Thursday, August 16, 2012


Outdated Beauty Advice From Helen Gurley Brown

Bob Guccione once said of Helen Gurley Brown, “She writes the way girls exclaim in the toilet.” That was a compliment, and he was probably referring to those sexed-up Cosmo headlines. But her voice still stood out when she wrote about other pet topics — diet, beauty, money — and it was Helen who mainstreamed the confessional, neurotic tone now prevalent in women’s magazines and websites.

Back before H.G.B. let the (lovable) crazy out, mass-market advice to women was overwhelmingly written in a ladylike tone of polite restraint. Inundated as we are now with overshares, that’s hard to imagine. Frank, personal writing, even on fluffy topics like face-washing, can be so compelling when it comes from smart, honest writers, and so loathsome when affected purely for attention. Helen did run grabby headlines to move magazines, but she also truly intended to help, and her voice strikes me as sincere, not manipulative, even as she suggests young women seduce their married bosses while subsisting on little more than frozen grapes.

A lot is being said about H.G.B.’s role in feminism, and the morality of her sex advice. Today, I just feel like rolling around in a pile of her hilarious and disturbing tips. Join me? 

"Put on a shower cap; grease your face with Vaseline, cold cream, or something goopy. Fill the bathroom basin with cold water. Dump in two trays of ice cubes. Using a snorkel (a little rubber tube, one end of which you clamp between your teeth; the other end — open — sticks up put of the water so you can breathe. Any sporting-goods store has these), stick your face down just below the water surface and stay as long as you can. Twenty minutes is ideal. You never saw such skin ... poreless, glowing." Having it All: Love-Success-Sex-Money: Even If You’re Starting With Nothing (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1982)

As editor-in-chief of a major women's magazine, Helen received endless, high-end beauty schwag, and would have been comped at the best spas. Yet our heroine often preferred to stay home and devote herself to deeply nutty, self-administered rituals:

“Wear bikini pants or nothing and slather Andrea Extra Strength Creme Bleach — a nice thick paste — over thighs, calves, arms, your whole body if you like. Leave on ten minutes and don't mess with it. Now start rubbing with your hands... stroke stroke stroke. Dead skin will come off with the bleach — a most gratifying experience." The Late Show: A Practical, Semiwild Survival Guide for Every Woman in Her Prime or Approaching It (Avon, 1994)

Ms. Brown’s early guides to life are textbook examples of a literary genre I call autobeautyography: how-to books on beauty and style that reveal very private habits of the author. When Helen Gurley Brown took over as editor of Cosmopolitan, she popularized the idea of exposing obsessions and telling beauty secrets.

“You probably wear lipstick, powder base and a little eye make-up every day. But have you ever considered drawing in completely new eyebrows, wearing false eyelashes, putting hollows in your cheeks with darker foundation, a cleft in your chin with brown eyebrow pencil or enlarging your mouth by a third? These are just a few sorcerer’s tricks available.” Sex and the Single Girl (Random House, 1962)

I have a cleft in my own chin, and have never known anyone to envy or mimic this feature.

Ms. Brown had no patience for women who lacked dedication to self-improvement from the outside in, and she preached from a standpoint of fact-facing practicality and measurable results. Mantras were too ephemeral to have a place in her method of self-love.

“... You must at least create the illusion of beauty by acting beautiful.

You don't have to lie your head off and say I am, I am, I am when you know damn well you aren't — a stunner. But you must love yourself enough to employ every device ... voice, words, clothes, figure, make-up ... to become one...

Nearly every woman is part-beauty. She has one good feature even if it's just smooth elbows. You play up that feature. You draw a face on the elbow with little eyes and a mouth. (I'm kidding!)” Sex and the Single Girl

Her diary-level honesty charmed, and her humor held a generous warmth. Unless you tried to make her fat.

“One aggravated hostess put chocolate chips in my Sanka out in the kitchen one day, then gleefully told me what she had done after I drank. Bitch!” Having it All: Love-Success-Sex-Money: Even If You’re Starting With Nothing (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1982)

Helen was obsessed with weight and food. I never get tired of reading giddy descriptions of dishes she kept in rotation.

“Dessert every night is that whole package of sugar-free diet Jell-O in one dish just for me — one envelope couldn’t possibly serve four as directions suggest — with a dollop of peach, lemon, strawberry, or whatever Dannon light yogurt on top. Fifty cals — heaven!” I'm Wild Again: Snippets from My Life and a Few Brazen Thoughts (MacMillan 2000)
“It is better to get hollandaise all over your negligee sleeves than to wear something appropriate to cook in if you are entertaining a man.” Single Girl's Cook Book (Bernard Geis Associates, 1969)

If you get more exasperated than than delighted by the image of a bony media queen working her way through a punch bowl of brightly colored gelatin, know you’re not alone.

