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Archive for the ‘Pearls of Wisdom’ Category


The green wristband for Ben Ben Byrd's class

The green wristband for Ben Ben Byrd’s class


Note: Rarely do I stray off jewelry on this blog. I have written about , exercise, health, family, dating and relationships for magazines and now I combining some of these topics into one blog on a subject I feel very passionate about. I did throw a line or two about jewelry or else it wouldn’t be bjeweled.





A recent article in the New York Times (The Pros Who Help You Move To The Music, March 16, 2014) spoke to the resurgence of the dance cardio craze in New York City and cited various instructors throughout Manhattan.


Upon reading it, I realized that there is something more to these workouts then whittling waists and growing more toned, tightened and taut.  Like everyone else who has ever taken a rigorous class, I too want four-pack abs, muscles rather than flab defining my triceps and curves rather than love handles moving towards my hips. But, there is something in addition to the burn and having your body worked tirelessly that makes an instructor a pro. It is the unique combination of dance training and the building, not only of the body, but the strength of commitment to seeing students grow in all aspects of our lives, the community of friends the instructor brings together and the consistency they provide. Ben Byrd is this pro. Approximately100 other active regulars seem to feel this way, at least 60 of whom I see every Saturday and Sunday at his Alvin Ailey Zumba classes. 

No one else could get me to wear my two least favorite colors as bracelets: neon green and neon orange for a double Sunday class.  These are the wristbands that I must sport for two hours with my Cartier Love bracelet and my Victorian Locket bangle to get into the jam-packed sessions. This not my idea of piling it on or stacking it up the arm.

No one else can me out of bed that early on weekends with a huge smile to face the intense and high impact yet accessible dance moves that Ben choreographs for his classes.  His single Saturday and double Sunday classes have been sold out since I have been taking them for the past three and a half years. Yet, I found out two weeks ago from a friend and class go-er, that Ben was unilaterally let go as an instructor from Alvin Ailey with no explanation (after being the first instructor to have more than two classes per month and after six and a half years of helping to grow the Extension program). All of the regulars as well as anyone who has ever taken Bens class were confused and enraged. We organized as a group. In numbers, we thought we would be strong. We wrote letters. We asked for face-to-face meetings. We had conversations with the powers that be.  It fell on deaf ears.

Ben will be leaving on March 30th.


Under any circumstances, Ben being fired is ludicrous for numerous reasons: the amount of people he brings in to his classes, his passionate teaching style, so many who attended his classes will be leaving Ailey since he is the reason they are there.


But for me, someone who gets anxious at the thought of changing manicurists, it goes even deeper. Forgive the mixed metaphors, but Bens forced departure, at present, is akin to taking my life raft, leaving me stranded in the middle of an ocean in a storm. I recently left my job at a magazine  after 5 ½ years, I am apartment hunting for the first time in 23 years and I seem to be having some type of when you turn 50 memory lapses. I forget what I walked into the other room to do.

What I need most in my life is the routine, the balance, both physical and mental that Bens classes provide, along with the friendships, laughs, and letting go.  In the face of lifes challenges, Ben teaches me to challenge my body and let my mind rest, while having tons of fun.

 No stranger to dance, I took ballet and modern when I was a child and it pulled me out of my shy phase. In my room I did the monkey and pony when I found out my parents were getting a divorce. I hustled my way into the hottest clubs during the early 80s while procrastinating college exams.  I then went on to work off stress by ripping my sweatshirts in true Flashdance style in the clubs and the gym. When both my mom and dad died way too young in the 90s, I got back into the rhythm and blues of Aretha and Ottis and danced around my room once again. Upon entering the era knows as my forties, I realized two things: I needed a power nap if I wanted to go dancing at a club at 11PM and that the only cardio I had partaken in for years was schlepping overstuffed luggage through customs and power shopping in Italy


 It was time to get back to a gym. I signed up at Crunch and spent seven years clinging on to Cardio Strip, Latin Grooves and Belly Moves until my two favorite instructors and dance classes were ditched for Pilates and forms of yoga.  Not for me. Dancing, whether at the gym, around my house or in clubs is my way of letting loose, facing adversity and dealing with change.

