Our Name is... Advice-ander Hamil-dames?

Hello, Subscribers Who Were Devastated When This Week In Hamilton Came to a Close!
In honor of the musical's 
smashing success at the Tony's, we're opening the letter with a Hamilton round-up this week! UNSURPRISINGLY, a lot of great things have happened in our hiatus, and we're only going to be able to touch on a few of them!


Welcome to Our First ASK TWO BOSSY DAMES Spectacular! 

It Us. Only Your Dames >>>> Fraiser.


We have been getting so many great questions over at ourAsk Two Bossy Dames formthat we have decided to dedicate the whole rest of this issue to answering your questions, with a little help from some of our friends! LET OUR WISDOM RAIN DOWN UPON YOU, and please submit more questions!! 


Dames: I have felt lately like many forces in the universe have been conspiring to tell me that now is the time for me to finally get over myself and my many lingering fears and try therapy for the first time. TL;DR and all but I've got some Stuff from both my distant and my more recent past that I don't think I've done a great job processing and some current feels that could probably use closer examination. ANYway, I tentatively feel like I'm ready but actually starting the practical process feels completely overwhelming. I have no idea whether either of you have personal experience with this or any advice at the ready for this situation, but I could use some wisdom. How do I go about finding out what resources are out there and what might work for me, and how do I talk to people in my life about these things? (Slash SHOULD I even talk to people about it, or is that just weird for everyone involved?) I totes see that proviso about you guys not giving medical advice, but I'm really just asking for some Dames-inflected inspirational guidelines for tackling a new anxiety-ridden grown-up challenge...that just happens to be my mental health. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful consideration.

This is a lie. But also one to which Dame Margaret is gennnnntley addicted. Which is why we've brought in some Wiser Friends to help answer this one.

Hottie Christina: Hi there hello there!  The Unfriendly Black Hotties are here to pinch hit for The Dames on this one!

First of all- take a deep breath. You did one of the hardest parts! You admitted that you need a little help tackling All Of This Stuff, which can be hard and scary to say out loud. Life is complicated and sometimes it feels like you are stuck on a fault line, feeling the earth shift around you but without the ability to pick up your feet and move to safety.

Finding a good therapist typically runs the gamut of “challenging” to “extremely challenging.” The best place to start is always with your insurance provider, most of which will have an online network of folks who accept your insurance. If you are in a sizable city you might see thousands of options, a smaller town will have fewer options. You’ll need to whittle this list down to a not scary size-- pick maybe five or six people for you to reach out to initially. Some things to keep in mind while searching:

  • Identity: How important is it to you that your therapist look like you? Identity plays a big part in how we move through and experience the world- some folks find it easier to open up to a person who understands the things they deal with on a daily basis, be that via a lens of race/gender/sexuality or all three.

  • Location: This was super important to me- I knew if I had to take three buses and a train, no matter how much I liked my therapist, I wasn’t going to make it if it was raining or cold. Think about when you are planning on seeing this person too, maybe finding someone closer to work is better, or maybe someone who is near your home is easier.

  • Timing: Think about when you’d like to meet with someone, and when you have the time to. Most therapists offer evening hours, but it is possible you’d have to take time out of the work day. Try to be realistic with how flexible your time is and really think about when you’d be most likely to go and have productive conversation.

Now you have a list! Hopefully! Personally, I got to the “Making A List” stage a bunch and then chickened out on the hard part-- actually calling and emailing all of these people and setting up times to meet. [Editor's note: This is where Dame Margaret is at currently, and where she has been for like.... 18 months. THIS PROCESS IS HARD. And we're lucky to have the Hotties to guide us ALL through it.] NowHottie Kamillehas more practical advice cause that’s the kinda gal she is. 

Hottie Kamille:Because there are sooooo many providers to choose from, it helps to be ruthless with your standards. The things that mattered to me were: proximity to work/home, gender, and familiarity with my particular kinds of anxiety. I didn't bother with therapists that didn't meet my requirements in those areas. Oh, you know a ton about OCD and eating disorders, but you’re a man? HARD PASS, BRUH. Be uncompromising at the outset; you’ll be happier in the long run.

