Fashion & Beauty

Indecent Exposure

February 26, 2023


By Valerie Monroe

For nearly 16 years Valerie Monroe was the beauty director at O, The Oprah Magazine, where she wrote the popular “Ask Val” column. She now splits her time between Manhattan and Tokyo.

If you’re interested in feeling happier about your appearance—especially as you age—you might like reading what she has to say about it. For more of her philosophical and practical advice, subscribe for free to How Not to F*ck Up Your Face at

Can’t get enough Valerie Monroe? There’s more at

IT HAD to happen.

I’m not clear on the geography of the street where I live here in Tokyo, but if I don’t brace myself like a sailor on the bow of a ship in a storm—legs apart, arms akimbo—the moment I step outside, I’ll be blown over by the wind. It’s the kind of wind you have to lean in to; when it’s at your back, it pushes you ahead like a scrap scudding along the sidewalk. But in the nearly 100-degree heat we had last summer, the wind feels like a welcome mistral, as it keeps your clothes from sticking to your sweaty body.

Which turned out to be a problem for me one hot day in August as I fought my way over to the Family Mart next door for a quart of iced coffee. Because it was so hot, I wore my lightest dress, a midi silk shift that feels . . . actually, it doesn’t feel like anything. That’s why I wear it on the steamiest days. The dress’s only drawback is exactly what makes it perfect in the heat: It’s very, very flimsy.

Anyway, there I was, fighting that fierce breeze, trying to hold myself together for the 50 yards I needed to get to the store, when a gust caught me sideways (or, rather, below-ways) and blew my dress up over my waist. Only momentarily! But long enough for a young guy to see what I was hoping to hide—and what underwear would’ve hidden if I had been wearing any. Oh, how I wish you could’ve seen this man’s face, because I’m not sure I can find the words to describe it. Surprised, yes. Confused. Embarrassed. Maybe even a little . . . alarmed? Because he apologized so profusely it was as if he had been the one to blow my dress up—or to expose himself. I apologized right back: “No, no, it’s me, I’m sorry!” Thinking about it later, what happened seemed to be the kind of thing one might be arrested for in a society as proper and respectful of convention as this one. And now I, the sometimes vulgar American I am, feel a little bad about it. At home, the episode would make me laugh; here, I am remorseful. Poor guy. I’m sorry, I really am.


Thanks to my friend (the facial plastic surgeon Steve Dayan) who pointed me to a study about why we might choose mates who resemble us facially. According to this study, we do—and it has an impact on our reproductive success and relationship satisfaction. Bottom line, the research showed that we prefer our lover to look more like us than a very attractive stranger. Not so much like us that we associate their face with an immediate family member—yikes!—but enough to form an unconscious connection. I guess that’s good news, as it supports the idea that at some point we find our own face attractive, as well as the notion that beauty is, in fact, in the eye of the beholder.

That got me wondering if the same holds true for people and their dogs.

A family resemblance between people and pets? Yep.

A recent post about eye cream prompted a reader to ask which drugstore moisturizer I might suggest. I use this one with SPF 30; the formula is light and is quickly absorbed. I asked HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf to recommend a couple of hard-working moisturizers that won’t break the bank. She suggests this one, for very dry skin, and this lighter one. They’re fine to use on both your face and body (so you don’t have to buy two products).

And because Waldorf is all about sun protection, she also threw in suggestions for a few good sunscreens. First, her absolute favorite (a little pricey but she says it’s moisturizing, silky, and she likes that it contains a DNA repair enzyme); then this very affordable one. Both get the job done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *