What's On the Brain

“What’s On the Brain?” May 2016 Edition: (Even More) Jewelry Fo Yo Momma

You know I couldn’t let y’all down, right? You know I’m not that kind of blogger. I’m here for you, people. I’m here to deliver the goods that you’ve been promised: the laughs, the cringes, the eye rolls, the smirks, and the occasional shocks to your system. I’m standing (technically sitting) here, guns (keys) a blazin’, fully prepared for backlash, but knowing that deep down, you really do want the stuff that’s bad for you. So I’m happy to be your fried food, your candy bar, your mistress, or your fourth martini. Maybe I won’t make you feel great about yourself later on when you step on the scale or notice the overabundance of middle-aged acne, but I sure as sh*t can handle being what makes you feel good right now. So with that being said, for the third year running (if you missed the previous two, go here, and here to read ‘em), I bring to you a non-traditional Mother’s Day Gift Guide in the form of what you should consider buying for the woman in your life who now pees her pants when she coughs or laughs because your head was so g*ddamned enormous at the time of your birth. This is the 2016 version of Jewelry Fo Yo Momma

Connected Mom

Altruis Gold and White StoneLet’s be honest with ourselves here, is there a mom out there right now who’s not a “connected” mom? Raise your hand if you’re a mother who’s slept with your cell phone under your pillow or taken your iPad into the bathtub. Yeah. Thought so. But the unfortunate thing about those instances is that being electrocuted not only makes your hair frizzy, it also causes your life to come to a halt, which is why Vinaya – a London-based technologies company – introduced an affordable line of connected jewelry called Altruis. And while there is no shortage of connected jewelry lines available right now, I was drawn to the esthetics of the pieces in the Altruis line, particularly the Cleopatra ring which is made in white ceramic and rose gold-plated metal. Now your mom can look uber-chic while knowing just how many times you never call her per day, per month, and per year.

Erotica Reading Mom

I know. I knoooooww. You don’t want to think about the fact that your mom has an original copy of The Story of O on her night stand. I know it nauseated you when you found her entire Lords of the Underworld series in a cardboard box next to the washing machine marked “BIBLES FOR THE POOR” (and they weren’t dusty). And I know marla aaron locksthat you nearly spewed your skinny chai latte across the table last Mother’s Day when your father tried to present her with the hardback version of Fifty Shades of Grey (though you secretly smiled when she responded to him with, “While I love you for the thought, dear, I wouldn’t own that sh*tty book if you hired John Hamm to act out each of the scenes that Hugh Jackman was hired to read to him. However, this silk scarf is lovely, thank you.”) But while you’re doing your best to deny the idea, your mom is still a sexual being, so why not give her a little wink and a nudge by gifting her with one or more of Marla Aaron’s super fashionable jewelry LOCKS. Available in everything from sterling silver to green gold, with gemstones or without, Marla’s LOCKS will give your mom not only the idea that she can somehow use them on your dad during “play time,” but will also provide her the variety she’s been looking for in life without having to visit LionsDen.com so often.

“My Kids Are Grown So I Adopted Nine Cats” Mom

fitzroy the cat necklaceOh boy. Okay, so, um, this is an interesting mom, to say the least. Yeah, she’s your mom, and she’s really sweet, and we get it, but dude, she’s bordering on f**king weird these days, I’m sorry. I mean, three cats? Okay, I see it. Four? Well, maybe she’s just really, really, REALLY lonely. But NINE?? Aren’t you afraid she’s going to ingest too many hair fibers? What if they all go into heat at once? WHO COULD STAND THAT SOUND FOR MORE THAN TWO MINUTES??? Plus there are an odd number of them! Do cats even have threesomes? Okay, fine. She’s not my mom so I’ll just go ahead and do my job of suggesting what you could get her as a present. Let’s see now, she already owns seventeen kitten sweaters, has a two-year subscription to Catster Magazine (formerly Cat Fancy), and had her name legally changed last month to Furball McFluffytail. What do you get a woman who has all of that and way too so much more? A-HA! I’ve got it! A FitzRoy the Cat necklace from designer Wendy Brandes would be PURR-fect! (Yeah. I went there. Sue me.) FitzRoy is not only an Instagram sensation, but this version of The Cat in The Bowl is made in 18K yellow gold with orange sapphires and he’s holding the most beautiful opal in his paws. Furball will think this is such a MEOWvelous gift that she may just wear it with that skullcap she knitted last December using what I can only imagine were remnants from the various pet brushes scattered about the apartment. No thanks needed, pal. I’ve got your back.

Rock Climbing Mom

Laurie Kaiser ear climberAh, the adventure mom. Buns of steel. Thighs of high. Abs of Fab. This is the mom I wish I had time to be. She lives in Colorado, and New Mexico, and Wyoming. She is naturally tan without looking like she’s been visiting the same salon as Donald Trump and John Boehner. Her hair is long and sun-tinted; her hands, calloused yet ultra-feminine. And man, does she know how to live life to the fullest. If this is your mom, don’t let the lack of rings and bracelets fool you; that’s only because they’d be in the way while she was free climbing the Black Canyon above the Gunnison River. She’s fit and fearless, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be fashionable, so I’m recommending this pair of earthy-feeling diamond ear climbers by Laurie Kaiser as her gift this year. She’ll love the fact that you got her something that not only “climbs,” but that will refrain from getting in the way of her helmet straps when she goes out snowboarding. Cowabunga, mama!

Just Got Engaged For the Fifth Time Mom

I kind of dig this mom. This is one non-settling mother. She’s ballsy, confident, and has been heard quoting Madeline Kahn as Mrs. White in the movie Clue: “Husbands should be like Kleenex: soft, strong, and disposable.” Yet while she’s Jane-Taylor-B923F-hook-bracelet-with-blue-topaz-and-diamonds-in-white-goldnever killed off any of her exes (that we know about) she’s accumulated plenty of spectacular jewelry pieces along her marital journeys, which is why you’ll need to be creative when thinking of a present to get her that she can wear on this wedding day or even on her wedding days to come. This blue topaz and white gold hooked bracelet from designer Jane Taylor’s “Rosebud” collection is as versatile as your mother’s wedding planner and costs a lot less money. It’s the perfect “something blue” for a woman who should absolutely not be wearing white, and I’m sure she’ll love it a lot longer than she’s loved any of her previous and possibly future spouses.

Legally Married Thanks To the Supreme Court Moms

hattie rickards flipWhile your friends all thought you were the coolest girl on the block growing up because you were the only one with two moms, you knew that the impending arrival of Mother’s Day meant that you had to work an extra shift at the Pizza Hut because you always had two bouquets of flowers to buy. But now that you’re grown up, well-adjusted, successful, and happily married to Tim (the podiatrist), Hattie Rickardsyou’re looking forward to this Mother’s Day since it’s the first one that your moms can celebrate as a married couple in the eyes of the law. Matching multi-colored sapphire kinetic flip rings by London jewelry designer Hattie Rickards would be a wonderful way for you to show your moms just how much you appreciate their love, still. The rings are made in 18K Fairtrade yellow gold and are a load of fun to toy around with as they flip and spin thanks to hidden mechanisms. They’re colorful, playful, and responsible… just like your moms.

Full Time Writer Mom

COOMIHey look, you know I usually throw in one for me, right? Not this year, though. All I’m hoping to get from my family this year is their continued support as I embark on this new journey and do the thing I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school. That, and one of those rad Antiquity collection necklaces by COOMI. But if they can’t do both, just the COOMI necklace will do. I’ll get the support I need elsewhere. Maybe Facebook or something.

That about does it, loves. Now go make your brunch reservations, call 1800-Flowers, and invest in some fine Swiss chocolates, but whatever you do, DO NOT FORGET THE JEWELS.

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Uncategorized

An Oscar Jewelry Post for Those Who Don’t Give a Crap About the Oscars or Jewelry

They say, in book writing, that a good title can pull anybody in. Let’s see how that works today.

