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To Love Safely or To Love Deeply? My Complicated, Risky Road To Romance.

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[Photography by Alexandra Wolf]

Everywhere you look these days you see couples that have the ability to espouse the stories of their uncomplicated courtships in five minutes or less. Conventional tales of college first dates turned two year anniversaries turned neatly wrapped boxes with ribbons on top (I’m not speaking metaphorically here; I’m referring to those square shaped enclosures that harbor round/emerald/princess cut promises of supposed eternity within), always seem so organic and harmonious to me.

When I observe those people posting declarations of their unconditional love for each other on Facebook, timelines abounding with every single one of the wedding pictures that the photographer could’ve possibly captured within a span of six hours, and then eventually – invariably – the sonogram shot to boot, it doesn’t frustrate me in the same way that it might if I were, let’s say, a more cynical social media user.

But that said, I can’t exactly relate to such a scenario either because true love, distinguished from stable familiarity, struck me in a way that a lighting bolt does when it touches the branches of a seemingly sturdy backyard weeping willow tree. Innocuous sounding enough, right? WRONG. Ultimately, it catalyzed a chain reaction that prompted the friendly former shade provider to smash my proverbial slate roof to bits and render me temporarily adrift (no pun intended) in the midst of a full-blown natural disaster.

You know what I mean?

But – here’s the thing — now that I’ve experienced love in the way that Anthony Hopkins describes it to his on screen daughter in the movie Meet Joe Black, “Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. I say, fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. How do you find him? Well, you forget your head, and you listen to your heart. Cause the truth is, honey, there’s no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, cause if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived,” I wouldn’t trade the act of falling face first — and quite messily  — into my relationship with my now fiancé for all of the Kelley Bags, croc or otherwise, in the world.

Truth be told, our courtship was anything but instantaneous or uncomplicated. Although the two of us were great friends prior to the time in which we became a couple, for many years, we remained steadfastly rooted in the realm of the platonic – mostly because — well (how do I put this?), for the large majority of the time, I was engaged to another person. And for my fiancé’s part in the matter, he had settled in New York City and commenced a dating life that, by all accounts, rivaled only that of Christian Grey’s. Not only did he share many of the details of that life with me, but he also utilized my girl brain as a conduit to the ever-complex female psyche in a quest to streamline his own romantic encounters. Engrossed in my life in Boston, and focused largely on law school, I was always happy to hear fresh stories about the dating world and to offer advice from my perspective. Set him up with someone? Sure! Provide gift guidance upon the abrupt arrival of Valentine’s Day? A cinch. Serve as wing woman when a group of us would go out together downtown? Of course!

So, between both of our situations, respectively, it just never occurred to me that I might drop everything and commence my life’s great romance with my then best friend. Although my previous relationship was riddled with fundamental incompatibilities, I failed to recognize that the true definition of love is, in fact, passion, obsession and someone you can’t live without. So, for a long time (meaning – ahem – six years) I simply continued forward with my day-to-day existence.

And then things changed.

While the nitty gritty details of that transformation don’t really matter, it suffices to say that I made a number of fundamental, life altering decisions, which have ultimately lead me to where I am today – deeply in love and ready to share the rest of my life with someone who I love like crazy and who loves me the same way back.

It wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of confusion, messiness, catatonic moments, Bible reading/clutching, displacement across states, and the like. But candidly, I didn’t make the decision for anyone other than myself.

Recently, upon seeing a close girlfriend of mine, I was disappointed to hear her suggest that at thirty, it would probably behoove her to settle for someone who was “safe,” meaning a person who would possess the good qualities of a stable future husband even if he wasn’t able to provide her with a once in a lifetime kind of love.

When she asked for my opinion on the matter, we both recognized that she was already aware of what my response would be. After all, she had witnessed my own story unfold. While I don’t generally go around quoting Anthony Hopkins (because, I mean, Hannibal Lector?) arguably, no truer words have ever been spoken: to make the journey and not fall deeply in love? Well, then you haven’t lived a life at all.




Aging — and What it Means To Me As a Woman.


[Blanket Cape] [Over the Knee Boots] [Must Have Sunnies] [OP Every Day Red Nail Polish]

RS 5RS 3RS 2RS 6 RS 9

Dear NoteBrooke,

I flip my vanity mirror over to the 50x more magnified side – the one that’s meant to be used purely for cosmetic related tasks that require extreme attention to minute detail, like plucking away stray brows in an effort to maintain a strong arch or adeptly applying one’s black noir YSL liner back and forth between the upper lash line for maximum coverage.

Widening my eyes in a manner that would suggest that I might be capable of commanding a prisoner who’s situated in a hole twenty feet beneath me to put the lotion in the basket, I remain steadfastly in position and begin to examine my forehead. Horror follows.

I notice the faint trace of three fine lines that have surfaced across my skin.

