Money Management in 20s and 30s

Dear E. Jean: I spend my days managing other people’s careers in the fashion industry. I look after their money and oversee enormous project budgets, but I’m 29 and spend zero time on my own finances.

Beyond contributing to the 401(k) provided by my employer, I’m clueless about managing my own portfolio intelligently and fear I’ll have no money when I’m old. I try to save a little each month for emergencies. But after SoHo rent, dinners out, doggy day care, a quick trip with girlfriends to Reykjavík, clothes, shoes, bachelorette parties, hopping over to Prague with my boyfriend for a long weekend, etc., I’m lucky to have anything left to give to charity, let alone a few bucks for emergencies.

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I earn a decent salary. But do I earn enough to warrant a financial adviser? (And where do I find a reputable one?) Is advice from my friend’s investment-banker boyfriend enough? —Bag Lady of 2052

Bags, Old Girl: Ahhh, you and I have more in common than you know. I don’t suppose there’s a woman alive more equipped to advise you—I’m a specialist in not saving money. But first let me tell you a little story about my friend.

People send me many questions about cads. I also answer queries about chumps, heels, half-wits (see the first question), scoundrels, jerks, degenerates, dingbats, creeps with 19 guns in their basements, and so on. But in the whole quarter century I’ve been romping along at the Ask E. Jean desk, one of the lowest chaps I ever ran across was Mr. Bunco.

Mr. Bunco is my friend’s own personal cad and financial adviser.

She says I may go public with their affair because although I’ve warned people against twits, pimps, lechers, and fiends, I haven’t warned them nearly enough against pinstriped polecats like Mr. Bunco.

So listen, Bags: My friend broke up with Bunco because he lied and cheated and boy, did Mr. Bunco neglect her! While the man was peppering her inbox with newsletters about “14-year highs,” her retirement account (IRA)—which Mr. Bunco promised on his website to “tailor to her individual financial objectives,” and which was supposed to be increasing, so my friend could retire one day and embark on a glamorous spree—was leaking (believe me, leaking!) money.

Indeed, after 22 years, her IRA had less money in it than at its inception. Had she e-mailed her Social Security and bank routing numbers to the Nigerian prince whose brother, the astronaut, is stranded in space, she’d be sitting prettier.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking, Miss Bags: E. Jean, come on! Your friend should never have given her hard-earned money to a sweet-talking con man who preys on pitiful ignoramuses like her.

But noooo. Mr. Bunco is worshiped with unceasing delight in the financial press. He occupies the 41st floor of a Wall Street tower with marble floors so expensively shiny that when my friend stepped off the elevator to meet him, she could look up her own skirt.

My friend: I’m unhappy.

Mr. Bunco: I’m sorry you’re unhappy.

My friend: The market has tripled since 2009. How can I have less money in my IRA than I started with 22 years ago?

Mr. Bunco: Let me explain….

They were in his conference room, which looked like one of the larger bathrooms in Hearst Castle, and my friend said it took Mr. Bunco 41 minutes to tell her why her having less money in her IRA than she started with 22 years ago was all her fault. She thought about giving him a running kick out his 41st-floor plate-glass window, but instead she took the elevator to the lobby, called me, and confessed the whole story, including how much she had remaining in her IRA.

And what was that amount? Twice the money I had in my IRA! It turns out I’m a bigger idiot than she is. So I will now endeavor to pound three pieces of advice into your head, Miss Bags:

1. Contribute the full amount your company matches to your 401(k). This is the most painless way to put away money for when you are, as you so poetically put it, “old.” And then watch your portfolio like a hawk! (The defects of my character are endless, but this defect is the most asinine: I never even opened my monthly statements.)

2. Ask the richest women you know who their financial advisers are. Pick the one who’ll help you set smart, doable financial goals and oblige you to stick to them. I recommend Ellevest (no relation to ELLE magazine), a brilliant, low-fee, easy-to-grok investment platform for women. Using the Ellevest projections, I saw that a 29-year-old who earns $50,000 a year and invests 20 percent of her income will have $1,040,230 or more according to the majority of market scenarios at age 66. More than a million! So, yes. Whatever your salary, you do need a financial adviser or a service like Ellevest. And I suppose at this point I should tell you to check if the adviser is a fiduciary, but, frankly, it means diddly-squat. Mr. Bunco was a fiduciary. If you don’t keep your eye on him or her, a fiduciary (a person who supposedly puts your financial interests ahead of his or her own) can lose your money as fast as a nonfiduciary.