In "The Queen of the Mouseburgers," a 1982 profile that appeared in New York magazine, Jesse Cornbluth wrote of watching a frustrated Gloria Steinem interview Helen: “... Without much of a preamble, she saved me the trouble of asking Helen Brown just what kind of a hairpin she really is.”

What kind of hairpin? I don’t think this one was a compliment.

There’s such Mad Men-esque pleasure in re-reading Helen’s early work. People, it was a different time.

"You may work in an office where consumption of an alcoholic beverage is strictly forbidden, at least on premises. (No telling how many Manhattans and Gibsons are brought into the office in people containers after lunch.) Rather than make any shock waves by pouring wine from your thermos into a long-stemmed Baccarat glass, pour it instead into a china cup. This can serve as your coffee mug during the rest of the day.

Should any of your co-workers discover your fine, boozy secret and giggle it up, smile sweetly and say, "I like a glass of wine with my lunch. It is a very civilized custom." Sex and the Office (Random House, 1964)

Perhaps that sly trick helps explain the deviant behavior in this next snippet, which flits into my mind more often than is reasonable.

“One night, I was working late, and around eleven I had a food fit. I couldn’t find anything in the refrigerator where we all store food, and this particular night I started going through people’s desks. Shameless, but hungry is hungry, and I planned to make full confession and restitution the next morning. In Lydia’s desk I found the last of a box of raisins and ate the whole thing– twenty-six raisins, stale and dry, and nothing ever tasted so good! The next morning, Lydia was waiting for me as I came through the reception room. ‘Mrs. Brown,’ she said, ‘did you eat my raisins?’ ‘Oh my God, Lydia,’ I said, ‘I did and I meant to bring some in with me on the way to work. I’ll get them at lunchtime.’ She skulked away. Later, when I saw her again, she still looked angry.” I’m Wild Again

I find that number (twenty-six!) so telling. If this were someone else’s story, I would assume the detail was hyperbolic and that the narrator hadn’t really counted. Helen counted, and she seemed to think that twenty-six raisins made a feast. Such an exacting personality might be expected to have more sympathy for a fellow dieter, but the lesson in this particular anecdote isn’t about calorie counting, it’s about attitude. Choose your battles wisely at work, or in other words, get over it, Lydia.

So often in her outspoken commands, a character like Lydia pops up, fully formed.

“If you would look sexy, wear more hair. Not shoulder-length necessarily, but not that Joan of Arc little-pointy-snips business either. She was a soldier!” Sex and the Single Girl
“Have a ‘joy dress’ in your wardrobe but remember, you can only get away with it if you've been a lady for about 150 days running." Sex and the Single Girl

Co-workers must have recognized themselves in her dos and don’ts. Mostly in the don’ts.

“Being able to sit very still is sexy. Smiles are sexy. It is unsexy to talk about members of your family and how cute or how awful they are.”

On that note, we’ll end with a goodbye written by Helen herself, in "Letter to My Daughter," the final chapter of I’m Wild Again. Helen chose not to become a mother, but she had no shortage of subjects to advise. You’ll notice her priorities remained clear.

“Last thing I want you to know, pussycat. Calories count ... every baby one of the bastards, in chicken salad and carrot juice, a in creme brulee and dark chocolate mints. Don’t ever rationalize that any of them missed the boat!

Sleepy? You’ve been a great listener. I love you.”

Previously: Outdated Beauty Advice From Everywhere.

Bonnie Downing forgot to ever go to bed last night.

159 Comments / Post A Comment


Re: drinking in the office: why can't we still do it!? I want a glass of wine with my lunch at my desk. I think today might be the day to bust out my coffee-flavored liqueur I've been hiding in my file cabinet.

cecil hungry

@terrific I TOTALLY AGREE. I work in kind of a wild office, and every once in a while we get drinks at lunch. Not much gets done after, and day booze makes me sleepy. So I guess I kind of get it, but I still get jealous when I watch SCDP pour some whiskey for their deals or order cocktails at lunch...

Cat named Virtute

@terrific Ugh, right? Just a little nip of whiskey in my Earl Grey to take the edge off of the 3pm ennui/mania.

Beatrix Kiddo

@terrific We have free beer and wine in my office every week-- but, sadly, we have to wait until the end of the day rather than drinking at lunch.


The custom is alive and well in advertising. Someone in my sister's office was once given a mini keg as a gift.

