Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lessons learned

Do not read work-related email near midnight. Why not? Because if you do, the caffeine from the previous day will somehow hit you around 4am, and you'll wake up compelled to write down your most articulate ever thoughts on anti-Semitism... or so those thoughts will seem at 4am. They will seem very obviously unedited and middle-of-the-night the following day. Sleep - and editing! - helped the end result. Please, entire internet, tell me why I'm wrong about Israel, in response to a post that isn't even really about Israel. I know it's coming. I'd say I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but I think the reason I'm exhausted has more to do with the lack of sleep.

Or, if you are going to do this, do not also make plans to go running in the evening. Or... maybe do? This at least meant being definitively offline the moment it went online, in nature with friends, not at the computer, passively awaiting the blood-pressure-fest. In any case, whatever comes of my writing future, I know this much: I will need to alternate between topics I care deeply about (and that others think I'm WRONG about) and topics that I care in a less deep way about (and that others think are too frivolous to be written about at all).

Monday, August 25, 2014


I've been semi-following that controversy over a professor denied a job over some euphemistic anti-Zionism on Twitter. (WWPD is for that which is not yet fully thought through, so that you, my dear commenters, can tell me why I'm wrong.) The internet's various reasonables (including a WWPD reader or two) pointed out that you can very well be opposed to the retraction of an academic job offer over tweets and strongly disagree with the content of the tweets themselves. Which I agreed with - 'liked' even - at the time, because I tend to go along with defend-your-right-to-say-it arguments.

And I do still fundamentally agree. But I was reading Moebius Stripper's tweets on the subject, and got to thinking: Academic freedom sounds noble - like a self-evident subset of free speech that all right-thinking people would not only support in the nodding-along abstract but storm the barricades to defend. But - as Moebius points out - this freedom a) is a bit of a stretch when it applies to speech outside the speaker's academic area, and b) does not carry over to those outside academia, whose offensive ramblings may also not impede their job performance, but who may be fired for relatively uncontroversial behavior all the same. Moebius Stripper... makes a good point.

My inclination is still to support more free speech for all. Including the right to tweet iffy anti-Zionist ramblings and still keep one's job as a professor or - to stick with Moebius's example - a bus driver. (With, one should hope, equivalent job security for those who call out said ramblings as the anti-Semitism that they are.) But what doesn't sit right, for me, is the intense, righteous passion on this issue, at a time when the employment situation of so many college instructors is so precarious, even if they manage not to infuse their social-media accounts with blood-libel accusations.

Part of this seems to be the quasi-hazing professors must go through to even get to that point in their careers. To get into grad school, you need to have played by the rules, likely at an elite college you got into by playing by the rules in high school. In grad school, it might be something like, how could you even think of citing that author, when surely you knew that in 1981, your professor had a really famous feud with him! Don't let the professors know you have a life of any kind outside your work! (Esp. if you are a woman, and that life includes a partner!) It's not even about it being self-sabotage to have this or that view on a controversial topic - you're not meant to even have the time to be informed enough on current affairs to have formed an opinion about anything that isn't obscure and pertinent to your dissertation. Goes the thinking.

Much of this anxiety exists among grad students, separate from what professors themselves actually care about. (I have no reason to think - for example - that I was ever penalized for failing to stay up on professor-gossip from before I was born, or for writing non-academic things containing opinions, on WWPD and elsewhere.) But some of it is structural. You spend many years being reminded of just how low you are in the hierarchy, repeating the mantra, 'they pay me to read books!', even while the pay is barely enough to live on, with no such thing as a raise, and continues - if they don't cut you off - for over five years. Sometimes quite a bit over. Things may improve (or the reverse, if you're an adjunct for a pittance and no benefits) during post-graduation assignments, but the much-awaited Academic Freedom takes its time to arrive.

And then, if all goes according to plan, as you approach 35, by which I mean 40, you switch from an unusual amount of precariousness to the extreme in the other direction. Walking on eggshells switches over - as I understand it - to being the one with the authority to plant those eggshells. (Even if - see above - many such eggshells reside in the active imaginations of anxious grad students.) This... makes tenure and the freedom of speech that comes with it feel sacred, in a way, even to those within academia who don't have it and likely won't ever experience it. The sacredness, then, isn't - or isn't just - about protecting the quest for Truth. It's also about preserving the fantasy (and it is, at this point, largely that, given the number of jobs) of there being a light at the end of the academic tunnel. Of all that's been bottled up all those years having its chance to gush forth into the public sphere. What makes the risk-taking of tenured professors feel so special is that they were so severely forbidden from doing so earlier on in their careers.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Self-promotion is labor

Buried deep within Teddy Wayne's Styles piece on social-media self-promotion is an aside that should be at the front and center: "And, to be fair, most artists and small-business owners must act as their own publicists or risk obscurity and bankruptcy."

Yes. That. Work-related self-promotion online is self-oriented, yes, but not in the ego-stroking, 'likes'-feeding-narcissism sense. Or, to be more accurate, the ratio as Wayne presents it strikes me as off. Obviously it's nice if people like the work you're proud enough of to share on social media. And some of it, if the thing you've written is about a cause you care about, may be about promoting that cause. But if the thing you're sharing depends on an audience for you to go on doing it for pay, you're sharing because sharing is - at least implicitly - part of your job.

Put another way: If I share something I've written on social media, it's not to make someone I went to school with, haven't seen in 15 years, who unbeknownst to me is an aspiring writer for that very publication, feel bad about himself. Nor is it to really show whichever English teachers or high school classmates may have found me less than brilliant that, see look, someone found my thoughts worthy of publication! It's not, to be clear, that I lack any neuroses in those or related areas. It's just that all of that is secondary to my understanding of how this aspect of my career works.

The best I've come up with is to save the more shameless share-share-share for Twitter, which is something I use more professionally than personally, and to save Facebook shares for things I think friends and family might want to see. (Pinterest and Instagram are just about pretty pictures, and, fine, my not-so-secret aspiration for Bisou to become famous in Japan; to then be invited to Japan to go on some kind of grand poodle tour; and to become host of my own YouTube channel, Blogging With Dog.) But this is by no means an absolute or deeply-thought-through divide, and... and basically anything posted to Facebook - positive or negative - is going to annoy somebody (some find all posting annoying, but are nevertheless on Facebook because it's their address book, which... I can kind of understand), so at a certain point, you just have to not worry too much about it.

