Book by Diane Keaton, A Review
Today I slathered on several layers of Elta MD sunblock and even still, when I traipsed off to the beach, I wore a big brimmed hat. By the time I arrived at the long golden stretch of Cape Cod sand, I had wrapped my daughter’s long cotton bathing suit cover-up around my head and the hat, to prevent any errant rays of sun from reaching my face.
Not that the sun light wasn’t delicious, because it was: honeyed over and lavendered under, in that intoxicating Cape Cod way that delights painters. Pores all over my body opened to suck it in. But the sun light does things to skin, you see, crepey, wrinkly things that are to be avoided when you’re not a spring chicken anymore. And I am a 50 year old woman.
So it was with amusement and self-reflection and an understanding that has started to seep in with my alarming half-centennial mark that I read Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton. This book delves into matters of aging and having to redefine oneself as the temporal body decays around the immortal soul. That last bit, about the soul, that’s pure Traci Slatton, by the way, not Keaton.
It was surprising to me to read how critical Ms. Keaton is of her own looks. I’ve always found her beautiful. Extraordinary, really. It made me feel sort of tender toward her. I think of how critical I’ve always been of myself–looking in the mirror at my flaws instead of my grace notes–and I wasn’t a famous actress who was on display all the time.
Ms. Keaton’s reflections on, oh, eyes and hair and the polymorphous perversity embedded within the larger idea of beauty were interesting. The narrative was interwoven with memories and analysis of her family, her parents and her children, as if to know herself is always done in relationship with her loved ones. I expected more about her work, especially from a woman who never married.
There is some of that self-involvement which so many actresses, especially famous ones, seem to inhabit. It’s their all-encompassing ground of being just as fishes live in the sea. I could forgive it in this book because there’s such good reverie, and because Diane Keaton is a kind of pioneer. She holds a lamp and stands ahead of me on the scary but devoutly-to-be-desired road of getting older and older.
So yes, the book is good, not perfect, and worth reading.
My husband Sabin Howard’s sculpture
He may drive me crazy: leaving his dirty bicycle shorts on the back of the dining room chair, turning off the heaters in the winter so that the apartment stays in the frigid 50’s, over-peppering the food he cooks until my tongue swells and I can barely swallow, staring at me blankly when I suggest that there is no such as thing as a Shopping Fairy who magically leaves groceries in the fridge for him to consume (has he never considered that someone, a.k.a. moi, lugs home the 5000 calories he ingests daily?)… But Sabin Howard is the greatest living figurative sculptor.
This book is beautifully, concisely written and full of practical advice. Get the book–you’ll be glad you did!
Review of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist by Debra Jaliman M.D.
When I was in my early twenties, my beloved Aunt Judy advised me, “A good skin and a good figure, that’s what a woman needs.”
We were conversing in the kitchen, preparing dinner together, so this bit of feminine wisdom was just a casual mention. But she was in her fifties and still boasted both qualities, so I took her words to heart. They sparked a lifelong commitment to taking excellent care of my complexion and my body. That same week, I undertook a meticulous habit of using sunblock every day.
A few years later, my first pregnancy wrecked my carefully tended complexion. I was enthralled by the wondrous, delicious creature who was my new daughter. I was equally determined to repair the damage done by pregnancy hormones. I had read that a pregnant woman produces more estrogen during the nine months she’s pregnant than a non-pregnant woman does in decades. My face, stippled with pimples and depressions, showed it.
A girlfriend with lovely skin recommended Dr. Debra Jaliman, and I took myself to her office on one of those precious days I had a babysitter. I waited anxiously in the exam room, wondering if the doctor would be able to help me. The door opened and in walked a gorgeous woman wearing a white lab coat over a leather mini-skirt — and a very pregnant belly. I could only applaud her feminine confidence. I knew immediately I’d come to the right place.
My first baby is now a graduating senior from college, and I’ve been Dr. Jaliman’s patient all these years. I have remained in her care for the same reason that I use the multiplication table: because it works.
It was with pleasure, as a happy dermatology patient with a complexion I like, that I requested a review copy of Dr. Jaliman’s book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist (St. Martin’s Press, March, 2012).
First, let me attest: almost the first order of business in Dr. Jaliman’s office is to ensure proper face-washing technique. After two decades, when I come in for an appointment, she still asks how I am washing my face, and what I am using for cleanser. So, as a long-time patient, let me assure the general reader that Skin Rules meticulously documents Dr. Jaliman’s actual advice. She practices what she preaches in this slim, smart volume.
The book itself is a pleasure to read. It’s concisely and elegantly written. There’s not a wasted word in this book, nor an infelicitous one. Every one of the 77 rules is spare, practical, and instantly understandable. The rules come with product recommendations at all price points; Dr. Jaliman does not expect that her readers are all millionaires with an endless supply of money for dermatological goodies, whether they be procedures or creams.
