Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Kathleen Hanna Q&A

I'm pretty excited about my interview with Kathleen Hanna in the new issue of Coilhouse Magazine. It is a beautiful, cool magazine, and the editors were amazing to work with. I interviewed Kathleen in 2010 after she donated her archives to the Fales Library at NYU. You can find out how to get a copy of Coilhouse  at http://coilhouse.net/magazine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Boycott Black Friday

I am not spending a single retail cent on Black Friday. The hysteria is just ridiculous.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sarah Jacobsen Film Grant


Sarah Jacobsen was a rad D.I.Y. filmmaker. When I worked at Sassy magazine in the early 90s,  she sent me her super low-budget film, Mary Jane's Not a Virgin anymore. At a very young age, Sarah had written, directed, and produced this movie about a quirky girl losing her virginity. I wrote about the film in Sassy. Sarah later moved to New York and we became friends, and she also wrote for ym when I was editor. When Violet was born, she sent me a copy of Good Night Moon, with a very sweet note. I still have and treasure them both. I am sad to say that because I was really busy with work and my babies and house, I didn't do a good job of keeping in touch with Sarah. I didn't even know Sarah was sick when I heard that she had died in 2004.

Below is the announcement for this year's Sarah Jacobsen FIlm Grant Call for Entries. Check it out.

Sarah Jacobson Film Grant
2011 Call for Entries and
2012 Film Festival with Permanent Wave Announcement!
This year we plan to give out three grants to support projects in any stage of completion from pre-production through distribution. The amounts will be between $1000 and $2000.
We are also planning a film/video/media festival for early 2012, in conjunction with the rad feminist group Permanent Wave. All work samples submitted will be considered for the festival as well.
(We won’t screen without your permission though!)
NOTE THAT THE DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 31.
We are open to films of any length and genre, from documentary to experimental to narrative. What we are looking for are projects that in some way embody Sarah’s spirit and represent the values that she articulated in her work — powerful representations of women, a do-it-yourself approach to filmmaking and life, and a passionate commitment to advancing equality without sacrificing fun. I want to note that last year we awarded grants to three documentaries that were all pretty big in scope—definitely don’t take that as a bellwether, look back at all the past winners and you will see very experimental pieces, shorts, etc.
We award grants to projects at any stage of production, including post, but not for marketing or publicity. After the jump is the list of what you need to enter. And I like to post Tamra’s video every year for inspiration.
To apply for the grant, please mail the following materials to The Sarah Jacobson Film Grant postmarked by December 31, 2011. No exceptions. Do not send more material than requested.
Winners will be announced in February
1. A synopsis/treatment of the project you wish to fund (no more than 3 pages). This should include a detailed description of the film — its subject, style, and structure—and of your intended audience and distribution strategy. Please also explain why your project is appropriate for this grant. Send 6 copies.
2. A simple one-page budget for the project. Also include a paragraph describing other funding you have received for this project and how you would use the money from this grant. Send 6 copies.
3. A short bio for the filmmaker with reliable contact information. Send 6 copies.
4.  A single work sample: either a trailer or rough-cut of the project you’re applying for the grant with, or an example of previous work. The work sample should be on DVD. Send 6 copies.
5. A self-addressed stamped postcard if you would like to get notified that your stuff arrived.
6. A CLEARLY PRINTED sheet of contact information including your name, email, phone, and address.
Do not send more material than requested.
APPLICATIONS MUST BE POST-MARKED BY DECEMBER 31, 2011
Check the grant web page for updates: www.sjfilmgrant.wordpress.com
Contact: sjfilmgrant@gmail.com
MAILING ADDRESS:
Sarah Jacobson Film Grant
c/o Mikki Halpin
583 Driggs Ave
Apt 4F
Brooklyn, NY 11211
ABOUT THE GRANT
Sarah Jacobson (1971–2004) was a an independent filmmaker who wrote, produced, and directed several movies in the 1990s, including “Mary Jane’s Not A Virgin Any More” and “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer.” Sarah’s films reflected her punk sensibilities, her feminist beliefs, and her dedication to DIY principles.
After her death, filmmaker Sam Green and Sarah’s mother established the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant for young women “whose work embodies some of the things that Sarah stood for: a fierce DIY approach to filmmaking, a radical social critique, and a thoroughly underground sensibility.” 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Video Friday



I was totally obsessed with this Madness song when it came out in 1982, during my senior year of college. I think I may have played it on my radio show at WRCU at Colgate. That was also the year we got MTV at OUR HOUSE and I was so transfixed by the video, which now seems endearingly goofy in a Monty Python, early-80's-Princeton-eating-club kind of way. Aside: the room with the piano in it looks just like the piano room in my house.

I don't know if I noticed how awesome the lyrics were in 1982;  I was probably too concerned with the cute boy visuals, the joyful horn and exciting string sections. The song is a nicely written sketch of an average family, from the point of view of one of the kids, but now I most relate to the mom.

Anyway, if you're still in a bad mood after watching that video, I don't know what can be done for you.

P.S.
I just made up Video Friday because I found myself with a free morning. The yoga studio sent an email that the bathroom is out of order. I have to make a number one every time I do a cobra, so that's a no go for me. Thus, I'm just listening to my playlist from ladies' poker night (I lost like $10), rehydrating and waiting until it's time to bring the chocolate pudding pie into Violet's school for the Thanksgiving Feast.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Old Is

As I am old, I enjoy reading the Sunday paper actually on paper, and then commenting out loud about what I read while my family ignores me. I made the points you are about to read to my husband this past Sunday morning. He glanced at me for half a second, and then said "blog post" before returning to the sports section. This is what he does when he just wants me to please shut up, as none of my insights are very fresh to him after spending 15 years listening to me on a daily basis. For their part, my children resumed building a fort and leaving a trail of crumbs wherever they went. 

So here it is Tuesday night and I'm just now posting on Sunday's New York Times Riff  about feeling old because of the internet. The column was written by a 28-year-old who edits The Hairpin, a website for young hipster ladies. Once I got over the professional jealousy that overtakes me each time I read one of those Riff columns, I had to admit that the piece was quite well-written. Her premise was as follows: so rapid is cultural turnover on the internet, that even she, a person who makes a living evaluating video frivolities on the web, doesn't always get the joke. She was made to feel old because some popular piece of ridiculousness went right over her head, like the high pitched tone that only the very young can hear.

Listen, young Hairpin editor/published NY Times Magazine writer: I'll tell you what old is. Old is: you're 73 and you've fractured your spine so you have to get around with the aid of a walker on wheels called the Rollinator. Old is: you're an 87-year-old World War II veteran who can't get up to his own bedroom without a cane. Old is: you're a 50-year-old ex-hipster telling some 28-year-old what old is. I'll tell you what old is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Princess of the Day


Liz Anderson - Husband Hunting (1970)

I never heard of this country singer until I read her obituary last week. Sounds like she was super cool. I have to figure out a way to discover these role models from previous generations before they die. In the meantime, enjoy this song, in which Liz sings about hunting for her no-good husband with a shotgun. I think it would be awesome if Kathleen Hanna or Kim Gordon would cover this.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mothers of Three-Year-Old Girls: You Can Relax About the Princess Thing

Lately I've witnessed a lot of anti-princess hand-wringing by wonderful, smart, feminist, friends of mine. They are worried that their daughters' love of all things princess will infect their brains and turn them into aspiring reality tv stars. I really think there's nothing to fear.