3. Don’t shun your fund. I’m pretty good at making money, but terrible at saving it. Check yourself out: MoneyUnder30.com has a calculator for figuring how much you should be putting up for a rainy day. Warning: The numbers will shock you so badly that you’ll exchange Prague for a ride around Coney Island on roller skates. Which actually sounds quite fun.

As for me? I’ve transferred my “wealth” to Betterment, an automated investing service, and now robots are working for me.

Who needs a pricey financial consultant when the Betterment algorithms are eliminating human judgment, following the market as a whole, rebalancing my portfolio of index funds and ETFs, harvesting my tax losses (a tax-saving investment strategy), and machine learning and improving as they trade. As the Betterment robots get smarter, I get richer. How rich, Miss Bags? I made more money in one month with Betterment than my friend made in a decade with that chump Bunco.

I’m a Carrier for Muscular Dystrophy, and I Might Give it to My Unborn Son

I flew home to Pennsylvania in December to tell my dad I was pregnant with my first child. By then it had been more than a year since my father had been able to get out of the hospital bed that had taken up permanent residence in my parents’ living room. He could no longer stand, lift his arms to feed himself, or use the bathroom on his own.

“We’re having a baby.” I stood next to his bed and puffed my barely-three-months-pregnant belly toward him. He couldn’t speak, but his entire face smiled. His hand trembled as he moved it toward my stomach to touch it.

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“He kicked,” I lied and made myself smile when he made contact. It was too soon for the baby to move. But I wanted to make him happy.

Two days later my dad went to sleep. He didn’t wake up. He was 62.


The genetic mutation that caused Dad’s muscular dystrophy, the disease that caused other diseases that ultimately killed him, lives on an obscure region of his fourth chromosome called q35. Growing up, our family doctors told me I couldn’t inherit it. They were wrong.

I was married for six months when my husband Nick and I started talking to my doctor about having our own baby. The conversation covered all the standard genetics questions and the not-standard ones. Yes, my dad has this disease. No, I’m not a carrier. Are you sure? Actually, I wasn’t. I couldn’t remember the exact conversation with my family doctor. I couldn’t remember if I’d long ago created the narrative in my mind that I wanted to believe.

They took a lot of blood. Six weeks later, I heard back from a chirpy genetics counselor named Violet.

“Hi, Jo! I was surprised by your results,” she informed me in the same tone someone will tell you the winner of The Bachelor. “You do have the genetic mutation.”

I’d read once that some people swoon, actually pass out, when they hear bad news. My joints turned to butter, and I sat down on the floor to listen numbly to her directions about what to do next.

Two voices fought for supremacy in my head.

The first: You should just give up. Stop working. Fuck it! Let your roots grow out, dye your hair green, and sit with the gutter punks down on Haight-Ashbury smoking crack … because why not?

And the second: It doesn’t matter what the tests say. You’ll fight. You’re strong. You’re stronger than you know.

The first voice was so clearly mine. The second was Nick’s.

I couldn’t imagine wanting a baby, living with it in my body for three months, and then ending its brief life because of something that might happen to it in 40 or 50 years.

“You should divorce me,” I said to my husband that night, my brand-new husband who loved skiing and hiking and climbing and riding things. “Maybe the good of being married to me doesn’t outweigh the bad anymore,” I said to him the night after I talked to Violet. “You should find a hot and healthy new wife.” I paused. “Maybe not hot, but someone sturdy!”

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He looked at me like I was nuts and scratched his head. “You know, I measured it. I had these tools to measure the good and the bad of being married to you, and I set up the machine and I did all of these calculations, and you know what happened? The damn machine broke, the good outweighed the bad so freakin’ much.”

I married a good man.

We met with a neurologist to determine whether the muscular dystrophy had already started degrading my muscles. He couldn’t find anything tangible. Yet.