*********

Look, I know that the Academy Awards isn’t everybody’s cup of Jameson-laced herbal tea. I realize that there are people out there who look down their noses at those of us who huddle around six forms of technology simultaneously so that we can be the first person to tweet about some likely overpaid, undertalented E! “news” correspondent because she remembered who supplied her stylist with the jewelry that she’s now wearing even though she pronounced the designer’s name wrong. (For those unfamiliar with the English language, what I just wrote would be considered the poster child for the “run on sentence.”) And to be perfectly frank, if I didn’t love what I do so much – meaning love working in an industry that not only makes people feel good, but that also combines talent, art, culture, craft, and history in a single genre – I might find myself being one of those people who snobbishly thinks that their time is worth too much to waste on the Hollywood elite and “who they’re wearing.” But fortunately for my readers, I’m not. However, I also understand that many out there are not me. They don’t think like I do, like the things I like, or hell, come to this here page only for the entertainment factor, so today, I’m writing an Oscars recap for those folks (while slipping in some jewelry info as well).

FOR THE POLITICAL JUNKIE WHO HAS BEEN WORKING THE PHONES FOR BERNIE SANDERS

joe-biden-oscars-2016-1Dude! Did you see Joe Biden?! Wasn’t that awesome?! Wasn’t HE awesome?! I mean, you love Joe Biden. Who doesn’t love Joe Biden, right? That man’s teeth are as white as pretty much every gemstone we saw adorning the ears of every A-lister walking the red carpet, including his wife, Second Lady, Jill Biden (who, by the way, has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, master’s degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware. Slacker.) Dude, how about when old Joe got that standing ovation? That was nice, wasn’t it? We’re going to miss his Scranton, PA charm, aren’t we? What’s that? You need to go make a phone call because it’s Super Tuesday? Okay, well, have fun. And, uh, good luck with that. Hope it works out for ya.

FOR THE SPORTS DAD WHO IS PISSED THAT HE MISSED A BASKETBALL GAME OVER THIS

635922888759062240-88th-Academy-Awards---Knap960x0-1Aaron Rodgers is DA MAN, YO. And his girlfriend is SO. FREAKING. HAWT. I mean, it’s just like when we were in high school, isn’t it? The quarterbacks are still getting the hot chicks. What’s her name, Olive or something, right? Nun? Numm? MUNN! That’s right, Olivia Munn. Man, he must be getting some serious you-know-what, especially after buying her that badass diamond Forevermark bracelet designed by Jade Trau. Wait, what’s that? What do you mean he didn’t buy her that?? The guy’s worth millions! He’s a five-time pro-bowler and has a damned Super Bowl ring for eph’s sake. He can’t buy his girlfriend a diamond bracelet? Freaking fraud. You should have TOTALLY watched that basketball game instead, man. At least those guys own their own jewelry.

FOR THE AFFECTED HIPSTER ELITIST WHO ONLY USES THE COMPUTER AT THE PUBLIC LIBRARY

(While reading this, be sure to insert ‘upspeak’ at the end of every sentence.)

Ugh. So, like, you know who Rooney Mara is, like, riiiight? Well, she like, *totally* gave a major “screw you” to the establishment by pretty much, like, being, like, ‘I will totally wear my hair to the Oscars like I’m a character in a Tim Burton film’ and like ‘Diamonds are for cutouts, people, not wearing as jewels because baby elephants in Africa die every time a diamond is mined’ and like, she was so badass without ever saying like a word or even smiling. She’s so true, you know? She’s like, sooooo against what Hollywood stands for, you know? She’s like real. Not that you watched it because, like, I know you sold your T.V. last year for a basket of gluten-free, vegan corn muffins made with corn grown on the High Line, but, I wanted you to know that like, if you, like, *had* watched it, you would have like totally been all, like… ‘yeah.’

cf4d00be2cf454e76ea286a1522a190c39962042145a0b4c9d3b6a8abbd8e8a0-1FOR JADA PINKETT SMITH

Can we move on, now, JPS? Or did Chris Rock piss you off even more? Come now, girl. I mean, Will is good and all, but he ain’t “Denzel” good. He ain’t “Jamie” good, either. I mean, I love the man… he’s my hometown boy (West Philly, representin’! Although Will grew up in the nice part of West Philly while I was eating welfare cheese, but that’s for another post.). But come on, Jada, let’s just say you made your point, and you’re right, racism does still exist really strongly in this country and in Hollywood as well, and so does sexism. But boycotting did nothing but make you the butt of the joke. Wanna change Hollywood? Play a great part in a great movie that isn’t a sequel to The Nutty Professor. Can’t get cast? Write your own movie. Can’t get backing? Back your own movie. Be the change you want to see, and be in their face. Not showing up just makes you forgettable.

FOR THE FRAT BOY WHO HAS HAD FOUR TOO MANY BEERS THIS MORNING

Charlize-Theron-Oscars-2016-Red-Carpet-Fashion-Christian-Dior-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-1-1THERE WERE SO MANY AWESOME BOOBIES ON THE RED CAAAAAAARRRRRRPET!!!!!! BOOBIES ARE THE BEST!!!!! Oh my g*d. Oh my g*d. Bro. No joke. Charlize Theron had that diamond thingy on and it was all hangy and stuff. But like, bro, her boobs? NOT HANGY. Totally real, man. That jewelry piece had to be real too. I think it was from Harry Winston, so, you know, they’re like ballers. HAHAHAHahahahah. Man, OH! OH MAN, and Olivia Wilde, bro. SHE WAS LIKE ALMOST NAKED. People were talking about some Neil Lane choker and I was all, “WHO’S LOOKING AT HER NECK, BRO?! Y’all are FOOLS.” And bro… bro… Kate Blanchett… I mean, first, she’s pretty much the hottest MILF alive (no idea how three kids came out of that body) and then… then she makes a movie where she’s making out with a GIRL. I mean, is Hollywood kidding me with this? Radical. HAHAHAHAHAHahahahha. Lol.

FOR THE STRUGGLING MUSICIAN WHO DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS SH*T BECAUSE HER AGENT IS GOING TO CALL ANY MINUTE

screen-shot-2016-02-28-at-10-05-07-pmOkay look, I know you don’t have time to read this. I get it. I know. I know. Your agent’s going to Skype any second so you need to make sure that the line is free. But… you missed Dave Grohl singing “Blackbird.” I KNOW!! I know that’s your favorite song. I know, and I really hesitated to…

…okay, I’ll hold.

(waiting.)

(waiting.)

(waiting.)

Wasn’t him? Okay, so anyway, I really hesitated to tell you because…

…yeah, I’ll hold.

(waiting.)

(waiting.)

Still not him? Oh, it was your mom? Tell her I said hi. WELL NO I DIDN’T MEAN RIGHT N…

You know what, I’ll just call you later.

(Click.)

Hope y’all enjoyed this year’s unconventional Oscars Red Carpet recap. Thanks, as always, for reading and following along on social media, and be sure to stay tuned for my new female-friendly watch blog, WhatsOnHerWrist.com, launching next week.

Peace, bro.

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The Day Our Industry Wept: Why There Will Never Be Another “Jewelry Biz Guru”

cindy2a

Vegas, 2014 – Cindy and those who adored her

Cindy Edelstein was hard on me.

She didn’t coddle me. She never blew smoke up my ass. And she was quick to tell me when I said something or did something that she felt was wrong.

For a while I struggled with knowing what she thought of me or about me. She kept me guessing, which kept me on my toes, but as I reflect on our relationship, I think that was her plan all along.

Cindy Edelstein was exactly what I needed at a time when I had no idea what it was I needed.

And today, her family, our industry, and I mourn her passing.

*********

I had seen her face and read her name in a thousand articles I’d viewed over the years I’d been in the business, so in the summer of 2013 when she walked up to the SJTA trade show booth I’d been working in, I knew exactly who she was.

She was there, at the Atlanta Jewelry Show, to teach a course to those in attendance. I had just started writing Adornmentality and to my surprise, Cindy already knew of me. Her daughter, Remy, and husband, Frank, accompanied her on her road trip, and so I gave Remy some pointers on the cool neighborhoods to visit around Atlanta, as well as the areas she’d be able to find vegetarian restaurants. I remember looking at Remy – a not-so-shy high schooler with a unique sense of style and vibrant character – and thinking about my own daughter. My mom wasn’t a cool mom. She didn’t let me do funky things with my hair and hated that I was into The Cure and The Smiths, but Cindy seemed completely comfortable with Remy’s path. She seemed to not only be content with the daughter she’d raised, but encouraging of her individuality. That… that earned my respect well before I ever knew all she had done for the industry and for countless jewelry designers in it. That holds my respect and will continue to for a long, long time to come.

