I Had an Affair With a Married Man—and We Never Even Kissed

He was married. I was single. We had an affair—and we never even kissed. It was a yearlong emotional affair, a nightmare where everybody cries and nobody comes. To understand why I got into a friendship that metastasized—and stayed in it for months—I’ve had to look frankly at my background and choices. And some of it ain’t pretty.

When I started talking to Josh (not his real name), I was getting over a five-month bout of bronchitis that often kept me wheezing and crying. I lived alone and worked from my small studio apartment. Conference calls for work left me breathless and embarrassed about my periodic hacking fits. Too tired to cook, I relied on childhood comfort food: McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and anything I could get delivered.

As my physical health suffered and I worked in relative isolation, my mental health took a nosedive. This was no surprise, as I have a history of depression, panic attacks, and agoraphobia. When I go to therapy, take my medication, exercise, eat reasonably good stuff, and sleep enough, I do very well. But being sick made it easy to neglect that recipe for health. When I felt well enough to emerge from my apartment, it was usually to drink with friends. I knew it was dangerous to drink alcohol while on an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), but I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel less conscious. Less present. I wanted to escape.

I was lucky to make a good middle-class income in a city, Los Angeles, where that’s increasingly rare. I was grateful for my copywriting assignments, a screenplay revision and an outline for my next novel. But I was lonely as hell, and depression can turn up the volume on pessimism and choke optimism into silence. Sometimes I ordered things online I didn’t really need just because it made me feel better, for a moment. But I soon found other ways to get a quick hit of good feelings, too.

A few months prior to first chatting Josh up, I had an uncharacteristically healthy realization: I often lost myself in my relationships. I chose men or women who I decided needed “fixing.” Sometimes they told me I was the only one who could save them. That made me feel important. I was woefully codependent. Sometimes I stayed with people I didn’t even respect, doing my best to be indispensable to them so that they’d never leave me. I paid their bills, went beyond healthy support into the realm of endless emotional labor, covered for them when they screwed up, and pretended everything was going to be fine. I told them what I thought they should do. I helped them sketch out action plans. And I didn’t look at my own glaring flaws. They would complain that I was condescending while availing themselves freely of what I called generosity. My fear of abandonment was so great that I allowed myself to be used, because I was a user, too. I was addicted, and my fix was fixing others.

Early on, he briefly mentioned his wife and kids. I felt a little disappointed, but immediately recalibrated into friend mode—heck, why wouldn’t he be married? He was so great!

So I’d decided to take a break, which in my case meant no boyfriends or girlfriends. No monogamous relationships. I would have occasional hookups with friends and nothing more. I figured I could get what I wanted sexually and spend the rest of my time becoming a happier, healthier person – as if we can compartmentalize our lives like that. As if I wasn’t using the hookups to numb my fear of being alone. Somehow, I thought this revised method would lead me to a healthy relationship. Not long after I went solo, bronchitis hit me hard, which made even casual liaisons impossible. So despite my intentions, I was forced to face being alone. And being alone was scarier than being sick. Naturally, I found a way around it.

A few months into my illness, I watched a funny video on Josh’s Instagram. He was an artist I knew through mutual friends and we followed each other, but we’d never met. I didn’t know much about him, but he was cute and seemed smart. For the hell of it, I sent him a private message: “That video cracked me up in the middle of a long workday.” Working from home means I do a lot of chatting via social media, and I’m not shy about messaging someone to say I enjoy their art. I don’t expect anything in response, but it happens that I’ve met some lovely real-life friends that way.

Josh responded nearly instantly: “Hey, thanks! You live out here now, right?” We chatted for a while about our respective work projects and our mutual friends. We both thought it was odd that we’d never met. We chatted a little the next day, and the day after. Early on, he briefly mentioned his wife and kids. I felt a little disappointed, but immediately recalibrated into friend mode—heck, why wouldn’t he be married? He was so great! He told me a little about her and how they met, and she sounded really impressive, like a talented boss and entrepreneur. She worked outside the home and he did the bulk of the childcare. He didn’t bring his family up again—at least not for a while.

Within a couple weeks, he told me it was hard to type while he was working on his art, and I suggested we use FaceTime. We started doing that every day while I worked in my bed, propped up on pillows.

Within a couple weeks, he told me it was hard to type while he was working on his art, and I suggested we use FaceTime. We started doing that every day while I worked in my bed, pale and disheveled and propped up on pillows. It was easy for him to set up his phone on a little tripod and show me his work. It was easy for me to prop my phone up on a stack of books I was supposed to read for potential endorsement and blurbing, and comment on his art instead. He was such a talented painter. I thought it was awesome that he was letting me have a window into his works in progress. And I felt a kind of pathetic gratitude that he seemed to still like talking to me even though—gasp!—I wasn’t wearing makeup or nice clothes. I thought I looked like shit. Meanwhile, he was tan and healthy and looked a lot like a guy I’d had a crush on in high school who had never showed any interest in me.