Here's why: The princess thing is a phase. A blip. At three, my daughter wore a crappy purple Barbie princess dress over everything she owned. She adored the DVD Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses, a hellhole of weird computer animation which made me want to gouge out my own eyeballs. Did I complain?  No. It made my girl happy, as did my husband's willingness to pretend to be a prince asking her to dance at the royal ball. He would even tolerate her tiny rage when she felt he wasn't acting "princey" enough. We endured Disney Princesses on Ice--twice.

Our son spent two whole years wearing a Bob the Builder costume and hyperventilating over diggers and cranes. It never made us think he might grow up to be a construction worker, or a member of a Village People cover band, not that we'd mind if he did. So why get all freaked out just because Violet liked Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and wanted to dress up? It seemed like totally age-appropriate pretend play.

During this period, Peggy Orenstein wrote her anti-princess New York Times story, and later a book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. She worried that all the princess mania would accelerate body-image issues for her daughter and other girls in her generation. While I am certainly sensitive to that, I really don't think putting on a sparkly dress and plastic crown in pre-school is the gateway drug to anorexia.

By age 5, Violet was done with princesses, which actually made me a little sad. "Princesses are for babies," she told me. She moved on to many other interests, no harm done.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Being A Mother is Like Being Wallpaper"

I read this quote maybe 10 years ago in an interview with Brooke Adams, an actress who had taken time off to be a full-time mother. I think about it a lot.

Let's be honest: my kids don't really see me as an actual person. They love me, but they know my priority right now is to meet their needs. In a way, this is good.  I provide a healthy sense of security for them. I like being the mommy who is there when the school bus drops them off. I know that I am privileged to make afternoon snacks and show up at school for the pumpkin carving. I also am absolutely sure that I prefer being at home to the alternative, since I spent 5 frazzled years as a working mom with super-stressful jobs.

Yet. Often, if one of the kids is demanding my time when I am in the middle of a project, I find myself telling them: "I am a person." Sometimes I even have to remind myself that I still exist. When our new postal worker was delivering our mail, he asked if there were more than one names at our house. "No," I said. "Just Ross." He looked confused. "Not Kelly?" he asked. Oh yeah. Kelly. That's me. I am an entity.

One way I remind myself of that is by writing, on this blog, and for paying jobs. Writing makes me happy, when it isn't making me miserable, and I just need to do it. But my freelance writing doesn't bring in enough money to pay a babysitter, nor do I want a full-time babysitter. So I'm always fitting work in when they are at school.

That is usually fine, except if a child gets sick when I have a deadline (yesterday and Monday), or an editor wants to move a meeting to a time that makes it impossible for me to be home by 2:15 (this morning).  Violet was feeling a little under the weather Monday, and I had an assignment interviewing someone I had talked to 20 years ago and was excited to speak to again, for a magazine for which I had not written in 15 years. I let her watch a tv show during the interview. I had no other option. Then yesterday, she still felt crappy. I kept her home, but I was really worried that the constant distractions (can I have some water? can I watch a show? will you play with me?) were interfering with the quality of the piece. I was resenting her, and also feeling guilty for resenting my sweet girl.

I filed the piece, and they liked it, so that all worked out. When Violet woke up this morning and said she wasn't quite sure if she should go to school--no fever, mind you---I acted super cheerful, helped her get ready and poured her onto the school bus. She wasn't really sick, and honestly, I couldn't take another day trapped in the house. Then I felt guilty.

 At my yoga class, my teacher had to yell over the sound of drilling in the driveway. She talked about the concept of dharma, and following your heart. You don't neglect your responsibilities, but you need to find a way to your heart's desire. It's better to follow your own dharma imperfectly than someone else's perfectly, she said. It was exactly what I needed to hear.







Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mommy, why do women wear bras?

When Violet missed the bus this morning, I threw on a thin t-shirt and yoga pants to run her over to school in the car. I did not have time to put on a bra, because my kids both have a deathly fear of being "tardy." I think it is the old-fashioned formality of the word, or perhaps the desire to be punctual is genetic (paternally).

Driving at my usual glacial pace, I wondered aloud whether I should do the car line, or park and walk to the door. I dislike the car line, but with the principal standing in front of the school, should I really saunter up braless?

"Mommy, why do women wear bras?" asked Violet.

"That's a good question." I answered.  "I think because society expects women to wear bras."

"But why?" she persisted.

"I guess people don't want to see women's breasts bouncing all over the place." There was no other way to say it.

Violet found this hilarious. I parked and walked her to the door, because my bosom is not so remarkable that anyone would really notice that I didn't have a bra on. Or at least that's what I choose to believe. She was not tardy.

Then I came home and read The New York Times article about the fashion expectations for city moms at drop-off, and I was thankful once again to be suburban







Monday, October 17, 2011

Dawn-mageddon

An accident has further maimed the one-armed Dawn doll from my childhood (I wrote about her last year in this post). I discovered Dawn's remarkable misfortune when playing Barbies with my daughter the other day. We were changing the many Barbies into new Playboy Mansion-inspired attire (has anyone ever found an outfit for Barbie that wasn't a Baby Phat-esque disaster?) when I noticed that Dawn's mini seemed glued to her behind. Attempting to disengage it, I saw that glue had dried in her hip sockets, and then--crack--Dawn split clear in half. It was truly macabre, a Boxing Helena moment.

"Why is Dawn covered in glue?" I asked Violet. She started to cry. "I don't know," she said unconvincingly, fear and guilt on her face.

I decided to drop that line of questioning. But it didn't seem right to throw Dawn out in her hour of need. After all, my grandmother had saved her in a drawer for decades.  I tried duct tape, thinking a jaunty silver belt might hold her together. It did not.

"What should I do?" I asked Violet.

"I think you should keep her in your room," she said. "I don't want anything else to happen to her." So that is where Dawn is. Lying in my thong-less underwear drawer. I did not think I should photograph her for this post. It seems violent and indecent, somehow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Confirmation: I am "unremarkable"

You may believe that you are unremarkable, but do you have actual proof? I think not.

I don't know what surprises me more: that someone once bothered to create a Wikipedia page for me, or that another industrious person took the time to delete it.  (You can get to this proof of my non-existence if you click on my name in the entries for any of the magazines I worked for, or for Jane Pratt's page. She actually is remarkable.)

Also, just to clarify: I love this situation. My husband and I both laughed when we discovered it. I wouldn't want a Wikipedia page. It would probably be filled with factual errors that would annoy me, but not enough to do anything about them. And plus, I love the word remarkable, as well as its antonym, unremarkable. I think people should use them more often. I am going to try to find a place for these excellent words in every future post I write.

Furthermore, knowing that I am unremarkable really takes the pressure off. No need to finish that novel I've been threatening for 30-odd years. That sure is a relief, as the non-completed state of said book hangs over my head each day while I engage in procrastinating activities such as this one.

