she was wearing them.

I followed the sign down a hill, toward a palm-tree field. Then left, then left again. I felt like a real hard-hitting fashion journalist when I knocked -- unannounced -- on the big metal gate. If this was a slum, or a scam, or a storefront to smuggle delicious Ugandan sugar into the United States, now was the moment of truth.

Tada! The door creaked open. And a large front yard was bustling with African women, rolling beads, stringing them, attaching clasps. It was as colorful and joyful as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," except way yummier and with no creepy Oompa Loompas.

This was real.

I bought enough necklaces to feed the entire country for three years.

And today, back in Boulder, on top of my little black dress, my bright African necklaces are my personal little glimpse (back) into heaven.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cycle chic

Photo from

Before we get started, I disclaim: I was wearing tights under my dress. Fluorescent pink tights.

I don't care what you thought you saw as I rode my motorcycle down Pearl Street. You didn't see it.

And yes, those were gold ballet flats, and although they don't provide much ankle support, I was still wearing a helmet.

Plus, I changed into my Docs before I got on U.S. 36. (But I fear the pink leggings may have contributed to some looky-loo traffic congestion.)

I'm sorry. Now get used to it. This is a movement.

For fashion freaks, riding a two-wheeled single-person alternative vehicle -- a bike, scooter, motorcycle or cruiser -- seems like quite the quandary. You don't want to ride during the blizzardly pants-and-boots months. Then it warms up, and you want to wear dresses and peep-toes.

But the American cycling industry insists you cannot dress adorably and simultaneously sit on a bike. In fact, people are incapable of pedaling unless they are wearing flesh-sucking fabrics that end with an "x" (Spandex, Coolmax, Goretex), which would make even the marble statue of David look jiggly.

In fact, the League of American Bicyclists lists five materials under the "clothing" section of their Web page: the triple-x fabrics and wool and nylon.

That's it.

No cute cotton dresses, satin bows, no patent leather flats or jersey stripes. Just the five most uncomfortable fabrics ever made.

Adding visual insult to this travesty, said fabrics shall only be produced in unflattering colors, such as radioactive green, radiation yellow and nuclear fission blue.

Heck, while we're at it, let's billboard the entire uniform in brand names to make the cyclist look like a sell-out, too.

No more! (Exclamation point necessary to accompany me jumping from my desk with my manicured fist in the air.)

This June, in honor of the 33rd annual Walk and Bike Month, I want to redefine the concept of cycling. Let's take bicycles back from the recreational hobbyists who have fooled skirt-wearers into thinking that a lightweight frame is somehow more important than how your basket is decorated. (As if.)

Boulder's cruisers get this concept, but only on Thursdays when they meet for their costumed rides throughout town.

But what about the day-to-day folks who feel jailed inside their stuffy, gas-guzzling cars because they don't realize that hundreds of thousands of people across the world do not buy into the American Spandex myth?

Don't believe me? Believe Copenhagen. Yes, the entire Danish city, and the nucleus of the Cycle Chic movement, which has swept Europe and is now gracing New York and increasingly more U.S. cities.

Cycle Chic is about riding slowly and stylishly; enjoying the fresh air and not trying to race the Hummer to the stoplight. From the Cycle Chic manifesto: "I will ride with grace, elegance and dignity."

I can see the quintessential Parisian cyclist, in a flowy black dress (Europeans always wear black, you know), strappy sandals and an oversized sunhat, accented with a flower that matches the flowers on her basket. There is no secret cult of car drivers bashing her on anonymous online forums. She rides the bicycle as it was meant to be ridden.

According to, bicycles helped liberate the working class -- especially women -- at the end of the 19th century. The bike was only later relegated to being a toy or piece of sports equipment, the Web site says.

Choosing style over speed means no cyclists darting in and out of traffic like little drunken Lance Armstrongs. It means no armpit sweat soiling your clothes, thereby eliminating the argument for the x-fabrics that "wick away moisture." A leisurely pace also cuts back on the number of Marilyn Monroe skirt flashes, although simple leggings underneath also do the trick.

Spandex advocates argue that a skirt can catch in the spokes. So make a do-it-yourself skirt guard (

And on those days when your outfit calls for stilettos, toss them in a gorgeous basket, such as a black basket designed to look like lace ($60 by Marie-Louise Gustafsson).

Or if you're on a bike with an engine, Willie and Max ( makes saddlebags in pink, purple, burgundy, red and white. Just be smart, in both the American and British definition of the word.

Hardcore Cycle Chic-kens might frown on me for lumping motorcycles in with their cruisers and Schwinns. But I, too, understand the joy of riding slowly and stylishly.

And my quads could never propel me the 50 miles a day I ride to and from work.

My bike's name is Cerise -- French, of course, meaning cherry red. I call Cerise my "moving meditation," with no distractions, no radio, no cell phones or passengers or coffee cups balancing on the console.

Just me, Cerise and my skirt.

And my pink tights. Which, now that I think about it, happen to be Spandex-y. And radioactive pink.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Athletic fashion, from bees to bunnies

I was not 10 steps into the Broomfield 24 Hour Fitness when I pivoted and walked back out. I didn't even make it to the locker room.

There was no way I was sweating here, in sweatpants and an old tank top.

This was not a gym. This was a nightclub.

As if the booming hip-hop music wasn't enough (was that a fog machine in the corner?), the girls seemed to be wearing the same outfits that they would wear to the club, except with clean, pink sneakers instead of stilettos.

