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The Door I’m Not Opening

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Last weekend while working at the zoo, Belle dropped her iphone in the toilet. Her Facebook account of the eventIn these trying times, please, send your prayers and keep us in mind.

WWJD toilet

I had to remind her that whenever the Lord closes a toilet lid he opens a port-o-potty door.

*   *   *

MH and I went Tree hugging last weekend, with, apparently, a Guinness World record setting number of fellow huggers, ion an event organized by Hoyt Arboretum.  I normally avoid those kind of affairs [1] (“most false moustaches worn by a crowd in the city plaza”), several of Hillsboro’s The Committee In Charge of Spontaneous Wacky Fun Planning city has organized the past couple of years to do once a year (let’s set the record for most false noses….”), as I find the forced jocularity of it all rather discomforting.  Hey, but this was for the trees – and for the editor of a Journal That Shall Not Be Named, who, many years ago, requested an author’s photo from contributors with the specific stipulation that the photo not be of the author “hugging a tree.”

There was much organizing at the meeting spot, with participants allotted into groups of 50 or so. We hiked a ways up in the arboretum; our fearless leader led us to the designated section for the “L” group.  Which was a slope.  A steep one.  The more accessible trees on the slope were quickly claimed, and it was quite the climb for MH & I to find an unoccupied, hug-worthy tree (we gave up our spot on a lower tree to a couple who were having a hard time ascending the slope).  On my way up, grasping at nearby stumps and praising the traction of my Keen sandals, I saw something bright shiny cobalt blue amidst the pine needles and underbrush.  It was a condom wrapper, intact.  “I am so relieved,” I said to our leader and MH, “to see that we’re going to practice safe tree hugging.”

We huggers assumed our position, a signal rang out, and we had to hug our trees for one minute, during which the groups’ leaders had to scurry about their sections and video all members in their group. The resulting documentation would be turned over to some dweeb resentful summer intern responsible person at Guinness for world record verification.  Oh, and for the record, the tree and I were just good friends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am writing this instead of doing what I should be doing, which is packing for my Quickie to Palo Alto, an overnight trip I scheduled when I recently reconnected with friend JK.  JK and Belmont friend LH and I are meeting for dinner at the Flea Street Café .  I was delighted to find the café is still in business, and still with the coolest chef/founder with arguably the coolest chef name ever .[2]  The Flea Street Café was a favorite special occasion/splurge spot for JK and I, back in our days as co-workers in a medical practice.  Also, San Francisco buddy LMW and I had a couple of marvelous meals with the Fleas, toasting each other and commiserating re how much we hated Valentine’s Day…and then MH had to go and propose, on Valentine’s Day, at the Flea Street Café, which put an end to that particular celebration.

The trip was scheduled too quickly to schedule TMQ “events”, or so I was told, so I’m schlepping a copy of The Mighty Quinn plus sell sheets [3] from Scarletta Press to give to three bookstores.  You gotta love Palo Alto – and I do, even though I left it 22 years ago for Oregon – if for no other reason than, as independent, fiction-stocking bookstores across the country are struggling and/or closing, within a 1.4 mile radius of downtown Palo Alto the city has three excellent ones: the venerable Kepler’s Books (no longer hosting Joan Baez and the Grateful Dead gigs,[4] but still hip),  Books, Inc. and Bell’s Books .

Kepler's

*   *   *

The Return of the Lone Asshat

No, it’s not yet another over budget, overblown, underwhelming Disneyfied movie (although if I had a paquillion bucks lying around I’d pay Johnny Depp to star in it).  There have been so many worthy nominees among those occupying the current events venue, I’ll just go for the one I find most entertaining:  summer isn’t over yet, there is still time to get your legs in beach viewing shape with Rep. Steve King (R, Iowa) and his Drug Mule workout.

As per this article from The Atlantic Wire, the colorful conservative politician has this colorful comment re immigration reform:

“In a recent interview with the conservative site Newsmax, King said that sure, some kids who would be able to stay in America under the DREAM Act are upstanding citizens brought into the country by their parents — but just not enough to make the law worth it. “Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in,” King said. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Calves the size of cantaloupes.
Binders full of women.

There are some images that are made to last.  Rep. King, may this Asshat be a perfect fit for your (melon-sized?) head.

AHat

*   *   *

Apropos of nothing: I love this song.