From that point forward, Cindy and I were part of one another’s lives. We saw each other at trade shows, shared drinks at Women’s Jewelry Association events, and co-tweeted many an awards gala red carpet, but I still couldn’t figure “us” out. Where did I stand in Cindy’s mind? Did she think I was another false industry prophet? Another “come out of nowhere” superstar whose flame would die out long before ever reaching orbit? I couldn’t get a read on her, or what she felt about what I was doing. But the more I thought about it, the harder I tried to get her attention through how hard I was working and what I was saying.

Cindy, by all accounts, was “no bullshit.” And I think she eventually saw that I was “no bullshit,” too.

cindy1

Post Atlanta Jewelry Show Dinner at SOHO in Vinings

I’ll never forget the day she emailed me to ask me about spearheading an Atlanta chapter for the WJA. We went back and forth via email and spoke on the telephone several times regarding who we knew and what could be done. When I told her that I was more than happy to help out in any way I could, but that with the amount of travel I did for my job, plus the blog, plus trying to be a mom to a three-year-old and a seven-year-old child, I wasn’t able to take on the role of President, she tried to convince me otherwise. “If anybody can make this happen, you can. I know you can.” It was the first time I felt like she believed in me, which made it all the more heartbreaking to have to still tell her I just couldn’t. I thought I had killed my only shot of earning her respect, but that’s not how she worked, and wasn’t who she was. She was hard but still very soft; guarded, but just as open. She had her passions and her muses but I promise you, she watched us all. That’s probably one of the best ways I could describe Cindy Edelstein: she was a watcher. She watched, and she listened, and she knew more than any eyes, ears, or brain in this biz. That alone set her apart. That alone will make her irreplaceable.

Over the years that followed our first encounter, Cindy had asked me to help judge a couple of design competitions, and involved me in various WJA and industry discussions and gatherings, and that gave me the sense that she was cool with what I was doing. I think Cindy could read that I wasn’t the type of person who needed to be coddled. There are plenty of those types out there, but she sensed that I required mentors with balls (figurative balls, not literal balls) and so she did her fair share of reprimanding and head-shaking as it pertained to things I did. But see, I need that in my life. I would vomit if I was constantly told how awesome I was and rarely heard how I could improve. I don’t want that in a mentor nor would I be that in a mentor. NO ONE is that awesome. We should all be improving, every damned day. Cindy not only understood that fact, she lived it. She lived it, and taught it, and has left it with us to nurture in her memory.

To the hundreds if not thousands of designers whose lives and livelihoods were enhanced and improved because of their association with the late Cindy Edelstein: I offer you my sincerest condolences and can only suggest to you that you do what Cindy would have done. Think, “WWCD”… What Would Cindy Do?

To Cindy’s jewelry family (her WJA sisters [and brothers], fellow writers, trade show associates, and those she mentored): we are feeling your loss with you. She was the kin who always showed up to the reunion with a couple of bottles of tequila, and we’re all greatly missing her presence, already.

Finally, to Frank, and to Remy: No one knows the pain you are feeling right now. No one feels the heartbreak you do. But, if there is anyone who might come close to knowing, be comforted in the fact that it is not just one person, but an entire world. The jewelry world loved, adored, emulated, admired, respected, valued, and needed your Cindy. She was yours. She was ours. And now, she is her God’s.

Rest in peace, Cindy. Watch over us all. We’re counting on you.

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The Luxury of (a good) Time: What One Woman Did with her New York Minute

“Time/He’s waiting in the wings/He speaks of senseless things/His script is you and me boys”

Time by David Bowie

The aircraft was eerily quiet on this trip in from Atlanta. No babies babbling. No toddlers whining. No tourists yapping. The peace I was feeling as I stared out over the Brooklyn Bridge before raising my eyes upward to catch a seconds-long glimpse of the Empire State was greatly needed and grandly appreciated. The silence beckoned me into my own conscience; a place I had been avoiding over the last day or two. Yet once there, and settled in, I heard them – all of them – the voices of the darkened past reminding the voices of the brightly lit future to tell the voices of the confused, frightened, and insecure present that all was going to be okay. That things would be fine and that they had nothing to fear. And as the conversations dwindled, the aircraft shook, the rubber burned, and the wing flaps raised.

Wheels down, New York City. Wheels down, deep thoughts. There are people to see and places to be, and heaven knows I don’t have much time.

“I look at my watch it say 9:25/and I think ‘Oh God I’m still alive’/We should be on by now/We should be on by now/La la la la la la la la”

*********

Day One

(texting)

Friend: “How goes the drive?”

Me: “Cinco minutos.”

Friend: “Okay, heading down.”

Me: “Bring a gun with you. (Pause.) Never mind. I’ll just go ahead and have that heart attack.”

Friend: “No, wait, I want to have one with you.”

If you’ve ever taken an Uber in Manhattan and the drive lasts longer than forty minutes, you can sympathize with the above textversation, I’m sure.

I hadn’t seen this particular person in, well, what felt like EVER, so I was happy that they agreed to a mid-workday scotch with me before I had to head off into the social sunset of GEM Awards weekend. We hit a local bar near their place of work and settled our asses onto the two corner barstools. The building seemed old and the space had that good veteran pub feel to it; lots of wood, tile floors, and several bottles of brown-hued alcohol. I opted for an Oban 14, neat, because I promised my friend Dave Bindra I’d have an Oban 18, but frankly I just couldn’t afford to. Sorry Dave. Everyone has to settle for something other than what they really want once in a while. C’est la vie, amigo. C’est. La. Vie.

The conversation and company left me with a warm, comfortable feeling about how the rest of the trip was going to go. Or maybe it was the Oban. Could have been, but that’s cool, too, because the bottom line is, scotch is great. And once my (hiccup) drinking partner left to head back to the office I stuck around for a quick pinot noir with my new best friend, Millennial Bartender.

MB: “So why do you know so much about sports?”

Me: “Brothers. And, lots of Trivial Pursuit growing up. And I met my husband on a game show.”

MB: “I don’t believe it. That’s not true. Picture, or it isn’t true.”

Me: (scrolling through phone) (scrolling) (now scrolling through Instagram) “Ah, here’s one. See?”

MB: (Looking, in disbelief) “I don’t even know what to say right now. Are you serious?”

Me: “Yup. He’s hot, too. And we made pretty redheaded babies. Oh, and I just got this email an hour ago from Royal Caribbean (showing him email) asking if he and I want to star in their South American cruise ads next month.”

MB: (Looking at me, disgustingly) “You see now… you’re the reason why people hate us white people.”

It’s *so* going to be an awesome day.

“Goddamn, you’re looking old/You’ll freeze and catch a cold/’Cause you’ve left your coat behind/Take your time”

After the painfully long Uber back to my heartbreakingly dismal Marriott Courtyard, I freshened up, packed a purse with NYC essentials (metro card, mints, ID, mace, extra socks) and quickly headed back out to a meetup of jewelry industry women put together by the great connector herself, Liz Kantner.

We arrived at Winnie’s on west 38th one by one. Some of the industry’s most talented designers, marketing directors, and editors had assembled to shoot the shit in a relaxed environment, as we knew that there would be no possibility of in-depth conversation at either the GEM Awards or the 24K gala. I was thrilled to see Cleo of Jane Taylor Jewelry (whom I owe like fifty apologies to – she knows why), Malak of Zaiken, Rebecca of Communique LA, Marla Aaron, Delphine Leymarie, Jennifer Heebner, and Michelle Graff. Thankfully, I would also see three of these women at the following morning’s whiskey breakfast, because my liver and I have a love/hate relationship.

The clock struck eight which meant it was time for all of my organs and me to leave for my 8:30 p.m. dinner plans down in the East Village. The weather in New York oddly was warmer than it was in Atlanta, so I put the back window down and stared, blurrily (because I’m too vain to wear my glasses) at the sporadic lights beaming from Stuyvesant Town. I felt… alone. Probably the most alone I had felt in a while. The week had presented me with some not-so-unexpected life turns, and this was the first real moment I had to think about what I was going to do.

I looked up at the big, old, brick towers before me. They reminded me so much of my home. Home, meaning Philly… where as a child I survived the unspeakable; where as a young adult female I made it through the unimaginable. But in my loneliness I concluded that I was as tall as these towers, and as hard as their exterior; that I wore my age as well as they, and that I was in no way ready to be torn down. There was life in me – beautiful life – just as Stuyvesant contains beautiful lives within its walls. I smiled at the lights as I thought of the artists and writers who call the towers home, and I grinned even more widely when I thought of the artist and writer living inside of me. My loneliness turned to rejuvenation which in turn became determination, and for the rest of my ride I thought about how nice it was going to be to have dinner with one of my oldest and most loyal jewelry friends.

