Humor, life, mindset, sexuality, Women

How to Be Effortlessly Cool

Ode to the women who make it look easy

by Jennifer M. Wilson

This is a total bait and switch title. Did you think I was going to teach you how to be “effortlessly cool”? Hell no! I have no fucking clue how to be hip! Do cool people still say “hip”? 

I wish I were the type of woman who woke up, tossed on a vintage Ramones t-shirt (I don’t think I’ve ever even heard a song by them, that’s how uncool I am), some ripped skinny jeans and…crap I don’t know what shoes would go with that outfit without looking like I tried too hard.

I want to be the woman who just looks cool and fashionable without even trying. When the outfit looks flawless, everything seems to come together.

How do you define those women who look fabulous no matter what they wear? It’s like their clothes are a tribute to their essence and their soul. A woman who looks spectacular in a business suit might look ridiculous in the same summer romper worn perfectly on another.

For me to look good, it takes effort. I can look fantastic in that business suit too, but it won’t feel comfortable on me; it’ll feel like a costume. When I wear my “standard uniform” of skinny jeans and a weird t-shirt (usually made myself because I’m a crafting nerd with a Cricut), I don’t look “effortlessly chic”. I look homeless.

So if wearing what is comfortable doesn’t inherently make a person stylish, but dressing up doesn’t make them fashionable either…what is the special sauce for those that make it look so easy and perfect?

High school is one place you never want to stand out. At least, that was the case in the 1990s. This was the era of In Living Color, when J Lo was an unknown backup dancer. Baggy oversized sweatshirts. Overalls. Air Jordans. One girl in my school followed the beat of her own drum.

I jumped to my yearbook to remember her name. I’m looking through mobs of grainy black and white pictures (my GOD kids today are lucky Photoshop exists), figuring I probably wouldn’t recognize her. Nope. BOOM. Her gorgeous smile and bouncy blond curls popped out of the page.

Her name was Sarah.

She wore hippie-style outfits. Lots of peace signs and cartoon-y flowers. Nothing like our faux hip hop clothes. In our final year of high school, she decided she wouldn’t shave her legs. Did I mention that we had a Best Legs Competition? (yeah, that’s a little inappropriate in hindsight)

Of course, Sarah won. She had legs for miles and could pull off crazy knee-high socks with bright patterns.

Anyone else straying from the teen norm and growing leg hair would be a high school pariah. Not Sarah. She didn’t give a shit. She wore shorts and skirts. It wasn’t attention-seeking; she simply didn’t care. The rest of us girls were awestruck.

Is that the definition of being “effortlessly chic”?

I would look like a clown in Sarah’s outfits. But on her, it was like she walked out of an Abercrombie for Hippies catalog. Is the key that it’s something that feels natural to who you are? Not “comfortable” like my lazy jeans and t-shirt look. But “natural”, like comfortable to the wearer but spiced up a bit.

That might be the secret.

Purging her closet to embrace minimalism, a friend of mine gave me a bag full of clothes. She works in the entertainment industry so I trust her taste in fashion better than I do my own.

While there were things I didn’t keep, I held onto a fitted orange corduroy blazer. It sounds hideous, right? I kept it for years when one day, while heading out the door wearing the usual jeans and t-shirt uniform, I grabbed it on a whim. Surprisingly, it fit me perfectly. This jacket fits as if tailored custom for me.

As I walked around work that day, I received dozens of compliments on the jacket. Even a few male employees risked HR suspension by saying, “Wow…that color on you…you look great!” and “You look really good today.”

Had I unknowingly mastered “effortlessly chic” without knowing it?

Perhaps I’ve cracked the code: The key to looking effortlessly chic isn’t wearing comfortable clothes. It isn’t wearing clothes that are too dressed up for your style. It’s the intersection of your go-to outfits with pieces outside of your typical comfort zone. Not so much that you feel self-conscious; just enough to feel like you mixed it up a little outside of your norm.

What that in mind, scroll up to the picture at the top. Unsplash Photo Woman may be used to leather and high boots, but maybe wearing animal print isn’t her jam — Boom.

Effortlessly chic. Nailed it.

About Jennifer M. Wilson

From Medium: My midlife crisis and adventures along the way. I write because in real life my humor is allegedly too sarcastic and inappropriate.

Read more of Jennifer’s work on Medium:

This post was also published by Living Out Loud on Medium.

Humor, Introverts, relationships, Uncategorized

The One Thing You Need to Know About Every Introvert

Besides not taking our need for alone time personally

The death of someone close to you can be such a redefining moment in life. Particularly for those who define themselves in terms of their relationships, as was the case for my mother. She was a wife to her husband for over thirty years and prescribed herself to that identity — everything about her life was essentially about him. For me, the co-dependent dynamics between them meant very limited time alone with her. As an introvert, the situation suited me just fine.

