Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Women I Dated in Paris, by a Lesbian Who Can't Speak French


My first date after moving to Paris was at a cemetery. I had been messaging a girl on OkCupid from New Zealand who was looking for people with whom to knock must-visits off her Parisian bucket list; her name was Ruby, and she suggested we meet up at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Ruby from New Zealand had only one OKC profile picture, and it was of a small, distant, short-haired figure sitting in a kayak. I had no idea how I’d recognize her in a crowd unless she brought the kayak along with her. But that didn’t end up mattering, since outside the Gambetta metro stop on a sunny spring day, she was the one who found me.

Ruby was pretty: tall, reddish-blonde pixie cut, luminous skin. Her prettiness surprised me. Because I am (like most people on online dating sites, I presume) a bit of a shallow asshole, I didn’t think someone who forewent advertising what she looks like on her profile was someone from whom I could realistically expect sparks. But here she now was, and she was pretty, and sparks sidled into the realm of possibility.

I’m shallow, but not that shallow; Ruby was smart, too, which I’d guessed from her profile and gradually confirmed as we made our way to Oscar Wilde’s grave. She had a law degree from New Zealand and was in Paris on semester exchange for a second degree in literature. We talked about public policy differences between our two countries, and some of the books we loved. It took us an hour of wandering the hilly graveside pathways to happen upon Wilde’s lipstick-kissed tomb long after we’d stopped actively searching for it. We never did find Jim Morrison.

This was not only my first date in Paris, where I was volunteering at a film festival and blowing most of my savings on fine cheeses, but also my first date with a stranger. Before Paris, I’d dated people from my classes and extracurriculars. Now, in the heady flux of postgrad, in a city where I didn’t speak the language and knew next to no one, I’d thought, fuck it. I spent a Sunday drinking two-euro supermarket wine in my broom closet of a studio apartment, filling out online questionnaires. It’s hard enough finding queer women out in the wild, let alone the wilds of a place very far from home.

When we got tired of walking, Ruby and I stopped for coffee. Inside the cafe, she took off her sweater. I drank my espresso and tried not to stare for too long at her bare arms. This stranger, who was no longer too much of a stranger anymore, in her perfect plain black T-shirt, was talking about the representations of women in sci-fi blockbusters and smiling across our table at me. I thought, it really isn’t so bad, all of this.

We dated with relative regularity over the next couple months. Ruby’s kayak profile picture seemed to reveal itself as a side-effect of extreme shyness. Without any personal precedent of being the one to make the move, I became, out of sheer necessity, the one to make the move. It was our third time seeing each other. We’d had wine on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower at sunset, an embarrassingly sentimental date, though we made enough jokes about the cliche to claw our way out of it more or less unscathed. We walked home to her apartment, where we sat on her couch drinking milky tea. I psyched myself up and put down my mug, tried to play it suave, but ended up blundering through a pause in conversation by saying, “I’m gonna do something and you just tell me if I end up doing something you don’t wanna do, okay?” She nodded, and I kissed her.

Before she left Paris for a six-month solo traveling trip around the world, I’d occasionally wake in Ruby’s loft bed, where I felt like we were two overgrown kids in a fort we’d dreamed up, and where I always tried to leave her resting in the mornings. Usually she insisted on walking me to the metro. We parted, always, gracelessly: kissing each other’s cheeks, two awkward momentary expats playing at a culture that wasn’t ours. READ MORE


Can You Patent a Tank Top?

As detailed in this BuzzFeed piece, Lululemon has patented 31 items in its line of insidious business-casual yoga gear, and is currently taking Hanes/Champion/Target to task for a tank top: Hanes, asserting that the design patent shouldn't have been issued to begin with, is filing suit. Here's a snippet from Lululemon's cease-and-desist letter.


I know absolutely nothing about patents that I didn't learn from Shark Tank, and I am admittedly deeply biased against Lululemon on the grounds that their fearful-in-the-guise-of-flattering, show-off-your-collarbones-but-shield-that-tummy aesthetic is offensive to the objective truth that everything would be easier if we just let a woman live for one second—but to me it doesn't seem sensible in any way for the fashion industry to start filing design patents on fairly basic articles of clothing. [BuzzFeed]

Ask Polly: I Want to Get Laid But I'm Afraid of Oppressing Women

leeeegendDear Polly,

First of all, let me assure you, I feel like a huge asshole just for asking this, but I've been chewing on this question on and off for more than a year without any real resolution, so I thought I'd turn to you. Here's the deal: I'm wondering whether I'm abusing feminist ideology in order to justify a natural shyness around women and, if so, whether you could find me a new narrative that would help me feel less bad about acknowledging and acting on attractions.

I've always been seriously shy about any aspect of dating, sex, hooking up, whatever. It's not that I have trouble interacting with women—indeed, my female friends greatly outnumber my male friends. I have no problem making friends with women and, in general, I feel I am generally more comfortable in mostly female environments (this probably came from being thirteen and being constantly made fun of by the other boys in my class, as well as growing up with two older sisters). While I'd hesitate to call myself a feminist, mainly due to my concerns about being appropriative, I would say that I have an enduring interest in gender politics that I do my best to express through my actions.

