Look Better

Last night, I was near an Ulta and had randomly clipped the $3.50 off $10 coupon from Sunday’s paper and had it in my wallet.

I figured I could easily find something I “needed” there and rather than purchase it at Target for full prices, get it there with a bit of a discount.

That was a huge mistake.

I should never walk into a store without a general idea of what I’m looking for, especially when I’m pinching pennies and trying to utilize a coupon.

I decided I’d just replace the Cover Girl powder I was running low on only to realize the only reason they even make this anymore (though they are down to only three different shades now) is for OLD, OUTDATED people, like MYSELF who have been using the same sorry ass make-up for years.

I’ll have these wake up calls every now and again, like when I realize what a horrible dresser I am or when your roommate tells you everything in your closet looks like it came from Old Navy (and maybe it does?).

But yesterday was eye opening.

Ulta used to seem like an awesome store filled with fun things that smelled good. A candy store of beauty products for mostly affordable prices.

Instead, I was bombarded by an overwhelming sense that I should be doing more to make myself look better.

Seriously, there are nineteen different things I should be putting on my face to not only cover up how gross I am but to also alter my appearance so I no longer look like me.

I didn’t even know you could invent more products beyond foundation and powder, but I was clearly living in a world where BB cream, tinted moisturizer, bronzer, “true match” base and primer were only things professional people used.

I could understand how a woman might fall down the rabbit hole of thinking they needed all of these things in order to be pretty and desirable.

Is it wrong to not want to put on a whole new face everyday? I mean, I get how much better I would probably look, but aside from all of the time and work it would take, wouldn’t my regular old make-up less face feel like some horrifying piece of garbage unworthy of seeing the light of day?

Maybe my problem is that along with having no sense of style, I have no idea which eye shadow shade works best with my eye color (no matter how many times I Google this), or how to apply eyeliner correctly, or which bold lipstick I can pull off.

So it could be that I have to tear down the whole idea of Ulta because I’m just a clueless woman in a world where not being good at this kind of thing makes you look dumb. And possibly unattractive.



King Spa

Last Sunday, I caught a glimpse of my half-naked body in a mirror and grimaced, a flash of disgust at the extra weight around my middle. I couldn’t even think spare tire because that made it sound practical, when in reality it was weighing me down in every sense of the word. Way to deal with your problems by pounding cheeseburgers, I thought, that’s working out well for you. Keep up that beer and couch therapy.

I shook it off and kept stripping down, pulling off socks, bra, underwear. I was among friends. And a lot of naked strangers. I was at King Spa.

King Spa is located just northwest of the city, but it feels like you’re in another country – and actually, that’s not true either. It feels like a sanctuary in that it’s removed and peaceful, but it’s more like a Chicago United Nations, black and white and brown people chilling out in a series of pools and saunas.

No one wears clothing in the gender-segregated pool area. I can feel you squirm, but hear me out.

Mrs. Potato Head

I got my hair cut a few weeks ago. It went fine. It went great, actually. I went to Rev. Billy’s Chop Shop and Billy did exactly what I asked him to, which was to keep the length (my hair’s super long right now) and get rid of the split ends and general bullshit that comes when you don’t get a haircut for over a year. He cut a few layers in the back but kept it looking blunt and we talked about how my head, my hair, or my head and my hair I don’t remember, is a sculpture and it took all of 15 minutes (seriously that’s how long the cut took he is FAST) for me to feel like a human lady again.

My hair was getting kind of gross but I hardly noticed. I was just sort of used to having a massive nest of fine black hair interspersed with white strands (NATURE’S HIGHLIGHTS AMIRITE LADIES) and, I shit you not, occasional bits of lint.

Note to self: clean your damn house, Jasmine.

i’m the one that i want

I was brushing my teeth last night before crawling into bed. I’d already taken off my makeup, washed my face, and put on my pajamas.

My face was sallow in the light, and the zit on my chin was taking longer to go away than I wanted it to. I leaned forward, tilted my chin down to spit toothpaste into the sink, then stood up and examined my face again. I tugged at my bottom lip with an index finger, checked my teeth and gums, frowned. And then it dawned on me.

(Not) Lookin’ Good

My parents have a crazy amount of magazine subscriptions, some “reward” for redeeming points of one kind or another.

There are several fashion type rags, “Glamour”, “InStyle”, “Vogue”. I’ve picked them up, looked at whichever actress was featured on the cover, and then put them back down.