As you come across therapists that seem like good fits, track them in a way that makes sense to you. Por ejemplo, I found it helpful to make a little spreadsheet. I had columns for contact info, location, ethnicity, and when I got in touch with them. Making phone calls felt impossible, so I sent brief emails that followed a template:

“Dear [Dr. Do-A-Lot],

My name is [Blue Ivy Carter], and I'm interested in beginning therapy. I'm having some trouble [deciding what to wear in my mom’s next music video] and [determining which brand of organic apple juice is best]. I see that you have some experience with these kinds of issues, so I thought I’d reach out. Would you be available for an initial conversation [on a day that is convenient to me and my incredibly busy yachting schedule]? Please let me know if other information would be helpful at this stage.

Best,
Blue”

If you're struggling to make it down your list of possible therapists, try setting a goal. I aimed to send one or two emails a week, until I had three appointments scheduled. That first message is a tough one; be gentle with yourself! And don't fret. It gets a lot easier after that first silo. You'll have promising sessions on the books before you know it.

Once you start meeting therapists, the more intense work begins. ...I know, love. It's a lot. But those first few meetings are really key. Sure, a therapist may (1) take your insurance, (2) be conveniently located, and (3) share your identity, but that doesn't necessarily make them the right therapist for you. Finding a mental health provider is a lot like dating: chemistry matters, and it is sometimes infuriatingly inexplicable.

In your first meeting, try to be radically honest with both yourself and your maybe-therapist. Remember that list of needs you came up with? Refer to it during your conversation! This will help both you and the provider. If you get a weird vibe from a therapist, or they do/say something that makes you uncomfortable, you have permission to never see them again. Don't forget: this process is about you. If a therapist is putting you off in the very first session, it's safe to assume that it will be hard for you to trust them in the long-term. Because you will have already done all this time-consuming legwork, walking away from a not-for-you therapist will feel like defeat. But it isn't! It’s an important step towards the right one. When in doubt, just channel your inner Nicki Minaj: accept no (therapeutic) pickle juice.

HC: Before I officially sign off, I do want to touch on your hesitations around talking to people in your life about therapy. My advice is: do what feels right! I talk about my therapist often, possibly too much, possibly like a thrice divorced lady who lunches and whiles away hours at Henri Bendel. Some folks don’t! That’s fine. If you think your friends wouldn’t be kind or understanding about it, get new friends

HK: OMGoddess please dump them, that’s Hot Alley Trash™.

HC: There is nothing wrong with talking to someone about the things you are going through. You are under no obligation to disclose that you are seeing a therapist, but if you do, the people in your life are absolutely under an obligation to be supportive and understanding. Good luck love, you won’t regret this.

You will almost certainly end up with a therapeutic professional who's waaaaay better than the one in this gif!


Dear Bossy Dames,

I used to think of myself as a creative person. Then I ended up in a field where I consume other people's awesome creative output all day, and in a city whose main industry is Big Smart Ideas. Now I'm stuck feeling like I need Big Smart Ideas and Awesome Creativity to be worthwhile, but at the same time I'm paralyzed by the fact that my crappy little initial efforts aren't going to be as great as the work I see around me every day. What's the point of putting a lot of work into something crummy? As ladies who also consume culture professionally, how do you keep that from paralyzing your own creativity? Thanks for your ever-awesome newsletter!

Welcome to our chocolate factory! We promise not to let you drown!
 

First of all, thank you for reading & enjoying these pixel pages each week! We appreciate you!

Let’s address the first part of your question, about what you’re calling “crappy little initial efforts”: it’s very freeing to realize that nobody is ever doing anything entirely new. Any great insights or inspirations that we have will definitely have occurred to at least one other person before it pops into our brains. Culture is always building on itself, rummaging through the remnants of what came before, mixing & matching and making something new by contributing something of their own to lots of old stuff.

