About Single Women

“If I am to disclose to you what I should prefer if I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar-woman and a single, rather than queen and married.”

Newsflash: The most famous single woman in the world is not Carrie Bradshaw. It’s Elizabeth Tudor, the Virgin Queen who ruled in the 16th Century. 

There are few things more mystified than single women. The word bachelor has an energetic touch to it. We know from popular culture that bachelor pad is a happening place, whereas spinsters live in far less glamorous lodgings (unless they are the Queen of England) that smell of cat-pee, because spinsters are also crazy cat-ladies. 

(Pop-culture apartment reference from Batman Returns:

Single male: Batman who lives in an epic man-cave. 

Single woman: Secretary Selina Kyle who resides in a pathetic little flat with – you guessed it – only her cat for company. Until, of course, she transforms into a sexy Catwoman. Cat-lady = bad. Catwoman = good.)

I’ve spent much of my adulthood in mainly long-term relationships, and find myself not in a relationship for some time now. While I’m spared from cat-references and intruding friends (“joined Tinder yet? Seeing any interesting men?“), I have not been able to entirely escape the subtle stigma attached to single women. 

So what’s, like the purpose of your life?

People who have kids do not need a purpose in their lives, because the kids are the universal excuse for a purpose. Single childless women who are not happening bachelors need to constantly convince others about the meaningfulness of their lives. Committed to a professional career? So sad. Committed to a cause? That’s a fad that will pass as soon as you meet the right person. Not committed to anything particular? Such a waste of life. 

So what do you, like, do?

Frankly, given the choice, I would attempt to do the absolute minimum, such as stare into space and nap. Most friends with kids regularly wish they could just sleep. Somehow it is not, however, considered an appropriate pastime for a single woman. 

Who do you turn to for advice? 

This is the tricky one. You’re alone with your head. Most of the time. This is often considered scary, which it is not. 

​Women who die unmarried are doomed to lead apes in hell claimed a Reformation-era proverb. Single women have never been considered particularly glossy, with the possible exception of the foursome in the ​Sex and the City. There has always ben something negatively freakish attached to women whose lives do not center around someone else’s needs. Selfish comes to mind. And independence – something that is otherwise classified as positive. Women and money have never boded well with the society. What the hell does she need the money for? 

Despite financially independent women not exactly being a thing anymore, there’s still a tiny tinge to any woman who is a little bit too everything in the material department. Also, there used to be a way to describe career men as being married to their jobs, because they are committed, dedicated and ambitious to their professions and advancing their careers. I rarely hear that description being used to describe a professional woman. It’s usually more in the “she doesn’t have any other life” – direction. 

While I don’t have the need to turn my civil status into a science project, I came across two interesting books about the topic of single women some time ago. Rebecca Traister’s ​All the Single Ladies is a seriously researched take on the 21st century phenomenon of single women in the United States. ​Joanna Scutts’ ​The Extra Woman is about Marjorie Hillis, a glamorous New York-based independent working woman in the 30s, who published a radical self-help book Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman in 1936. 

(Quick observation: I’ve never seen a Guide for Single Men – How to Live in my life.)

Both books are excellent non-fiction for both single and non-single people anywhere. I am photographed with a Finnish book Naiset, joita ajattelen öisin (“Women whom I think about at night”) by Mia Kankimäki, and should you master the Finnish language, read the book. It is a fantastic collection of stories about olden days women explorers. We’re talking about women doing round-the-world trips, alone,  in miserable conditions with only a large handbag to house their belongings, in some cases wearing Victorian outfits complete with lacy bonnets.  

Quick Fixes for Skin Urgencies

There are no quick fixes, we are told, and I’m sure this is true. It doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t need a quick fix every now and then. Exhibit: After months of mellow weathers winter arrives and schleps along air-conditioning that blasts the living crap out of your upper epidermis. Then there’s the month of November, which anyone who has a job knows is the most insane, stressful chock-a-block of 4,5 miserable, never-ending weeks of meetings and deadlines so as to have the universe completed by the beginning of Christmas holidays. 

