Two Hours of My Life I’ll Never See Again

Susan B. Anthony Got This Dress on Sale

‘Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes’ said Thoreau. Warily, I venture out to buy a shirt. I’m embarking on an enterprise and want to make a good impression. All my clothes are garish, vintage or beat up, and I’m not real happy about my waistline. A new shirt will look crisp and corporate, I hope.

I must truly be getting old, when the distance between Nordstrom’s and Macy’s looks like a hike. This is part of my waistline problem, but that’s for another day. A grey shirt, I think, would be nice. I hate Providence Place Mall, but surely among the ten thousand shirts hanging there I will find one I can love.

Two hours later I have seen them all and I don’t like them.

I must really be a curmudgeon. No new clothes after all, so I’ll just have to put on an attitude.

Let’s All Go Back to Using Baby Shampoo and Lotion

The Environment Minister of Denmark has created legislation to ban certain chemicals which are believed to cause disruption to the endocrine system. A small blurb here — there will likely be more news about this once it hits the mainstream publications. It sounds like a good idea for anyone concerned about endocrine disruptors to try out using baby shampoo and lotion from Denmark, if they are able to make them propyl and butyl paraben-free — it may be a good way to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Enough With the Politics

It’s time to talk about something really important.

Dominique Browning, in an essay in today’s New York Times asks the question on all of our minds– ‘Why Can’t Middle-aged Women Have Long Hair?’

Long hair is not the appropriate choice of grown-ups. It says rebellion. Hillary Rodham Clinton softens her do, and sets off a bizarre Howl of Angry Inches, as if she had betrayed some social compact. Well, my long hair is indeed a declaration of independence. I am rebelling, variously, against Procter & Gamble, my mother, Condé Nast and, undoubtedly, corporate America in general. Whereas it used to be short hair that was a hallmark of being a liberated woman — remember the feminist chop? I do; I did it — these days, long hair is a mark of liberation.

Well, she and I are the same age, 55. Years ago I stopped coloring my grey hair (see earlier post Naturally Grey ), but I like it long. I also like it wavy, and Purple City Hair Salon took care of what Nature didn’t.

Another woman of this uncertain age covers the cutting edge of hair issues for women of color. Debra J. Dickerson at Slate’s XX defends her right to go short and natural in ‘Fried, Dyed and Laid to the Side’–

However we feel about our bodies, black women, as a group, simply torture ourselves over our hair. “Fried, dyed, and laid to the side,” is how a jingle I’ve heard all my life goes in sardonically describing this battle. Black women forego sex and exercise to maintain those expensive, time-stealing and often unattractive hair styles. Lye, ladies. Yes, lye (i.e., “relaxers”) and red hot pressing combs forged in open flame:That’s what most black women have endured since kindergarten or so. I freed myself from all that at age 32 and have been mostly “happy nappy” ever since, with what I like to call my “Malcolm Gladwell meets Sideshow Bob” hair. But most sisters wait until 55 or so to make this painful journey.

Who are we trying to please? If we’re okay with ourselves and our partners, what’s left to worry about? It’s nothing but heartbreak and futility to try to please men, but relatively easy to please a man you know well. And don’t even think about pleasing women– we are the most merciless judges since the Puritans looked for witch marks. We buy magazines that tell us which parts of our bodies we’re supposed to hate. I decided long ago to just please myself. I’m happier since I gave up Glamour for Scientific American. And I use the time and money I used to spend on hair color furthering my dream of world domination.

Educate Yourself to Protect Your Body: Personal Care Products May Contain Toxins

Since 2004 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched Skin Deep, an online safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products. The aim was to fill in where companies and the government leave off: companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish, and our government doesn’t require companies to test products for safety before they’re sold.

EWG’s scientists built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource.  Take your shampoo or your child’s lip gloss or moisturizer and read more about the danger here:  Our epidermis is the largest body organ and approximately 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbing these toxic ingredients.  Those who know me know that I am committed to researching and sharing information about potentially harmful facts.  We all are trying to attain a healthy lifestyle and yet, we daily sabotage our bodies (through hair, hygiene, and skincare products) with carcinogens so monstrous they are literally harming our future abilities to procreate, fight off cancers and the like. 

It is sickening that the Personal Care Industry is undermining our abilities to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Cancer has become a common affliction or fatality and will further continue to rise.  Science reflects that toxins sit in the fatty cells of our bodies (i.e., breasts). Water, food, air, materials and personal care products all have toxins and this is completely unacceptable when you do the math and see how a combination has violated the EPA and FDA acceptable toxin limits. 

