Saving Happily-Ever-After

Earlier today I wrote something on Facebook as a status update – and I think it bears repeating, and elaboration.

After attending the East Somerville Foodie Crawl last night, I found myself thinking [yet again] about the politics of my local economy. Although these issues seem specific to time and location, it has become all too apparent that [East] Somerville is but another redundant chapter in a familiar, yet unavoidably tragic, tale that we all know by heart. Dare we to dream of another ending, another outcome – a happily-ever-after for ourselves?

To do so, we must dismiss our preconceived notions of what it means to be the hero, heroine or savior – empowering ourselves, rather than some unseen, intervening force – as the authors of our own destiny.

I always say that every woman has the magic within herself to be her own fairy godmother… So that must also mean that every person has the authority to rewrite his/her own story – and that every community has the power to save itself from being written off as insignificant!

Just as an ecosystem requires diversity, so too does our local economy. By offering authentic, high-quality versions of various ethnic cuisines, cultural artifacts and handmade products, small business owners keep their culture, and the American dream alive. Most small businesses naturally increase the sustainability of the entire community by reducing the number of unnecessary “outsourced” steps needed to complete any given economic transaction. Because they need to keep costs low, many small businesses refrain from the wasteful, extravagant, and excessive practices of larger companies. Less likely to invest in frivolous packaging, advertising and product “embellishment,” small businesses contribute to environmental conservation simply because most of the budget is reserved for product quality – rather than superficial appearance. Ironically, it is the limited nature of profits/available funds that keeps small business owners intimately connected to their community, past patrons, and all investors. Once a business becomes so large that it no longer “needs” its original clientele to turn a profit, it begins to invest more in growing, and less in providing a reliable, high-quality product or service.

Furthermore, once a business no longer relies upon “loyal” neighborhood customers or “regulars” for its profit – it begins to depersonalize both its employees and its customers. Because all of the involved labor is simply a means to one end [growth], employees are no longer seen as collaborators or colleagues. They become another expense, as do customers – and the goal becomes maximizing profit, at the expense of all but the original owner(s). And because money ceases to hold the value it once did when the business relied upon its customers to remain functional, large businesses become detached from the economic transactions they engage in – encouraging a sense of inflated self-worth, and deflating the value of all new employees, customers and investors who make contributions. As transactions become further detached from their origin – and the number of employees, customers and investors explodes beyond the level where relationships are involved – the business owner transcends all safeguards against immoral, selfish and/or entitled behavior. Falsely deriving business success from himself/herself, top business owners fail to recognize or reciprocate the contributions of those below them – equating employees with mere livestock or interchangeable parts – simply because they can “afford” to lose and replace any individual piece.

When the number of “middle men” involved in economic exchanges increases, the middle class decreases, because:

(a) “Middle men” are a form of excess – created to multiply the number of steps in an otherwise easy or self-explanatory process. “Middle men” generate profit by removing “laypersons” (“unqualified” individuals) from his/her authority to “serve himself/herself,” often using inflated terms or phrases like “qualified, certified, licensed, approved, and legally permitted” to justify the importance of these roles (e.g., attourneys). This is the same tactic used to create “novel” products that drive up demand – even when it would otherwise dwindle because a product is redundant, unnecessary or already owned by most of the targeted audience (e.g., seasonal nail polish colors and fashion). In short, a false need or state of deprivation is insinuated to provoke desire – and maintain a continuous illusion of scarcity, poverty and low status – to individuals who are relatively “wealthy” and successful. It creates need, when all needs are already met, and feeds off of the consequences. The “middle man” role also serves to alienate people from one another – using the same inflated certifications and qualifications as fuel for competitive aggression. This competition distracts most people from recognizing their own cooperation with a model that constantly devalues – yet insists they place high value upon – self-worth.

