Into the fire

            There may be a few posts up this week about moving because, well, we’re moving.  On Friday.  For those of you who missed the memo (or slew of memos), let me recap.  We have been living in London for almost two years.  We were slated to return to Philadelphia, where we owned a house and had a preschool picked out and were a few hours away from J’s parents.  Where we knew the best places to get pancakes and had all of my business contacts.  A comfortable place, the geographical equivalent of pajamas.

            And then we were not returning to Philadelphia.  The powers that be wanted us in Los Angeles.  And sometime around December, the final decision was made.  Anyone who has spent December in London will realize that LA starts to look pretty good when the light comes out at 8, makes a few half-hearted attempts at daylight, and then disappears completely well before 4.  So, we scrambled for preschools and rushed to sell our house and found ourselves some temporary housing.

            And, now, we’re moving to LA on Friday.  We’re moving to a city where I have spent a total of 36 hours in my entire life, a good chunk of that at the airport.  We’re moving to a city where the major industry is a type of entertainment I have indulged in three times since my eldest child was born three and a half years ago (and two of those were Harry Potter movies).  We’re moving someplace where apparently, everyone has to drive everywhere.  This last scares the shit out of me, because I am hardwired pedestrian.  I just do not like to drive.  I find it annoying.  And a bit rough on the air I breathe.

            However, what scares me the most is not the driving.  Or the housing costs (sweet heavens, please tell me why the housing recession does not seem to be making much of a dent).  And, although I am mighty nervous about how the kids will adjust, it is not even the hunger strike that Zach will inevitably go on for our first week there that worries me the most.

            What wakes me up panting for breath in the middle of the night is that I am just not good-looking enough to live in LA.  I did fine in Philly, where people intentionally stick their middle fingers up at New York by refusing to wear black.  I did OK in DC, because I was younger then and everything was kinda higher – above the equator – in those days.  I did great in Chapel Hill because of all those chemistry graduate students wandering around with barium compounds in their hair making the rest of us look good.  I was alright in Charlottesville because back in those days I used to put a little bit of, you know, time into my appearance.

            Nowadays, however, my morning routine takes about seven minutes, and that’s including four for brushing my teeth.  I have never been much for wearing makeup, and I only dig it out for fancy occasions.  I might start now, except eye makeup feels funny when I try to focus on writing and lipstick comes off on my water glass.  Now, even the things I used to do have fallen by the wayside.  I don’t even own contact lenses anymore.

            To make matters worse, it has come to my attention that feminine maintenance has grown more complicated over the last 15 years.  Like, what’s with the eyebrow shaping?  I am expected to pay someone to change the shape of my eyebrows?  Seriously?

            Yes, I know I could learn how to do all of this.  I just don’t want to.

            Well, at least I will be hitting LA with a good haircut.  I scheduled an appointment with my hairdresser here for a week ago, figuring that way I would not have to think about it for awhile after hitting the ground.  He is a fantastic hairdresser, and he has always made me look as good as can be expected given that I refuse to straighten my hair or use product and do not own a hairdryer. 

            I think last week he might have been smoking some rare form of crack, because the haircut he gave me makes me look like a cocker spaniel with a mullet.  Thanks, dude.  And, so, I came home from the salon, close to tears, but reassuring myself it could not be so bad.  Surely, everyone in LA is not as good-looking as they are made out to be.  There have to be SOME people there who are not failed movie actors.  I read a few blogs to make me feel better, and came across this post.  Thanks for boosting my spirits, Becky.

            And, so, on Friday, we move to the land of the tan from the land of the pasty and pale.  We move to the land of the boob job, the tummy tuck, and the “war of the brows,” which is apparently a battle between the leading eyebrow pluckers.  And me?  I will be just pregnant enough to look fat, the only woman in a 300 mile radius wearing glasses, and will be sporting a haircut that makes me look like a canine with an 80s fetish.

53 responses to “Into the fire

  1. I hate that we women have to be worried about acceptance based on our physical appearance. And yet, it’s such a real thing, this lookism. I do all that stuff you talked about (my Mom was a hairdresser, so it’s kind of hardwired) and I would still be feeling as apprehensive as you are.