In my case the above, combined with my highly louche attitude to eating and sleeping regularly, resulted in facial skin explosion. I recently had situations where I wanted skin not to look like the volcanic region of Iceland, so I had to quickly find some way out of the situation – with the caveat that I don’t really have much control over air-conditioning/work-situation, so they kind of stayed on as parameters that could not be changed.

Take your vitamins. 

With no time for meal prepping (or whatever the millennials call packed lunches these days), and no patience to wait for the results of dietary changes to kick in, I did what any normal person does: puts all hope in small pills that would take the worries away. In this case the pills were rather sizeable, however. I took high doses of Omega 3 caplets, together with magnesium, zinc and vitamin C. Religiously. I made no changes to diet except eliminated Diet Coke, which I had started drinking when the work-mayhem escalated. 

Drink water.

Very often the sudden changes (for worse, clearly) in our skin are caused by dryness/dehydration. We know that water is the oldest of all ointments, but it’s also a very boring ointment (especially when there’s the choice of caffeinated beverages that fizz, or coffee, or a nice G&T). As boring as it is, it has noticeable effects on skin very quickly (2-3 days). So you might want to give drinkin more water a try. 

Cleanse, moisturize, repeat.

I continued double-cleansing in the evenings, but made sure I was using as little water as possible. Cleansing oils as a second cleanse are therefore genial, because you remove them with a moist cloth instead of splashing face with water. Bonus: this doubles as non-abrasive deep-cleanse for pores. My skin is too sensitive for scrubs and such during winter, so this works for me. 

Apply any creams/serums on moist skin. This helps things absorb better. I spray facial toner in all situations anyway, but it is particularly useful after cleansing, before serums. Then, I mixed two serums, which people at Tata Harper recommended doing on the side of the box that came with two serums (well, they would, wouldn’t they?). Then on top of all this goes ​Vintner’s Daughter in the evening and a day cream mixed with Odacité serum concentrate in the mornings (remember SPF even if you live in Brussels and spend every waking hour in an office cubicle). 

​An Australian superhero you should know about:

MV Organic Skincare is packed in minimalist aluminium bottles and is rather genius. I have not tested the full range, but my absolute favourite is their ​9 Oil Cleansing Tonic, which ingeniously doubles as a cleanser and a treatment when one is travelling and has limited space for things (also, the aluminium bottles are excellent for travelling – no panic about broken glass bottles, aluminium weighs less and the bottles do not spill).

The cleanser is particularly good for congested skin situations. It is removed with a warm, wet cloth – I mainly use it as a second cleanse. 

​Lesson learned:

Facial toner is not just overpriced scented water. It does have a point. This is not to say that you (or I, indeed) need to run for the insanely expensive nectars by May Lindstrom and such just to add a spritz of moisture on your skin. I use both inexpensive Grape Water by Caudalie and Tata Harper’s ​Hydrating Floral Essence. 

Result?

I saw noticeable improvements in 4-5 days. It is very possible that it was mostly down to amping up hydration both internally and externally, but it is also very clear that summer skin routines don’t work in winter. 

Pictured the winning products from my urgency-kit: 

Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser

Votary Super Seed Cleansing Oil

Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence

Tata Harper Resurfacing Serum

Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum  

Why I’ll Read Obama’s “Becoming”

In the age of general over-sharing, memoirs and biographies can be a tricky thing. First, they hardly ever make for really good reading in the literary sense of the word. Second, presented with any celebrity’s attempt to spill the beans in a book format I usually reach for a bucket rather than my credit card. Even in the rare case that there’d be anything left from years of sharing on various social media platforms, should it not just be kept for the personal diaries? In addition, if the person in question has spent 8 years living in a fishbowl called the White House, it raises even further questions: what can we possibly be told hat has not been covered by one or the other media already? 

