A Pleasant Surprise

About 6 years ago I fell in love with an Australian pop band called Taxiride. I had "Imaginate," their first (only?) US release, and I listened to it constantly for months. Their music at the time fell somewhere between "boy band" and Crosby Stills & Nash, unapologetically poppy and singable and inexplicably earthy in a way that the US boy bands weren't. It was the soundtrack to my summer, and there wasn't a single track on "Imaginate" that I skipped over once the CD was in my player. Eventually, when I started dating a music snob, I put the album away and lost track of it-- and until this morning, I'd completely forgotten the band existed. Something triggered my memory and I decided to search for them on YouTube, where I watched several music videos and rediscovered some songs that kept me buoyant and singing for hours the summer after my first year of college. It's like I found an old friend, and it seems the band has only gotten better with time.

Posted byMJ at 1:11 PM 0 comments  

At least it's easy to tell he's still breathing, right?

I'm writing a blog post at 4:30 in the ding-danged morning, because my night has been ten kinds of all-wrong.

First, I decided it would be a good idea to go to bed at 10:30 last night. I was sleepy; it seemed like a good idea to go to bed, even if it was a smidge early. I woke up a couple of times before Mark came to bed-- the last time I looked at the clock, it was 1:30 and he was still up. I don't know when he finally came to bed, but I awakened at 3:oo to the music of his snoring (which I can still hear from down the hall and behind our closed bedroom door). I shook him a little and asked him to roll over, and he sat up and smiled dreamily at me and told me he loved me. He rolled over and I had peace and quiet for about 20 minutes, just long enough for me to get almost back to sleep, and then he rolled onto his back and commenced the low rumbling in the back of his throat that eventually progressed to the full-on lusty manly-man snore that finally drove me out of the bed. (To be fair, he doesn't usually snore-- the glorious advent of spring is giving us both sinus problems, and his have manifested as a maddening snore-fest.)

Now that I'm up, thanks to having gone to bed so early, I have no hope of getting back to sleep, and since I'll be feeding the animals in an hour and a half anyway it hardly seems worth it to go lie awake in bed listening to Mark's voluble snot-gargling. But what the heck is there to do at 4:30 in the morning? I guess I could study for my Geographic Information Science final-- that should put me right to sleep.

Posted byMJ at 4:34 AM 0 comments  

Clinton does seem totally fabulous, though

I have a love/hate realtionship with TLC's What Not to Wear.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show's premise, it goes like this: a friend or family member nominates someone (usually a woman) whose fashion sense could use a little fine-tuning. The show arranges to film the nominee for two weeks, cataloging her crimes against fashion. At the end of the two weeks, the unsuspecting victim is ambushed in a public place by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, the stylist-hosts, who inform her that they will give her $5,000 for a whole new wardrobe if she spends a week at the WNTW studio in New York learning new fashion rules. Oh, and she has to bring her entire current wardrobe for them to pick through, make fun of, and throw away. The nominees usually express their shock by a) laughing nervously, b) getting angry at the people who did the nominating, or c) crying. Once a nominee accepts, the typical reality TV humliations ensue, including a viewing of the secret footage with each victim's friends/family/coworkers, an unflattering modeling session in a 360 degree mirror, and a sarcastic (sometimes downright mean) critique of her clothing by Clinton and Stacy.

Now, I'm no fan of reality TV, and in addition to all the sins of that particular genre, WNTW commits a few additional crimes against women that get my feminist knickers in a twist. Predictably, the show works hard at reinforcing gender roles, encouraging women who dress in shapeless, baggy clothes to dress "more feminine" and incorporate such fashion staples as skirts and high heels into their ensembles. The final segment of the fashion makeover includes a new haircut by brilliant hairstylist Nick Arrojo and a lesson in makeup from makeup artist Carmindy.

I'm embarrassed that I didn't even have to look up their names.

So let's start with the obvious: I find it offensive that the entire show exists solely to help women be prettier. (Granted, they have given fashion makeovers to men, too, but they represent only a tiny fraction of a fraction of the total number of shows. This, as all women know, is due in large part to the fact that our worth as people is very often judged solely by our hotness, whereas men can be both ugly and poorly-dressed without anyone concluding that they must be deranged/incompetent/negligent.) They harp on the ideas of "lengthening the line of the leg" and "creating an hourglass shape," carefully showing self-conscious women how to create the illusion of a silhouette they don't actually have. Clinton and Stacy blatantly work to reinforce this idea that there is a "right" shape is for a woman's body.

They also advance the notion that there are right and wrong ways of dressing-- some women dress in styles that are "too young," some dress "too old," and some are just plain "trashy." While I can respect the idea of work-appropriate wear, sometimes the descriptions of the offending wardrobes-- "trashy," "slutty," etc.-- grate on my nerves.

But they don't get everything wrong: Stacy and Clinton are very good about emphasizing that each woman should dress the body she has, take care of herself now instead of beating herself up for not fitting into the right size jeans. They help women realize that they can look beatiful in flattering clothes that fit, no matter what their measurements, and that's the thing that I love most about the show. Just the other night, I watched an episode in which a lovely young mother wept at the end of her makeover, saying, "I never thought of myself as an attractive person before this show." Those episodes always make me cry; I can't help but be moved by the sight of a woman who has realized she is beautiful even though her body doesn't fit into a size 2.

I guess my ambivalence about the show stems from the fact that it encapsulates the contradictions inherent in our social concept of what it means to be a woman. We are encouraged to "accept" our bodies and ourselves, but if our looks really don't matter, why should we care about whether the rise in our jeans is too low or high, or whether our structured jackets create a nice narrow waist? There is this strange emphasis on makeup looking "natural," keeping the colors soft and believable, but if "natural" is so good, why do we have to paint our faces in the first place? The average woman in our society is a walking contradiction. We've been socialized to believe that we don't look good enough without makeup, but also that vanity is unbecoming; as a result, we obsess over our faces and paint them meticulously, but we cannot allow ourselves to be seen doing this lest someone think we're too self-absorbed.

These things make me angry because, although I can recognize and criticize the things I find wrong with the system, I still exist inside it. I think the whole idea of makeup is absurd, but I still wear it when I want to look nice. I think high heels are ridiculous, but you can rest assured that I'll wear them to my next job interview. I'm irritated by fashion, but I know I won't be taken seriously if I don't look "put-together." It's a maddening circle, and it's the reason that a show like What Not to Wear both entertains and infuriates me.

Posted byMJ at 1:22 PM 2 comments  

Academic Guidance

"I have to stop procrastinating! Tell me to do my homework."

"Do your homework."

"Don't tell me what to do."

Posted byMJ at 11:59 AM 0 comments  

Late, as usual.

Did you know that yesterday was International Women's Day? I didn't find out until late last night, when I was too tired (lazy) to write something in honor of it.

In the spirit of "better late than never," I am now going to continue with my laziness by linking to a very interesting list rather than writing anything thought-provoking myself. With that, I give you Andrea Rubenstein's "'Check my what?' On privilege and what we can do about it."

Posted byMJ at 11:30 AM 0 comments  

The pleasure, I'm sure, is all yours.

Hi! I'm Molly, and I have a blog!

I've been blogging someplace or another since 1999, and every now and then I get a hankerin' to start fresh someplace new. This would be the newest of my new leaves.

When my husband saw the title of this blog, he said, "You do not spend that much time in the kitchen."

Posted byMJ at 7:09 PM 0 comments