“Because this kind of muscular dystrophy affects the facial muscles, people often have a hard time smiling, and so people often think they’re unhappy,” the doctor said. “Do people often think you are unhappy?”

“So you’re saying a symptom of this kind of muscular dystrophy is resting bitch face?” I made a joke because it was true. Weren’t old men on the street always telling me to smile more? I’d spent most of my adult life being told to “wipe that puss off my face.” I cut to the chase. “What about our kids?”

“They have a fifty-fifty chance. You can’t screen for it in an embryo, so IVF won’t help. You can test a fetus, but not until about twelve weeks, and then you have the option of terminating the pregnancy.” The words terminating the pregnancy hung in the air like a storm cloud ready to burst any second. I opened my mouth but couldn’t say anything. I pinched my thigh above the knee, hard. My nails curled into my skin. I needed to feel something. “We should go,” I finally whispered to Nick. “I just want to go home. Please.”

Ray Spencer Falsely Accused of Rape and Sexual Abuse

Krause and Davidson denied any wrongdoing in the investigation. But after two and a half days of deliberation, the jury decided that the defendants had conspired to violate Ray’s rights, delivering a verdict of $9 million. Seven months later, the trial judge overturned the verdict for a narrow reason related to the jury instructions.

The family waited. Nearly three years went by as the decision was appealed.

In May 2017, Ray had back surgery. As he was recovering, he received a call from his lawyers: the court had reinstated the jury verdict. He was woozy from pain medication, but he delivered the news to Katie with a joke straight out of her 1980s childhood: “This is Publishers Clearing House,” he said. “You’ve won!” Katie wrote on Facebook, “Is this for real? Congratulations Dad on this monumental journey! You deserve this victory and your justice! I love you!” Matt wrote, “Time to pay up you assholes!”

Offline, the celebration was more muted. It is unclear how long it will take before the money arrives. Katie notes that she recanted nearly a decade ago. Every part of the process has moved slowly. “Somebody’s going to have to put a check in my hand, I think, before I really believe it,” Ray says.

Even with the money, Katie knows there will be a lingering resentment towards the investigators. “Money doesn’t give you twenty years of your life back,” she says. “If you don’t have someone stand up and say I f-ed up, and I apologize,’ and own it, you’re going to have some frustration always. It’s an exciting victory. But a complicated one.”

Bitterness toward the investigators had been something to bond over, and a place to turn to avoid their most contentious debate: DeAnne. She did not protest as her children grew close to her former husband, but she also never acknowledged his innocence. Matt and DeAnne are “civil,” Matt says, but barely.

Katie, who was always able to live with conflicting narratives, has managed to stay close to both parents. “I can’t live my mom’s truth. She is a bitter ex-wife, and as much as I love her, I’m not going to live her truth anymore,” she said at the trial. Still, she is protective of her mother, believing she earnestly thought her children were being hurt and tried to protect them. This makes it difficult to hear Ray and Matt complain about DeAnne. “At the end of the day it was harder for me than them,” she says.


Once or twice a year, Ray flies from Los Angeles to Sacramento to visit Katie and Matt, and he plans to move closer to them when the lawsuit money comes through. Matt and Katie wish he’d stop waiting. They sometimes sound like parents who chide their children for not visiting home often enough, but with a sharper edge; Katie, who now works as a dialysis technician and is raising her stepdaughter and two of her own children with Mike, worries that time is precious when so much has already disappeared.

Ray worked security after he left prison, but he stopped during the trial and has not returned. He self-published a book about his experiences and still hopes to use the psychology PhD he earned in prison. Matt’s transformation has stuck; he’s happily partnered, with a young son and daughter, and when they came along he decided to be a stay-at-home dad, in part because he knew what it was like to grow up without a father around.

Matt’s account has the feel of a conversion narrative: he was lost, but admitting his primal, early sin—lying about his father—absolved him of the rest.

