plus, liking your face more than you think
It had to happen.
I’m not clear on the geography of the street where I live here in Tokyo, but if I don’t brace myself like a sailor on the bow of a ship in a storm—legs apart, arms akimbo—the moment I step outside, I’ll be blown over by the wind. It’s the kind of wind you have to lean in to; when it’s at your back, it pushes you ahead like a scrap scudding along the sidewalk. But in the nearly 100 degree heat we’ve been having, the wind feels like a welcome mistral, as it keeps your clothes from sticking to your sweaty body.
Which turned out to be a problem for me today as I fought my way over to the Family Mart next door for a quart of iced coffee. Because it was so hot, I wore my lightest dress, a midi silk shift that feels…actually, it doesn’t feel like anything. That’s why I wear it on the steamiest days. The dress’s only drawback is exactly what makes it perfect in the heat: It’s very, very flimsy.
Anyway, there I was, fighting that fierce breeze, trying to hold myself together for the 50 yards I needed to get to the store, when a gust caught me sideways (or, rather, below-ways) and blew my dress up over my waist. Only momentarily! But long enough for a young guy to see what I was hoping to hide—and what underwear would’ve hidden if I wore any. Oh, how I wish you could’ve seen this man’s face, because I’m not sure I can find the words to describe it. Surprised, yes. Confused. Embarrassed. Maybe even a little…alarmed? Because he apologized so profusely it was as if he had been the one to blow my dress up—or to expose himself. I apologized right back: “No, no, it’s me, I’m sorry!” Thinking about it later, what happened seemed to be the kind of thing one might be arrested for in a society as proper and respectful of convention as this one. And now I, the sometimes vulgar American I am, feel a little bad about it. At home, the episode would make me laugh; here, I am remorseful. Poor guy. I’m sorry, I really am.
Thanks to my friend (the facial plastic surgeon Steve Dayan) who pointed me to a study about why we might choose mates who resemble us facially. According to this study, we do—and it has an impact on our reproductive success and relationship satisfaction. Bottom-line, the research showed that we prefer our lover to look more like us than a very attractive stranger. Not so much like us that we associate their face with an immediate family member—yikes!—but enough to form an unconscious connection. I guess that’s good news, as it supports the idea that at some point we find our own face attractive, as well as the notion that beauty is, in fact, in the eye of the beholder.
That got me wondering if the same holds true for people and their dogs.
Last week’s post about eye cream prompted a reader to ask what drugstore moisturizer I might suggest. I use this one with SPF 30; the formula is light and is quickly absorbed. I asked HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf to recommend a couple of hard-working moisturizers that won’t break the bank. She suggests this one, for very dry skin, and this lighter one. They’re fine to use on both your face and body (so you don’t have to buy two products).
And because it’s still high summer and Waldorf is all about sun protection, she also threw in suggestions for a few good sunscreens. First, her absolute favorite (a little pricey but she says it’s moisturizing, silky, and she likes that it contains a DNA repair enzyme); then this inexpensive one; and finally, this very affordable one. All get the job done.
Do you love your mask so much you dream of wearing one to bed? I didn’t think so. Still, you might want to consider the option below, which I found at the huge Tokyu Hands department store. I thought the mask was for preventing a double chin, but my daughter-in-law set me straight: It’s to reduce snoring and mouth-breathing…in case that happens to be interfering with your beauty sleep.
Book Club News
I'm happy to share I'm partnering with Chirp to organize an audiobook club of biographies and memoirs called “Unfiltered Women.” Two things: It’s free to subscribe and Chirp offers great deals. Plus, you obviously get to keep the book to listen to at your leisure.
Here’s how it works. Every other month I’ll announce a new book club pick that we’ll listen to together. You’ll have a chance to share your thoughts on the book a few weeks later and hear what other readers thought, too. My second pick is the memoir H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I’ve now listened to this book twice and I’m sure I could listen to it again and still get fresh insights into the author and find new poetry in her language. This is a story about how a woman deals with the sudden death of her beloved father by retreating into herself, keeping only one relationship alive: with Mabel, a goshawk she trains. Goshawks are notoriously difficult and Macdonald struggles to domesticate her. Mealtimes are especially grisly, but Macdonald seems immune to the blood and guts she often holds in her bare hands or stuffs into a pocket. She describes in minute detail the primeval, prehistoric beauty of the bird and her intelligence. The fear of abandonment is strong and Macdonald’s grief seems bottomless till she understands viscerally the healing power of human connection. Like me, you’ve probably never considered becoming a falconer—and you’ll be glad you didn’t when you’ve finished this book! But you’ll get inside the head of someone very different from you, and it’s a fascinating place to be.
To get started, go to chirpbooks.com/val and press FOLLOW to join my club. (Again, it’s free and there is NO commitment.) There, for a limited time, you can buy H Is for Hawk for only $2.99 (normally $19.95), including a 50% discount with code VAL50 if it's your first Chirp purchase.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send your beauty-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.
HNTFUYF, a Payola-Free Zone
Readers, a few of you have wondered aloud to me if I get a cut from sales when I mention a beauty product. I do not. I only mention products I’d like to buy myself, and therefore think you might like, too. I share this so you know my recommendations are offered without obligation. All posts and the archive are free; there’s no paywall. I rely on readers for financial support, so please consider becoming a paying subscriber if you can.