Still do.  It meant a lot to me in the 70s, and I played the album over and over.  My friend Steve Glasser (RIP my dearest, “minty” buddy) [5] also confessed – and for a guy, it was a confession – to loving Helen Reddy’s entire album (we both especially enjoyed the under-rated track, “Peaceful“).

And not exactly apropos of nothing; there was a catalyst. Scarletta Press was preparing to nominate The Might Quinn for an Amelia Bloomer Project booklist, [6] and their publicist asked for my input on this question on the ABP application: Please explain why this nomination represents significant feminist content.

My kneejerk reaction: Because I am woman (hear me roar).

Happy weekend to y’all, and may the roaring never end [7] and the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] My city has, for some reason, really gotten into in the past few years, with attempts at setting the “Most Groucho Nose & glasses masks work by a crowd” and other such records,  Hillsboro, you’re trying too hard.

[2] Jesse Ziff Cool

[3] A sell sheet is a one-page document providing all the details about your book – an announcement from the publisher, comparable to a blurb you see on the back of a book, but with illustrations and info about  sales and marketing aspects of your book’s release.

[4] The store was founded in 1955 by peace activist Roy Kepler.

[5] “minty” – of course, there is a story behind that adjective.  Tune in next  week.

[6] If you don’t know about this list, you should. The ABP creates an annual booklist of the best feminist books for young readers, ages birth through 18.

[7] I never have a footnote at the very end, do I?

The Review I’m Not Writing

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Dateline: Sunday 7/14. K & I and A Woman Unknown To Us (AWUTU) boarded the light rail. For K & I the destination was the zoo, but there must have been something going on in Portland because the train was packed.  Two gray-haired, bearded men and one white haired woman – older folks with seemingly permanent smiles tattooed across their faces, clad in identical, loose-fitting white tunics and pants and head scarves, and with that refugee-from-the-Sixties look in their eyes – were seated in the center seats of the car. K & I found seats by the door, and AWUTU took one of the few remaining open seats, next to the white tunic people, who right away began chatting her up.

I caught snippets of their commentary.  It definitely was not a conversation, as AWUTU “hm-hmed” and immediately pulled her cell phone from her pocket and otherwise indulged in the social cues of someone who’d rather be left alone, thank you very much. [1] The snippet I most enjoyed was, “Hare Krishnas are used to train travel.”

My first reaction: Hare Krishnas; excellent…haven’t seen any in a while…Dang!  What happened to the orange robes? [2] I miss that color. It was so distinctive.

HARE_large

It was a good day for people-watching on public transit.  Comment-worthy sights included a young man…woman…person…with the oddest overall body features I have seen in some time on a bipedal humanoid.  The most noticeable was, well, picture a uniboob abdominal tumor [3].

Details, details.  Nah.  That’s as much as I can handle right now, as the thermometer creeps back up to yesterday’s high of 101.8˚.

I thought I’d avoided the strange summer virus that first inhabited MH’s brain bucket, then crept up the nostrils of son K, and is now jostling for which-one-of-us-can-make-her-more-miserable? status with my seasonal pollen allergies.  I was looking for pity-pictures to illustrate my plight, and Googled “Feverish Woman” [4]. This is what came up. Now I really feel ill.

FEVER

If it was just the Nose Blowing Spree From Hell I could handle that.  A couple of sick days, permission to lie around and do nothing but read? – holy nostril enema, I’d even welcome it.  I have the lie around part down, and have been parked upstairs, drifting in and out of consciousness.  But when I have a fever, I get really stoopid.  I can’t read.  That is, I can’t read for very long before my eyes and brain hurt and I have to close the book, and later I discover later I can’t remember most of what I apparently read.

The new issue of National Geographic arrived yesterday, and I forced myself to remain vertical for 30 minutes while I sipped my Noodles and Company Thai curry soup (the result of sending MH on what turned out to be a wild goose chase for Hot and Sour soup [5])

And read an article about Lions of the Serengeti.

I finished it, I know I did. Here’s what I could tell you about the article.  It’s about Lions. Serengeti Lions.  Life is tough for lions of the Serengeti.

LIONZ LIONS

Another pathetic example is the identical pictures above.  It’s too much effort to get rid of one.

Another another pathetic example is the Goodreads review I’m not writing. Still.  Yeah, I recently joined yet another SM [6] site, with the promise to myself that it must not be another time-leaching endeavor: I would rate books, not review them, and if someone wants to know what I mean by this book’s  two stars and that book’s four stars they can ask.