During one of these visits a year ago, they lounged around Katie’s kitchen island, listening to the squeals of Katie and Matt’s children from the other room. Ray rolled through his memories of being a police officer. The mood was jovial until Ray started talking about how much he missed them while in prison; he kept photos of them hidden in his cell, taking them out late at night and trying to imagine how their faces had changed. He began to cry, and his children tried to cheer him up. Then the grandchildren raced through the kitchen, and Ray broke into a smile. “I’ve been trying to make as many memories as I can,” he said, “as long as I’ve got left.”

One of his favorite stories, which he tells more often than any of the prison yarns, is of the first time he arrived at Katie’s house. He was so afraid of Katie’s reaction, he says, but when the door opened, his first sight was his daughter holding his sixteen-month-old granddaughter, Mia. She was a mirror image of Katie the last time he’d seen her, more than two decades earlier. “It was just like all the years had been washed away,” Ray says, “and there was Katie.”

With a little trick of the mind, he could make it feel like he’d never left.

Ray Spencer wearing his class ring after obtaining a PhD in psychology while in prison.

Photography by Mark Mahaney.

I Lost My Wife to Postpartum Depression

It’s not that it’s hard for Greg Ludlam to describe his wife, Elizabeth. It’s that when he does, he has to use the past tense.

She was an awesome wife. She was an on-top-of-it mom. She was thoughtful and kind-hearted.

On June 1, 2016, Elizabeth, then 39, committed suicide after battling postpartum depression (PPD) for months, if not longer. On a crystal-clear California afternoon, Greg, 51, became a widower and a single parent to their two children, Emma, 9, and Ethan, 2. Just weeks before his family confronts the one-year anniversary of Elizabeth’s passing, he’s retracing the lost battle he never knew his wife was fighting.

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“I’ve got to carry around this constant feeling of, Why didn’t I figure this out?” he says now.

GOING WEST

It was Elizabeth’s bright-like-the-sun personality that Greg noticed first. They met at a library where Elizabeth worked part-time in Northampton, Massachusetts.

“We got to talking, and I was drawn to her smile and how friendly she was,” Greg says. “Even the way she walked — fast, with confidence. You could tell she was the kind of person who got things done.”

After about a year of dating, the couple went to California to help Greg’s family after his step-father passed away, and decided to make their stay permanent. If you look up the phrase “going west,” it’s described as the moment you’re about to meet disaster, but for Greg and Elizabeth, it felt like the exact opposite. Elizabeth fell in love with the area — the craggy coast, the nice weather, the day trips to the Golden Gate Bridge — according to Greg.

“Elizabeth took the lead with getting us out there,” he says. “She took care of all the little details — the packing, the prep.” The couple got married in the summer of 2001 and settled in Rohnert Park, a quiet neighborhood about an hour north of San Francisco.

“Life felt good,” Greg says. He was working as a mechanical engineer and Elizabeth had a job as a project coordinator with a solid track for advancement. After their daughter Emma was born in 2007, Greg felt like he and his wife were going through the normal ebbs and flows of new parenting.

“Elizabeth was completely on it — knowing what you’re supposed to do and not do,” Greg says. “Of course, we were tired, but it was fun.” Elizabeth worked her way into the Rohnert Park mom scene, attending classes for new moms and meeting up with them afterward for coffee and walks. “It was something she really enjoyed,” he says.

When Ethan was born seven years later, in 2015, that extra support lost out to work and managing a household of four. But to Greg, the routine felt like more of the same. The couple got up together for middle-of-the-night feedings and tag teamed the daily routine.

“Elizabeth would drop the kids off in the morning and I would pick them up later,” Greg says. “I would cook, she would do the laundry. At night, she’d get one kid to bed and I’d take care of the other one. We were a well-oiled machine.”

But then something changed. A change Greg did notice.

CRACKING THE FAÇADE

“Right around the time our son turned one, there was something about Elizabeth that just wasn’t right,” Greg says. “She was less tolerant of things around the house, and less patient, which was unusual for her because she was such a positive person. She wasn’t initiating time with friends or neighbors, and she started saying she was a bad mom. My interpretation was that it had to be stress.” Greg tried to help by suggesting she take a night to spend time with her friends, but she never did.

In the spring of 2016, the couple started talking about a move back to the East Coast, where they both had family.