The thought of spending every other waking hour with either of my parents again is enough to cramp my stomach, and not because they are horrible parents. I just enjoy my life without them in my back pocket. Shoot me if that sounds harsh. I still love them to the extreme.

Things changed when my stepfather died in early 2018. Big time. His death meant that my mother had to learn to be in a world without him. It also meant that she suddenly had a lot more free time on her hands.

You know where this is going.

As well as that for the first time ever, mum had to learn how to pump her own fuel, pay her own bills and handle other aspects of finance. She has figured out how to interact with corporate people, negotiate deals and assert herself in the world. Mostly, she’s been forced to sift through her many layers and discover who she is without her husband.

We can’t run from ourselves forever, right?

Hmm…Maybe some of us can.

My mother is not into being alone. I am.

I spend hours at a time without interacting with people and I am happy doing just that. Introspection is my thing — almost to a fault.

This might sound weird to extroverted people like my mum, but I love thinking, reflecting and delving into the deepest zones of my mind. And I often lose myself in a world of my own making; analyzing, daydreaming, over-thinking situations and playing futuristic conversations and scenes in my head.

Talking to the stars even…

Ah, cerebral heaven. Is it wrong that I would rather spend my time in this reflection mode than to engage in meaningless, no-point conversations?

This is something else my mother has had to learn since she’s been on her own — she has had to learn about introverted-adult me.

This from Lifehack:

“There are several popular misconceptions surrounding introversion and extroversion. And because of this, introverts, in particular, are often misunderstood. They are often branded as shy, aloof, and even antisocial. While extroverts are described as bubbly, friendly, charismatic, and fun.”

Okay, I admit that my preference to living in my own head might sound a little aloof or unfriendly, but it’s really not. It comes down to need and sanity. I need space — lots of space. It’s the way that I process the world, my life and feelings.

Now that we spend more time together, my mother struggles to understand this about me. The fact is that I require solitary time in order to recharge, while she gets her energy from being around people.

Another fact: If I’m denied this reflection time for extended periods, I tend to get irritable and edgy. Maybe even a little grouchy.

More from Lifehack:

“In social situations, the extroverted brain is stimulated. It views social interaction as rewarding and responds as such. The thought of positive social interaction floods the brain with dopamine and drives the extrovert towards interaction as it is seeking to be rewarded.”

My mother likes to talk … a lot.To the point that it drives me crazy and then begins to deplete my energy. She likes to tell me about people — what they’re doing, where they’re going and snippets of their conversations.

Suffering, that’s what that is. I don’t want to know why so-and-so is going to Timbuktu and how the old buddy is getting the whatchamacallit. In the politest sense possible, I don’t give a fuck.

But I digress, it’s not that I don’t care about my mother and her life, I do. It’s just that I am wired differently. Like, introvert-majorly differently.

Lifehack, continued:

“The pleasure center of an introvert brain functions the same way — but with one very distinct difference. Extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network than introverts — meaning extroverts need more dopamine to feel pleasure. When dopamine floods the introvert brain, introverts do experience the feeling of excitement but it is accompanied by the feeling of being overwhelmed.”

It’s worth noting that compared to the more outgoing among us, we quieter folk are usually much less motivated and energized by “adult” rewards like money, social status and social affiliation.

We just don’t care.

It’s as if extroverts see big, juicy steaks everywhere, while to introverts, it’s mostly overcooked hamburgers. We don’t need the glitzy perks or high social status to be fulfilled — we just need what’s close to our hearts, whatever that looks like.

It gets worse. Well, from an introvert’s perspective.

My mum wants to know stuff that I know too. About people. A few days ago, she asked about a friend of mine who is planning to move farther north. He and his wife are considering an island life.

Mother took it upon herself to have a rant about this decision — farther north means cyclonic weather. Island life means …. erm …. the probability of encountering unsavory-type people.


I didn’t understand why she would bother wasting brainpower on other people’s life choices; she really meant that shit. I was utterly baffled.

Then came the question:

“Which island?”

Which island? Was she serious? Does she not know me?

I responded with a shrug and the truth.

“I don’t know; my brain doesn’t retain that information, mum.”

“In other words, you don’t give a fuck?”

Ding, ding! Now we’re getting somewhere. She really said that by the way. I might just be elegantly corrupting her a smidge.

Elegantly. There’s a word. It just rolls off your tongue, does it not?

We introverts like words and small talk drives us elegantly crazy in a not-so tastefully refined way.

Deeper conversations are the place where we shine like the stars we so often ponder. Julie Lombard nails it when she says:

“The general small talk chit-chat grates on my nerves ― I don’t like it and feel awkward trying to engage in it. However, discussions on more meaningful topics truly catch my interest and I can ramble on and on or listen at length with keen interest.”

Every now and then, I find myself reminding my mother that we don’t actually always need to talk. Not in a mean way, but in a “being” way.