But I was having fun reading the book by that football player – the book that is probably causing many a literary writer to envision their polite social strategy should they ever meet its affable author, a strategy involving vigorous application of the smile/bared teeth grimace of congratulations (the dude pens one letter [7] to a politician, a letter that goes viral and he gets a book contract that essentially states, hey, write whatever you want to write about and we’ll print it).

PONY

Where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah, I was having so much fun reading the book I wanted to give it a shout out on my blog, and yesterday, in another 30 minute vertical phase, I thought I had done so.  Today, I look at what I’d written, at what I thought was a complete and coherent assessment:

Chris Kluwe “Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies,”: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities
Now what do I need to do to this guy, now that he’s stolen my title for the sequel to The Mighty Quinn and then yes there’s that
Whose letter to anti-gay pol went viral and due to that rare combination of articulation, profanity and anger – most people can pull off 2 & 3 and not 1. Plus, it was so fucking funny
Maryland doofus piehole “inhibit such expressions”; He’s a good (not great, not yet) writer, with a personable style that would lend itself to ebooks, or screaming from roof tops. Inventive invectives Magically transform into lustful cockmonsters 

Just between us, if you could pretend I’d written an incisive critique of a thoughtful, intelligent newbie author’s perspective on contemporary American social, political and cultural snafus, I would be most grateful.

And perhaps the hijinks will once again ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Cues which, I imagine are recognizable in all countries and in all languages, including Swahili, which AWUTU probably doesn’t speak despite the vaguely East African-sounding acronym I gave her.

[2] Hare Krishna garments actually have a variety of colors , which indicate the social/spiritual position of the wearer.

[3] Perhaps you should picture something else, and you’ll probably digest your next meal more efficiently.

[4] Or something similar. I can’t remember my exact words, being feverish and all.

[5] He was unable to find any local Thai or Chinese restaurants that made the soup sans MSG. Cretins.

[6] That’s Social Media, no ampersand. That other option never crossed your mind, did it?

[7] Arguably one of the best letters ever written to a politician, from anyone, not to mention a football punter.  Which I just did — damn!

The Phrase I’m Not Saving

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RESCUE 911
 We’re lost in the woods, and need an extra large with mushrooms and double cheese…and a helicopter, please.

Join our thrilling, reality-based series, during which MH and I discover our son’s true concerns should we ever end up lost or injured in the wilderness.

Dateline:  Sunday, July 7.  MH and I planned on driving up to Vancouver, WA to go hiking on a new (to us) trail. We invited son K, who declined. [1]

As I was lacing up my boots I informed K of our destination, and told him I was leaving a map of the trail on my computer.  I decided to test his hiking/outdoor recreation, “Buddy system” safety awareness [2] by asking him, “So, what would you do if we did not return by a certain time?”

“What time?” K asked.

“Absolutely, by dinner time,” I clarified. “But we should be back way before that.”

“Well…” K steepled his fingers in front of his face in a Mr. Spock-like pose of thoughtfulness.  “I haven’t been to Pizza Schmizza in a while….

chopper

                              *   *   *

As already noted on this week’s The Mighty Quinn FB page, my calendar said that July 8 was Toot Your Own Horn day.  (It also said that July 2 was Eat Nothing But Dark Chocolate For Every Meal and Your Teeth Will Be Bright and Your Breath Minty Fresh day.  Don’t you wish you had my calendar?) Thus, I excerpted one of my favorite reviews of The Mighty Quinn, which is on Goodreads, courtesy of fellow writer, SCM:

I should start by saying what THE MIGHTY QUINN is not. It’s not for every middle grade reader, nor is it a book for a bright younger kid whose parents read MG books out loud before bed. (I tried.)

THE MIGHTY QUINN is a smart book, and it’s going to appeal to brighter MG readers. It’s a clever and funny book about the Borgia-like scheming simmering below the surface of elementary school social life.

It’s about what it’s like to be raised progressively when peers are, well, not.

 It’s about what it’s like to be raised in a free-thinking and non-religious home, when peers are, well, not.

It’s about what it’s like to be a clever and funny kid when peers are, well, not.

What’s more, it’s the rare book for smart MG readers and their parents to read together. A smart MG reader is doing most reading without parents. This is, in some ways, a last hurrah for those bedtime reading rituals that parents miss more than kids—although it never seems to feel like that when you’re reading Mike Mulligan for the hundredth time.