    But you are a lovely person, inside and out. Never let ’em see you sweat.

    Good luck with the move!

  2. Good luck on the move…and you will fit in just fine! Besides, you have tons of Blogging friends who care for who you are and what you have to say more than appearances and looks.

    You can do it…you are gorgeous, strong and just plain amazing.

    Good luck!

  3. Have a safe trip.

  4. Having lived in the LA area most of my life and them moving to the midwest – I have found that women are just as vain here. They are just not able to see the sun as often and resort to tanning booths. I have yet to stoop to that, but I have been tempted. One thing about LA is that there is plenty of diversity. Even though there are the stereotypes, there are also plenty that march to their own beat in what ever way that is.

  5. I felt that way when I lived in Dallas. My hair and boobs could never be big enough. In the end, though, it didn’t matter, since I found some friends who didn’t “fit” either. But it took time. I wish you much good fortune.

  6. Oh sweetie, you just nailed a reason why LA—despite it being a good job market for both of us—has never, ever been on our list. It reminds me too much of Dallas, only maybe with an actual real reason to be that way versus just…oh never mind.

    I thought we were fairly relaxed here, but after returning from our weekend away in Austin, I see it is more careful than I realized.

    You will be fine. It will be fine. Someone will see you (that’s YOU) and feel relieved to see a naturally lovely real person, will feel comfortable, and you will find a real friend.

    GOOD LUCK with the move!!

    (And remember, PG is TRENDY right now in LA. All the movie stars say so.)

  7. See, and I think you are going to land in LA and everyone around you will be instantly jealous that they can’t buy an adoring husband, precious children, natural beauty and a healthy dose of self-confidence. Those things just come naturally to you. They’ll just have to stick to their over-plucked (and oft oddly shapped) eyebrows and cancer-bordering tans.

    *Says the girl in the land of women who are 5 foot perfect with silky black hair and flawless skin – my curls (cough FRIZZ), height and hips do not fit in here! though i do have lovely eyebrows 🙂

  8. To hell with all that crap! Someone has to start a new trend which is called “naturally beautiful” and that person could just be you. Just imagine all those women who feel pressured to do all that crap and wish they could go back to natural, they will be grateful to you. And one of my mottos always has been – be yourself, no matter what they say (line of a song of Sting)!

  9. Well, selfishly, this is good news for me! My husband’s entire family is in So Cal…except us. He’s always desperatly trying to move us back there, so maybe we’ll end up neighbors? At the very least, we visit his parents north of San Diego every year or so – we’ll even be there next month, so I may be on your door with a housewarming present. 🙂

  10. In minor defense of Los Angeles, I grew up there and found actually that a lot of the things you mention are hype. The people in Los Angeles are just regular folks for the most part. Not everyone is good looking or rich. They’re just people. In fact, they are a bit friendlier than most of the other places I’ve lived.

    You’ll do fine there – housing prices aside. That’s everywhere, too. 🙂

  11. I think that moving is pretty awful, no matter where you’re moving to. I hope the transition is as seamless as possible for all of you.

  12. Don’t worry–a few weeks of rollerskating everywhere in a string bikini will make you as tan and fit as everyone else. Besides, your seratonin levels will be so high from all that SUN that you won’t give a f*ck! And now “Walking in LA” will be running through my mind all week.

  13. Don’t forget that the insanely good-looking busboys, car rental desk clerks, and movie theater cashiers are often “actors” or “models” who are just working amongst us peons until they “get discovered”. 😉

    I live in the City That Wants To Be LA, and there is more than a fair amount of the looks-obsessed weirdness going on here, too. However, there are also plenty of people who are kind, generous, loving, smart, funny, and who couldn’t care less what shape your eyebrows are.

    You’ll find your crew. In the meantime, remember I’m only a few hours away. We can always plan a Disney weekend! 😀

    Have a safe trip. Many warm thoughts going out to you and yours this week.

