“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” ~ Coco Chanel

boreas-by-waterhouse

Beauty Depicted in 
“Boreas” by John William Waterhouse

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” ~ Harriet Braiker

We just returned home after having dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant. I tried a couple of new rolls tonight: a volcano roll and another roll that I cannot remember the name of for the life of me. It was just the two of us; we only do this about once every two months.

I always feel very superior and healthy when I eat sushi and drink green tea. I can just feel those bad cells being replenished with Omega 3 fatty acides from the fresh fish, and an overall detox of my system from the green tea.

elizabeth-taylor
A Young Elizabeth Taylor Before Her Roller Coaster Weight

I don’t know how much of this is true, but it’s what I like to believe, especially in light of the fact that I seemed to gain at least seven pounds while I was on that new headache medicine, this after noticeably losing some weight. I hate this weight roller coaster. It makes me feel so bad about myself, as if I am just some lump, a bad representation of my former self.

To make things even worse, I was reading a story today about movie villains, and it included a picture spread of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter next to Sharon Stone, as the ice pick killer in Basic Instinct. Sharon Stone, with or without airbrushing, looks fabulous. I am overcome with jealousy when I see her pictures because she is one of those women who just gets better with age.

I know. She has the money for a personal trainer and probably a personal chef, but the fact is that at the end of the day, it’s her body and her face, and I hate how these pictures of beautiful women make me feel.

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dressed, well-groomed, and unaggressive.” ~ Marya Mannes

I also know that I am not the only normal woman who feels this way. Society has conditioned females to be in a state of constant anxiety about their bodies, their faces, their conversational abilities, even their choices in shoes. Just peruse the magazine section of any store: the covers are graced with luminous women who look as if they have never gotten up in the morning with crust in their eyes, and hair that looks as if gerbils nested in it.

But what really pisses me off is that after all of these years and all of my women’s studies courses, I am still a victim when it comes to society’s socialization of females.

On the other hand, men do not face nearly the same pressures as women when it comes to looking good, dressing well, and always being outstanding at their jobs. Granted, the whole stigma associated with not looking your best all of the time is starting to infiltrate the marketing aimed at men, but not nearly as profusely as that aimed at women. Yet women still feel a need to be wonderful mothers, sexy spouses, and fearless in the workplace, with each role being a contradiction of the next.

Advertisers in general bear a large part of the responsibility for the deep feelings of inadequacy that drive women to psychiatrists, pills, or the bottle. ~ Marya Mannes

gwyneth-paltrow-advertising-estee-lauder
Gwyneth Paltrow Advertising Estee Lauder

Don’t believe me? Just watch one evening (let’s say three hours) of prime time television. Count the number of commercials aimed at women versus the number of commercials aimed at men. And notice just exactly how these commercials aimed at women are focused. An Applebees commercial in which the men are enjoying hot wings does not fall into the socialization of which I speak; more, it’s just a reflection of how commercials aimed at men focus on enjoyment more than anything else.

Women are assaulted in magazines, on television, on the radio, even on line to get rid of wrinkles, eat yogurt that helps them to be more regular, whiten their teeth with new, better fitting whitening strips, and to end their affairs with their old mops and brooms. How many men are targeted in commercials about replacing brooms and mops with Swiffer Wet Jets? How many men are cautioned about eating more yogurt ? How many men are asked if they get bloated, moody, and crampy every month?

Do you see my point? Men are depicted in commercials as having fun: wearing big Number 1 foam fingers at football games, having beers with a bunch of friends, using the latest portable machine to make their abs rippled like washboards. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a commercial in which a man is bemoaning how awful his kitchen floor looks. In one commercial, a group of men are at the bar, ordering premium vodka or tequila or something while some stylish woman in a black dress has her arm draped around one of the men. She is literally arm candy, while the men are incredibly intelligent for ordering this premium liquor. At least, that’s what I get from this commercial.

Do you ever see a commercial in which a man is complaining to his best friend being bloated? How about one in which someone tells him that he should be wearing better underwear, the kind that gives him more “lift and support”? Now that would be a commercial worth watching. 

“It matters more what’s in a woman’s face than what’s on it.” ~ Claudette Colbert

pierce-brosnan-as-james-bond
The Always Suave Pierce Brosnan as James Bond

Understandably, I am more than a little cynical about this great disparity between the sexes. I mean come on. To look good, a man has to shave and shower and throw on a tuxedo with some clean underwear and shoes that aren’t scuffed.

A woman getting ready for a black tie event needs to shave, shower, pluck, depilatory, put moisturizer on her face, a different moisturizer on the rest of her body, paint her finger nails, paint her toe nails (after using an abrasive skin slougher on her feet to make sure that they are extra smooth), add mousse and gel to her hair, come up with some kind of hairstyle that is flattering, put on concealer, foundation, loose powder, eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, lip conditioner, lipstick and gloss. Not to mention finding just the right jewelry and trying on 10 pairs of shoes before deciding on the first pair that she tried.