Oh, and I wrote another thing. Which you already knew if you are my friend or follow me on social media.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A fan letter to The Cut

NYMag's The Cut is kind of great. So, two links to it:

-The first is just to say that what Maggie Lange calls the universal boyfriend shirt is one I own and wear all the time. Except that mine is from Uniqlo, not J.Crew, and is flannel-material. Another for the why-do-I-identify-as-feminine-yet-dress-like-an-adolescent-boy files. Part of it is, I just really like that shirt. Although the likeliest answer is laziness - it's much easier to read Garance Doré or Elle about the cutting edge in Fashion than to actually wear the dresses and skirts I do own, when the jeans are in a pile on top of the dresser.

-The second is Kat Stoeffel's post on why it's OK to objectify men. And while I agree with the premise, I'm not so sure about the reasons:

“Not being objectified” is just one of the many advantages of being male. When we selectively revoke this freedom from body scrutiny, we don’t do anything to diminish the meaningful economic and reproductive advantages men enjoy. 
Put another way: We will stop Dong Watch once there’s a female president, zero wage gap, and Swedish-level paid parental leave; once tampons, birth control, and abortions are all available free and on-demand.
All fair points, but they make it seem as if women are merely pretending to lust after men, to make a point. Then she seems to kind of address this: "Male objectification isn’t about making men feel bad. It’s about not caring how men feel. Or at least, putting it aside long enough to think about what we desire." But then the concluding sentence? "As long as the covers of men's and women’s magazines are both devoted to what men want, that will feel pretty cathartic." Maybe?

But the point of appreciating male beauty isn't catharsis. It's... that many women already are already doing this appreciating. The idea isn't to punish men by objectifying, or even to disregard them. Seeing as women aren't under quite the same pressure to be attracted only to the conventionally attractive (except for the whole height thing, which I tend to think is more about perceived status than beauty, but I digress), freeing women to be openly attracted to men is arguably a good thing for men, including the one or two men who don't look like Jon Hamm.

Some attention really is bad attention

Pardon the bloggy narcissism, but when I saw Miss Self-Important's post on people who get overly outraged at those who make small talk with them, I thought of my own, on people who project hostile, judgmental thoughts onto strangers with whom they have the most minimal interactions. These are, it would seem, related phenomena. Her post also reminded me of the thing where people complain about a gift someone has gotten them, forgetting that the alternative to the unexciting gift was the person not getting them anything, with the symbolism that would entail. So I kind of see her point.

That said, I'm not sure I totally agree with MSI on this. There is, after all, such a thing as concern-trolling, which exists offline as well. While it's not my thing to take to the internet to express outrage at interpersonal relations, I can certainly think of instances of witnessing this phenomenon. Sometimes someone says something to you or a friend of yours and their intentions aren't friendly. Sometimes if they'd just ignored, that would have been the kinder way to go. This is especially so in cases - such as the one MSI brings up - that involve acquaintances questioning one's life choices. Such conversations very often manage to hit a nerve, and the just-being-friendly questioner may well be perceptive enough to know that. Not always! But, not never.

OK, I'll give one obvious, fairly generic example: Say you're studying something that doesn't sound very marketable, and someone asks you what you're going to do with that degree. This can be a genuine-curiosity question, but, tweak the tone a bit, and it's 'What are you going to do with that?' Yes, sometimes genuine curiosity reads as judgy-nasty because of the insecurities of the recipient. But sometimes bad attention really is bad attention.

As for appreciating catcalls... I suppose I differ from many other feminists on this, in that I think there's been something of an overemphasis on the too-many-men-are-looking-at-me plight and not enough on certain other issues. While I agree with the party line, as it were, about catcalling, and particularly object to the variants that cross the line into intimidation, I think we hear about it more than we might because it's a relatively easy conversation to have. The sisterhood of men-keep-calling-me-beautiful is quite simply an easier one to sign up for than the sisterhoods relating to abortion, rape, eating disorders, domestic abuse, not fitting into straight-sized clothes, etc. That doesn't mean it isn't annoying to be catcalled, or that it doesn't connect, in some broader way, to these larger issues. It's just... If I were the dictator of feminist priorities, I'd make it a lower priority.

Anyway! That digression was because MSI links to me as Exhibit A of the Feminist War On Catcalling. I just wanted to be clear that that I'm not the warrior she's looking for. (I'm also pro-stranger-chit-chat when there's no sexual component.) What she links to, though, is a post of mine where I call out a very specific kind of street attention, namely being asked to smile. I do hate this, and am pleased that being ancient means no one cares what sort of expression I've got.

But what's unpleasant about "smile" requests is precisely that they're not about someone being nice. They're the opposite of that! The man who tells the young woman to smile is not complimenting her! It's... I believe the popular expression for this sort of thing a while back was, it's a "neg." It is, in other words, an insult. The man is saying that the woman looks mopey, depressed. And let's say she is one of those things. She's supposed to get some joy out of having that pointed out? How does that interaction not end with the woman feeling worse?

So yes, stranger conversations can be convivial, and yes, I have them kind of all the time, considering I have one of those natural don't-talk-to-me expressions. I mean, I have a dog - there's no dog-walking without such interactions. But being ordered to smile, that I'd skip.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What where when why how?

So Bisou was scouted as a model, and was supposed to appear in an Italian magazine, but then the issue appeared, and... nothing! But maybe this will appear elsewhere? Readers, do any of you have any idea what the shoot may have been for, or may ultimately have been used for? My mother took this photo of it as it was happening and... we're more or less stumped. 

Chanel, it seems, but what? An ad? Editorial? Bisou evidently had to stop chasing squirrels for several minutes for this to take place, and she demands answers.

Used J.Crew

In Princeton, for my purposes, there are two clothing stores: J.Crew and a consignment shop that doesn't but very well could go by the name of Used J.Crew. Because of the tremendous sales at the former every time the students go on vacation, both are comparably affordable, but the latter has other brands, seasons, etc., and was closer to where I'd gotten a late-afternoon Eiskaffee, so when I'd finished my work for the day, it was there that I browsed.

I had a goal in mind, kinda-sorta, namely something floral and Elaine Benes. Yes, I know, that was the look several seasons (that is, years ago), revived as part of normcore or pre-normcore or something. But maybe the dream I had last night that was set in my elementary school lobby as per usual got me on a 1993-nostalgia kick? Who can say. Whatever the case, Used J.Crew didn't have anything of the sort.