Well, wait. I think a few ladies going 1.2 mph on the elliptical might have been wearing wedges.

This fitness center was a-swarm with "gym bees."

The gym bee species, a direct descendant of the barfly, joins a gym as an extension of her profile, and always announces it on her Facebook status update: "Going to go work out! Xoxo!"

Because the gym bee places her iPhone on her treadmill while she stands there reading Cosmo and not exerting whatsoever, she can update her status in live time: "Headed to the weights! Xoxo!"

This is especially useful if a male gym bee across the room has his iPhone perched near the mirror, because, well, what if amid posing and flexing, he lost track of the hottie on the treadmill?

Problem solved. Xoxo!

As a fashion columnist, I'm the first to give a thumb's up to pride and cleanliness. I like designer clothes and hoop earrings and fishnets and fur.

Just not on the bench press.

The she-bee spends more time picking out her perfectly coordinated brand-name top, bottoms and matching shoes than she does getting her heart rate up.

And the he-bee sports (if you can even use that verb in this context) hair gel, one or more necklaces and an Affliction shirt on top of an Ed Hardy shirt on top of an Affliction shirt on top of an Ed Hardy tattoo covering up an Affliction tattoo. And jeans.

What happened to Colorado's true athletes? And how do these posers (literally) stay so fit, when we all see them not working out? Do they chase their evening lines of coke with 1,000 push-ups?

In search of these secrets -- as well as a little sports cred -- I consulted Boulder's Kevin Wendling.

Wendling, 30, a Fairview High and University of Colorado grad, is an expert on sports attire for two reasons.

First, he is a freelance producer for TV sportscasts, from football to golf to speed skating to car racing. In his words: "I see Spandex being worn to its perfection, in all levels of sport."

Second, he was the dude who wore the oversized bunny head, tights and a fannypack to the Bolder Boulder this week.

I know, mega cred. The only catch: On this particular day, both Wendling and I had lost our voices -- completely.

So we conducted the interview via modern day note-passing: Facebook instant messaging. Note: Neither of us was on a treadmill.

Here's how it went down:

Kevin: (Obligatory small talk) How are things at the Cam today? Are you writing about our voices eloping?

Aimee: Yes. And I wanted to write about workout clothes: dressing designer d-bag to go to the gym.

K:Maybe I should change then? How did you know what I was wearing?

A:No, you're wearing a bunny head, right?

K:I work out in any number of costumes. Or mustaches.

A: That is why I love the Bolder Boulder. People loosen up and have fun with exercise; they don't try to make a fashion point. So what is the story of the bunny head?

K:I wish there was a tale. I think I just go for the funniest outfits possible.

A:Have you dressed up every year?

K:Second year. But I dress up a lot for events, as often as possible. Last year I was a gladiator.

A:Where did you get the bunny head?

K:The Ritz. I rented that bad boy. A bunny was the most outstanding costume there. The rest of the outfit was American Apparel: fanny pack, leg warmers, spandex, wristbands, gloves.

A:Outstanding indeed. Was it also hot?


A:Not hott with two t's. Like temperature-wise.

K:I don't remember, really. I was fed a lot of cocktails during the six miles. I would say we stopped 100 times for pictures.

A: Did you train for the race?

K: To walk? No. And maybe that is why my ankle is mysteriously sprained and my big toes are black and blue.

A:Did you find that sweatbands improved your fitness capacity?

K:Absolutely, except it added to my wind resistence.

A:OK, so tell me: Why the tie? And what did you store in your fannypack?

K:Matched the leg warmers. The fannypack was full of adult beverages.

A:My friend Brittany recently met a guy at a club who was wearing a fannypack, and she asked him "What's in the pack?" And he said, "Fruit Roll-Ups." Apparently his friends were like, "Dude, stop wearing your fannypack to da clubs, you're ruining our game," but then he was the only one of them picking up girls. So then it was like, "Who's cool now, haters?"

K:That. Is. Awesome.

A: So back to business. Do you work out?

K:Ew, that was nasty. Sounds like a cheesy pick-up line.

A:Except I am looking at a picture of a dude wearing a bunny head, so my emotions are very complex.

K:I do work out, but not like a meathead.

A:What do you wear to work out in?

K:You'd think I'd wear Spandex, but I don't. I would love me to be in Spandex 24/7.

A:Do you like it when guys flex in the mirror excessively?

K:I don't like it, unless it's me. Which it usually is. Thats 60 percent of my workout, I'd say.

A:What do the pros wear to work out? Mandex? Do they wear necklaces and hair gel?

K:Some do, certainly. Big earrings on some.

A:Is that how they get so strong? By hooking weights into their lobes?

K: Lol.

A:You lolled. How did "lol" even become a word? What's wrong with the good old-fashioned "Heh?"

K:I might start a clothing company called Lol.

A:An athletic clothing company, that makes clothes that double up for working out and working it -- on the dance floor. Your insignia: a massive bunny head. Do it.

K:Just do it.

A:I have a feeling this is how movements are made.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prom at 30?

Prom crash 2008

I did not go to prom for my 30th birthday.

By luck, or probably fate, my May birthday coincides with the biggest dress-up day of the year for high schoolers.

So logically -- and partially out of protest for no such similar day for "adults" -- I have made a tradition of sneaking into various proms and crashing them. Crashing, in this sense, means dancing (I know, who dances at prom?) and not standing around acting self-conscious. I've always been a rebel.

