Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ms. Pollitt, 56, is keeping her name

Did y'all see this nugget of joy, buried in the avalanche of Weddings & Celebrations today? My heart nearly split open from the cuteness of the names of her parents alone.

Best wishes, Ms. Pollitt!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

i want two rooms of my own. is that wrong?

You rarely see conservative women engaging with feminism as this author tries to do in her unimaginatively titled, but otherwise thoughtful article, "Room of Her Own." To her credit, the author acknowledges that the Right's habit of maligning & dismissing feminists doesn't address the issue with any depth; and she herself doesn't snub the movement so much as gently uncover what, to her, are its deficiencies. Acceptable.

She leaves out several issues, however. One is the idea that men can do, or even find fulfillment in, house/child-related work. And, more importantly, that women can find fulfillment in *career*. Viz:
Warren and Tyagi write, “When millions of mothers entered the workforce, they ratcheted up the price of a middle-class life for everyone, including families that wanted to keep Mom at home. A generation ago, a single bread-winner who worked diligently and spent carefully could assure his family a comfortable position in the middle class. But the frenzied bidding wars, fueled by families with two incomes, changed the game for single-income families as well, pushing them down the economic ladder.”

It is here that feminism may prove most cruel, for if the ’60s found women languishing in their dollhouses—though scarcely barred from the workforce—the new century finds them no more fulfilled than their mothers but far less free.

To her, once she lays out evidence that two-income households don't actually bring in more money than the old breadwinner households did, she thinks her point is proven: no increase in money = no reason to have dropped the vacuum cleaner. But going to the office can be enough! Leaving the house, to be valued in the outside world, and having a salary instead of an allowance -- the importance of all of that, to me at least, can't be denied.

Here too:
Women’s studies professor Linda Hirshman would go further: “The family—with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks … allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore assigning it to women is unjust.” Of course this wasn’t true, for it supposes that men at work are developing life-altering technologies or untangling theoretical impossibilities rather than doodling their way through meetings or shoveling paperwork into bureaucracy’s maw. Moreover, it overlooks the unique capacity of men to find fulfillment in provision and women in nurture—and the responsibility of both to tend their intellectual gardens by maintaining lives beyond the demands of home and work.
In her logic, because men spend their time "doodling," women shouldn't want the potential to doodle too. Hell, why not, if she's getting paid for it? Not all men spend their 9 - 5 hours doing so little either: some run the country, and why shouldn't women have the chance to do that as well?

The fact that feminism has also forced the world to take women seriously is also something the author doesn't acknowledge. If she is comfortable going back to an age where her tiny, delicate female brain was considered unfit for the harshness of math and Latin, as it was in the time that Stowe, who she quotes, lived (and which is described so well in the 19th century novel I'm currently reading, Elliot's Middlemarch,) then God bless her; but I'd rather turn my hair gray juggling baby toys and a Blackberry than contend with that condescention.

Perhaps the author doesn't mind that frightening prospect so much because in part she buys into the logic of the times, at least in terms of Gender being determinative. She says, referring to the average women who signed onto feminism,
They were disappointed not because feminism failed to make them equal, but because in so doing it made them less female.
Um, what? Are you serious? Lady, have you seen my bosoms lately? Talked to my gynecologist? I think everything's in working order. I'm exactly as "female" as I want to be -- and sometimes, like when I get hooted at on the street or when I have to walk home at night, I'd like to be far less. Working women aren't all Lady Macbeths, shouting at the sky to "unsex me here!" in order to have an opportunity to chat by the water cooler and bring home paychecks (that, by the way, also allow us to live independently: not all working women, or feminists, are married to men).

All of these anti-feminist women come off as ungrateful, frankly. Without Friedan & the rest of her crew, there's no way Kara Hopkins would be writing a serious intellectual piece for a serious intellectual magazine. At best she'd be writing about baby food or how to please your husband. Some thanks wouldn't be out of line, Ms. Hopkins.

