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Friday, April 21, 2017

HOW TO HAVE THE CONFIDENCE TO WEAR WHATEVER YOU FLIPPING WANT. (Featuring Dia&Co)


 A lot of people have asked me over the years how I have the confidence to wear all of my creative innovations. From overtly mismatched earrings, to shoulder pads, to a skirt made of rags-- I've experimented with basically every style imaginable--within the boundaries of modesty. And it is true-- I will admit that when it comes to fashion, I am pretty fearless, and I don't usually shy away from trying something new or unfamiliar. But I will not lie to you and tell you that this came easily to me, or that I was born this way. It took a lot of self esteem, and a lot of thick skin to finally develop the formula that I now carry with me in every facet of my life.

       When I heard about Dia&Co's campaign on body confidence, and having the bravery to finally wear those outfits you've only ever worn inside your head-- I knew I had to contribute to this one. For those who haven't heard of Dia&Co, they are a plus sized personal styling company that works with you on your size and body shape, your personal style and taste, and then sends you a box of surprise fashion goodies in the mail. You have 5 days to try everything on, you keep what you love, and send what ever you don't like straight back to them, shipping free of charge! The reason why I connected so much to their campaign, is because I love hearing about companies that are working hard to make women feel good about themselves. As we all know, there is so much negativity surrounding women and how they look in our wondrous modern media. We are either not skinny enough, not tall enough, not blonde enough, not white enough. I sincerely do not mean to offend anyone by my frank words, and you are all welcome to disagree with me down in the comments, but unfortunately, we still live in a world with a western monopoly, and the Tall Skinny Blonde One still prevails. Therefore, when I heard about Dia&Co's crusade on conquering Outfit Fear, on actually wearing all those creations we would never dream to leave the house in, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.



If I had to give you the formula in only a few words, I would say that the way to have the confidence to wear whatever you want, is to measure your self worth not by other people's standards, but by your own.  
        Let's go about it this way: a lot of our beauty standards come from our Western, globalized media, that feeds us a certain ideal of what beauty looks like. Each season, a bunch of old European men, in places like Milan and Paris, can be found hard at work constructing the beauty and fashion ideals for women all over the world. And each season, we fall over and over again into the same beauty trap-- buying into what "They" tell us is fashionable, and beautiful, and discarding the clothing of last season as the beauty that once was. Even if we loved wearing last season's clothing, because "They" have mandated that it is no longer in style, a lot of us feel pressure to discard those once loved outfits, in favor of clothing that will deem us beautiful to the public, or allow us to fit in.

Secondly, the media also likes to feed us certain physical beauty standards over and over again. In America, we favor a waif-like figure with a very large bust and behind, long blonde hair to match our long tan legs, and for some reason, bushy eyebrows. Or was that last year? In South Korea, pale youthful skin is encouraged, with a prominent nose and double eyelids considered the best you can possibly get. And if you aren't born like that naturally, then women are encouraged to get plastic surgery in order to reach these almost impossible beauty ideals. Leading once again to the conclusion that women are not fine, just as they are, on their own. And in Brooklyn, where I live-- long flowing hair is basically socially mandated, either stick straight, or in gentle waves. And if you don't have it naturally? Get extensions. [You can see that my hair is neither gently waved nor extentioned. Just saying]. My point is that somewhere, some idiot decided that the barbie doll he saw his sister play with when he was little, should be the beauty standard for all women across Planet Earth.


  But what we cease to understand is that the beauty ideals we all forever strive to attain, are no more real than the fantasy dolls they are based after.  

   Even celebrities--our supposed creme de la creme of worldly gorgeousness-- aren't even good enough to please the world's beauty standards. In fact, just to be considered presentable to the public, they must go to the gym until they die, be dressed by about ten different people, get heavily makeuped until you can't tell what their original skin tone is--and then get photoshopped. Just imagine being told how much work you need on your body in order to be considered beautiful. Yah. You still wanna be Emma Watson? Yah me too. 

The reason why I am spamming your screen with all of these words is because I want you to understand that no ridiculous beauty standard should dictate how beautiful you are. We all have our own flaws and our own unique attributes which is the reason why we are all inherently beautiful in each of our own ways. But you probably need more convincing than that. Okay fine. I want you to take a look in the mirror right now. Yes, right now. Go on, I'll still be here when you come back. Now I want you to find one physical aspect that you find beautiful about yourself. It can be your shiny black hair, your freckles, your wide crooked smile--now focus on it, and repeat this mantra: Emma Watson does not have my smile, Emma Watson does not have my hair. That beautiful thing that you just found on yourself? You are the only person in the world with that piece of beauty, and you are the only person in the world who can replicate it. Not your sister, not Emma Watson. Only you. 




