Monday, January 25, 2010

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1620

I recently read Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates, about the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I figured I'd start with a kind of diet history on the subject since everything I know about the English colonists of the seventeenth century was gleaned solely from a handful of visits to Plymouth Plantation when I was a child, and even those have been reduced in my memory to this one time we got a bunch of the reenactors to sing a hymn in four part harmony, and this other time a dude sort of insinuated I was a witch.

Anyway, the part that I found the most interesting was about Thanksgiving. I had no idea that the Puritans treated a day of thanks more like a ticker-tape parade than Labor Day, or any day of scheduled celebration. Vowell points out that the Pilgrims would probably be horrified by the idea that we celebrate Thanksgiving every year regardless of whether or not it was appropriate. They ordered up just as many days of fasting and repentance as they did thanks depending on the circumstances. Indian raid? Fast. Live through the winter? Feast! The fourth Thursday of November? Let’s wait and see.

I back this idea with all the ardor of two thumbs up and a follow-up high five. I can call in sick. I can take vacation days. I can celebrate the many regularly scheduled holidays recognized by Hallmark and on which banks and post offices refuse to cooperate with my needs. But, okay, say that one Friday night I get a little bit drunker than I thought I would and maybe Conan's final speech about not being cynical hits home way harder than it should and then maybe I'm having an existential moment at a bar while still singing Free Bird and stealing tater tots off of people's plates and texting my booty call A-team with no response, then moving to the B-team with similar success, and then I'm walking trainward in a slightly dejected and very wobbly fashion. Say that happens, "theoretically." I should have the right, as did the Puritans, to declare an immediate Day of Margot Kiddering, on which I am permitted to wander half-clothed, belligerent, and incoherent through people's yards, and everyone my life is alerted and given jobs like making sure I don't get murdered or too cold, or explaining to homeowners that it's cool that I'm trespassing. I called in Kidder.

Or, okay, say that it's Monday and the new computer system at work is not working again and you're depressed that you have to complain about the new computer system not working again, and you're pretty sure someone took your last working pen and also the fluorescent light in your cube is blinking towards death in a way that might cause you to have a seizure, and the whole office smells like Top Ramen. "Theoretically." I should be able to open my time clock program and select from the drop down menu as my reason for taking off the next 24 hours not "sick," not "jury duty," not "bereavement," but "Day of Mata Hari-ing." Then I put on a particularly seductive dress and you all send me secret missions that I carry out with panache, and I go to bed feeling like I've accomplished something cooler than finding out how to add a new signature in Outlook (for what it's worth, it's Tools, Options, Mail Format, Signatures).

This is, of course, reciprocal. If you needed a Day of Ghostbustering, for example, I would gladly provide the Ecto-Cooler and call you about urgent middle of the night toilet-paper hauntings at my apartment that you could dispatch with silly string.

Life hands us Christmas and Memorial Day and Valentine's Day regardless of whether we want them, deserve them, or can stomach one more conversation heart without vomiting a festive pink river. I am the last person on the planet to think that I would ever pick up partying tips from the Puritans, but I think they were onto something. Particularly on a day when it is unexpectedly rainy and warmer than fifty degrees in the middle of January and I want nothing more than to have called in Woodstock '95.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Big Girls: Don't Cry

Cathy Horyn over at the New York Times posted a general comment about the Golden Globes on her On The Runway blog that referred to Christina Hendricks (star of Mad Men, general bombshell, growing fashion icon) as a “big girl.” The words weren’t technically Horyn’s; the quote came from an anonymous stylist who said “you don’t put a big girl in a big dress,” referring to the ruffled gown that Christian Siriano designed for Hendricks for the awards ceremony.

Full disclosure: Christian is a friend, though this has little to do with what I wanted to say about Horyn’s post. She’s not just free to hate whatever dress she chooses, she’s qualified to do so. She is a style critic for the New York Times. I am a person who wears a Sears flannel over an American Apparel dress to events where I want to pick up men. She’s paper to my fashion rock. But what I wanted to say (and what I left in a comment that has apparently been moderated into oblivion) isn’t an opinion on the dress that Christina Hendricks chose to wear. I’m really angry about how Horyn responded to it.