Michelle Obama’s Becoming became available today and I leapt to get my copy which I had pre-ordered (as if one of the most awaited celebrity books would somehow miraculously run out of copies…) because I’m a hopeless nerd. As is the case, all of the juicy gossip (miscarriage! IVF! Marital counselling!) had already been published as the press embargo was lifted last night. The book is a mighty giant of over 400 pages, so Obama sure has had lots of things to share with us  (which is fair enough, given that the book deal of Michelle & Barack’s respective memoirs totals to 60 million American dollars). 

I like reading memoirs and biographies, despite them usually not comparing to novels on literary merit. In the case of ​Becoming I have many principled reasons why I want to read it. I am afraid of almost everything in the current world. Most things make me either scared or anxious. There are very few people to look up to these days (and I don’t mean in weird admiration/fascination, but simply to be inspired and motivated by), especially as regards women in leadership positions. 

Compared to male politicians and entrepreneurs, women who write about themselves are still much rarer. You really have to read what you get, as it were. A few years back I was working in a particularly male-dominated field and the public space was almost exclusively occupied by men for a very intense period of a couple of years. I had written down in my diary one day, just before going to speak to a group of students, how I checked out economist Noreena Hertz’s website just to see pictures of her taking the stage in Diane von Fürstenberg dresses and being whip-smart and fabulous. I felt very strange reading my diary entry now. I remembered it, but had never quite realised how badly I needed to remind myself of the mere existence of leading women (I had read Hertz’s ​Global Takeover and while we can have many opinions about her political views, I thought her to stand out as a very glamorous personality in the sea of male economists)!

Michelle Obama was the first black woman to occupy the public space where she did, and she got insane amounts of shit for it. I’m curious to read how she felt about that. Hillary Clinton wrote about her experiences of having her looks, body, personality, everything scrutinised and mocked globally for years on end in What Happened, and I found these parts to be the most honest. I also want to test myself how much I manage to read the book without thinking Michelle Obama foremost as the well-dressed side-kick of Barack Obama (would there be a book about her without Barack? Would I care about her were it not for her husband? Would I read the memoir of Laura Bush?).

I shall not be writing a review of ​Becoming because thousands of professional writers have done so already, therefore I merely listed some reasons why I will read it.  Practical advise for your planning purposes: friend told me that the English audio-book is read by Michelle Obama herself and it’s 19 hours long. 

Michelle Obama’s husband’s book is out next spring, and I shall be reading it as well. 

Who Are You?

I fully get the irony: I am about to request audience participation (something that is extremely high on my list of things I don’t do). However this blog has reached a readership that goes far beyond my family members and friends – therefore I’m curious to know who you are and how you found Kassandra Komplex. I am not 100% sure this is absolutely necessary for the existence of any non-commercial blog, but I guess I’m just genuinely interested in who’s reading my rants! 

Because I am an awkward feedback-giver myself, especially online, I fully appreciate if you wish to keep your thoughts to yourself. If you have the extra minute and would like to give any kind of feedback, please do not hesitate. Do it below in the comments or send me an email kassandra@kassandrakomplex.com if you wish remain more anonymous. 

Herewith what I would like to know

1. How did you find this blog? 

2. Kassandra Komplex went live in September 2017 – how long have you been reading the blog?

3. In which country do you live?

4. Which type of Kassandra Komplex posts do you enjoy reading most? Is there anything you would like to see more/less?

5. Anything else you would like to share?

There. I guess a bit of reciprocity is in order, so herewith something about me. 

My current cosmetics favourites are pictured together with some of my favourite reading. I probably like The Bean -mask by ​Mahalo Skin Care a bit more than is strictly speaking necessary, but it is hands down the best purifying mask I’ve come across in a very long time. I have what is politically correct to refer to as mature skin, which flares up to mildish bouts of rosacea every now and then, while also being dehydrated and  often congested. Cleansing my face can be a pain, literally, because my skin is extremely sensitive to abrasive scrubs and such. Then I found The Bean and the rest is history. 