Friday, September 30, 2011

How the lady-training is going

Here is the joke my daughter told us last night:

Shut up, Poop and Manners were in a car. They stopped at a gas station so Poop could go to the bathroom. Manners went out to find him. While they were gone, a police officer went up to the car. "What's your name?" he asked. 
"Shut up," said Shut Up. 
"Where are your manners?" he asked.
"Outside, looking for Poop," said Shut Up. 

My husband dutifully reprimanded her for the potty talk. I was not much help, as I was doubled over with laughter. Shaking, uncontrollable laughter.




Thursday, August 25, 2011

Badass/Lady

Yesterday at the Central Park Zoo, a mom was wearing a t-shirt that said: "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History." It made me wonder: How do you get your children socialized while wearing a shirt with the opposite message?

And also, do you really have to misbehave to get shit done? This is a concept I have been thinking about since I read a New York Times article about Madelyn Pugh, pictured at left in that awesome chair, on which "Girl Writer" is printed under her name. (I want one like it, even though I'm not a girl anymore.) Madelyn Pugh was a writer for I Love Lucy. According to the author of the article, she was an excellent writer, and she know how to make the show's scripts realistic because she was a woman. She even went beyond her strict job description, trying out stunts to make sure they'd be ok for Lucy to do. It was said that she always behaved like a perfect lady.

Of course, at that time, it was not socially acceptable for women to be anything but ladies. Ladies had to be polite, sugarcoat their overly forceful opinions, and never appear in public without stockings. So Pugh was maybe smart to get her ideas across while conforming to the norms of her time. (On the flip side, this broad at left, lyricist Fran Landesman, was anything but a lady, and she seemed to have a great time, according to her recent obit.)

My mother raised me to behave like a lady, and I usually did. But when I discovered feminism and Ms. Magazine in high school, I decided that being a feminist meant rejecting those restrictions. Sometimes I equated being rude with strength, and I admired icons who seemed to personify that: Badasses, broads, foul-mouthed rules breakers.

That all seems very adolescent to me today, three weeks before I turn 50. In our increasingly vitriolic culture, what I aspire to is a strength that is also civil and respectful. Note: I said aspire to. My husband always says that I am not to be trifled with. Truly, I can be a bitch if the situation calls for it. But I usually regret it.

I hope that my daughter will become some combination of a lady and a badass. I am raising her to stand up for what she believes in. But she can get the point across, and maybe make history, without behaving poorly. At least that's what I wish for her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Costco. No go.

I had never set foot in a Costco. Buying in bulk freaks me out. I love a sale as much as the next person, but that doesn't mean I want to stock up on 12 boxes of mac and cheese or 4 bottles of ketchup. Such excessive frugality makes me feel like I am suffocating. As if I have no options. Like, what if a delicious new brand of ketchup comes along, but now I can't get it because I have enough Heinz to last until Violet enters middle school? I've already committed to a man, a suburban house, these two kids and their bottomless needs, endless laundry--I need to feel like there are some choices left in my life. Even if they are at the market. Goddamn it.

My husband (immoderate buyer of the sale items pictured) heard good things about the reality show Extreme Couponing, and insisted I watch it whenever it debuted a few months ago. Why? I don't know. I detest reality tv; I detest bulk shopping. Four minutes into this poisonous mix, I felt claustrophobic. The premiere extreme couponer showed off a room in her home filled with shelves and shelves of neatly organized rows of detergent and hand sanitizer and what have you. She had insanely overbought with coupons. She said looking at all these purchases gave her "joy."

I thought of this ecstatic couponer when my husband got a bee in his bonnet about checking out Costco, and we had a family trip there one sweltering Sunday. My daughter clung to my hand as we entered the huge warehouse. People were exiting pushing carts filled with gigantic flats of paper towels, 900-pound bags of rice and towers of soda. I was mildly intrigued by the discounted wine and liquor and the thimble-sized free wine tastes. An area roughly the size of a city block was filled with some off-price men's dress shirts. I don't want to buy my husband's shirts where I get my spaghetti sauce. Gross. Soul crushing. I would go to a separate store for each item if possible. Wine at the wine shop, shoes at the shoe store, cake at the bakery, cheese at the cheese shop, etc.

I found the place post-apocalyptic. It felt like the world had ended and the only thing that survived is Costco, and everyone is grabbing what they can to survive.

"I'm scared, mommy," said my daughter.

Smart girl.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner


People can't stop talking about Dirty Dancing. From a post by my girl Lesley over at xojane, I learned there will be a remake with Lea Michelle cast in the Jennifer Grey role. A red flag, but I'll be first in line when it comes to the Bellevue Theater. I can't help myself. I've seen Dirty Dancing probably twelve times. At Sassy, we used to act out scenes from the movie, and try to force Mike Flaherty to play the Swayze role. (He refused.) I'm pretty sure I could recite the entire film to you right now.

I'm not the only one. In the pilot for the fall series New Girl, the character played by appealing Zooey Deschanel spends her post-breakup days on the couch crying and endlessly watching Dirty Dancing. Dirty Dancing was also referenced in Crazy Stupid Love, which Dalton and I saw last night. (Fun date movie, but Steve Carell gives me the heebie jeebies, so he and cute Ryan Gosling cancel each other out.) Ryan Gosling tells Emma Stone that he always gets girls to sleep with him by executing the lift from the final scene of Dirty Dancing. And then he demonstrates. I asked Dalton if he would do the lift with me. But he said it would throw his back out.

Reading Sunday Styles this am, I found a Dirty Dancing reference in the etiquette column, and a piece about grinding, the dirty dancing that actual teenagers have been doing for a decade.

I couldn't resist any longer. I am not made of stone, you know. So I went to you tube to watch the lift scene. It still give me chills. Swayze in that low cut cropped black shirt, adorable Jennifer Grey, the father seething in the corner. It's all gold.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I'm Not Proud of This

I was in a crabby mood at about 5:45 yesterday evening as we returned from an afternoon at the pool. Unloading bags from the car and picking up chip bags and crumbs from the back seat, muttering about the filth, I heard a female voice say "hello." I ignored it, because I thought it was a passerby answering her cell phone. But when she said my name, I looked up.

It was a woman in an "Environment New Jersey" t-shirt, the same persistent canvasser that inspired me to write the piece that started this blog and eventually made its way into the Complaint Box section of The New York Times. Was I having a nightmare?

"Christina?" she repeated.

"Yes," I said. "And no. No, I'm not interested."

My children were standing right there, horrified. They had spent the morning at our church's Peace Camp, learning to behave more peacefully. As had I.

"We just want to thank you for your past support," she said, a bit of a whine in her voice.

"I don't want to be thanked," I said. "I just want you guys to stop coming."

"We just knock on all the doors in town," she said defensively, marking something on her clipboard. (Maybe: "Insane, potentially perimenopausal, woman at this address.")

"I know you do," I said, slamming the car door. "And it's really annoying."

"Well, that's valid," she said, and went on to harass my neighbor.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Talent Show Tribute to Sassy

How's it going? I just sent my husband and daughter off to the Taylor Swift show. Once my son finishes his baby carrots we'll be making some smores before I settle in with a New Yorker cover story that seems to be about how motherhood sucks the life out of you.