I met Ben Byrd in 2010. I loved the idea that Zumba mixed moves and beats from various cultures from around the globe. Ben ramped it up with a combination of kickboxing and fancy footed salsa, Samba, meringue, cha cha, swing as well as some sensual strip style move I had done before.  Yet, five minutes into his first class, I was out of breath. By the second class, I could keep up as long as tripping over my feet was acceptable. Soon I learned how to fake what I didnt know. Eventually I got the hang of how to do figure eights, with sexy arms swaying my hips, popping my booty, all while extending my torso, until my abs were sore.

I love this class.


I was also impressed by the varied demographics, women andmen, twenty-something through sixty-something of all ethnic backgrounds.

Perhaps it is Bens teasingly testing us when we are half asleep if we know right from left, his infectious spirit and love of dance and his offbeat sense of humor that keeps me coming back. Friends in class have been there longer than me, many for six years.

Most of us still get there a half hour earlier to wait outside to procure a spot.

Bens Zumba saw me through my metabolism going on a prolonged peri-menopausal strike after being the same weight for 14 years. I punched and kicked through grieving my grandmothers death and sang loudly to the cool down song by Adele Someone Like You after the end of a long-term relationship. 


But I am just one of the many who have stories to tell about the generous instructor who has encouraged so many of us to grow. We all have our tales. Mine is small compared to some of the more profound stories of the women I have met. Maria Zoccoli, who has been a student of Bens for six years, explained, We have celebrated engagements, weddings and birthdays, and grieved parents deaths. Ben has been a leader, not only as Zumba instructor. When one of his longtime students was going through a bad divorce and had her fifth bout with brain cancer, he helped us coordinate her care.  He strengthened another classgoer after a heart attack.  I have seen women achieve their goal weight. Ben has made us all laugh at ourselves, work hard, step fast, drop lower and sing louder, along with Christina Aguilera and Pitbull to Feel This Moment, hitting the high notes of Oh Oh Oh Oh while lunging in place.

My personal favorite times are those when, during the three weekends leading up to Halloween, Ben plays Thriller and he teaches us the choreography from the music video. There are also those few times when we are all Sandy and Danny in Greases Summer Lovin during cool down. Ben has a goofy side,  and these are the type of moments that make him all the more human, one of us, the head of our family and a Pro.  The only thing I wont miss is the mix of vivid green and orange in combination and in paper rather than gold.

Ben will be at Alvin AileyOn Saturday March 29th 11:30AM

On Sunday March 30th,10AM and 11:30AM

Please follow him on FB at Ben Byrd Fitness

His website: for a schedule of his new classes and locations

And on twitter: @BenByrdNYC



Ben's Saturday Class

Ben’s Saturday Class

Ben's Sunday Class

Ben’s Sunday Class








Victorian Buckle Ring with center mine cut diamonds

Victorian Buckle Ring with center mine cut diamonds

T’is the season to share gifts and the thoughts behind them. This holiday, I wanted to bring you a gem of a guide from some of my favorite jewelry bloggers and freelance jewelry writers– ideas for presents and why they chose them. Collaborating with these style-makers and jewelry connoisseurs is fun, inspiring and offers you varied choices and options. With the help of these  colleagues and friends, I hope we give you some magical items to select for your family, friends and loved ones.

Each year I do this , I have left out my favorite category, which are rings. But this holiday, I am making an exception and going for it. I leave rings out for the simple reason that if ‘he’ isn’t going to pop the question anytime in the next three weeks, then your guy will shy away from this particular category of jewelry. To men, even knuckle and three finger rings remind them of commitment –and if they are not ready—then they turn white and run for the next gift guide that shows them a beautiful pendant or earrings, or… matching team caps.  But don’t despair; this year with the help of four other bloggers included in this post–who also chose rings–we have been able to sneak them in. Some are cutting edge, others classical and one of my picks, just in case…he might get brave…can work as a yes…engagement ring!

 Here’s hoping!

And here are gifts…we hope you will quickly add to your wish list!