Bonus: there’s plenty that will make parents laugh.

SCM gave the book a 5 star rating, and states that it is not for every middle grade reader [3].  I liked that. I for one am turned off by reviews which proclaim, Everyone will/must like this book! Because, that’s never the case, is it?  Also, the same, I-like-these qualities the reviewer lists about TMQ would be red flags for those people (certain adults, I think, more than certain children) who, sadly but frankly, are predisposed to not like a book that presents a sympathetic portrayal of kids who “…are raised progressively.”

And so it goes.

Oh, and now that I don’t have to do it every night, I do miss reading Mike Mulligan. MikeMulligan

*   *   *

This week I attended my first professional baseball game in…I truly do not remember how long it has been. [4] Growing up in So Cal, my summers were filled with trips to Chavez Ravine for Dodger games and Anaheim Stadium for Angel games (and if you climbed to the top of our backyard’s big pine tree you could see the stadium’s halo light up when an Angel hit a home run).

I forget what year it happened, but after one player/owner strike too many – when I asked myself, hmmm, which group of millionaires do I feel sorry for? – I lost interest.  I went from a high schooler who subscribed to Sports Illustrated, someone who could quote lengthy passages from Ball Four, someone who, much to MH’s befuddlement, could whip anyone’s ass in a 1970s Dodger’s baseball trivia contest, [5] to someone who just didn’t give a flying festering fartbag about professional sports.

Except, of course, when Kirk Gibson hit his gimp, game-winning home run during the 1988 World Series, which cause my younger sister (whose husband was rooting for the Oakland A’s) and I to exchange, gloating phone calls: YEEESSSS!

Once again, I digress.

So, on Monday I dragged MH, son K and his friend and moiself to Hillsboro’s new baseball stadium, home of the Hillsboro Hops, Hillsboro’s new new minor league team .  I really, really, could have done without the inane announcer’s patter and the kiddie tire races and kiddie hoop shooting contests and kiddie bunny hops and the other “amusements” between innings (Hades forbid we should be content to merely sit with our thoughts or converse with other attendees – we must be ENTERTAINED at all moments).

That irritation aside, hearing the distinctive slap of a 94 mph pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt, watching fit young men in fit uniforms [6] loping around a field on a hot summer evening, savoring a bag of peanuts roasted in the shell – the night brought back primal memories for me.  The night also provided a reminder of a most epic parental fail, when my 20 year old son made a comment which indicated he did not know how many innings are in a baseball game.

Ball Four

*   *   *

“It has never been easier to be a writer, and it has never been harder to be a professional writer.”
(Adam Gopnick, The New Yorker, as quoted in the Spring 2013 Authors Guild Bulletin)

sadwriter

Because the Authors Guild takes their mandate seriously (“…the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression….”), their bulletin is full of the news that matters to writers; i.e., reports on how AG attorneys and advocates are fighting the good [7] fight against the erosion of authors’  income streams and copyright and royalty protection and trends in e-publishing….  Almost all of it is really, really, really depressing:

E-books are way less expensive for publishers to produce, but instead of being more generous to authors, the major publishing houses all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to (that which gives authors ) roughly half the traditional royalty on hardcover books….Five of six major publishing houses were sued by the DOJ’s anti-trust division for fixing e-book prices…numerous pirate sites (supported by advertising on Yahoo and Google) offer new and old e-books for free (and too many Americans, especially younger ones, seem to believe that if it’s on the internet it belongs to everybody – even while they pay for cable)…Amazon acquired a patent to re-sell e-books… [8]

I think when the next issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin arrives I’ll save time and, before turning the first page, assume my custom-designed, Author’s Yoga Pose ®.

YOGA

 Whattheasana
(aka Author’s Pose)

Whattheasana is a pose of realization.  It transfers tension from your neck, shoulders and back to your brain bucket, where tension belongs.

(1) Begin in a kneeling position, on the hardest surface you can find.

(2) Drop your buttocks to your heels. Exhale and stretch your torso down and forward, lengthening your tailbone from the pelvis as you rest your abdomen atop your thighs, your forehead on the floor. Inhale one long breath of futility.

(3) Exhale. Place your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up in the universal gesture of surrender. Visualize your most recent royalty statement and/or the Ten Must-Have Marketing Strategies for Writers! conference come-ons in your email inbox. Let the weight of the world rest on your shoulders, broadening your scapulae across your back and further grinding your forehead into the floor.

