Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ask Polly: How to Be Nice

lizHi Polly,

One of the goals I have set for myself this year is to be a kinder person: more supportive and forgiving of my friends, more friendly and open to people I've just met, more approachable and compassionate with strangers. The problem is that this is a huge struggle because I am not naturally compassionate with people I don't already like.

I have two reasons for wanting to be kinder: to ~make the world a better place~ in an abstract karmic kind of way, and also (this one is selfish) to fight against my depression, defensiveness, and general negative attitude toward life by opening myself up to more experiences. The first one is all well and good, but it's not such an immediate motivating force, and the second one has its own built-in issues. When you're already sensitive to the thought that people won't like you, any small "no" and any negative aspect to a person makes you shrink away and turn your back preemptively.

Both my parents have very negative personalities and apparently deal with it in one of two ways: by sinking into a nasty, angry depression-pit or by maintaining iron control of everyone and denying that anything is wrong while things melt down around them. They had an acrimonious divorce about 10 years ago, when I was in middle school, and things are still raw. Being seven years older than my younger sister, I became her advocate and protector, and also tried to smooth things over between my parents wherever I could. I have definitely learned a lot of criticism from them, both of myself and of everyone else.  READ MORE


Ask Baba Yaga: How Do I Overcome the Intense Insecurity I Feel Around My Best Friend?

don't doubt urself girl

Transcript after the jump. READ MORE


You Are, Was, and Always Will Be Pussy Control

"i love you and want you to be happy" -princeHere's a good Times op-ed from last Friday about the contemporary battle over school dress codes, in which "girls, particularly those with ample hips or breasts, are almost exclusively singled out, typically told their outfits will 'distract boys.' As if young men cannot control themselves in the presence of a spaghetti strap." Peggy Orenstein writes:

Addressing leering or harassment will challenge young men’s assumptions. Imposing purdah on middle school girls does the opposite.

Yes! Oh no, here it comes.

Even so, while women are not responsible for male misbehavior, and while no amount of dress (or undress) will avert catcalls, cultural change can be glacial, and I have a child trying to wend her way safely through our city streets right now. [...] More than that, taking on the right to bare arms (and legs, and cleavage and midriffs) as a feminist rallying cry seems suspiciously Orwellian. 

Emphasis mine. I find nothing Orwellian about chasing and claiming the right to bare anything you want. I also find myself consistently irritated at any suspicion, leveled with any intentions, from any perspective, at what a woman wants to or doesn't want to wear. Who cares? Why care in any way that's not to celebrate? Who even has the energy?

Girlhood is too sexualized, cautions Orenstein; sure, yes, I've seen the baby shirts that say "Future Hooters Girl," I saw that press release last week suggesting I share with Hairpin readers that girls should start waxing their eyebrows at age 11 (??). But I never wore all the gross glitter-bin thongs I shoplifted in middle school anyway, and to automatically equate wearing tight or skimpy clothing with "embracing sexualization" or "stressing self-presentation over self-knowledge"—two phrases from this column—is to make the exact, violent theoretical mistake promulgated by men who'd say she was asking for it. It's a conflation of intent and potential consequence in a very particular arena where the two things have often been divorced for young women by others from the second they realized they had a gendered body at all. I'd suggest that most of these middle-school girls are not fighting for their right to embrace sexualization; they're fighting for their right to count it as optional, and all of the individual potentialities that will follow.  READ MORE


Yung Lean, "Yoshi City"

I find it much easier to listen to Yung Lean, also known as Swedish 17-year-old rapper Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, than to watch him try to maximize his sadboy swagger on a hook like "I'm a lonely cloud with my windows down." But it is a fascinating thing to watch nonetheless, and the lava-lamp-on-fast-forward synth line that guards this track is great.


See What Surprises K-Y® Had in Store for These Couples

As the weather heats up, so can your romance both in and out of the bedroom. Check out this K-Y® video which features a candid look at unsuspecting New York couples as they discover how to take everyday moments and turn them into something more intimate. Try not to grab a tissue when you see how cute their reactions are to a special surprise from K-Y®!