“It was almost like a passing comment, but Elizabeth really latched onto the idea of leaving California, so it became this serious thing that we were going to do within the year,” Greg says. “We were both just kind of done with being on the West Coast. Elizabeth had been living thousands of miles away from her family for over a decade — a distance that now felt farther with two kids in the picture.” Elizabeth started packing up the house right way — stuffed animals, kitchenware that was seldom used. All boxed up.

The Cowpea Seed Beetle Has Gender Relations All Figured Out

Cowpea seed beetle

Presumably by now you’ve fully embraced your inner dragonfly and fake death every time a man starts annoying you. But if you really want to get back to nature, there’s another bug you can emulate: the cowpea seed beetle, whose females have developed thicker reproductive tracts to fight off the males and their spiky penises.

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Scientists say this is an example of “extreme genital co-evolution” (hot). The males developed spiky penises to hold onto the females, even if they try to kick them off during sex. The spikes also could cause enough damage to kill the female after her eggs are fertilized, ensuring that she will only produce that male’s young. So in response, females have developed thicker reproductive tracts to protect themselves from the males’ barbs, and also so they can live to bone another day.

Like many species, the cowpea seed beetle appears to be in an evolution race, but as New Scientist writes, “there are no winners, because defeating the opposite sex would be somewhat counterproductive.” Uhh, says you. Because we got that artificial womb; artificial sperm won’t be far behind.

How Much One Female CEO Makes

Earlier this month, 600 women invaded Brooklyn wearing millennial pink shirts and Catbird stacked rings. But they weren’t coming for avocado toast and unicorn lattes—they were there for Create & Cultivate, a conference that fosters female leadership in business, tech, and the creative arts.

With speakers like Gloria Steinem and our own Nikki Ogunnaike, the event is part of a C & C tour that’s hit Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, and soon, Maui. (Nice, right?) The organization has even hit spinoff status, launching their first list—called Create & Cultivate 100—of female role models, and recording their advice for internet consumption.

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Who made this happen? Jaclyn Johnson, a 30-something woman who turned her First Big Fail—a digital job gone wrong—into a Next Big Thing. We spoke with the California resident about what she’s learned, who she’s watching, and (yep) exactly how much money she makes.

Thousands of women attend Create + Cultivate conferences. What’s the most common career question they ask?

It’s different in every city, but the universal theme that keeps popping up is “When do I quit my fulltime job? When do I ‘out’ myself as an entrepreneur?”

And?

Well, I’ve found that women won’t say “I’m an entrepreneur” or “I’m a business owner” until they’re successful, whereas most guys don’t have that problem. Women, they want to build the company, finance the company, run the company, and then maybe they’ll give themselves the credit. We need to work on that.

You started C & C before Trump became president. Has your mission changed since the last election?

Coming off the Women’s March and the election, there’s a lot of politically focused conversations about being a woman in the workplace. We want to tackle that and want to talk about that at the conferences, because it seems like the most pressing thing for us. But also, for women, there’s a lot of interest on maternity leave and healthcare.

There must be a lot of healthcare talk right now.

Some of our attendees have small businesses or work for small businesses. How do they tackle healthcare, parental leave, and things like that at a small company? Nobody’s talking about it. Everyone assumes, “Okay, you have a job, then you have healthcare.” What about people with a million side hustles? Employees, freelancers, bosses, right now, everybody has reached a tipping point where we need help. And that can’t happen until we talk about it.

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Who’s been the most useful speaker you’ve heard?

The founder of Shabby Chic in Dallas spoke about going bankrupt. That’s powerful. Women feel like they can relate to that. Raising $150 million is impressive, absolutely. But struggling, going bankrupt, and starting over, that’s another level of inspiring. And it plays into my story a lot.

You failed?

Oh sure. I worked at CitySearch in New York. I was transferred to LA. I got laid off within 3 months. It was the worst. I had left my home, where I was the career girl. I was blowing up and making money, and then boom… I was devastated. It took a chunk of my personal identity. But the more I shared what happened to me, the more inspired other people seemed to be, because I bounced back! And for so long, I was so embarrassed! I was ashamed!

So you encourage your panelists to talk about bad choices.