  14. I’ve only been there once in my adult life (about two years ago), but I did notice that the town has quite a few more extras than movie stars. It was a much more earthly place than I had imagined.

    Good luck with the move!

  15. Laughing. But I’d be you moving to LA. Glasses, no makeup, and lucky if I remember to run a brush through my hair in the morning.

    Sorry about the dog mullet.

  16. You’ll find your tribe! I bet plenty of real people live there, too.

    Do you read Crazy Aunt Purl? She lives in LA – and is definitely real. She writes a lot about taking the bus, so maybe you won’t *have* to drive that much?

  17. It is certainly true that LA attracts many actors, and actors are much better looking than average.

    On the other hand, LA also attracts writers, directors, and special effects technicians. And writers, directors, and special effects technicians are just three different flavors of geeky. And we geeks are not exactly known for our physical beauty.

    And then there’s Southern California’s other big industry–aerospace/defense contracting. Again,not exactly a haven for the externally glamorous.

    When you walk into a coffee shop in LA, you will naturally notice the one or two most beautiful people there–and they probably will be better looking than even a beautiful woman like you. But once you get past them, you’ll see that the remainder are about what you’d expect in New York or London.

    Generally, the stereotypes about LA you find in movies and TV shows are kind of like the stereotypes about Jews you find in Jewish humor. That is, it’s self-deprecating humor, which has some grains of truth in it, but is greatly exaggerated for comedic effect.

  18. My twin sister lives in LA, rarely wears make up, and wears glasses every day. She’s never even owned contacts.

    There are kindred spirits to be found in LA. You can probably spot them by all the eye-rolling they do at the people you’ll be rolling your eyes at too. 🙂

  19. I think you’ll find that there are no more of the “beautiful” people in LA than anywhere else. It’s a lot of hype. You may notice them a bit more in LA when you are in certain areas of the city (sunset blvd, rodeo, etc) but though there may be a few more of these types out and about in these areas, they are still the vast minority.

    Plus, you are better looking than 90% of the people out there anyway, so you’ll do just fine.

  20. I’m sure there are quite a few “normal” people there too that you can hang out with. Good luck with your move!

  21. does it help that I love you?

  22. Just think how easily it will be to spot a kindred spirit and a new friend. Someone wearing glasses? Invite them to lunch. No makeup? Strike up a conversation!
    I’m sure there are plenty of normals there. But still. Being a glasses, hair in a ponytail, jeans and a tee ($7 tee from Target at that) kinda gal, I would probably be nervous too.
    I’m sure you’ll do great! Just think of all that sunshine!

  23. Dude, I bet you’ll be so refreshing in a sea of plastic, fake tanner, and bleach that you’ll be the life of the party, mullet and all.

    And I heart you.

  24. Um, good luck??

    Hope the move goes splendid and everyone adjusts well.

    And that the War of the Brows is over soon. That sounds frightening. *weak grin*

  25. I would share your dread, but would ultimately be too lazy (or perhaps tell myself I’m too busy with other things) to do much to “fix” my appearance. (Which by the way, aside from the unfortunate puppy mullet, sounds much in line with your own. I am pasty, bespectacled, and my hairstlye could best be described as “unkempt ponytail.” The most time I spend getting ready in the morning usually involves trying to find a matching pair of socks. Because apparently my feet have standards.)

    (Huh. My parentheticals take up more space than my “main” comment. What does that mean?)

  26. Good luck to you and your family! What a whirlwind it’s been for you guys. I moved from Florida to California 6 years ago for my husband (born and raised in LA), and it was a bit of an adjustment for me. Definitely “different.” But just think, this time next week, you can be wearing shorts, instead of a heavy coat here in New England. Best wishes to you and your family!

  27. Funny you say this, since I’ve said some of the same things to my husband. (The most frequent is: “We can’t move there, I’m not skinny enough…” Or at all.)

    You’re lovely. Plenty of L.A. people will love you and wish they had your London/East Coast cool.

  28. osmiumantidote

    I have so been in your shoes – our latest move has been to Colorado. I just knew I was not “athletic” enough to look good here. At least when we went to Japan, I knew there was no chance of fitting in or looking good, so I didn’t worry.

