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The Sybarite Newsletter: Add More Lipstick and Attack

News you can use.

Adeline Dimond
Published in
6 min readFeb 28, 2024


Venus and the Lute Player, Titan, 1565–70 | Metropolitan Museum of Art, Open Access Program

Greetings from Sybarite HQ. I’m going to make this quick because I’m currently frying up a pound of bacon (long story) and desperately trying to find an acceptable fennel recipe. I hate fennel — the only thing I hate more is overhead lighting — but a huge bulb of it came in my farmbox this week, and I’m trying to be less of an inflexible jerk. If you have a fennel recipe that completely destroys its black licorice vibe, please send it along.

We have three new stories in Sybarite since I last sent one of these newsletter thingies. The first is from Harris Sockel who wrote about one of those restaurants borne out of the ethers of Instagram and TikTok, that is …not really about food? He did us all a favor doing a deep, first-person dive into a phenomenon Alison Roman also touched on in her latest newsletter, which has a cool-looking recipe for a cauliflower galette, something I will never attempt because it requires homemade pie crust and that makes me want to lie down. In a nutshell, restaurants now make pretty, photogenic dishes, which aren’t not necessarily delicious dishes, and this is a sad development.

But that’s just one of the things the internet hath wrought. Which brings us to a story by Bridget Cougar, who writes beautifully about the difference between floating in a way the internet tells you to float, and floating the way nature intended, if nature can “intend” anything? I don’t think I’m explaining this quite right, so you should just go read it.

We also have a deep dive into traveling to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland by The Happy Hag, which brought me back to my visit there, before the internet was a thing, before I would have been tempted to photograph it to show the world that I was doing better than everyone else.

Speaking of trying to make people feel bad, I wrote about how everyone is always telling me I’m doing everything wrong. It’s not published in Sybarite because it’s too close to a rant. But I bring it up because not only do I want you to read it (because of course I do!) but also because even though I really go after the self-help industry, that doesn’t mean that I think all self-help information is worthless.

In fact, some self-improvement tips are right on the money, and Sybarite isn’t above sharing them. Here’s one I found recently, that’s worked for me: red lipstick.

Rumor has it that Coco Chanel said, “If you are a sad, add more lipstick and attack.” And based on my extremely non-scientific methods (I am the only data point), she was right on the money. Over the last few months I’ve learned that looking as if you give a shit — even if you don’t — reduces negative interactions, which makes moving through the world more pleasant and less exhausting. Everyone else probably knows this, but it took me a minute.

When I watch grieving mothers of missing children during press conferences, I wonder, How did they have the energy to put on earrings? How did they put on mascara? If my child were missing and likely dead, I could maybe show up to speak to reporters in a robe or a t-shirt and sweats. Definitely no jewelry or makeup.

But these moms know that if you look like you tried, people treat you better. People want to help you if you peacock a little, or at least don’t present yourself like a sloth peeking out of the covers. (Nothing against sloths, I love actual sloths and who wants to travel to this sloth sanctuary with me?)

I’m sure there’s some primordial ooze brain science reason for this, and I guess I wish it weren’t true for all sorts of vaguely feminist reasons. But it seems true; it seems that we are stuck with this fact.

When my dad died, it suddenly mattered a lot to me that I looked incredible at his funeral. It wasn’t enough to get an acceptable black dress; I needed a look, to be more put together than I ever was. If I’m truly honest, I was also wondering whether the latest guy who was blowing me off was going to come. He didn’t. Anyway.

My obsession was all the more strange because looking put together is just not my family’s jam. My dad once mistakenly bought a woman’s denim jacket from the Levi’s store, and when he discovered it had pink stripes on the back he still wore it for fifteen years. My mother once wore sweatpants to a funeral. (Yes. She did. Someday I’ll write about it).

But I suddenly cared, so I turned to my highly fashionable friend J, who is put together every single day, even lately while her teenage son is undergoing chemo. Every day, no matter what. I started sending her link after link of high-end dresses that I would never otherwise buy. “I don’t know why I care so much about this,” I said to her over the phone while I smoked in my backyard. “Because you’re showing respect for your father,” she said, like it was the simplest idea in the world.

It started make sense: show respect for the world = better interpersonal reactions = less of a burden when you walk in the door and kick off your heels. I felt this equation when I met the rabbi for the first time before my dad’s service. The funeral home had fucked up and I told me to go to the wrong door, so we only met five minutes before we had to start. As he quickly went through all the questions (what was dad’s Hebrew name? I had no idea) I could just tell — I don’t know how — that somehow my Norma Kamali dress that J helped me pick out, new manicure and tasteful makeup was helping this interaction. He looked me in the eye and didn’t interrupt me, even when time was running out.

Of course, who knows? He’s a rabbi, he’s supposed to be cool. But after the funeral I started experimenting. I got fake eyelashes and gel manicures, and started wearing red lipstick every single day, even if I was just going to the dry cleaners. Red lipstick seemed over the top, almost drag queenish, especially for someone who hadn’t worn a stitch of makeup for approximately three years.

But I stuck to it, and dare I say….it may have changed my life? Now, when I walk out of house with a carefully lined red lip, you would think I’m the Princess of Wales the way people react, even with dark circles under my puffy eyes and a bloated face. “Morning, beauty!” the parking guy said. The barista heard me the first time when I ordered the same coffee with half-and-half that I’ve ordered every day for the last five years. Usually he yells “what?” over the sound of coffee grinding. When I ordered a meatball sandwich at the local pizza place, the owner handed me a free slice of pizza “just because.”

A revelation. Usually I come home weighted down by negative micro-encounters that pile up as the day goes on. The guy who practically body checks me to push the elevator button, as if I’m not there. The barista who never hears me the first time, no matter how loudly I speak or carefully I enunciate.

It worked when I brought my mother to her new doctor for the second time. It works with waitstaff. It works with people in elevators, who now hold the door for me, and don’t lunge past me like I’m not there. Our office manager offered to rehang all my diplomas and artwork in my office, after I had to take all of it down for one of those corporate re-carpeting adventures. Why did he do that? Red lipstick.

I dunno, it just works. Red lipstick isn’t for everyone, but everyone has a version of red lipstick. Put it on and attack.

— Adeline, Sybarite-in-Chief

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