You are beautiful. Right now. You are worthy of glamour. You are worthy of beauty. You are worthy of love. If you can’t internalize that, think of the words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?” If you can’t internalize that you are worthy of love, beauty, and glamour, how will anyone else? There is this pervading myth that if you care about how you appear, you are vain and vapid. Life is so full of drudgery, so very full of dishes, filing, going to the grocery store, and keeping your life afloat. Why would you deny yourself the opportunity to take pleasure in a sexy pair of stockings, a well-tailored jacket, lovely leather boots, or whatever floats your fancy? Is it because you have feelings about all of this?
You’re Not Shallow, You’re Motivated
Some people feel very put-upon about having to work at their appearance; that it is something they should not have to be bothered about. You know what’s sexy? Your brain. You know what else is sexy? Your meat suit that it’s currently encased in.
I don’t look like what the media says is gorgeous.
Fuck the media.
I don’t know how to feel beautiful.
We are going to change that right now.
True glamour isn’t about putting on a costume. It isn’t about conforming. It’s about what do you think is beautiful? If you had to go to a party tonight at the last minute, is there something you could pull out of your closet and feel immediately wonderful in?
Do you feel like a fabulously fat Audrey Hepburn when you wear pearls? Then wear them. Do you feel like a decadent Jamie Dornan when you wear a certain scarf? Then wear it. Do you feel like Eddie Izzard and/or Tilda Swinton when you wear your favorite pair of sunglasses? Then by all means, wear them.
If you are having difficulty with accepting your physical form as it is right now, reframing is a good place to start. The purpose of reframing is to take current negative thoughts that you are having and change them in your mind so the way that you see yourself slowly starts to change. For example, I am very self-conscious about my upper arms. You will rarely see a picture of me wearing something sleeveless. Even when I try on clothes, I am sure to have a cardigan with me so that I don’t disregard flattering clothing because I’m too busy staring at my upper arms. It’s something I’m still working through, but I started to make actual progress about being willing to accept my upper arms when I started reframing how I thought about them. Instead of thinking things like, ugh, my upper arms are fat and hideous and look like bat wings, I would instead remind myself that plump arms were admired in Anna Karenina, especially Anna’s and she was a sex bomb. Granted, she throws herself under a train but still, she was dipping it and doing it. So I would think to myself that my arms are plump so that I will be hearty enough for the revolution.
The changing of your thought processes won’t happen overnight; it requires constant mindfulness and you will sometimes slip, even with years of practice. All of this is okay, we’re not looking for full body enlightenment here, we’re simply working to be kinder to ourselves. Reframing has helped me be much more positive about my body and appearance. When I look at old journal entries from ten years ago, I feel my insides curl up like a pill bug because twenty-six-year-old Deb was just so mean to herself and it was all the time. I look at pictures of myself from that time and I have no idea why I was so full of self-loathing. I just didn’t have the experience or self-knowledge yet to be kind to myself yet. All I could think about were all of the ways I was lacking, everywhere that I had too much or too little. Thinking all of these terrible things about myself was just such a waste of time and energy when I could have been learning to dress for the body I actually had—not the one I thought would magically appear one day, learning to wear makeup and do my hair in a way that would feel natural to me instead of ping-ponging between weight gain and weight loss and corsetry and eyeliner and pony tails and yoga pants. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier for any of us to stop, but we could be creating art, creating joy, creating wonder instead of concentrating on what we perceive to be imperfections.
It can be helpful to take a moment to see yourself through the eyes of someone else. When I was a nanny to an adorably wonderful tiny two-year-old girl, she would like to sit on my lap and then wedge herself directly into a roll of fat on my tummy. When she would do this, I would be inwardly dismayed. There’s nothing like a small person curled directly into a place on my body that I felt super self-conscious about to really bring my attention to just how subconsciously displeased I was with it. But she was tiny and I was usually exhausted, so I would accept it. One day, she looked at me and smiled and patted my tummy approvingly as if to say, thanks for this, lady! I enjoy lap time together because of your squishiness. I would swat lovers’ hands away from this area of my body, but when a guileless toddler was pleased with the shape of my tummy, it made it easier for me to accept that adult humans could be into it too. And if other people could love my body’s shape, couldn’t I do the same for my body?
A moment of indulgence: I have been dreading writing this part of this chapter. If I talk about appearance, the desire to distill such a complicated creature as glamour down to one aspect is almost unavoidable, even though beauty is merely one aspect of glamour. If I only frame glamour in terms of “Just be yooou, no matter what, in all circumstances, ever,” you may be inclined to think that you simply need to accept yourself and the rest of the universe will fall in line with no additional work on your part.
Except … no one thoroughly knows your innermost secrets, charms, and delights when first meeting you. They are not on display. Your appearance, your diction, your wit, and a small measure of your intelligence are, however. Lest you think it is simply the cruelty of our oppressors who indulge in this less desirable behavior, be aware that you (yes, you) are deciding how you feel about someone in the first seven seconds you meet that person, too.
If you want achieve your Great Work, you are going to need new influences. Dates, networking, job interviews, parties, conventions, and meetings—it will be impossible to move forward without at least some of these aspects. You will need to change the impression that some people in your life already have of you and make favorable impressions on people who will be newly entering your life. If you want to see real change in your life, you will need to be able to subtly maneuver people in your life who occupy places of power and privilege over you because that’s how your war will be won. If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten. If you wanted what you already had, what’s the point of accomplishing your Great Work?
Dress for the job you want to have, dress for the life you want to live? Yawn. Pass. Glamour will become immediately distracted by the girl in the tattered, faded vintage floral dress exuberantly running through puddles in purple kitten heels. If succeeding in your ambition was as simple as buying new clothes, wouldn’t everyone have done that already? Wouldn’t everyone be living the lives they want to be living?