Chats about art and sports quickly expanded to include more complex topics. One day, he nervously told me he was in treatment for a mental health issue for the very first time, and felt ashamed about it. He hadn’t told anybody else, he said, but he knew he could trust me. I told him I was honored, and to keep going to therapy. I said I’d missed going for a little while, but I blamed it on my illness. I didn’t add, “But I still seem to find the ability to go out to the bar when I have a good day!”

He went on a family vacation and told me when he returned that he’d listened to the entirety of my memoir on audiobook. He said he’d loved it. It did not occur to me that it was odd for a man I’d never met to listen to my voice for eight hours on an airplane while sitting with his wife and kids. “What a nice guy,” I thought. “What a good friend.”

“Don’t you have a passcode on your phone?” I texted back. I was acting like we were having an affair—because we were having an affair.

Over the next couple of months, our communication increased: text, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, phone calls, emails. Once, he was late picking his kids up from daycare because we’d been chatting for so long. He said it was okay; he’d just blame traffic (in Los Angeles, you can always blame traffic.) Another time, his daughter walked into his studio while we were on FaceTime. The look on his face before he abruptly hung up was one of sheer terror. Panicked, I texted him to ask if everything was okay. He texted back immediately: “Yes, but I think it’s better if we just message in other ways. Texting isn’t secure.”

“Don’t you have a passcode on your phone?” I texted back. I was acting like we were having an affair—because we were having an affair.

“Yes, but she knows my passcode,” he texted back. Red flag! Red flag! Red flag…that I ignored.

“Got it,” I said. And then we stopped communicating over text.

Sometimes he’d talk to me late at night while he was supposed to be working. Now it had the flavor of something secretive. Even in my commitment to denial, I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t odd.

“I think Josh has a crush on me,” I told my friend Carol. She’s one of my best friends and she’s a real straight shooter.

“Yeah, and you’ve got a crush on him,” Carol said. “He’s an idiot and he wants you to seduce him so he can fuck you and then blame it all on you. Stop talking to him.” (See what I mean about the straight shooter thing?)

“He’s just a friend,” I said.

“I’m just your friend,” Carol said. “He’s using you for emotional support because his wife is busy actually earning money and being a real adult. And you’re using him for the same reason. You don’t know how to be single, so you have a sexless substitute boyfriend.”

My gut knew she was right, but my head said, “We can fix this!”

It was a familiar refrain for me. I frequently chose men or women I thought needed “fixing.” I stayed with people I didn’t even respect, doing my best to be indispensable to them so they’d never leave me. My fear of abandonment was so great that I allowed myself to be used because I was a user too. I was addicted; my fix was fixing others.

Josh called. He sounded nervous. “I have to talk to you about something,” he said. “I’ve realized that my feelings for you have…”

I blurted out “Turned into a crush?” at the same time he said “Begun to eclipse my feelings for my wife.”

Now that scared me a little. That was more serious than what I’d expected to hear. What I should’ve said was, “Josh, this is wrong. I wish you the best but we shouldn’t talk anymore.” But what I said was, “We can fix this!”

We arranged to meet in person for coffee in a public place to talk things out. I advanced the ridiculous notion that meeting me would take all the sparkle and mystery out of our feelings for one another. We’d see that we were real people with flaws, not just magical beings who were always there for each other long-distance. He agreed.

As soon as I saw him, my heart leapt. He was better-looking in person, and we laughed nervously as we hugged awkwardly. We spent a nice time talking about how much better and more appropriate it was in person and how relieved we both were. I made sure to ask about his family. He made sure to ask about my work.

When we parted, I texted him. “Do you actually feel differently now?”

“No,” he responded. “I lied.”

“Me too,” I said. “We should probably not talk for awhile.”

Soon after that, he went on a trip and drunkenly texted me that he missed me. I said that was inappropriate and then we spent a half hour texting about how inappropriate it was. I reminded him to delete the texts. Very normal stuff.

After about three months of pseudo-friendship, Josh told me he loved me. I said I loved him, too.

“What do we do?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

It went on and on. A couple of times, when we were both drinking, our conversations turned into phone sex. After each time, we’d both declare we couldn’t speak to each other again, and then we wouldn’t, for about a month. I’d lean on my friends for emotional support and they’d tell me I was doing the right thing. Then I’d crack, or Josh would, and it would start up again.

“I missed my chance,” he told me. “If only I’d met you before her. You are perfect. I want to be in love with her, but I don’t think I am. She’s so great. Why can’t I be in love with her anymore?”

Any rational adult could see it was better for children to experience a healthy divorce than a terrible marriage. But was his marriage actually terrible?

“You could leave her,” I said hopefully. “I doubt she wants to be with someone who isn’t in love with her.” I thought: And then you could get a real job, and a place by yourself, and after maybe six months or a year we could start dating for real, and it would be healthy and aboveboard, and then we could get married and live together, mostly happily ever after.