For more tips on how you can turn this summer into the most romantic (and sexiest!) season of the year, head over to www.facebook.com/kycouples.

This story is brought to you by K-Y.


Alternative Anne Geddes Babies

Nestle your baby in a taco shell, then drizzle him or her with shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, and a light chopped lettuce garnish. (Note: If you only have soft tortillas on hand, feel free to try out Burrito Baby. Supplement with rice, but don’t let your baby eat any. He really doesn’t need the extra carbs.)

Your Baby Peeking Out of a Mason Jar
Pinterest is going to fucking implode.

Vodka Watermelon Baby
We’ve all seen the standard photo of a baby sleeping peacefully in a watermelon1. Bo-ring! Plug a bottle of vodka in that watermelon—bonus points if you put a vodka nip in each of your baby’s tiny hands.

The Disney Princesses Reimagined as Your Baby
Who gives a shit if the Disney princesses uphold racial stereotypes and present a regressive message to highly impressionable young girls?

Mother and Child
A beautiful black and white portrait of you and your baby cuddling, both sobbing heavily.  READ MORE


It's the Anniversary of Susan B. Anthony's "Illegal" Vote

Susan Baddest Bitch AnthonyAlong with 13 other women, Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for voting in the 1872 election; she didn't pay. The most famous part of the speech that followed this incident in 1873 is this, I think: "It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union." But I love the part where she claps back the hardest (ETA, her accepted oligarchies very much aside): 

To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.

Etc, etc, etc.


The Free, Beautiful $4/Day SNAP Cookbook

woooLeanne Brown is a food studies student at NYU who's written a cookbook designed for people on the $4 per day SNAP budget, with great-looking meals that can be made from non-fancy and easily available ingredients. She's posted it online for free reading and download, if you'd like to take a look; she's also running a Kickstarter to produce print copies for donation and cheap sale, and she's now surpassed her goal three times over on the schema of "buy one book for $25 and I'll donate a free copy to someone who needs it."

If you know a nonprofit organization that would benefit from receiving these books, they can apply here. I have read through the whole thing in the interest of *~*responsible blogging*~* and also me never not having to look at food pictures, and let me say, the "Things on Toast" section is really my kind of animal. [Good and Cheap]


On Monday I linked to the first piece in Pam Belluck's two-part series on maternal mental illness; the second piece, "Case Study," has a last line that will stay with you for a very long time. | June 18, 2014


Lana Del Rey, "Shades of Cool"

This is the song that comes at the "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" portion of the Lana Del Rey time-travel space-travel musical; this is the song that she, twirling Maria, sings over the dead body of her Tony with blank and sparkling eyes. This is one of my favorites off her album, anyway!

More new stuff: How To Dress Well's What Is This Heart?, now streaming in full.


162 New Emoji We Need Right Now

PRAISE HANNNNNS"The Unicode Consortium — the organization that sets the standards for the near-omnipresent icons we know as emoji — announced Monday afternoon that it will be releasing a new batch of images in its latest 7.0 update." 162 suggestions follow.

Middle finger
Fingers crossed
A-cup boobs
B-cup boobs
C-cup boobs
D-cup boobs
DD-cup boobs
Small butt
Large butt
Smiley making “Miley face”
Smiley with eggplants for eyes
Smiley with dollar-sign eyes
Smiley with bulging cheeks
Lip-biting smiley
Brown-skinned woman with one hand raised
Brown-skinned woman wearing crown
Brown-skinned woman with two hands above head
Brown-skinned woman with arms in “x” shape
Brown-skinned woman getting head massage
Brown-skinned woman with scissors near hair
Brown-skinned hand getting nails polished
Brown-skinned dancing lady in a dress
Brown-skinned dancing man in a dress
Brown-skinned bride
Brown-skinned couple
Brown-skinned angel
Brown-skinned baby
Devil baby
Brown-skinned grandpa
Brown-skinned grandma
Mixed-race couple
Mixed-race family
Two men with heart between them
Two women with heart between them
Hair flip
French braid
Fishtail braid
White bearded man
Beard (on its own)
Madonna cross
Marijuana leaf
Birth control packet  READ MORE


Mad Libs: New York Times Real Estate Edition 

FinallyInspired by the "The Hunt."