The ceiling of Pylos is covered in terracotta pots. The restaurant is small, dark, and cozy, and it’s as legitimately Greek as any place I’ve ever eaten. To be there with one of my closest confidants and biggest supporters was uplifting. We ate wonderful fish and shared a 2008 Megas Oenos Skouras before heading off to our individual temporary housing for the night. I mean, I had a big morning planned, so there was no way I was going to stay out late getting drunk if I had to get up early in the morning to get drunk. Which is the perfect segue into…

Day Two

snapseed-03Who knew whiskey at breakfast would be so popular? I mean, seriously?! It was a hit! Props to *THE* Ben Smithee for recommending Pershing Square as the place we’d be able to get a scotch on the rocks at 9:30 a.m. All in, we were a group of ten, and what a group of ten we were. Still recovering from a stint at the Boom Boom Room the night before were the aforementioned Smithee, accompanied by his partner at LUXE Intelligence and fellow Aries badass, Dallas Selsey. Seated on my immediate right was the infamous Rick Bannerot (YAY, RICK! WE FINALLY MEET!). And going around the table we had our three gals from the previous evening – Rebecca “can I get a DD up in heyaa?” Moskal; Delphine “WAIT. Let me take a ‘Delphie’” Leymarie; and Marla “I follow the rules and look good doing it” Aaron. There was my friend Jackie Cohen of Timeless/My Story; my wonderfully wonderful Peggy Jo Donahue; and last but not least, (because you can’t have a scotch at breakfast unless you have an official Scottish person at your table) the recently hitched Maeve Gillis of MaeVona. Ho. Leeeee. Shit, y’all. This was one killer whiskey (or whisky – for Maeve the Scot) drinkin’ crowd. And these folks ordered properly, too. The bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey flowed as freely as my swear word usage on this here blog.

Somehow I wound up at the male end of the table. (What exactly makes a table have a male end and a female end? Is one end pointy and stubborn and the other concave and naggy?) I’m not really surprised about it because my life is one big Boy Scout outing these days. But once the brown liquid consumption began, things started getting a little… shall we say… politically incorrect?

“I’m amazed that we wound up with two straight guys with this group of women.”

“You mean three.”

“Oh. Crap. Sorry.”

———-

“So this girl says to me, ‘You’re a really sexy Asian.’”

“Hmm. Funny. I don’t usually like Asians but…”

“Wow, that’s a really racist thing to say.”

“NO!!! NO, YOU DIDN’T LET ME FINISH!!! I MEANT FROM A LOOKS STANDPOINT, THEY’RE NOT USUALLY MY TYPE, BUT I WAS GOING TO SAY…”

“I mean, seriously? You actually just said you didn’t like Asians. I’m going to tweet that.”

“NO! Please don’t. I was going to end my statement with ‘BUT YEAH, DUDE, YOU’RE A PRETTY SEXY ASIAN.”

“You’re dead, woman. No going back. You realize that, right?”

“Yup. My career is over.”

———–

“Did you know he’s part of that pedophile program thing?”

“WILL YOU STOP SAYING IT’S FOR PEDOPHILES! IT’S CALLED BIG BROTHERS/BIG SISTERS. I’M A BIG BROTHER, YOU DOPE!”

“Whatever.” 

While I wished desperately that “Whiskey Breakfast” could have lasted forever (and props to Josh with Kretchmer for showing up at the tail end), I had “Beer Lunch” to get ready for and needed to find some ice to put on the part of my liver that I had cut out with a coffee spoon so that I could spare it from being tainted. Goodness knows I’d need it by the evening.

Off I went in my chariot of yellow and black to the same bar I met Michael Schechter at just three-hundred-and-sixty-five days earlier. I walked in to find our table the same, our server the same, and my dread the same. Man, I hate beer. I haaaaaaaate beer. But I write this off as my yearly charitable donation and I suck it up for the good of our friendship. Plus, keep in mind that last year’s beer lunch coined the term, “layer of penis,” so who knows what goodness would come out of this year’s, right? 

Mikey was late because he has no respect for his elders but that’s okay; I’ve learned to accept him for who he is, which is also why I wasn’t surprised about his excitement at their newest beer on draft called, “More Cowbell.”

“I can only drink a Hefeweizen.”

“You should go for a porter.”

“Nah. Can’t. Too chewy.”

“What about an IPA?”

“I don’t do hops.”

“You’re the worst.”

“Thank you. The hatred is mutual.”

For as masculine as I can be at times, there are moments when I look at myself and think, “Christ, Barbara… stop being so goddamned prissy.” I mean, here I was trying tastes of different beers so that I could make sure I had something that wouldn’t offend my palate the way Gwen Stefani’s voice offends people who are able to carry a tune. And for what? One beer? Once per year? Grow a pair, woman! Toughen up and drink a brew! And why are you ordering the salmon, for God’s sake? Get a burger! And pick up that blood! (Anyone?)

I couldn’t make it through half of my drink, which naturally made my lunch companion shake his head in both disgust and silent glory.

At the end of the meal, I’m sorry to say that no anatomy layers were mentioned, nor was a phrase coined for the year, nor did I ever get that burger. But I’m really looking forward to next year’s, Michael. And thanks again for lunch; always a blast, especially when you pay.

I headed back to the hotel knowing that I needed a good solid three hours to get ready. Yes, that’s what I need. I have a lot of hair, require a plethora of makeup, and use a buttload of “equipment” to get myself into those gowns, and all of those things demand time. Sensing a theme, here? Congratulations. You have a pulse. Now let’s get down to the main reason I made this trip in the first place…

GEM AWARDS 2016

I remember the 2015 GEM Awards as clearly as I remember my middle name. The images of Monica and me getting naked dressed in our hotel room, and of the camaraderie of #PowerTable48 are still wonderfully loud and vivid and in my brain. I was sad to hear that The Daz wouldn’t be making the trip this year but I was determined to make my fellow Vegas Gems and her proud by leaving an impression. That impression started in a small vintage clothier in Atlanta, which is where I found my gown.

snapseed-01Recently I joked on Instagram that I own about thirteen floor-length gowns that I really can’t wear again because I don them around the same damned people in the jewelry industry. This dress was a definite one-time-only wear, and that’s okay, because it served its purpose. It was part Daisy Buchanan, part Alexis Carrington, and part Katniss Everdeen with a touch of Maleficent thrown in for good measure. And thanks to that SEXY ASIAN, Ben Smithee, I had the perfect earrings and ring to match, courtesy of designer Katerina Maxine, and the kind folks at LUXE Intelligence. My shoes and bag were sequins as well, and my makeup smoky and sparkly with a pale lip to contrast the dark eyes. As a last minute decision I went with a tightly pulled back knot for my hair which allowed my jewels to take center stage, because let’s face it, this is the GEM Awards, after all.

My partners in glamour as we entered the gates were the lovely Jennifer Heebner, who was dripping in Tara pearls and opera length gloves; the stunning Michelle Peranteau, who was gorgeous in a full-length black gown and diamond Baume et Mercier watch; and the exquisite Bernadette Mack, who wore a variety of jewels by Alex Soldier and Rina Limor.

This year’s awards were the first to officially focus on watches, nominating Cartier, Piaget, and Roger Dubuis in the category of Watch Design. Cartier took the prize with its North American President and CEO, Mercedes Abramo, accepting. The Media Excellence category showcased the talents of Rachel Garrahan, Kyle Anderson, and Rob Bates, with ROBYYYYYYYYYYY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATES taking the award despite Kyle’s awesome hair and Instagram following. (By the way, Rob, if you’re reading this… I called it.) And the Jewelry Design Award went to Temple St. Clair (which was presented by Stephen Webster who is seriously in the wrong business. The man is a comedic genius and needs to get his own reality T.V. show. THIS IS NOT A LIE. He’d make millions) who was nominated alongside Sevan Bicakci and Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele.

But the man of the hour (pun totally intended) was WatchTime Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Joe Thompson, who received his Lifetime Achievement Award to a glorious standing ovation. A highlight for me was when I introduced myself to Joe and said “So many people I respect and emulate have spoken so highly of you.” To which he replied, “And I have heard many, many wonderful things about you.”

Clearly he thought I was Hayley Henning.

snapseed-04And speaking of Hayley Henning, let’s give a huge round of applause to the South African red carpet hostess with the mostesss, shall we? That Hayley. Is she not glamour incarnate? My favorite part was when she interviewed her boyfriend as if they were strangers. Freaking adorbs, both of them. Oh, and yet again, MAJOR props to the incomparable Amanda Gizzi and the entire Jewelers of America team as well as Promo House for putting together another spectacular program. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.

It was fantastic seeing so many familiar faces. Our table (#PowerTable41… we moved UP!) comprised Bern Mack, Peggy Jo Donahue and her bib, Hannah Connorton (a personal fave), Sexy Ben Smithee and his date, Magen Pastor, then came DUCKFACE MISTRESS Wendy Brandes (who dazzled yet again in red velvet), my longtime industry buddy Jay Mednikow, Marla Aaron and her swoon-worthy glasses and Dries Van Noten dress, and, of course, yours truly in all my Dynasty glory.

I was also able to finally meet, face-to-face, the Zeus and Hera of horological journalism, Jack Forster and Roberta Naas, while also sharing hellos with the likes of Marion Fasel and Maria Canale – two of my #50womenofjewelry. But there was one moment for me that happened, that I had not expected and that I won’t soon forget, and that was during a conversation with the AGS’ Ruth Batson. We were discussing Conclave, the present, as well as the immediate future, and when the topic of my blog came up, she looked me in the eyes and said, “What you write is good… keep on writing, because people are reading. People are listening. We are all listening.” And a wave of emotion came over me (and is again as I type the words right now) as I fought back tears so as not to destroy an hour’s worth of makeup application. Thank you, Ms. Batson. I promise you, and whoever is listening… I’m not going to stop.

After a few final pictures on the step and repeat with my Shelby Ruth, the party started to dissipate, and for the second year in a row, our crew headed over to Whiskey Blue where we found our fellow pretzel sisters in the form of Brandee Dallow, Des Hanson, Fran Pennella, Shelly Schulz, Kristie Nicolosi, and many, many others. Since Bern and I had agreed to run three miles through Central park the following morning, I slipped out at about 12:30 a.m. and grabbed a cab back to my hotel.

It was truly an evening worth attending, and I look forward to doing it again next year, deity willing.

“Breaking up is hard, but keeping dark is hateful/I had so many dreams/I had so many breakthroughs/But you, my love, were kind/ but love has left you dreamless”

Day Three 

(Text received at 5:08 a.m.)

Her: “I cannot make it running.”

“The door to dreams was closed/Your park was real dreamless”

I took my time getting up since I knew I had a day to myself, which is a rare gift whenever I travel anywhere. I decided some weeks back that I wanted to visit The Met and take in their European clock and watch exhibit called, “The Luxury of Time.” It had been twenty-two years since I stepped foot inside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, the last time I had been there it was with one of my best friends from high school and we got kicked out because we found one of the works in the modern art section particularly… well… “stupid” would probably be the kindest word I could use. I KNOW. I KNOW. IT’S ALL ART and art, by definition, isn’t stupid. But bloody hell, this thing was nothing more than a massive piece of canvas painted one shade of blue. I swear on all that is holy, it was one big blue rectangle. In fact, I think the name of it was actually “blue painting” or something of the like. I sh*t you not, people. This is why I struggle with understanding modern art. You know that thing sold to some dimwit for like eight-million dollars, too, don’t you? Well my friend and I were laughing uncontrollably as we thought of joke after joke about how ridiculous some of the pieces were which naturally meant that eventually we were asked to leave. I remember picking up a crushed Coke bottle near a garbage can close by and saying to my friend, “I just made this. It’s art. I should bring it back to the Met. I’ll make billions.” Oh how we laughed and laughed and laughed…

… then I grew up and realized it was probably not cool to say that I had been kicked out of The Met, which is likely the main reason why it took twenty-two years to get back.

God I hope they don’t recognize me.

snapseed-05Thankfully the art on display in the exhibit I went to see was actually something I understood – or at the very least, have been trying to understand over the last eight months or so – watches.

I won’t go into complete detail here as I intend on writing an entire piece about the exhibit on my new female-friendly watch blog called WhatsOnHerWrist.com (coming soon to a browser near you!) but I will say that it was well worth the price of admission as was the cost of the book I purchased to accompany it. If you’re in the city or plan on being so in the near future, I recommend checking it out, but you have to go soon, because it’s over on March 27th.

So… that leads me to the final leg of this trip, which we will officially dub, “The 10K Club Gathering.”

There was a crew of us who didn’t officially have seats (yet) for the 24K Club’s annual dinner and gala at the Waldorf Astoria, but we had been invited to several of the pre-parties being held in some of the suites up on the 4th floor, so we donned our gowns and tuxes, threw on our jewels and watches, and gathered at Bull & Bear to do our socializing and networking. I had invited along watch journalist Syl Tang, who writes for The Futurist and The Financial Times, because I was leaving the next day for home and had yet to meet her in person. Joining us were Smithee, Moskal, O’Connor, Cleo, Kendra, Barry with Jade Trau, Magen, Aly, and… wait for it… THAT KID FROM RITANI!! In fact, I believe it was he who came up with name for our little “island of misfit toys” group of nomads, which wound up being our running joke for the evening. Should we be the 10K Club? Or the 24 Carrot Club? Or the 42K Club? Needless to say every option turned into a hashtag.

snapseed-02I wore a gold Ralph Lauren Evening dress with a gorgeous golden South Sea pearl necklace and matching earrings by Eli Jewels, on loan to me from Mednikow Jewelers. To say the piece was a statement necklace would almost be an understatement. It was a stunning adornment combining the natural wonder of South Sea pearls with the craftsmanship of talented jewelers and topped off with several carats in bright white diamonds. I felt glorious in it, which is what I was supposed to feel in something of that caliber, and I was sad to have to give it back at the end of the night.

The evening went as perfectly as I could have asked for, and while several people texted me to say that there were no-shows at their table and that I should come up and join them, I decided I liked hanging with our crew, and opted for my spot at the bar instead. Although, I did head up to catch a song or two from Aretha Franklin when beckoned enough times by 24K members. (Oh and hey, just want to send a quick shout out to John Carter and Mary Moses-Kinney for the lovely meal picture they sent me. You guys are rad.)

Before the night was over I did some dancing, some Periscoping, and a little more Prosecco consuming. It was somewhat bittersweet there at the end for a variety of reasons, with the main reason being that New York represents so much in my life; good, bad, and otherwise.

As I watched the mist trickle down from the back seat of my cab, I recalled the many moments that I had just written about here. I recalled them, thought fondly of them, sighed deeply about them, and smiled. And that – that one act alone –is what will keep me coming back year after year after year.

New York, I love you. And I thank you for all that you are and all that you remain to be to me.

“Perhaps you’re smiling now/Smiling through this darkness/But all I had to give was the guilt for dreaming”

“We should be on by now [x5]/La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la [repeat]”

“Yeah, time!”

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Uncategorized

From Lovers to Your Landlord: Holiday Gifts For Every Man in Your Life

You knew it was coming. You knew I would never let the year come to a close without my infamous holiday gift guide (you all remember “From Mom to the Mistress,” right?), only this year I decided I’d throw the guys a bone, BP style. Meaning, I’m going to help out you ladies (and gay men [Hi Adam!]) by giving you some suggestions as to which jewelry-related items you can buy for the men in your life. Only I’m going to do it in the most inappropriate way possible and make coffee come out of your nose in the process. De nada. So grab yourselves a Talisker, gals, pull up the leather Duresta, and slip on your partner’s Lorenzini dress shirt, ‘cause we’re going to have us a little fun today.

FOR YOUR DAD:

If your pops did what he was supposed to do when you were growing up – meaning he worked hard, loved harder, and put your family and you before anything or anyone else – then that makes one of us. But just because my father deserves a flaming bag of buffalo poop hand delivered to him by the ghost of Benito Mussolini wearing nothing more than a chainmail thong and spiked dog collar doesn’t mean that your dad isn’t rad. And you know what rad dads would look even radder wearing? A cool watch. Nothing crazily complicated, mind you, because let’s face it, isn’t your dad the guy who never fully figured out the VCR and doesn’t he still try to expand your pictures on Instagram no matter how many times you tell him he can’t? Yeah. Complicated isn’t going to cut it, but “American Made” will.

lovers1The Rambler GMT by Detroit-based watch company, Shinola, was the first dedicated travel watch introduced by the company in time for BaselWorld earlier this year. Its features include a Detroit-built Argonite 515.24H movement, 24-hour hand and turning top ring bezel, 44-millimeter stainless steel case, screw-down crown, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and of course, the Shinola handcrafted leather strap. The watch is available in four different dial/strap combos but the natural with dark royal blue dial screams your dad’s name (in a positive way, unlike how it was in my house growing up), don’tcha think?

