Thursday, August 30, 2012

E-mails from Old Navy

Some things irritate the crap out of me. At the top of the list is unsolicited e-mail. I’m not referring necessarily to SPAM like e-mails about Viagra advertisements and penis enlargement pills and things like that, even though those annoy me also – oh, no. I’m talking about legitimate companies who just start sending you e-mails even though you never asked to receive e-mails from them. This is almost as bad as the pounds and pounds of junk snail mail I receive every day. (Is there any way to stop all the catalogs? I would love to know.)

Sometimes its my own fault, because I’ve bought something on their site, and they’ve forced me to provide an e-mail address as part of the process and I forgot to uncheck the box that says “Please send me all kinds of shit!” The default of that box is always checked. However, I feel I’ve become wiser as my Yahoo account has filled with daily e-mails advertising sales and free shipping, and tried to remember to look for and uncheck that box. So, yes, those situations are my own damn fault.

Here’s what isn’t my fault. Old Navy.

Recently when I’ve shopped at Gap and Banana Republic, they have asked during check out if I wanted my receipt e-mailed to me. My answer is always no. I can’t imagine for the life of me why I would ever want a receipt e-mailed to me. When I shop, I try to make smart decisions. I don’t buy things I don’t need, don’t want, can’t afford, or don’t fit. I have returned items to stores at the most maybe five times in my life. If I buy it, I keep it. (The exception is ordering clothing online. I’ve had to return items occasionally for fit issues, because there’s no way to try on clothing through the computer. But at the store? I try it on.) I think stores have return policies that are way too lenient, but that’s another topic. The point is, when I’ve been asked if I want the receipt e-mailed to me, I say no. A paper copy is fine. I get enough junk in my inbox.

Enter Old Navy. Old Navy is part of the Gap and Banana Republic family, so I am able to use my Banana Republic credit card there. I usually do this, because you get fabulous rewards points when you spend money at any of the stores, and I shop at these stores quite a bit, so rewards are always welcome. Probably half my wardrobe is from Banana Republic. (More accurately, Banana Republic’s sale rack. They have crazy fast inventory turnover.)

Over the weekend, I bought a couple pairs of shorts at Old Navy, because I’m going on vacation in a couple of weeks and most of my shorts are too big for me. (Unfortunately, I had to scrounge around for what was available on the sale rack, so I will not be super stylish. Fact: It’s nearly impossible to find shorts in a store in Chicago at the end of August.) I paid using my Banana Republic credit card, and the salesgirl audibly confirmed my e-mail address to me. (This e-mail address is part of my credit card account.) I thought it was strange, but didn’t really think anything of it at the time beyond that. She didn’t ask me if I wanted my receipt e-mailed to me, and I didn’t think to notice at the time that she didn’t ask.

Later that evening, I checked my e-mail.

An e-receipt from Old Navy.
An e-mail from Old Navy welcoming me to their e-mail list.
An e-mail from Old Navy informing me how to best make use of their e-mails.

What the bloody fuck?

I know this is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but things like this irritate the hell out of me. First off, the company has my e-mail address, obviously, because I like to receive the “Hey, don’t forget to pay your bill” notifications. I gave them that freely as part of my credit card account.  I’m on the Banana Republic e-mail list because I want to be. I’m not on the Gap and Old Navy lists because I don’t want to be. I’m not stupid. I know how to get e-mails from them and any other company if I really want them. And this stupid salesgirl put me on the Old Navy list without even asking. So, I went to the Old Navy website and promptly removed myself from their list.

I could have stopped there, but I didn’t. I was annoyed enough that I sent an e-mail to the company, complaining about being added to their list without my permission. (Oh yes, I became that person.)  I got a response back apologizing, and then – listen to this – instructions on how to remove myself from their e-receipt database.

Oh, yes. Not only did I get added to the Old Navy e-mail spammer database, I got added to the e-receipt database. Two different databases!  And removing myself from one did not remove me from the other.  This further infuriated me. Not only did I have to take additional steps to remove myself from the second database, I couldn’t even do it because I needed information from the e-receipt itself, which I had already deleted. You have got to be kidding me. I responded and told them to just remove me. I mean, seriously? What the hell is wrong with this company?

