Friday, October 24, 2014


A Conversation Among Me, Katy Perry, and Sylvia Plath on Birthdays


Editor's note: You may want to read this and this to get it, but, then again, there's nothing to really get.

Me: Hi, you guys! Thank you so much for coming today! I just got some really great advice from Taylor Swift and Langston Hughes about being 22, but my 23rd birthday is on Saturday, and... I don't know, I just really hate birthdays. So I figured I'd talk to you two, since all of our birthdays are so close together! #TeamScorpio! #TeamSexy! #TeamJealousObsessiveSuspiciousManipulativeAndUnyielding!!!! But anyway, birthdays: I just don't like the attention; I feel like it's undeserved. Am I being crazy?

Katy Perry, bouncily: I heard you're feeling nothing's going right.

Me: It's not that nothing is going right, I just feel silly for making a big deal out of my birthday. People should celebrate things that they do, not just things that happen to them.

Katy Perry, alluringly: Why don't you let me stop by? I hope you got a healthy appetite.

Me: I do. The only gifts I asked for were "various cakes." READ MORE


Pins & Needles, "Runaway and Hide"

I saw Pins & Needles perform at the Rookie Yearbook 3 launch party last night, and they were amazing. Tempted to make them the official Hairpin band; formally suggesting they change their name to "Hairpins & Needles;" just an idea, no pressure.


What to Wear at Fancy Halloween Parties

Halloween – hornet The sexy Halloween costume is tyranny; it is irony without attendance. Sexy Halloween costume, I decry you. This Halloween, I humbly submit that we take our costume cues from a simpler, less brazenly sexy time: Arden Holt’s Fancy Dresses Described; or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls, already through five editions in 1887. This volume has suggestions for everybody: “brunes,” fair women, history enthusiasts, elderly ladies, and even gentlemen. Here are some selections of fancy dresses:


Ghosts Of My Youth


The first ghost story I ever heard was from my mother. She described how once, while sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in her sister’s house, she woke to the feeling of twin icicles curling around her ankles. They were hands, but she didn’t see a body, exactly. More like an abstract interpretation of a body, female, crouched at the foot of the bed. It yanked once, hard, and she opened her pink teenaged mouth and screamed, causing it to let go and vanish. The details shift uneasily when she retells this story—sometimes there is a horrible, unseasonal rainstorm beating the roof, sometimes she is 15, or 17. But these two details remain the same: The bed belonged a dead woman and she never went into that portion of the house again.

There's a lot of paranormal activity in my family. Whether it is more than most other families is hard to say, but we seem to have more than most. During holidays and family events, after the adults wander into the kitchen to drink coffee or head off to bed, us cousins gather in some remote part of the house and talk about the things that go bump in the night. These are our heirlooms, a series of signals and omens that help us make sense of each other and our shared family history, which is by turns strange, mysterious and murky. These stories open up a portal to the parts of life that don’t seem to make much sense but as still just as real as the rest of it. Over the years, I've come to realize that sometimes a ghost isn't always a ghost. Sometimes, telling a ghost story is a way to talk about something else present in the air, taking up space beside you. It can also be a manifestation of intuition, or something you’ve known in your bones but haven’t yet been able to accept. But sometimes a ghost is exactly what it is—a seriously fucking scary spirit. READ MORE

To Sleep, Perchance to Scream

3183441468_cee34f5695_zAt three in the afternoon when my daughter was about four weeks old, I hit a wall. With my fist, though not very hard, because I was trying to be as quiet as possible. Another day that week, I went into the bathroom, all the lights turned off, and screamed into a towel. Again, I didn't want to make very much noise, because my four-week-old daughter was "sleeping."