This is my new hair, by the way. Hello hair!

And these are my "training heels," which I wore in my attempt to impersonate an adult woman to my interview yesterday.

Want more visuals? I finally got some of the AZ photos uploaded to Flickr.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

aw, look!

The NYT hearts Swarthmore. They're trying to keep it subtle, but you can totally tell. Awwww. Now what would a baby of the college and the paper look like? And just how liberal would it be?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

final four

This NYT article draws your attention to the last four all-male non-seminary colleges in the country. One is Deep Springs, which hardly counts since most students proceed, after graduating, to attend other co-ed schools; that leaves us then with three to compare. One is Southern good-ol'-boy; one is a strict liberal arts college in (and largely for) Indiana; and one is a historically black school next to all-women's historically black Spellman.

The tone of the article, you will notice, is very mild: the author seems intent on describing, not judging. S/he does list some issues that people have with the notion of single-sex male education, and just as quickly addresses them. The impression I was left with at the end of the article was that the author believed that there's some merit to the overall idea, especially in light of the Trouble With Boys that plaguing America.

That's perfectly legitimate, of course -- but it does leave me wondering, What would Twisty think? Not being privy to the inner-workings of the brilliant, patriarchy-blamer's mind, I can only humbly put forward my own two cents.

1) The Trouble With Boys is an irritating bugaboo that will not die. The idea that many boys are feisty, exciteable, and in general not as willing as girls to sit quietly in their seats and learn something is at least as old as Huck Finn. And at least Huck Finn didn't blame Becky Thatcher for his attention problems.

2) Arguing that simply because all-girls schools still exist, all-boys schools have a right to exist as well disregards the important historical differences in how those groups have been treated. It has long been expected that boys will have to find jobs, support families, and prove themselves in the world. It's only in the past fifty years that girls have heard that they CAN do similar things. In the same way, all-black schools can be justified, but could an all-white school be?

3) This is my biggest problem: in all-boys schools, how does a boy learn that a girl can be smarter than he is? If not confronted with it daily in the classrom, or in student groups where girls act as leaders, or on sports teams, how does a boy not just maybe "understand" intellectually but really KNOW that a girl can be bright, confident, and strong? How does a female become more than a sexual object? Justice Alito is a perfect example of how a smart guy in an all-male environment can disrespect women, no matter how intent he is on being a Gentleman (an old-fashioned but not worthless idea that these schools champion).

4) It shouldn't require an absence of women to make men Gentlemen anyway. We should all aspire to the qualities that define the mythical Gentleman: a considerate, concerned citizen. And that leads me to my last point. Men and women really aren't that different. Single-sex environments let us believe otherwise.

Friday, April 21, 2006

first Time, now Newsweek ... what's wrong with me?

Mr. Ben sent me this article about a black doctor's frustration with a patient population that can't conceive of her as a doctor. It's a short, poignant piece: the doctor diagnoses her own problem bluntly and describes it with a lack of self-pity that reminds of me of the awesome emergency room doctor I saw almost exactly a year ago. That ER doctor looked like Pippi Longstocking, and although she didn't have the liability of dark skin, I remember wondering whether her youth & gender acted as obstacles for her.

Two of my closest friends are currently getting their MDs. They're short, like I am, and when we're 35 we'll all probably still look 16. I can only hope that at that age, they'll be taken seriously regardless; indeed I hope they'll be helping scared, disoriented ER patients who are about to have to quit their jobs, rather than be fired, for having gone to the hospital at all. (True story! But what was it I just said about self pity ... ?)

I also hope by the time we're 35, if not before, a black woman wearing a lab coat will no longer be something worth looking twice at. Maybe shows like Gray's Anatomy, with its Crayola-approved team of surgeons, will have burrowed their way into the public's consciousness by then? But the harder thing to remember is that this shit starts with me. It's not "other people" who have to adjust their preconceptions. The first time I saw my black gynecologist I remember doing a double-take; I remember that fleeting moment of doubt. That woman, as it turned out, was not just a dream of a doctor (and a hero to the women of my college); part of the reason she was so good with us was that she had earned her stripes working with pre-teen inner city girls at a Philly clinic.