This interest began to manifest after unrequited crush no. 4,523, around my mid-twenties (I'm in early thirties now) when I began to wonder whether the reason I was so unhappy about my lack of meaningful romantic relationships was because of my attitudes towards women. It has, I believe, helped a lot internally: by working to change a lot of my problematic behaviors and mindsets, I'm not nearly as hung up about sex and relationships as I used to be, and overall I do feel like I approach thoughts about women in a much more healthy way than I used to, helping me get out from being the seething ball of bitterness and anxiety that I was when I was younger.  READ MORE


A Nut Tart With the Romans

roman final 2The Romans were good at a lot of things. Building amphitheaters and aqueducts; social bathing, lounging around, inventing wine; praying to gods and goddesses and creating the kinds of myths that survived centuries.

This is an empire that gave us Caesar, Nero, and a lot of old-timey epic films based on their adventures. But forget that—let’s get to the important stuff. The stuff that really matters. How good was their food?

To investigate, I consulted one of the oldest recipe books of all time: a compilation of the greatest Roman culinary hits known as Apicius, named after a Roman foodie from the 1st century AD. I decided to spare myself (and you, of course) the task of looking for hard-to-find ingredients like flamingo, as well as the task of ingesting hard-to-eat ingredients like dormice. So instead, we’re going to bake a Roman nut tart.

Unfortunately, this nut tart is made out of sheep’s milk and fish sauce, but we only live once, so why not? Carpe Diem! READ MORE


Blogger Morbid

So, a few months ago I wrote a short story about a pop star who decides to install herself in a glass box in a museum in order that she might die in public before her hotness starts to: if you're interested, you can read this grotesque flight of fancy through the Offline Magazine app for 99 centavos, or read about it in this brief interview, in which I talk about my love of Britney and distrust of relatability, and give "advice" to budding writers like "Do what you feel" and also "I have a hard time with advice." 


Erik Hassle, "Pathetic"

Out since February, this SOHN-produced song from Erik Hassle is exactly what I wish top 40 sounded like—the "I'm-so-e-mo-tion-al-ly needy, baby" part is one of the canniest little hooks of the year—and its new video, while relatively unremarkable, has gotten me singing this to myself all day all over again. (Previously, from Hassle, the absolutely killer Timberlake-ish "Talk About It.")


Ask Baba Yaga: I Recently Had a Personal Revelation But Don't Know What to Do With It

"chill out it gonna be fine"
Transcript after the jump. READ MORE


Rosés You Can Bring to the Ice Cream Truck

yumAnyone interested in rosé and/or ice cream (this "anyone" I assume encompasses 99.5% of the readership of this Web Site) will be deeply soothed by these rosé-and-cheapo-ice-cream pairings at Vanity Fair. No word on which wine I should drink with my Bomb Pop, so I'll just drink all of them.


Let's Pool Our Money and Buy John Cheever's House

....yes"Pool" our money, ha ha. The Westchester County property is on the market for $525,000, which seems, all things considered, like a bargain.

While Ossining has, over the years, ceded its lustrous suburban mantle to more sought-after Westchester communities like Scarsdale and Chappaqua, the Cheever house is set on its outskirts, in a section that feels more rural than suburban.

A brook meanders through dense stands of rhododendrons, and the sloping property contains various levels of grassy terraces and tall pines.

Inside, it feels as if Mrs. Cheever has just left for a doctor’s appointment. The four-poster bed in the salmon-colored master bedroom is haphazardly made, its pillows askew.

If like 25 of us sell our eggs or something, we can have a group country home just like that. I'll make cocktails, you reenact the "The Swimmer," and we'll live in a peaceful alcoholic daze forever. [NYTimes]


Birthright Still Sending Trips to Israel, Encouraging Participants to Tag Photos #YOLOIsrael

Miriam Berger's got the surreal details at BuzzFeed, including a recent trip participant who says, “We feel really safe, it’s almost as if we’re in this bubble."


Raury, "Cigarette Song"

Here is a charming, easy, summertime track from Raury, an 18-year-old from at Atlanta who's been tapped to open for Outkast in their mutual hometown in the fall.


Insufferable Parenthetical Asides, Ranked

( . )52. (the saying goes)

51. (well, not strictly)

50. (incidentally)

49. (it’s in the Pacific, somewhere)

48. (which I don’t normally do)

47. (which I’ve finally perfected)

46. (humility is underrated)

45. (consequently)

44. (practically speaking)

43. (if he’d remembered)

42. (as a matter of fact)

41. (which is no excuse)

40. (when they were still of quality)

39. (or was it ramps?)

38. (or so he claims)

37. (just like 1804)

36. (though no one seems to hear me)

35. (whoever still does that)

34. (which I’ve never heard of)

33. (or so it seems)

32. (she meant well)

31. (it’s a kind of nut)

30. (it’s not her color)

29. (she’s a winter)

28. (I’m an autumn)

27. (you can just tell)

26. (I’ve found it’s helpful)

25. (the European way)  READ MORE


Ambivalence: Always An Option

Our choices, apparently, are these: either damn any Serious Woman who's worn lipstick while photographed, or take her Chanel habit as providing serious insight into her intelligence and/or soul. How awful that sounds. Let's reclaim being ambivalent about fashion magazines, instead.

