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Wednesday Advice Smackdown

(Work, y'all. WORK. I may never take a vacation again. I may never take a lunch break again. I may never write an advice column during the workday, the way God intended, again. Am banging this tripe out while watching Lost, so you know, shut up Shannon.)

Dear Amalah -

My company is tanking and I'm about to lose my job. My boss said so. Actually, everyone BUT my boss is about to lose their job. I just bought a house and am having a baby. What the FUCK should I do? Do you think anyone is going to hire a pregnant lady only to give her maternity leave in six months? I think not.

I want to say FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK a whole lot but my son reads my site and I don't want him to know that Momma says such things when she's not driving. Can I use your advice column to say FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK?

So, in conclusion, I would like your "cheap list" of cosmetics for those of us having to make the transition from middle class to HOLY FUCK WE CANT PAY OUR MORTGAGE. Everything from moisturizer to mascara. Thanks.

Yours truly,
Soon to be Fired and Therefore FUCKED

My advice column is always open to anyone who needs a forum for screaming the F-word. In fact, let's all get it out of our systems together.


(I do so love that word. And this site just hasn't seen enough of it lately, what with all the baby talk and belly photos and goddamn crapping NICENESS that's been going down lately.)

Anyway. You need to start sending out resumes now, and you need to start interviewing now, and you need to start practicing interviews with your stomach all sucked in and shit. They can't discriminate against you even if they suspect you're pregnant, and you can just smile and ignore their suspicions. And if someone asks about it, then BOOM, lawsuit, and all the money you need to buy all the expensive make-up and Juicy Couture baby clothes your heart desires.

However, in case the lawsuit gets mired in red tape or something and you need to downsize temporarily, here's my scattershot list of inexpensive-yet-somewhat-acceptable cosmetics. (I mentioned Lost is currently on, right? Right.)

As I mentioned last week, I'm a fan of the Clean & Clear Under Eye Brightening Stick. I also like C&C's blemish cover-up sticks and oil absorbing sheets.

For oily skin, try Aveeno's Clear Complexion Bar or Burt's Bees Garden Tomato Soap, followed with Burt's Bees blemish stick. For dry skin, there's nothing better than Cetaphil for both cleansing and moisturizing.

For makeup, head to Target and play around in the Sonia Kashuk section. Like, my God, how could you not want this? Or this?

Physician's Formula makes fun stuff too, and Neutrogena makes several lovely pressed powder compacts. And in fact, when presented with the choice of tossing my cheap-ass Neutrogena compact or my rich-ass Shiseido compact into my purse, I tend to choose the Neutrogena, as the mirror fell out of the Shiseido compact about two days after I bought it.

L'Oreal makes the best mascaras. Except for the volumizing ones. I am not friends with the volumizing ones.

Stay away from any cheap lipstick that claims to last "all day," as they have the consistency of house paint. And unfortunately, all cheap lip glosses are as sticky as rubber cement and your husband will hate it. Save the change from your couch cushions and splurge on a Clinique lipstick and a Chanel gloss.

Because FUCK, haven't you given up enough already?

Dear, Amalah-Hair-Guru....

You probably won't have much advice for me. Because, well, I have Freak Hair. No, really, I do. I am the Proud (or Un-proud owner, depending on what time of the month it is and whether or not I want to rip my hair out, follicle by follicle because I hate it and then some stranger on the street tells me: "ohmygod you're hair is soooooo beautiful" and then I stand in front of the mirror and admire my hair for hours....anyway.) What was I saying?

Ahh, yes. I have a head of very thick (yes, it IS VERY thick), coarse, curly hair....Which I have just recently (like, within the past two years) have grown out to renaissance lengths (i.e. down to my ass). Everyone "ooohss" and "aahhhs" over The Hair, but I've got Problems.