Cultivating your own sense of style doesn’t “just” happen. It requires conscious effort. It’s easy to be dismissive of style; it’s easy to gloss over this chapter as yet another makeover montage. If you are accomplishing your Great Work using glamour, you must be subtle. Clothes can be just clothes if you wanted them to be, but why would you not want to use them as a tool? Choose this scent to wear when you need Luna’s influence, choose this color to wear because it is your nemesis’s favorite color and you want to show him you can wear it better, wear silk because the goddess you are working with demands it, wear heels because your spirits say it will be a sacrifice, do your hair like your grandmother did because it makes you feel as bold as she was when building aircrafts for the war.
Glamour Doesn’t Work Unless You Use It
If you are weaponless and about to enter combat and someone hands you a knife, are you going to throw it on the ground outside of the arena and say, “Hey thanks, I know my opponent has a crossbow and a horse and I’ve never been formally trained in combat or anything, but I feel good about going into this barehanded”? Because if that’s the plan … I have to tell you, it’s not good. If you keep looking at your appearance as optional, you are discarding a weapon from your arsenal. Use style as a weapon. Discarding weapons is a foolish decision. Don’t be foolish.
Because glamour is something that is self-made instead of simply gifted to you, this is such a thrilling chance to present yourself however you like. Using glamour as an external expression gives you a chance to create something that you find lovely. It’s not about being palatable to everyone who crosses your path; it’s about taking up the space your feet land on.
It’s choosing what you find sexy, what you find beautiful, and what you find powerful, even if no one else gets it at first. It can take a while for others to understand your chosen stylistic expression if it’s outside of their comfort zone, and that can be difficult to power through. It’s hard to be a trailblazer. It’s frightening for everyone; it’s scary for you to feel more perceived or perceived differently by others than you had previously, and it’s daunting for other people you come across if they’ve never seen anyone like you.
But there are real-life workplace goth girls, pinup moms in the supermarket, elder fashionistas with rainbow pastel hair at the concert, genderqueer fashion plates at restaurants, and impeccably dressed gentlemen on the subway. Obviously, if you live in a more conservative area or work in a conservative environment, it’s going to take a very light touch to make this work and not turn your life into a disaster. This can be a delicate and difficult maneuver to figure out and may take some missteps to find the right place.
From my own experience, I hate wearing “corporate drag” which I personally define as: trousers, heels, a button-down top, a jacket, conservative jewelry, a full face of makeup, and hair that is carefully straightened every morning. For me, this sounds like a circle of hell. All that time, effort, and synthetic fabric. I love how other women look in it; Effy from Skins, Grace from Will & Grace, and real-life friends and coworkers. But for me, it feels like I’m wearing something that would somehow please my mother and not me—like my clothes are wearing me.
I started working for a conservative company recently and the idea of getting back to that made my skin crawl. With careful, slow experimentation, I have come to find that a retro/boho look with lots of sparkly jewelry is workplace appropriate, and I get a lot of compliments from both my coworkers and clients. I wear cupcake-like skirts, frilly little jackets, kimonos, and 1950s-inspired dresses with a bright red lip and my hair pinned up. Would I be able to “get away” with that if I didn’t spend a lot of effort making it look polished and put together and presented a confident face while wearing these things? I doubt it. Would this work if my hemlines were not conservative and if my tops were low cut? It would not. Does it help that the only other person my age there shops at the same places? Yes it does, because that means this is what “young” people wear ( … I work in an older environment).
Beauty Is Static, Glamour Is Magic
Beauty isn’t something that can be changed all that much; dyeing your hair blonde isn’t going to somehow change your bone structure, no matter what the beauty industrial complex tries to tell us. Does that mean that you shouldn’t utilize cosmetics? The fallen angel Azazel gave us cosmetics to use, according to the Apocrypha. Are we here to create Witchcraft or make mud pies? Of course we should use whatever feels comfortable to us: cosmetics, hair dye, jewelry, clothing that would be worthy of sumptuary fines? Hell yes. Yes. But much like the first time you summoned a particularly exciting spirit, there are caveats.
First, you need to have a realistic expectation about what the use of your choice of products will actually do for you. Not what you want it to do or what the ad campaign’s false glamour of their ad tells you it will do, but what it will actually do. Dyeing your hair raven black will not magically make your tummy flat, it will make your hair black. That’s all. A smoky eye will put eye shadow on your eyelids, not remove stretch marks. A new top will not remove scars. Once you can get right with that, it’s game on.
Not so fast though.
The second equally important caveat is something that many of us have learned the hard way: your credit card is not a natural extension of your income. Let me repeat that, because it took a very long time for that to really permeate my brain: your credit card is not a natural extension of your income. Maybe you desperately want a Hermès bag. It’s a finely crafted purse, was a media buzzword for a while, is a status indicator, and may make you feel more glamorous. It will do none of those things if you can’t pay your mortgage to get it. Does it mean you can’t have one? No. It means you have to want one very badly. It means saving all of your change and giving up your other vices such as smoking, Frappuccinos, movies, take-out, and other such things for possibly a decade. If it is something you want that badly, then go for it. Do I think a handbag is worth that level of commitment? Not currently, and I am a well-known handbag whore. But you make your own decisions for yourself like a real, live adult.
Your Style, Curated
Part of developing a sustainable style is having a serious talk with yourself about what you can actually afford. If you can only afford to alter thrift store or freecycle items, that’s fine. People will view it as a carefully curated look. Perhaps you closely check the stitching on clothing from Target and Forever 21 and you only buy pieces that look timeless and a very occasional “on trend” piece as well. Maybe you go to drugstores that have cosmetic testers so you can be sure to pick the right shades for yourself. You will look effortlessly chic. Perhaps you can afford to splurge on an occasional good leather handbag, shoes that were made to last, a cashmere wrap, and a consulting session with a beauty specialist. You will look put together and stylish.