What they did have, however, was a tremendous clearance section upstairs, and it was there that I was reminded of the other item I'd been looking for, namely a short-but-somewhat-voluminous checked-pattern skirt like the ones the super-elegant women of Tokyo would wear. I had tried on some skirts or maybe dresses along those lines, but the problem was that this is a look that's very often designed to give ultraslim women the illusion of hips. I require no such illusion. What I needed was a skirt in that style, but designed for the Western consumer of tremendous amounts of pasta.

And there it was! Pale-blue-and-white thick-patterned gingham, even - perfection! Specifically, this - formerly (allegedly) $69.50, but for $8. I say allegedly because this is a skirt that lies. Not citing specific numbers, but J.Crew has vanity-sized itself into absurdity. Not that I, post-Eiskaffee, was necessarily complaining. But it does get confusing when you see a garment you want, and it comes in just the one size, and it's one that, in principle, you shouldn't be able to even try on without ripping.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The "eating pant"

So many great articles, and no longer my official week of Dish guest-blogging, so you, WWPD readers, are in luck. We have:

-A Room For Debate I haven't yet had time to read, on parental overshare. Note that under my definition of the phenomenon, it's not about putting baby photos on Facebook, ideally with some privacy settings, but even if not, eh. That's... what a family photo album is these days, and I see no reason to be paranoid about hackers chasing after your baby photos for nefarious, baby-harming purposes. Parental overshare involves sharing the sorts of things that wouldn't normally go into some sanitized, public face of one's family. Parental overshare is "brave" and involves spilling the sort of info that's only actually brave if you're spilling it about yourself.

-Allison P. Davis's account of being a disappointingly slovenly-dressed daughter of a stylish mother. Another note: I totally own the J.Crew "eating pant" (there's no link or photo, I just know) and had given them a similar name. And had, of course, worn them to hot-pot.

-Monica Kim on eyelids:

Before blogs, makeup tips and tutorials did not cater to different eyelid shapes in the US. Even today, the issue of the eyelid is often swept aside by beauty bloggers like Michelle Phan, who like to remind people that Asian eyelids come in all different types. That may be true—my mom and sister were both born with double eyelids—but it’s unhelpful to us single-lidded girls, who must go it alone.
This is exactly what I was trying to get at re: Jewish-looking, and doubtless applicable to other '-looking' variations as well. It doesn’t do much good for those of us who are whatever-it-is-looking to be reminded time and time again that there’s no such thing as that-looking. We know that not all members of our group have exactly the same features, and can often point to people in our own immediate families who don't have whichever fraught traits we do. I have relatives just as ethnically Jewish as I am, who have completely straight hair, the kind that doesn't even frizz in the rain, as vs. my own, which does something different every day, depending the humidity. Does that make my own choices regarding hair-iron usage automatically apolitical? Does that make frizz-prone hair not a stereotypically Jewish trait, and one that's underrepresented in mainstream images of beauty? 

Even if one is delighted with one's single-lidded eyes (or frizz-prone hair), as Kim says, styling advice tends to be geared towards the less-'ethnic' way that even an 'ethnic' person may look. (And yes, I've read many times that eyelid and paleness concerns in certain parts of Asia are not about looking 'white' and predate any such notions. As for Jewish hair concerns, as a rule, they sort of are, although my own may stem from envy directed at the popular Korean kids at my high school.) Which is, in a sense, the issue. There's clearly an audience, if you will, for women of every ethnicity. The problem with not being 'mainstream' in whichever way really is - once one is an adult, and has gotten past the phase of imagining that the only people who ever find a boyfriend, ever, are blue-eyed blondes - one of figuring out which products to use in which way. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A basic placeholder

Having figured out what an Instagram is (a place to shamelessly spam anyone who chooses to follow me with whatever I see fit; mostly poodle photos and food photos), if not entirely how the site works, I was able to spend my weekend eating and documenting. All in the very same weekend, I managed a Viennese breakfast, Chinese/worldwide-chain hot-pot, and, at home, non-American pancakes (the thin ones that don't go with maple syrup), and yakitori. I thought about going running, but there just wasn't the time.

I was also going to write something about "basic" (followers of memes and Lauren Conrad will know what I'm referring to; posting food and pet photos on Instagram apparently counts, as - I can infer - does singing along to Bastille when it comes on the car radio), expanding on this, but then I realized everything I'm responding to (such as Daisy Buchanan's fabulous admission of basicness) happened more than five minutes ago, meaning that this topic goes back into the long-haul pile.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What's an Instagram?

So I have joined Instagram, inspired in part by Kei, and in part by desire to get in on Japanese toy poodle Instagram. If I have my way, Bisou will soon be a huge Japanese celebrity. This is unlikely, because a) brushing her every other day and getting her groomed every month and a half doesn't add up to her looking like the glamorous Japanese poodles Into The Gloss profiled, and b) she doesn't have the wardrobe. There were absolutely stores in Tokyo that sold amazing small-dog outfits (including kimonos), but Bisou wasn't there with us, so we didn't know her size, plus I don't think these outfits would fit with her lifestyle, which principally involves trying to eat deer poop when I'm not looking and chasing squirrels up trees. (Not, thankfully, in that order.) Of course, I'm sure the poodles of Nara present similar challenges...

But I can't figure out anything about Instagram. How does one search it for people, images, anything? Also: What is Instagram etiquette? People are adding me and, on the wild off-chance that I ever figure out the mechanics of adding people back, whom is one 'friends' with on this site? Part of what inspired me to join was that I felt like it was a way to avoid spamming Facebook with every last photo of my amateur Cooking With Dog existence. I can't imagine most of these people would want to see any of this. I don't flatter myself that anyone's losing sleep over whether I follow them on Instagram or whether I restrict my follows almost exclusively to people who pose large groups of lap dogs in fields in Japan. For all I know, these are automatic adds that happen when someone one is Facebook-friends with joins the site. But the situation I don't want to get into is feeling like I'm spamming people on Instagram by posting... the very sort of items I got on the site in order to post.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Dish, and a bat

Anything I have written or will write for the Dish can be found here

I'm a little bit blogged-out for the day as you might imagine, but I will link to this Planet Princeton story, simply because, that bat. The local news has a tendency to make everything - storms mostly - sound apocalyptic (these are, after all, the big stories), but... that's a pretty scary bat. I doubt it's the bat that's terrorizing the residents of Linden Lane, but I also doubt if that bat - which we know to be rabid - is less frightening.