But, alas, the only other occupation I can think of where it's acceptable is Bartender. And even then, only on the sly.


@terrific I work in an open-keg office.


@NeverOddOrEven Publishing. Editors can't necessarily afford martini lunches, but they do their best with what they've got.


@SarahP Man, I'm in publishing and we sometimes get to drink on Fridays (after five, of course) if all of the top editors are out and we have a surplus of schwag from alcohol companies. Which is basically never.

Hot Doom

@terrific I got really, horribly frustrated in my job as a bank customer service rep in a call center, and one particularly trying day, I went home on lunch, drank Baileys spiked with coffee, and felt like an outlaw ( I was young, guilty-looking and naïve) once I clocked back in, but that afternoon, it was fee refund time for all! Lunch booze is highly recommended.


I write software. We drink at lunch, one or two beers, and regularly send someone out for beer around 3. And we crank.


@terrific Word. I am working at the WRONG publisher.


@terrific I have emergency booze in my desk (small bottle of rum from Puerto Rico and a thing that looks like a Capri Sun but is in fact a mojito that a friend brought back for me). Im not really at work though--just my grad student office. That being said I prob should invest in something that could be mixed more readily with coffee.


@NeverOddOrEven Fishery biologists. I worked as a temp field worker with them the summer I was 18, and every time we went out on the river to work, at least one person was drunk or high.


@The Kendragon Guilty as charged. A flask of Fireball in your wader pocket is practically required if you fall in the creek at 7:30am and still have to finish your day.


@The Kendragon I think that's true of a lot of biologists.

"What time is it?"
"It's beer-thirty!"


@Xanthophyllippa In my first job (lab tech in a grad school/research institute) it was not uncommon to walk down the hall on a Friday afternoon and see open bottles of Dos Equis sitting outside the labs. Miss you, free Happy Hours.


I am now seriously rethinking my decision to not pursue a career in Biology.


@NeverOddOrEven You may fare better than I did. However, the free beer and wine-and-cheese receptions did not make up for the fact that my boss was a seaworthy douche-canoe and I was bored out of my skull. Now I work harder BUT I am no longer miserable! And my current (awesome!) boss has been known to bring in magnums of cheap wine on Friday afternoons.


@area@twitter "Seaworthy douche-canoe". I can never repay you for this.


@ClogginBoydCrowder Someone used that term on the 'Pin a while back and I have treasured it in my memory every since. I wish I could take credit for it, it's absolutely inspired.

Quick Brown Fox


Lunch drinks! Go to lunch with a friend (not a coworker!!). Have sangria. Come back to work a little sleepy. Freak out that everybody knows you're DRUNK! (You're not drunk.) Repeat occasionally.


@terrific Yeah, me too.


never disappoints.@j

Legs Battaglia

Love her, unironically! I once tried to follow her diet from Sex and the Office - one egg for breakfast, one egg and one glass of wine for lunch, a steak and the rest of the bottle of wine for dinner, repeat on day 2 - and nearly died.

cecil hungry

@Legs Battaglia This actually sounds like the kind of diet I could do. How about if I skip the food and stick to the wine?


@cecil hungry Yeah, that sounds like something I would do without meaning to for an entire week.


@Legs Battaglia Oh god. That practically is my diet.


@Legs Battaglia You forgot the raisins. And jello.


Pretty close. Except mine would be Steak, Steak, Steak, Wine.


@SarahP sugar free diet Jello. Because calories are eeeeevillll.

Daisy Razor

@Bittersweet But food made entirely of inorganic chemicals is heaven!

Marquise de Morville

@Daisy Razor Jello is gelatin, so pretty organic. A completely inorganic diet would be hard to do, maybe only baking soda? Salt?


@Marquise de Morville Saline via IV?






What is a joy dress? Have I not been a lady long enough to even know about it? I have not been keeping track of my lady-days!

all the bacon and eggs

@SarahP I also want someone to explain that!

Faintly Macabre

@SarahP Maybe it's a typo and she meant toy dress? Like a Barbie's dress? And you can only wear it if you've been a lady for 150 days so people will know that your scanty clothing is an aberration.

Creature Cheeseman

@SarahP Probably the same as a freakum dress.

all the bacon and eggs

@Creature Cheeseman Ah, so one should limit oneself to about 2 one-night-stands per year? That sounds pretty reasonable.


@Creature Cheeseman I am so painfully uncool that I had to google that, too.


@SarahP Same here. (What a great term, though. I'm going to be saying freakum dress all the time now.)