So there's this tribute show to Sassy in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Sadly, I can't go. But my former sister-in-law Jessica Vitkus will be performing a song my ex-husband and I wrote about my ex-boyfriend. I took care of lyrics and vocals, and my ex-husband took care of everything else. Jessica (who definitely sings better than I do) will be playing with a band called Supercute.

Damn, that sound fun.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Montclair Mom Proves to be Barrel of Laughs at Son's Sleepover

My son turns 11 on Wednesday, and he insisted on having a sleepover party. I tried to entice him with exciting alternatives like viewing Harry Potter on opening day. But he prevailed, with the hard-to-refute "it's only fair" argument, citing that my daughter had a sleepover for her last birthday.

The 6 guests arrived around 6-ish on Saturday night. They ran like wild around the yard playing laser tag, then began throwing water balloons. At around 7, my husband went to pick up the pizzas. I had implored him to have them delivered and not leave me alone with the boys, but damned if he was going to pay a delivery charge.

While he was out, a boy came running. "Someone stepped in the litter box and there's litter everywhere!" he announced. The second floor bathroom, was covered in litter and water from the balloons. The boy who had stepped in the box was super bummed to have litter on his feet. I was in the process of cleaning it up, when I heard the mother of a late arrival calling from the front hall. "Christina? Dalton?" Boys were wilding and there were no parents to be seen.

I went down and explained the litter situation to the mom. At this point, her husband was hit by a water balloon. He did not seem very amused. "Why don't you lock yourself in your room and let Dalton deal with the boys?" she suggested. "That's what I would do."

After the boys ate their pizza (one consumed 5 slices!), they went back to the yard. They were chasing each other, wielding hockey sticks as weapons and hurling soccer balls at each other. "Stop!" I yelled futilely. "Someone is going to get hurt." I went to find backup (Dalton). Upon my return, a boy was lying on the ground. My son had hit him hard with a soccer ball.

"I told you someone would get hurt!" I yelled maniacally. "Look what happened." In the cartoon version, flames would have been shooting from my nose, and smoke from my ears. There was silence for a beat. The boy rose from the ground. "I'm ok," he said. And he began running around again.

After the cake was served, I did retreat to my room. I know when I am beaten. Let me just clarify, these are incredibly nice 11-year-old boys, the best available, with excellent parents. But somehow when they are in a group, the boy energy spins out of control, Lord of the Flies style.

They went to sleep under protest at midnight, then rose at 5 demanding bacon. "No breakfast before 6 am," I said ungraciously. As if I would be going back to sleep. Later, as the dead pig sizzled in the pan, my husband served orange juice. "Chug! Chug! Chug!" the little darlings chanted. They sounded like the boys I lived with in a fraternity sophomore year of college, only less civilized.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

21 Years

Today is the anniversary of my father's death. In his memory, I am reposting a piece I wrote last year on this date.

My father died 20 years ago today.

I still miss him.

Colon cancer killed him at 58. When they first found the tumor in his colon, he had surgery to remove it. During the operation I sat in the waiting room at New Rochelle Hospital with my mother. All I remember is that the surgeon came out when he was finished, and said: "It was very big. The size of a grapefruit. But I think I got it all."

The tumor had grown so large because my father didn't get himself checked for years. He had misdiagnosed the pain in his back. I remember him always having back problems. When I was 13 he was in traction, and to pass the time, he hand-hooked rugs. I still have a lovely floral rug that he made for me in my guest room. Sometimes he said his back problem was caused by an injury he got playing Gaelic football; other times, as I recall, it seemed to be related to a fall from a telephone pole. My father used to repair telephone wires for a living.

Finally they found the source of this particular pain, and so he had the surgery, and chemo, which seemed to cure him for a while, until it didn't.

He died right after Father's Day. I don't know why, but I bought him a large mahogany wall clock that year. He was so frail, and when he opened it, he sobbed a heart breaking sob. Why had I bought him such a gift?

Very near the end, he was thin as a rail, and he wanted a cigarette. My brother Robert could not deny him. I watched him smoking it, and he seemed a corpse already, but I knew that Robert had done the right thing.

I spent the night before he died at my parents' house, and I was able to tell him that I loved him, and he heard me. My family of origin is not big on "I Love You." It is so rarely spoken amongst us that I can barely choke it out, and if I do say it, it seems like some sort of breach of etiquette. People avert their eyes, then make jokes. We don't say it, but we know it.

The afternoon of June 23, 1990, it was sunny and beautiful, and my brother took a few of us, me and some cousins, out in the little motor boat that my father had recently insisted on buying for him. (For me, he had thoughtfully purchased an air conditioner for my stifling New York apartment.) The sun glittered on the water. We were quietly waiting.

When we returned a few hours later, my mother and my parents' closest friends sat around the dining room table. I glanced their way as I went directly to my father's bedside.

"Chris..." It was Mr. Maye, my father's lifelong best friend. He didn't need to say anything else.

My father's hands were folded on his chest.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What the Kids are Doing: Bearded Edition


As previously established, I live in the suburbs and work at home in sweaty yoga clothes. Thus my trips into NYC are rare, and filled with unfamiliar sights. I have learned that all women now wear towering heels with many thick straps holding them to their feet, for example. And every time I come into Manhattan, (when I am not worrying that I have a neon sign on me that screams "Suburban Mother!") I am struck by the large percentage of guys under 40 with scruffy-looking beards much different than the trimmed goatees of my youth. We're talking super long, kind of disgusting facial hair, like Rip Van Winkle.

I'm old, so I can't help being a little mystified by the young. Why do the men of this generation have faces that look more like vaginas than the waxed-clean genitalia of its women? Razor blades are obscenely expensive, but I don’t think it is fair that men can let their facial hair run rampant, while woman have to be hyper-conscious of their pubic hair.

I sought insight from a really nice bearded man, a friend of a friend. He was sweet enough to answer all my questions about beards, and now I feel a little bad for being judgmental. His name is Alexander Yerks, and he is a photographer.

So, Alex, when did you first grow your beard?

I believe the first time I grew my beard was around August 2007.

Why?

People ask me this all the time. They also say "I've always wanted to, but..." My easiest answer is that it's just easy to grow one. You don't have to do anything! At all! Just let it grow!

Did you see someone or something that inspired you?

I think what made me really want to grow one was how most people usually frown upon beards. Which is strange, since it's in our genes to grow them. We did evolve this way for a reason! I always wondered why it's looked down upon, but now I think it is just the way modern society has shaped the way people look and dress. It seems like from the beginning of mankind, men grew beards to distinguish themselves from the rest. Most noblemen, religious figures, gods, or other powerful men had a signature bearded look. For example: George Harrison, Jesus, Fidel, Socrates, Merlin, Van Gogh, Darwin, Freud, and Papa Smurf. In the past, having a beard was almost a sign of wisdom that only came with age and experiences. It's actually interesting that only a few US presidents had beards. Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Lincoln, and Harrison.

Allrighty. How would you describe your look with the beard, v.s. before?