After 18 months in a Hell's Kitchen sublet where the doorman charmed but the dining options were largely "unsuitable now that I've committed to a ketogenic Jainist nut-free vegetarian lifestyle," [name of special person A] and her spouse [name of special person B] were ready for a change.

[Special person A] took an [unbelievable number of weeks] paid leave from her job as a performance art archivist and digital [string of four arbitrary letters that suggest a marketing-related acronym] strategist to commit to the search. "It was scary," she whispered, "My apartment was well below market rate at $8,000 a month—how was I going to find what I needed on such a limited budget? But I grabbed my [obscure brand of staggeringly expensive handbag] and started pounding the pavement—well, if riding shotgun in my realtor's vintage Aston Martin counts," she chortled musically.

Realtor Fabiana Chambray-Shantung led [special person A] through the sometimes harrowing search with gentle reassurance and liberal servings of [artisanal fermented beverage]. "I feel strongly that my clients need [therapeutic modality] as much as [practical skill]," she said. "I mean, these days [name of hilariously overpriced vacation community you're dimly aware of] is the new [name of enclave of entrenched exurban wealth you're totally bored by]—it's a jungle out there!"

Fearing the worst, [special person A] winnowed down her list of non-negotiable amenities, leaving only the items necessary to alleviate her [name of fictitious auto-immune disorder]. Among them: locally sourced sisal wall coverings, white suede floors, sinks carved from fossilized ivory and a location convenient to an artesian aquifer, from which water is piped into the apartment via hand-blown glass tubes fashioned by the Inuit craftspeople of NunatuKavut.

The budget was around [largest amount of money you can possibly comprehend, plus $14,000]READ MORE

Four (And One) Items I Regretted Wearing to My First Job

It started with my interview, to which I wore a "nice" black T-shirt, jeans, and sparkly sandals that I borrowed from a friend of mine named Lessie. I was 22 years old and had no idea what I was doing.


In my defense, at the time I didn’t realize it was a proper interview; I thought I was just meeting up with someone to talk about a potential position.

But it was a proper interview, and fortunately it was with a lovely man, a distant connection of Lessie’s mom. Although he was the C.O.O. of the company, and wore a suit to work every day, he was generous enough to overlook my totally inappropriate attire. During our meeting he asked me what I was reading, and thank god it was something respectably interesting (I still remember: Out of Egypt, by André Aciman, which had been recommended to me by my brother).

During my first week at the job, my new colleagues took me out to lunch. It was August and plenty hot out, and I was wearing a top I considered cool—it was made of a mesh-like material, bright orange, and sleeveless, with an asymmetrical seam across the front. The kind of top you might wear to a party, but definitely, definitely not to work. I actually still have it and still like it, but when I think of wearing it to work, it makes me cringe. READ MORE


Their Bodies, Ourselves


Three bodiesBrittney Griner, lofty, powerful, with spiritually level shoulders; Laura Blears, ukulele-curved, lit forever by fading ‘70s sun; and AJ Lee, muscle-knit, compact, petite in pink-laced Converse. These bodies aren’t just material. They’re also conceptual. Even if those concepts often manifest as simply “She’s hot” or “She’s a dude.”