Becky Cole, recommends:

“An India Hicks sleek cuff. I can’t imagine any woman not being thrilled to receive this sexy little bracelet. It’s striking enough to stand on its own and simple enough to play well with others in a stack. The diamond-tipped clean lines are both modern and evocative of vintage and antique motifs. Even better for gift givers, the price of this bracelet is much lower than you’d expect for such a high style quotient.” – Available here.


India Hicks cuff

India Hicks cuff


2) “A Victorian slide chain. Originally for watches, these long gold chains each feature a sliding charm and can be worn many different ways. These are an ideal gift for the fashionista who has everything. But unless she’s an antique jewelry aficionado, she won’t have one of these. Perfect for layering or wearing solo, these unique pieces can be found for $70 to $1,000+ depending on the materials. I treated myself to one over the summer and I wear it all the time. Nothing is cooler than when someone admires your jewelry and you get to explain that you’re rocking today’s trends with something more than 100 years old”

Victorian slide chain photo credits: Etsy, Morning Glory Antiques, eBay, and Vera Battemarco.

Victorian Slides

Victorian Slide


Natalie Bos, explained:

3) “One gift that I think is always great for Christmas is a pair of diamond petal and cluster stud earrings – while simple in design, they can be a significant investment and a great gift to splurge on for the holidays.  Diamond studs are a classic wardrobe staple and a favorite choice for everyday earrings.  I received a pair last Christmas and love them, The design is a subtle and pretty twist on the typical diamond solitaires.  You can find them both in vintage and antique variations and these from Tiffany &Co.”

Tiffany Victoria Earrings

Tiffany & Co. stud earrings

Tiffany & Co. stud earrings




Danielle Miele,  chose:

4)“An 18k yellow gold flower and diamond two-finger ring designed by Elisa Solomon was a piece I recently wore in a photo shoot for my blog Gem Gossip.  I fell in love with the ring and hopefully my fiancé got all of my (many) hints I dropped about it being the perfect gift! I hope you will find it as alluring as I do.”

Elisa Solomon 2 finger flower ring

Elisa Solomon 2 finger flower ring

5) “A diamond pave bar ring from Hirotaka is unique and right on trend!  Hirotaka is my current favorite jewelry designer and his background and story are so interesting!  He is based in Japan!”

Hirotaka ring

6) “I always like to receive a good jewelry book for Christmas.  Reading and learning about my field is so important to me, being well educated is my biggest priority in life.  I have a few on my wish list this holiday season! But for everyone out there who loves rings—I highly recommend a book that came out in 2011 and currently is still selling on “ Rings” by Rachel Church.  I just finished reading it and I loved it!  Every ring collector needs to have this book in their library as it chronicles many of the rings in the Victoria & Albert Museum!”

The book “Rings” by Rachel Church


Monica Stephenson, confides:

7) “I’ve been in love with this finger bracelet from Jacquie Aiche since I saw it at the Couture Jewelry Show in Las Vegas in the summer.   It would make a tactile, sexy gift on its own, and layers seamlessly with other jewelry. I like the fact that it is precious, but not too serious.  It looks delicate, but I’ve worn mine everyday, while writing and doing yoga.  There’s a variety of price ranges, depending on how many diamonds are sprinkled along the chain, from around $575 retail for 14K gold.”





8) “This pair of Facet studs by Delphine Leymarie takes sculptural to a whole new level and reflects light from every angle.  I love the fact that I can see the artist’s hand in the design—Delphine herself carves her pieces in wax.  This silver version retails for $125, and would add just the right amount of edge and sparkle for a gift or holiday outfit.”

Delphine_Leymarie_facet stud earrings

Delphine_Leymarie_facet stud earrings


Amy Roseveare, talks about finding the perfect gift:

9) “My mom, was living alone for the first time in her life after moving my dad to the Alzheimer’s home. It was a massive life change. When I discovered the “she believed she could” bangles by California-based Show the Love, I instantly knew that I had found the perfect gift.  Crafted from recycle silver, 14K yellow gold, rose gold or with a ruthenium plate, they are perfect on their own or stacked with other bracelets and wonderful for any women who needs a little inspiration to muster up her inner strength everyday.