I don't think my look changed at all. Although it did add an extra 8 inches to my chin.

Any difference in how you seem to be perceived?

I do feel like I get more respect from the everyday person now that I have a beard, but it's not always positive respect. Some people don't get it. But some people dig it.

What is the best part of having a beard?

Saving money on razors, etc. Keeps your face and neck warm without a scarf. Less people on the street will mess with you. Having lived in Bushwick for two years with the beard definitely helped keep the street confrontations down.

The worst part?

It does weird some people out. This is probably the result of the last handful of generations having grown up with this GQ mentality of clean faces, men using cosmetics, and worrying way too much about how to dress. Actually now that I think of it, the worst part of having a beard was when Joaquin grew one. I think that made more people look at beards in a negative light.

Are there any beard maintenance issues?

Sometimes you can get "bedhead". Eating was a major challenge at first. Especially when you have a moustache. A handkerchief is your best friend.

Any beard mishaps? Or negatives to having a beard?

The TSA and airport security will give you multiple pat-downs and screenings. Smoking is a hazard. Trimming can be a nightmare. One wrong move and bye bye beard.

Do you find that there is a particular type that is attracted to guys with beards?

I haven't really had any particular type of women mention that beards are their thing. My girlfriend likes it though.

P.S. I met Alex recently, and he had shaved his beard! He said he missed it , though, and was thinking of growing it back.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What, I should start using hashtags NOW?

The piece on hashtags in yesterday's New York Times Style section was the paper's fourth offering on the little thingy that people like to use in their tweets and whenever they don't feel like writing out a complete thought.

I have never used a hashtag. I was briefly tempted when my highly grammatical colleague Tamara Glenny ran a post about hashtags on her excellent site wwword this past February.

Before that I wasn't quite sure I understood the hashtag. Now that I do comprehend, I feel self-conscious about becoming a late adopter. It seems vaguely age-inappropriate, the literary equivalent of wearing a tacky miniskirt to the market or constantly sprinkling your speech with "like." Or getting a hashtag tattoo.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In Which My Son Teaches Me By Example

My 10-year-old played his first competitive tennis match yesterday. We are lucky to belong to a lovely pool and tennis club, and we all play, with varying degrees of ability. My husband was on the team in high school and is a natural athlete but rarely has the time for tennis now. I am an uncoordinated 49-year-old who learned four years ago. I have no stamina and love the game. Both of the kids have been in tennis clinics for the past 4 springs.

Luckily, Dale seems to take after his dad, so I signed him up for the tennis team and the juniors tournament at our club. For his first match, he was pitted against a 9-year-old. When I told Dale the boy's name, a look of panic crossed his face. "That is so unfair," he said. "What's the problem?" I asked insensitively. "He's nine years old. You're almost 11."

Dale knew this boy from camp. He apparently has played USTA tournaments. Not sure why someone so good was pitted against an inexperienced player, but that's how it works, I guess. As my husband explained, in professional tournaments, the bottom-rated players play the top-rated players in the first round. I don't understand this system, and how anyone ever gets to move up if this is the case, but Dalton has assured me that it does, and that's why we got to see Federer and Nadal in the French Open finals. (Which Dale watched with great attention in preparation for his big match.)

And so it came to pass that my boy was playing his first match at 4pm on a 95 degree day. He lost both sets, but he was spectacular. I was truly impressed. I have never witnessed Dale in a situation like this before. There he was, all by himself, losing point after point. His face and even his arms and legs were beet red, and he was dripping with sweat. I was worried that he was getting overheated.

My son never lost hope once. He got the vast majority of his serves in, and some of the rallies seemed to go on forever. His sportsmanship was excellent. He never seemed angry. I learned by watching this match that my boy is a tenacious person with a strong sense of self. I was bursting with pride. Sorry for the cliche, and for the bragging, but I was just bursting.

Dale knew this better than I do: if you are losing, you don't give up. Just keep on doing the thing, the best that you can.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Deadly Perils of Bounce Houses"?

Really, Lady Who Edits the AOL home page? Or Truly Sinister Man Who Has the Job of Picking Stories that Terrify Parents? Would you let me check my email in peace? (If you don't know what I'm talking about, because you're all hip with your gmail account, please read my post from two days ago.)

A headline like this is a Proustian madeleine for me. Don't take me there. I have long believed that bounce houses are instruments of torture. Once at a nursery school fundraiser, the bounce house came unplugged and started deflating while Violet was inside. I lunged at the thing and pulled her out by the feet, with visions of her suffocating to death if I didn't extricate her in time. Bounce houses are writhing masses of screaming toddlers knocking heads and developing goose eggs.

I'm a lot of fun.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My two cents about reality tv

I hate reality tv. My husband supports our family writing and editing articles about reality tv. This creates conflict in our marriage. Hey, I just had an idea for a sitcom. (Note: I did not say reality show.)


Often I find myself in the living room while Dalton is watching reality tv. Such was the case on a recent night. The Voice was on, and I was waiting for it to be over so we could watch Modern Family. The guy with the huge afro and his singing partner were preparing for their duet-off. (The show operates on the evil premise that the signers have to sing duets, and whoever does best, gets to stay on. Work together, guys, but make sure you make your "partner" look bad.) While I was trying to focus on the Dining section of the New York Times, Big Afro guy was talking about his “strategy” for faking out his singing “partner/competitor.”


That’s what I hate about reality shows. Everything is strategy and subterfuge and being fake. No one is being straight-up. An entire generation is learning that this is the way you should behave to be successful in the world.


I told Dalton my really insightful thought, and he disagreed. He said since he watches more reality tv, he knew more about it. And I said that no, it’s like when you live in a house that smells like cat pee you can’t smell it anymore, but if a guest comes over they can totally notice it.


That’s when he paused The Voice so we could watch my show.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dear AOL: Please stop scaring the crap out of me every time I check my email

If it's not an 11-year-old falling to her death from a ferris wheel, it's a Little Leaguer dropping dead on the baseball field. I get that you need to increase traffic, but I'm not clicking on this terrifying stuff anymore. Quit it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More from Christina "No Such Thing as Too Much Information" Kelly*



Today on xojane, I provide sordid details of my misspent youth. Here are some bonus photos from that era, for FP readers only. That's quite a look I was working. I do realize that one picture is facing the wrong way, but I am too lazy to rescan it. The guy I am with was my boyfriend for the entire weekend that photo was taken. I don't remember his last name. But I hope you don't mind, Ron, wherever you are.




*As I was once identified in Bitch Magazine

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'll be blogging at some point

Here's another xojane post from me. Have at it.

Also, for those who care, I had some technical difficulties (spilled water on my keyboard, once new keyboard arrived and I figured out how to work it, Blogger was messed up). And also a crisis of confidence initiated by a person who does not like my writing. Because, why believe any positive feedback when you can wholeheartedly agree with the negative?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Fashion Shoot Waiting to Happen


As I was reading my Tuesday New York Times this
morning (we're really on top of things at Fallen Princess this week), I was transfixed by this picture. This sweet dude is just killing it with his look. Everything is working, from the unbuttoned shirt to the vertiginously high-waisted trousers. I mean no disrespect to the dead. Quite the contrary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tina Fey and ME

My husband bought me Tina Fey's Bossypants for Mother's Day. (Petite digression: Anyone know why the type is coming out wonky and in blue? I think it's because I stole this picture from the internet. I had to, because the cover of Bossypants is too freaky for me with the hairy man torso.)

