Keep It in the Closet

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My dream closet: an airy, sophisticated, orderly refuge.

I’m both a clothes horse and a neat freak, two traits that do not necessarily play well together. Consequently, I make it a point to regularly clean out my closet. I enjoy the process (it feeds both my shopping and my culling tendencies) but even those who dread it usually find that the results make the process worthwhile: A clean closet/concisely edited wardrobe saves time and makes you look and feel better.

The new year is a great time to pare down, declutter and generally lighten the load. I started off 2016 by overhauling my closet/wardrobe, and thought I would share some of my tips, tricks and lessons learned. There are hundreds of great closet cleaning/organizing suggestions out there, but this is the process that works best for me, and I think it’s pretty foolproof! Here are a few things to keep in mind before you begin:

1. Know your style. If you don’t, take some time to identify it. When you look at Pinterest or fashion mags/sites, what looks do you gravitate toward? Soft and feminine? Boho chic? I would peg my style as “classic with an edge.” My go-to looks are jeans with blazers or biker jackets and heels/boots/booties, pencil skirts and silk blouses, tailored suits or trousers, and LBDs. My pieces are predominantly black, and often embellished with edgy rocker-chic details. Yet one of the items I pulled from my closet this go-round was a Lily Pulitzeresque sundress. It was frothy, feminine and lovely, and its aqua shade entranced me when I bought it, but it wasn’t me. It hung in my closet unworn for ages before I accepted that I would never wear it and sent it on its way. Which brings me to number two:

2. Forget about sunk costs. We’ve all bought clothes we’ve never worn, and it seems such a waste to get rid of a garment with tags still attached. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we hang onto it, we might wear it, and therefore we didn’t waste the money. Here is where you have to be honest with yourself. The funds are spent and can’t be recovered (a sunk cost). If you won’t wear the garment, you are burdening yourself by keeping it; just let it go.

3. Consider your age and how you want your wardrobe to work for you. When I was in my 20s and my style was still evolving, if a trend looked good on me, I bought it, no matter how impractical or flash-in-the-pan. Most of those clothes have now been discarded. By my mid-30s, I decided to buy primarily investment pieces, timeless classics that will never go out of style. Most of these items–tailored pencil skirts, cashmere sweaters–will work as well for me in 20 years as they do now. (I know we’re talking about culling and not shopping, but here is where I have to advise you to always buy the very best quality you can afford. Don’t spend money that you don’t have, but the adage is true: One quality item is worth ten cheaper versions. With care and maintenance it can give you many seasons of wear and in some cases will last a lifetime.) I don’t believe in hard and fast style rules. I think anything potentially works these days: I wear white after Labor Day, and I have a chic friend who is 50 who can rock a miniskirt without looking like “mutton dressed as lamb.” However, I do urge you to consider your age, lifestyle and goals–and how your clothes can project and aid you in those pursuits–when you turn a critical eye to your closet.

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One of my style staples–boots and more boots.

Once you know your style and free yourself from regrets over any “wasted” spending, it’s time to open those doors and dig in. I like to pull everything out of the closet and pile all like items together. Then the fun begins–trying it all on. It’s like a day at the mall, and you’re guaranteed to find things you forgot you had. Pick one category at a time, e.g. jeans, try each item on, and ruthlessly evaluate it. Does it fit? (My weight has a tendency to fluctuate by 10 pounds, so I let myself keep garments that are one size too big or one size too small. That’s it.) Is the item in style? Does it flatter my body? Do I feel good in it and love it? (I always ask myself: Would I feel comfortable in this if I were wearing it when I met a VIP?) If you can’t answer yes to all questions, toss it out.

At the end of this process, you should have a large pile of rejects. I had six big bags full, half of which went to a consignment store, and the remainder to charity. The items that passed muster and stayed are things that are stylish, flattering and, most of all, are pieces that I truly love. I like my closet organized by type of garment, and then within that type by color (did I mention that I’m anal?), so I put all of the keepers back in the closet using this system. It’s especially aesthetically pleasing if all of your hangers match–ribbon-pink Huggable Hangers are my weapons of choice.