Now I want you to find another. Yes, you can do it. There is more than just one beautiful thing about you. Now focus on it-- look at how beautiful and dainty your fingers are, what a soft sweet voice you have--what warm brown eyes. I'm beginning to sound like the Big Bad Wolf. But you get the idea; I just want you to recognize that regardless of what the 21st century media has decided is beautiful in your country, you are not bound by those limits. Just because TV says "have big behind like Kim Kardashian", does not mean that you must have one, or that it is even pretty. I personally do not think it's pretty. No offense Kim. 

I guess the overly long point I am trying to make is that you should consider yourself beautiful because of the beauty you find in yourself, not because you fit some messed up media standard. Don't get me wrong, it feels wonderful to receive a compliment once in a while, but those compliments should only acknowledge the truth you already know within you, not invent the way you perceive yourself. And once you are able to hold yourself onto your own standards of beauty, and you don't need anyone else to tell you whether you are beautiful or not-- you eventually develop the confidence to wear whatever you feel amazing in, and not what you are supposed to wear to please the old European men in Milan. 

And so I say this: OWN those socks and heels you've only seen on hipsters but wanted to try on your own. ROCK that polka dotted dress you've always wanted to try but were afraid people would think you raided your grandma's closet. Which you probably did. WHICH IS TOTALLY FINE. Honestly? JUST CHOP OFF ALL YOUR HAIR ALREADY BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU WILL LOOK AWESOME, EVEN THOUGH YOUR FRIEND'S MOM MIGHT CALL YOU A SATAN. 

Because the secret to having confidence in whatever you wear, is to wear it because you know it makes you look beautiful. Not for any other person, or any other reason. And that is all I have to say.  

Love,
Cynical Duchess

Have you ever felt limited by the media's narrow standard of beauty? 
Leave a comment below! 




Sunday, April 16, 2017

A QUICK TRIP TO MADISON, WISCONSIN


















Salutations People Of Earth.

So I am currently in Baltimore, Maryland with patchy internet, and way too much food in my stomach. But you didn't need to know that. I'm sure, as most of you are bloggers, that you understand when I say that I have a certain blogging schedule in my head, and when I can't stick to it, I get really thrown off. So Yah, I'm getting really thrown off right now, as I wanted to post a food post last week, but couldn't. And now, when I want to post the food post this week, I still can't-- as I do not have that time on my hands. So I hope you guys will still appreciate this on-the-road post about the first half of my mini trip to the random states of the USA. No offense Wisconsin.


       So I went to Madison for a few days last week, and I gotta say, boy is it cute! I honestly, literally do not have a good reason for going to Wisconsin. The whole thing was just really random, and really necessary, and there really isn't much else I can say on the matter. Even so, for those city people ever wondering what the Midwest of America looks like-- It is very wide, very spaced out, and very very clean. Something New York knows nothing about. Even LA can take a few pointers from Madison on how to keep itself clean.

     I stayed in a frat-house like situation over in the University of Wisconsin. The University basically dominates the place, as everything around it is quite quirkily metropolitan. Yet the minute you step ten minutes out of the vicinity of the campus, Madison quickly becomes suburbs with the occasional Target, and farther than that--farmland. From the perspective of someone who was only there for a few days, and who was mainly running around doing errands, I will tell you exactly what I discovered through my quick tour-around, and what are some things you can do, if you ever find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin. 


--State Street: All these photos you see are of the University Campus's Main Street. It's filled of course, with the usual-- Starbucks, Walgreens, Urban Outfitters-- for some reason. But then you have all of these little independent shops and cafes, mostly with a boho feel. I actually stumbled upon this store called Ragstock, which sold everything from rows of thrifted denim jackets, to imported Japanese jersey shirts. The place was literally awesome, and I indeed picked up a denim jacket for $15. Cheapest decision of my life. There was a free Art gallery for more independent artists, there were random college dropouts standing barefoot on the streets with their guitars-- there was even a little cinema, showing everything from the mainstream to the local. There were college kids everywhere, either walking, or riding on something with wheels, and every where-- I mean everywhere--there was beer. Apparently Madison is America's #1 party city. Did you know that? Because I didn't know that. 

--Wisconsin State Capitol: That great majestic looking building over there just at the edge of State Street, is of course, the state capitol. They offer free tours every hour, and I don't really know much else about it as I didn't have time to go, but it is supposed to be very beautiful, and the next time I am in Wisconsin, I really want to go. 