Bonnie Downing

@all the bacon and eggs

Unsuitable for the office, slutty.


@SarahP I thought it was a fun, flouncy dress; the kind that makes you feel happy. Then the rest of the quote sunk in and I realized it was a dress that brings a different kind of joy, and felt ridiculously naive.

But now I want to wear a cute, flouncy dress.


@area@twitter According to Beyonce, it is hard to describe what a "Freakum" dress is and they are different for everyone, but "We all have those dresses we pull out when we need to shut it down."

sudden but inevitable betrayal

These are funny, but also make me feel sort of...desperately sad for her. And very happy to live my life and not hers.


@sudden but inevitable betrayal I know, right? She comes way too close to my neuroses (okay, she picks my neuroses up and wears them like a glamorous fur coat) for me to envy her life in any way.

H.E. Ladypants

@sudden but inevitable betrayal Yes, this, exactly. It reminded me why I've always hated the whole sphere traditional women's beauty stuff. Not because I'm bad at it (although I sort of am) but because if you're not careful it can eat up your life. And there are so many better things to be doing with yourself. So many poems to write and people to fall in love with and things to learn and work for and places to go. It's just not worth it to me to give an inch of that up for the prize of being able to sit very still with perfect skin.

Queen of Pickles

@H.E. Ladypants

Yes. This.


Man, she would HATE twitter. Or maybe love it? Probably love-hate it.


@mkpatter@twitter ...pretty much the standard/universal assessment of twitter, no? :)


Waaaaiiit. She got mad at someone who put chocolate chips in her Sanka? Because I'd punch someone in the throat if they put Sanka in my chocolate chips.


@OhMyGoshYouGuys Truth.


@OhMyGoshYouGuys I'm just shocked somebody served this woman Sanka! Different time indeed!


"That was a compliment, and he was probably referring to those sexed-up Cosmo headlines."

I read in one of her obits that her husband David Brown used to write those.

Better to Eat You With

@kitten_witawip I read in a profile several years ago that he wrote every one.


I...kind of want to try the thing with the cold water.


@werewolfbarmitzvah The sugar-free jello, meanwhile, sounds like a "let's not and say we did."

fondue with cheddar

@werewolfbarmitzvah Yeah...I'd rather eat ice cubes for dessert than sugar-free jello.

all the bacon and eggs

@werewolfbarmitzvah Please, PLEASE do. And then tell us on Friday Open Thread how it went.


But 20 minutes?! You better have a tall ass sink. My back hurts just thinking about it.


@NeverOddOrEven I have a small ass sink, and I predict that within the first 5 minutes there's going to be a cat standing on my back licking herself. Or maybe this would work with a giant bowl while sitting at a table! With a drinking straw instead of a snorkel! "The Best Time I Tested Helen Gurley Brown's Beauty Tips and Accidentally Drowned in One Foot of Ice Water Due to Lack of a Proper Snorkeling Device."

Hot Doom

@jen325 What about ice cubes with artificial sweetener? I feel like even HGB would not entirely approve of the Brian Butterfield diet.

RK Fire

@werewolfbarmitzvah: "How will they find your body? Face down in a sink of ice water with a straw in your mouth and Call Me Maybe on repeat in the background."


@werewolfbarmitzvah My roommate is going to come home and think I have entirely lost my mind. The mental image of her walking in and seeing me snorkeling in the bathroom sink is just too much to handle.


@RK Fire I did nearly drown in a bowl of water once! (13 years old, halloween, bobbing for oranges, hands tied behind back, bowl of water on floor, slipped, nearly drowned, thrashed way out, eternally mocked).

The Lady of Shalott

You guys, I literally lay awake last night thinking about this plan, because this is how I would do it. Debate the project for days. Root around my kitchen looking for a big enough bowl. Try to figure out if I should sit at the table with my face plunged in the bowl, or stand at the sink? Well, the sink will give me a backache standing there. How am I going to time this? Find the kitchen timer. Realize I don't own a snorkel, drive 15 minutes and buy a snorkel for $14.99. Drive home. Cut myself trying to cut open the clamshell snorkel packaging. Realize I don't have any ice, make ice. Find a pitcher to pour cold water into the bowl. Get my laptop, spend two hours making a 20-minute playlist so I have something to listen to while bathing my face. Find cold cream/Vaseline/whatever. Find a hair tie, figure out how to put my hair up so it won't get gunky. Prepare icewater mixture in bowl. Smear face with goop. Start music. Start timer. Spend twenty minutes figuring out the best way to use the snorkel is. Re-set timer, re-set music. Take a deep breath before plunging my face into ice water in my kitchen wearing a snorkel.