Now that the hardest part is over, it’s time to turn the same ruthless eye to undergarments, footwear, handbags and accessories. Although I keep my closet neat and cull it every year, I had been lax in going through my jewelry. This time around, I gave it a hard edit and reduced my collection by about one-third. Costume and fine jewelry both were tossed out. You may find yourself hesitant to part with gold, platinum or gemstone pieces, but if you don’t love or wear them (and there’s no extraordinary sentimental value attached), let them go. Sunk costs! They’re just taking up space. These days, you can easily sell those pieces for cash back.

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Displaying some of my most-frequently worn costume, vintage and fine jewelry pieces makes it easy to “grab and go” in the morning.

It’s a fact that we wear what we see so, if space allows, I recommend displaying your favorite and most-worn jewelry pieces artfully on beautiful trays. You’ll probably find yourself reaching for things more often than you would if they’re stowed away in a jewelry box.

When you’ve completed the process, you’ll have a mini department store in your closet, one that is a pleasure to “shop” each morning. And, if you’re like me, you’ll feel good that you’ve unburdened yourself and simplified your life just a bit. An organized home really does make for an organized mind and an organized life. Studies show it can help you think more clearly and work more efficiently. Here’s to lightening the load in 2016!

Taylor Swift Is More

As some of you know, before I started writing and editing full time, I spent 20 years as a music publicist. Over that time, I had the chance to work with hundreds of (usually) amazing artists, from newcomers to living legends to contemporary superstars. Often, people ask me which artist was my favorite to work with, and I never hesitate to tell them that it was Taylor Swift. The next question is usually a variation of, “Is she really as wonderful as she seems?” The answer is, “More.” I’ve had the good fortune to work with Taylor numerous times over the last decade, and I’d like to share two stories that illustrate her grace, class, empathy and intelligence.

On one occasion, Taylor was doing an interview with Matt Lauer in the gallery at a popular Nashville museum. Behind a stanchioned-off area, a large group of lucky museum visitors had gathered to watch. I knew from past experiences that Taylor usually spent time with fans at such events. However, on this date, she was on a very tight schedule and due to fly to London immediately after the interview. When Taylor finished with Matt, several members of her team hurried her to the elevator and out of the gallery, bypassing the fans. I remained with Matt and his crew, and remarked that I was surprised her companions  were able to get her to leave without a visit to those fans. No sooner had I uttered those words–a total of perhaps 60 seconds since Taylor’s departure–than the elevator doors opened again and Taylor stepped out. She immediately went over to the fans and spent time with them, tirelessly hugging and posing for selfies, before she departed. This tells you two things about Taylor: 1) While she may have a great management staff working with her, she makes the decisions; and 2) She never turns down a chance to make people happy, to make their day brighter. Honestly, I felt ebullient myself just watching how much joy she brought to those lucky museum visitors.

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Taylor performs at Bridgestone Arena on Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo: Tina Wright)

On another occasion, Taylor was again at the museum, this time for an interview with ABC. While the crew was setting up, I had the chance to hang out with her one-on-one. We mostly shared girl talk–comparing notes on fashion, among other things. She was extremely complimentary about my style and what I wore–this from someone who is one of the world’s best-dressed women. She complimented my PR work, hugged me, and laughed and chatted with me as though I were a member of her #squad instead of just a casual colleague. Though there were other industry and media folks around, not once did she look over my shoulder. When we were talking, she was wholly PRESENT, and made me feel like there was no place she’d rather be than with me. This is the gift of people who are truly charismatic: They don’t drone on and on about themselves, no matter how accomplished they are. Rather, they make everyone with whom they come into contact feel special. Taylor has this ability in spades.