Upon revisiting old photographs from a shoot that I did when I was nineteen, I realize that I am, in fact… aging. As is [presumably] the case with all harrowing matters like death, pregnancy and bill paying, I abruptly arrive at the conclusion that somehow – surprisingly, impossibly — I won’t be the one who’s hand delivered a Get Out of Jail Free Card from the Divine, permitting my dismissal from basic evolutionary processes that the human race has withstood since the beginning of time.

And before you call me a hyper paranoid, neurotic, superficial idiot (all three of those adjectives have assuredly been used to sum up the greater portion of my entire existence before, so don’t worry about sparing my feelings now), it’s important to note that I recently came across an interview that Anne Hathaway did with Glamour UK in which she discussed losing out on recent movie roles to younger Hollywood starlets. Anne goes on to say that she “can’t be upset about it, though” because “it’s the way things are” and wistfully recalls the fact that she, too, had been “that twenty-four year old once.”

When I read the article, I want to vomit – not because I’m a HathHater (That’s a bizarre subject for another post) but because I’m sickened at the thought of a woman’s social prowess being largely contingent upon a factor that’s as unreliable as a flaky college boyfriend becomes after he realizes that you’re just not going to give it up anytime soon– that is, ephemeral/transient/sure to fade away into the night.

Or did that just happen to me?

For a moment, I want to shake Anne like a flimsy American Girl doll and to remind her of the fact that she’s far too dynamic of a woman to accept such a gross mentality without putting up some measure of a fight first. And then, sarcastically, I want to ask her how she can even recall what being twenty-four was like in the first place. After all, at a whopping thirty-two years OLD, she’s apparently verging on elderhood, and we all know that forgetfulness is a trait that’s fairly ubiquitous with respect to the plights of our proverbial Grandmothers.

But then, at once, I also want to coddle her, reminding her of the fact that she’s a sterling example of a well-rounded woman and that she — of all people (!)– a particularly well-educated activist/actress, mustn’t allow her femininity to be subjugated by something as demeaning as ageism.

During my imaginary bipolar back and forth with Anne Hathaway, I finally consider the fact that I’m the girl who’s counting her forehead lines in the grey-green light of a 50x magnification mirror on my bathroom floor.

Disclaimer of the day? I’m not a bra-burning feminist. I don’t refer to God as a “She.” I shave regularly. I’m not even morally offended by the prospect of putting my fiancé’s dinner on a plate and serving it to him. And this isn’t, in any way, intended to be an attack on the male gender – because on some level, most of us buy into and propagate society’s disposal of old women.

Among the realities of my Tuesday, though: I walk down the street and I’m called a “bitch” after I have the audacity to tell a particularly incessant – and physically aggressive — cat caller that he’s being a little bit disrespectful towards me. I sit at a nail salon, look up at the TV and see side-by-side images of Brooke Shields, Bridgette Bardot and Raquel Welch splashed across the screen. Each actress is immediately compared to a vision of her younger self. The audience gets to decide which of the former sex symbols has aged best – meaning, whose been able to maintain the strongest resemblance to her twenty-two year old self despite the four plus decades of life that have ensued since her alleged “glory” days.

In the evening, I spot one of the world’s most talented and renowned actors wedged in a corner booth at a sushi haunt that I frequent. He’s doing the creepy snuggle beside a girl who appears to be about forty years younger than he is, and I can’t help but to wonder if he feels any mental or emotional connection to her whatsoever. Conversely, I think about how people would react if an old woman walked in with her twenty something year old lover and started ordering up some sashimi and a couple of bowls of lightly salted edamame.

And at twenty-eight, I’ve become an aficionado on the subject of ladies who are worrying about the palpable tick tocking of their biological time clocks. Where my single friends used to be generally affable, enthusiastic and free spirited about the dating world, many of them (not all) are now convinced that they will never meet anybody, ending up barren, wrinkled and alone. And it’s not that they mind the literal act of being single – ironically, in fact, many of them seem to prefer it; it’s that they fear that their marketability will decrease in the same way that Anne Hathaway’s aptitude to land a movie role has. Sure, it’s easy to dismiss this concern as being superficial and frivolous, but what about the strong, intelligent and wildly successful women that I know who are forty plus and won’t even look at a guy their own age because they’re convinced that he’ll only be interested in “some twenty-five year old” anyway.

Answers? Solutions? I don’t have them. But I’m confident in asserting that none of the anecdotal information that I’ve put forth here is anything that’s particularly staggering or jaw drop worthy. It only serves to underscore how our psyches can so easily become saturated with subliminal signs that suggest that youth is something to be coveted, chased and retained at any cost necessary.

But I can also share this with you — during New York Fashion Week, I sat front row at exactly one show (Better luck next year, B). To my immediate left, I noticed a particularly striking woman wearing open toe suede booties, a knee length wool skirt, thick framed optical lenses with Miu Miu like flowers attached to the sides and a 35 mm tan Birkin. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, posture straight, shoulders strong. While everyone else (disclaimer – myself included) Snapchatted the show away, IPhones and Tablets aglow, she looked straight ahead at the runway.

