Sunday, August 31, 2008

Of Bellies and Bumps

When I was in my early 20s, I weighed about 30 pounds, give or take, more than I do now. I was always healthy: I ran a lot, but I also ate and drank a lot. You wouldn't have called me fat, but you might have called me big or round, or some other such gentle euphemism, and, despite the claims of my loved ones to the contrary, you would have been right.

During this period, I went to Bermuda with my father. Actually, I was supposed to go with my father, but somehow the fact that one needed a passport to go to Bermuda escaped me, and I arrived at the airport only to turn around and go home, instead of to Atlanta where I was to meet my father to fly together to Bermuda. It wasn't a big deal: I rescheduled everything for later in the day, somehow notifed my father, without cellphones, and everything was fine, except that I landed in Bermuda by myself, a round hippie kind of chick, presumably with some sort of luggage inappropriate to a resort island, and no distinguished bearded older gentleman to protect her.

I don't know if it was the age or the changed flights or the hair or the clothes, but they went for me. As the distinguished older vacationers cruised through customs, the immigration officials painstakingly went through every corner of my luggage. They checked the little bag with my toothbrush and opened my box of tampons. At that point I was getting a little annoyed, and when the woman searching my stuff asked "what's this?" just before she opened the box, I replied, loudly, "Tampons!" but she still opened it.

I was partly on the verge of tears, and partly on the verge of calling in the troops, because the irony was that my dad was spending a lot of time in Bermuda those days consulting for the government, and was at that very moment, I believe, meeting with the Minister of Tourism. But then it got worse.

The woman reached across the table, poked my belly, and said, "What's this? A baby?" To which I replied, indignantly, and incredibly proud that I was not crying, "No, I'm fat." She clearly realized at that point that she'd gone too far (did she think I had drugs strapped around my middle?), and my belongings were hastily replaced in their bags and I was ushered out the door. At that point, I was so relieved to be out of there, that I don't think I even told my dad.

Needless to say, this experience, not to mention my general body image and feminist ideologies, has made me very sensitive to the shouts of "Baby bump!" that seem to accompany any photograph of a female between the ages of 15 and 45 whose stomach is anything less than pancake flat. These days, I'm not a big person at all, but I still have a belly. M, who is fabulously gorgeous, thin, and perfect, has a belly. Today at the pond, I saw exactly one female whose belly was flat, and she looked fine, but so did everyone else. And the pregnant females, of whom there were many? Uh, what they looked was pregnant.

I'm going to refrain from commenting on the question of who gave birth to Trig Palin unless rumor is proven true (and while it just seems too strange, we all know about truth and fiction). But I am thinking that this totally sucks for Bristol Palin, whatever the truth of the matter. And I hope that her mother will be able to take time from succoring the imminently hurricane stricken and stoking the campaign fires to reassure her teenage daughter that it's quite OK to have a belly.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin 2, or I Think We're All Post-Feminist Now

Back in the day, I always voted for the woman. I can tell you exactly when that day was, too. It was my first year of college, and I was faced with a long slate of names of people running for student government, none of which I recognized. So I went right down that list with my pen, first checking off all the women, then the visible minorities.

Ah, those were the days.

Not so much.

I don't know when I stopped automatically voting for the woman, but I bet it had something to do with Hopefully Not About to Again Become A Red State, where there was a good-sized contingent of women politicos (politicas) whose values had nothing to do with anything I cared to vote for. It probably also--theoretically, rather than practically--had something to do with living through the 80s as a feminist, and realizing the profound limitations of feminism as it had been construed, not by its original founders, many of whom were incredibly sophisticated about issues of race and class, but by a whole lot of white women in the years thereafter. In other words, I realized that gender, though always important, is not always of prime importance.

Fast forward to this morning.

Let's be clear (and not at all original): the only reason John McCain chose Sarah Palin is that she's a woman. If her name were Stuart Palin, and she had been governor of the battleground state of Alaska--not!--for two years, she would not have flown to Dayton this morning. Sure she's conservative, and smart, and popular, but she's the new governor of Alaska. Not so much the VP demographic, except that she's a girl.

Which means that John McCain, the Republican candidate, presumably as anti-affirmative action and identity politics as they come, just went whole hog for the identity ticket. Whereas I told my girls that Obama chose the person who would be best for governing, not necessarily campaigning, and that I wholeheartedly approved, McCain made his choice purely instrumentally, based on nailing down the conservative Christian votes and trying to seduce those PUMAs (who appear, from what I've been reading in the non-mainstream media, to be not quite so many as the mainstream media would have us believe).