The tone of this book is as empathetic as it is pragmatic. Rule 42 gently advises, “Don’t Despair If You’re Over Thirty and Breaking Out — Nobody Needs to Know.” Rule 39 reminds us, “Acne Doesn’t Just Ruin Skin; It Can Ruin Self-Esteem, Too — Just Ask Any Teenager.” It’s important to remember how vulnerable people feel when they don’t look their best, how adolescents in particular suffer from that vulnerability, and how much self-esteem can be improved by simply clearing up acne. Some people would like to dismiss dermatology as purely cosmetic, but there’s a deeper level here. Our appearance is inextricably entwined with our feelings of self worth.
Sometimes a medical condition results in skin problems, and Dr. Jaliman notes that in several places. In rule 33, “Legs and Feet Need Extra Care,” she mentions having diagnosed hypothyroidism in patients by observing dry, cracked heels and referring the patients to an endocrinologist. The skin isn’t its own separate, isolated system. It’s integrated into the body as a whole, and often reflects underlying disease.
I’ve set this review within the context of my own feminine beauty regimen, but it’s a book for men, also. There’s advice on shaving, hair loss and tattoo removal.
With a title encompassing the word “secrets,” a reader hopes for the scoop on what’s hot and really works. The book doesn’t disappoint. Rule 61 “Freeze Fat, Don’t Suction It” discusses the latest cryolipolysis techniques, and the machines that really do freeze off the fat.
At the back of the book is a resource section that lists products, injectables and lasers. It’s probably worth it to buy the book just to have this well-researched list of products and procedures that actually work.
This is a gem of a book that I’ll keep handy on my book shelf — unless my second daughter, now seventeen and seeking out her own beauty tips, spirits it away so that I never see it again.
[This short article originally appeared on If These Books Could Talk Blog. ]
I’ve been married with children for my entire adult life, so, technically, I don’t know anything about sex. (Or, perhaps, birth control….) It’s true, I’ve had two different husbands, but I think it’s fair to say that I fall under the vanilla category.
As smooth, satisfying, and delicious as vanilla is, sometimes, as an author, I need something more tangerine, or more pungent. Luckily I have a good imagination, and a husband who’s willing to experiment with me. In the name of art, of course.
Broken, set in occupied Paris from 1939-1942, is the story of a fallen angel who struggles to save her friends and lovers as the Nazis exert ever more lethal control over the city. The angel Alia falls from heaven because of a personal loss which shocks her out of unity thinking. As soon as she falls, she is beset with sensual desire, with temptation, with the lust that is embedded in flesh. She throws herself into the cornucopia of carnal delights offered by Paris on the eve of the second world war. Paris in 1938-1939 was a feast of entertainment, parties, and revelry, with many intellectuals, writers, and artists openly living a licentious lifestyle.
But I imagined that Alia didn’t start out completely human. Broken is also the story of her journey into her own humanity. So the sex scenes in this novel document her incarnation. They aren’t just gratuitous titillation. Alia begins the novel with a free-wheeling, casual attitude about sex and lovers because she hasn’t yet fully identified with her body. It’s a plaything for her, it’s not herself. So I thought of these early sex scenes in the vein of sex-as-frivolous-fun.
Sex changes as she begins to care for the bullfighter Pedro and the musician-mathematician Josef. Her heart is part of her body, too—her heart goes along with what her body embraces.
Alia also has a horrifying experience of sex used against her. She is manipulated into gratifying a Gestapo agent, and it sickens her. But sex as a power play is part of the human condition, so as an author, I chose to include it.
Finally she comes to be a partner with one man, and she experiences deep intimacy with him. The eroticism they share ripens. It’s based on a heart-connection as well as sensual pleasure. It’s not just about ecstasy anymore, it’s also about love; Alia has become fully human, fully identified with her physical being. She has experienced the full range of sexuality as she has evolved into the woman who would make the ultimate sacrifice for her beloveds.
Maturing Whole: The Beautiful Books of David Richo was first run on the Huffington Post.
Years ago, while running an errand, I encountered a woman on the sidewalk whom I know. She and I each have reason to feel disgruntled with the other. When I glanced at her, I saw that she was, literally, shaking with rage. Her features were twisted and reddened with hate. Rage radiated out from her in palpable, caustic waves.
For whatever reason—not because I’m enlightened—her radioactivity didn’t scorch me. She was spitting mad and didn’t bother to hide it because she wanted me to feel it, but I witnessed it without taking it on. It’s something I’m usually not good at. But on that extraordinary day, I simply observed. I thought, “So that’s why all the spiritual teachers say to forgive. She’s suffering more from her hate than I am.”
It was an epiphany for me, who lives, imperfectly, a life seeking awakening. Looking at that woman, and feeling sorry for her, filled my mind with the keen understanding that there must be a better way. I even longed for it.
And what is the elusive better way? It must have something to do with maturity. That is, with mature compassion for self and for others, and with the realization that vengefulness is a blade that cuts two ways….