{You are all special, but only some of you are qualified enough to be called “nail technicians.” Only “the chosen” few, who braved beauty school  (ah… excuse me, cosmetology school!) are granted with the divine right to paint the fingers of the common masses! Now go forth, and share your gift with the world… but not until you’ve gone to school, taken out loans, crippled your future earning power, accumulated insurmountable debt, maxed out 3 credit cards, and accepted a minimum wage job from a chain salon for 10 years (to gain enough “experience” to EARN a full-time, health insurance-granting position as an employee with benefits)… God forbid you think you have the experience to start your own business or open a store! What do you know about painting nails…!?}  

(b) The average worker cannot save money for stable economic investments (e.g., car, house, college, etc.) that grow in value over time, because most resources must be surrendered repeatedly to various institutional “middle men” for their services (bank/ATM/service/processing fees). No house, car, or family vacation = No American Dream!

(c) Because these people feel frustrated and agitated by their lack of money – and want to purchase at least something that they alone can enjoy – individuals overindulge on luxury items and various temporary substitutes or replacements, which are riddled with even more fees (gambling, drugs, food, entertainment). Forced to “wait” for decades just to feel secure (while contributing ALL of their available time, energy and health to their employer for so little), many develop impulse control issues and cannot help but buy on credit (feeling they have already earned it, as they most likely have!). 

(d) The middle class becomes the working class simply because it is forced to literally become the “middle man” in order to survive and maintain an “acceptable” standard of living (which is also a fabrication… etc., etc.). 

{You may be saying} ENOUGH! Soooo much negativity! What can I do!??

The equation to happily-ever-after is simple: WAKE UP!  Dispel the trance you have fallen under – and confront the villain! If we are our own hero, then we too must be the evildoers. How can we remedy such an awful state of affairs?

You can help this cause by donating your monthly “take-out” or “restaurant” budget to your favorite local shop, stores and small businesses that genuinely benefit from your support – no matter how meager. Small businesses across the country serve as an indicator of healthy, growing, and changing economy; scarcity of the entrepreneurial spirit indicates a lack of opportunity and the oppression of individuality. And once you save your own happily-ever-after from crashing and burning, return the favor and save someone else from economic oppression!

When small businesses are “hunted” into extinction by corporate greed, the middle class becomes an endangered species. Encourage diversity by supporting businesses that cherish and take pride in the cultural heritage they represent – avoid contributing to businesses that use the term “ethnic” simply to drive sales. Above all, remember that your contribution is part of something far larger than yourself – and that all monetary transactions are personal and meaningful – no matter what you have been told to believe. There is always another person, family or child that will benefit or suffer from the effects of an unhealthy economic model.


I <3 East Somerville Foodie Crawl!


A Fairytale, or Origin Myth of Clarissa Cupcake (AKA My First Burlesque Experience)


So sweet you will go into diabetic shock!

Once Upon a Time,

There was a graduate student named Natasha Lee Q-T. She wanted to share the most beautiful revelation of her graduate school life with her peers and professors, so she wrote the following tale entitled:

Bringing Sexy Back: “Joining” in Cultural Experiences

Spring 2012 115

Do you want it? I don’t believe you.