Case in point: this very newsletter. We’ve shouted out our influences before, but we can never heap too much praise on the brilliant heads of the following people who, through their projects, made us think, “hey, we could do something really great, too!” They include: Ann FriedmanBim AdewunmiPop Culture Happy HourTaffy AknerThe Fug GirlsThe Toast (soon to be of blessed memory) (don’t worry, we are writing a Festchrift for our July 1 issue), Ann Landers, her twin, Dear AbbyMiss MannersDear Prudence,... LITERALLY everyone else who’s ever written an advice column, and probably COUNTLESS OTHERS.

We are not competition for these people. We are their colleagues. Their work informs ours, and (we flatter ourselves slightly), one day ours will inform theirs. There’s room for all of this and way more besides! Whatever your field of endeavor is, you’re practicing it right alongside of a bunch of other people, and yeah, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but we bet you could do a bang-up job refining its design and rebalancing it.

Take, for example, our recent Bossy Take on Lady Rage. Just one week later, Roxane Gay published a very thoughtful opinion piece in the New York Timesalso on experiencing anger while female. Had her piece had been published first, it would have been easy for us to say “Well, what the hell can WE say that Roxane Gay hasn’t already?” But one of the things about #NormalizeLadyRage is that a multiplicity of voices, saying the same but different things, is actually one of the best ways to really effect change on this issue. We think the same is true of a lot of topics. The more, the merrier (and in this case, angrier)!

Where your perspective overlaps with someone else's, you are providing support and validation to that person, whether they perceive it directly or not. Where your perspective diverges, you are providing a refinement of the point, or giving it wider applicability. Try to imagine yourself as one instrument in an orchestra, doing what you have in your power to articulate the symphony of a creative life, instead of imagining the creative world as a flock of soloists all playing at once, trying desperately to be the only one anyone hears.

So if you wanna be startin’ something (in a creative way, not a Sharks vs. Jetsway), our best advice is to JUST DO IT. Here’s some more practical advice to pump you up:

  • Get yourself a partner! This one in particular has been SO NECESSARY for Dame Margaret, who has verrrry little internal capacity for self-directed activity and cripplingly high expectations of HOW GREAT she ought to be all the time. Having a partner, whether your endeavor is fully shared (the way Two Bossy Dames is) or whether they are just someone you can talk to while you pursue independent creative work in tandem, is so valuable. It gives you someone to be accountable to, it gives you a necessary sense of perspective on the worth of what you're accomplishing, and it makes creating-- which can be very lonely-- a lot more companionable.

  • It’s ok to be crap at first. Have you ever read The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron? It’s a little bit ~woo~ but it’s also really useful, and she’s 10000000% correct when she says that anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly at first. You’ll get better! As Ira Glass memorably said, people who are motivated to do creative work frequently have great taste, and have to struggle through many years where they can see that the work they're producing does not satisfy their excellence of their taste. But no one is great when they're just beginning. So you have to balance things: let your excellent taste drive your ambition, but be generous with yourself, and be a beginner for a bit.

  • Resolve not to care. By all means, BE INVESTED. There’s no point in doing something if you don’t think it MATTERS. But come prepared to give zero bothers to give about unproductive feedback. There will be people who send dumb, nasty remarks your way if you're making art in a public space. Those people don’t care. People who are invested will give you thoughtful feedback you can use to improve what you’re doing. They will be people who convey to you, even in criticism, a wider sense of your work and its goals. But there will also be snipey jerks and you should prepare yourself in advance to show them right out. This is another place where having a great creative partner makes a huge difference: the number of vexation ledges Your Dames have talked each down from is too high to be counted.

  • Give yourself deadlines. They’ll keep you accountable and on track. Of course, they have to be realistic for them to work - don’t get in your own way with dates and expectations that conflict with major life stuff that deserves to be a higher priority. If you’re starting something recurring or serialized, make sure you have a publishing schedule that will actually work for you, and give yourself permission to revisit that publishing schedule as needed.  

  • Dream big, start small. You should see the faintly laughable list of grandiose long-term goals Dame Sophie has created for us! Those big picture ideas often yield smaller scale, manageable alternatives as stretch goals for the nascent TBD publishing empire.