I plan to update the blog with information to aid you in making better choices.  In doing so, I am hopeful to you will see the damage that is being done and make a lifestyle change.  For now, here are some facts to ponder.  

U.S. President Barack Obama started to take action and recognizing that toxic chemicals exist in most of our skin care products and are penetrating our skin and causing cancer and reproductive problems. He stated that he wants to change the current laws in order for the government to start properly assessing the chemicals that go in our products and not allow any that have risk associated with them, and he’s not meaning tweaking ~ rather, a complete overhaul.

Currently 1,100 toxic ingredients which are banned in Europe but we allow them here.  I have studied toxins for years and I am sick to death of what has only been available to my children.   

Cancer is amongst us, therefore you must ask yourself… can we really be sure of the toxins we have been absorbing through our skin, and that they have no inpact on our other means of ingestion such as food, air and vaccines/medicines?  Work with me and let us remove one of the straws from the camels back, and alter the equation to a lesser number.   
December 1, 2009 in Barrington, Rhode Island ~ 15 year old Ava Anderson teamed up with her mother, Kim Anderson and they launched a first of its kind “Ava Anderson Non-Toxic” product line (  Ava read this article last year ( and was driven to find an answer as to the toxic potions available and make them truly “free” of such harmful ingredients.  Recently, Ava was asked to go before Congress and testify, and further plead for the Cosmetic Industry to change in support of President Obama suggested legislation in September 2009.  For now, I would just like the opportunity to inform people as I feel “Knowledge is power, and Power is Knowledge”, and our children depend on us to make wise choices.   I pledge to you that this is about a toxic message, which you need to unravel.  Please take one minute to look at some of your products.  
Be well, Suzanne Arena

Naturally Grey

I started to go grey in my thirties when I was still kind of buff. It was a statement then. But when the middle-age spread started I pulled back and made a drastic transition from grey to whatever shade of brown was on sale at the discount store. Not that I don’t love my hairdresser. Claudia Curl rules, I see her at least twice a year. (You can see how cheap I am.)

A few years later I hit a minor life crisis. Have you ever had a really bad job? I felt so disrespected that I decided to let my hair go back to its natural grey. People might still condescend, but at least I had come out as an old person. Also, a couple of women who were doing better in that job than me were natural grey, and they looked kind of cool.

I told Claudia that I wanted to lose the dye but keep the hair. It takes a long time to grow past shoulder length. Step by step she stripped color and added streaks, and about six months later it was all natural color. Grey. With white highlights. I like it. Now if I could only get buff again I would be totally self-satisfied.

Going grey helped me get in touch with my ethnicity.

It was St. Patrick’s Day at Patrick’s Pub on Smith Hill. Irish-American ground zero. I walked in and there was wall-to-wall people who looked like they could have been my cousins. Lots of them had the same grey hair. It wasn’t until then that I really understood that there is an Irish look and I have a visible ancestry.

I think it’s a generational thing as well. I see a lot of women in their forties and fifties letting their hair go grey. We let our hair grow straight when we were teenagers and our mothers were still doing curlers and perms. Or else we didn’t straighten our hair, and let it be afro or kinky curls. It seems logical that we would let our natural color, or lack of it, be what it is. We are the boomers, after all, and when we get old we do it our way.

So the grey thing was a little bit of a transition, but no big deal. I was surprised to find out it’s a Trend. Not only is there a website, Going Gray, but a book. I regret that I didn’t write it, but it really never occurred to me. Darn.

Just to show that everything that goes around comes around, here’s an excerpt from ‘Barbara Frietchie’ by John Greenleaf Whittier. Interestingly, it has a pounding rhythm that would work very well as a rap. Say these lines out loud if you don’t believe me…

Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,
Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;

Bravest of all in Frederick town,
She took up the flag the men hauled down;

In her attic window the staff she set,
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

Up the street came the rebel tread,
Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.

Under his slouched hat left and right
He glanced; the old flag met his sight.

“Halt!” – the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
“Fire!” – out blazed the rifle-blast.

It shivered the window, pane and sash;
It rent the banner with seam and gash.

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country’s flag,” she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman’s deed and word;

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.

Best of all, Barbara Frietchie made her brave stand for the flag of the Union. Which we are always trying to make more perfect.