“No,” he said. “I’ll never leave her. I don’t want to mess up my kid the way my parents messed me up when they got divorced.”

But was that really the reason? Any rational adult could see it was better for children to experience a healthy divorce than a terrible marriage. But was his marriage actually terrible? I thought about it. The wife sounded great, and he seemed to actually think she was wonderful. He never complained about her to me. He had a pretty sweet set-up. She made all the money. He did most of the child care. His kids would be in school full-time soon, and he could do his art all day and hang out with his friends. He didn’t have to work hard, and people thought he was so sweet and so talented. He didn’t have to be a real adult. I took care of his emotional needs, she took care of his financial and sexual needs. He was set. And this was the person I loved?

I should just kill myself, I thought.

That’s when I knew I’d hit my limit. I hadn’t had that dark thought in many years. I was sad it had taken me getting to the point of suicidal ideation to get out of yet another shitty relationship, but I knew things had to change. Whatever I had with Josh, it wasn’t worth feeling like this.

I went back into therapy. Talking about this bizarre, mutually obsessive thing made it more real. I could deal with what was real. And it hurt like hell, but I spoke to Josh less and less. I knew that my life required more than just getting rid of some dude—more even than therapy. I resumed the meditation practice I’d abandoned a decade prior. Instead of looking for someone else to take care of me, I started taking care of myself. After all, I worked 60 hours a week for a reason: to earn money. It was time to start using it wisely instead of wasting it. I ditched the fast food, caffeine and sugar habits that kept me on an all-day roller coaster. I went to the nutritionist to learn how to eat better. I went to the chiropractor to help with my tricky back. I looked at my debt and refinanced. I created an actual budget.

I went two months without talking to Josh, and then I ran into him at a party. My heart leapt in the old way when I saw him. We drank a lot, ate a ton of terrible bar food, and walked around the block several times, talking. He told me he was in couples therapy and it was going okay. He hadn’t told his wife about our relationship, and didn’t plan to. He told me he was still in love with me and missed me. I said, “Me too.”

At one point, we held hands. We’d never done that before.

“Are you going to kiss me?” I asked. “This is probably your last chance.”

“I can’t,” he said.

“I know,” I said. And I immediately tripped and fell down on the sidewalk. My drunk coordination was certainly sub-par, but maybe I needed a physical wound on my knee to remind me of what I did to myself emotionally every time I talked to this guy.

I said goodbye to him.

In the Lyft on the way home, I knew it had gone as far as it was going to. There was no joy left in it, no excitement. There was just shame and guilt. Safe in my own bed, I cried, but there were tears of relief mixed in with the grief. He emailed me later to say that he loved me truly, and he hadn’t been using me, and he was very sorry for everything. I wished him well and said I was sure I’d see him around some day. And that was it. It’s been nearly a year, and we haven’t spoken or seen one another.

With the distraction of the emotional affair finally gone entirely, I took an honest look at all the things I’d been using to escape being alone with myself. And that’s when I made the biggest move of all: I stopped drinking.

With the distraction of the emotional affair finally gone entirely, I took an honest look at all the things I’d been using to escape being alone with myself. And that’s when I made the biggest move of all: I stopped drinking. I look at what Josh and I co-created, and I think we both took advantage of one another. I used him the way I used alcohol or sex, or online shopping—to distract myself from the fear and emptiness within. To call our relationship “love” would be a perversion of the term. Love doesn’t always last, but overall it yields healthful benefits for both parties. What we had was a mutual addiction and one that could’ve hurt other people terribly.

I wouldn’t do it all over again, but I’m using the experience as best I can to fuel writing that will hopefully make others who were in my position feel less lonely. I wrote a pilot about an emotional affair and called it “Codependent AF.” And my next novel centers on an alcoholic ensnared in a decade-long affair. I’m so sorry I did some real-life research for these projects, but maybe some good can come out of it. Hell, if it prevents one person from making some of my shitty mistakes, that’ll be a good thing.

I’m still single. I read a lot, and meditate, and do my work, and enjoy cooking and baking. I go to restaurants alone. I see friends who put in as much effort as I do. I’ve cut loose those who don’t. I’ve retired from trying to “fix” anybody, and I’ve let go of the hubris that I could or should have such powers. I take a long walk whenever I can, because it helps me practice staying present, looking at the beautiful flowers and trees and strange and wonderful sights my city has to offer. I don’t know when I’ll have a real, loving romantic relationship, but I trust it will happen when the time is right. I’m doing life one breath, one step, one moment at a time. And I’m done being anyone else’s dirty little secret.

Sara Benincasa is a stand-up comedian and author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs.

Illustration by Javier Jaen

Meghan Markle Just Played Football in Stilettos—How’s Your Day Going?