And bad business-partner breakups. Credit card debt. Nobody wants to talk about that. But when you start talking about it, the more it helps women everywhere, and therefore helps you.

Your panels have had Nicole Richie, Chelsea Handler, and Lauren Conrad on them. Were you one of those Insta-Girls with lots of famous friends before you started your company?

Not at all. You have to believe me. This is something I always tell people. When I first started out, I would cold-email people and ask if they’d speak. The first person I got was Garance Doré. I was like, “I’m a big fan, please come speak at our conference.” And she wrote back. 99% of my job is following up. And then those people have a good experience, and tell their friends. We got Rachel Zoe to speak, and then Rachel Zoe told Jessica Alba that she had to speak. I am not friends with Chelsea Handler, but everyone wants to put their voice out there, and we can give them a great platform.

Why Can’t I Get a Second Date?

Miss E. Jean:I’m starting to feel like I’m missing an epic clue when it comes to dating. I have a good job and great friends, play sports, volunteer, etc.—a very full and fabulous life. I like to think I have a sparkling wit and a cute look, and that I’m an open person.

But I cannot get a second date!

After a recent (in my mind) wonderful date (well-planned by him, had drinks, lingered at our table overlooking the ocean, walked me to my door, texted me after), I get radio silence from him! Did I miss something? I have no problem meeting men or getting them to show interest, but I can’t seem to get anything off the ground. Is it me? —Stuck at Date No. 1

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Stuck, My Succotash: Bah! Who was this guy? Bill the Lizard from Alice in Wonderland? Forget it. It’s not you. It’s the Law of Small Numbers—any conclusion you draw after only two or three chaps will be crazy. Write to me when there’s “radio silence” after, say, the next 17 fellows. Meanwhile, here’s a juicy question for you: What’s the best night of the week for a first date?

Kenneth Shaw—Kenneth and I are cofounders of the matchmaking company Tawkify, which is galloping along at such a merry clip that our workforce has grown to more than 130, and if you laid the couples we’ve gotten together end-to-end, they’d reach from the Statue of Liberty to well beyond Mount Rushmore, or, at least, to the bust of Friedrich von Schiller in Central Park—anyway Kenneth, as I was saying, analyzed 1,000 dates Tawkify set up in a five-week period early in 2017. And what night do you think turned out to inspire the most “yes-yes” matches? (A yes-yes means both people want to see each other again.)

I guessed Thursday night. (I reasoned it had the least pressure.) Ha! Thursday was the worst night. We don’t know exactly why (yet), but Kenneth theorizes that people believe they might meet somebody better on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so they discount Thursday.

And the correct answer? The day named after the god of single combat, Tyr—viz, Tuesday. Tuesday nights were 30 percent more likely to touch off the divine spark (and result in a yes-yes) than the other nights of the week. I don’t know, but I suspect it’s because our rogue hormones are so surprised at being released on a boring evening, they let it rip like warrioresses. Knowledge is power. You know what to do, Miss Stuck!

How to Turn Heidi Klum’s Jessica Rabbit Costume Into an Actually Wearable Beauty Look

Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. For May, Heidi Klum and her beauty team break down how to get some of her most memorable hair and makeup looks—with minimal effort, to boot.

Okay, fine, Klum’s fabulously over-the-top Halloween look from 2015—Jessica Rabbit—might not be a look you want to copy to a T in your everyday life. But with a few adjustments, when you take it down a couple notches, it becomes a sultry nighttime look. After all, Heidi says, “Jessica Rabbit’s the epitome of an iconic sexy woman!”

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Meanwhile, Linda says: “Go for it! But only at night! Jessica is the epitome of everything female. Her ‘more is more’ iconic look can be translated to a night out with a few tweaks. Purples are the new neutral. Check out “Tisse Cambon” from Chanel or “Bloodroses” from Kevyn Aucoin. We use the classic liquid eye liner for a more feline finish, though this seemingly simple line can cause many headaches. I find the best way to apply is in two stages, with two products, and then add individual false lashes as the icing on the cake.

Step 1

First I ask my client to look directly at me (you would look directly into the mirror). With a pencil, I place a very faint marker dot on the outside of the eyes where I’d like to land the end of the line, just before the flick.