For the moment, let’s just accept as true the premise that Christina Hendricks is a “big girl.” Let’s also pretend that it’s at all appropriate for a New York Times journalist to discuss to her body in a pejorative and almost adolescent way. I’ll get back to these in a minute. The axiom that she attributes to the random stylist—but signs off on via its publication—is still insane and infuriating. What is a “big girl” supposed to wear? I’ve seen women of anything larger than a sample size faulted for dressing down, faulted for wearing menswear-inspired separates, faulted for wearing something understated and looking like a “mother of the bride,” and most of all faulted for wearing the form-fitting dresses that she and the stylist now seem to be prescribing. Thanks to this post, it’s now a faux pas for a “big girl” to wear a gown with a ruffle to the one occasion where it’s wholly fitting to wear a ruffled gown.

The subtext to the stylist’s comment troubles me even more than its surface bitchiness. Cathy Horyn and I both have something in common, and it’s that we both lost a lot of weight. Where she seems to revel in the fact that she can wear whatever she likes now, it’s something that’s made me uneasy about my weight loss and even angrier at the lack of fashion options for women who do wear plus sizes. Loving fashion should go hand in hand with a belief in allowing all sizes access to all styles. Fashion, style, clothing, accessories, shoes, hair, makeup: it is more you than your body, since it is all subject to personal choice. I hated that I couldn’t wear what I wanted to wear when I wore a size 20. Now I hate that I can wear what I want, which makes me feel more comfortable than I’ve ever been, while women who continue to wear a size 20, a size 26, a size 44, don’t have the same luxury. And most of all, I hate that Christina Hendricks, who is built like a dream and has the money and celebrity necessary to have the clothes she loves made for her, can’t escape the same scrutiny that there are things she can or can’t wear. Like she’s breaking the law for wearing a dress with a ruffle on the hip.

The stylist’s advice is stupid. You put a big dress on a big girl if she wants to wear the dress. You put a dress made of bubbles on Lady Gaga if she wants to wear it. You put a suit on Diane Keaton because she likes it. You put people in what they want to wear, because that is how people look beautiful. The worst part of the advice, though, is the language he or she used. “Big girl” is a descriptor so dripping with condescension you can almost hear it, like a leaky faucet. Christina Hendricks is 34 years old. A stylist declares her fat and all of a sudden she’s not just big, she’s a “girl.” It’s infantilizing and snide, and I wish to hell I could explain how hurtful it is to someone who has never had it used in reference to herself.

This is all kind of secondary to the fact that Christina Hendricks is not plus-sized in any way. She has an hourglass figure and a large bust. Her waist is several inches smaller than mine and I wear a size 8. The Times doctored the image that accompanied the article to make her look larger than she actually is. If you’re going to take issue with the sartorial choices of “big girls,” the Times should probably use a “big girl” instead of creating one in Photoshop.

I wouldn’t mind if Cathy Horyn hated the dress Hendricks wore. I couldn’t care less if she had written thousand words on the vileness of ruffles and a sonnet on how peach makes her vomit. She is a fashion critic and that would fall under her job description. Critiquing a woman’s body, however, does not.

Unfortunately, she is the New York Times style critic. And who the fuck am I?

Friday, January 08, 2010

M-4-DoubleEw (The Best of Craigslist Personals)

Too deep, too intense, too emotional - 43 -
Personal? Or review of Antichrist?

Craigslist has become almost as bad as my sex life - 44 - (Ridgefield)
Full of transgender hookers? Hey-ooo!

Or to treat their sex life like a Navajo codetalker?

I'M LISTENING... - 30 –

Can I Show You My Package? - 40 –
It’s 12 inches…by 12 inches…by 12 inches. Please be home to receive it between 5:00 and 8:00 or it will be returned to sender.

Reasons Why You Might Find Me to be a "Good Catch" -
For real, on this list of 40 reasons he includes “cried on 9/11,” and “I love to masturbate, (especially in front of a woman),” “I don’t have hair on my back,” “I’m not vegan,” and “I posed nude for a male photographer off CL this summer.”