Monday, August 11, 2014

When not on WWPD...

This week I'll be guest-blogging, alongside Elizabeth Nolan Brown, at the Dish! Introductions here, gratuitous young-Keanu reference and more here.

Posts specific to Japanese from-scratch cooking and Pinterest avant-garde fantasy shopping may just appear here, but you never know.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When pasta won't do

Weekends are for impractical cooking. That and impractically long NJ Transit trips, but the cooking's more interesting. The latest:

-Tofu! With from-scratch soy milk, which I sort of remembered how to make from the yuba, but barely. It... didn't turn out right, but this was my own fault for not measuring anything nor taking any temperatures. Next project on this front will likely be more yuba. What I came up with, tofu-wise, tasted like a watery version of store-bought firm tofu. Meh.

-Grilling! A friend who left town gave us his grill and we're trying to figure out how one works. Today it at first seemed like we had no idea what we were doing, then suddenly it was working as one would hope. And... it turns out that a grill is an efficient way to use up wrinkled bell peppers, but even grilled, one can only eat so many bell peppers. Now that we know that it works, yakitori on the grill is surely up next.

-Filling crepe-like pancakes with chocolate! (I do occasionally cook things that are not Japanese. More than occasionally, in fact, if one counts the 98% of meals that are pasta.) This is something I'd probably considered but never tried before. Basically you fill the pancake with a piece of (dark, is my preference) chocolate, as in, roll and wrap it around the chocolate, and return it to the pan for more heating. The end result is as close to a chocolate croissant as something that simple can be. The pancakes themselves are a simple enough ratio: one egg, half a cup flour, just under a cup milk, pinch of salt, and maybe a tablespoon, if that, melted butter.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Kale and klezmer

Farmer's market love-hate, the eternal topic. Mark Bittman wants us to feel OK about swapping our checking account for a small handful of really top-notch tomatoes. I want to feel OK about having done so this morning. Current objections, though, are as follows:

-The markets here are either Thursday from 11-4 (tough if you have what South Park once referred to as a jerb) or Saturdays 9-1 (tough if you have any sleep to catch up on from the week, or if you did anything other than anticipate the following morning's produce options on Friday night).

-I do live in a big produce-growing region. But for obvious population-density reasons, the local farms ship their goods to the city. I doubt if lettuce season is actually over (in fact, the presence of local lettuce at the supermarket suggests it's not), but at the market today it seemed to be.

-As Bittman says, "Farmers’ markets are not just markets. They’re educational systems that teach us how food is raised and why that matters." And, indeed, everyone on front of you in line demands copious education. For themselves or, if bringing kids, for the kids as well. If this has to happen at each stand, it can go from convivial to there goes the day rather quickly.

-The number of cars parked near the market this morning in no way matched up with the amount of produce available. This is a thing to do, a place to listen to pesticide-free banjo klezmer music or whatever, but not by any means an alternative to the supermarket.

-Buying kale or chard doesn't necessarily mean going on to eat either. Although I'm now starting to see where that green-juice fad emerged from. Other people probably also had fridges full of uneaten bitter greens, and, in attempt to do something with them, threw them into the blender.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Recentish, splurgish

My ongoing quest to look less like an American slob and more like a... Franco-Japanese non-slob (it's hopeless) doesn't actually require all that much shopping. It's mostly a matter of wearing the better things I own, "better" defined as things with buttons and zippers. Given my work-mostly-from-home, walk-a-dog-through-a-deserted-campus lifestyle, there isn't much incentive. So it's nice to shake things up on occasionally with items I didn't purchase aged 19-21. With that in mind...

-Uniqlo mini pencil skirt. Very similar to the two regular Uniqlo pencil skirts I have from several years ago, except for the fact that it doesn't make me look Hasidic if paired with a long-sleeved shirt. Not that there's anything wrong with that, my (many, no doubt) Hasidic readers. It's just that I don't want to give the wrong impression. Even if that cheese was made with animal rennet, I want in.

-Ballerina earrings in silver from Catbird. Dainty, but neither knuckle-rings nor requiring of odd ear piercings. (Those, btw, can't be counted on to close up. I don't recall how I old I was when I got that double pierce, but it's still at the ready.) They go well with a not quite so recent anymore purchase: this necklace, but in all-silver.

-Thanks to a coupon, the RMS eye shadow in Lunar. It's fantastic except for the part where applying it makes my finger sparkly. This might be higher-maintenance than I can handle on a daily basis.

-One subdivided $10 portion of wild salmon (ahem) from Whole Foods, chosen as a way to not have pasta for every meal, but which the cashier deemed unjustifiable. That's a new one for Whole Foods, being shamed for splurging. And on one ingredient! At least I didn't mention that some was for me, some for my husband, and some for a certain tremendously fancy poodle.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Feel like a womyn

Like the rest of the internet-to-whom-it-may-concern, I've been reading about the tensions between radical feminists and the transwomen they exclude. And... I guess there are two takeaways from Michelle Goldberg's fascinating article. One, that if you're trying to be progressive, not being exclusionary is usually the way to err. Common sense dictates that if you're a biological man who self-presents and self-identifies as a woman, your "privilege" is if anything less than that of a cisgender woman. (All things equal, of course.)

But at the same time, the article wouldn't be interesting if that were the whole point. The other issue is that a good amount of The Female Experience, or one version of it at least, is rooted in biological facts, not gender identity. Periods, developing (oh that euphemism), pregnancy/pregnancy avoidance/pregnancy scares, rape/rape avoidance/rape-near-misses, street harassment (at its most obscene when directed at young girls), relative physical vulnerability... All of these could well amount to obstacles less profound than those faced by transwomen (I don't buy the argument that "male privilege" extends to transwomen), but they are without a doubt different obstacles.