​Vintner’s Daughter serum is another superstar, which has helped me knock back on the number of products I layer on my skin daily. The brand only do this one product, and it is fantastic. I don’t care so much what people say about it online, but it has actually helped with any facial discolourations and has healed minor scars in record time. The smell is very botanical – like spreading golden kale smoothie on your face.  I am currently preparing to sell my kidney in order to be able to purchase the larger holiday-edition bottle. 

I never thought I’d be the person who ends up having a signature scent, but I’ve used Santal 33 by Le Labo for almost three years now. I usually lose interest in most things after everybody and my second cousin start using them, but this is yet to happen with Santal 33 (I secretly also really like ​The Portrait of a Lady by ​Frédéric Malle, which is another crowd-pleaser smash hit, but slightly less available than Le Labo these days).


I wanted to pile some of my favourite books in the picture as well. I’ve written about most of them earlier, but repetition never hurt nobody:

Featured favourite authors: ​Nora Ephron, Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, Joyce Carol Oates.

In a league of her own: ​Diana Athill.

Spiritual animal & life guru: Fran Lebowitz.

Feminist classic, but not the obvious one: ​The Woman Destroyed by ​Simone de Beauvoir

Contemporary feminist essays: Misogynation by ​Laura Bates.

Bible of single living, set in New York in the 1930s: ​The Extra Woman by Joanna Scutts.

In addition I feel extremely strongly about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest sitting US Supreme Court Justice. She’s 85 years old and had an accident last week, which resulted in her being hospitalised. Just as I was getting ready to panic that she’d be out of the game for some crucial weeks (as predicted by doctors: she had fractured 3 bones and the regular recovery time is some 6 weeks). But she is not your regular justice and returned to work the next day. ​”On the Basis of Sex” is a movie about her life and it will be released this Christmas. 

There you are. I also drink lots of tea, and am excessively fussy about it. I started drinking the occasional coffee just to avoid getting into horrible situations in restaurants where tepid water served with a paper-bag filled with dust are considered “tea“. My favourite teacup comes from Astier de Villatte in Paris. 

Holiday Scents Edition

Want to have a nice pre-holiday smell at home but loathe the ubiquitous spiced cinnamon that makes its way to every product associated with Christmas? I’ve done my research and am here to share the fruits of my labour. 

Of course scents are something extremely personal, so you will go with whatever you fancy. Just don’t feel your home must reek of cheap vanilla for weeks before Christmas Eve (unless this is your particular thing, and I do not judge). As far as scents for home go, I tend to veer towards woody notes. I discovered incenses last year and have quite grown on them – regardless of their scent, they tend to have an incense-y smell on top, which is woody, which is something I like. I lived in a dormitory during my first year of university and there were some roommates who were very partial to cheap joss-sticks that one could buy at various small shops selling knickknacks. Fear not – there are many very nice incenses around without the migraine-inducing smell of amber. 

Astier de Villatte incenses are very nice. They come in boxes of about 120 sticks, each burning some 20 minutes. I found the scent Atelier de Balthus during my last trip to Paris and was immediately sold. Turpentine, smoke, honey, cedar wood and tobacco. Very chic. Love it. Another AdV scent worth checking out is Jerusalem, which goes nicely with the Christian holiday theme should you look for biblical references. Jerusalem is cedar (surprise), cypress, oud and gum resin. The scent is very subtle (I have the candle) and thus suitable for homes.

Cire Trudon have been making spendy waxware since the 17th century, and some of their concoctions are truly exquisite. I really like their Prolétaire (very pure Lily of the Valley in the most sophisticated way there is), but it’s a bit summery and also the name does not bode well with the opulence of the season. Instead I can very warmly recommend Odalisque, which I discovered burning at the Céline (with accent) flagship store in Paris a year ago, while Phoebe Philo was still at the helm of the house and everything was sublime. Odalisque is a heady mix of citrus, wood, orange blossom and narghile, which Wikipedia tells me is an ancient tobacco pipe. I haven’t smelled anything quite like it – it manages to be discreet, heady, tangy and sexy at the same time. Put it on top of your Christmas wish list and do like me – only ever admire the candle in its box because it is too gorgeous to be actually burned. 