FOR YOUR BROTHER EARL:

Admit it… your friends probably liked Earl when you were growing up more than they liked you, and while that pissed you off when you were sixteen and he was twelve, now that you’re older and wiser and once you figured out that there was no way to get him adopted by that Bulgarian family without your parents knowing, you gave in to his charming ways and actually became his friend. Earl’s a cool guy, too. How many people can say their brother is a slide-guitar-playing fly-fisherman who teaches English to Ethiopian kids during the day and works as a pastry chef at a James Beard-nominated restaurant at night? (Come to think of it, maybe it is time to start disliking Earl again. Eph this overachieving a-hole.) (J/k.) In fact, Earl’s so cool you should give him a gift designed by the King of Jewelry Cool, himself… Hot Reed. I mean TODD Reed. Sorry. Sorry ‘bout that. Freudian slip.

lovers7I’m thinking brotherman could rock this badass belt buckle the next time he plays an impromptu gig with his old college roommate, Jesus Christ Jared Leto. The buckle contains over thirteen carats of cabochon blue sapphires burnished into a patina-finished sterling silver oval, accented with a .10 carat raw diamond. Earl will be so thrilled you didn’t get him *another* Ed Hardy shirt that he might even let you hang with him backstage the next time Queens of the Stone Age comes to town.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, right. Keep dreamin’, sister.

FOR YOUR MOM’S JEWISH LIVE-IN BOYFRIEND:

Look, you and I both know that his toenails are disgusting but the guy’s been in your life for almost six years now, he’s mostly nice to you, and truth be told, he makes your mom happy, so why not just bite the bullet and spend a little on him, huh? You don’t have to go crazy but the man gets up and goes to his law office every day, and while his suits still come from the Men’s Wearhouse (you just cringed, didn’t you? I mean, doesn’t he know how much money he makes??) he could use a little help in the style department.

lovers6These “Guilty/Not Guilty” cufflinks by London design house, Benson & Clegg, are the ideal lawyer gift for Hanukkah. They’re stainless, so he won’t have to worry about losing something costly, and they’re inexpensive enough that you can still afford to buy him gifts for those seven other crazy nights. Just please remember that the bacon-flavored rugelach didn’t go over as well as you had hoped last year, m’kay?

FOR YOUR FAVORITE EMPLOYEE

You are not mistaken. This means exactly what it says. If you read last year’s gift guide (and by “if” I mean “since you obviously”) you may recall that I made a point to talk about what gift to get your female boss, but since this post is geared toward telling women what to get for men, the #bossbase I referenced previously means YOU, sweet cheeks. Now you just have to figure out who your favorite worker bee is, and no pulling the *diplomatic mom* bullshit by saying “I love them all equally,” either.

lovers2Whoever you choose as your bestest, you won’t go wrong with a fancy schmancy pen as your gift choice. Since your three employees are all comic book geeks (which is one of the things you like about them) they’d likely go *KAPOW* over one of Montegrappa’s limited edition DC Comics pens released in February. I’m thinking The Riddler will do since you sometimes look at their work and wonder what the f*ck they were thinking when they handed it in. But make sure you give him the gift when no one else is watching. You don’t want one of the other two hacking into your computer for revenge and finding those NSFW images you took on your business trip to Louisville BECAUSE YOU KNOW THEY WILL. 

FOR YOUR LOVER(S)

When it comes to this term, the women of today are the men of yesterday, so if you’re a man and you’re reading this, I suggest you take notes.

Back when I was writing EveofForty, I penned (keyed) a piece about the term, “lover.” It was titled, “It Ain’t Just For Meat and Pizza Anymore” and it went on to explain my feelings about the word and the stigma I felt was attached to it. Your lover could be your husband, or a sex partner, or a boyfriend, or an affair – of the heart, mind, or otherwise. Maybe your lover is a friend with benefits. Maybe he is the man you married. Maybe you have more than one lover, and that’s cool, too, because in a society that judges people (mainly women) based on what has been considered the norm, I find it refreshing that more are realizing that sex, love, dating, and marriage doesn’t have to be as black and white as the much-outdated book of life states it should. So, having made clear my thoughts on the word, lets now discuss what this special person (or people) deserves for the holidays, shall we?

lovers4Marco Dal Maso should always be associated with desire, in my mind. Maybe it’s the Italian swagger. Maybe it’s his head of hair (clearly I have a thing for curly and grey… don’t go there) or maybe it’s the fact that his pieces – which he creates under the brand, Marco Ta Moko – are made with such intense passion that you can feel the sensuality by just looking at them (anyone else in here hot all of a sudden?). For this reason alone, his lapel pins are my choice of gift for your lover, particularly his Toki Red Tiger Eye pin crafted in 18K black gold and containing 0.72 carats of red fire sapphire surrounding a carved red tiger eye center stone. Have more than one lover? Marco has more than one pin, but I suggest you always go with something red. You know what they say about the color red, don’t you?

FOR YOUR LANDLORD

Don’t be angry with me. The only reason I included this jerk was because I needed a catchy title for the post so now I’m kind of stuck and have to run with having him in it, but don’t worry, it’s all going to work out. Trust me.

lovers3You LOOOOOVE it when he shows up unannounced at your apartment, don’t you? Isn’t it awesome when he stinks your place to the high heavens because his clothes smell like he washed them in a solution of tobacco, salami, and Drakkar Noir? Yeah, he’s pretty terrible, which is why I’m thrilled to hear that you’re moving in two months. But before you do, give him something to remember you by, like these “Screw U” earrings by my friend and fierce jewelry designer, Wendy Brandes. Nothing says, “get the hell out of my life” like a pair of insulting yet manly earrings, which – because he’s stupid on top of being an idiot – he’ll probably be complimented by, thinking that he’ll be offending others when he wears them. Little does he know, he offends others by the mere sight of him, but maybe you just roll with it and let him believe what he will. He’ll be a blip on your screen soon enough, my dear. An overweight, underheight, greasy screen blip soon enough.

FOR YOUR HUSBAND

Did I just hear you roll your eyes? Okay, I PROMISE not to get all lovey-dovey on this one. I’ll spare you considering a plethora of you read my recent Letter to The Editor piece. You all know how I feel about my husband already, so let’s talk about how you feel about yours.

Is he pretty rad? Does he make you feel wanted? Does he remind you, frequently, how lucky he is to have you in his life? Does he show you in ways that go beyond words? That’s the key. Words can be empty as many of us know, but actions – they’re the telltale. Does he love you with his actions? If you checked the “all of the above box” then good on ya, woman, and I hope you’ve been saving your pennies, because showing him you appreciate him is about to get pricey.

lovers5This Bremont limited edition Wright Flyer in 18K Rose Gold (BCW/01) features some of the original muslin material used to cover the 1903 Wright Flyer aircraft flown at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The 33.4mm automatic contains twenty-five jewels, has a double reverser bi-directional winding mechanism to achieve 28,800bph, a 50+ hour power reserve, a Nivarox CT balance spring and Nivaflex 1 mainspring. If none of what I just wrote means anything to you, just know that it’s a frigging beautiful and well-made watch that your significant other is going to go apeshit over. He’ll research the important stuff if he wants to. You’ve done your part. That’s all that matters.

That about ends it for this year’s gift guide, loves. Hope you enjoyed the read and hope you come back again and again.

Happy ChristmaKuhWanzaaStivus!

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What's On the Brain

A Letter to the Editor: On the Matter of Your Fiftieth Birthday

(Warning: this is not a jewelry post)

Dear Editor –

I write this letter to you today, on the fiftieth anniversary of your birth, not as a love letter, but rather as a thank you.

Today is a day I know you’ve had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, you’re still alive. I mean, not that you wouldn’t be at this age, but you and I both know that the Scorpio personality/hot streak likely put you in more death-defying situations than most. You liked to party. You liked your women. And you were the first to jump up when a fight broke out. It’s part of what makes you so wondrous. It’s part of what drew me to you in the first place.