Step 2

Then with eyes closed its easier to see how thick and how angled the line can be. Gently pull the skin at the temple away from the eye to flatten the skins surface and line the eye with a fine line. Next step, loads of mascara.

Step 3

Now apply the liquid: Dior or YSL have great easy to use liquid liners, or if you prefer a gel, Nars, using the finest flat brush you have, you may at this point like to thicken your line, prepping for the flick at the end.

Step 4

Jessica chose a red lip but perhaps a stain for this look maybe more modern and chic, Chanel “Marthe” or “Camen” or Vincent Longo cheek and lip stain.

Jake Gyllenhaal Thinks Women Are Just Superior–Period

Jake Gyllenhaal has filmed a Rock the Vote commercial, serves on the board of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and reportedly donates money each year to plant trees in a Mozambique forest. But lately, the actor’s biggest cause is championing women. On Friday, at a Cannes press conference for his latest film, OKJA, co-starring Tilda Swinton and Lily Collins, the actor announced to journalists: “I absolutely believe in the superiority of women. All the people I work with feel the same way, and they must, or else I don’t work with them.” Well, alright then.

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When it was pointed out to him that it’s equality, not necessarily superiority, that most women are going for, the actor still stood firm on his women-are-just-better statement. “Part of the reason why I adore Bong [Joon-Ho, OKJA‘s director],” he said, “is because he thinks of us [men] as less than.”

Gyllenhaal credits his mom and sister for really showing him the truth of gender disparity in Hollywood. “I’ve grown up in a family where both my sister and my mother constantly talked about it themselves,” he said. “Particularly my sister is very outspoken about the difficulties in terms of sexism in the business.” His sister, the actor Maggie Gyllenhaal, famously said during an interview with The Wrap in 2015 that as a 37-year-old, she’d been told she was “too old to play the lover of a man of a man who was 55.” His mom, Naomi Foner, is a writer, producer, and director who has spoken about her struggle for the opportunity to direct.

“Part of the reason why I adore Bong [Joon-Ho, OKJA’s director], is because he thinks of us [men] as less than.”

In part because of their experiences, Gyllenhaal said he is driven to strip away sexism in Hollywood. “Do I think I see enough female directors getting attention? No I don’t,” he said. “I think it’s no mystery to all of us that it’s pretty male-centric, that’s obvious.” But he’s trying to do something concrete about the situation, too. “I started a production company two years ago,” he said. “One of our biggest intentions is to make sure that women filmmakers, as well as stories about women, are made in equal parts to the stories about men.” Conviction, yes, but also a plan to affect change: Now that’s something we can really get behind.

Is the Universe Telling Me Not to Get Over Him?

Dear E. Jean: How can things just go “poof”? The guy I fell for, not just any guy—the guy—met someone else and my heart broke into tiny pieces. I’ve tried so hard to move on, but it’s as if the universe does not want me to let go of him. It seems to be sending signs everywhere, reminding me of him—of us. Does this mean we are destined to be together? Is the universe telling me something? —I Want to Believe!

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Believe, My Earth Girl: As a woman who has traveled 72 times around the sun and who is, at this very moment, drinking a Kir Royale and joyriding across the cosmos at 1.3 million mph (the speed at which our galaxy is flying), I am infinitely well qualified to advise you whether the universe is telling you something—or not.

But first, you must answer a question:

The heart—the one that “broke into tiny pieces”—is it still beating?

It is? Good. That heart is made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and other atomic elements. And those atoms were made by stars exploding long ago, when the universe was young and moody. Indeed, not only your heart but your mind is made of stardust. The astronomer Carl Sagan said, “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”

Do you grok, my girl? In the most far out, Queenhell way, the universe is sending you signs, as you are the one seeing the patterns, decoding the signals, and making sure they’re signed, sealed, and delivered to you.

When you change, the signs you see the universe sending you will change. Thus, the best way to move on is to meet some new chaps and throw the cosmos into a paroxysm of confused delight. Good luck! Let us know how your astrophysical experiments are going.

This letter is from the E. Jean archive.