Problem Number One: About four months ago, I decided to go to an unknown salon and get an itty-bitty trim and also - a FULL-BLOWN hair color-thingy-ma-jig. My hair, at that point, was all blond - you know - to go with my summer tan. So, Stupid Hair Salon Idiot People decided to STRIP my prone-to-dryness, coarse hair and put in a god-awful what-the-hell, light-brown-red-blond (ugly as sin) color in. I mean, really. What the hell? My complexion (at this point) was very pale. And. Bee-jeezus. Totally washed me out. So, now, I've been going to my regular salon. And they've been giving me temporary dye treatments (at $90 a pop) on a monthly basis. But, about 5 days after the monthly ($90) treatment? It starts to wash out. And I've got The Red. The Brassy Red. That washes me all out. So. I've got an appoinment scheduled (next Thursday!!!) at another salon with a more experienced woman. What should I ask for?

Also - Problem Number Two: Should I *shudder* cut The Hair? Even though everytime it's given a substantial cut it shrinks about 4 inches for every inch that it's cut and I end up (usually) looking like Ronald McDonald? What do you think? Problem Number Three: How should I wear The Hair? It's starting to look ridiculous in a clip, but if I wear it all down and out, I look, well, very....weird. And very "Cousin It" like. Know what I mean? What SHOULD I DO???? HELP!!!! By the way, I'm a grad student. I'm 27. I want to look younger (which I usually do), but not matronly, know what I mean?

My Hair Is Hip and Then It Isn't and Then It Is and Then, You Know....

(Note From the Management: My Hair Is Hip sent me several photos of her hair to accompany her question, and I would like to formally request that everyone seeking hair advice do the same. While I'm sure y'all can weave a vivid tapestry with your words and find many interesting adjectives to describe your hair, I just can't really help you based on an email that contains a dozen synonyms for "rat's nest." Send a picture, please. I won't post it, I promise.)

(Unless, you know, your name is Mariah Carey.)

Anyway, back to your question, My Hair Is Hip. You do not have freak hair. At all. Your hair is pretty, like Sayid's hair is pretty. You just have way, way, WAY too much of it. You've let it grown to freak-like Crystal-Gayle proportions. Super-extra-long hair is indeed striking, but really, so is that guy who got a jigsaw puzzle tattooed on his entire body.

So first, I recommend you cut at least four or five inches off. This should still be long enough to keep your (gorgeous, you bitch) corkscrew curls from 'fro-ing up and getting out of control, but get rid of the extra length that takes you from, "Wow, her hair is really long" to "Wow, she could take someone's eye out with a casual over-the-shoulder hair flip."


Ahem. What?

Okay, color. First, those temporary treatments? Pffft. Useless and a great big suck of money you could be spending on shoes. You need a good corrective color specialist. Call up a salon and ask if they have someone who specializes in corrective color. Say it with me: Corrective. Color.

So this one time? I was drunk? And stumbling around CVS at one in the morning? Because we were out of club soda and potato chips?

I chose this moment to say, "HEY, I WANT TO BE A REDHEAD" and bought a box of hair dye. And then went home and used it before sobering up.

Blond highlighted hair + cheap red dye = fuschia hair. Make a note of this equation. There may be a quiz.

Anyway, it was horrific. My hair was a terrible, angry shade of reddish purple. Blah blah blah, enter corrective colorist, toner was applied, highlights were done and redone, and ta da, I was left with a blondish reddish brown color that was not nearly as pretty as the blond I'd had before, but still. It was NOT PURPLE.

So if a corrective colorist can undo a cheap-ass drunken purple dye job, I'm sure someone can permanently cover up that coppery red and restore the blond.

And on that note, the blond makes you look younger. Get it back, is so pretty! With the curls! I hate you!

Dear Amalah,

I am a new reader and I am smitten with you and your pregnant belly. This is a question for the Wednesday advice smackdown. I know it's Friday but I have to ask now before I forget my question so here it goes...

After 4 years in the stylish "real world", I am going back to school, back to the world of sweats to class and *gasp* backpacks. In '01 I adored my cute yellow and black North Face backpack with all of it's mesh compartments for holding water bottles and clips to make me look outdoorsy. But I just can't see an old lady like me (by college campus standards) walking to class with a rugged looking sack adorned with patches. I need a stylish looking vessel in which to tarry my books and other learning materials. However, it also needs to be comfortable as I don't want to aggrevate my scoliosis. Any suggestions oh wise Amalah?