-I'm here for this and am furthermore always here for the cause of reclaiming being ambivalent about literally anything that makes us feel ambivalent: we've probably all got too many micro-feelings that don't amount to anything except for a carefully ordered set of personal stances like tchotchkes on a wall. But at the same time, tchotchkes can be comforting and hard stances make the world go round, and I guess what I'm saying is that I'm ambivalent about everything, including ambivalence, and I think that is perfectly okay.

Selfies from the 9/11 Memorial

selfiesOn a recent afternoon, an older man and woman self-consciously configured themselves in front of the south reflecting pool at the 9/11 Memorial. The man placed his hand on the woman’s hip in an awkward clasp and grinned broadly as another person took their picture with a digital camera. A girl in a Yankees cap took a selfie with her camera phone, the Freedom Tower soaring into the sky behind her, the reflecting pool draining into nothingness. She was smiling. An Ethiopian man asked me to take a photo of him and his family. They wore blank expressions, though the youngest girl with them hammed for the camera with her scooter.

The 9/11 Memorial, officially titled “Reflecting Absence,” is a superlative site. It is the most expensive memorial in America, at a cost of five hundred million dollars (up from a preliminary estimate of a hundred and seventy-five million dollars). The two reflective pools are built in the footprints of the twin towers, and contain the largest man-made waterfalls in the country. The contest for the memorial design yielded more than fifty-two hundred entries from sixty-three countries. Other ideas included towers built from Lego blocks and clocks stopped at 9:11. Michael Arad, an architect from New York, won the project, along with Peter Walter, a landscape architect.

The south reflecting pool of the memorial gets considerably more traffic than the north pool. Panel S-38, at the southeasternmost corner of the south pool, near the memorial’s entrance at Liberty and Greenwich streets, sees a bounty of visitors, probably because it's closest to the entrance. Children climb on it. Families pose for photos. Tired tourists hang their bodies on the marble slab, obscuring the panel’s names—Sebastian Gorki. Hernando R. Salas. Joni Cesta. The memorial, as it stands, often functions more like a tourist rest stop than a place of somber reflection. When I visited on an oppressively hot early July day, visitors dipped their hands into the reflecting pools and poured the water onto their heads and legs to cool off. They leaned on the marble panels with the names of the dead to eat snacks, even though there are no food vendors or trash cans allowed on site. READ MORE


Celebrating One Year of Prince George, My Favorite Celebrity

I NOW UNDERSTAND JOYExactly one year ago, the Royal Baby bravely maneuvered his way out of the Royal Birth Canal—today is Prince George of Cambridge’s first birthday.

I know this, because I love this baby. I love him. I’m normally pro-baby—I’m certainly not anti-baby—but I look at George’s pouty Winston Churchill face and feel inappropriately, irrationally attached, like I secretly birthed him and then was made to forget it by the powers that be in a convoluted Doctor Who subplot. I have no interest in I Wanna Marry Harry, but I’d seriously consider attending the casting call for I Wanna Kidnap Prince George, Rename Him Rusty Obama McFreedom, and Flee the Country, But Don’t Worry, I Would Never Actually Do This and There Is No Need to Pursue an Investigation, Interpol.

Let’s say you’re a celebrity journalist. When it comes to most stars, there’s no shortage of topics to cover: their controversial tweets and Instagram beefs and red carpet wardrobe malfunctions and sex lists and inexplicable lifestyle websites, to name just a few possible sources of inspiration. George, my very favorite celebrity, is inherently newsworthy by virtue of how wildly famous he is (those chubby, highly chompable cheeks don’t hurt, either), but he also happens to be a baby. He may be third in line for the British throne, but the Prince’s daily life isn’t exactly action-packed. Mostly, he poops, and looks at things. There’s a surreal delight to be found in following the sometimes bizarre headlines that result.

Here are 20 milestones that made His Royal Highness’ first year worth celebrating, some of which are distinctly more milestone-y than others. (George, when you’re 13 and grounded for talking back and come across this page after extensively Googling yourself to pass the time, know that a creepy American lady wishes you the best—and she won’t steal you, she promises, so you can tell Interpol that if they ask.)

He Was Maybe Going to Be Twins, But Then He Wasn’t
Early in her pregnancy, the Duchess of Cambridge was hospitalized with a form of severe morning sickness associated with mothers carrying twins and triplets. In reality, Prince George proved to be as spectacular as any three babies combined.

He Was Maybe Going to Be a Leo, But Then He Was a Cancer
George was born right on the cusp of Cancer and Leo, which—if you are the kind of person who cares about that sort of thing—is the sort of thing worth caring about.

He Was Maybe Going to Be Named James, But Then He Wasn’t
During the post-birth fervor leading up to the reveal of the Prince’s name, bookies set the odds for James at 2/1, with George a close second at 5/1. Before George was born, British gamblers bet that the baby would be a girl named Alexandra (7/4).  READ MORE