--The Campus: So this is quite a spread out campus, with many gorgeously architectural buildings, and interspersed throughout different Madison neighborhoods. However, there are bits, mostly near State Street, that very much resemble the traditional campus. There are long stretches of grass, shiny roman looking buildings with random greek letters on them, there are college kids cycling, blading, skating, whatevering--and it honestly is just so much fun to sit on some patch of grass or walkway, and just take it all in. I have not ever studied in a traditional campus yet, as last year I went to a commuter's community college. This meant that there were thousands upon thousands of varying students each semester, and because my community college is reputed to be very good for transferring to a four year, many international students start there before applying to 4 year universities. Which is why my campus was a lot more serious and study related. Also, most of us had full/part time jobs. This campus however-- literally has snaking suburban streets of frat houses, Greek letters spelled out proudly-- where the resident student body, starting from around 10 AM, and not dissipating till around 10 PM, will literally, be blasting music, and guzzling huge tankards of beer. I don't know-- is this normal for all university campuses, or is it just more pronounced in UW? It was cool to watch any way, like it was straight from a movie. 


Errands: Unfortunately, I wasn't able to venture outside of the UW Campus as much as I wanted to, but from the tiny amount that I did see of outer Madison, I will say that A) the people here were extremely nice. And when I say Extremely Nice, I mean it to the point that when I asked a person who worked in CVS for directions on how to get to a certain place, she stepped outside of the drug store and gave me explicit directions. With appropriate hand gestures. And a smile. So foreign. B) Though everything seemed very flat and widely spaced, Madison seemed to harbor little gems of quirkiness in hidden corners. For example, the yellow train you see in this picture is a restaurant, I think. I mean, that is such a cool idea! Why not have a restaurant in an old train car?  

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this little on the road post. Like I can't believe I was able to squeeze this in-- I am legit so proud of myself. 

Stay tuned for a post on my trip to Maryland! Also, for that Union Square food post I promised you. Man, I want to publish that already! 

LoVE, 
Cynical Duchess

Have you ever been to the Midwest? 
Leave a comment below! 




Sunday, April 9, 2017

A NON-POST POST


Hey guys!

I'm so sorry, but I have to take a hiatus for this week, as I will not be having any internet this entire week and would not be able to promote my post well. The post that was supposed to come out to day has been months in the works, and I don't want to publish it if not as many people will see it. Therefore, I hope you enjoy another random bunch of photos, just for this week.

New post coming next week!

View of the Empire State building
Laughing couple in Times Square
First and Last time you will see me with straight hair. Bn. 


Love,
Cynical Duchess

Leave a comment, any comment! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

A PAINT SPLATTERED JACKET AND A WOODEN WATCH (ft. JORD Wood Watches)*


Right so I just need to start this thing because if I don't, I will never escape the beginnings of writer's block that is beginning to take over my mind. I don't think you will believe me if I told you that the entire outfit you are about to see was solely inspired by the wooden watch on my wrist. You see, when JORD* Wood Watches pitched this collaboration idea to me, I almost fell off my desk chair with excitement. Because you know those items you see in the store, the ones that make your heart flutter slightly, and your fingers start staying to your purse to see how much money you have left after your lipstick splurge? That item, that when you hold it, you feel it already connecting to your soul, promising you that if you buy it, all will be right with the world. Even the Presidency. So that's the feeling I got when JORD Wood Watches sent me this extremely unique watch.

First of all, I just want to talk about the scent. You guys, it smells like wood. I know this sounds really weird, like I'm sitting in my living room sniffing a watch, but the watch simply exudes this newness, this hint of spiciness within the wood that is making my roommate look at me very strangely right now. Whatever. Second, you can tell that JORD paid attention to artistry and detail when fashioning this watch. The wood is smooth and finely carved, and there are beautiful marble-esque swirls within the wood that reminds me of a tiger's eye stone. I also love how JORD uses different kinds of wood on the same watch, so that it doesn't only serve a function, but is a work of art as well.

Wearing: the Zebrawood and Maple Watch from the Fieldcrest Series


Can we please also discuss the packaging for just a few seconds? Because really. Really. JORD has outdone itself on this front. The box first of all, is simply beautiful. Made out of smooth, sturdy wood, and proudly branded with the logo in various directions, it honestly makes you happy to receive something from JORD. I mean, who wouldn't squeal if something like this came in the mail? The lid is also magnetic, so as to prevent slippage, and has currently been recycled on my shelf as a jewelry box. I will also say this-- JORD also customizes the size of the watch for you-- using a printable ruler, which you can get free off their site--where you can measure your wrist, and send in your measurements when you are ready to order. Additionally, JORD doesn't only deal with women's watches, they also have an excellent line of men's watches, which honestly, would make a beautiful gift for any significant other, or lucky male family member. Sadly, I am single AL (single as life), but there are other, normal people in the world who do indeed come into contact with the opposite gender from time to time-- so for those people--TRUST ME, THIS A GOOD GIFT.  