Sporty Stiletto Meghan Markle is at it again! While attending multiple events across Melbourne, Australia, with Prince Harry on Thursday (October 16), the Duchess of Sussex observed a group of young women playing Australian-rules football as part of the This Girl Can initiative, which encourages women to play sports. In a video captured by The Sun‘s royal correspondent Emily Andrews, Markle briefly got in on the action, bumping the ball back to a player after it was sent her way. Though the sporty moment was brief, it’s still incredibly impressive, especially because Markle didn’t falter once. That ground is uneven, people! This is definitely a feat.

Check out the video and photos for yourself, below:

meghan markle football 1

PHOTO: Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images

meghan markle football 2

PHOTO: Samir Hussein/Getty Images

meghan markle football 3

PHOTO: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

And here’s a shot of Markle needing a little bit of help from her husband to make it across the uneven field. Been there!

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PHOTO: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The last time we saw Markle and Prince Harry getting sporty in her fancy footwear was just a few weeks ago at Britain’s Loughborough University, where they played a game of net ball. What did you do today!?

On Monday (October 15), Markle and Prince Harry confirmed they’re expecting their first child. “Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019,” Kensington Palace posted to both Twitter and Instagram that morning. “Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public.”

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Kristen Bell Thinks Certain Disney Princesses Send Problematic Messages to Children

While the Disney canon has long been beloved by youngsters and parents alike, Kristen Bell had a recent revelation about the franchise’s many princesses.

As Bell explained to Parents magazine in a new interview, this revelation of hers occurred when she recently read Snow White to her two young daughters during bedtime. After she finished, Bell started asking them very specific questions about the story. “Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?’” Bell explained to Parents. “I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m doing something right.’”

Foolishly taking a healthy snack from a stranger is one thing, but Bell also realized the severity of a man having physical contact with a woman without consent. “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission?” she told her daughters. “Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping!”

Bell continued, “I look at my child’s brain like a hungry stomach — I have to feed it every day. Even if I’m rushed, I have to feed their brain just like I feed their belly.”

Interestingly, earlier this week Keira Knightley also spoke critically about the messages certain Disney princess films give children. She’s banned The Little Mermaid and Cinderella in her household, believing her daughter is better off without the “men, they save everything!” narrative. “This is the one that I’m quite annoyed about because I really like the film. I love The Little Mermaid!” she explained on Ellen. “That one’s a little tricky, but I’m keeping to it.”

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Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber May Have Just Confirmed They’re Married

One of 2018’s greatest mysteries is whether or not Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber are married. We know they received a marriage license in September, but then Baldwin took to Twitter shortly after that and claimed she and Bieber hadn’t officially said “I do.” Then, Bieber decided to serenade Baldwin outside Buckingham Palace, as if that would stop fans’ inquiries about his marriage status. Since then the couple’s been making out publicly all over the country, wearing lots of sweatpants, drinking coffee, and taking lie detector tests. What they haven’t done, though, is confirm their marriage status to the world.

Until now—well, maybe. A 16-year-old told Us Weekly that she asked Bieber and Baldwin if they are married when she saw them at a restaurant in Los Angeles on Tuesday (October 16), and the couple said “yes.”

“I asked them if they were married and they simultaneously said yes,” the fan explained to Us Weekly. “They were both very happy and kind. He told me that she’s his angel. They were super sweet!” Us Weekly reports Bieber also referred to Baldwin as his “wife” during a visit to the Stratford Perth Museum in Ontario, Canada,

Of course, take this report with a grain of salt. We won’t know for sure if Bieber and Baldwin are married until they say something themselves.

“Hailey I am soooo in love with everything about you! So committed to spending my life getting to know every single part of you loving you patiently and kindLY,” Bieber wrote on Instagram in July when he confirmed his engagement to Baldwin. “I promise to lead our family with honor and integrity letting Jesus through his Holy Spirit guide us in everything we do and every decision we make.”

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Sparkly Barrettes, Leopard Pants, and Other Fall 2018 Non-Essentials I *Absolutely* Need

Seasonal fashion guides tend to focus on “essentials,” pieces that have longevity, are trend-agnostic, and are considered to be worth spending money on because of the wear you’ll get out of them. For fall, that means the black ankle boots, the camel coat, the thick-knit sweater… All really useful parts of any wardrobe, but not particularly fun to shop for. As satisfying as it is to take those purchases out of the bag/box/envelope they came in and wear them out for the first time, there’s a unique thrill to those non-essentials you see all over Instagram, street style, or on that one very well-dressed neighbor of yours—oversized jelly hoops, a slick coated trench, rhinestone barrettes. Could you get through the season without them? Yes, absolutely. But can you also convince yourself that fall dressing will feel that much more fun if you throw leopard-print trousers into the mix? Also yes.

Ahead, check out 20 of these fall non-essentials I nonetheless want in my life for the cold months.

We bring you the trends. You make them your own. Sign up for our daily newsletter to find the best fashion for YOU.