    You will be fine – turns out everyone in LA has tanned themselves wrinkly!

  29. Cali’s not so bad. LA, well, it’s LA. but there’s Chinatown. And you know, Echo Park.

    and maybe just maybe we’ll run into each other.

  30. All you have to do is say that you’re a writer, and suddenly no attempt at glamor is necessary. It’s the magic phrase, because unlike actors/producers you’re supposed to be introspective and have deeper things to think about! 🙂

    Also, I tell you the cool factor of having lived in London will be a plus.

    And people are generally much chattier than here in London or on the East Coast.

    Moving is scary though…

  31. This is how I felt when we moved to Nashville. All of those aspiring rock stars (well, country music stars, and Christian rock stars, but still) were really intimidating. Nashville turned out to be my favorite place we’ve ever lived, though. Maybe LA will be that way for you. At least you’ll be close to the beach.

    And I’m the same way in all things fashion. It’s not that I’m not capable, it’s that I don’t care to learn. I’ve been busy with other things.

  32. So you’ll be the “Girl with the Personality” in LA. There are worse things 😉

    Honestly…I think real people do live there.

  33. I have always suspected that the glossy people, close up, look like the rest of us. I’ve seen those photos in magazines like Heat and Now, of actresses and supermodels doing their shopping and looking like hell. I think it all depends on what kind of team you have to prepare you for the photo shoot! But I feel for you about the haircut – there’s something soul destroying about a haircut you don’t like. Still, at least it will grow out, and in doing so will make you feel disproportionately better than if it had been a good haircut growing out! Oh and good, good luck for the move. I hope it all goes very smoothly indeed!

  34. I would feel the same way- something about being a mom just, well, sucks the life out of your skin tone. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures! Best of luck!

  35. Duude, you do not have to worry. LA is totally casual. The “beautiful people” are not so beautiful when not done up, and that’s what you’re comparing yourself to. I can confirm firsthand photos are all airbrushed so no real person can look anything like them, not even a movie star.

    And compared to your average, everyday person hopping around the city of angels, trust me, you’re starting above average before you even brush your teeth.

    New Yorkers are expected to be somewhat fashionable for fashion’s sake. LA has its culture of excess, but most I’ve met are much more laid-back with these things. In LA, it can be very cool NOT to be vain.

    Now all that said, should you choose to add a little vanity to your life because, well, you just feel like it, ask your vain friend for tips any time you like!

  36. Good luck with the big move!
    I’m with you on the complicated ins and outs of beauty maintenance.
    Luckily I live in Boston where we all hibernate for 6 months out of the year 😉

  37. “We’re moving someplace where apparently, everyone has to drive everywhere. This last scares the shit out of me, because I am hardwired pedestrian. I just do not like to drive. I find it annoying. ”

    Believe it or not, there’s a whole underground group of folks who find it annoying too. Some of them don’t even own cars *gasp!*. True, walking in LA is not for the faint of heart, but then again, neither is driving.

  38. Oh, chill out. Everything you think about LA is a cliche that has been fed to you by someone else with a chip on their shoulder.

    First, the entertainment industry is NOT the largest industry in LA, not even close (250,000 jobs out of 4.5 million jobs).

    Secondly, the fiction that you can’t walk in LA is only true if you buy into the suburban myth that you should not dare live in the city. Don’t fall for the hype. Downtown LA, Hollywood and surrounding areas are walkable, and have a great rail transit and extensive bus system.

    The “beautiful people” live in seclusion. You will never see them. Neither would you want to.

    The big trick is to figure out a way to avoid commuting by car. If it is possible (make sure you are not employed by someone who simply MUST have their office in an exurban office park or on the Westside), you will be fine.

    LA is the most diverse, culturally engaging place in the US right now. It beats New York in a big way. There are a lot of people who for reasons I never understand would try and convince you otherwise, but they are totally wrong.