show the love bangle

show the love bangle


10) “While I get great pleasure from holiday gift giving, I always make sure to partake in some self-purchasing as well. In fact, I have a long-standing tradition that each holiday I don’t have a boyfriend, I use the money that I would have spent on him to buy myself a piece of jewelry.  Why should I have no boyfriend AND no jewelry?! Top of my list this year is a diamond stack ring by Sethi Couture.  Available in a range of diamond colors from pink to black (I’ve got my eye on the chocolate diamonds), these are the perfect complement to any jewelry box!


sethi couture diamond bands

sethi couture diamond bands


 Tanya Dukes, advises:

11) “If your gift is for a stylish night crawler then these Deborah Pagani earrings are graphic and incredibly chic. Wear them for dinner, dancing and the after party.”


12) “Ana Khouri’s Victoria stacking set of band rings are in simple shapes, which can fit into every conceivable wardrobe, and can adapt to whatever you’re wearing. I love the delicacy of wearing one on each finger of a hand.”

Ana Khouri's rings

Ana Khouri’s rings


Here are my personal picks and I have chose two rings, both of them antique so don’t dawdle. With antiques if you see it and you know the person you are purchasing for will love it, snap it up, (but make sure the store or website has a return policy)

For me, the holidays are a time for sentiment and meaning. So I have selected these pieces this year:


13) A Victorian locket ring. It is English 15K gold and has a secret compartment, once used for a lock of hair or a bit of paper with a saying on it. You can put a small keepsake inside, your own saying and have special date or initials monogrammed on the front and/or on the inside of the shank.

Victorian Locket Ring

Victorian Locket Ring


14) I have also chosen a group of lockets as pendants in different shapes in both rock crystal edged in sterling silver or 10 and 15K gold available through

Lowther Antiques crystal lockets

Lowther Antiques crystal lockets


15) “If you have any inkling that he might be thinking about popping the question and your heart beats double time for an antique engagement ring with a bit of sentiment attached, check this out and start hinting!  While I have seen and own many buckle rings in various shapes, sizes and from different timepieces, this Victorian era gold and diamond buckle ring is amazing. It is18K yellow gold and features a double buckle design with ….a 1.22 carat old Mine Cut diamond in the center. Engraved inside the band are the words: “faithful unto death” in a fancy, medieval style font.

Victorian Buckle Ring with center mine cut diamonds

Victorian Buckle Ring with center mine cut diamonds


16) And, if you love to admire jewels as much as I do, then a jewelry book is definitely the ticket. Like Danielle Miele, I can’t get enough of them -and this year; I am hankering for the double JAR 1 & 2 editions, sold together or separately at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. You can also find them online.

 JAR Volumes 1& 2

JAR Volumes 1& 2


 They make a beautiful gift –but if your budget calls for something more accessible then the Jewels By JAR book that accompanies the recent exhibit at the MET (see my prior blog post) is beautiful and one that any jewelry aficionado will be proud to own


Jewels by JAR exhibition book

Jewels by JAR exhibition book










Love, Loss and Nora Ephron

ImageOne week before my first book came out on July 3rd, one of my main role models, Nora Ephron passed away. It was a bittersweet moment when I finally saw my memoir on the shelves in Barnes & Noble to think that one of the greatest influences on my writing was gone. I had even referred to her three times in the book.  I read her essays in magazines and in her collections. I read her novel, “Heartburn” and then saw the film for which she wrote the screenplay. I saw all of her films–the ones she wrote and the ones she wrote and directed. Many of them I have watched numerous times, and like a lot of my peers, I have quoted her– lines from her essays and from her movies.

I saw her plays and I listened to the woman herself when she did readings and appearances in New York City. At the last one I attended for  “I Remember Nothing,” when she was signing my copy, she asked if we had met before and said that something about me seemed familiar.  We had never met; but I smiled as I walked away. She did know me as she knew all women: our desires, our quirks, and our struggles with our handbags, beauty maintenance, aging and men. I often said to my therapist–“I wish Nora Ephron wrote my life–If she did, I’d get the man, witty repartee and a great Manhattan apartment.

Nora Ephron could write happily-ever -after more deftly, cleverly and with more heart and the  way I  wanted to experience it.