We would arrive late and simply walk in, wearing oversized sunglasses and way too much lipstick. Miraculously, we never got caught, kicked out or arrested. Even after the smile lines around my eyes deepened. Even after I unapologetically announced my plans, year after year, in the newspaper. I'd like to think it's because I'm so youthful and spry. But more likely, no one spoke up because they were scared.

That's what kept me home this year. It's totally normal to sneak into prom at age 29. But age 30? Ew. That's. Just. Creepy.

Well, the beer kept me at home, too. (Like one and a half beers; I left my liver in San Francisco.) Which was just as well, because the real party occurred in my closet. According to the photos and not my memory whatsoever, my friends and I changed outfits every three to five minutes.

Then we brought prom home.

It was so melancholy. I pulled out my old prom dresses -- all 14 of them, including the four from my uncrashed proms -- and dressed my friends in them. Some fit. Some ripped. Some looked more like bathing suits.

Then, we brought the boom box to the busy street outside my house and did a fashion show. It was like everything not to wear all wrapped up on one stage -- er, sidewalk. The worst fashion trends, from 1995 to 2008: poufy shoulders, heart-shaped necklines, itchy sequin straps, multi-colored velvet, lace cut-outs. The mistakes seemed to recycle every few years, blurring the decades, illuminating the hilarity of society and most certainly terrifying my neighbors.

Then, the fashion show turned into an impromptu parade. Which, by luck or probably fate, led us to the karaoke bar down the street. Which is where I saw Them.

It was heavenly: formal gowns, PBR, an open microphone, a carnival-style popcorn machine on wheels, more formal gowns -- what? More gowns? The entire room was buzzing with women wearing prom dresses. Women, not girls. Old crazy ladies. Just like me.

And, unlike prom, they were dancing. On tables.

It was a bachelorette party, and for the first time probably ever, my friends and I fit right in. A birthday reminder that if you stay true to your own quirkiness, and you don't chase the past, and you're willing to keep marching forward (even if it is a ridiculous dress-up parade), you will eventually end up exactly where you're meant to be.

Which brings us to my e-mail this morning.

Thin Man Tavern, 2015 E. 17th Ave. in Denver. May 30, starting at 9 p.m. Prom Night 2: The Totally Awesome Sequel, featuring prom photos and drink specials for grown ups.

I'll be there. Arriving late, wearing oversized sunnies. Ready to crash.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Socks and the city

A letter to the lady in line behind me at Target:

You deserve an explanation for what happened last Saturday. It was yet another in a long list of damaging blows from socks to me.

First, the history. I have a hate-hate relationship with socks. This war was first waged during a kickboxing class in college. Front and center, I was kicking boxes like a trillion dollar baby. Bam. Uppercut, jab, jab, jump kick -- and whoosh! Out of the leg of my sweatpants, with one particularly swift kick, I launched a sock rocket.

The sock wad -- which had apparently smuggled itself inside my pants leg in the washing machine -- landed with an audible "Wee!" in the middle of the studio. The other participants saw it and did not know how to respond. They subconsciously backed away, while not missing a kickbox beat, forming a sort of circle around the sock. It looked like a foot fetish tribal dance, or maybe like my sock was about to perform a breakdancing routine.

That was the end of my kickboxing passion.

So needless to say, what happened Saturday awoke in me Post Traumatic Socks Syndrome.

Now, the context:

1. It was my friend Vanessa's birthday. She wanted to play trampoline dodgeball. But I was wearing a short leather skirt.

2. I ran to Target and bought a pair of sweats to change into. But by the time I returned, everyone had already jumped so much they were hyperventilating and now eating cupcakes. We're getting old.

3. I never actually used the pants, although I did wear them for three minutes to eat a cupcake. I did not think that qualified as use, which brought me to the customer service line to return the pants.

Now, to address your unspoken (but obvious) concerns:

1. No, I do not live in a van down by the river. I had Old McDonald's Swine Flu Farm living in my sinuses. Yes, I should have at least combed my hair.

2. My dog, which also happens to have the hairiest white rumpus of any creature on Earth, was in the backseat of my car. Even though the pants were caked in dog hair, once again, I swear they were within the bounds of an appropriate return.

3. When I shook the pants to remove their fur coat, I did not know a dirty sock had been hiding in the pants leg.

4. And no, I am definitely not Aimee Heckel, who writes a fashion column for the Camera. That was actually my sister Leah returning the pants for me.

Thanks for your understanding.

Dear Leah,

I'm sorry. Don't go to Target for a very long time.



Ah, yes. Socks suck. One of the reasons I love spring is it means I don't have to touch those things for a good three months.

Of all of my clothing items, socks cause me the most stress. They're either where I don't want them to be -- i.e. the return line at Target -- or nowhere to be found, kidnapped by sock gnomes and my poodles. I feel like I am constantly digging through my bucket of widowed socks for "the other" sock. In vain.

I recently reached such a critical mass of single socks that I began unapologetically wearing mismatched socks to the gym.

My friend Laura says my problem is that my socks are bored, so they're running away. They're all white or black.

Laura wears striped socks, toe socks, thigh-high socks, argyle and tie-dyed and homemade and theme socks for every occasion. Her "spring gym socks" are covered in bugs and turtles.