At the end of the day, most people (unless they are fashion geeks), can’t tell the difference between this season and last season. They are looking instead to see how well something looks on you. People who don’t want to associate with you because you are working to not acquire an epic level of debt to keep up with people outside of your income bracket are not people you want touching your Great Work anyway. Fashion geeks who can tell if you are wearing something that is currently in fashion or bought on sale because it’s last season, are still looking to see if it looks becoming on you. Nine out of ten times, they are not getting together with all of your other friends to judge you—they mean it when they compliment you.
Speaking of compliments, if you want glamour to work, get good at gracefully taking a compliment and not dissolving into an apologetic pile of self-loathing. You don’t have to return a compliment with a compliment; in fact, in most cases don’t. Wait until you sincerely mean it and it’s not complimentary quid quo pro. The compliment scale will balance. If you give a compliment first, be sure to mean it sincerely and not expect anything back, as this will build a truer bond between you and the other person.
And finally, if you are worried that others will think you are putting on airs or somehow not being yourself by paying attention to details or if you are in a relationship with someone who wants you to dress or not dress a certain way (ditto for makeup and other products), that is actually the last barrier between you and your fully realized feminist self. Choosing to wear—or not wear—any particular piece of clothing or cosmetic is a feminist choice. Allowing someone else to dictate the way you present yourself to the world outside of the workplace (because earning a living is important) is not a feminist choice. At the same time, wearing something on occasion because it makes your partner happy is a choice you are entitled to make. Permitting someone else to dress you like you are a toddler in a non-consensual kinked scenario is not.
What kind of clothing do you like? Why do you like it? How can you make yourself feel delicious while doing dishes? What could you wear to bed that makes you feel scrumptious? What could you wear that would make you feel powerful and in control in your workplace? Does fabric matter? Does the country it was manufactured in matter? What is your budget? Do you own everything you need already? If not, where can you go to buy items that are within that budget? What do you wear that makes you feel crummy about how you look? Could you get rid of what makes you feel crummy? If not, what could you add to it to make you feel better about it? Accessories? Sexy underthings? Tailoring?
If those questions make you feel cast adrift, consider hosting a clothing swap. There’s something genuinely magical about connecting with friends and friends of friends and stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying on clothing because someone says, I think you would look great in this. It gives you an opportunity to play in an environment that feels safe (these are your friends, so they already love you) and it’s a way to experiment with a new look without having to invest actual capital in it.
Your (External) Glamour Checklist
1. 1. Do your clothes and shoes fit properly? If not, there are lots of online tutorials to teach you how to fix that without owning a sewing machine. There are also lots of tailors and cobblers who are happy to take your money.
2. 2. What condition are your clothes in? Lint rolling your clothing in the morning is a good first step. Polish your shoes if they need polishing, iron your clothes if they need ironing. Make repairs as needed. Do you wear clothing that cannot be salvaged due to irreparable wear and tear? Can you replace those items or make do without them?
3. 3. Do you know what will look stylish on you? If you are struggling with this point, you can never go wrong with basic black. Kelly Cutrone is a fashion PR maven, and she wears almost no makeup, never does anything much with her hair and she always wears a well-fitting but nondescript black outfit with her signature try saying something about my appearance, I dare you stare. Black top, black bottom or black dress, black shoes, black wallet, and/or handbag, black socks or stockings, done.
4. 4. Do you drink enough water every day? It makes a difference in your skin.
5. 5. Do you take care of your skin? Cleansing and moisturizing is good for every skin type. If you are not sure what to use, talk to someone knowledgeable at a shop like Ulta or Sephora.
6. 6. Have you been to the dentist in the last six months? Teeth are an indicator of social status in modern society. If they are stained or missing, that’s part of what makes your first impression. Dental cleanings are often available at a discount from dental schools or Groupon.
7. 7. If you have a beard, do you take care of it by washing it with shampoo and conditioner? Do you put a little oil in it so it looks shiny and healthy? Shiny, healthy hair is also a social status indicator.
8. 8. How does your breath smell? Ask someone who will be honest with you, such as a parent, spouse, sibling, or lifelong friend. If it does not smell good, that’s going to be problematic. Check with your dentist about what can be done. Remember to brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth with your toothbrush.
9. 9. Do you style your hair? If your hair looks messy or unpolished, it detracts from making a positive impression. Again, the Internet is full of tutorials for the challenged.
10. 10. Do you wear makeup? If so, put on some (noticeable) lip gloss and some tinted moisturizer for daily wear if you are unsure about what to wear.
11. 11. How is your posture? People who sit and stand up straight are perceived as more confident. We are working to attract helpful influences for our Great Work. This will help with that.
12. 12. You want to look polished and put together because it’s an easy way to make yourself believe you are capable of the sweeping life changes you want to make every time you look in the mirror. It’s the also the first step to charming others into getting on board for your cause.
Optional Social Experiment No. 2
Objective: Be treated the way you would like to be treated by others using your style as a weapon.
Before you overhaul your style, keep a photo journal of what you wear for a week. Take notes every day about how you are treated by others. The following week, once you’ve created your style for yourself and you are following the checklist, observe how others treat you then as well. Is it different? You want to pay special attention to how you styled yourself when you are treated the way you want to be treated. How did you feel about yourself each day? If you feel good about your style and you are being treated the way you wish to be treated and it helps your cause, then you have successfully created a new tool for your arsenal.
In Greek mythology, queens, goddesses, and demi-goddesses would perform kosmesis, the art of dress and adornment. In the Iliad, Hera decides she’s going to seduce her husband, Zeus, so a particular battle will play out the way she wants it to. She has a full makeover montage where she bathes, puts on perfumed oil and cosmetics, braids her hair in the newest most fashionable ’do, and chooses the dress and jewels she knows will make Zeus desperate to get down with her. What better way to use your style as a form of magical glamour than to do something that goddesses and queens did to prepare for battle, seduction, or their current Great Work? Use kosmesis whenever making an impression is particularly important.