Bollocks.

I left out at least ten steps in the above, and then after all of this primping, plucking, and preening, I’ll bet you that there isn’t one woman who still isn’t sure that she picked the right dress, or the right shoes, or the right shade of lipstick. And as she is walking to the car, she’ll look down and see what is supposed to be the natural curve of her belly and immediately think that she needs to put on another Spanx to hold in her grotesque fat before she lets anyone see her in public.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.'”  ~ Shirley Chisholm

We females are socialized from a very early age to try to look pretty whenever possible. We are taught table manners, and the proper etiquette for what to do in a stranger’s home.

Boys grow up to be men who belch and then laugh about it, compare body odors, consider cleaning up to be changing yesterday’s t-shirt, and make it a point to use the decorative soaps in other people’s bathrooms just because they know that they shouldn’t. And all of this is considered to be absolutely hilarious.

I know that I’m generalizing, but I just can’t help but remember earlier in the evening as I was putting the last piece of my volcano roll in my mouth, that I looked down at my stomach and thought to myself, “ugh, I am so fat. I can’t stand myself.” You can bet that when Corey put the last piece of sushi in his mouth, his first thought was probably that he wanted more sushi.

“The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes.” ~ Bella Abzug

No, not all men are boors, and not all women are preoccupied with their physicality. But the chances are far greater that most of the women you will meet during your life will have said at some point: “I hate my body. I wish that I looked like X.”

alexis-headshot
My Lovely Daughter Alexis

I always wanted blond hair, and my hair is very dark brown. My daughter always wanted dark hair, and her hair is dirty blond. My oldest son, on the other hand, comes into my room and looks in my mirror and says, very confidently, “God I’m sexy.” And then he walks out like a rooster getting ready to take a stroll among the hens. We all have the same genes. But my son has the one thing that Alexis and I will never have: a Y chromosome. And that makes all of the difference.

That Y chromosone is a free pass. It allows the holder to ignore social signals, be completely confident about looks, and to dare anyone to say anything negative about the holder, even when something negative could be said.

Socialization is a bitch, but genetics make socialization moot. No matter how far we’ve come “to get where we’ve got to today,” and even though we have our own cigarettes and razors, it’s going to be a long, long time before someone’s daughter struts into the bedroom, looks in the mirror and says, “God, I’m sexy” without being sarcastic about it.

So let me close with the following:

“I am beautiful as I am.  I am the shape that was gifted.  My breasts are no longer perky and upright like when I was a teenager.  My hips are wider than that of a fashion model’s.  For this I am glad, for these are the signs of a life lived.”  ~ Cindy Olsen, co-owner of The Body Objective

There will be more later. Peace.

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We’re Down to Hours, and the Silliness Begins

Mommies, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Rebels

Pepé Le Pew Couldn’t Have Done It Better

When I was a child, I loved that French skunk Pepé Le Pew: “Ah, chérie. Where are you? It is I. Pepé. I am looking for you.” And poor Pepé. He could never quite understand why the female cat would run away from him, why people would faint when he came around. And so, when the governator received a call from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, of course she was all aflutter when that accent came through le telefone pour le governor Sarah P.

What she didn’t know was that she was being punked, on air, by the Quebec comedy duo, “The Masked Avengers.” Now I do have to give them props, they gave her several clues along the way that she was not speaking with the real president, aside from the Pepé Le Pew accent. For example, the shooting the animals from the helicopter comment? Or how about his special American advisor Johnny Halladay (French singer)? Too remote? Okay, I’ll let her pass for not knowing the translation for lipstick on a pig (de rouge a levre sur un cochon).

But really, she didn’t get an inkling something was up when he said, “the prime minister of Canada Stef Carse” ? I mean, she’s the one who is always bragging about being next door neighbors with Canada, but she didn’t know Stephen Harper’s name . . . and then the Prime Minister of Quebec versus the Premiere of Quebec (okay, maybe splitting hairs, but she still didn’t recognize that the name was wrong). And come on, did she really think that a head of state was going to tell her that his wife was “hot in bed”? But worse than that, she said to “give her a big hug for me.” Omigawd. You do not tell a head of state to give his wife a big hug from you. Jeez-o-pete. Were you raised in a barn?

Moving on. Marcel the guy with bread under his armpit? Okay, I snorted out loud with that one. To which she replied: “Right, that’s what it’s all about, the middle class and government needing to work for them.” I think that it was at this point that the guys on the other end decided that they probably couldn’t go on much longer or they might pee in their pants.