Prince Harry Playfully Laughing at Meghan Markle Is All You Need to See Today

Meghan Markle, who’s currently touring Australia with her husband, Prince Harry, gave anglophiles another soundbite during a scheduled stop at a Melbourne government building Thursday afternoon (October 18). Per People, the duo got to wind down a bit from their go-go-go schedule thanks to a more casual reception in the building, which included a student science demonstration to encourage careers in the STEM field. Unfortunately for Markle, one of these demonstrations involved a mini Formula 1 car race that seemingly exploded in her face, spooking her. We, too, wouldn’t love that!

As you can see in the below, video, Markle had the honor of pressing the button to commence the race, only for a loud sound (and a bunch of steam) to encompass the room and scare her enough into moving backwards. Still, she let out a hearty laugh, indicating she was enjoying herself. “I did not expect that!” she exclaimed in response, prompting Harry to giggle loudly back at her. “Wasn’t quite expecting that,” he joked. People also reports that the students who built the demonstration asked Markle if she wanted to launch the cars again, but she declined. Prince Harry, meanwhile, was loving the design of the cars, and had several questions lined up for the students. “3D printing being put to good use,” he said. “That is fantastic.” To end their visit, the duo also got to test out their AFL football skills in the backyard, as they met with ambassadors from This Girl Can, an organization that encourages women to take up sports.

The couple’s Australian two-week tour has been going off without a hitch so far, with some of the other highlights being Markle baking banana bread for a local family, talking with lots of youngsters, and, of course, holding some iconic umbrellas.

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Elizabeth De La Piedra: What It Costs to Be Me

These days it’s nearly impossible to know what women are spending on the way they look. Someone with Instagram-flawless contouring might have honed her craft using the finest from the drugstore aisles, and the utterly makeup-free type might be spending thousands on laser treatments and serums. Enter our series, “What It Costs to Be Me,” where we’re asking interesting women for radical transparency.

Up this week: Elizabeth De La Piedra, 32, photographer and mother of two from Chicago, Illinois. Her annual total? $4,454.50

Elizabeth De La Piedra is a beauty omnivore: she’s as enthusiastic detailing the many merits of a $5 brown eyeliner as she is describing the skin-transforming power of a $500 laser treatment. Her bottom line: it’s got to work, and she knows exactly how it all fits into her budget. Her top priorities are skin care (“a good cleanser, exfoliating system, serum or oil, and a moisturizer”) and nails. “I’d truly cut back on everything else before I’d give up the joy it gives me to look down and see the color and symmetry of having my nails done,” she says.

My shower and hair regimen: $189:

My skin and my hair are both kind of the same: it’s all very dry and very coarse. So I always need to exfoliate and moisturize my skin, and I constantly need to add moisture to my hair and not wash it too often—once or twice a week max. I use Aveda Be Curly shampoo and conditioner ($25 each), and brush my hair in the shower with a wide tooth comb ($3). For my body, I use Glossier Body Hero Oil Wash ($18) with exfoliating gloves ($7). I love the way that body wash smells—it’s kind of floral but also woody, so it’s a sexy-fresh smell, if that makes sense. And because it’s an oil wash it’s not too bubbly; anything too bubbly will dry my skin out.

Once I’m out of the shower, I always put in Aveda Damage Remedy ($30) leave-in conditioner. Then I spray Aveda Texture Tonic ($25) onto my wet hair—it activates my curls and helps to separate and define them. Once that dries a bit, my hair starts to get kind of fluffy, and I work in some Aveda Light Element Texturizing Creme ($25) to control the fluff and add a little moisture and hold. And then if I need to, I use Aveda Control Force Firm Hold Hairspray ($31) for any flyaways.

My curl pattern is actually kind of tight, but because of the length right now, it makes everything a bit heavier and elongates the curls. I still struggle getting my hair just right, even at 32. It doesn’t help that our hair changes with time, too. Six years ago my hair needed heavier products, but after I had my babies I needed something a little lighter.

My morning skin care routine: $200

I wash my face with Tula Purifying Cleanser ($28), then layer on Glossier Super Bounce Serum ($28), which has lots of hyaluronic acid for moisturizing. After my serum, I use Tula Hydrating Day and Night Cream ($52). I like Tula a lot—I’ve found that its products are really good for balancing my skin. This cream has given me good, consistently clear skin—and it’s very hydrating, which I also need. I’ve always struggled with being somehow both too dry and also a little oily. I tend to break out because when I fidget or get nervous, I touch my face. I’m a big fidgeter. I try to be good, though, and if I ever do break out I clean it up with a little Clearasil spot treatment ($7).

After my moisturizer comes Supergoop 50+ Super Power Sunscreen Mousse ($34). I love the light mousse texture, and it absorbs so nicely. There’s something about the formula that kind of makes you a little glowy underneath everything. For my body, I use my Go-To Body Oil ($51). The line is from Australia, where I grew up. When I tried it the first time, I became obsessed—the floral scent smells like heaven. I’m into a good scent, I like being swept up in that.