Esoteric Experiment No. 8
Objective: To perform kosmesis as a sacred ritual to use your physical glamour.
Lay out your chosen outfit ceremoniously, including underthings and accessories. Arrange any cosmetics, moisturizers, hair tools, and accessories and fragrance at your mirror. Choose these items and your bathing objects based on your intent for the impression you want to make. Bathe, with your intent on how you want to present your glamour. Style your hair and cosmetics with your intention while gazing at yourself in the mirror until you feel confident in your intention and the impression you will make.
Your Glamour Needs to Be Active
Do you treat glamour like Pinterest? Pinterest is so seductive because everything is beautiful and nothing hurts there. Your friends pin the diets they will never start, the improvements they will never make to their homes, the crafts they will never do, the projects they will never complete with their children, and the newest healthiest recipe they will never actually cook. Everyone has a plan for the future that is bright with good choices that will never actually be made. It’s easy to treat your glamour like a Pinterest board of good intentions and bad follow-through.
If my glamour worked the way the way I wanted it to, I would be dressed in a gorgeous silk dress that flows over my body like water. I would be at a party where everyone is beautiful and charming and wearing gorgeous things. We would be drinking wine out of chalices and eating fresh figs and we would all be as witty as Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde. We would dance, we would cavort, and then I would sprawl over the table and my party guests would close the table up into a makeshift boat and lead a procession to float me out onto the lake like an Arthurian legend. Does this description sound familiar? It’s a Florence + the Machine video for their song “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” and bears zero resemblance to the life I actually live. My body is not suited for silk gowns, my friends aren’t constantly entertaining, and I don’t actually own any chalices.
It could be argued that I could construct my life to be more accommodating to this glamour fantasy. Surely, I could scrape up some chalices at some thrift stores, I could have an outdoor party, I could have more interesting conversations and get some silk gowns altered and maybe I could work on the boat choreography (maybe), but even if I did all of that, it can’t be my life all the time.
Laundry needs to be done, one can’t live solely off of figs and wine ( … I think). Books and blogs need to be written, yarn needs to be spun, candles need to be poured, milk needs to be bought, tax documents need to be processed, phones need to be answered. The bigger challenges are, how can you find a moment in your day that feels like your idealized version of glamour so that you can feed your glamour magic properly? How do you reconcile your Pinterest version of glamour with your actual blood-and-spit glamoury? How can you be true to your glamour in your actual life that you are living now while still working to fulfill your heart’s desire?
When in Doubt, Ask a Goddess
Reconciling your idealized glamour with your daily glamour is a difficult task, as is your Great Work. In these tasks, along with fully realizing your glamour, it’s completely okay to ask an adult for help. By an adult, I mean your goddesses and spirits that you already work with. It’s tempting to want to stay in the mindset that each goddess and spirit does a few specific things and nothing else, but that’s really limiting, isn’t? It’s more productive to see your goddesses and spirits more similarly to how you see actual people. Your sister isn’t just good at being a mom and doing dishes, she also could sell ice in the dead of winter during a snowstorm, is an amazing karaoke performer, and knows the words to every Brat Pack movie by heart. Your sister isn’t just Person of Mom-ing and Person of Doing Dishes, she has lots of other things she’s awesome at. Now, this doesn’t magically make your sister good at things she’s not good at. You know she’s terrible with social situations; you know she’s never been a lawyer before. Just because you really need a social maven and a lawyer right now is not going to make your sister suddenly able to do those things for you, no matter how much she may want to actually do those things for you. You need to look at your relationships with your goddesses and spirits and communicate with them using whatever methods you usually use and figure out who is a really good choice for what. Remember—just like people will sometimes oversell themselves to get a job, some goddesses and spirits will do the same too. So start small. It’s also key to keep in mind that you are still asking for a favor, no matter how well or poorly they perform it. Again, treat them like people. Be appreciative, and if it’s best in your relationship to offer a quid quo pro arrangement (If you do x for me, I’ll do y for you), do that. It’s also okay to throw your goddesses and spirits a totally fabulous party with offerings and praise and then say, “So … ” Just remember, much like with people, if you never throw them a fabulous party without asking for something, they will eventually be onto you. So in between, be sure to make regular offerings. I would define a “regular” offering as praise, chat about your life, candles, fresh water, incense, the first bite of your dinner, and so on; things that don’t cost much but are appreciated.
It is very tempting to want to strike up a new relationship with a new goddess or spirit who is known for glamour or luck or whatever you’re working on. Sometimes, that’s the right choice. Maybe your goddesses and spirits are all really not into glamour or deadlines and don’t want to be bothered with it. Maybe your goddesses and spirits have done everything they could do for you and there’s nothing else they can do and you still need more help. These are situations where it may be beneficial to get to know some new goddesses and spirits. But just like in life, your best choice is to start with goddesses and spirits who are already invested in you. It’s the difference between asking a friend for ten dollars and a stranger.
Before starting a new relationship with a new goddess or spirit, remember that just as you have a choice about working together, so do they. A lot of times people mistake goddesses and spirits for gumball machine who can’t wait to give you candy instead of beings with their own thoughts, feelings, and agendas. This means sometimes they are just not that into you. Take St. Expedite. Most Hoodoo practitioners swear by him. He gets shit done—fast. He likes rum and pound cake; sounds like a party guy. When Jow and I first learned about him, we were so excited. He’s quick and motivated. Other friends of ours like him and he likes them. We got out our little shrine to him, made him offerings, put on our best new friend smiles, and poured him our best rum. We gave compliments. We didn’t ask for anything, just tried to make a connection.
We tried calling again. Maybe he didn’t get our message. That happens, new friend; we understand. Call us!