There are scenes and lines from “When Harry Met Sally” that I can quote from the top of my head and not all are the classic ones: I love when Meg Ryan’s “Sally” tells Billy Crystal’s “Harry”I am not your  consolation prize” and when she finds out her ex  gets married, she breaks down after saying she had been okay about the break up, and in a heartwrenching moment, says  “all the time I have been saying that he didn’t want to get married but the truth is he didn’t want to marry me.” I still get chills as I write that line. But my favorite scene is when Harry tells Sally. “I love that you get cold when it's seventy one degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above you nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts,"  Because I do all of the things he is talking about and I am still waiting for some one to love me despite and because of all of it.

An actor/comedian friend of mine once said, “I can understand your attachment to “When Harry met Sally” but “Sleepless in Seattle”. C’mon. “C’mon what? Brilliant to use one of the most romantic movies of all time “An Affair to Remember to play off of.   Looking for signs and fantasizing about winding up with a man that live across the country or– for me, personally– in a different continent is, well,  another film to which I could completely relate.

I loved her Roman à clef, “Heartburn” about her marriage to Carl Bernstein for it’s comically tragic opening and for all the finely tuned details of her wit and wisdom.

My mom turned me on to ” A Few Words About Breasts ” Ephron’s essay about her small breasts when I was  twelve to get me to stop hunching over to hide mine almost C-cups. I read the collection “Wallflower at The Orgy” much later in life, when it was in it’s second or third printing and laughed my way through Ephron’s “Cosmopolitan” magazine makeover.  I was equally thrilled and went out bought eight copies for eight friends and female family members including my then 93 year-old grandmother, who laughed  with me, when I read the passages out loud to her  (and I am condensing here) “Every so often I read a book about age and whoever’s written it says it’s great to be old…I can’t stand people who say things like that.  Don’t they have necks?…Don’t they feel bad about having to buy chokers?”  In this collection she also delves into the deep recesses of handbags and she is talking to every woman when she riffs about how eventually you begin to carry around everything you own and can’t find a thing.    I felt as if I really did get to know Nora Ephron, the woman in “I Remember Nothing,” especially when she talks about her mom.  Her mother had told her, “Everything is copy” and what she made out of the copy, the material of her life was pitch perfect. Her adaptation for the stage of Ilene Beckerman’s book “Love, Loss and What I Wore” attracted some of the best stage and screen actresses in the business and was a huge hit. She knew about women’s dreams, heartaches, insecurities, relationships with mothers and family and clothes. She knew how to make the smallest detail universal.

In “My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching For A Band Of Gold, I link together my own story of loves, loss and life lessons through the sentimental jewelry attached to each of my most important events.  And I talk about Ephron in three chapters.

When I speak of my new dilemma after a break-up of a long term relationship about wearing my antique pieces without looking dated and finding a suitable man my own age to date me, I wrote, ” I obviously missed obsessing over a body part. Unlike Nora Ephron, I had up until that moment, not “felt bad about my neck.” About my gluts, my abs, my eyes, and my forehead, yes, but my in my lighting at home, my neck was still graceful and swan-like and then I saw it had turned into chicken skin before properly baked. This has been my favorite area to be-jewel with pendants and necklaces, layered, long, short, vintage and new….

In another chapter when a man wants to share a taxi with me and then asks me on a date after I’d just walked into a plate glass door and my nose was triple the size it usually was, I wrote, ” Up until this particular moment, I never had a chance meeting that wound up in a potential date.  I was immediately taken by the suspension of disbelief that usually only happens in a Nora Ephron film with Louis Armstrong playing in the background.

And in my reference to an on again off again relationship that spanned 12 years, and started as a one night stand I wrote, ” This wasn’t in a “When Harry Met Sally” friends-but we-are-really-meant for-each-other way. It was more like a three-different- relationships -with-one-guy plot line, evoking feelings in me that ranged from confusing to conflicting to comforting.”

Whenever I need a little comfort or to be understood, I will reread one of her essays or put on one of her films and will remember what a incredible guiding force she was for me and for all women in writing, film and life.