(4) Inhale, extend your cervical vertebrae and raise your forehead several inches above the floor. Exhale, release your forehead to gravity and chant your author’s mantra (“d-uh”) as your forehead hits the floor with a chakra-satisfying thud.  Repeat this sequence, staying in the pose for one to five minutes, or until the half-hearted urge to even consider enrolling in any Social Media Web-inar/Tutorials subsides.

*   *   *

Pacas and Toucans and Turtles, Oh My!

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

a baby leatherback turtle heads for the ocean at Pacuare

Belle returned late Tuesday evening from a nine day trip to Costa Rica.  She and 17 other Oregon Zoo Teen leaders were participating in an Ecology International Field Service Project.  The kids and their adult guides helped biologists at La Suerte [9] Biological Field Station and the Pacuare Nature Reserve gather data on sea turtles, and the Costa Rican mosquitoes helped themselves to fresh American teenage blood.

The pangs of missing my daughter didn’t hit me until July 4, when I was out running errands/having lunch with MH.  I passed the time at the local animal shelter while MH roamed the aisles of Lowe’s, and at the shelter I saw The Cutest Kitten In the World ® which, fortunately, had a sign on its kennel indicating it had already been adopted.  Belle would have adored the kitten, I thought…and it’s a good thing she’s in Costa Rica, because she just possibly would have found a way to talk MH and I out of our Crazy Cat People  Limit. [10]

After home improvement errands MH & I had lunch at Red Robin, where I was reminded of something I do not miss about my daughter, or my son, now that both of them have been housebroken for some time.  When I used the RR’s restroom I overheard the distinctive dialogue which indicated the presence of a Six Legged Monster [11] occupying the handicapped stall.

“Mommy, I did a stinker!”

“Yes, honey, you did a stinker.”

“No, YOU did a stinker!”

“Okay, I did a stinker – no, wait, don’t open the door, your sister isn’t done yet….”

sequential

Two minutes later, in the parking lot, there was yet another parent/child/potty story unfolding: a young mother was changing her infant son’s messy diaper, using the rear of her SUV as a changing table. With the car’s hatchback door up, passersby (including yours truly) had quite the view.

I’m not going to tell the story in all of its Technicolor glory.  I’d like to save the phrase poop-encrusted scrotum for 2014.

Happy Independence Day, indeed.  And the hijinks ensued.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] There were, as always, aliens to be battled in cyberspace.

[2] Always inform friends and family about your trip itinerary, ideally include a map and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return….

[3] I like her subtle nudge re how TMQ appeals to the “brighter” reader. Ahem.

[4] Remembered during the edit! It was in October ’92, at Baltimore’s beautiful Oriole Park: MH & I with my groovy friend and fellow Ball Four lover Ernie Kyger, with a special guest appearance by Baltimore Sun sportswriter (and high school friend) Peter Schmuck .

[5] Name the Dodgers infield that played together for more than eight seasons — a major league record! (Cey, Lopes, Russell & Garvey)

[6] I’m married, not dead.

[7] If ultimately futile, in my humble yet realistic opinion.

[8] These feel-good excerpts are from the From the President article by AG President Scott Turow.

[9] Idiomatic translation: good luck with the heron-sized mosquitoes.

[10] I say it’s four (naturally, we have four cats).  Belle insists you’re not truly in Crazy Cat People territory until six.

[11] A mother and her two young children.

The Year I’m Not Being Modest

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“The idea for my modesty experiment began when I worked in New York City….Every morning I would shoehorn myself onto the train with thousands of expensive-smelling, coiffed women….  It was an army of ladies sporting fitted waistlines, toned arms, blown-out hair, full faces of makeup, and heels….Everyone looked good and we were all stylish…. I hated every second of it. It felt like putting on a costume…..Still, given where I worked, I had to look like that. Every. Damn. Day.
(Lauren Shields, My Year of Modesty)

The title of the article on salon.com piqued my curiosity. I had to read it, if only to validate my kneejerk suspicion that the article would essentially be a trailer for yet another My Year of book in the making.  You know the kind of book I’m talking about. You may even have read one of them.  They’ve practically become a genre unto themselves (and one writer in particular has made a career of it):

“My ______ (year, month, or some other arbitrary and extended period of time) of ______:

– trying to obey certain religious scriptures as literally as possible, including the orders to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers…[1]
– reading the entire ENCYLOPEDIA BRITANNICA [2]
– following the advice of every health, nutrition and exercise “expert” on the market [3]
-trying to outsource every aspect of my personal life as an experiment  [4]
-eating fast food for every meal [5]
– living sans car, utilities, running water, and any modern/electrical technologies [6]

…which I did with the guarantee of a book and/or movie deal which would allow me to present the surprising (to me, you see, I was such a cynic, going in!) spiritual journey [7]of the endeavor in a manner both comical and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal, which will enable you, the reader, to see

– arguably the most influential bronze age scriptures ever written
-really big reference materials
-the all tater tot diet

with new eyes!”