And … nothing. He didn’t want anything to do with us. We were indignant. How could new friend not like us? We are incredibly likable—we were polite and nice. We tried to talk about crap that new friend would find interesting. New friend likes our other friends. How could new friend not like us? We would be super awesome friends, new friend! We don’t really know why still, just like how at a cocktail party you don’t really know why someone won’t warm up to you. We weren’t desperate per se. We weren’t asking for anything, we weren’t in dire straits. We just wanted new friend to be pals with us. Not everyone’s going to like you in this life or in the spiritual life. C’est la vie!
When inviting your potential new friend over, treat them like you would treat a person potential new friend coming over for the first time. Make an offering that you think would impress potential new friend, make some good conversation, and don’t ask for anything yet because that’s weird and off-putting. See if you feel there’s a connection. Invite potential new friend over a few times while making offerings and conversation. Be sure to know what potential new friend likes and does not like. Just like you can potentially offend a person potential new friend, you also have plenty of room to offend spirit potential new friend. Offended doesn’t always mean they will wreck your house just like physical people don’t often do that (but we all have that friend); sometimes they will simply leave in a huff or give you the silent treatment or quietly unfriend you. Give yourself some time to make a connection, ask for an omen if they are interested. See what happens and go from there. It’s important to remember that what potential new friend thinks is good for you may not always match what you think is good for you; what potential new friend asks for may not be something you want to give, New friend is not obligated to always tell you the truth, and new friend may seem like a really good new friend but turn out not to be. If you no longer wish to be friends with new friend, slowly, gently, and politely back away. If new friend is not getting the hint, get your current goddesses and spirits involved.
Here is likely where you are expecting a Google contacts list of potential new friends for you to text and become Facebook friends with so you can network with them, like their statuses, and have them on deck just in case of a glamour emergency. That would make your life much easier, right? Am I giving out the names of my person friends to you for you to bother? No? Same applies here, friend! Do some research, do some magic, make those connections for yourself. Feel free to ask your goddesses and spirits as well as your person friends for introductions and connections! That’s how your regular life works; that’s how your magical life should work too if you ever want to get anywhere.
Esoteric Experiment No. 9
Objective: Reconcile your idealized glamour with
your daily glamour. Be the change you want see.
This experiment should take place in a bathtub if at all possible. Use water that is hallowed and inscribe a circle around your tub. Choose what will go into your bath as though it were a cauldron in which you will be remade. Oils. Perfume. Glitter. Dried flowers. Light only one candle on your vanity or sink and wear your best robe. Before drawing the bath, consider everything your glamour could be if actual life wasn’t a hindrance. Take some soil that you have gathered from a place you find irritating and put it into a vessel that you have always disliked and rub your hands in it. Wash your hands with salt, lemon, and soap and wash the dirt off of your hands and watch it drain down your sink. Concentrate on letting go of your previous vision of your glamour as the dirt leaves your hands.
Disrobe. Start drawing your bath while singing a song that is sacred to you. Offer your goddesses and spirits a tray of treats that they would like. A glass of champagne, a perfect piece of dark chocolate, a sliver of truffle over pâté, fresh bread, incense, flowers, a perfume, cosmetics, a book, a fur mouse. Whether your words are simple and austere or floral and elaborate, use what comes from your heart place to invite your goddesses and spirits to join you, and then say out loud what you are offering to them and ask for assistance in your glamour.
Shut the water off when your tub is full. Concentrate your will on making the bath a welcoming place for your goddesses and spirits to communicate with you. Remember, “communicate” is a broad word for working with goddesses and spirits. Communication isn’t always voiced words—sometimes it’s a lyric, bibliomancy, a sound, a smell, a taste, a vision. Step into the bath. If you receive no communication as the water is cooling, drain a bit off and add more hot water. Concentrate on journeying inside yourself to your inner temple, a place where it is safe for you to receive visitors. Politely ask your goddesses and spirits to visit. If your house is still empty and there is no communication, keep doing this ritual every night until you receive communication about working on reconciling how to make your daily life a place for glamour.
Do divinations, record your dreams, look for omens, and ask for your goddesses’ and spirits’ help in your Great Work. When their suggestions assist you, be sure to show the proper gratitude. Never, ever make promises that you cannot keep to them. Never, ever make vows that you cannot keep to them. Never, ever promise offerings you cannot give to them. Much like breaking faith with a human lover/friend/family member can sunder your relationship in twain, the same will be true here as well. Breaking your faith with them could cause them to refuse your presence, muddle your Great Work, and turn fortune’s wheel against you until you are ground under it.
Take It Off, Slowly
When attending The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the most exciting part is Dr. Frank’s entrance into the theater. The audience starts stomping their feet to the click of his heels and regulars crane their neck to the back of the house to try to get a glimpse of who will be playing him. The role asks a lot, as most of the roles in Rocky Horror ask. The wig, the panties, the corset, the stockings, the heels, the vampy lipstick, all in front of a room full of people that likely include strangers, friends, lovers, exes, and possibly family members. No one wants to see a nervous, shy Dr. Frank, even if that’s how the actor is feeling in the moment. When he whisks off his cape to reveal his full ensemble, he only has one moment to do it right. When done correctly, the whole audience screams and applauds in delight. When done with inhibition, well, everyone claps politely and hopes that Eddie will at least be able to dance with Columbia with aplomb because otherwise why bother seeing Rocky Horror live?
Gypsy Rose Lee didn’t start her career in burlesque. She was a song and dance girl who seized the opportunity to become a show girl when one of her straps slipped one night and she started pattering with the audience about it. Her patter was so good, she was featured in a mainstream movie, Stage Door Canteen, performing a piece of it while doing a very G-rated strip tease. While Gypsy Rose Lee was very beautiful and talented, her glamour wasn’t in her body, it was in her ability to keep everyone’s eyes on her, even while she was still fully clothed, through witty monologues, facial expressions, glittery costumes, and her presence. Having command of her audience allowed her to decide when, how, and what to reveal to her spectators.
Part of what makes you interesting and exciting to others is in how you reveal yourself, in action, in conversation, and physically. The way you dress, when you tell a lover that you are in love with her for the first time, a long sloe-eyed glance with a stranger, how you tell a story about yourself, how you treat others, all of these tiny components make up your glamour.