So, Dalton got me the book, which I read in 24 hours---oh, good, the type is normal again--- because I'm obsessed with Tina Fey. I've written about her before. I wanted to express annoyance that the press always connects Fey's weight loss with Lorne Michaels' decision to put her on the air.

What I didn't admit in that post is that I am jealous of Tina Fey. I relate to Tina so much, and feel that we have so many similarities that it leads to full-on career envy. We're both writers, we're both sarcastic, we both have brown hair and wear glasses. We are both moms. Yet there she is ruling the world, running a tv show and writing a book that was excerpted in The New Yorker. Damn, I have always wanted to be in The New Yorker. In contrast, here I sit, still in sweaty yoga clothes, trying to finish this post before the school bus arrives and I begin the unglamorous work of keeping my children from killing each other, while getting everyone to soccer on time, homework done, a reasonably healthy dinner cooked. And on and on. I wonder what special gene Tina has that makes her super successful?

"She is a workaholic," theorized my close friend Heather. "She would go home to put her kid to bed and then make everyone from 3o Rock come to her house so they could write all night." I am definitely not a workaholic. I am a hard worker, and was once an overachiever but I burned out around age 44. And I've never been one to work late into the night, not unless you count going to rock shows for live reviews as "work."

Heather also relates to Tina, though H. has short blond hair and no glasses and is not that sarcastic. Aha! Maybe that is why Tina has done so well for herself! Many women feel a kinship with her! Not just those who can dress up as Sarah Palin for Halloween. (I wanted to post my picture in my SP costume here, but iphoto was being weird and, as I said, the school bus will be here any minute.)

Tina is also pretty fucking funny. I found myself laughing uncontrollably, more in the first half of the book than later. And she was hilarious as a Jersey Girl on Jimmy Fallon.

From the book, I have analyzed five similarities, and five differences, between myself and T.F. This is interesting to no one, except myself, so talk amongst yourselves for the next bit.

Similarities:
1. Name: Tina/Christina
2. I can be funny too, sometimes
3. Both got pregnant with second baby at 40
4. Can't drive; lost virginity at age 23. (These seem related.)
5. Long-suffering husbands

Differences:
1. She acts
2. She did not breastfeed, and wrote some rude things about breastfeeding moms having nipples the size of dinner plates, maybe because she was feeling defensive. I breastfed each kid for 2 years. While working full time as an editor-in-chief. See: "overachiever," above.
3. She's not really a girl's girl, or at least her show isn't very girly.
4. She's very rich
5. She chooses to continue working, while I threw in the towel except for some half-hearted part-time freelancing as well as full-time complaining.

OKAY. The bus is here.

P.S. I guess what I am saying is that Tina represents the road not taken, or perhaps the road not available to be taken. It is possible that me being jealous of Tina Fey is a bit like a karaoke singer being jealous of Christina Aguilera.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Me Me Me: On Narcissism and Yoga

Interesting article about narcissism in today's New York Times. A new study links boastful song lyrics from the '80s through 2007 with the self-obsession of the youth of today. One 50-year-old friend of mine used the article as fuel for his ongoing tirade that the young have too much damn self-esteem. However, the piece was nuanced--it suggested that the middle-aged may be just as narcissistic as the nubile, but the data on the middle-aged doesn't exist.

I had an uncomfortable feeling while reading the piece. Especially when the ubiquity of the word "I" in lyrics was mentioned as a narcissism red flag. Hmmm. During my brief "career" as a song lyric writer I don't think I composed a single song without the word "I" in it. Me and the word "I" are really good friends. Years ago, during a conversation about psychotherapy, my friend Dan said something that I never forgot: "Nothing is more interesting than oneself." I love the first person. It's my go-to point of view for basically anything.

And what is more narcissistic than writing a blog? Or writing anything, really. The very act of writing is an act of ego. If you're a writer, you think (or hope) that people care about what you have to say.

I started this blog partially because I felt that the person I was before becoming a stay-at-home mother had ceased to exist. I wanted her to have a place to live. If that's not narcissism, I don't know what is.

I was contemplating all of this (does worrying whether you are a narcissist implicate you right off the bat?) when I went to yoga class this morning, to attend to the needs of my soul (more narcissism?). Halfway through class, I helped my yoga friend Dina into a middle-of-the-room handstand. Dina is a practiced yogi with a generous spirit. When she told me she was ready for me to let go, I did, and she fell over onto her back and hit her head. I stood motionless, too horrified and lightheaded from my own handstand to act. Dina lay there on the floor, half-laughing. People gathered. Water was brought. "What happened?" asked the teacher.

"She told me to let go, so I did," I said weakly. "When your friend asks you to let go," she announced to the very full room. "Make sure she's really ok first." I hadn't done that. I trusted that Dina knew what she was doing. Dina was still lying on her back at this point. "It's not your fault," she said, looking up at me. But I felt like it most definitely was my fault. I am a terrible spotter, and handstands are really scary for me. I went out to the lobby and lost it, bawling like a little kid.

Another friend came out and comforted me. "People get hurt," she said. "It even happens in advanced teacher trainings." I wanted to leave, but Dina, ambulatory by this point, convinced me to stay and finish the class. "You need to deal with this," she said. "That is why you are here." So I did. At the end of class, I got hugs and kisses and love from my fellow students.

"That's quite a yoga community you have," said my husband when I called to tell him the story.

I sure do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breast Implants


The number of breast augmentations increased 39% from 2000 through 2010, according to new data from the gleeful American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

I read about the study the morning after a friend, a breast cancer patient, told me that she had just had her saline sac removed because of an infection. her troubles made me wonder why anyone would put herself through surgery if her breasts were actually healthy and intact. I did some browsing on the web and found another stat that shed some light on the situation: women who get implants are more likely to be depressed and suffer from body image problems than those who don't, and are 3 times as likely to commit suicide, according to 7 studies.

I once hugged a friend and realized with a flash that her unnaturally hard breasts were not real. We exchanged a glance, and that was that, but I never thought of her the same way. Years ago, I knew a girl whose father bought her implants as an 18th birthday gift. He looked at her and said: "You're a little out of proportion. Let's get you some implants." Amazingly, this girl grew up to be a productive member of society.

Not that you asked, but I myself have smallish breasts (34 B). They get the job done with a minimum of fuss. I did enjoy the novelty of wearing huge hogans back when I was breastfeeding, but I never felt like shopping for a permanent set. I have a thing about squandering my children's education fund on paying someone to cut open my body and insert foreign objects into it. But also I appreciate the excellent job my breasts did feeding my children, and I'm grateful that small breasts remain perky for decades longer than is really fair.