So this is where I tell you how I splattered my jacket with paint. Ahem: Once upon a time, there lived a boring, generic, green army style jacket from Forever XII. Cynical Duchess came across it in the store during one of her (rare) shopping expeditions. She was about to not buy it, as it seemed a little consumerist for her, (wow, I sound like a wannabe hipster), but instead she decided to buy it and give it a little makeover. Therefore, one legit FREEZING Wednesday night, she went outside to her landlord's ugly concrete backyard, and splattered paint all over the jacket. (Don't tell my landlord, but there are still little signs of paint in odd places which I tried to cover up, but failed. Ssssshhh). 


And this is the point where I struggle in finding what else to talk about, because as we all know, while I like showing off my outfits on the interwebs, I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO WAX POETIC OVER THEM. Right let's try:
So I'm wearing a dress. As girls happen to do at times. Yes, that is a skirt underneath, but one needs to cover those pesky knees somehow. I'm also wearing shoes.


This is a photo of me posing like a fake model and looking seriously off into the distance. If only I was one whole foot taller. I still wouldn't be a model. 

Wearing:
Jacket-- Forever XII (DIY splattered)
Dress-- Heavenly Couture
Pencil skirt-- Heavenly Couture
Nude tights-- Melas
Boots-- a random house full of shoes in Tzfat, Israel (don't ask). 
Choker-- Forever XII


ALSO: JORD is hosting a GIVEWAY CONTEST on their website! Enter for a chance to win a $100 gift code to use on their website! I know a lot of you will say "ehh, I never win these things", but ENTER ANYWAY because Jord is giving out a $25 gift card to EVERYONE who participated in the giveaway. SO JUST CLICK CLICK CLICK!!! <-- RIGHT THERE. I mean, it's free money people.

*Offer ends April 9, 2017. I know, I'm really really late with this, but honestly, I wish I had all the time in the world for blogging, but unfortunately I do not. My roommate even said this to me today-- "You know Batsheva, I would be a really good blogger, if I had no life". Ouch. I mean, even my roommate recognizes the fact that investing in your blog means giving up a lot of your spare free time. But we do what we love to do, and we push onward. Right? Right.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this fashion collab with JORD*. And of course, while this post does have affiliate links, all opinions are my own. Like always, and like duh.
THANKYOU SO MUCH RH FOR THE GORGEOUS PICS!! Like seriously people, give her a round of applause-- this is her first time using a DSLR. And she thought she wasn't good at photography. Pfft.

Love,
Cynical Duchess

Tell me how your day was!
Leave a comment below! 


Luxury Wooden Watch

Sunday, March 26, 2017

THE LIFE OF A MUSIC SNOB: MY TOP 5 INDIE ROCK BANDS

SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE HOLDING HANDS. YAH.

Ten Duchess points toward the giveaway for who ever can guess which 80's song that's from.

       So sometimes, I don't want to hear beautiful music. Sometimes, it's the dissonant background noise, those roughened voices, the clash of the guitars set to the lyrics of ironic poetry that sets my nerves at ease. Sometimes, I don't want to be calmed by whispering violins, or feathers of piano-- I want my blood to pump ever faster to these do-it-yourself bands, that candidly spit out the truth to your face, the music almost an afterthought.  I wanted to give you guys some of the music that I reach for when I want to feel something in the words of the music. I know I already created a post about wordless music, and what that means to me, but there also does come a time when you want to connect to the music through the words, and for that, I simply love Alternative Rock. Perhaps it's the ever-varying beats that somehow just get's into your blood. Maybe it's the ridiculously creative cover art Alt. Rock artists come up with. Or it could be how Alt. Rockers simply celebrate their imperfections, playing on their weaknesses until they turn into their strengths. (I am aware that I am romanticizing just a tad). Even so, for whatever reasons, I find myself consistently reaching for Alternative Rock bands whenever I want the music to speak to me. Therefore, I present to you, my top 5 Alternative Rock bands. HERE GOES:

I. F.T ISLAND

This band. Will melt your soul. I am exaggerating slightly. Honestly, I don't even have the words to start describing how much I love F.T ISLAND. This is a South Korean Rock band, and I lied slightly when I included them in this Alt. Rock list, because their vocals and tracks go way beyond alternative sounds. They are actually extremely hardcore. Lee Hong Ki is one of those rare vocalists who sounds like he's crooning poetry when he sings. Yes, I do not know Korean, (except for a scattered collage of words here and there), but there is something about Lee Hong Ki's voice that simply transcends language. Through the semi shrieks, and the dissonant guitar riffs, you can hear something so genuine emanating from F.T ISLAND's tone, and it really makes a difference. The band is also very internationally friendly, as 50% of their lyrics are indeed in English; so if you are one of those people that needs to understand the lyrics of a song, you will still get the essence of the music, even if half of the lyrics are in Korean.
Also, just saying, Lee Hong Ki probably knows how to wear nail polish better than you can, so if you really want to be jealous, please go check him out.