Laura's socks live in a 30-gallon trashcan that she could hide a body in. More than 350 pairs of socks -- 22 of which have monkeys on them. Laura doesn't own a single plain pair, except for bright green thigh-highs. And she says she has never misplaced a sock.

"If you have fun socks, you can find their mate in the laundry really fast," she says. "The lost sock is a white sock phenomenon."

I don't doubt her. She's had a feeting frenzy ever since I met her at age 10. Some women spice up their outfits with wild shoes. But Laura is a self-proclaimed "lounger." Lounging around the house drinking rum doesn't lend itself to shoes.

"I can't not buy socks," she says. "I go to Target for shampoo and I end up with shampoo and socks. I go to

PetSmart for food for the lizard and end up with socks."

(Of course PetSmart has animal-themed socks, she says.)

Laura's socks have sentimental value. She doesn't like to get rid of old socks, so she learned how to fix holes. If she has trouble sleeping, all she has to do is slip into a pair of socks and she immediately nods off.

"I sometimes sleep totally nude but in socks," she says matter-of-factly.

Which brings us to the question: Can socks be sexy? Laura insists they can. Striped socks are fashionable in a punk way. Argyle socks are hot on both men and women. Plus, if you need to shave or have gnarly feet, Laura adds, they "hide the gnarl."

Here are some tips from Laura on how to rock socks.

You can find the best socks at Kohl's and Target (oh, not Target), especially around Halloween time.

Check the Internet. The best site is www.sock

In the summer, wear lightweight socks, thin tights or toe socks -- preferably with ballet flats or Mary Janes and not flip-flops.

If you have sweaty feet, wear half socks with your heels. They cover your toes but leave your heels and arches bare.

Current legwear trends include white tights; tights with shorts; bright, primary colors, such as yellow, blue and red; sparkly tights (metallic, sequins or glitter); and sheer black pantyhose, according to the sock

As for me, I have found my alternative -- a different way to make a footie fashion statement while keeping your tootsies free. Boulder-based Verve, a climbing clothing company, makes boot-cut leg warmers.

Local female climbers came up with the design by cutting off the sleeves of their old sweaters, making a cone-shape cover of the calf and most of the foot.

Best of all, more than 90 percent of Verve's clothing is made by four grandmas who left war-torn countries to move to the United States. Find Verve at or at local shops, such as Boulder Bodywear on Canyon Boulevard.

The bell leg warmers are lightweight and made from polyester fleece with organic cotton lycra ($18), and they allow you to add one extra layer of style to your legs.

The only problem: They are dog hair magnets.

Fortunately, I won't be returning mine any time soon. And they go great with a leather skirt. Even on a trampoline.

Photo by Flickr user scalkins.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rat's nests, bad dye jobs and other hair tragedies

I heard on the radio this morning that the average woman spends 40 minutes every day doing her hair. Over a lifetime, that's two years of combing, blow drying, gelling, curling and ratting -- usually with the goal to look effortless.

I'd like to think I am helping lower that number. For the first 10 years of my life, I refused to comb my hair.

I was born trapped under a heavy mountain of what feels like horsehair. A mutation of self-growing wire. And my thick mane wasn't satisfied with just boiling my scalp to 159 degrees on a hot summer day. It is coarse and curly, so it also tangles easily.

I wasn't the only person who hated wrestling my head mutant. After eight years of violent combing (thereby removing all sensory capability from my follicles), my mom -- who has whisper-thin, straight locks -- resigned. She threatened: I didn't start combing my own hair at least once a week, she would just cut the "rat's nests" out.

I spent several years of my childhood with an upside-down mullet: short on the underside, long on the top. This was a good five years before it became cool for girls to shave the underside of their hair, cut zigzags into the sides and pull it into a ponytail. Ironically, my mom wouldn't let me do that.

My mom and I (God bless her on Mother's Day) have always had a rocky hair relationship. She is a natural brunette who dyes her hair blonde. I'm a natural blonde who dyes my hair brunette. She hates that. Yet she is the

person who got me hooked on hair dye -- at the tender age of 9.

We constantly lament how expensive it is to keep up our hairy addictions, yet neither of us could imagine being ournatural color. Gross. Shudder, shudder.

The economy (oh, the "e" word) doesn't help. In fact, area hair salons report that beauty is one of the areas taking a big hit, as increasingly more people make cuts (zing!) to race away from the red.

Specifically, more people are opting for store-bought color, which promises you'll get the same results as if you went to the salon.

But be careful, says Robert DiTacchio, creative director of Jon Ric International Salon and Day Spa in Denver ( More often than not, he says, people end up spending eight times what they would have if they'd just asked the pros. Eight. Times.

Boxed color costs between $15 and $30. Color correction services to fix your hair after it turns out leopard-spotty begin at $150. Salons across the area have reported a "drastic increase" in these color mess-ups -- nearly double during the past year.

Unfortunately, this is a number I am contributing to. In March, I had to seek professional intervention from Fringe Hair Studio in Louisville to abolish a fire-truck red spot that I ignited near my bangs. It took three layers of bleach to conquer.

If only I had consulted someone like DiTacchio beforehand. He recommends calling in the pros when you are dealing with resisting gray, vibrant colors (perhaps fire-truck red?) and blonde. Blonde can turn green or orange. Reds can morph into dull pink.

If you do color at home and you're not striving for a jungle pattern, get a friend to do it for you, DiTacchio says. It's hard to see what you're doing on your own head. The best at-home brand is L'Oreal Professional.