Old and Busted

I remain a fan of the utilitarian backpack. Nothing looks sillier than some girl trying to shove schoolbooks into some twee little bag like Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.

I carried an ancient black L.L. Bean backpack all through college, including the courses I took last year. Besides being absolutely indestructible, it was simple, non-twee, and it made a convenient seat for when the benches at the quad were all taken and I had to spread out on the grass. They now make it in a convertible messenger-bag-slash-backpack version too. Oy, the kids today.

Or, you know, fuck functionality. Go Burberry. How gorgeous is that?

Dearest Queen of all things beach,

I'm trying to plan my honeymoon, which will take me to a pretty place with lots and lots of sun. While the fiance figures out the passport details and plane tickets, I need to figure out the really important parts of our trip. Like what I should pack (and when I say "pack" I clearly mean "shop for"). Since you just returned from a sun-filled vacation, perhaps you can help? Exactly how many fabulously cute bathing suits would you say I should bring, if I was going somewhere for, say...10 days? Also, what is the appropriate ratio of cute sundresses to cute shoes? And how many purses is too damn many? And last but not least, what is the proper defense against those who might accuse me of bringing "too much" (especially if one is travelling with said accuser)? Thanks, as always!

Soon to be freckled,


If you are going somewhere for 10 days, you bring at least 11 fabulously cute bathing suits.


Bathing suits NEVER dry properly in a hotel room. That stupid little clothesline in the tub doesn't work, and hanging suits off the balcony is white trash, and when you act white trash in a different country you are making America look bad, which is totally un-American and totally not supporting our troops.

Also, re-wearing a damp swimsuit can lead to a yeast infection. And does your accuser want you to come down with a yeast infection on your honeymoon? I bet he doesn't, and I'll bet he'll shut up at the mere mention of a yeast infection.


One pair of sneakers, one pair of beach-appropriate flip-flops, one pair of comfortable casual sandals (like Borns), and five pairs of just plain cute shoes that coordinate with various other outfits.


Sand and saltwater make your feet more vulnerable to blisters, so you have to rotate shoes as much as possible, lest you get horrible blisters and cuts on your feet from the one pair of shoes you brought and then you'll have to buy new shoes while on your trip and does your accuser want to go shoe shopping on your honeymoon? I bet he doesn't, and I'll bet he'll shut up at the mere mention of shoe shopping.


One small summery tote, one weekend-sized beach bag, one dressy evening bag, and a variety of small wristlets to go with all the cute sundresses.


What, he expects you to be going out in a strange country without carrying proper ID at all times? What if you get separated and the country gets invaded and the last helicopter is leaving the American embassy RIGHT NOW but you can't get on without at least two forms of identification and a lip balm bribe for the pilot? Does he really want that?

I bet he'll just do the smart thing and shut up about how much you're taking.

GOOD GOD. It's 11 p.m. now. This took HOURS to write. I never realized just how much time I waste at work on Wednesdays until now. Huh. They should fire me. And then I could do this full-time! And charge for it! Brilliant! So hurry, send your questions to now. While it's still free. Bwa ha ha.



You are a brilliant woman, Amalah.


Good GOD I learn more from you than I ever learned from all that wasted college! Finally, I can defend the gargantuan bag for the long weekend trip. Thank you thank you thank you!!!


Extra advice for My Hair Is Hip: Ask your stylist to thin your hair. They will take big yet unnoticeable hunks out of the middle of your hair, so it will actually hang down and drape past your shoulders instead of getting all fro-ish on itself. Really. The thinning. It's a miracle for us curlyheads.

Lady Bug

It's ridiculous how much I love your site. Really. It's verging on obsessive. I may have to move to the US just so I can say "I'm breathing the same air as Amalah"

You take the edge off even the shittiest day!


For the woman with scoliosis, I am 26 and just started law school (read, they think I'm old. Grrr.)

I got a backpack from Columbia at Dick's for a back to school sale in August. It's REALLY comfortable with padding and shit. And it holds all the law school books, so it's durable. Last, it's grey and black, so not drawing attention.

Unless I have my law school books, which makes it the size of a school bus.