At some point, above the crowd, the woman and I locked stares, and I held her gaze for as long as I could. She smiled. In a sea of top models and fabulous fashion people wearing all kinds of origami shaped wonders (picture a cross between fortune cookies and Star Wars figurines), this woman’s splendor easily bypassed everyone else’s in the room – her confidence, her style, her swagger.

After the finale, she quickly picked up her bag and walked out. It was obvious that she had somewhere else to be – front row at another show perhaps.

Even now, months after Fashion Week has come and gone, I find myself thinking about this woman and her presence somewhat frequently. I’ve realized that somewhere within the sass of her strut, the purpose of her gaze, the confident warmth of her quick smile, I might have already found all of the answers that I could ever need about retaining the feminine mystique.














The Miracle of Makeup. My Go To Routine for Every Day, Shooting & Traveling.

Dear NoteBrooke,

I’m thirteen years old and I hate myself.

The list of grievances that I’ve formulated against my physical appearance include, but are not limited to: mid length velcro bangs that hang in lifeless chunks around the sides of my face, caterpillar shaped bushy brows replete with the unmistakable presence of a faint unibrow (Is there really any such thing as subtlety regarding the subject of unibrows anyway, though?), occasional bouts of mild acne, a skin tone that most closely resembles the color of an old hospital bed sheet, and a labyrinth of unwelcome freckles/moles present on various locales throughout my body – a genetic heirloom from my maternal Grandfather that’s turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, one day, I can’t stand it anymore: I deliberately wait in the passenger seat of the car while my Dad enters the supermarket to pick something up. Upon his exit from the vehicle, I pull down the mirror in an effort to examine my appearance with a microscopic zealousness. Staring at my reflection like a wide-eyed, catatonic serial killer – blaring afternoon sunlight emphasizing all of my imperfections — I say, emphatically and aloud, “Holy shit (fury emanating from within). I have the skin of a ninety year old.” Laden with a generally uneven complexion, freckles, an oddly shaped beauty mark on my upper left cheek, messy, massive eyebrows, and a mustache, I do, in fact, seem to have the face of someone who more closely resembles Quasimodo than, let’s say, a conventionally attractive high school cheerleader.

The rest of my early teenage years are characterized by a kind of lurking self hatred, a frustrated understanding of the fact that I’m not really ugly, per say, but that I have absolutely no idea how to go about making myself look even remotely close to something that would be categorized as ‘pretty’ either. Every blow dry resulting in excessive frizz that I attempt, every boxy Gap sweater that I purchase, every uncomplimentary lip color that I apply, is tinged with a lingering knowingness that I believe that I could like my external experience if I only had the skill set to refine it with some degree of savvy subtlety.

So, when I emerge from the dressing room at a boutique on Long Island with a flamingo pink, sequined, tulle crafted ball gown that eclipses my ability to breathe, I’m decidedly Sweet Sixteen ready. As such, I finally find myself at a professional makeup counter, where Bettina, the Clinique saleswoman at my local mall, picks out a slew of products and tries to explain to me how to apply them all. One after another, she pops them into a baby Saks bag and sends me on my way.

After going home and attempting to recreate the look twenty times in my bedroom mirror, I take careful note of the fact that well matched foundation can work wonders when it comes to evening out skin tone and airbrushing one’s complexion. As I build upon my formerly blank canvas, I find that I’m still myself – meaning, my natural features are assuredly in tact — but that I’m a beautifully enhanced version of the freckled face, self-loathing little girl that I had been fifteen minutes before. And despite the fact that Bettina didn’t include eyeliner in my bag of goodies (I think she thought I was too young – this was the pre Kylie Jenner era) and that I used sponge rollers to do my hair on the day of my party (why, God?), I felt beautiful in my flamingo pink, multi layered tulle dress. That sensation, that confidence, that knowledge about how to get myself to where I wanted to be, ignited a desire in me to learn everything that I could about the subject.

Years later, I would find myself working in and out of industries (on air reporting, modeling) that propagated the need to be camera ready in ten minutes or less. For my personal satisfaction, I found a select few trusted experts to coif my hair, give me an airbrushed golden glow before shoots, whiten my teeth once a year, etc. And because I genuinely love to feel my best, I studied the craft of makeup artistry in any and every way that I could, save for actually enrolling in beauty school. After working with industry experts, meeting the owners of huge cosmetic lines, watching thousands of hours of YouTube videos, reading books, and even seeing myself on a national news screen, I finally narrowed down a go-to look that works for me. With this look, I feel my best in person, on camera, and even when traveling.

Gone are my days of feeling like an ugly duckling. I love having the skill set necessary to whip out a few products and to feel like the best version of me. Investing in a Tweezer was decidedly a good choice, as well.