Basically, the plight of the biologically female is a thing, and it's not necessarily transphobic, I think, that some would make this their cause. A transwoman has always felt female, but didn't spend her adolescence petrified she'd become a teen mom. Where transphobia enters into it is, it seems to me, stuff like the refusal to use correct pronouns (i.e. pronouns people want used about themselves), and just generally being... phobic. That transwomen don't know what it's like to be a 12-year-old with uterus doesn't mean they're a menace, for crying out loud. "Womyn-born womyn" could plausibly make sense for certain kinds of support groups, but a music festival?

All of which points back to what I think is the reason trans identity is so hard to conceptualize for many of us who are not trans. While there probably are some biologically-female women who really feel like women, my guess is that many of us experience femaleness the same way as we experience being the height, age, and ethnicity we happen to be. Which is to say, as traits we've just kind of landed with, that we might try to gently alter in superficial ways (heels, sunscreen, etc.), but that just sort of are what they are, and feel like non-negotiables. Much of women's famed performance of gender isn't so much a celebration of femininity as... a way to make the least effort possible to look acceptable in society. Femininity can seem like a burden quite a lot of the time, to those of us who didn't opt in. Which is why my sense is that this is a problem of terminology - transwomen didn't opt in, either. They're not - as the radfems seem to believe - men who choose to live as women. They're women who ended up -pre-transition - looking like men. Who - like cisgender women - surely know that life is easier in our society for men, but who see living as a man as just as impossible as cisgender women do.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Firstest Worldest of Problems

Growing up, I always loved air-conditioning. Friends and family alike would remind me of the environmental and monetary costs, but what could I say? I enjoyed full-room refrigeration.

These days, eh, not so much. Maybe it's the guilt that comes with no longer having 'well at least I don't drive' as an excuse. Maybe it's time spent in Europe, and more time still spent with Europeans. Maybe it's that it just hasn't been all that hot this summer. But I'd sort of forgotten about a/c, and sort of stopped using it.

Which is a problem, it turns out. I've recently learned that the "leak" in my apartment is condensation caused by... drumroll please... not having the air conditioner on. And a fine a/c unit it must be. I've been officially instructed to keep it on at all times, windows closed, of course. (The leak hasn't stopped, but it's a puddle rather than a swimming pool.) As for the obvious, we don't pay extra for electricity. But even so.

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Bushy-brow fatigue"

-The strong brow trend has come and gone, which means the time is ripe for the NYT to discover it. As someone whose eyebrows simply don't do the caterpillar thing, my thinking is that, by accepting them as they are (which is to say, shaping slightly, but not striving for the illusion of thickness), I'm simply anticipating what ITG is already referring to as "bushy-brow fatigue." I am, as always, a step ahead of the trend. Which is why I will not be going to Doris Day (!) the dermatologist for eyebrow-enhancing medicine. The near-unused eyebrow pencil was plenty to throw at the now-non-problem.

-HMYF (hipsters make your food), your day, like that of the bushy brow, is done. The newish Viennese coffee shop in town has no hipster shabbiness whatsoever. It's full-on elegant, like if you order tea (which I will have to do sometime), it comes in a white-and-gold porcelain tea set. And it's just so much better than all the hipster-lite establishments, none of which have managed to have decent coffee, food, and atmosphere. And then... There are two much-celebrated farm-to-table places in town, neither of which is even a third as good as Little Sheep, the Edison outpost of what seems to be a very international hot-pot chain. You get to Little Sheep and while you wait for your table (and it's quite a wait), they have a video up promoting their corporation, complete with scenes of the marketing department meeting to discuss how to promote the company, as well as ones of the factory (?) where everything's standardized. HMYF can be a proxy for quality in an otherwise barren landscape, but it can only ever be so good. Whereas really good strudel, hot-pot, bulgogi, oyako don, bagels, pizza-by-the-slice, pain au chocolat... And this isn't even, clearly, a "white" vs. "non-white" issue, except under the OITNB/"white lady" definition of "white" in which "white" stands in for bland-and-yuppie.

-Considering a shimmery cream eyeshadow. Yes? No? Anyone with thoughts on the RMS line?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Euphemistic humility

Thank you, thank you, Doctor Cleveland*:

There is nothing a snobbish Ivy Leaguer likes better than putting down the Ivy League. It's an easy way to signal that you are above your own Ivy League school and the privilege it confers -- all a big humbug that your superior perspective sees right through -- while holding on to every last scrap of that privilege. It allows you to position yourself as not only 1. better than people who didn't get into Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, but 2. the benevolent champion of those little people who didn't get in and also 3. better than everyone else who did get into your school and who, unlike you, need to take the place seriously.
This is more or less what I was thinking, but unable to articulate, when I read that Deresiewicz piece, but also Reihan's takedown of Stuyvesant. These essays are always a way to announce that you made whichever cut, while at the same time... just read Doctor Cleveland. It's a little different when it refers to a high school - there, the provincial nature of the concern can outweigh the rest, and most of the readership didn't even have the chance to not get into the school in question, so there's maybe more tuning-out than resentment - but the principle's the same. Whenever these debates arise, what happens is, the only people qualified to speak are those who went to whichever school (which even Doctor Cleveland can't avoid, but somehow this is much easier to take from a pseudonym, esp. one making the better argument), alums of which are already having their voices heard plenty. These articles inspire immense, intense interest from fellow alums, but not a whole heck of a lot from everyone else. Not because "everyone else" is too busy drooling in the vague direction of a Kardashian show to read The New Republic, but because reading about the fate of schools you didn't attend is never that interesting.

Which is... fine. If the graduates of schools both fancy and schmancy want to have an insular conversation about euphemistic-whichever-location, that's perfectly reasonable. But maybe classify these stories as "lifestyle" and not "education." It's not that they never delve into big-picture questions about the educational system, or that there's never any reason to look at how it goes in the top 0.0001% of any hierarchy. It's just that the bulk of this Very Important Conversation is of the small-potato variety.

*This bit was spot-on as well: "Public colleges, and the students at public colleges, are merely rhetorically convenient symbols for him."

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Friday night unlikely to inspire a pop song UPDATED

Bus to the train to the other train to the shuttle. Lags almost each step of the way. It's almost as if I don't really live in greater New York, is what I start to think on such occasions. Princeton's a suburb, but one where you need to sign up years (!) in advance to be able to get a parking spot at the train station, and where overnight parking is permit-only regardless. It's certainly suburban, but what exactly is it a suburb of? Philadelphia radio works here better than NY radio, which maybe tells us something.