No Place Like Home…

I’m sure there is something I could add to this–but the sentiments remain the same with every year that goes by. But I would like to wish all the mothers out there a truly Happy Mother’s day for tomorrow–may your day be filled with the warm glow of you family around you.

Get the Hint

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Laurie Kaiser's garden variety diamond orb earrings

‘Tis the season when all my women friends tell me secretly what jewelry they want their husbands, boyfriends or significant others to purchase for them. Then, I am supposed to discreetly–and without giving away the ‘plan’– pass this information along, by calling or emailing said husband, boyfriend or S-O for the first time all year, to somehow nonchalantly, offer them my unbiased and completely innocent advice. Inevitably whether I make the initial call or other friends are enlisted to assist in the process, this is  an enactment of how subtly it works:

Dave:   “Jenny called you to tell me exactly what jewelry she wants for Christmas.” (statement, no question mark)

Me: “Well, I wouldn’t say that exactly…she kind of gave a wish list.”

Dave: “She has more than one item?” (definitely a question)

Me: “No, no it’s one.”

Dave: Trying to be witty…”And if I decide to get her an iPad instead?

Me: “She will hit you over the head with it and you won’t be able to return it in thirty days in its original condition.” ….And then I go for it:  “If you don’t comply,  I can’t promise you that you will have a sex life, or those golf clubs you wanted.”

Dave: “Okay. Where do I meet you?”

Now that the cat’s out of the proverbial bag about how it works, remember this for next year: we don’t have to come up with the master plan. Just tell me what you want and I’ll procure it for you..

But –there is always a but–if you want anything that he doesn’t understand, forget it right now. He will not get you the new spiky necklace because he doesn’t find sharp objects around your neck sexy. Ditto for the fabulous web bracelet, which has the pave spider caught in the corner.  He has been killing all the bugs and keeping the creatures away since he met you.

He will spend hours trying to understand why the hell you would want  a rough or rose cut brown or black diamond-or diamond beads–“where is the sparkle, too dark and dreary–no one will ever know they’re diamonds– are you sure?” I’ve had this conversation.  Last year I spent three hours convincing one hubby that a white rose cut  in a simple setting for a pendant was what his wife truly and deeply wanted. And, “no I was not mistaken.” I neglected to have the frank talk–see above enactment–and I actually had to prove that his wife would accept this as a ‘real’ diamond.

If you aren’t married or engaged and he’s not planning on it in the very near future, like say, this holiday season, there is no way he will buy you a ring. Not a cocktail style, three-dimensional fantasy version, not even one with a snake slithering up your finger. Rings are just not in a guy’s jewelry vocabulary. Especially not eternity bands or stackables. I once had a guy break out into a cold sweat, turn a paler shade of white,  need a liter of water just because I showed him the thinnest of micro pave bands in yellow gold with yellow diamonds. Didn’t matter that it was for her pinky  where she wore three others.  He kept saying it was a wedding band. It sent him fleeing.

So my advice to all women out there with wish lists and hints…and their favorite stores clued in on the covert operation: buy all aforementioned pieces as self purchases and go for some intriguing but guy friendly pieces. Earrings are always a winner, even in brown diamonds, as are pendants with a romantic yet safe motif: floral or lacy openwork  with a dash of muted gems like the subtler fancy colored sapphires. Diamonds are his best friend too and he will go for the rose cuts and even the polished roughs  if it’s explained to him with care and if your favorite salesperson can ply him with a few, or possibly many beers…

Another small tip, if he’s never seen you wearing bracelets and this year you’re hankering for some bangles,  borrow and wear them and let him hear them clank on your wrist so he notices.

Although he knows it’s a set up and he’s going a long with it because it does make it so much damn easier for him and allows him time to post scores and sports stats on FB, he will still want to feel like he has some say and he will gravitate more to purchasing jewelry he can picture you in.

And if this has the desired effect for you whomever  reads this, you owe me one fix up–with a fantastic guy who, if it works out, I can send to you for my jewelry next year.