There are lots of tiny and useless nuggets of wisdom parents-to-be are given. My favorite is: "Sleep when your baby sleeps." But in the early days, she was never clearly sleeping, and any moment of silence from her corridor meant that we would panic, absolutely sure that she hadn't SIDsed out on us. It was unclear what exactly she was doing for those twenty hours a day when she was supposedly asleep. She was noisy. So noisy. At night, she lay in her bassinet beside our bed, squawking and snorting like a young dinosaur. So I never slept. After ten or maybe fewer minutes of "rest" of my own, I'd sit up and peek over at her. If her eyes were closed when I looked, her preternatural senses alerted her that I was near and they'd fly open to make contact with mine. I'd try to feed her, change her diaper, reswaddle her. But by then she was fully awake. I'd walk her little burritoed body around, pacing, watching my husband not sleep, or sometimes, he'd do the walking while I sat there, miserable and terrified.

That's another great bit of advice: Parents should "take turns" or "do shifts." But every situation we encountered seemed like an emergency. She'd be crying in the bassinet next to us; she'd just lay there, wide awake, watching us; she'd need a diaper change. We'd get out the supplies, lay her on a tarp on the bed, get a thousand wipes, clean her up, put on a new diaper, swaddle her, then pick her up, only to hear the undeniable sounds of her having another bowel movement. I, the mother, who is expected to be gifted with a sense of what my baby needed, had no idea: Was she hungry? Tired? Too wet? Sick? Too dry? I was stuck in a constant and mindless cycle of trying literally anything to get her to sleep. READ MORE


Ask Baba Yaga: Should I Move to a New City?

feast 0001 Transcript after the jump. READ MORE


the-beheld_man's woman woman's woman definition

Maybe we learn the most about the “man’s woman” and the “woman’s woman” when we look at the only thing that each of the varying definitions of the terms has in common: a belief that there’s something men want, and something women want—and ne’er the twain shall meet. It’s uncomfortable from a gender-binary perspective, naturally. But it’s just as uncomfortable from where I’m sitting, as someone who firmly identifies as female and who has plenty of traits associated with femininity. For whenever I’ve tried to puzzle out which camp I might belong in, neither one has felt satisfying. The “man’s woman” and the “woman’s woman” are each reactors, not actors in and of themselves. Each of these women fills the needs of others, even the heroic sort of “woman’s woman” who inspires other women—she’s still cast in the terms of others’ needs, not her own.

As always, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano knows just how to respond to seemingly-impossible questions of gender, taste, categories, and celebrity.
| October 23, 2014


2-4-6-8, Who Do We Appreciate? Donna Tartt.

Bless Nicole Cliffe for bringing this to my attention:

The year I was a freshman cheerleader I was reading 1984. I was fourteen years old then and failing algebra and the fact that I was failing it worried me as I would worry now if the Mafia were after me, or if I had shot somebody and the police were coming to get me. But I did not have an awful lot of time to brood about this. It was basketball season then, and there was a game nearly every night. In Mississippi the schools are far apart, and sometimes we would have to drive two hundred miles to get to Panola Academy, Sharkey-Issaquena, funny how those old names come back to me; we'd leave sometimes before school was out, not get home till twelve or one in the morning. I was not an energetic teenager, and this was hard on me.

That's Donna Tartt, in the April 1994 issue of Harpers' Magazine, writing about her time as a cheerleader for her high school basketball team. The whole thing is, predictably, perfect, but there was something about this section that I really can't stop thinking about: READ MORE


Kanye West: Rapper, Father, Norwegian Rock Enthusiast



Bow Down, Witches: The Beyoncé Jack-o-Lantern of Your Dreams


All of us need to check in with ourselves about our Yonce-worship practices occasionally. Have you sung Bey’s praises lately? Have you updated your personal altar with a fresh candle or worked on your Everything Beyonce Pinterest page? Have you seen this brilliant gourd-based tribute to Her Greatness and thought, “If only I had an MFA and an extra set of thumbs?”

We’re here to help. As great minds in Williamsburg put their skills to work, we in Chicago have been busy brewing up the perfect how-to.