(It’s entirely possible that I’m overreacting about this, but this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as getting spammed by companies three times a day. Yes, I get it.  You are having a sale.  Shipping is free.  Yes.  I’m hoping for a $10 gift certificate for my troubles.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Am I On Candid Camera at TJ Maxx?

I had the strangest experience at TJ Maxx over the weekend.

Since my pants are all too big for me, I went over to buy a couple pair of work pants. (Size 6, baby!) The checkout area has one of those big mouse mazes, whereupon you end in front of a row of registers. So, I approached the registers, walked all through the mouse maze, even though there was no one at all in line, and emerged in front of the registers. One of the registers looked open, so I walked over.

Let me just reiterate – no one was in line. No one was standing in the mouse maze.

So, the salesgirl (hereafter, SG1) working the empty register sees me approaching her register, and says “Ma’am, the line is back between those boards.”

I turned around, and she was pointing at the mouse maze I had just walked through. I said “I just walked through there and came out here.”

SG1 (pointing at the mouse maze): Ma’am, the line is over there.

(Note: There is no one in line.  This is when I first expected to see Ashton Kutcher.)

Me: Again, I just walked through there.

SG1: Well, I don’t know that.

Me: I’m telling you. And there is no one in line.

SG1: You have to wait until someone calls you.

Me: Well, you should put that on a sign. You were open, so I walked over.

SG1: Ma’am, please get in line.

(Again, there is no one in line.  I am the line.)

At this point, salesgirl #2's (SG2) register opens up, and she looks at me warily. By now, I am highly annoyed.  All I wanted to do was pay for my fucking pants.

Me: (to SG2) Are you calling me?

SG2: I guess.

Me: This is so silly. I walked through the line.  I just want to pay.

SG2: Well, I don’t know if that’s the truth. People will come after us.

Me: What do you mean people will come after you?

SG2: People get really mad when other people cut.  They'll come after us.

Me: They'll come after you?  That's silly.  I didn’t cut. And, there is no one in line! Who do you think is going to come after you?

SG2: They do. And you’re supposed to wait until you’re called.

Me: Well you should have a sign up that says that, then.  I saw an empty register, so I walked over to it, which is the normal process for checking out. 

SG2: That’s not my job.


All this for two pairs of pants?

Honestly, I could not believe how rude these two salesgirls were, or how silly the entire situation was. I was admittedly getting a little heated because they both accused me of lying about walking through the empty mouse maze. I mean, who does that? Also, there was no one in line. I guess I could see if there was a line or someone was complaining, but there was no one there.  I would’ve left, except I wanted the pants.  It was really a bizarre experience. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Project Runway: Real Women Don't Wear Fashion (And Ven is a Douche)

Last night’s episode of Project Runway involved my favorite challenge of every season – the “real women” challenge. I don’t particularly like using the term “real women” because if you exist and are a woman you are a “real woman” regardless of your weight. (I get so ticked off when women put down other women by saying they aren’t “real women” because they don’t meet some weight standard.) By “real women,” I mean women who don’t make their living modeling clothing. In other words, women who have been plucked off the street.

It seems like it would be easy to design for a model. They are tall and thin and usually have small boobs. They are meant to be clothes hangers. Arguably, you aren’t even supposed to notice them – you are supposed to notice the clothes. You don’t have to worry about bulges. Women who don’t make their living doing this have a wide variety of body types. We have curves and bulges, maybe we are long waisted, short waisted, pear shaped, apple shaped, big boobs, small boobs, big thighs, big calves, short, tall, big butt, flat butt, whatever. There is variety here. This means it is more challenging to design clothing for “real women” because you have to take this into account.

It’s a good challenge because in the real world as a designer you have to think about the shapes of “real women” if you want to sell clothes. As much as fashion designers would like to imagine that it’s all about the art and creativity, the bottom line is that people have to want to buy your clothes if you want to succeed. If you are really successful, you might be chosen to design a gown for an actress or other woman, and her body might have some “flaws” that you have to contend with. Plenty of fashion designers have failed when they haven’t done that. It’s why each season on Project Runway there is usually at least one contestant who is praised because they understand a woman’s body.

Each season in the “real women” challenge, at least one designer bitches and moans about their huuugggge client. Many times this woman is around a size 8. Other times she is plus sized, maybe a size 14 or 16. I’ve never seen the show pick anyone hugely obese for the “real women” challenge. These are the types of women you see everywhere on a daily basis. For better or worse, the norm, as opposed to a sample size 4 model. These are the vast majority of the women who are buying clothes in the real world. And women who buy clothes usually like to look good in them.