On the other hand, you’re no longer twenty-five. But let’s face it, do you really want to be? Sure, your hair was long and Thor-like, and your shoulders could balance three Argentinian acrobats at once (p.s. I don’t want to know if that ever happened or what they looked like.) But was life really all that great back then? Would you want to go back? Would you if you could?

I will never forget the first time I introduced you to my best friend. We got together for lunch at that little creperie on Bainbridge Street. “He reminds me of Frazier Crane,” she whispered, and I knew exactly what she meant. You were a mystery to women like us. We knew and dated and married the guys who could roll off hockey stats from the previous ten years. You knew those things, but could also name every one of Giuseppe Verdi’s twenty-seven operatic works. And you were tall. And you were handsome. And you weren’t even vaguely similar to anyone who either of us had ever laid eyes upon.

So today, I’d like to take some time to thank you for what you do for me, and for what you’ve given me, and simply, for who you are to me. I’ve written fifty thank yous below to commemorate your day, but please know I could pen fifty, a hundred, or a thousand more. I hope you know just how deeply grateful I always feel for these moments of grace.

  • Thank you for handing me your business card, and for returning my email several months later, and for asking me, at some point, if I was happy. I wasn’t then, and I think you knew that.
  • Thank you for the single red rose. You know when. And you know where.
  • editorThank you for kissing me at the stoplight on the corner in The City. And for taking the cab back with me, no matter how badly it smelled.
  • Thank you for not having a Southern accent, but for very much having Southern manners.
  • Thank you for every time you stand up when I leave the table.
  • Thank you for every time you stand up when I come back.
  • Thank you for Aida.
  • Thank you for never once making me feel like a high school education wasn’t enough.
  • Thank you for liking my grays. And my wrinkles. And my laugh lines.
  • Thank you for showing me your New Orleans. Over the years it has truly become my New Orleans, too.
  • Thank you for being as punctual as I am. This is huge. It’s actually huger than huge.
  • Thank you for each episode of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Rachel Maddow Show; for every Republican/Democratic National Convention and every night of election coverage. I can’t wait to watch the next big event with you.
  • Thank you for your wine knowledge, and for growing with me as we learned more together.
  • Thank you for not being a Scotch drinker so that I know I always have the bottle to myself.
  • Thank you for agreeing to the names we named our children; I can’t imagine either of them named anything else.
  • Thank you for Germany and Austria and Switzerland and Italy and France and Belgium and wherever we go next.
  • Thank you for eating cheesesteaks with me while standing over a trash can at 2 am in the middle of a South Philly intersection.
  • Thank you for understanding that Italians really do things differently and for going with the flow even when you disliked the pizzelles.
  • Thank you for pushing me to be better at the things you know in your heart I do really well.
  • Thank you for never making me feel like what I do in this world is a joke.
  • Thank you for laughing as hard as I’ve ever seen you laugh when I finally told you I was a nuclear physicist.
  • Thank you for every prenatal vitamin you handed me because you knew I’d forget to take it on my own.
  • Thank you for flowers in my hotel room when I seriously needed flowers in my hotel room.
  • Thank you for always asking how my day is.
  • Thank you for being a guy I can throw in a tux and put in the middle of a room of five-hundred jewelry people, while never having to worry about whether you are doing okay without me.
  • Thank you for being the husband my friends now like more than they like me.
  • Thank you for every time you corrected my grammar. I know it may have pissed me off when you did it, but I’m grateful you did… trust me on that.
  • Thank you for not leaving when you probably should have.
  • Thank you for convincing me to stay when I thought about leaving.
  • Thank you for having faith in me, in all ways, for all of our days.
  • Thank you for being the Flash, Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, a Christmas tree, Perseus, and Mr. Incredible. The last of the bunch is who you truly are.
  • Thank you for every appointment reminder for every single thing that matters in our lives. You’re The Great Organizer and I don’t know how I’d do it without you.
  • Thank you for the sacrifices you make to take care of our children and me. You make a lot. I know that you do.
  • Thank you for black-tie New Year’s Eves at the symphony. They are always my favorite evenings. Let’s do it again this year.
  • Thank you for speaking more than one language. It’s fun to show you off, in more ways than one.
  • Thank you for loving books as much as I do, and for teaching our children to love them, too.
  • Thank you for being the realist when I’m off in one of my fantasy worlds. You even me out. We’re quite the balancing act.
  • Thank you for never “wasting your gum.”
  • Thank you for keeping yourself fit and healthy; our children need you around. I need you around, too.
  • Thank you for helping me stay calm through every seizure, every needle, every test, every exam, and every ounce of pain our child suffered through. I will never forget your strength in those moments.
  • Thank you for still wanting to go on lunch dates.
  • Thank you for all the times you wished me a happy monthly anniversary. I’m sorry I took those times for granted.
  • Thank you for the pride you have in who I’ve become as a writer, but more importantly, who I’ve become as a person.
  • Thank you for thinking three steps ahead.
  • Thank you for providing me, and us, with this life, and this marriage. Strange circumstances brought us together, it’s only fitting our relationship be anything but normal.
  • Thank you for maturity. I didn’t know it existed before you came along.
  • Thank you for every time you laid down your sword when all you wanted was to fight to the death.
  • Thank you for telling me I’m still pretty. At my age, as a woman, you have no idea how much it means.
  • Thank you for being a shoulder when my tears are too much for my heart to bear alone. I know I bring sadness upon myself at times. I’m happy you’re the person who understands me best.
  • Thank you, finally, for being my editor on this blog. I’m sorry I couldn’t send this to you to edit, but I think you know why, and I hope I get a pass this one and only time.

Happy fiftieth birthday to you: my partner, my confidant, my teacher, my friend, and of course… my dear, sweet husband. May it be all that you hoped it would be and a hundred times more.

You made me better. You make me better. Don’t ever, ever forget that.

-Barbara

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Girl Time: Desperately Seeking Women in the Watch World

It was my first time in Switzerland. We had taken a day trip over to the country from Lago di Como, which was the beginning leg of our sixteen-day stint across Northern Italy.

I knew my then-boyfriend wasn’t a “watch guy” but he agreed to go with me into what I remember to be a nineteenth-century clock and watch shop. It was old, and dark, and so goddamned cool. It smelled of wood and mold, having been on the shoreline of Lake Lugano for deity knows just how long.

We walked around as several suspicious Swiss eyes followed us. Ah, the Swiss. I believe that the term, “meh,” was likely coined somewhere in that country. So neutral. So indifferent. But so, SO, serious about their timepieces.

And then, it happened to him. I had no doubt it would. I had been working in the watch and jewelry industry for about five years at that point and I remember the first time it happened to me.

(Cue flashback filter a la 1980’s television sitcom)

“That’s a Vacheron Constantin” she said.

“I’m sorry, it’s a whattie-what-whattateen?” I replied.

“A VASH-ER-OHN CON-STAN-TEEN” she giggled. “My lord, woman. I need to get you around rich people more often.”

I was a lower-middle-class Italian gal from South Philly. Vagabond Florentines weren’t exactly in my repertoire. But I was working for LAGOS at the time and had gotten in tight with the watch buyer at Govberg Jewelers in Philadelphia. And if there was one place you bought your high-end watches from if you lived in or anywhere around Philly, it was Govberg.

This was not a woman’s watch I was looking at. It appeared to be about 38mm in diameter. Maybe it was smaller, but I didn’t have my gauge on me. It was heavy, and beautiful, and man, it felt expensive.

“Girl, I’m telling you, you need to learn more about watches. It’s an entirely different world than what you’re used to in jewelry.”

(Cue flashforward filter a la 1980’s television sitcom)

“My lord, what is it?” he whispered to me.

“It’s a watch,” I assholishly replied.

(Now rolling his eyes.) “I know it’s a watch, but what kind of watch? I don’t recognize the model.” he said.

“It’s a Jaeger-Le….”

Watch Women

#WOMW – What’s On My Wrist, or rather, has been on it in the past.

THAT is a Jaeger-LeCoultre” remarked Swissy McSnootiestein, descending from his very chocolate-colored, meticulously made wooden throne. “Are you familiar with Jaeger-LeCoultre?” he said, very much not to me, but rather directly to the handsome man standing on my left.

The Aries inside of me couldn’t help its vehement self.