Other than the creep who bought his daughter a new pair, I have never heard of a man who likes implants. Listen to my friend Bryan, a known pervert: “Like many others, I think breast implants are sad. For nearly all men who actually touch breasts (as opposed to that greasy cohort whose acquaintanceship with breasts is relegated solely to computer screens and strip clubs), implants are a huge turn-off. I do totally love big breasts. But I also really love small breasts. They're all awesome. Most of all I think that the breasts of adult (rather than 18-year-old) women, post-childbirth, sag and all, fully set the bar for beauty. I am a guy's guy and an authority on this issue."

Mike, a fan of adult entertainment, is also repelled: “I do NOT like breast implants. I just think that after a certain point, bigger is not better. The irony of breast implants is that way more often than not it's someone going from a 34B or C to a 44D or E, and winding up looking like a caricature of femininity. The poster girl for this is, of course, Pamela Anderson, a stunningly beautiful woman who turned herself into a cartoon. Implants just don't tend to look very good or very real. At best, they tend to result in an unnatural roundness, like someone stuck half of a coconut shell under their skin. At worst, and over time, it looks more like a hockey puck.”

Ergo, if you are getting implants to attract men, then it may be an exercise in futility. Although I do dye my hair and apply various creams and potions in part to be more attractive to a man--my husband--so it's not like I exist in some patriarchy-free bubble.

The ASPS didn't release any stats about women getting implants to attract other women. But I'm curious about it. I couldn't really find any studies about this online, so if you're a researcher, there's your topic.

One last thing: don't try and tell me you got implants "for yourself." I'm not buying it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Middle School Misery

We just chose a middle school for our son. The process was agonizing. He has been so safe and warm throughout elementary school, constantly under adult supervision, lovingly ferried from school to soccer to chess to play dates. The child has no freedom. And that's the way I like it.

Next year, Dale will often be at large. He'll join the unruly pack of preteens that rove through Upper Montclair, playing chicken on the train tracks and generally being stupid. We'll have to buy him a cellphone so we can find him, and he us.

In our town, there are three middle schools. I preferred the crunchy one that is half the size of our kids' elementary school. At this middle school, they believe in a long recess and outside time. Plus, I really liked the earnest language arts teacher I met. It seemed like the public middle school version of the private preschool our kids attended.

Dale, however, had other plans. He wanted to go to the school three blocks from our house. It has two big gyms and offers an architecture elective. It's the math and science magnet, and he excels in these subjects. And, he said, "All my friends are going there."

Long story short, all his friends are not going there. Their parents were able to talk them into the crunchy granola school, while I allowed Dale to make the first really big decision of his life.

And I've been so anxious about the change. I was totally fine about him starting preschool and kindergarten. Of course, at those times I was working full-time and distracted.

Yesterday, I realized why I'm so freaked out about my boy starting middle school. It's because sixth grade was pretty much the nadir of my life. As always, everything is ALL ABOUT ME.

So, anyway, back to me. We had just moved and I started the year at a new school. I walked onto the playground that first day, and a boy took one look at me and said, "That girl's so fat she looks like a Butterball Turkey!" The name stuck.

I don't think that will happen to Dale, and yet. There is a picture of him sitting in his classroom on the first day of Kindergarten. His lunchbox is on the desk, and he looks so small and scared. I can't stop thinking about that photo.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Irking Me: Sheer Blouses

I found myself in Soho with a free half-hour so I stepped into Olive and Bette. I was casually looking through the racks when I was accosted by an over-eager sales girl. (Have NYC shop girls become more aggressive, or do I just have the whiff of a sucker?)

My hand must have lightly grazed a sheer peasant blouse. She held it aloft, offering to start a dressing room for me. "No thanks," I said. "I have a thing about sheer blouses."

I don't want to pay $200 for a shirt, and then have to get another shirt to wear under it. She nodded as if she understood, and then proceeded to bring over 5 more sheer blouses.

At this point, I excused myself. I headed over to Comptoir des Cotonniers, where I was happy to be ignored by the sales girls as they gossiped about another sales girl who wasn't working that shift.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I like this video for City Center's "Cookies"

Click here to watch it if you are in the mood to see something awesome. I enjoy the part when the singer says "water and water and water and... sunshine." Not sure why, it just gives me a special feeling inside. Apparently, their new album Redeemer is on K Records. All right then.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Confessions of a Brogue Chaser


I watched an advance of Colin Quinn's HBO special over the weekend (it airs in April), which got me thinking about my Irishness. Although the show is not explicitly about the Irish, it has a distinctly Irish-American sarcasm, which is probably why I find Quinn so funny. (I'm still laughing over a bit where he seeths with impatience because someone steps onto an elevator after he's pushed the button. "I've got important business on 12; you've got some bullshit on 8," he says, and I lose it.)

I was raised to take pride in being Irish. My mother's maternal grandmother was born in Ireland; my dad's family came over to build the Erie Canal. So it's not like we're just off the boat, as they say. Yet my parents were almost pathological about their Irishness. All of their friends were Irish-American; we vacationed together at Mullen's, a resort that called itself "A Little Piece of Ireland in the Catskills" and featured Irish music in the cocktail lounge at night. (And yes, we kids were in the bar until all hours. Bedtime? Second-hand smoke? Pish posh.) Anyone with an Irish brogue was practically worshiped.

One showed one's Irishness in many ways, such as by never thinking of oneself as a "big shot" or making it seem like one was "hot stuff." Nor was one to associate with, or harbor, big shots. "Fat Cats" were also frowned upon, and usually to blame for each of the world's problems. Any display of high self-esteem was strictly prohibited. We're Irish, damn it!

We also made an annual pilgrimage to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan. My mother and aunt took all of us kids out of school, I put on a scratchy wool hat covered in green sequins, and we went down to the city. The weather was likely bitter and rainy. My mother bought us green carnations and hot pretzels and we watched the marchers and became one with the bagpipes until we were numb with cold. Sometimes we'd take a bathroom break at Gimbel's on 86th Street.

Mom invariably saw people she knew marching with the police or the Emerald Society of the Fire Department She would say, there's what's his name, and wave. After the parade we would go home and eat corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread.

I became a lover of all things Irish. I wrote high school and college papers about Yeats and Celtic mythology, listened to Irish bands, and traveled around Ireland with an Irish-American friend for 17 days in 1994. Even as an adult, I would always take the day off from work to meet my parents and their friends to watch the parade. I would passionately dispute people's stereotypes of the Irish as a bunch of green beer-drinking lowlifes. Particularly to one friend who imagined that my family would be "beating each other with shillelaghs."

So last year, I was pretty thrilled when I had the opportunity to march in the parade with the friends and family of the Grand Marshall, NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly. For something like 8 years, I have enjoyed an annual Christmas lunch with the P.C. and other members of The Kelly Gang, a group of important media people--big shots, really--who share the same last name and accidently let a person like me slide into their group. Some years, I have also helped plan a St. Patrick's Day fundraiser that we have put on 7 times.

Nonetheless, it felt like a bit of a stretch to call myself one of the esteemed Ray Kelly's "friends and family." But it was so awesome to march down Fifth Avenue on the Kelly green line in my Kelly green coat and wave at all the spectators. The only bummer was that none of my loved ones understood the significance. My kids were at school; my husband was at work. I scanned the crowd for people I knew, but they were all dead or in Florida. My mother got to the city too late to see me marching. Maybe it appeared as if I considered myself some sort of big shot. "If your kids were in it," she told me later. "Then I would have gotten myself here in time." That's when I realized that it's over, because my kids have never even been to the parade.