Inevitably in this episode, all design capabilities go out the window. Last night’s episode looked like a runway show for Kohl’s. For whatever reason, these budding fashion designers don’t understand that “real women” who aren’t models might want to be fashion forward or fashionable also. Everything they would do if it was a model wearing the outfit is cast by the wayside when it is a “real woman.” Why is that? They all resorted to dress designs that were boring, and that I feel like I’ve seen 100 times on the 50% off rack at Macy’s.

One designer last night – Ven Budhu – was in rare form. While the rest of the designers appeared to have learned from the mistakes of past contestants, Ven did not. He could not stop insulting his (he said in a hushed tone) size 14 client. He seemed to have no concept that it was embarrassing for her when he went on and on about how none of the belts fit her. He reminded her that black is slimming. Even when he complimented her it sounded like an insult. He made her and her friend cry. The other designers were shocked and horrified. And he sent her out on the runway in what looked like a satin sheet wrapped around her top. It was hideous. It was an “old lady” matronly outfit. Then again, as he told Tim Gunn, she was “almost 40.” He said this in a horrified tone, as if we should all start wearing sweat pants or muumuu dresses and give up once we hit our late 30s.

This is another attitude that appears every season in Project Runway, usually from a 22 year old designer who can’t fathom life after 30. I remember being 22 and thinking 40 was old, so I can’t really blame them for thinking that way, but now as I’m inching toward 40, I don’t feel old at all. And I certainly don’t intend to give up and start dressing like a slob. Hell, I have way more money to spend on frivolous crap like fashion now than I ever did at 22. At 22 I was slogging through the racks at TJ Maxx and couldn’t have even imagined ever spending three digits on a pair of shoes. When designers on this show start insulting people who are over 30, it makes me know I will never buy their clothes. At least have the brains to keep those thoughts to yourself.

I liked Ven’s designs prior to last night. No more. He’s the type of person you want to see fail. I don’t care what you think about plus sized women – you don’t say it on television over and over again. He was Tweeting last night trying to redeem himself, and it made him look worse. He said it “wasn’t fair” that he had such a big model. Gunnar’s model was equally as big, if not bigger. He said it was a conspiracy against him. He blamed everyone except himself. A good designer would have risen to the challenge and made this woman look spectacular. Instead, Ven hid her under a mound of teal blue satin. (I hate Gunnar, but he made damn sure his plus sized woman had a great time and a great outfit.) The word “douche” was invented for men like Ven. And let’s not forget that Ven himself is plus sized. (It’s always the fat men that hate the fat women the most, isn’t it?) Unfortunately, Ven didn’t get aufed last night, so we will have to put up with him at least another week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Month 2 of Insanity is Horrible

Yes, I said it.  Awful.  Awful.

I loved Month 1.  It was very challenging and a lot of fun.  The workouts were around 40 minutes long, which is totally doable for me at 6:30 in the morning.  I looked forward to getting up in the morning to do my Insanity workout.  I was excited for Month 2.  New workouts, longer workouts, more Shaun T, what's not to like?

I'm not sure, really.  The 60 minute workouts have totally thrown me off.  For some reason that extra 20 minutes in the morning is killer for me.  It makes a huge difference, even though it shouldn't.  And on top of that...I don't really like the workouts as much as I did those in Month 1.  There are so many push up variations.  I know that's the entire point, right?  I should man up, push through it so my arms get stronger so I can actually do the push ups.  But I hate push ups.  I also hate plank punches, v pushups, side push ups, and power push ups.  There are also a lot of jumping lunges and squats, which I've been altering a bit because I'm afraid of injuring my knees.  The workouts are amazingly difficult.  At least in Month 1 I felt like I could eventually make it through them without feeling like I was going to die.  I don't even see the light at the end of that tunnel with the Month 2 workouts.  The people doing the workout on the DVD can't even keep up with it. 

It's just...I've lost steam.  I was worried about this.  I have a short attention span, and I tend to get bored easily.  It's why I've never done P90X.  I couldn't imagine doing the same damn thing for 90 days.  I thought 60 days of Insanity might be okay.  And actually, if Month 2 had 40 minute workouts, I might be enjoying it more.  The 60 minutes just feels almost neverending, though, and it's hard for me to do in the morning. 