Photo by Flickr user Mark Wheadon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Whoever says Colorado has great weather doesn't wear stilettos

Not to sound trite or elderly, but how 'bout this weather?

I shave my legs for spring, but the hair rushes back to the follicles before I make it outside, a form of self-preserving padding in anticipation of the impending blizzard. My dark winter wools are forced to co-mingle with my white cottons. And my skin, following Colorado's schizophrenic lead, is simultaneously dry, chapped, oily and broken out, but only in one quarter-sized patch.

Then there is the man. Oh, the man.

As if putting together a quasi-matching outfit is not challenging enough for the retrosexual male, my boyfriend has become straight-up neurotic.

The first thing he does in the morning is text Google to check the weather. Then he argues with it. After his fight with his cell-phone screen, he must walk around the block with his finger in the air, checking the wind. On mid-April blizzard days, he checks with his middle finger before settling on his one of two outfit possibilities: jeans or shorts. Then he has to ask my permission: "Can I wear this?" This is man-speak for, "Help. Me. I am scared."

This week, Colorado has graced us with summer. So far. And this unexpected sun has transformed my boyfriend into the Phantom of the Opera. The right side of his face is white. The left side -- the driver's-side-window side -- is lobster red, topped off with a one-armed farmer's glow and a literal red neck.

So now he is pained between wearing a T-shirt and compounding his fry lines or wearing a sleeveless shirt and looking, in his earnestly distressed words, "like a total d-bag for a few days."

My advice: Wear sunscreen, dude. There isn't a cream, powder or plasma that I smear on my skin that doesn't contain SPF. But still, I'm more of a Corpse Bride than a Malibu Barbie, and my transparent skin has been known to frighten small children.

This weather is more than one fashionista alone can handle. That's why I have called in the pros: a spa/salon and a meteorologist-ish.

The spa: Twig Salon and Spa, 1831 Pearl St., Boulder,

Twig Salon, which opened March 3, is an Earth-conscious biz dedicated to the "art of natural beauty." Can natural beauty stand up against Mother Nature?

The source: Haley Brekken, stylist and co-owner.

The tips:

A re-mineralizing seaweed wrap. This restores the moisture in your skin. Plus, maybe if we think about the ocean more, we can keep the snow away.

Moroccan oil. Put it on your hair as a treatment, before you blow-dry it or on the ends to calm the frizzies. Moroccan oil penetrates your hair, moisturizing from the inside-out. Because it absorbs, it does not coat your hair and leave it greasy or weigh it down.

A sinus relief facial. Who knew you could get a facial to ease your dry sinuses?

Acupuncture. Your external beauty relates to your internal health. And soon, Twig Salon will be offering acupuncture for facial rejuvenation -- basically, an acupuncture facelift that reduces fine lines.

"If you're healthy internally, your skin and hair are going to be healthy," Brekken says.

The weatherman: Jimmy Himes, of Boulder, the Camera weather reporter and also a male fashion god.

The forecast: Himes expects weather to stay warm for the next few weeks. But there is a chance we'll see another big snow event sometime this season. Of course. (Groan.) So start rotating out your winter clothing, but keep a warm coat, trench and boots nearby.

The tips:

Layer. If you have lived in Colorado for more than eight seconds, you should be well versed in this.

Keep an umbrella in your trunk. Marc Jacobs umbrellas are Himes' favorites, and they're cheaper than you might expect.

A skinny, long scarf. When it's warm, this scarf makes a nice fashion statement, but as the day grows colder, it can bundle you up.

The Canadian skincare line B. Kamins ( A chemist developed this line, bringing together the physician's office and the cosmetics counter. B. Kamins offers specialized products (such as extra dry and menopause) for both men and women.

DiorSkin Forever Extreme Wear Flawless Make-up. That's a long name for liquid-to-powder heaven. Himes swears by this foundation, available at Sephora for $44.

"I use it in the morning for camera work, and it holds up under the lights, which is amazing," he says. "That tells me it will hold up in the sunlight."

Plus, it's SPF 25. Which means no Two-Face complex.

Although if I can't get my boyfriend to remember SPF lotion, there's zero chance of him touching make-up. Maybe I'll just get his windows tinted.

Photo by I Got Bored With My Screen Name.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Beturn, the dark side of shopping

I have three white dresses, a black gown and a jacket that I didn't really want and certainly couldn't afford, but I now own.

You see, I tried -- unsuccessfully -- to join the cult of the beturners, folks who buy something with the explicit intention of using it one time and returning it. It's part stealing, part retail-borrowing, and pure evil. We all know about beturning, but no one likes to talk about it.

The five flaws with beturning, as well as the barriers that keeps me safe from its tempting grasp, are as follows:

1. You cannot lose the receipt. (Bam, I am already doomed.)

2. You cannot squirt spaghetti sauce/cranberry juice/red wine on, say, your white dress(es).

3. You have to be willing to wear your clothes with itchy tags grinding on your armpits, and be willing to slither away in shame when someone sees said tags.

4. You must be versed in every store's specific return policies. Remember this one. It will come into play when we talk about the "beturn block."

5. You have to have no soul.

The only exception to No. 5 is the what I call the hurried beturn. You're scrambling for an outfit because you are too important and busy to set aside proper shopping time, or you are a procrastinator. So you grab the first five things to try on at home, or in the car on your way to the fundraiser, and you plan on returning the four reject outfits.