I first arrive at the Boston Babydolls Dance Studio, soaking from the heavy rain pouring outside. With trembling hands, I clutch my purse tightly to my chest as a flock of nervously giggling girls in leggings and high heels emerge. Everyone appears giddy with anticipation. At 8pm, the door to room 208 opens, revealing a small, mirrored dance studio where the course instructor, Miss Mina, welcomes us into her domain.
“Which one of you is Natasha?” Miss Mina asks.
I raise my hand sheepishly and walk into the room. The door closes behind me. Having had a personal interest in burlesque and gender studies, I have chosen to observe this dance studio as an intern in the cultural psychoanalysis program, but my intention of merely “observing” begins to change as the prospect of joining the dancers becomes more enticing.
Miss Mina hands me an attendance sheet, and I nervously open the door and ask all of the other students their names. Miss Mina turns on some music, as I stand in the corner holding onto my notebook for dear life. I really want to be in this class – to dance with the other students – to learn burlesque. But that idea seems so far from reality that the mere concept makes me feel faint, and my heart flutters as Miss Mina approaches me.
She asks, “Natasha, would you like to participate in the class with the other students? Most of our interns like to participate in the beginning burlesque class.”
I feel myself blushing as I consider the prospect of dancing. I remind myself that I am here as a researcher, but then again, “joining” is utilized as a modern psychoanalytic approach… to the distaste of many contemporary academic disciplines! While the most respected researchers in anthropology, sociology, and “modern” psychology only ascribe value to data collected through detached, empirical, “objective” observation, psychoanalysts believe that participant observation is still a worthy pursuit. Although experts in various fields insist that subjective research methods like this are “archaic,” “naïve,” technologically “primitive,” and “biased” by participation, I began to wonder… Could one also be “biased” by lack of participation – especially because the concept of “objective” empirical research implies a hierarchical, superiority-based privileging of observation versus direct experience? It simply assumes that a researcher is the superior authority on culture – rather than those who live within it! Standing there lost in my thoughts I realize that in order to truly understand the psychological dynamics behind burlesque theater, I need to immerse myself in burlesque culture. And I am absolutely thrilled, and terrified.
With an electric shiver of excitement mixed with fear I stutter, “B-but… I… I don’t have any high heels or gloves. Are you sure I can be in your class?” Being a studious young lady, I had read the class description online before attending – and I knew that gloves and heeled shoes would be part of the lesson plan.
“It’s fine,” Mina replies. “I have some extra gloves you can borrow for now.”
A moment of panic washes over me. I have always loved performance art and dance, yet I have little experience as a dancer, and sometimes, I find myself to be a bit clumsy. My hand-eye coordination is weak, and I feel ill with trepidation…
Somehow I manage to gather enough courage to forget every insecurity I have about my body and my ability to dance. I forget that I am a chubby, short girl, and I feel a bizarre empowerment wash over me. So what if these other girls see me naked? No matter what, I’m seeing them naked… And some of them are even chubbier than I am! Besides, burlesque dancers never take off all of their clothes anyhow – it’s really just the equivalent of wearing a rather skimpy bikini…
Still reeling with panic, I manage to mumble, “Okay, I’ll join you.”
Standing there in front of the mirror, I become hyper-aware of my curves, my facial expression, my posture. A mirror can really intimidate a novice dancer by echoing each of your mistakes on its surface and revealing every false move to spectators. I cannot meet my own eyes in the mirror. Again, I am trembling violently, and as the music begins, the pounding of my heart becomes a roar in my ears.
Adrenaline fills my body, energizing me for a “fight or flight” response to this tremendously daunting task. As we begin warm-up exercises, I feel my face turning pink as I blush – I cannot help but giggle almost continuously – and a huge smile appears on my face in the mirror.
Am I actually enjoying this? Yes, very much! In fact, I feel as if a new sense of purpose and vitality is entering my body. Miss Mina’s voice interrupts my racing thoughts.
Miss Mina states, “The first important move you will learn in burlesque is the “bump.” Imagine yourself holding a big bag of groceries and exiting your car. How can you close the car door with your hands full? You can use your hip – like this!” Mina rapidly moves one hip up to the side, creating a sensuous curve with the side of her body. The entire class mimics her movements, and to my surprise I complete the maneuver with ease. Beaming with pride, I pretend I am balancing groceries on my hip while I close my imaginary car door – blowing an exaggerated kiss to myself in the mirror to thank myself for being such a good audience!
Mina continues, “The bump can be performed in four directions: right, left, forwards and backwards. The forward bump is similar to the “pelvic thrust” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It looks very suggestive – even lewd. But you will find that burlesque balances precariously between suggestive, erotic and sexual themes – as well as themes of innocence, coyness, and traditional female gender stereotypes. The perfect tease blend elements of both, hitting the “sweet spot” or harmony between two extremes. The result of this fusion is public display of female sexuality and eroticism that remains somehow veiled in a thin mist of propriety. Some of these dance moves – like the forward bump – are not what proper ladies do in public, but in burlesque they may be used sparingly to entice and insinuate. As women, we are told not to make such lewd gestures with our bodies, but I encourage you to overcome this social stigma to perform this dance move.”