Contemplate the hours I've lost to this inane project while bathing my face in ice water. Realize I don't have a towel. Wait for the timer to go off, raise my dripping face from the bowl, drip cold water all over my pajamas and kitchen. Examine face, realize nothing is changed, and I've just spent five hours and $15 on a fool's errand.

fondue with cheddar

@The Lady of Shalott But then you get to tell us all about it and that makes it all worth it.

To us.


Bonnie!! Welcome back; you are missed!


Reading this reminded me that being beautiful takes so much effort, which I am so rarely willing to expend. Hats off to those with the willpower to be beautiful in public all the time.

fondue with cheddar

@cuminafterall Seriously. For me, looking good means wearing clean clothes that don't have stains or holes and brushing my hair. Oh, and using a lint brush to get rid of most of the cat hair.


Same, except I'm hoping no one notices my hair hasn't been brushed or washed in a week. Up-dos forever.


@jen325 Weird. How did my comment get posted under 'jen325' instead of 'catalina'?

fondue with cheddar

@NeverOddOrEven I have to wash my hair every day, otherwise I'm a big greaseball. And it's way too fine for updos. :/

@catalina :)

Solidarity, my don't-know-how-to-be-a-girl-or-just-don't-care sisters!


@NeverOddOrEven I haven't brushed my hair in about six months, if not more. Natural curls FTW.


@cuminafterall I occasionally go "I look gorgeous all dolled up. I'm going to start doing that like a grown-up!" Then I stop because it takes too much effort and after day 3, nobody gives a shit anymore.

The worst part is, it never really ends. I wear full make-up every day and wear tailored suits with nice pumps, so I have already expended a lot of effort to look good. But there is always MORE that could be done. Like I could blow-dry my hair every day. I could wear eye make-up. Keep reapplying lipstick because nobody tells you it only lasts for 30 minutes on your face. On and on and on....

fondue with cheddar

@damselfish Seriously, why does lipstick have to suck so hard? I hate lipstick, but still...if I'm going to wear it it could at least do me the courtesy of looking nice for more than 10 minutes.

Every time I get even slightly dolled up, people make such a big deal out of it...
"Why are you so dressed up?"
"OMG you're wearing a SKIRT?"
"Why so girly today?"
...that it makes me go back to t-shirts and jeans.


@jen325 @damselfish Yeah, exactly - that's why I was almost offended by HGB's comment about liking yourself enough to make an effort. I DON'T make an effort precisely because I like myself as I am - the days I put on foundation or lip tint are the days I look in the mirror and think I look a little peaked or can see that I have an emergent zit.

I went to a talk given by a colleage few weeks ago wearing a nice colorful sundress, a white tank top, and some cool Naot sandals. I left my hair down. Then literally a week later, I was walking through the department, and two people came up to me, said, "Wait, didn't I meet you at that talk?", then looked me up and down and said, "you look REALLY different." Apparently that's what happens when I wear a tank top, shorts, Keens, and a ponytail.

fondue with cheddar

@Xanthophyllippa Exactly! That's why I don't make the effort, too. I've said on numerous occasions that I might start wearing makeup when I feel I need it to look decent. But, while I'm not 100% in love with what I see when I look in the mirror, I'm satisfied enough with my natural self. And frankly, I find makeup and hair to be such a hassle that it's going to take a lot of ugliness/oldness to make me start screwing around with it. I'm actually considering a short, dykey haircut because I'm so tired of having to use a blowdryer for 5 minutes every morning.

And jeez, a lot of people look different from day to day. What's the big deal?

*Just in case, I feel the need to clarify that I did not mean for the word "dykey" to come across as a slur. Dykes are awesome. :)

evil melis

"Hello, darling."

"Hello, Helen, how was yoyr--"

the barest suggestion of a smile


"Hello, John."

"Helen - my God - what's gotten into you?"

"I'm sitting very, very still, John. Or hadn't you noticed -"

She sits, exquisitely motionless, refusing to breathe

"Just how very - very - still I can sit?"

"Darling. Come here."

"I can't, John...I'm sitting too still for that."

"You're driving me wild, Helen. I must have you. I will have you."


"Sweet Christ, you're not even moving your mouth now! Helen! I'm going to buy you - the biggest diamond -"

he moves toward her. She does not stir


evil melis

It really was not my intention to write this much erotica on the Hairpin this week, so I guess I'm kind of sorry for that.


@evil melis I failing to see why there should be a need for an apology for evil melis-penned erotica.


@evil melis Desk cackle.

double paw?

@evil melis more please!


