Working what your momma gave you

Vogue, April 2011

Vogue’s April issue, their annual shape issue, features a piece about dressing to emphasize your height – with a short girl talking about her love of flats and oversize clothing, and a tall girl rhapsodizing about how powerful giant heels make her feel. My first reaction was to scoff. This is revolutionary? I’ve been doing just this for years! (I’m short, and I love oversize sweaters, ballet flats and a certain pair of flat motorcycle boots that I would wear every day if I could.) What a way to state the obvious.

Then I thought about it a little more. On the surface, this seems obvious. Wear what you like, screw common convention about ‘figure flattery’. But, then again, maybe not. Most ladymags stress ways to flatter your figure – but not by making the most of what you have. By telling you the best ways to minimize those hips, create a waist, seem taller or smaller or curvier or straighter. Clothes shopping is tough enough without worrying about how to create a body you don’t actually have.

So the obvious isn’t quite so obvious. And occasionally a bit counter intuitive. See, not only am I short, but I’m hipless. Shaped like a 12-year-old boy is perhaps more apt. So when I try on dresses and skirts with shape, I end up with folds of fabric sticking out awkwardly rather than being gorgeously filled in. And that’s frustrating – there’s a lot of things I can’t wear because of my lack of hips. And I sometimes would love to look a different way. But rather than lament my shape, I’ve learned to live with it. And lately, I’ve been gravitating to fuller, higher-waisted skirts. I still get some shape and get to play with volume, but I’m not imagining body parts that I simply don’t have.

Besides, body ideals have swung from one extreme to the next. In the 1500s, being plump was desirable because it meant you were wealthy enough to eat well. The Victorian Age saw waists whittled by corsets and bottoms emphasized by bustles. In the 1920s, the flapper look called for a small bust and narrow hips. In the ’50s, it was Marilyn Monroe. The ’60s revolved around the gamine – Twiggy, Audrey. The ’90s brought Kate Moss and waif-chic. And now, well, the ideal seems to range from model tall and skinny to athletic to curvy. (Though that whole “real women have curves” thing annoys me – since I’m not curvy, where does that leave me? I do not want to add gender anxiety to my daily routine.) So who’s to say what’s ideal?

Though Vogue champions the same handful of models and a lifestyle comprising designer clothes, perfectly-behaved children and access to personal trainers and facialists, this message of embracing the shape and height you were given is definitely enlightened. And definitely something we can all get behind.

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Libya’s journalist bubble

According to an article in today’s Washington Post, journalists invited to Libya (in a show of feigned openness by the Gaddafi regime) are trapped within a luxury hotel – whirlpool baths inside, guards with guns outside – supposedly for their safety. Their trips are planned ahead of time, and Gaddafi supporters always seem to show up en masse right when the journalists’ bus makes an appearance.

But if Gaddafi locked these foreign journalists in their luxury hotel cage in order to give them a government-mandated view of life in Libya, then his plan seems to be backfiring. His regime might claim it’s for the journalists’ protection from rebels and civilians, but the strict rules in the hotel (journalists can’t even cross the street without a government official) suggest otherwise – that the goal is protecting the government from exposure in foreign media. The most telling example: Journalists who anger the government are shipped out of the country in the middle of the night.

To be honest, the worst thing Gaddafi could do for his regime’s reputation (at least in the media) is lock up the journalists. Nothing screams “violent, controlling dictatorship” like carefully-orchestrated trips to pro-Gaddafi demonstrations and armed guards wrestling civilians out of the hotel. Civilians such as Iman al-Obaidi, who was dragged out while screaming about her rape at the hands of Gaddafi soldiers. Such actions cast the government in a suspicious light (to put it mildly), which diminishes any effect the (possibly staged) demonstrations might have. The best course of action for Gaddafi would have been to let the journalists go where they pleased – then they would have a chance to actually talk to pro-Gaddafi civilians. Instead, this cushy cage reveals more ugly truths about Gaddafi’s regime than simply wandering the streets could. Something is indeed rotten in Libya, and these imprisoned journalists are learning all about it.

Check out the article here: Reporters in Tripoli find it’s a Big Brother world

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Quite possibly the cutest thing ever

Two baby elephants and an elephant-sized kiddie pool. So cute, I might die.

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Big girls need big diamonds

No, that’s not from the song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” though Marilyn was quite convincing. The above is a quote from Elizabeth Taylor, who died yesterday. She was 79. I’ve sadly not seen many of her movies, including classics such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (though I love the play). But she was gorgeous, audacious and taught us all the value of a gigantic, sparkling piece of jewelry. And not just monetary – but how fun it is to wear something huge and sparkly.

There are a lot of obits out there about Ms. Taylor right now. Simon Doonan’s at Slate is my favorite.

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On patience

Impatiens (geddit?)

They say that patience is a virtue, something that must be learned over time and applied to particularly stressful situations or occasions when want tends to overpower any logical thought. They say that good things come to those who wait, that nothing gained easily is worth it, that effort and time matter more than the result. But what authority do they have to deem what is important and what isn’t? I have no patience for proclamations of importance.