The Witch In All Of Us

gracie lou freebush and satine
When I was 12 I cast a spell on my mom so she’d let me to go my friend Seth’s Bar Mitzvah. It was from The Good Spell Book, which I found in the sale bin at Barnes & Noble, and even though a few pages had been ripped out it still had instructions on how to bend someone to your will. I sat on the floor of my uncle’s old bedroom in my grandparents’ house, with a pink ribbon and a candle and some sort of scented oil and made my Intentions clear to whoever was listening. A few weeks later, she relented and said she’d send me on a bus back early from our beach vacation to go to the Bar Mitzvah, but by that point I felt too guilty about everything I had done to take her up on it. READ MORE

My Day Interviewing For The Service Economy Startup From Hell

HandyI was running to the interview, worried I’d get there late. My temp job was over as of a few days prior. Rent was due at the end of the month, and I needed a new source of income, fast. I was sending out multiple applications per day and I finally had a bite.

A new start-up company called Handybook called me quickly after I hit submit on their online application. I breezed through a phone interview and was invited to interview in person for a Customer Experience Associate position the very next day. Although it wasn't an ideal job, and I wasn’t sure how much it paid, it did promise full-time, steady employment and a standard benefits package—exactly what I needed to get by.

Sweaty and out of breath, I got to Handybook’s Chelsea offices moments before my scheduled interview time. I navigated my way through narrow hallways until I reached a nondescript door, and opened it to reveal around 15 employees at their desks, who all looked up in surprise at my intrusion.

"I’m here for an interview?" I smiled into the office space, trying not to feel uncomfortable by everyone sizing me up at once. Someone went to find the interviewer and I perched on a battered couch to wait.

The office was like a cliché of a start-up company: Everyone was wearing T-shirts and jeans, typing away on laptops and iMacs. The space was cramped and smelled vaguely like pod coffee, cleaning solution, and sweat. Every wall was a whiteboard full of cryptic notes and doodles.

Finally, Lindsay* came to get me, and we walked through a cluster of shelving and into a window-filled conference room with a long table and chairs. A LEGO set took up one end of the table and the walls were covered in more white boards. READ MORE


Writers Writing About Writers (and Musicians, and Artists, and and)

9781558618671 I was in New York a few weeks ago and I did something truly outrageous—I walked into my favorite bookstore, turned to Anna, and was like, "I'm only allowed to buy one book, ok?", and then actually bought only one book. I hope you can appreciate the magnitude of this event because it has, quite literally, never happened before and will probably never happen again. READ MORE


Nicki Won't Take Your Shit

Nicki, 31, grew up in Queens and attended LaGuardia, the high school from Fame. She says her father once tried to burn down her house while her mother was inside. She did odd jobs after school: She was a customer-service rep for a while, but that didn't go great. "I like dealing with people, but I don't really like a lot of bullshit, so maybe customer service wasn't the best job for me." She was fired from a waitressing job at a Red Lobster after she followed a couple who had taken her pen into the parking lot and then flipped them the bird. I asked her if it was a special pen. "No," she said. "It was the principle."

The principle, the pickle juice — Nicki is a model for us all when it comes to Not Accepting Bullshit, especially with the author of your magazine profile tries to insert subtext in your art where there is none. On the video for "Anaconda":

"I don't know what there is to really talk about," she says. "I'm being serious. I just see the video as being a normal video."

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


The Five Boro Cemetery Tour

Uptown Trinity Church Cemetery
Valentine Sillcocks is a ghost. He lives in the uptown Trinity Church Cemetery, on Broadway between 153rd and 155th Streets, high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Through a cluster of creaking maples he can just make out the eastern tower of the George Washington Bridge, which opened in 1931, the same year he was buried at the age of 43.

Valentine Sillcocks was a real person before he became a ghost. His name is etched in a piece of granite that marks the spot where he was laid to rest. His family included a silk hat maker, which may or may not have been Valentine himself.

Valentine Sillcocks, in truth, may or may not be a ghost, depending on whether you believe in ghosts in the first place, and, if you do, on your particular theory of how a ghost is born. This detailed explanation from the Spiritual Science Research Foundation, which refers to things like “subtle-sorcerers” and simultaneously uses the word “science” in its name, explains that a person might become a ghost if she has “many unfulfilled desires” or “personality defects, such as anger, fear, greed.” Meaning I’ll definitely be meeting Val in the afterlife. I kid here, because I don’t believe in ghosts. But then again, I really can’t know for sure. READ MORE