{I am reminded of satyr plays… or satire. Burlesque, it turns out, is laced with the most addictive, decadent, rich and delicious satire – that I thought it only fitting to eventually name myself after my favorite sweet yet deadly desert… and Clarissa Cupcake was born. Unlike Venus, born of sea foam, I imagined myself born of frosting… and perhaps sprinkles! It was like an endless sugar rush without the cavities or health concerns}.
The “bump” move is easy for me to pick up, though the forward and backward versions of the maneuver were far more difficult to perform than the side-to-side motions. I laugh at myself in the mirror, realizing that I am effectively humping the air in front of me. It does not look particularly sexy to me, but my performance seems adequate. As we practice removing our gloves in various ways, I begin to feel more confident and poised, and I am amazed how well I can actually dance!
After the class, I glance in the mirror and find my own image smiling back at me. My cheeks glow with warmth, and I feel intoxicated with elation. As I look in the mirror I realize how long it has been since I have seen myself so confident and happy and wonder how I became so estranged from joy in my adult life. I feel alive, radiant, and absolutely ecstatic! Tired yet excited, I leave class with a renewed passion for gender studies and even more determination to expel gender prejudice through research.
Perhaps my experience offers the perfect example of the power behind “joining” as a psychological mechanism in group membership. If I had never allowed myself to join the burlesque fantasy, I would not have developed the strong relationship I now have with the Boston Babydolls. It just goes to show that even in the research world, you do not understand a person until you walk a mile in their shoes… or rather, in their favorite pair of glittery high heels (should they happen to be a burlesque performer)!
It is through this process of shedding my clothes that I began to understand what psychoanalysts refer to as “dialectics”, and Buddhists refer to as “the middle way”, and thousands of philosophers, poets, etc. etc. pay homage to in their great works.Spring 2012 119
And from this greater understanding of this awe-inspiring place – the verge, horizon, cusp, crossroads, transition, and edge between worlds and concepts, where borders merge and the haze gives birth to new and strange things – that the Chain Reactions concept eventually emerged. No longer afraid of change or fluidity, I became an obsessed devotee of modular and hybrid design.

“Sexy Sweetheart” Necklace & Bracelet Design – Using COLOR to Convey Themes & Tell A Story

Summer Morning Dutch Baby Pancakes – A Necklace & A Recipe

Introduction to Layering: Mixing Color Palettes to Create Two Different Necklaces

Introduction to Color Matching: How to Adapt Your Exoskeleton to Match ANY Outfit!

Sexy Scrapbooking @ Teasecraft

Click here to view images of the ‘naughty’ scrapbook pages created as part of Clarissa Cupcake’s interactive Teasecraft presentation at the Artisan’s Asylum this past March. (Warning: erotic content. Those with a heart condition may wish to avoid).

Clarissa Cupcake Talk @ Teasecraft This Month!

Sugar & Spice…Naughty & Nice:
Burlesque-Inspired D.I.Y with Clarissa Cupcake

WHEN: March 21st, 7:30-9:30pm.

WHERE: Artisans Asylum (map) Multipurpose room.  Suggested donation $3-5.

Although rarely considered valid forms of technology – women’s contributions to fashion, jewelry, cosmetics, textiles, and the decorative arts serve as remarkable instances of innovation, technical prowess and skill – revealing the forgotten power of all seemingly trivial “decorative” techniques and practices.

Clarissa Cupcake will demonstrate the erotic potential of several surprising, unexpected genres – including scrapbooking, embroidery, beading and collage – and discuss the value of using feminine kitsche as a tool for psychological domination, power play, and humiliation. Fashion, jewelry, and cosmetics are explored as nuanced elements of erotic encounters, while themes of display, beauty and objectification are addressed. Emphasizing the role of gender as a powerful mental construct in erotic play, Clarissa will discuss how juxtaposing materials considered too cute, innocent and feminine for sex toys (e.g., lace, crystal, embroidery, ribbon, etc.) with more edgy, intimidating materials associated with masculine gender stereotypes (leather, metal, chain, etc.) can be used to elevate the experience of both dominance and submission. This effect is pronounced especially when stereotyped expectations do not match how an object or material is used – that is, when innocent materials inflict pain, and intimidating materials produce pleasure.