My daytime makeup: $244.50

I go for a natural look, but kind of a turned-up natural. I use Glossier Stretch Concealer in dark ($18), then rub Glossier’s Cloud Paint gel-cream blush in the new bright orange, Dawn ($18), at the base of my cheeks. And then on the apples of my cheeks, I use just a little Storm or Haze ($18 each), which are both pink. Then I use my NYX brown eye pencil ($5) for both eyes and lips. It’s this dark brown with a warm base to it. It helps open my eyes because black liner during the day is too heavy for me—and on my lips, that same color helps show the shape of my lips and keep my lips from blending in too much with the rest of my skin. Because I’m darker—I’m Peruvian—that dark brown is the only thing that shows up. Other actual lip liners I’ve tried just kind of look invisible.

Next I pop on my lip balm and lip color, and then rub my lips to blend it all. My balm is Glossier Balm Dotcom ($12), and I alternate between clear and cherry. Then I usually blot on my MAC lipstick in Hot Tahiti. Tragically, I think it’s discontinued—I’m so sad! It’s the most perfect pink: a little bit mauve and a little bit sheer, but if you build it up it can get darker and brighter. My alternative to it is the Generation G Glossier Lipstick in Crush ($18). And then every so often I’ll do a red lip: I outline my whole lip in MAC Lip Pencil in Cherry ($18), add my NYX brown liner in the corners, fill in with MAC Ruby Woo lipstick ($18.50), then rub my lips together to blend everything nicely.

For my brows I use Glossier Boy Brow in both brown and clear ($16 each). I use the brown to fill in the spaces and spots, and then use the clear to shape everything. Then I brush on Benefit They’re Real! Lengthening Mascara ($25). For highlighter, I apply Glossier Haloscope in Quartz ($22) high up on my cheekbones, on my brow bone, and on the tip of my nose. In the summer I use Glossier Wowder in Light/Medium ($22) to bring down shine. It’s almost clear, and yet it gives me a little bit of coverage, which is nice. It takes a lot to make me look natural!

My going-out makeup look: $195

Any time I’m getting my makeup done on a shoot, I’ll have the makeup artist use my Super Bounce Serum on me first—unless I’m hungover, in which case I’ll go for the Super Glow Serum ($28). And any time I’m going out at night I always put on another layer of the Bounce first. I think you’re only supposed to do it once a day, but whatever! At night, I use the same makeup as daytime, plus I’ll wear foundation. I cocktail my own mixture: 2/3 Glossier Skin Tint in dark ($26) mixed with 1/3 Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($64). Most foundations are too thick and cakey for my skin. The Glossier Skin Tint is lightweight enough—but a little too lightweight. Blending the two is perfect, because it gives enough coverage and it doesn’t look like it’s sitting on top of my skin. I also like to use my favorite shadow colors from my Anastasia Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette ($42). I usually blend one, two, or three in a combo: Orange Soda, Burnt Orange, Sienna, Rustic, Cyprus Umber, Rose Pink and Sultry. They go from orangey to pinky-browny, all in that color world. I sometimes add a little cat-eye with Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen in Black 001 ($9), just a really thin line to extend the look of my lashes. I usually do my NYX brown liner very close to my lashline, but for a nighttime look, I might also smudge in a little more of the darkest shadow from the Anastasia palette close to my lashes. At the end of everything, I use MAC Prep + Prime Fix Setting Spray ($26), and then finish with the Wowder.

My (bargain) evening skin care: $124

I take my makeup off with Lancome Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover ($30), then use the Tula cleanser again, layer on Go-To Skin Face Oil ($45), and once that sinks in I pop my moisturizer on top. I’ve been using Elucent Night Moisturizer ($35), which I got in Australia and it’s amazing. My sister lives there, and a dermatologist suggested this cream to her. The next time I came to visit I was like, “What are you doing to your skin, and why do you look like you have no pores?” I had to get it. It basically exfoliates your face overnight—and it’s cheap! I also put Skyn Iceland Berry Lip Fix ($14) on before bed to help repair and replenish my lips while I sleep.

My perfume favorites: $434

These days for perfume I’m loving Byredo 1996 ($190). There’s just something about woody, musky scents that feels more human than something that’s really really clean or fresh. One of my favorite photographer duos, Inez and Vinoodh, created the Byredo 1996 as a capsule perfume the year I turned 30. Inez is so inspiring, so I had to buy it for myself. It’s something I tend to wear for a fancy thing at night—when I’m going out or when I’m on dates with my husband. But during the day I like to wear Margiela Lazy Sunday Morning ($126)—it’s more of a nostalgic scent for me because it smells like fresh linens. I also sometimes wear Glossier You ($60) for daytime—it’s a good size and durable. I try to keep one in my bag for when I need a spritz, just because I’m a smelly girl. And when I want a sexy, sexy, sexy scent, I use Narciso Rodriguez For Her ($56). I call it “The Husband Catcher,” because that’s how I got my man. I’ve been wearing it for over 10 years. It’s so good.