TOP SONGS
--Pray

II. PANIC! AT THE DISCO

This is probably the most unique Alternative Rock band I have ever listened to. It doesn't sound like poetry--it sounds like philosophy. Each music video is so uniquely crafted, telling a crazy story of its own, but somehow, managing to tell a single coherent tale through a chain of music videos. I have honestly never seen that done with any other artist. Furthermore, Brandon Urie's voice can reach almost all ranges, and spans most genres, which is a completely different level of talent from your average singer. I've seen him do classic Sinatra-style jazz, hard rock, candid acoustics-- and what's insanely insane is how he actually nails every single vocal style. As a singer, I can attest to how difficult it is to be able to excel at more than just a few genres of music; a person with an operatic voice will not necessarily be good at a breathy, T-swift style of singing, and vice verse-- But Brandon Urie. Brandon Urie. I don't think I have anything more to say. Except Brandon Urie.

TOP SONGS
--LA Devotee
--Death Of a Bachelor
--This is Gospel--* CONTAINS A WORD WHICH MEANS ILLEGITIMATE CHILD. (I personally don't have this one on my iPod, though I think it's a great song, and if not for that word, one of my favorites).    

III. BASTILLE

Bastille could possibly be the first Indie band I ever discovered on my own as a teenager. I have ranted and raved about them already on this post, but I am going to do it again. Cuz it's been a year already. And I have an audience now. What initially drew me to them was again, their sense of genuine poetry, and the topics they covered in their songs. It wasn't the usual fare of love, breakups and partying, that you see stamped across so many western songs-- they were singing about future laughter lines, and hidden flaws, the destruction of Pompeii, and a dead girl named Laura Palmer. They also have the most interesting electronic tracks, and lead singer Dan Smith's voice just happens to have the roughest, most beautiful pronounced British accent ever. Which for any American ear makes the lyrics that much more beautiful to listen to.

TOP SONGS
--Things we lost in the Fire
--Laura Palmer
--Poet  
  

IV. ALEX CLARE

Alex Clare sings like it's his manifesto to the world. He has a voice like polished gravel, and he takes you into the music when he sings, inviting you to see what he sees. He has such an amazing mixture of strong, rough vocals, set against unique, jarring, dubstep that just makes him so different to listen to. Alex's lyrics, just like the rest of the people in this list, are so packed with metaphor and meaning, that you know you aren't listening to emptiness when you listen to his songs. I hope you can sense a running theme here-- if you didn't, I'ma say it again: I LIKE SONGS THAT MEAN SOMETHING. There is however, one other reason why Alex Clare really intrigues me-- He's an Orthodox Jew. I don't think many people know that about him, because there are basically little to no Orthodox Jews in either the mainstream or underground music scene. But Alex Clare defies stereotypes by sticking wholeheartedly to his religious beliefs, while excellently rocking the underground alternative scene. The guy is just so cool, honestly. You can watch his story HERE. Also he's British. Which makes him instantly cooler. (*Cynical Duchess apologizes for her fetishization of the British accent. It is a very unfortunate American weakness, and probably not going away anytime soon).

TOP SONGS
--War Rages On
--Too Close
--Up All Night


V. FRANK TURNER

So Frank Turner is some one I recently re-discovered. I got one of his songs, 'Recovery', free off of iTunes back in 2012, (back when iTunes actually gave out free songs. Hint. iTunes. Hint). I remember really loving the song but for some reason, never looking into the rest of his music. Yet as I was scrolling through my iPod last week, looking for bands to include in this post, I re-found him and decided to give him a shot. What I found was a guy who sings like he's talking to you. It's like he put his diary to free verse lyrics and added some drums and guitar. His rough Alternative voice also verges on the border of Rock as he can get into the screaming zone a bit, yet altogether, listening to Frank Turner feels like listening to your British best friend, pouring his heart out into an Indie diary.

TOP SONGS
--Recovery
--Polaroid Picture
--The Way I Tend To Be
 

So anyway, 
I've realized something very important about my blogging habits: I am afraid of consistency. I am afraid, that if I do something even remotely similar to what I did last week, you guys will yawn loudly in revolt and pelt rotten tomatoes at your respective computer screens. I am afraid that if I start to develop a theme, a niche--so to speak-- then I will simply become repetitive, and boring, and two dimensional. Like a broken doll with one of those creepy recordings built into it. But in reality, it is very healthy for me to be slowly defining my blog brand. You all know that this is a blog about obscurities-- a lifestyle blog with a different take on mainstream. But even with that broad niche, I have been floundering a little, jumping from gift posts to nerd guides in the blink of an eye. This musik post is brought to you with the intention of further defining my niche. Because I sincerely want different types of music to be a strong part of this blog. 

Love,
Cynical Duchess

Giveaway details click HERE!