Pretend to be my Girlfriend - 33 -
Okay, I’m pretending to be seriously pissed that you’re posting on Craigslist right now and also pretending to look through your text messages for other signs of infidelity and pretending to want to know who the fuck Linda is. Huh? Who the fuck is Linda and why are you sending her pictures of your junk?

Come to my one-man show!

Monday, January 04, 2010

We Playing Naked Twister Back in My Hotel

I like the cold. I’m saying this while sitting inside and still wearing my winter jacket, with suspected frostbite on the tips of two of my fingers given that they have remained noticeably numb despite being indoors for hours now, and having walked to the train this morning with my earphones on and my hood up and still feeling like some sadistic Claire’s employee was piercing my lobes with icicles. It’s not that I like feeling like a frozen hunk of hamburger. But I could never live in a place that didn’t get cold like this for at least a few months.

Through the kindness of Brad and Christian I got ring in the new year in Miami where, when the clock read midnight, the thermometer read 77, even after sundown, even on a balcony sixteen floors up and overlooking the ocean. When I say that this trip was magical, I mean it literally. defines magical as “produced by or as if by magic” or “mysteriously enchanting.” To have my broke ass jet-setted to Miami for three days and three nights is totally fucking mysteriously enchanting. When one also considers that I was VIP-tabled and private cabana-ed and fed such a large quantity of free food and drinks so as to call to mind the edible forest and chocolate river in Willy Wonka’s factory, “magical” barely fits the bill.

There’s so little you can do to thank friends who have the means to transport you physically around the country, not to mention psychologically light years away from your real life. There was one moment on New Year’s Eve when I was three quarters through my purse whiskey (which truly is a girl’s best friend—forget that diamond shit) and dancing in a crowd behind a velvet rope and a beefcakey bouncer to cheesy remixes of Britney Spears songs played for the second or third time that night. I wound up dancing with some guy who kept spinning me around and taking pictures of us on his phone and complimenting my outfit, and as the room whizzed past my eyeballs I had the urge to wrestle the microphone from the DJ and yell “I AM A MEDICAL BOOK EDITOR! I EDIT MEDICAL BOOKS!” over and over. My dance partner, as it turned out, is on TV. I, as previously mentioned, edit medical books. There is no reason for me ever to be where I was, living a life that I could never in a billion years even think about affording, and wearing a tutu in public without question. Well, mostly without question. There were a few honks and someone called me Carrie Bradshaw.

I’ve never been in such a warm city for the holidays. Palm trees full of Christmas lights were weird, but nice. Weird in the same way that seeing the dubbed version of Ghostbusters on Telemundo is weird. I’ve also never lived it up in quite such a fashion. It’s one thing to drink on a roof, but it’s quite another to have a private rooftop lounge with a personal waiter who talks to you about his racing Chihuahua. Even the dog in this scenario is exceptional—one of the fastest Chihuahuas, in fact, in the entire state of Florida. Whose dream isn’t it to escape wind chill that will actually make your nipples ache and end up surrounded by rich guys in suits just itching ply anything even vaguely resembling a woman with drinks?

As it turns out, me. I loved every minute of my Miami vacation, but by the time I got on the plane bound for LaGuardia I was dying for the kind of cold that slaps your face red the moment you step outside, and for the kind of guy who might never own a suit, with whom I’ll gladly dance in flannel until last call, at which time I will purchase my own High Life. Maybe two. I couldn’t have been any luckier to have brunch delivered to a sunny cabana by the pool on Friday, but I couldn’t have felt any more at home having a friendly fist fight to old Blink 182 in a Bushwick loft near dawn on Saturday night.

To get kind of Empire State of Mind here for a second, I guess that’s the thing about New York. When it’s 7 degrees with wind chill and I’m spending my last $15 until payday and my rent for a shitty apartment is three times what it would be anywhere else in the country and I’m walking the frigid blocks to a bar that might suck, but might not, hopefully not, and I wonder why I do this to myself when there are cheap places to live where it never gets cold, the answer is: because I wouldn’t feel like I made sense anywhere else.
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