That is how my boyfriend ended up with three pairs of black pants and four white button-ups. Late for fundraiser. What receipts?

I told him he should get a job as a waiter to pay for the unneeded items; after all, he's now got the closet for it.

Some stores have more relaxed policies than others. For example, according to urban myth, you can beturn anything at Wal-Mart.

Here are three real-life examples of the Worst Beturns In History, Ever:

3. The hoses. It was the Fourth of July, and we wanted to fill up water balloons in the park. But parks don't have spigots. So my friend bought about 25 garden hoses, hooked them together and attached them to the spigot at her house. She then carried the hose chain through the neighborhood, across busy streets and to the park. As the tale goes, when she beturned them, they were dripping water and were covered in fresh tire tracks. Wal-Mart didn't flinch.

2. The carpet cleaner. Judy (name changed to protect the guilty) had a carpet cleaner. Her carpet cleaner quit working, but she had thrown the box away. So she bought another carpet cleaner. She put the old carpet cleaner in the new box, and used the new receipt to beturn it. Wal-Mart didn't flinch.

1. The snake. I can't bring myself to tell this story in full sentences, so here goes my best staccato effort. Toilet. Clogged. Home Depot. Plumber's snake, aka electric eel. Unclogged. Snake in a box. Snake back on the shelf. Poor Home Depot.

There is yet another kind of beturning: the beturn block.

Brittany was checking out at Forever 21 when she noticed the sales associate had accidentally scanned a nearby yellow striped shirt and placed it in Brittany's bag.

"Oh, that shirt wasn't mine," Brittany explained.

She was shocked by the associate's response: "Yes, it was. It was in your pile."

Brittany explained that it must have already been on the counter or somehow got into the mix, but she really did not want it. The woman said, "It was in your pile." The fight raged on.

"No. I don't want it. It's ugly and not even my size."

"Well, I'm sorry, but we don't take returns."

"What? This is not a return. I never wanted it."

"We don't take returns, ma'am."

"Let me see your manager."

Manager: "What is the problem?"

"She accidentally charged me for this shirt that I don't want."

"Well, our computers cannot return anything. Sorry."

I suggested Brittany just beturn the shirt to Wal-Mart. Even with Forever 21 tags and no receipt, I'm sure the Mart would take it. I mean, this one wasn't even run over or dunked in a toilet. It was Wal-Mart's turn to benefit.

Got a soul? Does the mere mention of beturning fill you with self-righteous rage? Here are two fashion-forward and socially responsible shopping options for you:

We Are Overlooked, ( designs cool T-shirts to promote and raise money for humanitarian causes around the globe. One black tee reads in white scribble letters: "This shirt feeds starving children." For $20, every shirt sold provides one person with a meal a day for one month.

We Are Overlooked even takes on the uncomfortable topic of child trafficking. A gray shirt has a Dr. Seuss-esque child locked in a cage, with the words, "Because some things were never meant to be caged."

The company also features a shirt to raise money for mosquito nets on April 15, World Malaria Day.

Annie O ( is a Boulder-based biz that works with needy artists in Peru to sell adorable belts, bags and accessories that are inspired by traditional embroidery techniques. Annie O is fair-trade and supports women who are victims of domestic violence.

The products are available in about 22 boutiques around the country. The colorful belts are hand-embroidered out of sheep wool, with horn buckles. They look great on top of a summery dress.

Plus, all of the products have a story behind them -- and not one of these stories involves an electric eel.

Photo by Flickr user gandhiji40.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stretch marks, scars and other beauty marks

I have been gone for six weeks.

I feel like a different woman. I guess I am, inside and out.

No, I don't have a stranger's nose. I did not implant anything in or vacuum anything out.

I was bitten by a five-toothed shark, right across my stomach. Yup. I was surfing in treacherous waters, and the sucker lunged at me and -- ouch. I barely remember it, but I woke up wearing one of those oh-so-flattering hospital gowns and an array of tubes and needles.

I was too scared to look at my stomach for an entire week. Well, too drugged for the first four days, and too scared for three more. I could feel that something was different, and I was afraid I wouldn't recognize myself if I looked. So I didn't.

It's hard enough being a woman, and wrestling impossible body image expectations, and learning to love your belly -- much less in the air-brushed fashion field. But what if it's not your belly anymore? How can you accept yourself if you are not, well, you?

Week two, Facebook update: "Aimee is starting to awaken, again."

I finally looked.

I imagine the shock of my new belly was similar to waking up after a car accident or a mastectomy or even childbirth. Everyone changes, I told myself. Women must deal with changing bodies all the time.

Still, I cried. Not for vanity, but out of shock and loss. All change requires some form of loss, for better or worse. This felt like worse.

Not to mention the horror of the accident. As you probably guessed, I wasn't surfing in Colorado. The shark was in the waters at Casa Bonita, where I had been cliff diving.

OK, actually I was hiking and got in a fight with a bear. I took that beast downtown -- but not before it swiped me across the stomach with one sharp claw.

Week three: "Aimee is going back into hibernation mode."

In the cycle of recovery, you might also call this denial.

Week four: "Aimee is on a roller coaster of recovery."

The five gashes across my stomach stopped making me cry and started making me curious. Right above them, on my rib cage, I had a tattoo. It seemed strange to mourn one kind of body modification and welcome another.

It seemed the difference was choice. Whereas I had chosen the ink, I had not asked the other prisoners to shank me in the gut five times -- yes, that's what happened. Even though I didn't start but totally finished the prison fight, these wounds left me with a feeling of victimization and helplessness.