The thing is, I could care less about most of the content. Is it wrong that I have no interest in which mascara is going to make me look like an anime character or what piece of clothing I need to really make my spring wardrobe pop? I am not trying to get “bikini ready” or “lose that holiday weight” or figure out which kind of cropped pant is more flattering on my petite frame.

Maybe it’s the fact that despite the fact that I dropped 30 pounds already, most if not all of that was water weight from being pre-eclamptic. I still have a belly, huge thighs and unsightly stretch marks.

I’m wearing maternity clothing and even though there’s not an eight month old pregnant belly around to hold up the band on these jeans, I have no desire to try and pull on the pair of Lucky Brand skinny ones from yesteryear.

I had to buy underwear three sizes bigger than normal to go over my C-section incision and guess what? THEY ARE AMAZING. GRANNY PANTIES FOREVER. No more self consciousness about my muffin top with those low rider hipsters.

My other new best friend is dry shampoo. I have zero interest in blow drying my hair. I don’t care if it’s below freezing outside. NOTHING A HAT CAN’T FIX.

Make-up? WHY?

Shoes other than the moccasin ones that look like slippers? I DON’T SEE THE POINT. And besides, they’re black, which means THEY GO WITH EVERYTHING.

The last time I did more than brush my hair, put make up on and wore a non-maternity dress was when my mom scheduled a professional photographer to come to the house a couple of weeks ago for a family portrait since my brother was in town from Vermont.

I got so freaked out about my stupid, unkempt eyebrows that I cut off half of one and then in a panic, tried to even it out my cutting a half off the other.



Meet Our Readers

Pits. Pubes. Upper lips and legs. This month’s theme is Body Hair. We’ve got a talented crop of women on deck Wednesday to talk about it. I can’t think of a better prelude to your Thanksgiving.

Maya Marshall

missspoken_mayamarshallMaya Marshall is a Cave Canem Fellow. She co-facilitates the Vox Ferus After Dark workshop series. She was a 2013 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award finalist. She has led workshops for people ages 8-80 in the Midwest, Southwest, and South America. Her poems have appeared in BlackberryThe LegendaryPoetic Hustles in the Era of Hope and Change, and other publications.

Jessica DiMaio

missspoken_jessicadimaioJessica DiMaio is a graduate of Columbia College’s Fiction Writing program, who then became an esthetician because fiction writing doesn’t pay the bills. Turns out sculpting the perfect brow is as gratifying as crafting the perfect sentence. She wrote her essay while working at a ritzy downtown spa, but she much prefers the clients she has at the Benefit boutique she works for now. You can read more about her adventures in esthetics at



Alyssa Sorresso

Alyssa Sorresso is a creative non-fiction writer and performer living in Chicago. She has performed internationally and at home, including as an ensemble member for 2nd Story and at The Moth slams. Alyssa’s writing was recently published in Creative Non-Fiction Magazine and on OhioEdit. She maintains a blog at, and you can follow her on Twitter @tactless_grace. Please come say hi, because otherwise she’ll probably sit by herself and be somewhat awkward about it.

Lisa White

missspoken_lisawhiteLisa is a born and raised Midwestern girl who’s had numerous adventures and escapades writing. After moving here to attend college she fell in love with Chicago and despite a brief stint in New York returned to the city that feels like home. She cut her teeth writing about music and food around town for various outlets, including Heave, Gapers Block, IE and ChicagoStyle Wedding. She kinda went corporate for a while but like most writers never strayed far away from the clacking of laptop keys. She now is the Associate Editor at Chicagoist where she spends her days writing and editing work about all aspects of Chicago life.

missspoken_liliarissmanLilia Rissman

Lilia Rissman has enjoyed writing for a long time – one of her proudest moments was winning a trophy in fourth grade for her play about Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad.  Most of the writing that Lilia does today involves phrases like “morphosyntax” and “agent-oriented teleological modal base.” She is very happy for the opportunity tonight to pursue a more physical topic. Talk to her later if you would like to know what a modal base is.


Samantha Irby

missspoken_samanthairbySamantha Irby recently published a collection of essays called “Meaty.” You can find her blog at


Ponytail Panic

Anxiety has been my friend as far back as I can remember. Even as a kid, my default state was nervous at best, full-blown dread at worst. In some ways, not much has changed in 20 years: it’s not hard to make my blood pressure spike and brainwaves stutter incoherently, though now I’m more terrified of things like job security and creative accomplishments and less scared of German Shepherds and ponytail bumps.