  • Know when to change it up. We love writing this newsletter and it’s a great outlet & platform for us. But we also recognized that we can’t write it every week, unremunerated, and we don’t want it to be the same every week, so we launched a Patreon campaign and developed a loose monthly framework that includes guest editors.  

But mostly, you just have to listen to the tiny potato from Emily's Diary:


A friend of mine has a tendency to ramble. Her updates about life, job, etc are filled with all the details and asides about every person in it. The 15-20 minute sagas are intense. How can I tell her to get to the point? I care about her and what's going on in her life, but not about the handfuls of side actors and all their info!

Not a gif, but too perfect an encapsulation of this problem to possibly resist.


True story from Dame Margaret here: When I saw that Dame Sophie had placed this in our weekly docket to answer, I left a comment that read “DO YOU KNOW HOW TO FIX THIS???? BECAUSE IF YOU DO, PLEASE TELL ME!!!” For one golden and shining moment, I thought that she, in her infinite wisdom, knew some magic way you could correct your friends’ annoying but basically harmless bad habits without hurting their feelings, engaging in conflict, or in any other way putting a strain on the bond between you. I thought maybe, just maybe, I was moments away from NEVER AGAIN having to sit through a dear friend’s extremely long and poorly told story. Then Dame Sophie replied “Mostly, you just have to suck this up.”

And I sighed. And I knew it to be true. Because, here’s the thing: friendship is elective. It is the practice of taking people as they are and deciding that, on average, you like their company more often than you don’t. And while nearly every other kind of relationship either starts out binding (family) or is designed become binding or dissolve completely (romances as they are commonly--though not exclusively!-- practiced), friendships stay elective. Even the friends that you’ve had so long that they feel like family, are still relationships that you have to choose to be in every single day. In some ways, that’s what gives scope for such meaningful affirmation in friendships: you’re together because you’ve chosen to be, not because you share a bank account or genetic material. But it also means that, of all the relationships, it’s the type that leaves the least space for unsolicited feedback. I can indulge myself by critiquing my mom’s storytelling abilities (“Stop making your sentences like Russian nesting dolls, mommmmmm, and just finish. One. Thought.”) because I know that I have to be more than merely BRATTY to truly endanger that relationship, and vice-versa. [Editor’s note: MOM, IF YOU READ THIS, I PROMISE THOUGH I AM TRYING NOT TO TAKE YOU FOR GRANTED.]  If I regularly did such a thing to a friend, though, or they did such a thing to me… I don’t know how much longer I would elect to stay friends with them.

That does not mean you have no options. But it does mean that, until she says “Hey, do you have any advice on how I could be a better storyteller?”, your options are limited.  You probably have to keep your aesthetic critiques of her narrative style to yourself, but you can be direct about your needs. Before you start a conversation with her, check in with yourself. Is today a day you’ve got the resources to just let her be her lovable, but imperfect self? Then great. Buckle in for a ramble and glean what fun you can from it. If, on the other hand, it’s a day when you’re not feeling as generous, then just say that up front. “Hey, I have about 5 minutes of good listening in me today, but I really want to know what’s up” is a perfectly fine thing to be TRUE of you, and a perfectly fine truth to share with your friend. As long as you don’t make your capacity about her shortcomings (“I’d have the ability to be a good listener if YOU were a better storyteller!”), then hopefully she, as a good friend, will do her best to meet you where you’re at. And that’s the crux of friendship: it’s a space where you feel safe enough to be frank about your shortcomings, and a space where you exert yourself to love and support your friends despite theirs. If this rambling is grating on you not merely because it’s aesthetically aggravating, but also because it feels symptomatic of a larger imbalance in the relationship, it might be time to think carefully about whether this friendship is one you want to keep choosing to have. But otherwise? As the wise and beautiful Dame Sophie said, you mostly have to suck it up.