  39. Emily, I’ve been away from blogging for too long! I am grateful for this recap. I’m sorry you’re having to move to L.A. I would feel the same way there; too ugly for my own good. There must be other normals out there somewhere, right?! Use your blog to your advantage… find others who refuse to pluck or preen. They’ll be happy to have a leader. 🙂

    I loved this sentence: “A comfortable place, the geographical equivalent of pajamas.”

    I’ve missed you. Good luck with your move. You know, L.A. isn’t that far from Seattle…

  40. It’s a shame that you’d think you might not look good enough. That’s a reflection on you, not Los Angeles. The city is very diverse with a place for everyone. Before you doom yourself to failure you should put your best foot forward to survive in your new environment and find opportunities for self growth. My personal experience has been moving to NY. I had a difficult time adjusting to the lifestyle but learned to appreciate it for what it is. It’s sad that a place has the ability to take from the person you are.

  41. Seriously, there is nothing to worry about. Those L.A. stereotypes are just that — stereotypes. I’ve lived here my whole life (I’m 34), and I only know three people in the entertainment industry. None of them are actors, and only one is good-looking.

    I’m 40 pounds overweight, have no fashion sense, have worn glasses since I was nine years old, and I have no trouble meeting people and making friends. I suppose if I spent my time hanging out at the nightclubs featured on TMZ every night I might feel differently, but the number of people who actually live like that is miniscule, even here. If anything, you’ll find the dress code here is more casual than in the Northeast.

    Also, there are an increasing number of places in the city that are accessible by rail. My home isn’t one of them, but I take a Metro Rapid bus into work downtown every day, and it works fine.

  42. Don’t believe the hype! There’s plenty of fat and ugly people that live here.

    Why not? We eat like pigs. Plenty of cheeseburgers, tacos, and donuts. On the streets Downtown they sell Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs.

    Let me repeat. Bacon. Wrapped. Hot Dogs. With a squeeze of mayonnaise on them, grilled peppers and onions. Mmmmm… Anyway, the people that eat tofu and drink mineral water are a tiny subset of the population.

    And, yes, you can take public transit. We have the fifth largest urban rail system in the USA (up from zero in 1990) with more being built, and the bus system has been improved as well. Just don’t move to West L.A. or Santa Monica. No trains there yet.

    Move to Hollywood, Silver Lake, North Hollywood, Highland Park, South Pasadena or Pasadena. Plenty of transit access there.

    Enjoy. Soon enough you’ll be eating In-N-Out Burgers like a 20 year resident. And I’ll see you at Amoeba Records. Plenty of used CDs to look at. Or, if you’re hungry, try Clifton’s Cafeteria downtown, it’s a delightful throwback.

  43. I love LA and I am from London – I have been here six years. It is so diverse and wonderful and crazy all at the same time. There is so much more to it than what you see on TV. But what can be cool is hanging out in places you have seen on TV!!

    Just like everyone in the UK doesnt stop for tea and cake at 4pm – not everyone in LA is gorgeous and skinny (myself included).

    Do not live in Brentwood or Beverly Hills or Sunset Plaza and you will for the most part avoid the stereotype LA.

    I hate to link to myself but I wrote a post about an ideal day in LA.. perhaps it will help calm your fears. Good luck with your move and welcome to Los Angeles – the city of hope!

  44. I can totally understand your anxiety. I am afraid to leave the house sometimes knowing that “I’ve really let myself go,” but life is so much more than perfection. So, out I go with my cowlick that won’t stay down, t-shirt, jeans and flip flops! Join me, won’t you?! Being nautrally who you are is very attractive!

  45. personally I think NoCal is where it’s at (obviously!) but there are some great spots in L.A. Venice Beach is fun. And Griffith Park is a great spot to bring the kids.

    I moved to L.A. from the East coast when I was 11 years old. I was chubby with braces and dark hair. I developed an eating disorder and turned my hair orange from sitting in the direct sun with a head full of lemon juice and sun-in. I also got third degree burns trying to get a tan on my white as milk skin.