Do you have a fave Indie Rock band?
Let me know down in the comments below! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

SINCE WHEN HAVE WE LOST THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?


 Yah, so I'm just gonna start this:
       
       Way before I ever had a blog, I had Sparklife.  For those of you who don’t know what Sparklife is— it is an online community based off of the literature analysis help site Sparknotes; if any of you have heard of the No Fear Shakespeare series— they do those too. During my early to mid teens, Sparklife was an absolute haven for me, providing me with likeminded geeks and nerds from all over the world who shared the same passion for books, obscure music and films, and a general abundance of geeky interests that the mainstream world knew almost nothing about. When I was 16, Sparklife had a series called Sparkler Posts, where us Sparklers, (the peasants who read and followed Sparklife), could send in our own written articles, and if the Sparkitors at Sparklife HQ liked it enough, they would publish it. (After editing it—sometimes very heavily). I remember sending in two articles when I was 16, both of which became published Sparkler posts. You can read one of my early works HERE. The other one however, shall remain anonymous, as I am too embarrassed to post it on this blog. (The Sparkitors edited that one pretty heavily-- to the point where the article lost the message I wanted to convey). 
      
       The problem with Sparklife over time is that though they said they preached a diversity of opinions— the truth was (in my opinion) that Sparklife kept preaching the same single narrow opinion over and over— which would technically be fine— I can live with a bias, if they had not started shutting out other opinions that differed from them. It seemed as if any time a Sparkler had something different to say, other Sparklers who shared the opinions of Sparklife would shame that Sparkler— calling him or her a bigot, ignorant, a prude, and other nasty narrow-minded names. It came to a point when a lot of Sparklers felt like they could not voice their opinions on a so-called open minded website— because they were afraid to be shamed for what they believed in. DISCLAIMER: I understand when someone is being an actual bigot, I know what it looks like when someone is actually being prejudiced against other people—and believe me— there were a fair share of trolls on Sparklife as well that deserved to be called a bigot. Therefore, because of these trolls, I was never really sure if Sparklife itself was overly biased, or if voicing one's opinion on being pro-life actually made someone a bigot. So I kept quiet, very much unsure about who was in the right here. 
       

       
       But then came the defining element. A Sparkler one day wrote into one of the resident Sparklife advice-givers, telling him/her (I don’t want to disclose the gender of the advice-giver so I’m just going to say him/her) that she was being judged in College for wearing a promise ring. She wrote in crying that some of the people in her dorm, if ever they found out that the pretty, unobtrusive ring on her finger was a promise ring, would somehow feel judged by her wearing it, and would even tell her that by wearing her promise ring, she was somehow shaming all of the people that didn’t believe in abstinence. Now wait just one minute. But don’t worry, it gets worse. After this poor Sparkler poured out her heart to said advice-giver, the advice-giver, instead of telling the sparkler to keep her chin up, to not care what idiots think, to be proud of the choices she makes in life --does not say any of this. No. Instead, said advice-giver tells the sparkler that maybe she shouldn't tell people that it's a promise ring, because such a ring bears with it a connotation of religious judgement and tramp shaming--and it really does make people uncomfortable. Please let us have a moment of silence so we can just take that in. 
       
Okay. I understand Advice Giver's point. If the letter writer was indeed being indiscreet about why she was wearing her ring, then being a little more discreet about wearing her ring is indeed the tactful thing to do, and some very sage advice. Furthermore, I also understand the inherent logic behind Advice-giver's advice: if you don't want to feel judged, then don't tell people that it's a promise ring! Sounds simple enough. It isn't. What bothered me about advice-giver's advice was that he/she went on to give a whole little side tangent about how  "rings that advertise your [intimacy] status—whether that status is 'not until marriage' or 'five times a day'—are a total tacky overshare." (Direct quote, BTW).  It is one thing to tell someone not to advertise her personal business so loudly. It is a whole other story to tell someone that her personal business is wrong, or tacky. Especially through the role of an advice-giver.          


      Did this Sparkler start telling other people to wear promise rings? No. She did not. Did this Sparkler in anyway mention that she disapproved of people who did not keep abstinence? No she very well didn’t! Then why in the world does anyone have the right to tell her to hide what she believes in, simply because it makes some people uncomfortable?! Since when is telling someone that their promise ring is tacky an acceptable thing to say on an established public website? Is it then okay for me to tell that gay couple down the street that their public affection is tacky? How about that Muslim family stepping out of the Q train-- is it then okay for me to tell them that wearing a Hijab is tacky--that it makes people feel judged? How about that Chassidic couple walking down 18th Ave in Borough Park-- is it okay for me tell him that wearing a shtreimel and long side locks is a tacky overshare of his religious beliefs? Not one of us ever has a right to do that--because regardless of our own personal opinions, we really don't know who is in the right. One can live 120 years believing in Darwinism, only to later die and discover, that it was Darth Vader all along. Whoops.        