I, too, wish there was a silver bullet. But if neither Sophie nor I have found it yet, I am inclined to think this is the best advice there is. But I do earnestly find it helpful to remember I'm making a choice to be with that person. It can be easy to feel like you have no other options but, especially with friendships, you always do. If you can anchor yourself in the knowledge that you would always elect to choose this friendship, even if it meant sitting through a lifetime of ambling 27-minute personal sagas, then it can make sitting through those sagas feel like an active choice of love, and not merely your only choice
 

 


Hello darlings. Having eschewed various pampering and beauty treatments in my youth (Because grunge was the style and no one was fancy? Because I was impoverished? History does not tell.) I am now an adult who does little for her look. Basic make-up, fine. I can even do a decent cat's eye. But I'm fairly ignorant about the fun side of girly self-care. What's fun to try? Where to start? What's cheap?

Real-time footage of Your Dames


Yay! Pampering on the cheap (and sometimes on the not-so-cheap) is one of Dame Sophie’s favorite things of all time. I’ll dive right in with a disclosure about my skin type, because your skin type is a major factor in what will work for you. I have well-preserved middle-aged oily & acne-prone skin (yes, still! Such fun! I tell myself that I’ll look 60 when I’m 80). My skin isn’t very sensitive, and I don’t have any allergies.

 

First, some shopping tips:

  • Drugstores & major chains are your best friends. They have good selection at a wide variety of price points, and if you keep an eye out for sales and specials, you can treat yourself without breaking the bank.

  • If you have a friend with a similar skin type, find out if they’re willing to split the cost of a swankier product you both love. Just make sure you have a tiny tupperware or something to decant your half into.

  • Samples Samples Samples! if you’re going to buy something from places like Kiehl’s or Sephora anyway, they’ll offer you 3 samples with each order. These are always sized just large enough to get a sense of whether or not a product is right for you, and are especially handy for travel. Also, if you're close enough to visit a Sephora in person, their sales staff can be HUGELY obliging about samples. It's considerate to be making a purchase, but-- in addition-- say "I am looking for something to do _______ to my skin. Do you have any samples I could try out for that?" and you'll be amazed what they will provide.

To get you started, here are some things I’ve been loving lately:

One-shot facial masks: I like both the goopy ones (Avocado! Oatmeal & honey! Carrot extracts! My face smells delicious & is so smooooth!) and sheet masks. Probably my all-time favorites are I find these at my local CVS and Target, and they’re all in the $2-$4 price range. Some popular ones are sold in packages of 5, so if you find one you really love, you can stock up and save. I like the Beauty 360, Freeman & St. Ives ones, though I did recently splash out with a Boscia mask. I’ll keep you posted!

Eye treatments: As a busy career-and-family gal with seasonal allergies and chronic sleep problems, the last thing I need is someone helpfully informing me that I look tired. Girl, I know. I am. Here’s what I’ve learned about these goops & unguents: it doesn’t matter at all what I use, so long as I use something. Even the slightest bit of hydrating goo, gently patted on, works its magic in less than 5 minutes, and makes me look de-puffed & reasonably well-rested. I’m completely brand-agnostic about this - I have fancy ones and cheap ones and they truly are all much of a muchness.

Sugar scrubs: You can use gentle chemicals to nudge along cell turnover, especially on your face, but on arms & legs, nothing beats a moisturizing sugar scrub. My current favorite is another I found at my CVS, Shea Moisture Hand & Body Scrub. It comes in a bunch of different scents; I love the coconut and hibiscus version.

Laneige products: Like many other North American ladies, I’m newly into the South Korean beauty trend. I picked up this Laneige Brightening Kit at my local Target a few weeks ago & am loving the Water Sleeping Mask and Multi Cleanser, in particular. The samples are all deluxe sizes and are long-lasting. Other widely available Korean beauty brands include Mizon, Tonymoly, and MISSHA. I have not yet tried any products including snail essence or bee venom, but let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time. SokoGlam offers a bunch of lines not available elsewhere, too, with reasonable shipping.

Happy pampering! PLEASE find us on Twitter and let us know what your favorite products are! We are always looking for new things to try out!