@double paw? Start here; keep reading through to the end of the comment thread.

It's a strong, forceful, and turgid argument for a Hairpin/Harlequin publishing house mash-up.


Is it just me or does her voice read just like a pro-ana site? That normalization of starving yourself and the idea that eating anything at all is a sinful treat?

Queen of Pickles

Eugh, yes. Totally. But that was kind of NORMAL back then, wasn't it? That whole "think about it constantly! Guilt, panic, fear, self-loathing! IT'S NORMAL, DAHHHLING! I'm so happy, ha ha ha ha ha crying now" thing.

Queen of Pickles

@Queen of Pickles
"It's normal to scrub myself with bristle brushes at dawn, right? BEAUTIFUL!"


@Queen of Pickles "Don't worry if it hurts and you hate yourself a little, you're BEAUTIFUL. ICE WATER (but not too much, bloat) AND LAXATIVES FOREVER AND ALWAYS."


@OhShesArtsy 26 raisins! 26!!! If I'm eating 26 raisins they better be in some cookies or a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and cream.


@OhShesArtsy Well, not everyone is beautiful. I mean, we can't all be stunners.


@frigwiggin Hmmm, oatmeal with raisins and slivered almonds and just a leeetle bit of brown sugar...

@SarahP Of course we aren't all beautiful BUT WE SHOULD AT LEAST BE SUFFERING FOR OUR NON-BEAUTY.


@OhShesArtsy Yes, it does. There's something I really like about her craziness, but also something that reminds me of how consumed with superficiality I became when I didn't eat enough. Unfed hunger makes me sad.

Bonnie Downing

I disagree. Pro-ana sites read like old HGB books. Are you trying to shame her body-shaming? For shame!


How do girls exclaim in the toilet?


@thiscallsforsoap Is "exclaim" polite speak for "swear and grunt?"

fondue with cheddar

@thiscallsforsoap IN THE TOILET! probably



@jen325 I can't spare a square.

fondue with cheddar

@WaityKatie I just hope I run into you again, cause I will never forget that flinty voice. IT IS TATTOOED IN MY BRAIN.


@WaityKatie Not a square to spare.

Heat Signature

"But have you ever considered drawing in completely new eyebrows, wearing false eyelashes, putting hollows in your cheeks with darker foundation, a cleft in your chin with brown eyebrow pencil or enlarging your mouth by a third?"

Why not just say, "But have you ever considered looking like a crazy person?"


@Heat Signature I want to come this way to the next Pinup.

"No, I didn't dribble on my chin, I gave myself a cleft!"

Heat Signature

@SarahP I would suggest doing all of them at once, i.e., drawn on eyebrows, false eyelashes, hollow cheeks, cleft, AND enlarging your mouth by a third (and make sure you measure and do the geometry so that it's EXACTLY a third...Helen would've wanted it that way.)

Faintly Macabre

@Heat Signature She didn't say where to wear those false eyelashes, either! Kill two birds with one stone and make an eyelash moustache, or draw some new eyebrows in on your forehead and glue the eyelashes below it to make even more, beautifuller, closed eyes!

Cat named Virtute

@Heat Signature Too much math. Helen would say all that math would make your head look fat.


@Faintly Macabre I am actually laughing out loud at "eyelash moustache."


@Faintly Macabre STAHP! I gave myself 1/3 bigger lips biting them just now so that I wouldn't get fired for snorty cackling at my desk.
Ohmigod, "beautifuller, closed eyes"!!! STAHP!


@Heat Signature I am totally envisioning an elderly woman with really dark penciled-on brows, lipstick done way too wide for the lips, and very dark blush in circles on her cheeks. Not the look I think Ms. Brown was advocating.


I see a DRAG queen (stereotypical kind).
Speaking of DRAG Queens (non-stereotypical), I saw one on the train the other day - he/she was the most beautiful man/woman I've EVER SEEN. I couldn't stop staring and all I wanted to do was go up and ask "what's your secret?!?!" because it was honestly the most perfect makeup and hair I've ever seen on anyone ever in my life.

Faintly Macabre

@MoonBat Noo, don't get fired! Where would you read the Hairpin if not at work?

However, if you improved the volume and bloody glossiness of your lips without moving or making significant amounts of noise, Helen Gurley Brown approves.


@Faintly Macabre *self-consciously pauses obsessive foot bouncing under desk*


If sitting still is sexy, I am the equivalent of a very, very unsexy thing. *crosses legs one way, crosses them the other way, removes a shoe, fidgets forever*

sceps yarx

@frigwiggin gosh, maybe this explains why my man always wants to start groping me when I'm right in the middle of reading the last chapter of a super-suspenseful book. I'm just holding too still to be resisted.