In two decades in the music industry, I have had hundreds–maybe even thousands–of unforgettable experiences. But none of them mean more than the times I was able to work with Taylor, talk to Taylor, watch her perform or interact with her fans. She has a quick mind and an amazing array of talents, but it is her generous nature that I love most. So yes, she really is as wonderful as she seems. More.

One Pill, Two Pill, Red Pill, Blue Pill

While having lunch with a friend recently, the red pill phenomenon came up. My friend was not aware of this movement, which made me wonder how many others out there–men and women–are unaware of its existence. For those of you who have not heard of the red pill, here is its definition in a nutshell, courtesy of doctornerdlove.com: “The Red Pill is, for all intents and purposes, what happens when the pick-up community decides that it hates women. The name derives from the scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the choice: he can take the red pill and wake up from the Matrix and live in the real world, or he can take the blue pill and forget ever knowing that the Matrix is an illusion.”

Dr. Nerdlove goes on to say, “Where the Wachowskis intended the scene to be a metaphor for the Buddha receiving enlightenment and no longer being bound by worldly concerns, to the Red Pill philosophy, it means ‘the recognition and awareness of the way that feminism, feminists and their white-knight enablers affect society.’ It’s a neat rhetorical trick–trying to claim both the identity of a persecuted minority (cisgendered, hetero men) while also proclaiming themselves inherently superior to the ‘blue-pillers’, white knights and ‘betas’ because they see the truth: that they’re supposed to treat women like shit.”

Aside from the obvious, what intrigues me about Red Pill followers is their goal of being alpha males, which is partially defined by them as men who have their pick of the hottest, youngest women as sexual partners, and obtain and keep them through a variety of (often emotionally abusive) means, including aloofness, preying on a woman’s insecurities, flirting openly with others, and much more. Red pill does throw a bone to self-improvement–men are encouraged to eat better, exercise, etc.–but at its heart, it’s a fear-based belief system, one that appeals to men who feel powerless or sexually disenfranchised because it appears to offer them a way to take control of their lives.

Now, as any regular romance reader knows, alpha males are a staple of the genre. And on the surface, the romance novel alpha hero shares some similarities with the red pill alpha: Both are sexually dominant and often controlling. However, at heart, the romance novel alpha is the antithesis of the red pill alpha: The romance novel alpha’s actions are ultimately selfless, and born of a desire to make his partner feel loved, protected and secure. The red piller’s motivations are just the opposite; he is guided by self-interest. I’ve read numerous red pill opinions that point to Fifty Shades of Grey (and its astronomical sales) as proof that women are irrational and want to be dominated and manipulated. Unfortunately, they are missing the point of the trilogy. The book’s BDSM elements may have been titillating and, along with the story’s Twilight origins, been an entry point for readers, but the reason its popularity has endured is because it is a love story. We readers may enjoy the fantasy of Christian’s penthouse and helicopter, but his money, dominance and bad-boy ways are not the main reasons why so many women fell in love with him. We fell in love with Christian because he loves Ana as we want to be loved; he wants to protect her and nurture her, and he allows her to do the same in return. My favorite scene in the trilogy is (spoiler alert) in Darker, when Christian submits to Ana. He makes himself vulnerable, and in so doing lets her in…lets her really see him and know him. That is what women want, and that is a true alpha male–someone who knows that the ability to be vulnerable, to love and be loved, is a strength, not a weakness.

There is a ton of info on the Internet about the red pill movement. Two great places to start if you want to learn more are the red pill blog therationalmale.com and the anti-misogyny blog wehuntedthemammoth.com.

It’s not my intent with this entry to bash red pillers; the movement has gained traction because so many men are frustrated and unhappy, and the red pill offers them a battle cry and an action plan (albeit a misguided one). I would just say that, yes, most women want equality. But we do not want to dominate or subsume men. The end result of this discord can only be that neither side will find the fulfillment it seeks.