My suspicions were correct. Behold, My Year of Modesty, wherein the author “…swore off makeup and covered my hair, arms and legs for nine months.”

And – surprise! – the author found the experience of doing so to be ____

(1) compliant and odiferous
(2) truculent yet bovine
(3) frightening and liberating
(4) mellifluous and stomach-turning

It’s (3), DUH. Haven’t you been paying attention?

Anyway…. The author designed what she calls The Modesty Project (which, as she admits in her blog, she hopes will be a hook to attract an agent). She decided to be the project’s first participant :

“I took my cues from Jewish, Muslim and some Christian modesty practices in order to loosen my death grip on the idea that youth and beauty were prerequisites to relevance.…I gave away more than a third of my clothes….And for nine months, I covered all of my hair, wore nothing that was so fitted that I felt like I had to sit or stand funny to look good, and never exposed my knees or my shoulders, except at home. With rare exceptions, I wore no makeup or nail polish.” 

I agreed with many of the points the author made in the article, including how important it is to realize that “…the beauty industry is a ploy to keep us from thinking about how to break into the boys’ club of corporate America,” and that  “obsession with your appearance is frivolous and time-consuming!” and that it can be a good thing to decline to “…endorse Western Imperialism and the sexualization of (women’s) bodies,” and that women should resist “… the pressure to be scrutinized against Western standards of beauty. ”

But when the author whined, “How nice would it be not to have to think about stupid crap like the latest accessories and whether my hair had gone limp?”, this cranky middle age feminist felt like having her sit down on a comfy cushion while I used my there-there, it’ll get better voice to give her some basic advice:

Well then, why don’t you just choose to stop thinking about stupid crap like that?

Many of the points she makes in the article are oh-so-valid.  Then, there is the “choice” she speaks of, wherein she takes cues from culture and religions that require “modest” dress.  Choice, schmoice — it is is simply another standard by which women will be judged. She’s just choosing a different trap into which she’ll be pushed (or, in this case, into which she’ll enter voluntarily).

Attributing any characteristic (modesty, sexuality) to your attire and/or appearance ironically causes you to focus upon the very characteristic (e.g. Western beauty standards) you supposedly want to counteract. Also, it leads to just plain silly and arbitrary boundaries and “standards.”  Are uncovered shoulders “immodest,” and if so, in whose eyes?  Are your elbows allowed breathing room, or your earlobes, ankles, wrists, knees….?

By following any standard uniform, whether that of the Fashionista-I’d-Like-to-F*** or the Modest Muslim, you are inviting the judgments and expectations that people associate with that uniform.

hijab

You can refuse to buy into Western (or any compass direction’s) standards by…wait for it… refusing to buy into the standards.  Forgo makeup, or just don’t wear as much.  Have one pair of sensible “dress” shoes.  Wear comfortable, practical, durable, weather-and-work-appropriate clothing.

Why go from one extreme (the “costume” she decries) to another?  Oh yeah, that’s right – because there’s a book and/or movie deal waiting for you if you go to an extreme and then tell everyone about it.

IMHO, articles such as the one in question perpetuate, even if unintentionally, this perception of extreme options for women:

(1) We’re either obsessed with fashion/our bodies/our appearance, or we must be in order to play The Game and have any kind of power, credibility or visibility in this society, or
(2) We must veil our physical attributes entirely to escape or subvert The Game.

To me, [8] both options seem equally and ultimately powerless.

Were you consulted when the rules of The Game were written?  No? Me neither. Then they don’t apply to us.  We can choose to help rewrite them and/or not to give a shit about them.  Wear whatever you want, and deal with the consequences.[9]

*  *  *

Smile!  You’re:

-on Candid Camera
-on massive amounts of Happy Pills
-a blithering idiot

fresksmile

In Honor of the anniversary of Declaration of Independence, it seems that this is turning into the Feminist Rant Blog Post.