The greatest intimacy between two people is found in comfortable silence.

That’s my take, anyway. To just “be” and share space with the people I love. There really is something in those moments when you become attuned to and connected with someone special in silence.

Anyway, my mother is still not comfortable with silence, but she is learning to redefine her understanding of what constitutes the one thing that every introvert on earth knows deep in their soul:

Sometimes silence is golden.

Also published by Living Out Loud on Medium

Humor, relationships, Romance

Dear Men: Your Beard May Become its Own Love-Destiny

Let’s clear this up once and for all — beards are sexy. And frankly, it is a damn shame to a see a man who is capable of growing a nice spread of facial hair forgo his God-given stubbly gifts to the razor.

But there is a catch — I’m not just talking about any kind of beards. Certainly not the unruly, extra-long variety that conjure disturbing thoughts of what might be breeding among the wiry tangle. No.

Lord, no.

The kind of beard I’m hitting on is the simple but effective full-trimmed beard or the gorgeously heavy stubble. Either will do just fine. In fact, a write-up at states “that a neatly trimmed full beard tops the list of things a man can grow on his face by virtue of the fact that it shows he has the patience to grow a beard and the wherewithal to keep it neat and tidy.”

Appealing. Sexy. Attractive.

Beards are much more than just a fashion statement or the ever-contentious subject in the domain of male grooming practices. From Grizzly Adams to scruffy day-old stubble, they are essentially a manifestation of a man’s masculinity and imbued with social messages.

I have been asking around; getting the facial-hair low-down with some of my lady friends. Turns out, I’m not the only woman who cheers and celebrates the heavily stubbled jawlines of our male counterparts. There are others; many others. Women everywhere find beards incredibly tempting and as it happens, studies report that beards can play a significant role in a man’s love life.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia gathered data from 8,520 women and concluded that: “Overall, the women said the sexiest men were those sporting heavy stubble, followed by short stubble. Men with full beards and clean-shaven men were rated the lowest on the overall sexiness scale.”

Hmm … sexiness scale. I like it.

The heavy stubble or well-trimmed beard has been said to make a man appear confident and approachable, too.

A quick pause and worth reiterating: Do not confuse the alluring, well-trimmed beard with the scruffy snack holder where you store crumbs and other food morsels that it happens to catch. You know, the full-blown beards that might tempt you to decorate with seasonal ornaments come Christmas time.

Please don’t do that.

And please consider removing the porn-stache if that’s your thing, too. Think John Holmes and then think again. The early pornographic actor’s life may have been measured in inches but in this case, the inches work against you.

I mentioned as much to a brief love-interest of mine when I had first started seeing him some years ago. I know, it sounds a bit … erm … mean, but he was really out of touch with the what-goes of facial hairdom, and he wasn’t nearly over 50.

Brief pause: Dear men, if you’re over 50 you have earned the right to do whatever you like with your facial hair, with the exception of a soul patch (the small tuff of hair between the lower lip and chin) and the goat patch (extended version of the soul patch).

Anyway, love-interest quickly took to the razor and emerged from the bathroom with an upper-lip that resembled a freshly plucked chicken. Porn-stache was gone but something was terribly off … the clean-shaven look just didn’t suit him. Nor did he feel comfortable minus the lip rug. So, he embarked on growing and maintaining a nice heavy stubble.

And it was sexy.

It’s not just women who prefer bearded alpha males — men also prefer men with facial hair. The same study revealed that “men feel more masculine by growing a beard — had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.”

Another pause to contemplate a few cool bearded men: Hello, John Lennon. ZZ Top. Gandalf. Jason Momoa. Brad Pitt and … Santa.

The authors of the study theorize that for women who are looking for a long-term mate, beardedness may be more attractive as it “indicates a male’s ability to compete for resources.”

Many women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness, finding men with facial hair to be attractive and dominant, both socially and physically. The beard enhances these traits in men and is a strong representation of masculine energy.

Kind of like the Yin and Yang dynamic between the sexes.

Most people know or have at least heard of Yin and Yang. Yang is masculine and Yin feminine. Everything contains Yin and Yang energies, including each of us. They are two opposite yet complimentary energies.

The ancient Taoists believed that every relationship is a complex balancing act, namely balancing Yin and Yang.

Furthermore, Yin is what makes you want to receive sexual energy from another person and Yang is what makes you want to initiate sex with your partner. This suggests the underlying primal need for women to be naturally drawn toward bearded men; to balance her femininity, if you will.

And there may lie a man’s love-destiny and self-fulfilling prophecy — in the lovely folds of a well-groomed beard.

Having said that, I am starkly aware that some men have difficulties growing facial hair, or just plain prefer the clean-shaven look. As does some women. All of which is totally fine. So long as there are fewer neckbeards and Fu Manchu in the world, we’re all winning.

Originally published by The Good Men Project in Hello, Love on Medium.