Ask the Editor: Vol. IV, No. Eighteen

Apr 16, 2024

Before we start today’s reader questions, I wanted to take a moment to talk a bit about mental health. For those who experience mental health challenges — whether occasionally or frequently — talking about our struggles is a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, it helps explains changes those around you notice, like, in my case, posting to this blog less. On the other hand, after a while, there becomes an undercurrent of, “She’s not doing better, yet?” Inevitably, some people start to see a chronic mental health issue as an excuse.

The truth is, I am still struggling. I feel like I start to crawl out of the well only to fall back down again. In addition to the typical stresses of working and parenting a busy 20-month-old, I seem to have entered a phase in my life where I am constantly surrounded by illness and loss.

Earlier this year, someone I was very close to in a past life, called to start saying his goodbyes after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in his mid-30s. Processing that coming loss is like walking through life with a bandaged wound. We lose track of people as we age and move and find new paths, and to find my friend again in this way has been both a blessing and a challenge.

Then last month, I lost one of my dearest mentors, someone who was my protector and my confidante during a challenging time in my professional career. His sudden passing has hit me with a prickly brutality that I would not have expected. And dealing with that loss has plunged me into a place where all free energy is spent just moving forward.

All of this is to say, that while things may look fine from the outside, I am not better…yet. I appreciate the kind words of those who have reached out to suggest resources for dealing with grief and who have e-mailed to ask if I’m okay when the posting around here is inconsistent. I love writing this blog and find it so diverting, but right now, the majority of my energy is for Sloane, and what is left has to be directed towards healing.

So if someone around you always appears to be struggling with mental health or chronic illness, set the right boundaries, but offer them whatever empathy and patience you can muster. I promise, they wish things were different too.

Now, let’s reach into this mail bag.

Hi Abra,

Can you find something just as lovely but that is cut with seams that are vertical rather than with any horizontal dividing line? Sometimes this is called princess seam I think. I have long legs and a short torso and that can make it challenging to find a dress that matches where my natural waist lies. I’ve found that those rare dresses with vertical seaming work better but they are hard to find.

MPB

Yes, it is called a princess seam and as you mentioned, it is a great choice for people who have a hard time finding dresses that hit at their natural waist (or just a flattering faux-waist).  

The princess seamed dress that immediately sprang to mind is the Boden Ellen Ottoman dress.  I f**king love this dress.  Like a lot.  Like a lot, a lot.  

First off, it’s easy to dress up with heels and a jacket or dress down with sandals.  Second, it comes in a great selection of ever-changing colors — I own three.  Third, the material is a nice mid-weight.  And finally, it’s $98 full price, and currently on sale for 25% off with code D2D6.  If you work in a business casual office, this is your new favorite dress.

Sizes run 0-22; I should be a 6 by the size guide, but I’m happier in an 8.  It also comes in long lengths.

For other options, BR Factory has this really pretty a-line, short sleeve dress right now.  MM LaFleur’s Emily dress is a wonderful option because it is just one continuous piece of fabric (I loved this dress while I was pregnant.).

Hello, Abra:

Can you recommend a good self-tanner for the face?

Sara

I like the Isle of Paradise drops.  I add them to moisturizer or sunscreen and apply with a brush to get good coverage.  You can also add more if you want to deepen the color, so it’s customizable.  I buy the medium shade.  I also just bought the body butter and the mitt for my legs.

Hi Abra,

Can you help me find a dress for my wedding reception?  I would love to wear something fun and flirty, but everything I gravitate toward looks like I could wear it to a board meeting or is way to short for my more modest tastes.  Budget is <$600.

Thank you in advance, Gemma

If I were getting married tomorrow, I would wear this Sachin + Babi dress to my reception.  It’s so gorgeous, and a little bit playful with the bow.  A friend got married in this Bronx and Banco dress, and it looked great on the dance floor.  I love the bow straps on this Reformation dress, which is so easy to wear.