Ponytail bumps were serious business. At age eight or nine, I was obsessed with having a perfectly smooth scalp. I’d stand in front of the bathroom mirror for up to an hour, brushing straight back, watery eyes locked on my own reflection. Slowly, hesitantly, I’d pull the rubber band around my fine, dirty blonde hair, tentatively looping the tight elastic once, twice. I held my breath, praying for perfection and the salvation from my racing heart I was sure doing it right would bring. If my hair was perfect, my new classmates would like me, my parents would stop yelling at each other, my life would be a pleasant Lisa Frank-Sanrio dream. There would be teal unicorns, and a cute frog with preternaturally large, round eyes, and maybe a real friend. Turning my head, I’d inspect each side carefully. Inevitably there was a bump, a lump, some ridge throwing everything out of place. I had cowlicks and wasn’t great at doing my own hair, but all that registered was failure. I was ugly and I’d screwed up, and ugly screw-ups got made fun of more than I already did. Frustrated rage and despair quickly followed, usually in the form of tears but sometimes more. Once I broke a hairbrush. Another time, a mirror.

I’m really glad to be a grown-up. Even though I’m still not great at doing my own hair.

Anxiety remains a constant, permeating everything from daily interactions to long-term plans and goals. Or put more simply, I freak the fuck out about a lot of relatively minor daily things. Mostly in my head, sometimes in epic meltdowns around people I trust, and every once in awhile in public, which is pretty much the greatest. Maybe it’s family dysfunction, maybe it’s how I’m naturally wired, maybe some super villain with mind control wastes their powers on making me cry when I don’t bring enough cash for guacamole. I don’t care at this point. I just want it to be better.

And after years of trial and error and more error, it is better. Even manageable. There is still a part of me that believes beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’m going to screw everything up, or that everything is going to go wrong — that things will inevitably be terrible and there’s nothing I can to do stop it, and that doubting everything good makes me safe. But that part is smaller and less convincing (if not gone entirely). I’m better at gently telling myself I’m being ridiculous, or that I need to shut the hell up. And in case this doesn’t sound self-helpy enough, there are things I’ve changed in my daily routine that make a big difference. Stretching every morning. Regular bedtimes. Talking myself through it when my thoughts start spinning. Not drinking to the point of blackout. Revolutionary stuff.

Believing life is going to go to hell with no notice feels natural, a preset that I can’t switch. But I’m trying. It doesn’t always go well. I’ve come a long way from breaking mirrors when I can’t get my hair right, which is good because I regularly get owned by 16-year-olds from La Jolla on YouTube. I go to bed on time, most of the time. I do my homegrown yoga. I have a good man, I have good friends, I have a huge terror that they’re going to disappear and it’ll be all my fault. But it’s less powerful, and I’m getting better at dealing with it. Someday, it might shrink even more.

I keep telling myself that everything is going to be okay. Some days, I believe it.

Did you miss last week’s show?

That sucks. You should probably come to the next one. In the meantime, here are two of our participant’s stories. For your reading pleasure:

“Me Talk Titty One Day” – Jasmine Davila

“A brief history of the most amazing titties in the world. (Mine, duh.)” – Melanie LaForce




Debut show tonight! And a preview of coming attractions.

And by coming attractions I mean about boobs. But let’s talk about our show happening tonight! Gallery Cabaret at 7pm, the following lovely and super-talented ladies will read about boobs – theirs, someone else’s, boobs in the general sense: Melanie LaForce Jasmine Davila Natasha Samreny Alicia Swiz Samantha Irby …along with your co-hosts, Carly Oishi and Rosamund Lannin, who’ll be opening and closing. There’s a preview of my story below, but really, you should just come out tonight. It’s free and it’s gonna be awesome and it’s about BOOBS, and did I mention it’s free?

What does it feel like to be an unattractive woman?

Normally I use Quora for questions about WordPress, wireframes, and APIs, but a few weeks ago this post caught my attention: What does it feel like to be an unattractive woman? A taboo topic often unacknowledged, much like the women in the comments.

The answers are quietly heartbreaking, infuriating, and familiar: being passed over for prettier people, feeling invisible, the unspeakable cruelty of children and teenagers. Familiar, but not the same: I’m a white girl of average body size. I won’t deal with a lot of scenarios described by the commenters. So I’ll save the stories about my own issues with appearance for another day (don’t worry, they’re coming). In the meantime, go give it a read.