What to reveal and when is not something most Americans spend much time thinking about. Until I started reading books about French women’s je ne sais quoi, I didn’t think about it ever. After all, I’m a blogger; I vomit up intimate details all the time for the whole Internet to silently judge me with and find me wanting all the time. But typically and generally speaking, in American culture, how fast one shares intimate details of one’s life is a mark of how interested you are in each other as friends or lovers. While this often starts out in an exciting sort of manner (You like pie? I like pie! You like cute animals doing cute animal things? I like cute animals doing cute animal things!), this is not an unflawed process. Usually, when you feel like you’ve known someone forever in the span of two weeks, you are also vomiting out innermost secrets and traumas. Sometimes, yes, that can form bonds that last a lifetime.
Is This Relationship Serious?
But the issue here is that feeling like you’ve known someone all your life and actually having known someone all your life are two different things. When it’s a feeling, sometimes you may feel inclined to share more than you meant to and then find out disappointing aspects about this new person—they are an unrepentant gossip which means now everyone in your social circles knows this information about you, they are fickle which means that you had this close bond and have shared meaningful things about yourself only for the other person to lose interest and wander off with all your secrets never to return, or they have other less desirable traits.
If you hadn’t been so blinded by what you wanted to see (every way you are similar), you may have instead taken things more slowly and shared your stories and secrets at a more sedate pace. Information is a precious commodity for a reason—once someone knows something about you, they can’t unknow it. You have trusted this person to carry your stories and secrets and not use them against you. Wouldn’t it be better in most cases to wait to be sure the person can be trusted with these sacred things before throwing them in the name of bonding?
Coming back to my prized je ne sais quoi books, while it is highly unlikely that as Americans we would shield what we do for a living from potential new friends and lovers for several months for inexplicable French reasons, along with various other untranslatable French ideas about not needing to officially call anything a date, we should still consider some aspects of French home life while getting our glamour bearings.
You can make yourself a more interesting conversationalist about literature, local events, world events, art, and cinema to slow down on the personal information overload when meeting new people and with people you already know. Being a good listener never goes amiss, and it’s true that people love to talk about themselves, so ask questions about their experiences or thoughts. When you do speak, speak clearly so you can be understood. It never hurts to have a few anecdotes about your recent life experiences that can be told to various social circles. Be sure to give the other people you’re speaking with a chance to talk, too. Every issue or problem that crosses your mind doesn’t need to immediately be held up for presentation to the world; you can take some time to think about it on your own first and consider how and to whom it could be presented. Every moment of every day does not have to be spent in the company of others; you can work to carve out some small niches to have time to yourself both to decompress from being viewed by others and to concentrate on accomplishing your Great Work.
A new relationship of any kind with someone is an opportunity for you to form bonds that could last years, possibly decades. It’s the beginning of a journey that will unfold as quickly or slowly as you and the other party allows it. A slumber party atmosphere is highly enjoyable, but if you have told this new person everything there is to know about you over the course of an evening or even a month, what will you have to share in two years? Burlesque isn’t terribly exciting to watch if the stripper has his clothes off in a pile on the stage in thirty seconds flat. At the same time, you need to do a fearless self-inventory about how skilled you actually are at burlesque. Gypsy Rose could take off her gloves in a half hour and have everyone enthralled just to watch. You are not Gypsy Rose, yet. How interested is the other person in you? Ideally, you want to leave an interaction with the other party wishing they had more time with you, not grateful that you exited.
If you know you will have an interaction with a new person, it could be useful to consider to yourself what you would be willing to share with the other party and why, as well as what should be saved for a later time.
Think about it like this: in most circumstances, it is very distasteful to hear about the horrors of the other party’s exes on the first date. If that is coupled with discussion of financial problems, dislike about mutual friends and acquaintances, and expectations about this relationship, it is very likely that you will back away as quickly as possible from this other person and the whole situation. You want to avoid being that date.
More than anything, practice will help you figure out your burlesque aspect of your glamour. As we’ve previously discussed, your Great Work is highly unlikely to be accomplished without some new influences. An easy way to get some new influences in your life is to broaden your current social circles. This happens by saying yes to outside events more often. Shows of all stripes, travel, crafting circles, professional meet-ups, events in communities you are a part of, conventions, parties, festivals, and conferences are excellent places for you to take your show on the road.
You Have to Leave Your House for Glamour to Work
Before going to one of these events, consider what you would like to get out of the event itself. Do you want a sexy romp with a friend of a friend? Do you want to find all of the best things to eat and drink? Have interesting conversations? Do you want to make new friends and lovers ? Do you want to find out new information that can give you new experiences? Do you want to say yes to things you wouldn’t usually say yes to? Do you want to wear clothing that you rarely get to wear? Will finding specific people or situations at this event further your Great Work?
Be aware that making no plans to achieve the things that you would find at these events could potentially leave you feeling unfulfilled. At the same time, even if you plan everything as carefully as a debutante’s ball, you may still find that nothing went according to your plans due to being personally overwhelmed or other people’s agendas being less stringent than yours. When your plans involve other people (which they often will), expect a certain amount of chaos.
It may help for you to broadly plan your event. If you start networking before the event through social media outlets, it may assist you in finding out what events could be of interest to you. In this day and age, it’s possible to have a fully booked social schedule before you even go to the event for the first time. Dates, meet-ups, hook-ups, classes, and lunches with small groups are all easily accomplished through some charming and witty banter online. However, be aware of a few things.
Sometimes people (possibly you) are more charming and interesting on the Internet than they are in person. No one is (likely) trying to deceive anyone. Everyone has time to think of the perfect bon mot to share, and with the ability to erase possibly regrettable statements, everyone is able to show their literal best angles in their photos, those aspects of themselves they think will be most glamorous. Internet exchanges are a great place to explore possible ways to present ourselves to others. From a glamour perspective, it’s the ultimate sandbox.
