I'd like to introduce you to the Unpopular Opinion Puffin.

His job is to be cute and distract you from the stuff I'm about to say that might not sit right with you.

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I've seen a lot of stuff online since Friday night, pitting East vs. West. Think pieces, statuses, tweets, all with more or less the same message:

"Why do you care more about what happened in ________ than you do about _______?"

"Where was your outrage when ________ happened, or _________?"

The general consensus, on both sides, is that the other side cares more about its own people than those in a different part of the world. The answer, for me, is simple.

Of course we do.  And that's okay.

I speak French. I lived in France. I work in a French school, and I'm surrounded with the language and culture and people of France every day.  I've studied their history, art, and literature, eaten at sidewalk cafés--just the summer before last, with my own family. I have ridden trains out past the Stade de France, taken the Métro to La Place de la République. And, perhaps most importantly, I know people there. People with whom I have studied--high school, college, grad school. People who attended my wedding. Friday night I waited and breathed sigh after sigh of relief as friends in Paris checked in as "safe." As alive.

Yes, this felt like a more personal attack to me. Because it was. It simply was.

On a wider scale, there are so many cultural parallels between the US and France. Two Western worlds, whose revolutions in the 18th century inspired and influenced one another. We've been allies for ages. We've welcomed each other's expats. We love their food and wine. They love our movies and music (and our donuts, whether they want to admit it or not). We understand each other in a global way, despite discord on what it means to be polite and how to hold a fork and knife. It's human to draw closer to those whom we understand, even if it doesn't make sense (see: white people not feeling unsafe every time a twentysomething white dude enters a school classroom or movie theater, even though they're kind of Public Enemy #1 in both situations).

The West is to blame for everything unfolding in the Middle East; I know this. The political borders we've drawn arbitrarily over time, the chaos we have left in the wake of wars, has gotten us to this point. And most every other day, I gladly shoulder the guilt and sadness and outrage. But can we have, like, a few days to be sad about just this one thing? Do the senseless deaths in France matter more to us than the senseless deaths in the Middle East? No. But they might hurt a little more. And given the state of Twitter since Friday, the same seems true in the other direction.

But I don't think that makes us bad people. I think it just makes us people.

How to have good hair in New England.

So I wasn't going to write this because I thought, this is probably not the high-brow kinda stuff I want to put on my website. And then I remembered: it's my website. So I'm going to talk about my hair for a minute. 

Seriously still laughing at this.  Source

Seriously still laughing at this. Source

I have awesome hair. Big, curly, awesome hair. No matter how I cut it, it boings up and looks great. I've been shaken by old ladies my entire life who NEED TO TELL ME HOW MUCH MONEY PEOPLE WOULD PAY TO HAVE THAT HAIR. When I was little, my hairbrush was literally an afro pick.

One at a time, ladies.

One at a time, ladies.

But I live in New England, and it gets humid in the summer, and drier than dry in the winter. There used to only be a finite number of months (or weeks, or days) in a year when my hair would be at optimal curly controlled-ness. And my skin in winter was itchy and terrible. Because I was literally sucking all the awesome out of my body every single time I showered. 

SULFATES ARE BAD. They're detergents--yes, like the kind in which you wash your clothes--that suck all of the natural oils (moisture) out of your skin and hair, and they're found in most big-name shampoos. Oils are good; they prevent frizz and give your hair body while making it healthy and shiny. Sulfates are probably why dandruff is such a problem. (Meanwhile, dandruff shampoos are full of sulfates...not a coincidence.)

It's not hard now to find sulfate-free shampoo, and depending on the brand, prices are comparable to the other stuff. And honestly, if you're struggling so bad you can't afford to buy a slightly better kind of shampoo, skip the 'poo altogether and just buy conditioner. Obviously rinse your hair well before using, but that's enough to clean your hair. Some people cut out all hair-washing products altogether. So it could even save you money to treat your hair better.

So here are my good-New-England-hair tips that cost next to nothing: 

COULD YOU JUST DIE

COULD YOU JUST DIE

  • Skip the sulfates when shampooing. My current favorite shampoo is a brand called Soapbox. It smells awesome and they work with and donate to charities around the world. I've also loved Beessential in the past, but it can get pricey with shipping. Still a delicious product and worth every penny.
  • Rinse your hair well, and then turn the water as cold as you can stand it. I read somewhere that rinsing your hair with super-cold water locks in the moisture and oils, so I decided to try it. My hair's been awesome since I started doing this, so whatever the reason, I'm sticking with this routine.
  • After washing/conditioning your hair, apply a little more conditioner as a leave-in. It doesn't have to be any fancy brand; I use the Soapbox conditioner.
  • Use alcohol-free styling products. After cutting sulfates for a while, you might not need much in the way of product. But make sure it's alcohol-free, or it'll suck your hair dry. Current favorites are Crack Styling Crème and Old Reliable: the Frizz Ease line from John Frieda. Girl knew what she was doing.

Better hair and skin is as close as the next time you run out of shampoo/soap. And then all you have to do is choose differently.

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Give "beautiful" a rest already.

I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for North Korea. 

Thousands of people in concentration camps! Fake, empty villages masking widespread famine and disease!  State-approved haircuts! How is this even real in 2015? I am equal parts fascinated and horrified by everything I learn about that place.

Today, though, I'm just horrified. And not about North Korea: about the Huffington Post's latest words on the country. The piece (which I'm not going to link, because it's pointless) is a slideshow of North-Korean women with the title: "Photos Of Women In North Korea Show Beauty Crosses All Boundaries." 

My audible reaction when I first saw the headline: "So f*cking what?"

As a human with eyes and critical-thinking skills, I can deduce that if life is hard somewhere in the world, women usually suffer the most. Imagine having your period in the middle of a refugee camp...or giving birth in one. Or losing children to starvation or AIDS. And let's not forget everyone's favorite war crime: rape! I can't imagine the women of North Korea are somehow exempt from the extra helping of suffering. So why in the world would this writer waste our time, and this opportunity, on something as trivial as beauty? 

Beauty. In this new and mostly awesome wave of feminism, it has become a term of empowerment. "All bodies are beautiful, and all women are beautiful. It doesn't matter how you look or what you wear; don't worry, girlfriend, you're beautiful, too!" The message sounds new, but it still exists within the tired, old framework that beauty equals worth, when it comes to women.

So I ask you today: Why do we all have to be beautiful? What does beauty have to do with anything?

Of all the curious/disturbing/surprising things about women in North Korea, why on earth should any of us give a crap if they are beautiful? Would you ever see a piece like this about the beauty of North Korean men? Or think pieces on how all men are beautiful on the inside as well as the outside? No. Because men haven't been conditioned to crave--need--that kind of affirmation. 

It's time to move the conversation in a new direction, away from outer aesthetics altogether. We need to find new ways to lift up women that don't involve telling them they are beautiful. And at the root, we need to stop raising our girls to need reassurance of their attractiveness.

Let's put "beautiful" to bed. Let's embrace more tangible, measurable reasons we are awesome: intelligence, humor, tenacity, strength, creativity. Let's raise our girls on a diet of meaningful words and see what happens.