In 1975, ABC Sports broadcast a women-only version of Superstars, their popular competition show in which elite athletes from various sports fired against one another in a provisional decathlon that included bowling, swimming, tennis, softball, bicycling, and rowing. Looking back at a spectacle where daredevil motorcyclist Debbie Lawler wore a flaming orange bra for luck“I’m just here to add glamour to the rear,” she said, finishing with zero points; where Barbara O’Brien, signal-caller for the Dallas Bluebonnets, threatened to throw olives at the head of her main competitor; and where Laura Blears, Playboy-posing surfer who arrived wearing the Hawaiian flag, rowed so forcefully her yellow rowboat broke more than once, while beside her on the lake Wyomia Tyus slashed a buoy with her oar and Billie Jean King floated in aimless eights, the thing that really stands out is something mundane. The sparse writing about the event inevitably focuses on a) the bodies of the women involved and b) the weight of the spectacle on the male ego. And that can’t just be attributed to the fact that this event happened in the 1970s. In 2014, according to an Associated Press report, 90% of sports editors are white and 90% are male.

Fluorescent bras, cocktail-party cat fights, goddesses flailing in defective rowboatsthese were the bobs and weaves of a network that thought quite primitively of its audience. Marilynn Preston of the Chicago Tribune said about the event, “ABC only gets its kicks when the girls look like fools.” That’s not to say these women weren’t aware of what and how they were performing. Sometimes outré ladies, like Elektra Natchios in the make-believe world or the late and marvelous Florence Joyner in the real one, which is no less bizarre, have to live inside an alter ego’s body.

spankyAround the same year as that episode of Superstars, the All American Red Heads, a trailblazing, barnstorming women’s basketball team, were playing exhibition games in high school gyms, small-town hippodromes, circus rooms, and ragtag arenas across the country. In one of their gags, which occasionally punctuated their high-level basketball games, a comedian in the group who went by Spanky Losier would pretend a man had pinched her butt and begin to wail about “a very personal foul.”

For these women, whose image had been siphoned into the wavy, gracious silhouette of the girl next doorhenna hair dye a sort of cherry on topthis was a moment in which their bodies could be made or broken. They were banned from using foul language, drinking, and smoking when in (short-shorted, red-and-white satin) uniform, but yet they were in front of gyms filled with families, drawing attention to their derrieres. And, probably because it was not being covered by a network––the Red Heads, figuratively and occasionally literally, drove their own novelty bustheir primary draw was not seen as sexual. The All American Red Heads were closer to Buster Keaton, or the Keystone Cops: acts that, in most normal circumstances, would not be considered titillating. A Life Magazine writer was talking about the quality of their basketball when he called the Red Heads “female muscle pitted seriously against male muscle,” but they represented this fight, conceptually, at large.

On Christmas Day 1973, the Red Heads, at a motel in Joplin, put up a small cedar and festooned it with shaving cream. This was a private party in a plain room, but the performance went on just the same. Beside their Charlie Brown Christmas tree, they had an improvised Miss America contest, lyric dancing and winking and waving, and ultimately chose their “hook-shot artist” Lynette Sjoquist as winner. They gave her a pickle, and then later, singing carols, the whole team drank Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola. This was how they privately performed in their bodies, and one thing is important to note: It’s not so different from their theatrics on the court.

Why do the All American Red Heads seem to live in a light separate from that of the Superstars? And from that of high-profile female athletes today––let’s say Dara Torres or Maria Sharapova or Lolo Jones? The female athlete’s body is muddied as it is mythologized. But the Red Heads managed to skip the first part: they made their own rad communal rules in a way individual female athletes, pitted against one another, can’t do. READ MORE


Mavis Staples on "The Weight"

I have a tendency, which I think is good, to just sing from my heart. I want to feel it myself. Pops taught me that, to sing from my heart. I can’t just sing from the top of my head. I gotta get into the song. I see it like a movie, in my head, when I’m singing. I got Chester, I know what he looks like. And when Pops says, “Go down, Moses,” I know Moses. I took it as Moses in the Bible, you know. I just make up my own vision to make the song feel good for me, and make it my own.

Elon Green talked to the great Mavis Staples about her Last Waltz performance of "The Weight," filmed by Martin Scorcese on a soundstage after the 1976 concert. At the very end of the clip, as Elon notes, you see Mavis mouth the word, "Beautiful": "It wasn’t rehearsed to go like that," she says. "It was just a feeling that brought that on." [TNY]