Until I talked to my friend Laura.

Week five: "Aimee is poised and ready to pounce."

No. The difference between a tattoo and surgery was not choice. Because even with an unwanted physical change, I still had choice: how to let it change me internally.

In the cycle of life, you might also call this evolution.

And my unlikely muse for this lesson was my friend Laura's stretch marks. She says they upset her for years after her son's birth.

It's not shallow to miss your former self, she explained to me; it's normal.

But it is crucial to practice accepting the changes, and refocus on your other assets that make you feel confident. It's oversimplified to demand you love your stretch marks or scars or your crooked toes or the hair that relentlessly grows on your upper lip.

But do not let it define you.

Fashion is not only about what brands you wear, or even the body you put it on. It goes much deeper, into the choices we make to express ourselves externally, and focus on the assets that build us up to fuel our deeper development. Scars are a reminder of our ability to recover. And our own depth, past the surface of the skin and all the way into the, er, uterus, as it were.

Ah, yes. It took quite a few sarcastic tall tales before the reality of my surgery finally sank in. Tumor. Uterus. Ouch. And five new marks that are forever reminders that in my weakness, I am strong.

Which brings us week six:"I just might be ready to paint my toes today."

I think I'll go red: for feeling bolder and, in that, beautiful.

Photo by Jonathan Castner.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trying to understand male fashion: Beyond metrosexual and retrosexual

Men are complex, as the furrowed eyebrows here show.
Photo by Flickr user Steve Punter.

Forget everything you've heard. Men are complicated, and so is their style.
We just returned from Vegas. While packing, my boyfriend, JD, realized he didn't have any dress shoes to wear to the clubs. (Yes, he "realized" this while packing, as if the thought had never crossed his mind before that moment.) JD is taller than Shrek, so it's hard to find shoes in his size: lucky 13.

Another Shrek-esque character, Anthony, was coming with my friend Brittany, so I texted her and asked what size shoes Anthony wears, thinking maybe JD could borrow a pair of his.

She wrote back, "Size 13. What size is JD? Anthony needs to borrow some dress shoes."
Argh, grr. I am a manly retrosexual man and
I'm going to punch your face in with a big steak.

Sounds like the attack of the "retrosexuals," the beef-jerky-gnawing manly men who wear flannels and work boots, trim their beards with hunting knives and wash their armpits and face with the same bar of Ivory soap. Basically, the opposite of the highly groomed "metrosexual."

Except it's not that simple. Sure, Boyfriend does not own dress shoes. He only wears jeans and doesn't even own a tie, except for the clip-on horse-pattern tie I got for him as a joke at a church yard sale. When required to dress up, he has attempted (before my veto) to wear this in public several times.

He would live T-shirts if it didn't snow (check that: If I didn't force him to wear a jacket when it snows, because he apparently does not feel the sensations of temperature). He is scruffy on the face and shaved on the head.


Here is where it gets all crazy. He loves Disney movies. He not only knows what shea butter is, but he has been spottedusing it. And he refuses to wear socks more than one time. Literally. He buys new socks every week because he wants them "crisp" and perfectly white. He would rather go sock-less -- under his junked out tennis shoes, nonetheless -- than "double-dip" a sock. His words, not mine.

That's far from retro. Yet not quite metro.

There was obviously something else, something more in the world of guy style.

In my torrent of confusion, I solicited help from Doug Brown, an author and local guru on men, in general. My words, not his. After a thorough investigation of my boyfriend behind his back, Brown determined JD was actually a member of the highly complex breed of "schizosexual."

Brown would know. He, too, is a schizosexual. He is fond of cashmere -- even using the word "fond." Yet he loves flannel. Opera and Led Zeppelin. Sushi and barbecue. Handmade scarves and campfires. The schizosexual is simultaneously neither/nor, and a little bit of both.

Picture this: Brown describes male style as one of those charts with a big circle in the middle, for schizosexual. Then, a metrosexual circle on the left, a retrosexual circle on the right, each dipping into the large schizosexual middle circle. Every guy lands on this chart somewhere, whether as an isolated extreme or seeping across all areas from the middle.
Brown describes two other circles on this imaginary chart, as well.

On the bottom: the granolosexual. This man is a vegan, electronics-hating, neo-Rainbow Gathering back-to-earth hippie who most likely lives in the town of Ward. He is not retro, in that he would never kill an elk with his bare hands and eat it, but he's not metro, because he definitely does not groom, much less use body "polishes" or loofahs.

On the top of the chart is the pastoralsexual, who is into gardening, herbs, flowers, vegetables, tweed blazers, walking sticks and cooking. Before you think that sounds metrosexual, consider this: Pastoralsexuals only like doing metrosexual things that make messes. Digging. Basting. Grilling. But not so far as bow huntin'.

Suddenly, my boyfriend and his Great Sock Complex was thesis-level complicated. So in the true nature of woman, I decided to make it even more so. I tapped into for more definitions.
Bono is so very ubersexual. Look at him.

The ubersexual --
Passionate about causes, equality, traveling, art and culture. Spends more time "grooming his mind than his hair" and is highly confident. Example: Bono.

The technosexual --
The male who is well-groomed and obsessed with the latest technology: cell phones, PDAs, computers, iPods.