My brand-new hair maintenance routine: roughly $800 so far

For years I’ve been touching up my grays with Garnier Olia in Darkest Brown ($10) every 3 to 4 weeks. It was a lucky find. I found the Olia when I first moved to America eight years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. I tried a different brand once and it burned my scalp—never again! Always the Olia, just on the roots.

That said, I just got my hair dyed professionally. I got two blond streaks in the front this past week, and they’re really fun. I met a hairstylist I liked on a photo shoot and she came to my house to do my hair here. Her name is Leatrice Lloyd. It was about $200 for a cut and color, and she did my roots too. Ordinarily I just trim my hair about three times a year—it’s roughly $200 at Spoke and Weal, and I go to anyone there, because I really like how they cut hair. But now that I’ve gotten the blond streaks, I don’t know what that’s going to cost me. The idea is that every month Leatrice is going to come back and do touchups and dye my roots, so it’s a whole new ballgame! And I’m about to invest in a toner for blond hair.

My non-negotiable nail treatments: $800 a year

I get acrylic nails done every two weeks ($25). And I get a brand-new set about every two months ($80). I like jelly nails right now, and they ain’t cheap. I like to keep my nails long and almond-shaped, which means I have to get acrylics because I’ve never been able to grow my nails and keep them from breaking or getting uneven. I’m always looking at my hands, and if I have nice nails it creates a little moment of zen: they’re all colorful, all symmetrical, all in front of me. It just gives me happiness. My staple is red, always, but I also love to branch out. Right now I’m into neons, like pink and green.

My every-so-often skin-fixing treatments: $831 a year

I do a face mask once every one to two weeks, or a couple days before a shoot or a big event. My favorite trick is mixing Aztec Secret’s clay mask with apple cider vinegar—I get the clay on Amazon for like $10 a tub, and it can last you a really long time. My husband and I share it, and we go through maybe two tubs over the course of a year. You can mix it with water, but I prefer apple cider vinegar because it makes the consistency of the mud so much better and smoother. It takes off all the dead skin and creates a plumping effect too.

Sometimes I’ll also put on a lip mask before an event. I love the Skyn Iceland Lip Gels ($28), which are really plumping and smooth out your lips. I also do those great Dr. Dennis Gross exfoliating face wipe pads ($88) once a week, and Nads Facial Wax Strips ($10) to remove facial hair every two weeks.

I’m going to start getting a Pixel Perfect laser treatment once a year. I love it. I’ve only done it once so far, but it’s made my skin a lot smoother and more even-toned. I went to Natural Beauty Med Spa, and it’s pricey—about $500. I definitely want to keep doing it, though if I had to cut back, that would be the first thing to go because it’s such an expense. If you’re in the position to afford it, you have to check it out. It has five days of downtime, which is intense—you really have to stay inside and put on tons of Aquaphor ($10) for the first few days. I have kids so obviously I had to go outside to drop them at school, and I fully wore a balaclava and a sun hat! I looked insane but I didn’t care, because afterward you have baby skin. It’s so worth it. I also get a Hydrafacial ($175) at the same med-spa once or twice a year. It’s great for me because I have such dry skin and tend to build up a lot of dead skin and gunk.

My relaxation techniques: $637 a year

I get about three massages a year, which cost roughly $120 each time. There’s a woman I really like named Bria at Spa Soak in Wicker Park. If she’s not available, I’ll go to Allyu Spa. They have a really good range of masseuses there. And maybe two days a year I’ll have a Korean spa day at King Spa. It’s awesome because $35 will buy you an all-day pass.

I’m also big on candles and hot baths. Three to four times a week I’ll use a cup or so of epsom salt ($5), light a candle—currently I have a Diptyque Jasmine one ($65) by the bath—and just soak. I candle shop at Diptyque once a year. I’ve got one for the bathroom, one for the studio, one for downstairs. They’re all so good. My favorites are Jasmine, Feu de Bois, and Iris.

I also like to light palo santo ($7) in the mornings. It’s a very cleansing way to start the day, and I love the smell. I get it from a little wacky bookstore near my house called Space Oddities Chicago that sells vintage books, but also artwork from local artists, gemstones, candles, and tarot decks.

Taylor Swift Just Used Her Nail Polish to Make Another Political Statement

Now that Taylor Swift has broken her silence on politics, she can’t stop, won’t stop encouraging her followers to vote in the upcoming midterms. This week, she made yet another political statement, with a little extra help from a few bottles of nail polish.

On Wednesday morning (October 17), Swift posted two photos on Instagram; the first is a Polaroid of her toenails, which are adorned with either red, white, or blue polish, while the other is a relaxed selfie. “Something I wish I knew about when I was 18 and voting for the first time: ✨EARLY VOTING✨. It makes it so quick and easy to go and cast your vote before November 6. Early voting starts TODAY in Tennessee and goes to Nov 1,” she wrote in the caption. For those Swifties and followers not in Tennessee, she also pinned a calendar of the early voting dates for all 50 states in her IG bio.