But great chemistry on the Internet can fizzle in person, and lukewarm interactions on the Internet can actually be sparks in person when there are hormones and visual cues involved. It’s often a good idea to be open to the experience if you make plans with someone you aren’t sure about because it could be amazing in person. In any of these situations, it would behoove you to have an exit strategy in case a great connection goes stale. But before you run like a frightened rabbit, if the conversation is going off the rails because the other person is not staying on topic, you can ask questions about the actual topic to bring the conversation back to it. This may make you less desperate to escape because you are on topic again and asserting some agency in the situation. But if escape is needed, there’s the standard I’m just going to get a drink, which can be tailored to your event. Oops! Two o’clock is that workshop about making wreaths out of human hair that I promised my friend I would go to with her. Got to go, so nice to meet you! You can use other escape methods, too. Often, it’s easier to exit a conversation if you focus on the other person and what they are saying, give verbal feedback that you’ve heard what they said and then make your excuses (I’m so glad we got to catch up, I have to run!). If you know this will be a conversation that you want to escape from ahead of time or sense that you will want to escape early on, give a time frame. I really want to focus on our conversation, but I have x amount of time before I have to dash, just so you know. If you are attempting a longer, slower disentanglement (especially to get rid of someone from your space), it’s helpful to change spaces with the person. Hey, I’m going to go grab a drink from the kitchen, come with me. Spend some time in the new location together, being focused on what the other person is saying and then excuse yourself to a new space alone. It was great talking to you! I have to make a call outside/in my room. See you later!
As always, be sure someone knows where you are when meeting new people and be sensible so you don’t end up in pieces in someone’s freezer. If you don’t have friends at the event, you may want to consider installing an app like Watch Over Me on your smartphone. Watch Over Me allows you to choose an event for what you are doing (walking home alone, taking a cab, going on a date with someone new, etc) and how long it should take. If you don’t respond to the app when the time period is over, your GPS coordinates are sent to your designated safety contact. It also has an emergency button.
An event like this is short term, meaning just that—it’s short. Be selfish, be selective. You can’t always do that in your usual life, eventually the people putting up with you being a feral psycho while attempting to achieve your Great Work will eventually get sick of you being constantly selfish and “selective.” (First communion family party with no booze and no bounce house? Pass.) You need your support network to ideally be supportive of your endeavor (the parts you want to share, at least) and be willing to listen to you snotting and crying about failing at life ad nauseam and occasionally shove crackers in your face. If you are very lucky, perhaps they will do a few of your dishes.
If you book yourself solid for the whole event, you deny yourself the opportunity to be spontaneous, and if you meet new people who are interesting, you won’t be able to do anything about it. It’s a very limited (and liminal) experience, so if you find yourself getting cornered by people who are not glamorous to you and are unlikely to be helpful to your Great Work as well, you need to extract yourself as soon as possible, not even necessarily politely in some cases because sometimes others are not great at picking up social cues.
It is very easy to burn yourself out at these kinds of events because you are having an excellent time and are excited to be around like-minded people. Maintaining self-care during these kinds of events is critical. Make sure you sleep at least five to seven hours. Eat regularly. Shower regularly. Take your medications. Drink enough water. If you start to feel completely overwhelmed, take a breather and read a book or take a nap and regroup. Try not to catch everyone else’s germs: wash your hands often, don’t eat anything out of common bowls or plates (chips, unwrapped candy, et cetera), and take vitamin C and zinc starting a few days before the event and ending several days after the event.
Serious Goth Face Is Not Always Necessary for Glamour
Glamour isn’t always serious, not at events or in your everyday life. If you’ve ever seen Dita Von Teese on a daytime talk show to promote a new book or lingerie line, she’s giving the hosts lessons on how to dance in a giant martini glass (as it is so likely to come up in everyday life) or another one of her daytime television friendly burlesque dancer skill sets. She’s done it so often that she’s very matter of fact about it and even a bit silly about how she explains how to execute this event.
Make no mistake about how playful she may be now, doing College Humor sketches about how to sexily eat a Lean Cuisine: she’s still a mogul who got to where she is due to how she presented herself. If you woke up one morning and decided to become a stripper in the late 1980s where hair bands were king and Tawny Kitaen was considered the height of beauty and you looked nothing like the other girls, you may have slunk home and become an early elementary school teacher. Dita didn’t. She walked into that smoky bar, surveyed the bleached blondes in bikinis dancing like they were in a music video and concluded, No one else looks like me! This is great! I have a niche! She built her empire from that point.
Dita’s brand isn’t diminished by her daytime television antics, and yours wouldn’t be either. You don’t have to be serious all the time—you don’t have to create a façade that ignores whole pieces of yourself to pretend to be only pieces that are easier for others to swallow or show only pieces that you think will be taken seriously. But you can diminish your glamour by not fully committing yourself to whatever path you have chosen to take to express your glamour in the moment.
In method acting, you always hear the phrase what’s my motivation? If you are sincerely committing to your character as an actor, you should have a motive for every line that comes out of your mouth. I want to convince the other character, I want to lie so convincingly that I believe it myself, I want to seduce her, I want to win this argument. You are trying to do something active with sometimes passive lines. If you only half-commit to your character, the audience only half-commits to your version of that character, leading to crummy reviews and a lack of future opportunities. You want the audience to be invested because that is how you get to keep acting. Glamour works very similarly. When you are interacting with someone else, what are you trying to accomplish? Are you building a friendship? Do you want the other party to think you are clever and winsome? Do you want the other person to know how accomplished you are? Do you want the other person to like you because you like him? Do you want the other person to help you with an opportunity? Are you bonding? Do you want the other party to find you sexy?