 

 

I Am What I Read…And What I Read Is Me

We all know that ultimately a novel is a collaboration between author and reader. An author (usually) writes the book that he/she would want to read, and then each reader synthesizes the words, absorbing them through the filter of his or her own experiences, tastes, background and mores, with the end result being a unique reading experience. No two readers will ever experience a story in exactly the same way. Because of that, it always intrigues me to read negative reviews of a book I have loved, or vice versa. This was especially true today, when I read some of the low-rated reviews of Beth Kery’s Because You Are Mine, an erotic romance that I just finished and loved. Foremost among the criticisms was that it is in many ways a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. There are similarities…we have Ian, the dominant alpha billionaire hero with a troubled past and an affinity for BDSM who needs to punish and control Francesca, the beautiful, naturally submissive heroine. Ian, like Christian Grey, professes that he can offer sexual pleasure but not love or romance. Furthermore, a few of the scenes, set-ups and secondary characters in Because You Are Mine are deeply evocative of Fifty. While these similarities made a negative impression on some readers, for me it was just the opposite. (And we can’t forget: Fifty itself was the retelling of another tale.) Far from being a hindrance, I loved seeing how Kery would take these similarities and make the story her own, and she did not disappoint. The caliber of her writing, the crafting of her characters and her beautiful language make Because You Are Mine very compelling fiction–erotic writing at its finest. Writing in third person (my preference because it allows an author to tell a broader, richer story), Kery took me on an emotional journey with Ian and Francesca. One of my favorite elements of the novel is the fact that, years prior to their first meeting, Francesca, an artist, had seen Ian from the rear and been moved enough to capture his desolation on canvas:

“She’d painted him four years ago. That’s what he was telling her—that he knew she’d observed him walking the dark, lonely streets in the dead of the night while the rest of the world slumbered, warm and content in their beds. Francesca hadn’t realized the identity of her inspiration at the time, nor had he probably known he was being observed until he saw the painting, but there could be no doubt of it. Ian Noble was the cat who walked by himself. And he’d wanted her to know it.”

That’s a beautiful scene, one that speaks to the heart of the connection between these two characters. When it comes to erotic romance, Beth Kery is at the top of her game and the top of my list.

There were also a few things about this book that I loved on a personal note, e.g. when Ian takes Francesca to Paris, they stay at the Hotel George V. Apparently, it’s the hotel of choice for fictional billionaires. (I have it on good authority that Heaven in the Dark ‘s David Swift always stays there.)  Also, as the book is set largely in Chicago, the protagonists visited many of my favorite spots. Dinner at Trump’s hotel? Yes, thanks.

In summary, the person that I am–my tastes, my experiences–had a fulfilling journey with these characters. For me, Because You Are Mine was a work of beautiful, nuanced writing, and each turn of the page was time well-spent.

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A HEAVENly Casserole for Cheese and Artichoke Lovers

My novel, Heaven in the Dark, is set in Milan. When you read it–as hopefully you will when it comes out on Oct. 20–you’ll find that good food is important to, and relished by, the characters. It is Italy, after all! While most foods described in the book are authentic to the region, I did take advantage of a dinner party scene to have the characters enjoy one of my all-time favorite recipes, savory bread pudding with artichokes and two cheeses. I highly recommend going the extra mile and using Parmigiano Reggiano–there really is no substitute for its sublime flavor. I like to serve this rich, decadent casserole around the holidays, but cheese lovers will crave it all year. David Swift loves it! Here’s the recipe, courtesy of the Vegetarian Times:

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Buon Appetito!

Pre-ordering…all the cool kids are doing it.

Heaven in the Dark is now available for ebook pre-order at all major online book retailers! Sales links are below. The paperback version will be available exclusively at Amazon on the October 20 release date.

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Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015HJ1AJS

Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/heaven-in-the-dark

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heaven-in-the-dark-tina-wright/1122718454?ean=2940152748055

iBooks:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1044526311