I'm sure there are people out there who vote solely based on identity (choosing the woman, the Black person, the Christian, regardless), and I'm sure there are people who do, as the pundits believe, vote on likeability (I bet I'd do just fine chatting with Palin on the sidelines of a soccer game, just as I did with all my conservative Christian friends in that state where I used to live) (that parenthesis was not at all facetious--I did have conservative Christian friends, and I quite liked them, but we never talked politics, just teachers and homework and Halloween costumes). But I'd like to think there are other people besides me who vote the issues.

(Or at least, who first consider the issues, and only then turn to identity and likeability. Because I was fine with Hillary on the issues, just like I was fine with Obama, which meant that I could then think about things like effectiveness and likeability, which meant I didn't vote for Hillary, though I also didn't vote for Obama because he was Black.)

But let's get back to feminism. Lately I've been hanging out with some smart, savvy, political young women of color who feel pretty much the same way I do when it comes to most things political. Except that I am a feminist and they are not. One of them said, last time we discussed it, that the term just makes her sad. And I get that: if you're a young woman of color, feminism as it's been lived out (not just portrayed) in American culture can be pretty unwelcoming (see Seal Press and WAM, Pandagon, et al [oh god, I just can't find the perfect link, try Jackie back in April to start]).

Sarah Palin is the apex of the best and worst of feminism. That a 44-year-old mother of five could be a governor is because of feminism at its best: women now have opportunities and the capacity to achieve in ways that were unimaginable 40 years ago. That John McCain would choose a woman as his running mate simply to grab women voters is a manifestation of feminism and identity politics at their worst--pandering "choices" designed to get the powers that be what they want.

So you know, at this point, I'm really fine with letting feminism go. I'll still call myself a feminist, but I'm not going to go out on a limb for the terminology, though believe you me I'll always go out on a limb for the rights of women. But I'll also be limb-climbing for the rights of people of color, immigrants, the poor, children, gays, whoever needs their rights the most at any particular moment. And I don't really care what you call me or it. In fact, I lost interest in the politics of symbolism and labels a long time ago. What I care about is justice and fairness and basic human rights and economic viability for everyone (let's just lump education, health care, and housing under economic viability).

And that's why I'm still voting for Obama.

McCain's Announcement

Lots o' white folk.

Sarah Palin

Oh. My. God.

Barack Obama

Great speech. I wish I could truly believe.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What I Have Accomplished Today

- Sent M's immunization record to her school

- Arranged for M to re-enter the gifted program she dropped out of last year

- Signed M up for dance classes (her swim team has disbanded for the moment, so she's decided to try dance, which makes my life so much simpler, as dance is around the corner and involves no parental transportation, plus dance does not interfere with dinner)

- Transported M to grandparents

- Picked up M's friend and transported her to M at grandparents

- Monitored activities of M and friend once they returned from grandparents

- Paid enormous late movie fine and rented more movies which will inevitably engender more fines

- Wrote 20-page handbook for giant project at E's school that I am thankfully handing off to other stooges--I mean dedicated volunteers

- Wrote draft of materials for board I'm on

- Made deviled eggs

- Fed and attempted to nurture ailing E (who watched TV the entire day, enabling my productivity, though I was never more than 10 feet from her, except when I was getting her food or one of us was in the bathroom)

- Organized social event (OK, that was just emailing a bunch of people who turn out to know each other to say we should get together and proffering time and place that were accepted)

And it's only 5:30. And Lucy should show up any minutes, so maybe I'll even have some fun!

I Just Can't Help It

In which Ayelet drops names, wears another terrible dress, and makes sure we know that she and her husband love to touch each other. It's good to know that some things don't change.

(What? You think I'm going to watch the new 90210 for you too? Ha!)

(And did I mention how APPALLING the media is? Oh god, I can't even go there, plus you can see for yourself. But, you know, the bloggers are no better. In fact, you know what the bloggers are? Boring.) (Oh man, this post could be such a meta-commentary on itself in so many loopy ways, except, well, it's not, it's just some rambling parentheses.) (Though I have been tempted lately to rent that summer season where Dylan and Kelly...well, you know...)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ayelet in Denver

In honor of the days when my blogging was both assiduous and thematized (remember the chocolate cakes?), I feel compelled to inform whoever is still reading that Ayelet Waldman is blogging the convention for New York Magazine in an oddly Cindy McCain-like get-up (hair notwithstanding).

Tim Gunn Would Not Like Me

I wear jeans just like these all the time. (Am I the only person who thinks Thom Gunn every time I see Tim Gunn? Probably.)

To Do

There is What I Have To Do. There is What I Want To Do.

I think I will do what I have to do, and then I will do what I want to do.

Only I don't want to do what I have to do.

So I read novels and play WordTwist.

I want to read novels, only they are not What I Want To Do. And they are certainly not What I Have To Do. I enjoy reading the novels, but I feel guilty.

Let's not even talk about WordTwist.

I always do what I have to do when it needs to be done, but by that point, there's no time for what I want to do.