“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” she wrote on Instagram a few weeks back. “I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”

In the hours after Swift’s first post, Vote.org reported a massive spike in voter registration. And a few days later at the American Music Awards, Swift once again reminded everyone to hit their local ballot boxes. “I just wanted to make a mention of the fact this award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people,” she said toward the end of her speech. “And you know what else is voted on by the people…is the midterm elections on November 6. Go out and vote, I love you guys.”

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This Powerful Obit Is Going Viral Thanks to It’s Brutal Honesty About Opioid Addiction

When Madelyn Linsenmeir, a 30-year-old Vermont mother died on October 7 as a result of an opioid addiction, her parents used their daughter’s obituary as a call to action for increased awareness of the disease that took their daughter’s life, while simultaneously showcasing who Linsenmeir was as a person—both because of and outside of her addiction.

Since being published earlier this week, the obit has gone viral, likely thanks to the fact that her family chronicled the start of her drug abuse, her subsequent addiction, and many attempts to overcome it. But they also honored the other attributes that defined her: the love she had for her son, her incredible singing voice, and how she charmed everyone she met.

“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie—when they saw her addiction they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient,” the obituary read.

Her parents ended the tribute by speaking directly to those who are struggling, as well as those who don’t understand their struggle: “If you yourself are struggling from addiction, know that every breath is a fresh start. Know that hundreds of thousands of families who have lost someone to this disease are praying and rooting for you. Know that we believe with all our hearts that you can and will make it. It is never too late.”

“If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support.”

In the wake of its publication, many have taken to Twitter to commend Linsenmeir’s family for their honest and heartbreaking portrayal of their daughter’s life, and the opioid crisis. Ivanka Trump wrote, “Profound admiration for the family members who wrote this raw, beautiful & devastating obituary. A generous act amid their pain & a wake up call to all as we battle, together as a nation, opioid addiction; a crisis of epic proportions. Rest In Peace Maddie.” Another Twitter user shared, “This is the most honest and devastating obituary you will ever read about a person who died from opioid addiction.” And another thanked Linsenmeir’s family, saying, “A beautiful, heart wrenching tribute to a woman who was a beloved daughter and mother, lost to addiction. And what a blessing this family is to educate us as they honor her.”

At least 31 women lose their lives to opioids daily, Glamour reported last year in a special look into the epidemic. And for those like Linsenmeir—who had breifly been able to stop using for short periods of time—it typically takes repeated attempts to become drug-free. In the same report, Glamour spoke to 20 women in recovery for opioids, and almost all said that they relapsed between ten and 20 times before getting sober. As David Fiellin, M.D., professor of medicine, emergency medicine, and public health at Yale, put it, “Relapse rates after detox are over 80 percent within a year, and those individuals are also at high risk for overdose.”

Linsenmeir’s family’s fearless decision to publish such an honest account of their daughter’s addiction is another step in the right direction for people to understand this disease that as of 2017, is the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, by way of overdose.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioids, learn more at Shatterproof.org and find specific treatment options in your area on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration‘s website.

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These Pics of Meghan Markle Holding an Umbrella For Prince Harry Are Just So Pure

Contrary to what Natasha Bedingfield sang on her iconic song “Unwritten,” it appears Meghan Markle does not want Prince Harry to “feel the rain on [his] skin.” So, during a recent royal engagement in Australia, she offered up her umbrella to keep her husband dry.

While attending a picnic at Victoria Park in Dubbo, Australia, on Wednesday (October 17), heavy rains began to fall before Prince Harry was set to give a speech. In order to keep him from getting soaked, Markle held an umbrella above his head while he spoke. According to People, the Mayor of Dubbo offered to let Prince Harry borrow his umbrella when the rain started, to which the prince replied, “It’s all right, I’ve got my wife.”

And you thought all of those impromptu back rubs were cute! Check out the pics for yourself, below:

meghan harry umbrella 2

PHOTO: Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images

meghan harry umbrella 1

PHOTO: Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images

meghan harry umbrella 3

PHOTO: Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images

The rainy day is actually good news for Dubbo, which has been plagued with an intense drought over the past few years. This has increased the suicide rate among young men in the area, People reports, which Prince Harry addressed in his speech.

“It must be hard not to lose hope when you endure so many dry months end on end knowing that you are powerless to do anything about it,” he said, per People, pointing out the rise in suicides in the farming region. “You are one huge community and with that comes an unparalleled level of internal support and understanding.”

He continued, “You need to know a part of being strong and tough is having the courage to ask for help when you need it. You must not silently suffer.”

Drawing on his own experience, the prince added, “You are all in this together and, if I may say, personally, we are all in this together. Because asking for help was one of the best decisions that I ever made. You will be continually amazed at how life changes for the better.”

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