Healing is possible, growth is possible and wholeness and maturity are possible for those of us who want to be our best selves. We don’t have to live steeped in the poison of our early programming and the way it plays out currently in our lives.
David Richo’s books are field guides for the journey. Richo, whom I have never met, is a psychotherapist, teacher, and workshop leader in California. His website says he “combines Jungian, poetic, and mythic perspectives in his work with the intention of integrating the psychological and the spiritual. His books and workshops include attention to Buddhist practices.”
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
The Doctor As Entrepreneur
Medical technology is changing every day, advancing at an unprecedented rate. Inventions like contact lens that measure blood sugar, and other wearable technologies, are in the works. Within a decade, it’s likely that people will be able to assemble health information easily, without the need for finger pricks or trips to the doctor’s office.
Some weeks ago, author and medical technologist Robin Farmanfarmaian was a guest on my BlogTalkRadio show, Independent Artists & Thinkers. Farmanfarmaian, who works with silicon valley biotech and medical technology start-ups, talked about her book The Patient As CEO: How Technology Empowers the Healthcare Consumer. She commented on the speed of the medical technology revolution and how difficult it is for doctors to keep track of new developments. The patient, she advises, must see himself or herself as the head of a team of healthcare professionals who work together to help the patient achieve optimal health.
This revolution is occurring at the same time that managed health care is making it harder for physicians to make a good living at a profession for which they have studied and specialized for a decade or longer, while also undertaking huge student loans. Indeed, I worry about my stepdaughter in medical school. Will she be forced to see twenty-two patients per hour just to pay back her student loans? Will her options be limited by checklist medicine and by debt?
In the face of the medical technology revolution and ever more rigid and punitive insurance regulations, doctors do have their own ingenuity to fall back on. I was reminded of this recently when my friend dermatologist Debra Jaliman told me about new products that she herself developed, Sea Radiance skin care products.
Dr. Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has been a resource for me for more than twenty years. She’s always on the cutting edge of dermatological products and techniques. I reviewed her book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist because I found it useful, informative, and well-written.
Cosmetic dermatology may not be in the same category as, say, paint-on ink that gauges blood pressure, but for women like me who care about looking their best, it matters. Life deals us all so many bad cards that when I can do something positive for myself, I seize the opportunity.
So I was intrigued when Dr. Jaliman announced her new cleanser that moisturizes as it cleanses and her new eye cream, both made from sea flora, organic flower essences, and advanced dermatological formulas. I wanted to know what the products could do for me. Thinking about my stepdaughter’s future in medicine, and about Farmanfarmaian’s appearance on my BlogTalkRadio show, I also wanted to know what had prompted Jaliman to develop them and how she had done so.
“I’ve been working with big companies for so many years, and I always had in mind that I’d create my own products,” Jaliman told me. She’s consulted with companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, SKII, Lierac, and others, helping them develop products. “I don’t sign the standard non-compete clause, when I work with them.”
“But why these products, now?” I persisted.
“I listen to my patients. They want immediate results around their eyes,” Jaliman said. “And over the years in my practice, I hear the same complaints, especially from people with sensitive skin or adult acne. The usual cleansers dry them out or provoke redness; after many people wash their face, their skin feels tight and dry. My goal in developing gentle cleanser was to create a product that took off all the dirt and impurities but left the skin feeling hydrated.”
She also commented that patients would stand in her office and read labels, and some dismissed certain products because of their ingredients. So Jaliman sought out the purest ingredients–and a lab that would work with her to create the finest, most effective products.
“Not all labs wanted to do this because it’s incredibly difficult,” she admitted. “It was no easy goal. I made many different formulas.” She noted that her products have very low numbers on the Environmental Working Group‘s list. Her eye cream and cleanser are formulated without parabens, phthalates, sulfates, gluten, and synthetic dyes and fragrances.
She explained that while the big corporations have the advantage of big budgets for research and development and marketing and promotion, she has an advantage in immediacy of feedback. “I have thousands of patients that I could give the product to. They tested it for me and gave me honest feedback. We then changed the product many times over the course of the year and a half of development.”
Jaliman was a stickler for maintaining her products’ efficacy. Air inactivates antioxidants, so she sought out a high tech tube that wouldn’t allow air in for dispensing the eye cream. Before launching Sea Radiance, she had a beautiful and informational website built. The consummate marketer, she included the new products in a gift bag for stars at the Academy Awards.
She handed me samples so I could try them for myself. I felt so good about the purity of the products that I shared the cleanser with my 11 year old daughter. She left for school saying, “My face feels so good, mommy!” It’s a sentiment I’m happy to echo: my skin feels softer since using Sea Radiance cleanser, and my crow’s feet are smoother with the eye cream.
I’m also happy to see such positive, utilitarian results from Dr. Jaliman’s entrepreneurial efforts. The medical technology revolution doesn’t just benefit consumers–it also, with some responsiveness and inventiveness on their part, potentially benefits doctors.