“He isn’t, but I am, a little,” I stated. “I know that the company was started in the 1830’s as ‘LeCoultre & Cie’ and that at some point in the 1930’s the company was renamed after the Jaeger guy – a French Naval officer I believe – joined forces with them and they created the world’s thinnest movement. I know that there was a big connection to Cartier for a while, too, but there was a period of about fifty years where they didn’t go by the complete name… until the eighties, maybe? Am I right?”

Swissy held my stare for about five seconds. Not impressed, (sky is blue/Pope is Catholic/yada yada) he turned back to Todd and proceeded to school him on the importance of this particular timepiece.

Sir, this is a very special watch. You should try it on. It is a magnificent piece: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic in Rose Gold, 18K. Now, it is water resistant to fifty meters, and it is a little over 41mm in diameter which would be a perfect size for you since you’re such a tall man and I am a small, poor excuse for a human being who is incredibly meeker than you. (Okay, he didn’t really say that last line but in my mind he did.) It has a sapphire crystal, and the strap is made of crocodile. It’s a fine timepiece. You may not find this in your American watch shops.”

Todd looked at him and nodded in approval, and even though he and I had only been dating a brief while at the time, I knew that what he actually heard Swissy say was this: “Mr. American man, this watch is expensive. It sells for more than the down payment on the house that you will eventually buy with that overly-confident woman to your right. Let me repeat: it’s really, REALLY expensive. It costs more than your car, your wardrobe, and all of your electronics, combined. You are not worthy of this watch. I don’t even know why I’m showing it to you. I think I’m only letting you see it because I want for you to feel like less of a man. That will make me happy since you’re much younger and more attractive than I am. Yes. That’s right. Look at this watch that you will never afford. And believe me, if I were French, I’d have sex with your girlfriend, too. But since I am Swiss, I really don’t care to. I don’t care about much, actually. Did I mention I am Swiss?”

“Sure. I’d love to try it on” Todd said.

I knew where he was going with this.

One of the things that attracted my (eventual) husband and me to one another is that we’re damned good under pressure, both of us. If put on the spot, especially by someone in the service industry, all we need to do is give one another “the look”… It’s sort of a “do you want this one or shall I take it?” look, and on this day, we both decided we’d go in together.

“I like it, I’m just not sure I like how the strap feels.”

“Which do you think you like better? This one or the Vacheron we saw up the road? Or maybe even that Audemars?!”

“Oh, I loved that Vacheron. I mean, that was absolute perfection and fit my wrist exquisitely. But I don’t want you spending that much on me. This one seems like it is fairly less expensive.”

I could see Swissy turning the background color of his national flag, but before he could jump in I said, “Don’t be silly, babe. I can tell you don’t love it. Come on, let’s go get the other one. (Turning to Swiss Mister) “Thank you ever so much for your time. Maybe we’ll stop in when we’re back next year before heading to Monaco.” And off we went to buy our imaginary Vacheron with our imaginary tens of thousands of dollars.

What I took away from that experience was, a) Never date the Swiss and, b) No matter how much I showed I knew about watches, it was still my male partner whom the male salesperson kept in his sights. And now, more than twelve years after that initial run-in, I’ve decided to delve into the question many before me have pondered but few have publicly asked:

Why is the watch world still mostly a man’s world?

Let’s start by factually backing up the statement that the watch industry is largely a sausage fest (or in the case of the Napolean complex guys, a Vienna sausage fest) with a look at the average watch consumer: the buyer, collector, and wearer. What do the majority of the aforementioned have in common other than their love of timepieces? Well, for one, they likely have money to spend.

Women of Watches

The four watch women in my #fiftywomenofjewelry InstaSeries.

A 2014 report by Lisa Keister at Duke University’s Department of Sociology showed that just under 98% of the country’s top 1% of earners were male. Women only make up 11% of Fortune 500 CFO’s, and we all know about that magic 79% wage gap number, now, don’t we? Yet while women have for years been accused of being shopaholics (and rightfully so) the tide is shifting when it comes to luxury items. In 2013, for the first time in China, their male population outspent the females when it came to buying luxury goods, spending 52% more than women spent on watches, according to an article posted on MarketingtoChina.com. And if numbers and facts make your head hurt (I’ll refrain from inserting Donald Trump jokes here, but I know you know what I mean) you needn’t look much further than any middle-aged-man-with-a-love-for-mechanical-things’ Instagram feed to see how many dudes really cherish them some wrist clocks. (Raise your hand if you love colloquialism!)

Let’s experiment a little, shall we? Let’s head on over to the ‘gram, right now, together. Click your search icon, and key in, “#WOMW.” Now, GO.

At the time I wrote this paragraph, 372,084 Instagram posts popped up with that hashtag. I had to scroll through sixty-nine posts of watches on the wrists of men before I got to the @ferniezap (Fernanda Zapata) image of her wrist wearing a Martenero New York watch to accompany her uber-cute black-and-white fall sweater. That averages out to under a 1.5% ratio in case you were wondering. And in making the previous statement I made about Fernanda’s clothing, I’m also posing an additional sub-question: are women just more interested in things other than timepieces?

I write mostly about jewelry, and people in the jewelry industry. For the record, this is only the second post I’ve written solely about watches and the watch industry since I started this blog in August of 2013. But it isn’t because I didn’t care about watches or didn’t want to talk about watches. I frequent the popular watch blogs, follow all of the major watch websites, and stalk read most of the famous/infamous watch editors. But even amongst them, female faces are few. Roberta Naas – the founder/editor-in-chief of ATimelyPerspective.com – was the first female watch editor in the U.S. market, and is still largely the only female face I see in pictures that include groups of watch editors scaling glaciers in Greenland, dogsledding across Alaska, paragliding while blindfolded, or jumping off of sixty-foot cliffs on behalf of Breguet, Bremont, and others. But, WHY? It can’t be because women don’t like adventure. I, for one, love adventure. When Gandalf went looking for Bilbo, he was originally looking for Barbara Palumbo (if you say it really quickly it sounds a lot like “Bilbo,” trust me. But you have to say it, like, super-fast, while drinking scotch.) So why are there not more Robertas out there? Or more Hyla Bauers? Or even Cara Barretts? And what about the prominent positions within the major watch companies? See many women in those? Off of the top of my head I can recall Mercedes Abramo of Cartier North America, Aletta Stas-Bax of Frédérique Constant, and Stacie Orloff of Bell & Ross, but how many more exist? Out of the eighteen North American brand presidents at Richemont, seventeen of them are men. One woman. Una. That’s it. Again, though… why?

WJA AFE

With Michelle Peranteau of Baume et Mercier, nominee at the 2015 WJA Awards for Excellence in the watch category. Photo by Bart Gorin.

The answer could partially be this: watches are machines, and machines require engineers, and well, there’s a huge gender gap there, too. According to Joanne McGrath Cohoon, an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Virginia, only about 18-20% of engineering students were women as of 2012. And while that figure is up drastically from the early 1980’s when fewer than 6% of engineering students were women, this fact could also shed some light as to why there are far fewer women than men who are interested in watches and watch careers.

The cold, hard truth is that the gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs is widely known and has been researched, greatly. There are many who claim that a lack of female engineering role models is largely to blame for more women not pursuing careers in that field, but in that respect the same could be said for the science (or is it, art?) of horology. Although, hell, why not change it up from a retailer level, too? Ever walk into a brick and mortar store that sold both fine jewelry as well as fine timepieces? If the answer is no, then here’s another experiment for you… do so, and first ask to speak to their David Yurman specialist. Once you’re finished speaking with HER, ask to see their Rolex specialist, then tell me how the conversation went with HIM. It’s not an exact science, but you get what I’m saying, here. The industry could and should do more to allow women the opportunities that their male counterparts have had for years. And to not wag fingers at men only, more women should insist that they are interested in something substantial in terms of inner workings and complications rather than being content with having to be the staff member who shows the customer how pretty a sterling silver piece looks from the outside once it’s completed.

I would love to say that having more women in the watch field is a work in progress, even if I don’t see that work happening on a day-to-day basis. But, I’m also not at the watch shows, nor do I attend Basel, nor do I jump out of airplanes with the crew from Breitling. Not that I wouldn’t, mind you (pssst… Breitling… call me.) But I will say this: it would be nice, if the next time I do a series on the Fifty Women of Jewelry (ask around), I could have more than four female faces in the group who are from the watch circuit.

And maybe… just maybe… many years down the road when someone else writes a piece on industry women, they will ask why there aren’t more watch writers like me.

Just sayin’. You never, never know.

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