For a more sober and affordable choice I quite like the Méditation -candle by ​La Belle Mèche Apothicaire. I’m on to my second candle now and like its unassuming scent. It’s a mixture of patchouli and incense essential oils. Méditation not as bombastic as its French sisters above, but does the job very well. Also it has nothing christmassy about it, yet it’s seasonal enough for the purpose. 

Finally a favourite since the first time I convinced myself to spending insane amounts of money on candles: Feu de Bois by Diptyque. I’ve said it before and will say it again: you cannot go wrong with this one. Unless you hate the smell of burnt wood. In that case I don’t know what to recommend. 

Is Claire Underwood a Feminist?

First things first: faith in humanity is temporarily restored following US midterm elections. Many firsts, many records broken. Over 100 women from diverse backgrounds elected, many truly inspiring stories. American quality papers, such as the New York Times run fantastic features and analyses, definitely worth a look. 

On to the next issue: The final season of the House of Cards was released last week. I binged it so you don’t have to. Kevin Spacey go the boot amidst the #metoo revelations just before the filming of the final season started, hence Robin Wright’s character Claire Underwood took over as the main character, ie. the President of the United States. This we already kind of knew, and this would have been the development in the final season anyway. But as Frank had to be killed off abruptly, some screenwriting probably had to be redrafted.

The following contains major spoilers, so don’t read on if you want to keep the suspense. 

Of course Claire can carry the weight of the show. Yet I had the feeling that the episodes kind of limped along a bit and various odd stunts had to be fabricated in order to fill the minutes (reminds be slightly of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – mini series the other year, where weird musical scenes were introduced so as to make time pass). Lots of people are killed again, and now it is Claire that talks directly to the camera. 

The season definitely passes the Bechdel-test with flying colours – the most main characters are women (Claire’s nemesis this time is Annette Shepherd played by Diane Lane), also the most people killed this season are women.  Claire’s character seems to spin out of control in the final season. There are too many loose ends to tie after five seasons of full-on rollercoaster of events and casual murders to develop most characters who are still alive. 

The gender of the new POTUS is made very clear both by Claire’s own comments as well as by her own scheming which ends up her firing the whole cabinet, including the VIce-President, in one sitting. Claire replaces her cabinet with an all-female staff, yet none of the characters are really developed, most are not even named. Not everybody Claire asks want to play ball with her – Cathy Durant declines to work in the cabinet, as does Jane Davies. Both are promptly killed (Durant basically dies twice). Claire also schleps along an easily manipulated new female press secretary whom she ends up bribing with an old handbag in order to be able to run the daily press briefings herself.

A bit after halfway of the season Claire reveals she’s pregnant, carrying Frank’s child (she says). We don’t get to see the birth, but the sex of the baby is revealed. Claire says several times that this time she will not be managed, manipulated and told what to do by men. She uses decidedly feminist language in a couple of scenes. So is Claire Underwood a feminist capable of having it all by playing by the rules of her late husband?

Throughout the show she’s demonstrated as sociopathic behaviour as Frank, there’s no doubt about that. Whatever she’s done and accomplished has been to grab more power. Could this not be seen a feminist trait? She hasn’t been exactly nice to lots of women, but it’s not like she’s trusted any of the men, either. 

At times the main shenanigans centralise around women characters only. I thought to myself what the audience reception to the sixth season will be, given that Frank’s ruthlessness was widely admired by a huge male audience. Would they still keep their interest when the focus and gravitas shifts to women?

While Claire is certainly no feminist warrior, at the same time she is taking herself exactly the same behavioural liberties as the men that surround her. In a way that could be a true demonstration of practical equality. 

The sixth season ain’t no grande finale of the House of Cards – it is rather when the house finally collapses. Also, following the 2016 US elections, it was always going to be difficult to come up with political fiction more absurd than the events taking place in real life. 

The picture is not mine, the copyright is likely with Netflix/The House of Cards.