On a lighter note, three cheers for the end of Passover! I've fulled exorcised the holiday now, having spent a day eating chocolate covered pretzels and dry cereal. Phew. I don't think I thought ONCE, over the entire course of the 8 days of deprivation, about being a slave in Egypt. Or how Egypt feels about the Jewish community celebrating our ancestors' exodus from their ancestors (some of whose first born sons were sacrificed for our freedom, or so the story goes). That has to be a little weird for them, don't you think?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Two different ears, two different stories

Today in the Starting Over house, the women -- and we millions of women watching, for some reason!, at home -- learned two very different lessons. One young woman, let's call her A., the latest addition to the group, got a intense lesson about fiscal responsibility. Her debt has been mounting for years until at last it's swamped her: she can't rent apartments, she can't get a job, and she owes a total of $24,000. Life Coach Iyanla fashioned obstructive bracelets out of fake credit cards, each of which represents a bill A. hasn't paid.

Meanwhile, Z., a long-time resident of the Starting Over house, is about to graduate. Yay for Z.! She's learned to hug. (I'm not kidding -- apparently her mother once accused her of trying to seduce her father, and it scarred her to the extent that she couldn't comfortably touch anyone, even family members.) To celebrate her growth, a Style and Beauty Expert appears in the House. The Style & Beauty Expert takes one look at Z.'s casual hairstyle and worn out, bland outfit and diagnoses her.

"Honey," says Style and Beauty expert, "you are a victim of the C-word. Comfort." (At this point, the other women make low, agreeing "mm-mm" noises as though they were in church and the pastor invoked turning one's back on sin.) "The truth is, nothing's more comfortable than being beautiful."

Score one for -- what? I'm not sure. The Style & Beauty Expert takes Z. on the reality TV whirlwind makeover tour of a clothing shop, salon, and dematologist's chair. As the dermatologist peels the dead skin off of Z., she says encouragingly, "This doesn't hurt, right? So you should do this all the time! Because you're worth it."

Amazingly, L'Oreal is NOT a sponsor of this program; but the effectiveness of its advertising has clearly infiltrated everyone on the show. "Because you're worth it" is a mantra all the women repeat as Z. is treated like Dorothy in Emerald City. She says it too.

Meanwhile, back in the House, A. is still putting her past in order. What did she spend the $24K on? She can't even remember. Why did she spend it? Oh, that she recalls: she felt entitled. She wanted "pearls, diamonds. To look cute," as she puts it. Ominous music plays.

A financial counselor visits A. and talks to her about how rich people, middle class, and poor people spend their money differently. Immediately A. tenses up. "I don't like people telling me to live within my means," she says. More ominous music. Oy.

Here we have it friends, perfectly captured in a half-hour of televised entertainment, the eternal conundrum women in this country face. Look cute! You're worth it, and anyway, it's your responsibility! Go ahead and get that microdermabrasion, or credit card, or pretty green dress and heels. Simply being comfortable means you're not doing your part to be a fully realized woman, and it probably also means your mother did wicked Freudian stuff to you as a child.
-- But wait, don't overspend, don't get that credit card. Actually you're not entitled to any of that shit and you need to put fiscal responsibility ahead of personal attractiveness. Come on, what's the matter with you? You're acting like a selfish kid.

I personally am so frightened by both of these extremes, or rather of the judgement that seems to accompany them, that I spend almost nothing. Money sits in my bank account, growing at its incremental rate, and I watch it from afar wondering at what point I'll reach the point where I can relax. For this I am rewarded: my parents tell me I can handle money. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

Women seem to very rarely receive any constructive advice on how to handle money. They're told only that they should spend and spend and spend, but not too much and, somehow, wisely. Maybe men aren't treated better, maybe it just seems that way to me; certainly I've heard that no one in America knows how to save anymore.