They – that ambiguously named source of wisdom – have sayings for everything. And, for the most part, their sayings have become almost dogmatic in today’s society. I have no patience for them. Or they. By means of repetition, they have ultimate authority over virtue and correct behavior. Too bad no one knows who they are. Now they can never be proved wrong. I have no patience for this. Their sayings, their wisdom, their actual existence have become cliché to the extent that children in preschool can rattle off their sayings as easily as the ABCs. Patience must be learned through experience, not rote memorization. Or so they say. I do not have the patience to wait for such experience.

But waiting for something so patiently doesn’t make finally getting that something all the more sweet, no matter what they say. Time spent waiting is time wasted, as nothing can happen during that time other than waiting. Patient people have no problem with wasting time. If time is valuable – as they say, time is money – than willingness to waste time is akin to wasting money. And not even the most patient people want to waste money. Therefore, impatience is a virtue. Or at least a good economic theory.

Impatience is a virtue that promotes selfishness. Patient people do not mind having their time wasted, because they are content to wait. Impatient people are selfish because they do not like their time wasted. Though they might argue that indulging others is the right thing to do – love thy neighbor, etc. – wasting time is something that I have absolutely no patience for. Selfishness is a virtue because it does not tolerate time wasters. And time, as they say, is the most precious gift of all.

In certain circumstances, even the most patient people succumb to selfish impatience. Previously patient patients at the doctor’s office become surly and peevish when told that they have to wait. Apparently, patience is a selective virtue, appearing only when it suits the patient person’s purposes. A virtue that comes when called and disappears once a point is made is not a virtue at all. Impatience is more consistent: an impatient patient expects to be kept waiting at the doctor’s office, and thus does not become more impatient as a result. Swinging from patience to impatience at the first aggravating circumstance is much more emotionally taxing than maintaining a constant level of impatience. Besides, such emotional fits only waste time, and I simply don’t have the patience to deal with them.

Despite what they say, patience is not as virtuous as it seems. Impatience is the new virtue, the new standard of a productive existence. Clearly, they are as outdated as their cache of so-called wise sayings. I would suggest that we spread the word about this new virtue, but frankly, I am too impatient to wait for it catch on.

(I’ve been feeling a bit impatient lately.)

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Update: Breast milk is back

That’s right, folks. After about two weeks of testing the confiscated samples, the Westminster council has given the (gross sounding) Baby Gaga ice cream the go-ahead to return to the Icecreamists shop. And Icecreamists has a new obstacle to surmount: Lady Gaga is threatening to sue the store for attaching part of her name to the icy concoction. Never mind that babies have been saying “ga ga” for who knows how many years.

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Too much publicity


I am sick and tired of Charlie Sheen. First, his show “Two and a Half Men” isn’t funny. Or even good, for that matter. How it managed to stick around all these years is slightly baffling. Second, he has proven himself many times over to be violent, narcissistic, possibly antisemitic and a carrier of foot-in-mouth disease. But he is famous, so his antics/drunken rants/fights with his girlfriends (“goddesses”)/alcohol problem are all fodder for the 24-hour news cycle.

While I understand that celebrity coverage is something of interest to many – even me, though not regarding Sheen – and that it sells papers, the recent constant coverage of Sheen’s increasingly loony activities is doing nothing but encouraging his behavior. Even when the articles are negative. Just look at his newly-acquired Twitter followers. You don’t get 1 million followers in just over a day without a massive media blitz backing you up. I understand how the nonsensical ramblings of this unhinged TV star could be entertaining, in a shaudenfreude type of way. But really, Sheen needs help, not more attention. That just prompts him to keep doing what he’s doing, for, apparently, it works.

Who was it that said all publicity is good publicity? They need to be smacked.

The same thing is happening with the recent coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, to picket military funerals. The church protests funerals not because it is anti-war, but because it feels that every military death is part of God’s revenge on America for its acceptance of homosexuality. The Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Church is protected under the First Amendment’s right to free speech, and is free to continue protesting, as long as the group doesn’t disrupt the funeral.

I don’t disagree with this decision. The Westboro Baptist Church’s message is hateful and despicable, but they have the right to protest peacefully, as does every other American. Our country was built on this right to free speech. There is a saying: “I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” (Any ideas on where that came from? I’ve always liked it.) In other countries, speech much less vitriolic and hateful would lead to imprisonment or death. Though it would be great to remove the Westboro Church from the streets, doing so would jeopradize everyone’s right to express his/herself.

But that does not mean the Westboro Church has to remain in the news for so long or be the subject of such extensive commentary. Yes, the case is noteworthy because all (or most) of the Supreme Court’s cases are noteworthy. But enough with the coverage, please. More attention just galvanizes the Westboro Church to step up their game. The best plan of attack to get the Church to leave? Ignore them. Without controversy to feed on, the group will disappear.

So, I call for a moratorium on coverage of Charlie Sheen, the Westboro Church and any other person or group acting stupidly. Without attention, they’ll just fade into the background. Starting now – I know that by even writing this piece, I am adding to the coverage and the attention. Sigh. None of us are immune.

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