The passing on of the Irish culture that has happened for generations in my family really stops with me. My husband probably has as much Irish blood as I do (his great-grandmother was named Maud Heaney), but he was not raised as an Irish-American. (His mother's family has an attachment to Texas, similar to but not as intense as my parent's Ireland thing.) I stopped eating beef 25 years ago, so I don't serve the signature dish to my kids. The little darlings wouldn't eat it anyway; they won't even choke down a piece of soda bread. Violet does have an "Everyone Loves an Irish Kid" t-shirt and my special green hat. Other than that, the best culture passing I can do is to serve vaguely shamrock-shaped Entenmann's cookies and let them watch some of the parade on tv.

It's kind of sad, really.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

AARP Update

Those O.D.B.'s at AARP have pulled a bait and switch on me. Loyal readers will know that the organization for the elderly recently sent me an invitation to join---a FULL SEVEN MONTHS before my 50th birthday. Click here if you missed my cheery missive about that momentous event. I was all psyched for the discount, so I sent the $16 check in right away.

Today, an envelope from AARP arrived in the mail. I was immediately suspicious because of how thin it was. That's the letter up there. It's tiny because I can barely work a scanner or anything technical, a true sign of advancing age (other indications include my love of Masterpiece Theater and Tony Bennet). Turns out AARP gave me some lame "associate" membership that includes the AARP magazine but not the discount! Because I'm not 50 yet! That's so totally come here go away. Age discrimination!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I still love you, Sarah Silverman, by Mayim Bialik, PhD

Ladies and gentleman, I am privileged to once again have Mayim Bialik writing for Fallen Princess. Today the Big Bang Theory star and funny writer for such excellent blogs as Kveller comments on Sarah Silverman's sexy new look. P.S. Here is a picture of me with Mayim after we ate dinner with her parents at Spago in the early 90s. Look how young we are. I wanted the picture at the end but I can't figure out how to place pictures where I want them on this thingy. I'll shut up and let Mayim talk now.

In case you don’t know who she is, Sarah Silverman is a bold and fairly outrageous comedienne who is probably known equally for one of three things: her Comedy Central show (“The Sarah Silverman Show”), her recent NY Times bestseller, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, and “The Great Schlep,” her hysterical successful attempt to get Barack Obama elected in Florida through encouraging all of the Jewish grandparents there to vote for him.

Although her brashness is not always my cup of tea, the reason I have always loved Sarah is for her signature style. She is attractive by general standards of our culture: raven black long hair, pale smooth skin, proportional features, and a curvy but thin body. But she became famous wearing baggy boyish jeans, ¾ sleeve baseball tees, a ponytail, and no visible make-up. And I’m not talking about skin-tight sexy jeans, curve-hugging tees, and a cutesy little-girl ponytail. We’re talking effortless confident female; not “trying to look unattractive,” not “dikey” (I know you were thinking it!), not self-conscious, and not “hiding her body.” Just simple. That’s her look and I love it.

So imagine my shock and awe (forgive me) when a few months ago, I chanced to see her on some late-night talk show and she was – hang on to your seats—in a short mini-dress; layered hair grazing the top of her slender shoulders; in high spike heels; with glossy lips and blush. She looked great, don’t get me wrong; but something inside of me shrunk a little bit and I gasped outwardly. Where was my sporty Sarah? Where was the brave no-nonsense comedienne who held her own among males in her industry without “having to” display herself as a sexy woman? My husband told me to pipe down; he was trying to hear sexy Sarah being totally crude and over-the-top vulgar in her new get-up!

I instantly felt bad for doubting her simply because she was doing what almost every other female in show business has to do (myself included, to the best of my ability…). How many actresses and even respected writers like Tina Fey are only truly considered competitive in this industry when they shed those ‘extra’ 20 lbs and squeeze into a size 2? Most.

Sarah Silverman’s s talent is not in any way decreased by her showing her legs or letting her hair down, as it were, but still! I can’t help but wondering if some stylist got a hold of her and told her if she wants to compete, she’s gotta drop the boyish boxy look. Or perhaps she got tired of her signature look and wanted to start dressing up. But maybe she felt she “had to” do this to get “real” parts? (She is apparently appearing nude in her upcoming film but has said a lot of funny self-deprecating things about the nudity…)

I hope the old Sarah comes back soon in some permutation. I want her to have all the success in the world, but I also want her to know that she is someone I have looked up to because she hasn’t typically tried to fit the mold of what women in this industry are “supposed to” look like. She has her own style, and I love it. I think she is someone I would want to hang out with, if I were allowed by my stylist to even wear baggy boy jeans with ¾ sleeve baseball tees.

Oh, feminism. We’ve come so far but it sometimes seems we have such a long long way to go.



Friday, February 11, 2011

AARP

In today's mail, I received a personal invitation to join AARP. I find myself inexplicably tickled pink. For you young readers, AARP is the American Association of Retired People, or some such thing; interestingly, the full name is not spelled out on the literature.

(The massive clicking you hear right now? That's the sound of Fallen Princess being un-followed by every subscriber who found me through Style Rookie.)

My first reaction to the mailing was, "Sweet, I can now get the hefty AARP discount." For a mere $16 per year! I immediately called my husband at work to tell him the excellent news. He was silent for a beat. Confused about what was expected of him, no doubt. Sucks to be him.

The thing is, I am not 50 yet! I won't even be 49 1/2 until March 15. My main concern here: can I still have the discount? (The letter says it's for all people over 50, whether retired or not.) I am also wondering about the AARP status of people just a few years older than me. Do the members of Sonic Youth, for example, have AARP memberships? What about, like, Debbie Harry? Iggy Pop?

"I remember when I got my first AARP card in the mail," said my friend Mike Flaherty, age 50, when I emailed him the news. "That was a pretty momentous day...almost as depressing as when I found myself in Duane Reade buying Gold Bond Foot Cream." I can always count on Mike to make a funny.

About 10 years ago, I saw my mother cry after she was able to get a senior discount for a parking permit. I was completely shocked. My mother does not cry easily, and furthermore, as I hadn't even turned 40 yet, I was insensitive about the trauma of finding oneself a senior. My feeling was, she is that age, so what is the problem?

A few years after that, my mom and aunts were lamenting their wrinkles. I was scoffing because they have so few wrinkles between the three of them that it is actually unfair to other septuagenarians. "No one wants to look old on the outside, when you feel just the same inside as you always did," said my aunt. This is true."You know the only alternative to getting older," my dad used to say. "Dying." He died at 58, never to collect a senior discount.

I have gotten increasingly aggressive about telling people my age before they even ask. I keep my birth year on my Facebook page, though no one over 30 seems to. Taking it off won't make you any younger, people! This is not to say that I am happy about getting older.

Last night, at poker, two of the other ladies were almost exactly my age. One said, "50 is the new 30." I don't really agree, but whatever gets you through, I guess.