That said, I have gotten so much stronger than when I started this program, back on June 30.  I can't believe the burpees I can do, the ski abs, the squats, and more.  I feel amazing.  But I'm burnt out on Insanity.  I think I just don't have the attention span.

So, I've decided that I'm going to mix things up as I complete Month 2.  Month 2 will take me longer than a month as a result.  Yesterday I did Level 3 of Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30.  This morning I ran 3 1/2 miles.  (Oh hurray for cooler weather!)  Tomorrow I will go back to Insanity.  I am determined to finish Month 2 -- I just am really feeling the need to change it up a little bit.  I miss Jillian Michaels and I miss running, and I can't do either of those at the same time I'm doing Insanity.  So, I'll follow the Insanity schedule, yet only do it 3-4 days a week instead of 6 days a week. 

As I said, I'm very much nearing my goal weight/size.  Yesterday I wore a size 4 suit that I wore to moot court competitions in my third year of law school.  (Thank God I held on to it!)  Not a bad way to celebrate turning 38!  I haven't been losing the weight as quickly as I near the finish line, but I am still losing inches big time.  I need to start doing some more strength training at this point, but blech.  I like cardio way too much!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Non Scale Victories: Getting Back Into My Interview Suit

Over at My Fitness Pal, people always talk about "non-scale victories" that accrue during the weight loss process.  You know -- things that may or may not be scale related, but are an added bonus to dropping some poundage.  Like being able to run a mile without stopping, or going to McDonald's and ordering the salad without dressing.  Little things.

I had one this past week.

I've had this stack of pants and jeans in the back of my closet for three years -- since I moved in to my house.  They didn't fit me in 2009 when I moved, and hadn't fit me for I don't know how long before then.  Yet, I kept them.  The pile has been cut down in size over the past few years, yet I kept around eight pairs "just in case."  I'm sure most people are well acquainted with the concept of "just in case" items of clothing.  Beyond that stack, I also have a bunch of dresses and suits that fell into the "just in case I can fit into this again someday" category.  You keep them out of hope.  Some items get tossed or given away out of frustration, but there are still always those items.  You equate them with a happier, skinnier time.  I remember when I wore some of these items.  For most of the jeans, it was during law school, back in 2003 or 2004.  I also remember wearing my olive green suit (that I still love) when I interviewed for my current job in the Fall of 2003.  Then there are the pants I wore to my 10 year class reunion, in 2002. 

(I'm sure you know where I'm going with this!)

So, as I've been blogging about, I saw a picture of myself in early May this year and about died at how fat I looked.  Now, I wasn't medically or technically obese or anything, but for me, it was the fattest I've ever been.  I weighed 146 pounds at 5'6".  I gained about five pounds of this weight from quitting smoking and being out of town at trial for three weeks.  The rest of it just crept on over the years, slowly enough that while I noticed, I didn't really notice.  I just bought bigger clothes.  What a dumbass, right?

Since May 24, when I in earnest started watching what I was eating and exercising, I've lost about 13-14 pounds.  This morning I weighed in at 131.5, although I'm not sure that's really where I am yet, since my weight tends to fluctuate.  I like to see a number on the scale for at least a week before I fully accept it!  Most surpring to me is how easy this has been.  I'm not starving myself at all.  And in two short months I feel great about how I look.  I can't figure out why I didn't do this sooner.  Oh well, que sera, sera.

Anyway, I'm going through a massive closet overhaul as I move the clothes that are now too big for me into my spare bedroom, because getting ready in the morning has turned into a nightmare as I try on skirt after skirt that is just too big now.  (The tops and jackets are fine, thank God!).  I also have an unfortunate stack of capris that were too small for me when I started losing weight, and forgotten about along the way, so now they are too big for me. I missed the window where they fit! Ugh.  So, the other night I pulled out that stack of pants from the back of my closet and started trying them on.  To my shock, they fit.  So did my ten year reunion pants!  In fact, some of them were almost too big.  These were my skinny pants!  I started thinking "What the hell?"  So, then I tried on my interview suit.  Now, you have to understand that during the late summer and fall of my third year of law school I had some problems with anxiety and panic attacks and lost a lot of weight.  (I'm not sure what the deal was.  I took Celexa for a few years, but then stopped taking it and haven't had any problems since.)  I was bone thin in around August of 2003.  When I interviewed at my current firm, I had put some weight back on, but not too much.  In other words, I was pretty thin.  I've always looked back on that time and that suit as a weight I was pretty happy with, though.  That suit hasn't fit me in years.  Years, I tell you!  Well, guess what?  It fits now!  I'm getting it cleaned, and I'm going to start wearing it again.