I do have to say though after watching this episode I feel better about setting up that IRA.

Monday, April 17, 2006

what makes a good senator?

Time magazine, in listing its top ten senators (and bottom five), inspires as many questions as it answers. The report seems to indicate that no matter a senator's personal beliefs, their ability to agitate for their causes is what makes or breaks them. No judgement!, adds Time, as it more or less evenly distributes its accolades between the parties. (Republicans claim 3 of the 5 slots for "worst" senators. But the report is so careful it still gives all five points for trying hard and for being really super people. E for effort!)

The root of the problem might be that "best" is a word so bland as to be virtually meaningless. If Time really means "most effective," wouldn't saying that be -- well, most effective? Because John Kyl (R-AZ) is not the "best" anything, except possibly "target for a much needed ass-kicking from the Hispanic community."

And John McCain, his companion from AZ? What, is consistency no longer a value in our leaders? Who the fuck knows what McCain stands for anymore besides getting elected to higher office and, possibly, not torturing people? Is that the standard we're holding senators to now, besides?: they denounce something as repellent as TORTURE and we swoon?

I'd like to see categories like "most entertaining representatives" -- you'd have to include the House -- ; "highest moral fiber"; and the Aaron Sorkin award for most convincing and passionate speech given on the floor of either chamber. They could give out the awards on C-Span!

Well, until that happens, I'll have to be satisfied with continually revisiting the website for Conte, where I've just had a poem published. Try to guess which one. Because virtue is rewarded only in the next world, it's spiteful and hostile, while my poems about bunnies and flowers languish in a metaphorical drawer. Oh, life.

I also may have been the only unemployed 23 year old girl in all of New York City setting up an IRA this morning. It is distinctly possible.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

K for P to the nth degree

Your weighty questions, finally answered: Is quinoa kosher for passover, that crazy crumbly holiday where the jews walk around malnourished and grumpy for 8 days, made crazy by the realization that, despite themselves, they're probably breaking half the obscure rules by accident?


Sweet! Now if only it tasted better.

My mother, bless her heart, put on two jam-packed seders: 25 people at the first one, 20 at the second. Since this Passover was the first major holiday to be celebrated in the new apartment, it was necessarily bittersweet. But she made excellent food in army-type quantities and no one spilled anything major on the new white carpet and even when a picture fell off the wall onto a pile of china plates, only one of the plates broke. And even that one was careful to split perfectly down the middle, so it can be repaired. We were blessed.

Still, it is BEYOND time to replace the crazy haggadahs my family's been using for as long as I can remember. It's all "mankind" this and "forefathers" that. The only woman in the whole book is "the barren woman that God makes a happy mother with children -- hallelujah!" It's even the "men" who couldn't wait for bread to rise. Sure, cuz I so believe men were doing all the slaving over a stove. I'm sure there was the occasional BCE Emeril, but in general? Come on.

Worse is the section that precedes the Ten Plagues. As you may know, during the seder, we take ten drops of wine out of our glasses, one for each of the plagues God visited upon the Egyptians, because as great as it was for the Hebrews to be able to escape from slavery, it's not nice to glory in other people's downfall and defeat. In our haggadah, however, this part is totally disingenuous. You can hear the authors rolling their eyes as they say, "Yes, it was THEIR FAULT and THEY ASKED FOR IT but we're SO COOL that we'll feel a tiny bit sorry for them anyway. Except not really. Love, the unspoken authorities. PS - they deserved it!"

On the other hand, I have to admit I love all the dipping. I made the haroset this year, and I threw in craisins. Mmmmm. And we found awesome hardcore horseradish at Whole Foods. It's a very comforting holiday, somehow, overall, and I was glad to be home for it.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Someone's playing with me. All of a sudden, I can't FIND anything. It should not be difficult, in the first place. I live in a studio!