Some people say it's because I have too much to do. Which is true.

Except for the novels and WordTwist.

I thought I would catch up at the beginning of the summer and then I would have the summer. Only I'm still not caught up.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008


There is a photograph in the newspaper today of an aggressively blonde woman whom I used to know when she was a mousy brunette way back in the day. She looks ridiculous. There's a lesson about my gray in there somewhere.

Bag Lust

Despite my bag obsession, I have never gone for the designer bag thing. Why? Because: 1) I am all about the aesthetics and the function; 2) I have, when it comes to bags, less than zero interest in the status; and 3) I have not, when it comes to designer bags, anything near the funding. Not to mention the fact that most designer bags strike me as supremely ugly (i.e. the aesthetics over the status).

But then I saw this bag. And while I can't say I get the designer bag thing (a new bag every season? all that money on bags? renting bags?), I very much and totally wish I could get that bag.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Oh goodness, there must be something wrong with me. I assume I ended up reading Roxana Robinson's new novel Cost because of a good review. What I do, when I see a review of something I think I might like to read, is I order it from the library, and then eventually it shows up as a pleasant surprise (the branch library is at the end of our block, which makes it even more pleasurable to get the email announcing that the now-forgotten-about book is waiting for me, and then just walk down and pick it up). At any rate, the critics seem to agree that this family-deals-with-junkie-son novel is great (scroll down for links), but I found it quite abominable: faux-Woolfian over-dramatization of mundane moments and deep thoughts (my disgust reached an early peak at exactly that mayonnaise moment the Wall Street Journal highlights) crossed with Lifetime Movie of the Week. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. (I feel that I can write about it, because I did not simply abandon it, but skimmed to the end, both to find out what happened and to see if it remained as dreadful, which I truly felt it did. Then again, clearly I am wrong.)

And speaking of critics, when I read the first few paragraphs of Walter Kirn's evisceration of James Woods in today's Book Review. I thought it was a classic case of the lesser critic letting loose the flame of his jealously righteous indignation, but, truly, despite my dislike for Kirn, it is quite a fabulous evisceration, and though I haven't read this particular book, it (review and book) seems truly to capture Wood's (pedantic) spirit, and I very much agreed with Kirn's critiques viz the many projects of fiction, etc..

Oh, I was saving this for another post, but since I am sounding so negative and crotchety myself, I must let loose, myself, with my absolute passion for Rachel Seiffert's Afterwards, which is by far the best book I have read in months. On this one I believe I concur with the critics. I initially thought, when I read the reviews, that I had no interest in a book about Northern Ireland and the Mau Mau Rebellion, but don't go away! This is one of the best love stories, work stories, war stories, trauma stories I can think of (ack, must go read some Pat Barker), and the minimalist but absolutely lush prose is simply beautiful, and the other thing that is just lovely is all the biking and walking. Just go read it right now, it's that amazing.

There, I can like things, see?


Scene: I am working at the dining room table. My Husband is on the computer in the living room (it turns out he is working too, but this is not relevant, because he is going to work in a few hours, and that is his official worktime). My Children are playing all over the house.

My Children: Mommy, we're hungry, can you make us some lunch?

My Husband (quietly): I'll make you lunch.

Me: Why, when you know I am working, and Daddy is right there on the computer, are you asking ME to make you lunch?

My Youngest Child: Because you're our mommy.

So much for feminist childrearing. At least we're doing OK on the feminist husband front (then again, we may simply have scored on the chef husband front).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

You Know What I Hate?

When the swimmer takes the turn, and NBC superimposes the name of the leader on top of the lane, so you can't see the turn or the first few strokes. As if all the television audience cares about is who's winning, not the swimming. As if!

(I also think Phelps should have immediately turned to his right and shaken hands with Cavic, and, you know, if he was a woman swimmer, he would have.) (Well, actually, if he was a woman swimmer he would have hugged Cavic, which leaves me kind of cold, but the point is the sportsman--woman--ship, and I think the women swimmers have it all over the men.)

(And one of the many reasons I am not an Olympic athlete is that I think getting a silver medal in the Olympics is a huge triumph, not a failure.) (See women's gymnastics, albeit a few days ago.) (And speaking of women's gymnastics, given that we have a 12-year-old girl in our family, and given that we live in one of the American centers of Chinese adoption, we happen to know about a half-dozen 12- and 13-year-old girls who were born in China, and let me tell you [along with everyone else who is telling you], those Chinese gymnasts would fit right in with M and her peeps, and they'll definitely be having their 16th birthdays a few years from now. [Because Shawn Johnson may be tiny, and all of them may have a distinct lack of cleavage, but you can see it in the face, and Shawn Johnson has a face like our teenage babysitters, not M.])