The teeny-tiny girls at law school have the rolly backpacks. If you have to walk at all, and there's elevators instead of stairs, get one of those.


I must respectfully disagree with Alektra. Do not, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, get the @#$%^* rolling backpack. Those things were the bane of my grad school existence. I can't tell you how many times my feet were run over by someone sprinting to get to class, dragging a rolly pack behind them like a wayward child. Do you know the damage those little wheels can do to shoes? Do you?

Plus, unless you are quite petite, the handles are never long enough, requiring you to hunch over while you drag it across campus. And they just look silly when you are hauling them around. Are you heading to the airport? On your way to some exotic locale? No? Then just say no to the rolly bag. Throw on a good backpack and consider it a weight workout.


for the cute girl going on her honeymoon... I got this FABULOUS bikini from Malia Mills that was white with rhinestones across the butt that said "JUST MARRIED". I cannot tell you how much attention I got because of that bathing suit- it was my best honeymoon buy, and I kept it a secret from the hubs, who totally loved it when I whipped it out and wore it our first day. And Malia Mills has about 20 mix and match tops and bottoms to fit every body style. I highly recommend it!

Have fun!

Old and Busted

Yayayay! Amalah answered my question and people commented on my question. I'm famous! I've been a lurker for a few weeks but now I feel so liberated and out of the closet like. Off to Dicks or LL Bean I go to bite the bullet and get a nice simple backpack. Sigh.

Dr. Johnny Fever

If I ever get a tattoo on my face like that jigsaw puzzle goober, it's going to say "Amalah rules."


Old and Busted-
I am a grad student, and I carry a satchel that I love. From Queen Bee Creations.

it may not be the best if you are going to have a ton of books but works great for my laptop, a book and notebook. also they have really cute purses and wallets that I love.


I have the LL Bean Deluxe Bookpack. I love it. It's got mesh pouches on the side for water bottle or umbrella and a little pocket on the front strap for a cell phone (I feel like a big dork with the cell phone there, but it's convenient). It's got lots of padding and my back doesn't hurt even when I put a laptop in along with my notebooks and stuff, and then walk 2 miles, which totally burns more calories that if I walked with a rolly bag. It's kind of bulky, even when it's not very full, but I am quite pleased. I got it to replace an older LL Bean backpack that finally started having zipper problems after 10 years (HS, college, grad school) of serious use.

The Washington Post did an article a few weeks ago about how nice employers actually are about hiring pregnant women and making arrangements for maternity leave and all that jazz. I don't know if I believe them, though. I mean, it was one of those articles where they interview 3 people who had positive experiences and then say "Look! Everything's fine! Go get knocked up and then look for a job!"


I was just clicking on all those purse links and it's just insane how much they are. Insanity I tell you. Does Jason get to buy awesome and expensive electric gadgets? That would be an awesome trade off.


I once tried to highlight my RED, RED hair in an effort to turn into a blond. The result was purple hair with salmon and magenta stripes. I looked like a character from Fraggle Rock. I left the salon, after FOUR additional "repairs", with mousy brownish gray hair. And I was happy. And I have not dyed my hair since.


THANK YOU AMALAH for telling people to use a ceramic and expensive flat iron. If it didn't cost at least over $60, don't bring it near my tresses. Many of my friends use ones that cost under $30, and it has caused me to give serious thought to our friendship. Hair is precious people, treat it right!


Has anyone used that Tourmaline "Wet to Dry" flat iron that they have at Sephora? It's $200 and I'd love love love to try it but my husband would get so MAD at me.


I also sing the praises of a good corrective color. I used a "temporary" color years ago, when I was doing a show- I needed black hair, not my natural blond, and the wigs available were fugly. I even called the [haircolor company] hotline to ask if there were any risks to using "natural black" when my color was much lighter; hotline chickie said that the only problem would be that the resulting color would not be black, more of a dark brown. When the color "washed out" if left behind a greenish grey color instead of my original one. I called my stylist, and she saved me! As she was doing her magic, other stylist kept coming by to check on me "Is this the one with OH, you poor thing!"