So yes, slightly tired, even though none of this was today, even though I just had a jumbo cappuccino* at the (fabulous) Viennese coffee shop in town. Commenters who believe my linking to a story about French anti-Semitism makes me a fascist (!!!) can expect snippier and shorter responses than the usual graphomaniacal graciousness to which they've grown accustomed. (And, uh, no further responses. Tapped out when it comes to that sort of thing.) Great ambitions for the evening include remembering where I parked, driving home, walking my supermodel dog, and... that's probably it.

*Caffeine, wonder drug. I tend to forget, because the coffee I make at home, no matter the method, no matter the beans, never seems to have much of it. Meanwhile, thanks to the hugeness of this outside-coffee, I finally figured out this thing I've been trying to write, finally. And no, I'm not referring to this somewhat phoned-in blog post.


So the evening ended up more exciting than planned - I ran into some astrophysicists and ended up seeing Saturn through a telescope. And before that, parking someone I don't normally park led me to pass by the... Japanese language school of Princeton. I had no idea such a thing existed, but now know its fees (not bad!), when the intro class meets, and when I'd need to have signed up by. Technically Dutch is first on the new-languages priorities list, but there's the small matter of it not being taught anywhere outside the countries where it's spoken. (I exaggerate, but slightly.) Also of being able to get by in Belgium in English or French, whereas if I ever do make it back to Japan...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Poodle privilege

My mother took Bisou for a walk in Central Park this morning, and Bisou - fresh off NJ Transit - was, it seems, 'discovered,' in the way that sometimes happens to waifish Estonian 13-year-olds. Which is to say, she made her modeling debut. For a big-name Italian magazine, it seems. No spoilers, but let's just say there's photographic evidence. Pictures of Bisou with a human model and what may very well be next season's it-bag. This really happened. As for whether it will appear, for this we have to wait until September.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For the farmer's market love-haters among my readers

While assembling my beige, too-tired-to-cook dinner of rice and defrosted (prepackaged) yuba (with scallion, mainly for aesthetics, and with the packet of whatever the sauce was that came with the yuba poured on top), I noticed that the local farmer's market had posted to Facebook (yes, I follow them on Facebook) about a produce recall affecting NJ supermarkets such as Wegmans, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. In other words, my fruit! An unsearchable PDF would tell me what this means for my apricots, or, rather, since I'm planning to eat those apricots, what to expect for the next 24-48 hours. (Upon closer examination, I see that apricots are in the clear. And thank goodness for that.)

Anyway! The point of this story was actually the farmer's market's takeaway: "We can't stress enough the importance of knowing your farmer." Because, the implication goes, a farmer's market couldn't possibly sell contaminated fruit

And, I mean, I like this farmer's market. I follow them on Facebook! I "like" them and everything! But this seems a bit ridiculous as a way to promote the weekly event. Especially considering that anyone wishing to eat fruit more than a month out of the year is, in this region, shopping at the supermarket. If the farmer's market really believed you're poisoning yourself if you shop elsewhere, maybe they want to find a way to be open every month of the year, even if that means a single stand selling a single turnip.

Monday, July 21, 2014


A month or so ago, I bought sneakers. I love these sneakers. I'm wearing them right now. They're not only the best-fitting shoes I've ever owned, ever, but they're super chic.

Or so I thought. Think. Everyone else, however, has been... less enthusiastic. After holding forth on their fabulousness to my nearest and dearest, I've heard a variety of frank assessments, all adding up to, they make me look like a badly-dressed teenager. And I was starting to think those around me had a point. (Not that this in any way stopped me wearing them.)

Well! I noticed some sneakers with a familiar silhouette on Pinterest. Pinned onto (into?) the shopping cart of one... Garance Doré. Yes, that Garance Doré. The one who dates The Sartorialist. And, as anyone who follows such things knows, Sart is way harsh about such matters.

Now I'm just waiting for a prominent fashion blogger with a discerning beau to endorse the unflattering-but-comfortable, possibly-tempura-splattered linen pants I recently got for $25 at J.Crew.


This, as the kids used to say. Writers writing about writing not paying. Shall I join in? Places I've written for as a freelancer tend to pay between $50 and $100 an article. This can be parlayed into other things, and something is absolutely better than nothing (which is what my first regular post-college writing gig paid, back when I was too naive to know one was meant to ask for payment), and it's probably a different story for people who establish themselves on staff various places and then switch to freelance (I'm thinking of someone like Jessica Grose)... but it does say something about the viability of full-time freelancing as a career.

What the article unfortunately doesn't mention is how what "writing" consists of has changed. Yes, if you wanted to be a poet or novelist, this was always going to be a struggle if you didn't come from money or hit it big with something you wrote while still in high school. But now, anything however tangentially related to publishing or journalism likely won't pay. I do repeat myself on this, but it's important: The day job has become, for many, an unpaid, no-insurance-providing "dream job." Work that isn't particularly artistic (sorry but that first episode of "Girls"...) is somehow The Arts.

I could try to analyze this further - is this about places marketing themselves cleverly in order to get clerical work done for free? - but I want to make the most of this enormous stamp-card mocha and get some other writing done.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In ascending order of seriousness

-Because all roads lead to Sunrise Mart, I now have nigari tofu coagulant. In liquid form, because that was what they had. Not sure what that'll mean for the recipe, but this is on.

Only the essentials. (Wall of DeCecco not pictured.)

-NJ Transit has basically given up for the summer. They seem to have put all their resources into keeping the train refrigerator-cold, and exactly none into such things as having trains match up with other trains, or arrive at something like the time indicated. I think this may be my first time experiencing "As a New Jersey taxpayer..." thoughts, but there it is.

-I don't do Middle East on social media. (By which I mean, Facebook or Twitter.) I observe. I read what friends and journalists and such post, and am definitely getting a wide range of at the very least Jewish opinion, ranging from the Israel-was-a-bad-idea-in-the-first-place perspective (yes, there are Jews who think this - maybe worth noting if you're hoisting up a placard against The Jews) to it's-all-Hamas's-fault (gosh, not all, but even if that were the case, these deaths are plenty upsetting), and, thank goodness, lots in between. I do plan to write on this at some point, but not in 140-character bursts. I don't think my views on this lend themselves to sound bytes (I do go on), and my reaction to the situation is more sadness than outrage, and it's the latter that's expected in such forums. If you're not outraged, you can't possibly care, or something. If I did enter a thread, I could probably summon some outrage, although depending whose thread, it could be in any which direction. (Well, not any.) And I'm not an amateur military strategist, which is the other approach that seems to lend itself to social-media weighing-in on such topics.