Kamofie Designs black lacy pendant/rose cut diamonds

Anne Sportun Pendant with center stone and pave

John Apel's black diamond flower necklace

Megan Thorne's open work teadrop shaped earring

Jamie Wolf scalloped cuff bracelet

The Family Jewels: lessons on life and style

Like most young girls, I loved going through my grandmother’s jewelry box . I played dress up, mixing her real and faux pieces: Art Deco diamond bracelets with crystal beads, strands of cultured and South Sea pearls with marcasite brooches. During my preteens, when my parents got divorced, when I was getting braces and starting to think about boys, I turned to her for guidance and she taught me life lessons as well as passing on style, beauty and jewelry tips, sometimes mingling them for more impact.

Last week, a month before her 97th birthday, she passed away, which has brought up many memories of the real gems she passed down: her love, friendship, honesty and wisdom. The more humorous recollections are comforting and are keeping me going.

As early as I can remember, my grandmother’s rule was “never leave the house without a little lipstick and some earrings as you never know who you are going to meet.” She believed that “they brightened your face, but worn with a smile–even better –as that can enliven the people around you.” My mother completely shared in this sentiment (with the exceptions of the earrings when I was eight) and both were truly appalled when they came to visit me in college. I was on my way to do the laundry, sans make-up, in overalls and my hair up in a high “Pebbles style” ponytail. “And you complain that you haven’t met a guy here yet! Maybe a little lipstick and wearing your hair down might give you more of an advantage,” said my grandmother.

Later on, my grandmother suggested “taking two minutes to put on a little ‘rouge’.” Even when she was diagnosed with dementia at 93 and we had to move her into a nursing home, where her ‘flat mates’ were wearing pajamas, my grandmother was fully dressed in a twinset and what she called ‘slacks’ with light makeup and turquoise and gold clips earrings and a gold bangle on her wrist. When I arrived in what I though was a chic version of sweats: gunmetal gray wide velour pants and hoodie , suitable for the environment, she shook her head and said “I thought you were coming to visit me not going for a work-out at the gym,” As she hugged me tightly, she continued, “There are single doctors here and perhaps a pair of jeans and a sweater might have been a better choice.”

She also believed that black brings you down and color is the way to go. “Add some pink, some lilac, any shade of blue …and if you must wear neutrals, try a nice shade of ecru or a pale gray and a beautiful strand of pearls.”

Since, she warned me early on not to buy dented cans as they could cause botulism, my grandmother was very definite in her response to my inquiry of whether she thought I’d look better with a bit of Botox. “The lines on your forehead show that you laughed, cried and lived. And when I can actually see them, I am sure they will add more character to your face!” She also eschewed ‘fancy anti-aging serums’ and believed Pond’s Cold Cream as the number one moisturizer and the key to a youthful and smooth appearance. It seemed to work for her.

She had a theme: getting me hitched and insisted, ” please find a nice man who will appreciate you, rather than the unavailable schmendricks that you’re choosing”. She also took pride in introducing me to all her friends and talking about my writing on the topics of style, jewelry and fashion. “Maybe one day you could come here looking the part.” As always, it was said somewhat teasingly, and I never let on that I spend most days at the computer in different versions of sweats, except when I am traveling, going to industry events and on hot (and not so hot) dates.

Most of my grandmother’s life was spent taking care of her family and doing charity work for less fortunate children for two different organizations. She was a proud woman, who believed less in vanity then “when you look your best, people won’t know what you are feeling inside, even when your heart might be breaking.”

At her funeral, mine was indeed broken, but I got dressed-not in black- but in a mix of white shirt and sand color jacket and trousers, put on my favorite earrings (the antique mine cut Russian double drops she’d passed down to me), the required lipstick, ‘rouge’ and even some mascara, in honor of her. I think she would have been happy.

Both of my brothers (who are married) noticed that the reformed Rabbi we had chosen, (who was a tad younger than me and in great shape ) was showing interest in me and saw it as a sign. I saw it as a sense of comic relief and a wink from my grandmother.

So, before I sat down to type this–in sweat pants and my hair–yes up in that high ponytail, I put on a bit of lipstick and my moonstone stud earrings. I could hear her say “Take a walk; get fresh air and remember to smile. You never know who you are going to meet.”

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