Think about someone dressed very attractively. Now think about that person wiggling around in those clothes like a toddler forced to wear an Easter dress and bonnet. It’s not that the person is now suddenly unattractive, but that person has undermined her own credibility. In glamour what you do is less important than how you do it in many ways.
If you visit a friend and her house looks like a hurricane ripped through it but she makes no apologies and serves a full tea with all the proper sparkling clean accouterments, are you going to be busy silently judging her about her house, or pleased with the tea she is sharing with you while you shove scones down your throat? She chose to commit herself to serving tea properly over de-cluttering her house and she committed to not being concerned about your opinion of her house in its current state, which in turn likely will make you more committed to enjoying the tea and not noticing the state of the house.
Perhaps you made a mistake in your workplace. Which will be more charming to your employer? Sobbing, self-flagellating, and being wrapped up in it for the rest of the day, or a sincere apology, questions seeking clarification, and a small, clever, self-effacing remark as you get on with your day and re-immerse yourself in your work?
If you are on a date and spill red wine all over your white top, is it better to run to the bathroom in a fit of humiliation, or roll your eyes, smirk, and say, “This is why I can’t have nice things,” and then ask for club soda?
It would be amazing if glamour made you perfect at everything at all times and completely attractive to every other human you ever encounter in life, but a key component to glamour magic is that it offers a way to be graceful when a situation doesn’t work out the way you intended. We laugh when cats accidentally fall off of something and then strike a pose as if they meant to do that, but we laugh because we find it charming and endearing that they are attempting a recovery to a mistake. It’s always much better to attempt to recover a mistake in a way that is loveable to your witnesses rather than huffing and getting annoyed, or worse, denying that it happened, which in turn annoys your witnesses.
As humans we tell each other all the time that we all make mistakes, so own yours. It makes you relatable to others. If you occasionally seem like you need help because you are clumsy like a chick lit heroine or burn the roast and others find that adorable, then haven’t you helped yourself in receiving support toward your Great Work?
Esoteric Experiment No. 10
Objective: Practice controlling your glamour.
Choose a place where you have never been and no one knows you: a café known for its perfect espresso, a wine tasting class, a convention or conference that is in an area of interest to you, an Airbnb in an adjacent city, a shop you are never quite brave enough to enter, a blind date. How do you wish to be seen by others in this venue? What aspects of yourself do you want to reveal to strangers in this new place? What aspects have you specifically chosen not to reveal to strangers? This is an important aspect of incorporating burlesque as part of your glamour. If a burlesque dancer shows something that she didn’t intend to show (or worse, is illegal to show), she has lost control over her performance. Think about your previous work on what makes you glamorous. How can you work to make those aspects of yourself apparent to strangers? How can you unfold your glamour to others? Is part of it what you wear? The drink you order? How you flirt with a stranger? The aloofness you present while reading a specific book? A few amusingly sly comments you make? Do you want everyone to be blinded by the sheer force of your glamour or only a few specific people … or perhaps a specific person? Practice turning your glamour on and off at will by drawing it up and dispelling it, using whatever method you would use to draw up energy for magic and then dispelling the energy after your rite has concluded. Spend at least three days contemplating this, as being in control of your glamour is important for achieving your Great Work.
Once you have taken enough time to decide on a course of action, perform the ritual aspect of your rite the evening before the practical portion. Select a place to perform this ritual that is conducive for you to write: your office after hours, your kitchen table, your bed, a tiny table and settee. Dress simply in basic black. Select your sacred writing implements. Silk chiffon paper from Calligrane, a goose quill as white as milk with india ink, a calligraphy brush and black nightshade ink, a typewriter and linen paper, a handmade journal and your best pen, your MacBook. Decide upon any other ritual implements you may need: a ritual oil heavy with juniper berries for self-anointing, a candle you have dressed with the appropriate herbs and oils, your favorite book for bibliomancy, sacred music, a canvas and charcoal, quartz crystal points you have cleansed by the light of the moon, an egg to cleanse yourself with, a shot of whiskey in a favorite demitasse cup, the Golden Moth Illumination deck.
Draw your power up through yourself and slowly walk in a circle surrounding your work area three times while intoning compelling words of protection, forbidding spirits with ill intention from your space. If words are not always your preferred method of communication, use what is: drawing, singing, dancing, or creating a token. Use your ritual implements however flows organically for you. Write out your intention or pour your intention into the paper and seal it with sealing wax. Breathe into the paper to finish sealing your intention.
Keep the paper on your person for your adventure—your pocket, your bra, your purse. On the day of your outing, be mindful of all of your actions, as every small decision makes up your larger glamour. Dress with intent. Speak with purpose. Use your body language with care. Notice your unconscious gestures. Are you revealing what you intend to reveal? Are you being viewed in the light you intended to be viewed in? Once your practical has been completed, break the seal on your paper and spend some time reflecting if you accomplished what you set out to accomplish. If you did not, don’t despair. Rarely does anything new work the first time. Try the rite again from start to finish in a new venue for the ritual and the practical. Once it does work, see what happens when you use it with people who know you. That may take several attempts before you are successful, as they will be less susceptible to your charms.
Glamour and Great Work: Halfway Point Check-In
1. 1. Have you established what your Great Work is?
2. 2. Have you stepped into your power as Other? How will you use your place as Other as part of your glamour?
3. 3. Are you able to procure small favors from others by using your glamour?
4. 4. Have you established a strong code of ethics for yourself to follow?
5. 5. How have you used your glamour to make progress in your Great Work?
6. 6. What steps have you taken both practically and with your glamour to make progress in your Great Work?
7. 7. What goddesses and spirits have you chosen to work with for your glamour?
8. 8. How have you resolved your “idealized glamour” to your “actual glamour”?
9. 9. How will you use your glamour to move forward in your Great Work?
10. 10. Have you developed a sustainable sense of style?
11. 11. How will you use your glamour to present yourself to others?
12. 12. How will you use your glamour in a new environment?
13. 13. How will you use your glamour in a familiar environment?