But, I digress.

Dateline: a couple of weeks ago.  Riding in the car, returning from a friend’s dance recital in Portland.  Five of us are in MH’s Honda Fit, thus the Biggest People (MH and our son K) are in the front, while Belle, a Visiting Relative and moiself sit tush-to-tush in the back seat.

Belle wasexhausted from a long day of working at the zoo, followed by this social event which she seemed to enjoy but was in all likelihood doing for the family/social obligation.  She sat, peacefully, quietly, holding on to window the arm strap. She was not smiling.  She was not frowning or looking unhappy, but she was not smiling.  VR began to pester Belle, teasing her about why she wasn’t smiling and repeatedly asking (commanding) her to smile….

For what reason?

This has happened before — VR and the teasing/smiling thing, and with both of the kids, but particularly (as in, waaaay more often) with Belle.  I could see Belle getting annoyed, but since she is seventeen and not seven I gritted my teeth…and said nothing…and let Belle handle it… even as I wanted to say to VR, “With all due respect, WTF?!”

Silly me.  I forgot about The Law of Non Threatening Female Countenance, which Belle was clearly violating. It is mandatory for women to always have an idiot grin a smile, or at least a friendly expression on their faces, lest people think they are…I don’t know:

– tired (which is why they are looking tired)
– reflecting on the problems in the Middle East (thus the contemplative/hopeless frown)
– thinking about the latest Neo-Con male spouting nonsense about women’s reproductive health issues (thus the threatening, get me a red hot suppository poker grimace).

What is it about a serious-looking woman, or one whose expression is merely that of repose, that so many people find unnerving?

One of the myriad of reasons a former boyfriend of mine achieved Former Boyfriend © status involves an argument we had about the TV show Hill Street Blues.  FB and I were both fans of the show, and were discussing it one evening when he mentioned how he liked all of the characters…except for Joyce Davenport.

JD was one of my favorite of the show’s characters; thus, I had to ask why he didn’t like the intelligent, witty, crusading public defender.  His less-than-illuminating answer:  Because she was “a bitch.”

Mind you, this was a man who would have accepted and even embraced the moniker “feminist man.”  Yet he repeated the term, twice more, when I asked for and then demanded clarification.  I pointed out to him that if he didn’t like a male character he would state specifically what about the character he found offensive, rather than merely name call. Ok, you find Joyce Davenport a “bitch” – is it because you think she is nasty and/or vindictive toward her colleagues or criticizes her peers without reason or provocation or blames others for her mistakes or….what?  Specify, please.

No. It was none of the above. None of anything, really. Here’s what it came down to:  He found Joyce Davenport to be a bitch because “She never smiles.”

joyce davenport

Really, truly, at first I thought he was joking.  He was serious. He wanted to see her display a more sunny attitude. Joyce Davenport was such a downer.  Joyce Davenport needed to smile more often.

The character of Joyce Davenport was a public defender serving an urban war zone of city. She defended thieves, rapists, drug dealers, child abusers and murders.  She also had to contend with the police officers, detectives and District Attorneys who cared not one whit for the supposed innocence of her clients and who were determined to convict the rare clients she had who were actually innocent of theft, rape, drug dealing, child abuse and murder. Imagine a man in that position, with that job, walking around with a grin on his face. Imagine anyone admonishing a man in that position, with that job, that he should smile more often.

Excuse me, Capt. Furillo, you're doing a fine job managing this crime-ridden, gang-infested, shithole of a precinct, but we'd all feel better if you'd flash your pearly whites more often

Excuse me, Capt. Furillo, you’re doing a fine job managing this crime-ridden, gang-infested, shithole of a precinct, but we’d all feel better if you’d flash your pearly whites more often

*   *   *

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
(Barbara Ehrenreich )

atheist flag

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
(James Baldwin)

fireworks

Happy Independence Day Weekend to us all, and may the truly patriotic hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[5] Supersize Me by someone who is not A. J. Jacobs

[6] Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by someone who said, hey, I better write about this before A. J. Jacobs does.

[7] and of course there will be a spiritual journey.

[8] Me, whose idea of fashionable grooming is to remember to brush my hair before 3 pm…you can guess which sides of this issue get my sympathies.

[9] Unless what you really want to wear are those homie gangsta clown pants with the magical gravity band that keeps them perpetually hovering mid butt crack.