To which I have to ask, who are her handlers? What numbskull handed her the phone? Don’t they know anything about protocol? Are they for real? Is this aide now looking for other meaningful employment at a nearby McDonald’s as she should be for allowing the Republican VP candidate to be embarrassed for seven minutes on international radio and television, even more than usual? Good golly miss molly.

Who We Are is What We Put on Our Walls

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but my new masthead is actually an inset of a picture of one of my collages. I kept trying to find the right picture for my masthead, something that would reflect the real me, and then it dawned on me: nothing would reflect me better than a piece of me. So I took a picture of my last bulletin board at work, and I cropped a piece of it. I really wish that I could have put more of the whole picture up there, but there is only so much space allowed for the image, so I took what I could get, and I really wanted to get my ERA NOW pin in the shot.

My offices have always been very, very cluttered, by choice. I have always reasoned that if I am going to spend over one third of my life in some place, then I need to feel comfortable in that place, and so I nest there. I bring in books, mostly reference books, but a few philosophy books, lots and lots of pictures of my family, but also pictures that I have taken of various landscapes, and then my little collection of minutiae that I have built up over the years—an ashtray from Paris, a running gnome with chipped feet, a Waterford business card holder, a clay fish that my son made in Bible school, a German knife letter holder that I traded an old Volkswagen for (long stupid story), and then my collage collection, which has taken many years to amass, and I have to tailor to fit my office size.

I mention all of this because I just read an article by Bill Bishop in “Slate Magazine” that talks about a very interesting theory: Republicans tend to be neater than Democrats. Really? Apparently, Sam Gosling, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, and three other colleagues, have posited In an unpublished paper that liberals and conservatives differ in “two major personality dimensions.” Their paper, which is titled “The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives,” looked for the underlying personality traits that defined left and right.

It seems that we liberals are more open to experiences, and more motivated by the curiosity and diversity of the experiences. Whereas conservatives are conscientious, follow the rules, have self-control, and like order. The professors used college students as their test subjects, and took polls, asked questions, and looked at the students’ rooms for information. Conservative subjects had more cleaning products!

Now there is just one thing wrong with the professors’ study. They didn’t break it down by gender. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be stereotypical here, but I think that gender, in a study about neatness, would make a difference, regardless of political leanings. For example, when I was in college, my OCD was rampant. I not only cleaned my apartment, I cleaned friends’ apartments. No kidding. One of my best male friends happened to be very, very Republican. He was a complete slob. His apartment was filthy. I cleaned it—when he let me. However, the reverse can also be true. My oldest son and daughter for example, are both liberals, and when my daughter was 16, my father asked if someone had robbed her room (I don’t think that he was kidding). My son, who has since moved on from his neat phase, used to keep his room impeccably clean. You just never know who will be neat and who won’t.

Now as to the other part of their study on carrying over to work life and offices, the professors claim that conservatives’ offices “tended to be more conventional, less stylish, and less comfortable compared with liberal offices. Liberals’ offices were more colorful and contained more CDs and a greater variety of books.” I would have to agree with them on this point. Not just because of my own track record with offices, but because of my observations of other people’s offices. At ODU, for example, in the English Department, most professors’ offices were filled with wonderful, eclectic things. Whereas at the government contractor where I worked in Northern Virginia, it was predominantly rigid, and boring. The most exciting thing in one of my boss’s offices was a Porsche magazine.

And then there was the time in which I was stuck in a cubicle. Omigawd. Just send me into the circles of hell, why don’t you. But, hundreds of push pins and a lot of tape, and voila. It was just like a cubicle covered with as much crap as I could fit into a 10’x10′ space without the walls falling down. And boy did my boss hate it . . .

A Little Ironic Night Music

Found this little tidbit on the web, and while it happened months ago, I just had to share:

Rupert Murdoch must have been gnashing his big teeth. Apparently, the owner of Fox News and The New York Post, has no control over daughter Elisabeth’s guest lists. It seems that since Elisabeth Murdoch left her father’s employ to run her own television production company, Shine, Ltd., she has definitely formed her own alliances, and one of them is Barack Obama.

Perhaps daughter Elisabeth’s fondness for Obama comes from her first marriage to Elkin Kwesi Pianim, who is Ghanian, and with whom she has two children. Murdoch is currently married to public relations guru Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud.

Murdoch, a citizen of both the U.S. and Great Britain, is herself known as a shrewd businesswoman. She grew up primarily in New York. In April, she hosted a Notting Hill fundraiser for Barack Obama with co-sponsors that included Gwyneth Paltrow.

Can’t you just imagine daddy Rupert’s delight? Gnash, gnash, snarl, snarl.

Whoo, boy. Two days to go. Be prepared to stand in line. You’ll be part of history, whether you are a neat Republican, or an expressive Democrat.

More later. Peace.