@sceps yarx
Lazy bedtime reading = unintentional super-seduction.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@frigwiggin Yeah, that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I can't help it if I'm constantly in motion and I like talking about how cute my cat is!


@frigwiggin I can't even sit still long enough to exceed my attention span, which is about 17 seconds.


I actually can't be still either. I'd try to and my friends would watch me and I'd be focusing so hard and then I'd be informed that my toes were wiggling - it's something they're always doing!


@frigwiggin I thought fidgeting was good because it means you burn more calories than people who sit still. That's what the internet tells me.

sceps yarx

"A lot is being said about H.G.B.’s role in feminism, and the morality of her sex advice. Today, I just feel like rolling around in a pile of her hilarious and disturbing tips."

....aaaand, sentences like that are exactly why I read The Hairpin.


@sceps yarx THIS! I want to discuss the feminism and the morality but I also want the hilarious and disturbing tips so, so bad. The Hairpin, I love you.

I also very much enjoyed HGB's hilarious & disturbing tips for how to get a man even if you're not pretty, via Regretsy: http://www.regretsy.com/2012/08/14/r-i-p-hgb/

Be alert like an eel, ladies!


Vaseline, cold cream... OR SOMETHING GOOPY.

Does this mean I can cover my face in half-melted ice cream and get the same effect?

Also, I would never in my life thought to ADD A CLEFT TO MY CHIN, either. That is not an impulse I have ever had.


@Scandyhoovian In another excerpt I heard her extoll the virtues of a "semen mask" so...


@paperbuttons Aaaaaand this is where SayThatsCool steps in with a Bukkake joke or ten.


@Scandyhoovian Bukkake? Heavens no, far too many calories. Just keep very still and carefully spread ONE teaspoon of ice cold semen on your visage. You never SAW such a complexion. Rinse with bleach. He'll be quite pleased.


Argh! The Bleach! How terrifying. That can't have been good for the skin.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@TARDIStime Honestly, I've heard of weird uses for bleach (cleaning wounds!), but they all came from my nonna. Italian grandmothers looove using bleach for stuff, trust me. Maybe it was the times? I always thought it was because my nonna is as frugal as they come.

Oh, squiggles

I wish I could be more charitable after reading this, by thinking "Hey, she was a product of the times" but honestly...no. She just seems awful.

Also, beauty treatments can be fun and stuff, but honestly, has anyone, ever, really seen a concrete result in improved looks? I try them and think...okay, yeah I still look like me.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Yeah, I've read SO many positive posts about here lately, from sites/writers whose opinions I normally trust and align closely with, but I just do not get the HGB love. Fans espouse all she did for the whole "women embracing their sexuality" thing, but near as I can tell it's still just all about pandering to dudes and making them like us. I dunno...it's hard to explain, but she just makes me feel kind of hinky.
[Though, ok, the bit about the elbows is adorable.]


Cleft chins were in??? WTF mid-schoolers, who called me "butt-face" I was facially stylin'!


@The Kendragon "How do you shave in there?"


I have to say, the advice about acting as if you're beautiful and finding something beautiful about yourself is totally the only valid thing she's ever said, as far as I'm concerned. It's true. You go to France, and you see all these women, and they're all acting on the assumption that they're beautiful, and guess what? There's always someone out there to give them the benefit of the doubt. It's a great little trick, and it makes you feel good, too. I had to learn it in order to stop obsessing about my (flawed) looks, as odd as that may seem. Do it, girls. I promise good results. I've seen some women you'd never call beautiful -- people who are not tall and skinny or even pretty in the conventional acceptance (none of these attributes guarantees beauty, naturally, but they're the modern prerequisites, it seems, not that I'd agree!) -- just covered in men who adore them, and just because they FEEL beautiful, and become incredibly attractive. Don't take it as far as becoming full of yourself (though I know that some Protestants think if you even think you're acceptable it means you're full of yourself), just accepting your presumed beauty as a blessing, being grateful for it, and being gracious will do.


@carolita I agree it's good advice, but I think at least some of the phenomenon you're describing got to be down to pheromones or something; there's no way it's /just/ attitude. I had a friend who got that confident BECAUSE men were always throwing themselves at her, not t'other way around. It was a fact that caused us much bemusement and hilarity, and me a modicum of envy.

HGB would hate me b/c I don't do anything; I am just bothered enough to wash my face regularly; I HATE bras. The funny thing is, not participating in these beauty rituals always feels far more /daring/ than using the "sorcery" of make-up or sticking my jelly-smeared head in icy water.