 Wearing a promise ring is a very personal and very private choice— like wearing a Yarmulke, or wearing a Hijab—or even not keeping abstinence. As long as we all live our lives, minding our own singular business, then no one-- and I mean no one-- has the right to tell us how to live our lives, or comment on our personal choices. While I am not Christian, and I don't wear a promise ring, I have been very vocal on this blog about my choice to dress modestly. I have never shamed anyone if they dress differently from me, because, let's be honest--everyone dresses differently from me-- but I felt comfortable to share that piece of my life with you, because I knew you would celebrate my life choices with me, not judge me for oversharing. I think what upset me the most about that Sparkler Post, was how Sparklife could be so open about being a 'liberal' website-- how they take everyone's beliefs into account--but if that belief differed from theirs, they were more than ready to subtly slam it. I remember being 17, and reading this post quietly in shock, and thinking to myself: “since when did we lose the freedom of expression?” That post eventually became one too many to handle, and I left Sparklife shortly thereafter. 


I started my own blog a year later. 


*PS-- After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to include a link to the original article, so that you can read it, and form your own educated opinion. Perhaps you disagree with me-- perhaps I didn't read things correctly. What do you guys think? Let me know, down in the comments below!  

Love,
Cynical Duchess


Original article HERE      

Monday, March 6, 2017

THE NEWBIE'S GUIDE TO UNION SQUARE


 We are not apologizing for not having a post out last week. Instead we are ignoring it as if it never happened.

Anyhoo,
       So I've been wanting to make a post about Union Square for a while. It is such a quirky, off beat part of Manhattan, that for some reason seems to fade into the limelight of the big Times Square. I literally have come here about every single Sunday for the past two months. Religiously. However, I don't usually have time to wander around the shops, and stare curiously at the Hari Krishna people banging drums in the middle of the square. I usually step right off the subway, and zoom straight for Starbucks across the street-- where I will then spend the next five consecutive hours staring into my laptop. And occasionally getting hit on.
       However, because I have indeed been going there every single Sunday, religiously, for the past two months, I have managed to stumble upon some real gems tucked into the nooks and crannies of the place. I do have to say this though: one sec, let me switch to red-- I do not claim to be an expert on Union Square. In fact, I have just disclosed that I am an anti social nerd who sits in Starbucks all day. Everything that I am about to show you are things that I stumbled upon accidentally, and on my own-- without even trying. Therefore, think of this as more of an interactive guide, just the things I've stumbled upon while wandering Union Square. 

ALSO: because this post got too long, I plan on releasing a Part II where I will mention all of the quirky cafes I found around Union Square. But for now, enjoy the Everything Else. 

ONWARD: 


So Union Square, in essence, is one of those many squares that Manhattan seems to have instead of flowers, or trees. When you climb out of the subway station and into the light, you are greeted by a historic and artsy looking neighborhood that seems to brim with personality. Every building seems to have a history behind it, and combined with all the people and the street performers, the quaint shops and popup markets, Union Square is probably one of the most flavorful squares Manhattan has created-- something that shouts that it wants something so much more than its provincial life. (10 Duchess points to whoever catches that reference).   




THE NECESSITIES 

Starbucks-- For one, and this is a big one for me-- there is an excellent Starbucks right across the street from the subway station. Sometimes, working all day at home without seeing any daylight can get really depressing. Actually, it is always depressing. Thats why I personally love getting dressed Manhattan style, putting on some red lipstick, and simply working on my laptop among the company of other New Yorkers who had the same idea as I have. I should also mention that this Starbucks is geared towards the study freaks, the college students, and the artsy workaholics of Manhattan. There are tons of little nooks and work tables around the cafe, so it's very study friendly. Embarrassingly enough, I have gone there enough times that I've started seeing the same people every single Sunday. At some point I'm going to have to introduce myself. 

Health Food Stores-- So Brooklyn has one giant thing wrong with it. Actually, Brooklyn has many things wrong with it, but I'm not going to go into it now. The one giant thing that Brooklyn has wrong with it, is that it does not have a single Trader Joe's in a normal area. I live in the Midwood area of Brooklyn, which is a huge suburban area filled with many families. But for some reason, Trader Joe's has not had the sense to build a chain in Midwood. Pathetic. Which is why I usually go all the way to Union Square to do my heath food shopping. Because Union Square, unlike some other place we won't mention, has a Trader Joe's, a Whole Foods, and a Trader Joe's Wine Shop all within two blocks of each other. Take that Brooklyn. 