My Season 3 of Sopranos is off partying somewhere in this 450 sqft square with my digital camera and my copy of the Eustace Diamonds. They may be having fun but I am not amused.

At least I am feeling better. No more entire days spent watching TLC, half-wishing I were a DIY kind of girl. (Or any kind of girl at all, really ...) Getting out this weekend was fabulous: I spent all of sunny Sunday afternoon playing the-most-intense-Scrabble-ever on a Scrabble-obsessed friend's gorgeous roofdeck. That's a link to a list of 2 letter words, by the way, which you should have (and she has) memorized, except it's missing the most recent additions, which include FE and ZA. I'm not kidding. I lost to her by 2 points, my first Scrabble loss in, um, a long time, but I learned a lot and considering that she's the fiercest competitor I've ever played, I could handle the disappointment.

I also veggie brunched; contributed to the best homemade pad thai I've ever had; and bought and read the totally enjoyable Ruth Reichl memoir, Garlic and Sapphires. A tiny bit more exciting than Trollope. Don't tell my father!

And THEN, I got my hair cut, and I mean cut, by my favorite New York City bizarro hairdresser: a straight, socially awkward fellow who does nothing except crop women's hair short 7 days a week in the Lower East Side. Like so many geniuses, he's not comfortable *talking* about his craft; asking questions while he works doesn't get you anywhere. You have to sit back in his presence and trust that, while nothing about him inspires confidence, his results will.

I'm going to upload a picture, too. As soon as I find my damn camera! Come home, little camera -- nothing is forgiven.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

my mother suggests bourbon

Somehow, I brought illness back with me to the East Coast. I did manage to make it through the two days of my internship while my headcold was warming up in the batting cages. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, my internship is in the development department of a small indie film company, which means I read scripts and pitches all day long.

In doing so, I have identified several words you should NEVER use if you want the person in my position to pass your idea along:

1) Vampires
2) Conspiracy
3) Vampire-conspiracy
4) Al-Qaeda
5) Based on true events from my own life

On the positive side, made sure to include a cover letter, make sure to consult your good friend spell check, and make sure not to begin, "CHOAS!!"

Using the very sophisticated above formula, I managed to eliminate virtually every offering except the ones about lesbians (one contributor advised us, “they’re really hot right now, especially with straight men”). Those the development director nixed, cuz the company already has a picture in post-production about lesbians.

Then, right at the end of the workday yesterday, the Barry Bonds of headcolds finally stepped to the plate, wound up, and smacked me in the face with its baseball bat. Homerun! Big surprise.

The bottom line is, my face hurts, and, to give you the full mental picture, I'm wearing my ketchup-colored fleece pajamas & my glasses and basking in the comforting presence of Rachel Ray on the Food network. Thank god for the bare-bones basic cable that came with the apartment. No Iron Chef America though, and that's too bad. Just from the two episodes I saw on the plane ride, I discovered I could totally develop a crush on the chairman.

This is the new twinkie defense, apparently, by the way: this Homeland Security pervert's lawyer says he was depressed. Is sending 14 year old girls porn what you do when you need a little pick-me-upper? But I guess we should endeavor to be supportive. After all, these guys have a very stressful job to bungle at every opportunity.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

April Fools week?

Faced with the prospect of a Hamas-led Palestinian authority, Israel elects a center-LEFT government;

AND, Tom DeLay decides to retire rather than risk running again and losing;

AND, Josh and Donna finally get it on? It's enough to make a sane person look for flying bananas, and other signs that the universe is ripping in two.

When I finally stumbled home from my horrendous red-eye flight Sunday morning, I moaned to still sleeping Mr. Ben, "I'm done with the Southwest! I want nothing more to do with the Southwest! Did you hear me? Finished! Finito! -- What are those ingredients for on the table?"
And he replied, "Refried beans."

Now that I've made double portions of refried beans, accomplished in true frontierswoman style by mashing the beans by hand with a heavy wooden spoon, NOW I'm officially done with the Southwest. Except the eating of it.