@carolita YES THIS. And for me it didn't have to be, "Wow, I'm GORGEOUS!" every day; it just had to be enough where I'd look in the mirror and be all, "huh, I look pretty good!" There are still parts of me I wish were different, but going out in public under the assumption that I'm kinda cute has really helped me be a happier person. (And my bestie's husband told her, "XP's looking good these days," which made me feel very good.)


@Xanthophyllippa Yeah, I started with saying, "looking good, ape-face" (some folks here might know I used to be called "ape-face" in middle school"), and it made me laugh, and definitely paved the way to just feeling okay, and even sometimes pretty chipper. (Most of the people who gave me attention when I was down on myself were creeps, who'd like to make me believe they were the only ones to notice me. That was a big tip-off that I'd better start being kinder to myself, because if I wasn't, who would?) I mean, I still have my moments where I think I look hideous or ridiculous, and wonder how my face got that way, but then I just have to shake it off and realize I'd rather look like me than anyone else. I guess because I had to defend my face for a long time, I'd never ditch it now! ;)


@D.@twitter well, there's definitely pheromones in the equation, but maybe feeling good releases good pheromones? I don't know what your friend looks like! She might be gorgeous! I know I never realized my little brothers were good looking till everyone else started telling me so. And I know two men who were dismal when it came to attracting women until they took dancing lessons. (Salsa, two-step, country, all the partner dancing stuff). Next thing you know, women are lining up to dance with them, can't get enough of them. They're complaining about all the superficial sex, wanting to settle down. Neither of them Brad Pitt, mind you. Maybe the dancing made the pheromones come out?


@carolita I think a lot has to do with carriage, though. I mean, if someone's slinking around all caved in on themselves, trying hard not to be noticed because they're unhappy with their appearance (even just one piece of clothing can totally throw off my sense of how I look), they're less likely to have people fall at their feet. Walking around like we're hot stuff - or, if we can't get quite that far, at least like we don't give a shit what people think because WE like how we look today - gives off a confidence that I suspect has a wider appeal.


Yea, I don't think it can be pinned down to just one thing. Besides maybe the "Fake it 'til you make it" adage.
There's conflicting information out there on human pheromones existence or influence, but I'm inclined to believe there's something chemical happening.
But then again, there's posture, attitude, appearance, facial expression, body language, language language, etc. all intersecting at once. It always amazes me just how much can be conveyed through the slightest eye movements and wouldn't be surprised if the things we chalk up to pheromones or "vibes" is just unconscious perception of all those other things.


I like to think that a "whole package of sugar-free diet Jell-O in one dish just for me" means she opened the package, poured the powder into a bowl, and ate it with a spoon and a blorp of yogurt for adhesive.


@Xanthophyllippa BLORP though


@excitedheart Because that's the sound you make when you throw up your bowl of artificial sweetener, gelatin, and Red Lake #5.


"Bonnie Downing forgot to ever go to bed last night." That is awesome.


I have a feeling Anna Wintour lives her life exactly this way.

Bonnie Downing


There is just no way AW does her own bleach and/or goop-slathering. She may well adhere to the regime, but definitely pays people to apply. And has the self control to stop after 21 raisins.


So, if one wanted to read HGB, while one was underemployed, and it was too hot out for sensible books, where would this ostensible person begin? I'm asking for A Self.

Bonnie Downing


At your local library, go directly to the 646.7 aisle if you want beauty advice, or 921 for memoir (autobeautyography). HGB classics are also often found (sad face) on the dollar racks of used bookstores, but probably not this week.

Or just come over.


@Bonnie Downing if you live in New Orleans, I'll be over directly. If not, I am totes headed to the library. Thank you, dawlin!


I have a cleft in my own chin, and have never known anyone to envy or mimic this feature.

This is what jumped out at me too about that advice. I dunno, it seems like plastic surgery makes a mint off chin implants that smooth out the dent in your chin. I have a small one and I have this weird irrational fear that my chin will cave in and that's TERRIBLE. ...Also totally bizarre and specific and society what neuroses have you wrought. They are new, yet not especially stranger than the neuroses of Helen's day.

Vera Knoop


And the snorkel thing sounds kind of fun, but I bet you get the worst headaches that way.

Bonnie Downing

@Vera Knoop

Joan Crawford did it sans-breathing, all hardcore.

Bonnie Downing


There is just no way AW does her own bleach and/or goop-slathering. She may well adhere to the regime, but definitely pays people to apply. And has the self control to stop after 21 raisins.


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