Drugstores-- So this is usually where I get my marijuana  shampoo. I'M KIDDING, I'M KIDDING. (*colleges please don't un-accept me. Corny joke). Since I usually do the bulk of my dry goods shopping here, it is also quite convenient that there is a Walgreens, 2 CVS's, and a Rite Aid placed in strategic places around Union Square. There are so many little crevices that you can disappear into, but no matter which direction you take, there will be a drugstore nearby. Which is uber useful, for both tourists and locals alike. I should also mention that there is an Apple store a few blocks down for the Square.Just in case you needed one. 




THE SHOPS

The Well Known Ones-- So think of any well known, and not so well known-- shops that you can come up with-- Forever XII, H&M, Zara, True Religion, Doc Martens-- Union Square has it. Trust me, it is a lot more fun to go shopping when the stores are spread out in a sprawling neighborhood, among beautiful people and architecture, than having to stuff yourself up in some decrepit, closed up mall, buying the same exact clothes from the same exact stores. Just saying. 

The Not So Well Known Ones-- For one, there is a store, which I have not entered yet, called Chocolate By The Bald Man. One day I must, I must, enter. There is also a store, whose name I wasn't able to catch, that only sells smoking paraphernalia. Hookah pipes, cigarettes, cigars, general pipes-- this guy has it all. I just find this store hilarious because something like this would probably be deemed highly dangerous and illegal in LA. Not that I condone smoking in any way, as I do indeed find it extremely dangerous and addictive, but I still find it bothersomely ironic how LA can ban any and all suggestions of a cigarette, but allow marijuana to be so rampant, that on national Pot day, about 85% of my college mates came to school high. Trust me, I could tell. 

Nature Republic-- So this is indeed an extreme gem that I found nestled between some random nondescript stores that I usually ignore. I first heard about Nature Republic from a Youtuber who deals specifically with Korean skincare/makeup products. The reason why I was reading up on Korean makeup products in the first place, is because I still plan on traveling to Seoul this summer, and one of the things I wanted to stock up on, was some of the excellent makeup and skin products Korea has to offer. Which is why I did a rather comical triple take when Nature Republic suddenly appeared before my eyes. Of course I had to go right in. At first I was apprehensive as I totally thought Nature Republic would hike up their prices, just 'cuz they were in America. BUT THEY DIDN'T. Five dollar body butters and hand creams, ten dollar cc creams and coverups, TWO DOLLAR FACIAL TONING MASKS. Suffice to say, I was in heaven. It was also at that moment when I realized that Walgreens had lost my business. We were also helped by a lovely salesgirl named Tina, who was both friendly and truthful in her recommendations. My friend tried on some of their lipsticks, and Tina made sure to truthfully tell her whether the color suited her or not. So I'm just saying guys, if you ever find yourself in Nature Republic, go ask for Tina-- she'll really help you. 
       I should also mention, that they give you free samples with every purchase. Because I spent over $25, I got a free hand cream, as well as a chance to spin their wheel of fortune, where I won two packs of mineral infused facial wipes. Score, I say. 




BOOKSTORES, MARKETS & ENTERTAINMENT

Bookstores-- Once again, right when you climb out of the subway station, across the street, standing formidably next to a Sephora, is a gigantic Barnes and Noble. It is three floors high, and reminds me very much of my B&N in the Grove, in LA. They also have a cafe on the third floor, as well as having a lot of author/celebrities events every month. 
       The famous Strand bookstore is also located around Union Square, but I have yet to visit it, so I don't really know much about it-- though it is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit. Lastly, there is a bookstand right across from the main subway station, near where the Hari Krishna usually like to settle themselves, that deals with various secondhand books. I also have yet to peruse this book stand, but if you dare me enough, I'll probably do it. I may even buy a book. 

Popup Markets-- You do not understand the feeling of climbing out of the underground into daylight, and emerging into a bustling surprise market selling who-knows-what. From August to September it was an organic food market. From November to December it was a twinkling Holiday market. Currently there are a few vendors that sell various paintings and art, but who knows what will be during the coming months? I am rightfully excited. 

Street Performers-- from jugglers, to guitarists, to singers, to saxophonists-- you will always catch some sort of musician or performer hanging around the main square. Just make sure to tip them a dollar when you pass by-- it's free music they hand you. 


 
#Bookstand
And well-- that is all.  I hope you enjoyed this meticulously researched Guide to Union Square, just as much as I enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for a part II post on the quirky cafes I found in Union Square. 

TEN DUCHESS POINTS TO LINDSEY GINGE, OF LYNDSEYGINGE.COM 
--- for being the first to guess last week's quote down in the comments below

FIVE DUCHESS POINTS GO TO ERIN, OF EXPLORE-REFRESH
--- for being the second to guess last week's quote down in the comments below. 

Don't forget to guess this week's quote down in the comments below to participate in the giveaway! 

for Giveaway details, click HERE. 

Love, 
Cynical Duchess

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