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Day Without Childcare

Took the girls to work with me, and they were fabulous. I blasted on the work, since I'm out of the office for the next three weeks, and they amused themselves, and E was even helpful. Then they went out shopping and bought E sparkly pink jelly flip-flops and brought back sushi for lunch. I had to go to an event in Trendy Neighborhood. I was meeting some people at a hip cafe beforehand, and we didn't have a lot of time, so we took a cab. The cafe was hip in the greatest of ways--nice-looking and good food--and the girls sat at their own table with snacks and again behaved impeccably. More impeccable behavior during the event, which was work-related and very excellent and validating. Then it was pouring so we took a cab to meet S and go to our friend's new restaurant. I don't think we've taken that many cabs in East Coast Big City ever, so we kind of felt like we were in New York. The restaurant is good, but not as good as our restaurant, but it was fun to see all our friends who work there.

I must admit that I enjoy the rare days when my life feels like it's glamorous.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Last Day of Childcare

Tomorrow is the last day of the summer childcare circuit.  All the camps, all the babysitters, all the parents and grandparents: it's all worked out perfectly, not a day's problem, not a lost child (literally or metaphorically).  After tomorrow, I'm with the girls for the rest of the summer (give or take a meeting or two), and we're good.  So when does our luck run out?  Tomorrow, of course.  S has to work early; I have to work late; all three babysitters are busy.  I'm choosing to take this as a sign that I should gratefully appreciate how well everything has worked out so far.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And, Uh, By the Way, Speaking of the Red Sox, Not That We Were

Can you BELIEVE this game?! (Yes, we have Michael Phelps on the TV and the Sox on the computer, because we're like that.)

Summer (Rain)

Today was a jeans day.  I wore jeans, to work, which I rarely do, and everywhere I went people wore jeans.  Sweaters, too.  I saw a woman in tights, and two in boots (not rainboots).  It's the middle of August.

Remember all that summer music?  Yeah, not so much did so much of it happen.  Rain, children, a lot of wasted money.  Ugh.  S says we will never buy concert tickets again.  (Remember the Madonna tickets?  Turns out S can't go.  But M can.)

Speaking of thing there's been a lot of this summer is driving.  Somehow we didn't really plan a vacation, and instead we've been doing lots of mini-trips, which have been lots of fun, but a little discombobulating.  And then there's the driving.  Which seems to happen more often than not in the rain.  I'm a little over it.

For the last many summers, I've spent at least two weeks in the country.  After spending all last summer in the country, I was OK with not really being in the country this summer, since it wasn't going to work out.  Or rather, I was OK with not having a big chunk of time in the country.  But I think that ended up discombobulating me too.  We've actually been to the country four times (driving--and rain) (also the lake, Country Town, the beach, and New York, each once, most involving driving in the rain), but not for longer than 48 hours, and when I get there there's that funny feeling of being there and not quite there, when usually I am so deeply there in the country.

I did get to spend one afternoon in one of my favorite summer-afternoon places: the grass down by the river behind the drive-in, where the girls play in the water and I lie under the tree and close my eyes and let the sun dapple my eyelids.  It was bliss.  And then it rained, and I had to drive back to East Coast Big City in the rain (this sounds like a joke, but it's totally not).

I have just finished a big chunk of work that was hanging over my head.  Next week one last trip that should be really a vacation, at least that's the plan: three days camping in the mountains, two days in our favorite bed-and-breakfast at the beach.  S and I just agreed that if it rains we're checking into a motel.  With an indoor pool.

(More summer pleasure: the pond.  More summer discombobulation: renovation, which is going swimmingly, but still entails noise, clutter, decisions--I had no idea I cared so much about doors, but I do.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Watching the Olympics with M

How much more do we love Natalie Coughlin, now that we know she shops at the Farmer's Market and loves to cook?  We definitely love her.  Even if her world record is kaput.

How impressed with Bob Costas are we for his hammering of the president?  Impressed.

How disgusted are we that this man is our president, and has been for almost eight years?  I mean, we're always disgusted, but when we actually see him speak...we're left speechless with disgust ("American has no problems"?!  The country you live in is where??).

How dazzled are we by Shawn Johnson?  As dazzled as everyone else, which is to say totally dazzled.

And Michael Phelps?  Yeah, baby, he's the swim god of the universe.

Edited to add: M on The Suit: Everyone's wearing it, they have to be wearing it, they're gonna lose if they don't.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Checking In On the Sox

How about that Jason Bay?  A single, two doubles, and I'm going to bed.  Hope Manny is having himself a dandy evening wherever he is.  (I know, I know, he's no Manny, but then again, he's no Manny...)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Travesty of Contemporary Existence (Media Conglomerate Version)

As I type these words, Ashley Tisdale is dueting with Kermit as the Muppets go Disney on Studio DC: Almost Live.

(M: Remember, you're that nine-year-old girl who doesn't care about venture capitalism!)