Talk about a non-scale victory!  I'm so happy.  So, what's next on the agenda?  I'm pretty much at the weight I want to be at, so soon I will up my calories and just try to maintain.  I'm starting the second month of Insanity this weekend.  (Yes, I made it through the first month!  Hurray for me!)  I've gotten used to working out in the morning and eating healthy, and it really is starting to feel like a lifestyle change.  Let's hope I can keep it up!

My Favorite Web Sites for Retro Inspired Fashion

My favorite time period for fashion is the 1950s and 1960s. I was lucky enough to come of age during the 1980s, where (like right now) it was all fluorescent, colored and acid washed jeans, leggings, shoulder pads, and ghastly cuts. (Shouldn’t the 1980s revival be over by now? I feel like it’s been dragging on forever.) I was in high school and college in the early 1990s, when grunge became all the rage. I never wore skirts or dresses or anything remotely cute. It was jeans, rugby shirts, button downs over t-shirts, and Doc Martens. So, of course I pine for the time when women dressed up in a way that was pretty, yet modest.

This is part of the reason why I adore watching Mad Men. The clothing is absolutely to die for. Not only do I love everything mod, I also love the party dresses and matching shift dress / coat ensembles. I’ve bought some actual real life vintage outfits on eBay, that I do wear from time to time, believe it or not. The ones I wear aren’t too costumey, although sometimes I wonder if I’ve crossed an invisible line. Although, I will say this – whenever I wear anything from the 1950s or 1960s, I never fail to get multiple compliments from people, including complete strangers. I should probably post pictures of some of my outfits in the future.  I'm thinking of dressing up as Betty Draper of Season 1 for Halloween this year, since I can finally fit back into some of this stuff! 

Anyway, as I said, I’ve bought a lot on eBay. The trick to buying vintage to actually wear on eBay is to (1) find a trusted seller who takes a lot of pictures so you can gage the wear in the item; (2) rely upon measurements, not sizes (a size 10 in 1958 is not the same as a size 10 today); and (3) expect to make some mistakes along the way. Here’s one – pay attention to the material of a dress. Although double knit polyester isn’t used much today, it was used a lot in the 1960s and 1970s. I made the mistake of buying one dress made of this horrible material and quickly learned my lesson.  (Double knit may not bother some people, but I just can't wear it.) 

In addition to eBay, there are a lot of shopping sites where you can get retro style clothes or retro inspired clothes.  This means they are new, but aren't designed to look old.  This can be a good thing if you are grossed out by wearing used clothing.  I'm not.  I actually enjoy thinking about and wondering what woman wore the dress in 1963 that I am wearing today in 2012.  Retro inspired clothing is also good for fit purposes. 

Let's start with Plasticland.  Nearly everything on the site is retro inspired, and I love their dress section.  I mean, come on, isn't this little sundress to die for? 

And don't forget to check their shoe section.  Loads of unique heels, like this one:

I am an absolute sucker for a lucite heel!

Moving on, Bettie Page Clothing is another great site for retro clothing.  Like always, I'm drawn to the dresses.  The models and props they use really add to the appeal.  Look at this super cute black circle skirt dress:

The dresses at Bettie Page are -- unsurprisingly -- the pin up type!  Also, lots of cute dresses you could easily picture Joan from Mad Men wearing. 

Obviously Mod Cloth is a major player in this market., which pages and pages of cute, retro dresses, such as: 

Yes, I am buying those tights!  (I don't think I'm too old for you?)  An amazing thing about Mod Cloth's web site is in the reviews section for each item, there is a place for reviewers to enter their measurements (height, bust, waist, hips) and the size they bought.  It is extremely helpful in trying to decide what size to get, particularly for their more popular items that garner hundreds of reviews.  You can always find someone with your measurements!

And, finally, Stop Staring Clothing has even more, like this cute little number:

Oh, I sometimes wish every woman dressed this way.  Oh well, at least I can!