But I did pass along the Tablet stories about the French synagogue attacks, because that's sort of my beat, and because... ugh. One way to think of it: Let's say you believe Israel is 100% in the wrong, and get all Godwin about it. How does that justify attacks on French Jews? Ah, but they may support Israel! They may have family there! Think for a moment about where this logic leads. Oh right: stuff like internment camps. Was Japan on the right side of WWII? Not so much. Did that justify internment of Japanese-Americans? No, it did not. And no, it's not a perfect analogy obviously, for so many reasons, but I think the connection is clear.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Groceries are complicated

-I need something called "nigari tofu coagulant." After watching the latest and most compelling Cooking with Dog, where Chef and Francis Host of the Show prepare soft tofu from scratch and top it with scallions, ginger, and bonito flakes... actually, even just once seeing such a video existed, I realized I'm obviously going to be doing this. It's only a matter of time. Well, of time, and of finding this ingredient in a quantity not advertised as allowing one to make 100 pounds of tofu. Where the proper sort of soy milk will come from is its own question. One I've answered before, that time I made yuba, but I'd rather avoid DIY on that part if possible.

-Caryatis, you'll be so proud! I bought eggs at a farmers market and totally checked them for cracks. The farmer or farmer-stand-in selling the eggs didn't seem even a little bit offended.

-I'm not going to defend this, but I'm one of those people who gets two different kinds of olive oil, the regular one for cooking, and the more expensive one for drizzling. I'm not sure I can taste a difference, but I tell myself I can, and even if it's just the pretty bottle, there are surely worse forms of self-deception, and clearly I'm not going through much of the fancy one. I have no brand loyalty in this area, and choose based on which pretty bottle is on sale at a given time. One or another always will be, and the brands seem to rotate quite frequently, rarely being ones I have any familiarity with. This evening, doing so, I was hit by a wave of cynicism: How on earth do I know that the bottle going for $11 (say) is really normally $20? Of course, if it's all the culinary placebo effect anyway...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In un-defense of Princeton in summer

-Because nothing happens in Princeton, and extra-nothing happens in the summer, the local news has taken to posting photos (well, a photo) of relatively minor (no apparent injuries) car accidents in the area, including of the individuals involved. I was not involved, nor do I know these people; this is an online-shaming question. It's not exactly unethical to post a photo of this, but is it necessary? Is it news? It's at any rate still up on Facebook but down from Twitter - maybe there are some legal or ethical issues here apart from being me being squicked out by that sort of thing.

OK, there's a slight personal angle, which is that I'm sort of convinced that someone's going to take one of those viral "bad parking" videos of me, given how long it can take for me to get into a spot.

-More flooding! While an excuse to not go running is semi-welcome, it would be nice to be able to properly walk a certain dog, as vs. taking her out in the snippets of time when it's not feeling too apocalyptic.

-If I were a 20-year-old model who looked great regardless, I might do one of those "ugly selfies" to convey just how terrible my hair looks in this weather. You will instead just have to take my word for it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In defense of Princeton in summer

-It's not as bad as it might be. And low expectations have a way of being exceeded. I mean, my husband's away, as are most of my friends. It's hot and humid, and my hair looks awful. It's tick season for humans and dogs, so the woods are, if not out altogether, substantially less appealing. Expectations were really, really low.

-Everything's on sale. At least everything in Princeton I might want to buy, which admittedly isn't much. But I just got discounted coffee beans from Rojo's at a pop-up (!) in Urban Outfitters and then, for $25, the pair of $70 linen pants I'd long been admiring at J.Crew, thereby filling the summer-clothing-other-than-shorts-or-nightgown gap in my wardrobe. (While I'm by no means a 000 at that store, I can extrapolate from their vanity sizing why such a size would be necessary.) But J.Crew at sub-Uniqlo prices, with tremendous selection... let's just say whatever shtetl peddler-type lives within me returned atavistically at this discovery.

-No one's around. Which is sort of bleak when it comes to Bisou-walking (if easier to handle after a week in Manhattan), but sort of fabulous when it comes to driving and parking.

Excessive loyalty

I thought I'd organized my wallet and gone through stuff on the entryway table. Wrong I was. The loyalty card situation is out of control. Sharing partly to entertain the easily entertained, partly for my own "records", as I attempt to divide into NY and Princeton piles, and to prioritize each:

-One card to the new Viennese café in town, Café Vienna, indicating my one visit there thus far.
-One stamp card for Chelsea Thai.
-One for Bent Spoon, schmancy ice cream, and principle source of amusement in town.
-Two for Rojo's, a local coffee mini-chain.
-Surprisingly, only three for Small World, the default coffee shop in town.
-One for Joe, NY and Philadelphia (never been in the latter) coffee mini-chain.
-Three for Stumptown (one for beans, two for drinks.)
-I must have once bought underwear at frou-frou-in-a-good-way Journelle, because I have a stamp card indicating as much. Unlikely to do so the 11 additional times needed for free underwear.
-One Paris Baguette bread-specific stamp card. I do like their bread, and must keep this in mind for the next trip to Edison.
-Two cards for Murray's Cheese, indicating that I've bought cheese as well as grilled cheese there.
-A card with one stamp from Kaffe 1668, the very expensive but chic café near-ish to where I lived a while ago in Battery Park City. Chances I'd be in that area looking for coffee enough to merit this card are slim.
-Two from NYU-area favorite Third Rail. Miss that place!
-One from Commune, the fabulous and reasonably-priced Japanese salon in Williamsburg where I get my hair cut.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Probably the most WWPD post ever

-Parental overshare for profit.

-So much YPIS: A woman - sorry, a "white lady" - was middle/upper-middle class, until some life events happened, and she was all of a sudden poor. A turn of events led to her picking up food stamps in a Mercedes, thereby outdoing a certain food-stamps applicant from a while back, whose only crime had been spending $1.50 on a coffee she might have made at home or skipped entirely. But the Mercedes-ness and whiteness of all of this seems to have caused controversy. Presumably because of the broke vs. poor obsession - as in, it's seen as so terribly offensive to claim poverty when you're merely broke that people who honest-to-goodness once had some money and now don't end up somehow getting classified as "broke," as if the cultural capital from having once been not-poor can fix everything.