Happy Monday. Do you have a suggestion for a product to heal dry nails?  I stopped wearing gel polish and things look rough.

A friend is a big believer in Dr. Dana Nails, swears by it in fact.  The nail system claims to heal and strengthen your nails for those who like the look of shiny, natural nails.

(After posting to Instagram that I was converted to use a giant, curved monitor.) Any thoughts on what to do for a lawyer who travels a ton and needs a second screen?

I own this Lenovo portable monitor.  It’s a decent price at $160, and it can be used for work or as a monitor for watching TV or playing video games.  It’s also light and fits into the laptop compartment on my bag. And, it may seem like a small thing, but since it came with a connecting cable, not having to pay $40 for a cable was nice.

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  1. sara says:

    Thanks for sharing, Abra. I’m sorry for your recent losses. We’re rooting for you!

  2. -Jen says:

    As a person in a mental health well at this point as well, all I can offer you is solidarity. Thank you for being a bright spot on the Internet, and I hope that an easier road is forthcoming for you.

  3. Judy says:

    I am so sorry for all of your losses! Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. Sam says:

    After a gel manicure destroyed my nails, I found this OPI Bond Repair and it worked wonders. I bought at local Sally Beauty store: https://www.opi.com/products/treatments-strengtheners-repair-mode-bond-building-nail-serum

    • Sam says:

      I also feel for you and your recent losses. I just heard the other day about a high school friend who lost his young son unexpectedly, then lost my aunt the next day. And with everything going on in the world, it’s exhausting.

  5. E says:

    Thanks for sharing all of this, and my condolences for all of the losses you’re grieving. A priest suggested recently that we are all living through “a pandemic of grief” recently and it really resonated with me. We have all lost so much over the last several years and feeling like we have to shoulder it alone is so isolating. I’m grateful for the community you’ve created here and hope it helps you feel less alone, too.

  6. TheLOOP says:

    Thank you for sharing this. A person I manage has been going through a mental health situation for a while now; I come from a culture where mental health is not named or openly discussed, so this is helping shed some light on what my colleague is going through and making me reflect on how I can better support them. I appreciate you.

  7. Laura says:

    I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling with loss and pain and I can relate. Thank you for bringing joy and lightness to the internet and I’ve appreciated (and benefitted from) your suggestions and advice over the years. Take care of yourself.

  8. aj says:

    Abra, thank you for sharing, which I know is brave to do. I appreciate you shining light on these issues and the thoughtfulness and reflection in your words. My condolences on your losses and may you find some peace in your journey.

  9. Lara says:

    I have a macbook air and ipad pro and I was blown away when they just talked to each other and the mouse moved over from the mac to the iPad. it looks like you could do this with other tablets as well as an alternative to a portable second monitor unitasker.

  10. Heather says:

    A Scottish friend of mine (who is a veteran social worker) recently pointed out that we refer to a mental health day in reference to needing a mental health day as in just ‘one’ day. She reminded me that the reality is that depending on what you are dealing with it, it could mean needing ‘days.’ I found that helpful.

    Regarding grief – it is a *itch. Two of my close friends just lost their dads unexpectedly, a friend of the family’s husband called his wife from down the street (while he was parking his car) and never came home…as in he died in the car of an unexpected heart attack. I do my best to hold space for my friends (especially those in need) and I am often reminded of what
    a Buddhist friend once told me…namely that the world is full of beauty as well as pain and suffering…and the more we resist this fact, the more it persists. We cannot manufacture happiness. If we are lucky, we can hold space for ourselves and have others to do so when we cannot. Grief is like a tidal wave which ebbs and flows and can kick you in your *ss when you least expect it. Impermanence is the gift of life…thankfully. And as another friend almost reminds me, I should add the phrase ‘for now’ to my struggles…I am also a full-time working mom (to 2.5 year old Clara). Sending you strength from afar!

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