    Now, as an adult, when I go to L.A. I can’t help but feel a bit less than somewhere inside but the majority of my head knows that plastic blond and tan is not me and I would never want it to be.

  46. There are a lot of silly stereotypes being spouted in these replies by people who have probably never even been to LA, or have only been to certain wealthy parts of the Westside. The Greater LA area has about 18 million people, and only a tiny fraction of a percent of those would be considered the stereotypical “beautiful people.” The city of LA itself is extremely diverse, being 46% Hispanic, 11% black, and 10% Asian. Many of these people are working class and don’t have the time or money to be making themselves look glamorous every day. In the San Gabriel Valley where I live, it is the norm to be overweight and wear clothes from discount clothing stores. When I lived in Iowa for half a year recently, I saw a lot more tanned skinny blondes around than I’ve ever seen in my years living in SoCal. When you come here, please travel around the San Gabriel Valley, East LA, South Bay, and San Fernando Valley, and you will find out that you don’t have to believe everything you see in the movies.

  47. Pingback: Thursday Drive » The reading

  48. BTW, if I sound slightly miffed in my comment, it’s because I kept hearing the same sentiments expressed over and over in Iowa by people who had no idea what they were talking about. The fact is there is a lot of poverty in LA, and looking beautiful is the farthest thing from the minds of millions of the people here. I myself live in a trailer park and can’t afford health insurance, much less trips to the beauty salon to get my eyebrows waxed. There are almost 1000 mobile home parks in Los Angeles County alone. So don’t worry about looking conspicuous . . . trust me, most people are too wrapped up in their own day-to-day living problems than to pay attention to someone who happens to wear glasses and no make-up. 🙂

  49. i enjoyed reading this, but i do feel the need to point out: 12 million people (+/- 2 or 3m depending on how you count) live in greater los angeles. it irks me to no end that new york and london-based press never say this, but showbiz, even counting all the ancillary industries, makes up a very minor portion of the L.A. economy. granted, the stereotypes seem true to tourists who spend their vacations on the sunset strip/walk of fame/eating katsuya and return home with pictures of them in front of some celebrity imitator…but this is no different than tourists who judge manhattan by going to times square and watching a taping of TRL. the point being, if you don’t make delibately run with the relatively small showbiz crowd, you’ll see very, very quickly that the london/NYC view of los angeles is a total caricature. i am the first to admit LA is not everyone’s cup of tea — you are spot on about the driving, which unless you move to a couple neighborhoods you will become accustomed to very quickly, and the traffic and smog can be suffocating — but the beautiful people/showbiz stuff is so hilariously false it’s painful every time i read another bright and insightful person buy into it.

  50. i ALWAYS feel like that when i go home to california to visit.

    don’t worry–i bet you’re lovely.

  51. Just avoid the Westside, the closer you are to Sunset Blvd. the better looking the people. The good looking part of town starts at the Hollywood Hills and extends down Sunset to the Pacific Palisades. The further you are away from these areas the uglier the populace.

    I live in a Westside high rise condo, and yes my building is full of six foot tall lookers.

    LA is a good looking people city. I spend a lot of time in San Diego and SD is a lot uglier than LA.

  52. Cocker spaniel with a mullet. Damn! I spit coffee on my keyboard again. I f you hair cut really is all that, I could send you a list of alternative towns to live.

    Hang in there, it will grow back!

  53. Hi there! I literally just moved back to LA, the place I grew up, from San Francisco.

    Sure, many of you (most from the Bay Area) will scoff at this decision. NoCal folks are incredibly snobby about SoCal.

    But you know what? SoCal is friendly. People smile at you. People don’t avert your eyes if you smile at them. People are more willing to open their arms to newcomers here than anywhere else you could live. And there are plenty of “real” people here – me first among them. And actually, Santa Monica has so far proven surprisingly real-person-heavy. (Go closer to Brentwood or West Hollywood and it’s much more Paris Hilton and plastic).

    For the record: I wear glasses, not contacts; am 5′ 4″; and generally wear no makeup.

    E-mail me if you want to meet up, as both of us are in the same boat. (I’ve lived in the UK too!)