The sapiosexual --
A man who frequents seminars, art centers and book readings in search of other brainiacs, aka sophistikittens. Wears glasses and blazers. Would definitely have dress shoes for Vegas, but would prefer to wear them to the museum than the club.

The agrosexual -- The farmer type: tough and rough, but with metrosexual tendencies. As Urban Dictionary put it, "My agrosexual friend talked about his favorite designer labels as he shoveled the manure from his chicken barn."

Oh, and you can't leave out the neologosexual, a person obsessed with coining new terms, such as metrosexual and ubersexual. Ahem, ahem.

Which brings us to the pomosexual, the "un-label-able" post-modern type who refuses to define people by their sexuality in any way. On the list of fill-in-the-blank-sexuals, this is the equivalent of selecting "chooses not to respond" or "N/A." Which incidentally was the facial expression I got from my boyfriend when I asked him what category of man he thinks he falls into.

Of course, his blank stare might have also been attributed to the nearby beer can or football game on TV. That brings us back to retrosexual.

And the possibility that he likes to wear new socks every week because he straight up refuses to touch a washing

Complex creatures, men.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Leah: Wax much?

The female life is a constant war against body hair.

Let's estimate the average American woman spends 10 minutes every other day shaving her legs.

Minimally, 10 minutes, three times a week, or 30 minutes a week.

Math scorches my soul, but as a community service, I shall continue. Let's say you start shaving at age 13, and you continue until you are 70 because you're one sexy grandma. That is 57 days, almost two months, of your life spent removing leg hair with a sharp piece of steel.

This doesn't account for conquering the bikini line and armpits, or waxing the brows, or plucking all of those stray hairs that -- let's face it -- we all have but all deny.

Guess what, men? Many women get whiskers. Our big toes sometimes get bushy. Yes, bushy, not just scruffy.

But in order to meet the hairless, pre-pubescent body ideal that the American society sets up for us, women must engage in a constant war against their hair.

My friend, Brittany, has a new complex: the "she-stache." Brittany went to a spa to get her eyebrows waxed, and the waxer asked her if she also wanted to take care of her mustache.

"Um, I don't have a mustache," Brittany said.

"Yes, you do."

Brittany, who is blonde and relatively hairless, was shocked. "No, I have no hair on my upper lip."

The woman quickly responded, "Yes, you have lots."

Brittany was indignant. "Well, I don't want a mustache wax."

"OK," the woman sighed. She applied the wax to Brittany's brows. As she leaned in to remove it, her nose not one inch from Brittany's nose, Brittany heard the woman mutter something, low and accusingly, under her breath.


Waxing should be the subject of memos in the Justice Department, not something that you find in a spa. I've heard women say a Brazilian is worse than childbirth. One yank at my recent half-hour wax punishment proved significantly worse than all 20 hours of my tattoo -- at once.

Don't tell me you have this new magic wax that doesn't hurt as much. It does. Most likely, the only thing keeping my (plucked and shaved) tootsies out of your jaw is the bottle of wine I downed at lunch in fearful anticipation of our appointment.

Oh, and never, ever, ever, under any delusion or desperation try to wax yourself, or enlist an untrained friend. Wax gone wrong takes on a distinct bubble gum quality. Or so I've heard from, er, this one friend of a friend of a friend's friend.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if I was stuck on an island for months (preferably with Josh Holloway going by the name Sawyer) with no hair-fighting artillery. Would I look like a different person? Would I start smoking weed and liking the Grateful Dead? Or would I kill a boar with my bare hands so I could use its sharp canine teeth to groom? I have a hunch Lost Island would have one less boar.

Not every non-hippie woman is terrified of hair. In fact, I recently read a article claiming that, due to the economy, increasingly more women are skipping the Brazilian and opting for a "more trimmed, version of the '70s style."

Let's make a quick diversion to talk about gardening. Your front lawn. If you are easily offended, think of this as an extension of our Wednesday garden coverage and in no way a metaphor. The current gardening trend is not to cultivate large, unruly shrubbery in your front lawn, and certainly not pine trees that block the view or patchy and wild Aspens that want to take over the universe. Increasingly more women are planting organized flower gardens.

In the words of my friend Leah, "It's not my fault you people have paved driveways and I have a lush garden walkway."

Now, let's return to the topic of hair, and my green-thumb friend Leah, who rocks what she calls a "Russian Spy Brow." As she puts it, "If left untamed, my eyebrow (singular) rivals Bert (of Bert and Ernie fame) and could totally take down Brooke Shields in an eyebrow cage match."

In high school, Leah tried to shave her bikini line -- using Neosporin because she heard that's what porn stars do.

She avoided swimsuits (and Neosporin) for years. Yet having hair anywhere other than on her head made her insecure and mannish.

Until the sweet recession.

"Hair is back, people," Leah recently wrote in an e-mail. "I never understood why, once I'd hit puberty and stopped looking like a 5-year-old girl, I'd want to torture myself to look like a 5-year-old girl."

Now Leah has a new boyfriend. In self-defense, and in preparation of their burgeoning romance, she casually posted the article on her blog.

Back to Leah's completely non-metaphoric front yard. She hopes Boyfriend can appreciate a well kept garden.

Besides, Leah adds, "I won't ask him to shave his back hair if he doesn't tell me how to trim my hedges."

Of course, she can always toss out her leg-hair razor and have herself 24 extra hours this year to search for a good esthetician, er, landscape architect.

Photo by Flickr user Vincent Maher.