The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, July 11, 2008, Columns

TRUE CONFESSIONS It's true: I'm one of those queens who uses a sleep mask to make sure the light does not wake me up. It started about 20 years ago when I received a gift from my sister of a turquoise-blue satin mask with white lace ruffles around it. I was delighted with it, even though she got the black-on-black one that I really coveted. The black lace on black satin was charming in a sexy, naughty way, the white lace on turquoise satin being a little too June Allyson for my taste. A quick snip of the scissors, and the white lace was gone, and, well, the mask was lined in black satin (a must), so I didn't have to see the color of the outside. Since then, I've been through many kinds of sleep masks. Let's chat, shall we? Forget those floppy little things they give away on airplanes. Floppy sleep masks just don't do the job properly. There has to be some substance to the mask – an inner lining that gives a slight stiffness to keep the mask from folding across the bridge of the nose. Speaking of noses, the most important detail to look for in a sleep mask is a little chevron of padding where the mask fits over the nose. This is critical in keeping out the light but also lifts the mask off of the eyelid itself. Some people prefer a gentle pressure from the mask to keep the eyes closed, but I'm among those who do not. There are the masks cut from some kind of foam that fit like doughnuts around the eyes, with a cover to keep the light out, but these protrude so far away from the face that it's like sleeping with night-vision goggles on. Not comfortable. Most masks have an elastic strap or two to hold the mask in place, but it is usually one-size-fits-all (they really mean one-size-fits-small). If the elastic is too tight, you will not get a good night's sleep – in fact, you may have a headache upon waking. One brand I found actually addressed the problem with two little sliders at the temple so that the mask could be adjusted ... only to discover that there is no comfortable place on the head for sliders. Nice try, though. Now, armed with all this knowledge, sally forth into the marketplace, and find the mask that's right for you.

SHE WORE ... When I first wrote about my cancer awhile back, I made a joke about how much I loved bed jackets and looked forward to languishing in bed wearing all sorts of them. Then, lo and behold, the divine Jennifer Barker-Benfield of Blue Velvet sent over an assortment of them – dozens it seemed. Little yellow ruffled ones, quilted rosebud-patterned ones, flimsy blue satin ones. At last I had to wardrobe to die for ... I mean, like they do in the movies. Jen wrote me last week to tell me a funny celeb story about the ever-girlish Drew Barrymore and her recent boyfriend, Justin ("I'm a Mac") Long, showing up at Blue Velvet to shop with an all-male entourage. (The celeb pair are no longer together, according to Jen can tell the story much more amusingly than I can. She was there, after all. Go to her blog, Felt Up by Jen (, and read for yourself. Jen also told me that Blue Velvet is moving. After nine years on the Drag, they are closing their shop at 21st and Guadalupe at the end of August and moving to 217 North Loop. Look forward to a huge sale!

WTF? I accompanied a friend to the Gas Pipe recently, on his quest to buy some sort of paraphernalia. I didn't know what he wanted, and he didn't really know what to ask for, so we shopped around under the unrelenting gaze of the smug 12-year-old clerk (okay, maybe a smug 21-year-old clerk). My friend found something that was similar to what he wanted but asked the clerk if he had one without a certain kind of detail. The less-than-helpful clerk gave us some unintelligible double-talk, so my friend kept looking until he found exactly what he wanted. "That one," he said to the clerk. La Clerk said: "Um, uh, hmmm. Well, I'm not going to sell it to you." "Pardon me," I thought, "but isn't this a retail establishment?" My friend was thinking the same thing and said: "What? Aren't you in the business of selling things?" "I can't sell it to you," La Clerk said, "because you don't know the correct lingo. You don't know what to ask for." Says my friend: "But that's crazy! This is what I want to buy right here!" La Clerk says: "This conversation is over. Please leave." Definitely one of the worst and strangest customer-service experiences I've ever had in Austin.

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.