Corrective color is a must if you are doing something complicated... such as changing from red to blonde. Trust me. I tried to do it myself, and it was an utter disaster. I was left with pinkish hair that would hold absolutely no other color for more than 3 days. Enter very-expensive stylist with special corrective-color skills, and my hair worries were over.

Oh, and I ditto (the other) Ann's comment about thinning very thick, curly hair. It helps make it more managable... and it makes it look much less bulky.

The Lady Is Rotten

Hi....I'm otherwise known as "My Hair Is Hip" -
First...Thank you, Ann, for you advice - about "the thinning of the hair". Though, I've already tried that. And. No. Does not help. Actually, it....well. Does. Not. Help. And, then? I've got these big patches of chopped hair in the midst of my 'fro. And I have to grow them out. Which, for such curly hair as mine? Takes a DECADE. No shi---I mean, no kidding.

Also - The flat-iron I'm using? I'd just like to promote it to all of you. It's a CHI Ceramic Turbo (2"). It's Top Of The Line. And if you're going to go flat-iron, I highly suggest you go Chi.

Also? I meant "you" as in the collective "you". Not anyone personally. Just telling everyone here about the brilliance that is the Chi Ceramic Turbo. As I said in my plea to Amalah / Amy, I've got The Dry Hair. And it DOESN'T LIKE chemicals or anything "un-natural" - - But, it DOES like my new Chi.

Another thing: Pearatin Fortifying Repairative Serum....Such as:

Oh, Good God. I love this stuff. So. Anyone want silky-soft-glistening hair? I SWEAR. This stuff works some damn-near miracles.

Okay. That's what I've learned through my hair-saga.

Thank you, Amalah / Amy - for your reply....You are absolutely wonderful and knowledgeable and my hair will be left to you. In my will. Or something like that.

The Lady Is Rotten

But, wait? Who the hell is "Sayid"?

I swear, I just did a "google" search on "Sayid" and all I came up with was this:

(???? EHHHH ????? A man? A MAN?!?!?!)


Painting Chef, I've heard that using wet to dry flat irons are awful for your hair because it's so fragile when it's wet.

I use a Sedu and love it, and has a really wide variety of irons and awesome customer reviews.


Who's Sayid??

Sayid, the gorgeous man from Lost! With the pretty curly hair and the sexy accent and the vaguely weird real-life partner of Barbara Hershey, which, ew, but I forgive him because he looks so pretty all dirty and island-y.

The Lady Is Rotten

Well, at least he looks "pretty"....But, still! A man! And Jeri curls, at that! Oh, The Neuroses! The Neuroses!

But, Barbara Hershey? Used to be hot-sex-symbol. Kinda like....ummmm....hmmmmm.....Sean Connery? I'd still ummm....well, you know, because he used to be a "Hot Sex Symbol" and he IS Bond. James Bond.

Am a tad drunk. Sorry for any drunkeness that may, ummmm, be apparent. And may make my reply a bit incomprehensible. God do I LOVE my spellcheck when I am drunk. Saves my ass on long-words everytime. I think.


Rachael - I kind of figured that would be the case because...ew...crisp and crackle on the wet hair with the heated apparatus. But, a girl can dream I suppose.


never been a fan of thinning either. My hair is VERY thick and BIG too (and coarse) but only wavy, not corkscrew curly. I straighten mostly except sometimes on Fridays and when I'm on vacay at the beach.

Also, don't EVER EVER let anyone talk you into cutting your hair with a razor. They'll try to tell you it's the best technique for thinning it out but it interrupts the natural curl pattern and makes your hair frizzy and ugly and fried. Run like hell and get yourself a new hairdresser.


My take on the backpack thing as someone who has gone real world grad school real world and will be going back to grad school again... but wants to look fashionable

Get thee a Kate Spade Diaper bag... I know I know, but it doesnt look like a Mommy Bag (you know with elephants on it or shit like that) can hold a lap top, notebooks, wallet and more and well while it can get heavy if you have a lead laptop or big law books (been there done that) it really is the best purchase I can think to invest in. I use it to take things to work and I use it for class. And I pretend I am fashionable :)

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