Examples from her burlesque costumes and props are used to visualize this tension between seemingly contradictory materials. She will show examples of her work as a visual artist and designer – along with her favorite tools and materials – finishing her talk with a short description of how color, texture and form can influence the power dynamic of any social interaction, concluding that erotic practices can enhance interactions in everyday social encounters, playing a key role in mental health and personal well being.

Clarissa Cupcake is a cultural psychoanalyst, fashion/jewelry designer, inventor, and burlesque performance artist. She is the owner and founder of Lace Exoskeleton (, and was recently awarded a provisional patent for her “Chain Reactions” modular jewelry and fashion design concept.

Lace Exoskeleton represents an artistic collective with the shared vision of empowering individuals to construct, enhance and assume artistic authorship over their identity and aesthetic persona. Specifically, Lace Exoskeleton encourages consumers to utilize sustainable, eco-friendly, and modular concepts to create their very own, personalized “exoskeleton” of collaged, appropriated, and collaborative fashion pieces that form a continuous artistic gesture we refer to as “identity”. By encouraging customers to think about body decoration as an art form, Clarissa hopes to empower people to see fashion as a deeply personal, meaningful collection of symbols, colors, textures and design details that capture the essence of deeply personal content – from actual memories and recollections to inner visions, fantasies, desires, and unrealized dreams. Through transforming everyday consumer choices into spiritually meaningful, artistic, and emotionally engaging collective experiences, she hopes to refocus consumer desire to favor sustainable, ethical, and artisan-made products and services. You can visit Clarissa Cupcake and her partner in crime, Pinkbeetle, in the following places:

Lace Exoskeleton Studios: The Artisans Asylum, Somerville, MAStudio #69 (no need for a
pneumonic device to remember this address!)

Website: Blog, D.I.Y. resource, upcoming events resource, & collective art

Facebook: Lace Exoskeleton, Clarissa Cupcake


Psychology of Color

Psychology of Color

Color embodies one of the most powerful tools for self-expression and visual communication – transcending the barriers of verbal language, culture, education, and socio-economic status – a universal language which all humans equally share and understand. This occurs simply because the emotional information encoded within colors remains far too abstract, intangible, and universal for any one person to control, monopolize or restrict access to its meaning; however, this does not mean that people cannot be deceived into believing that they lack the authority, education, or status to use, wear and express themselves via color, as if color itself can be owned exclusively like any other possession. Just as kings and queens of the past claimed an exclusive right to don robes dyed with the rare Tyrian purple dye – derived from the immune secretions of various sea snails (commonly mistaken as coming from their shells, rather than their bodies) – contemporary culture remains saturated with “exclusively owned” colors, belonging to specific brands, products, and individuals who purchase the right to restrict their use. In this context, color itself becomes a status symbol – such as the “Tiffany blue” box used by Tiffany’s to encase its designer jewelry, or the sterile, streamlined white of so many Apple products. Even worse, people feel that they lack the education to interpret color – and all artistic, creative, and universal gestures that normally transcend arbitrary barriers – robbing us of our shared language, and isolating us from one another indefinitely. If we can remember our universal connections to one another, then we are one step closer to erasing hate, prejudice, injustice, terrorism, and violence. Color is one of the easiest formats for exploring our shared roots, for we all share:

Red: the flicker of fire in darkness, passion, sparks, and fruit ripening seductively on a tree branch.

Orange: candlelight, more fire, citrus, warmth, honey, sunlight.

Yellow: sunshine, our first reference point in the sky – our sun- and our shared benefactor who gives us life, energy, warmth and light.

Green: lush, growing things; plant life, leaves, and moss.

Blue: water, the sky, the moon which guides us even in darkness.

Purple: the fringes of time – twilight’s glowing sky, autumn leaves, shadows, caves and the depths of the ocean.

Here we see in this spectrum our own shared spectrum, and realize how light and darkness merge, intertwine and depend upon one another for sustenance as well as continued existence. In perpetual harmony, balance and peace, they cancel one another out, and in their multiplicity, diversity and difference, they converge at a common origin.