-Tara Metal seems to have had just the same experience I did upon seeing an image of Jenny Slate. I saw an ad for "Obvious Child" on the subway and thought, huh, so that's what's meant by seeing faces that look like yours. My only disagreement with Metal is over the need to explain that this was the experience of women who "may be Jewish, or Italian, or just blessed with slightly unruly strands that cannot be dyed lighter or made straight without a significant amount of sturm and drang." While it's absolutely true that white people of various ethnicities (including super-Anglo - see British actor Daniel Hill, the oddly attractive villain on "Waiting For God") can have not-so-"white" hair, this has particular significance to people for whom that hair texture has political significance. I know that there's this compulsion, if you're Jewish, to make a point of not being parochial, to explain that whatever you're talking about doesn't just apply to Jews. And... hair politics certainly don't just apply to Jews, but I'm not aware of other ethnic whites having this concern. An Italian-American woman might straighten her hair, but is it understood to be about wanting to look less Italian?

-Miss Self-Important and I may have different politics, but we definitely agree on the fundamental issue re: elite high schools, namely that, as she puts it, "when a school becomes 'too Asian,' we immediately complain that it is not black or Hispanic enough." The "we" being society, not MSI and me, neither of whom are arguing this. My pet theory is this: Some offspring of rich white families regress to the mean (see the second item here, actually...), and this produces tremendous anxiety in rich-white-land. It's not guaranteed that those from any but the most established families will do just fine in the end. But! No one wants to say, outright, that the mediocre offspring of the rich deserve better. It sounds so much nicer to complain about meritocracy on behalf of the poor or underrepresented minorities.

City dog

Since I didn't feel like being the last (wo)man standing in Princeton, Bisou and I have taken a trip to see what the bumper stickers would call her grandparents. (Hadley Freeman would maybe agree?) This isn't her first experience of being a city dog, but it's my first seeing her as one for more than, say, an afternoon. Thoughts thus far are below.


-If you have a fluffy little dog, you will have to converse with every other person walking a fluffy little dog. Given the area, that is a *lot* of people. Women of a certain age, but not exclusively. And... it's kind of nice! They say that people are friendlier in the country/suburbs than the city, but the thing is, there are actually people around in the city, so even if a smaller % of them are chatty, there's so much more chatting going on. Plus, being on my home turf, I must give off a vibe of familiarity. Even to socialite-seeming women! Who are oddly not put off by my choice of years-old Gap-nightgown-as-dress. Maybe it's the vaguely-Chanel-looking thrift store bag I'm using until my regular bag is repaired, but you'd think these would be exactly the women who'd know what's what in that department.

-A far, far longer walk is feasible when there's actually stuff to see. With all due respect to nature. The deers, etc., are great, but relatively infrequent. Whereas glamorous Italian tourists (who don't talk to me, obvs) are pretty much everywhere here.

-Thanks to those first two, headphones are not needed. I'm way behind in my podcasts, and thus extra-prepared for NJ Transit being useless.

-No ticks!


-There's so, so much on city streets for a dog to surreptitiously ingest. I'd like to think so far, so good, but who can say?

-The dog run is a nice idea and all, but walking Bisou to the run, as vs. driving her there, means she's exhausted by the time we get there. And while I'm sure Bisou wouldn't be the first poodle to ride the crosstown bus...

-A country dog has certain... requirements, having to do with the need for a patch of grass.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

What lurks beyond the bagel shop

Lawrenceville, which I previously knew as the boarding school next to the so-so bagel shop we'd go to before discovering the far superior one in the Montgomery shopping center, is apparently more than just a bagel-adjacent landmark. It's also the most expensive high school in the nation. And - I learned from Jezebel and Twitter - it's the site of the race-and-privilege scandal of the moment. The student body president - black, female, and gay - had to step down after taking to the Instagram to make fun of the douchier elements of the white, male, and straight student population. If I had a thesis-driven sort of argument to make about this, I'd pitch and fast. As it stands, too scattered for that. So:

-This part of NJ is maybe not the least racist place ever. Even I, someone female and paler than most, have seen firsthand how young black men are questioned by the police, how black men of all ages are avoided and hassled on the train. If this is what I'm seeing, I'd imagine there's more I'm not seeing. There's also preppy culture, which is hard to explain, but which goes beyond whatever's experienced at any particular private school or college in the area. It's so white that even white people notice the whiteness. Friends even whiter than I am (being, as regular readers know, pale but ethnic) have pointed this out.

-Private schools are weird. They can end up this odd mix of rich white kids (getting in through the usual rich-white-person channels) and poor non-white kids (getting in through some mix of intellect, hard work, and having adults around devoted to their education), in some kind of tremendous exaggeration of society at large. As in, "white" becomes associated with wealth, "black" with poverty, in a way that far exceeds the situation at a regular public school. (From Buzzfeed: "Lawrenceville students say racial and class divides — which frequently work in tandem because minority students often come to boarding schools through scholarship organizations [...]." So it went at my private elementary-and-middle school in New York.) The numbers may say "diversity," but the reality can be something more complicated.

-The specific black, female student at the center of the controversy, the student-body president who had to step down after mocking douche-bro classmates on Instagram, was not on scholarship. Commenter Pronetolaughter, if you're reading, this begins to get at how "privilege" as a term can fail where "racism" succeeds at conveying a problem. As the half of the internet that's already weighed in on this has noted, if you're at an elite high school that costs $53k a year, certainly if you're not there on scholarship, you have just a touch of unearned advantage. As in, you're richer and probably better-connected than most. But! That doesn't mean you're not also the victim of some other sort of oppression - in this case, racism. Confederate flags, insistence that she didn't really win the election, and other racist incidents cited in the Buzzfeed piece suggest that the young woman in question had good reason to be fed up.

-But oh, social media! It's bad judgment - if entirely age-appropriate bad judgment - to have an Instagram mocking your classmates, particularly if you want to lead your classmates. Back in the day, the mocking of entitled douche-bro classmates happened, sure, but in private. Buzzfeed reports that this wasn't even the student's first blip of this nature - she'd already been in trouble for pot photos (real, and forwarded by someone trying to sabotage her) and racist tweets (invented by someone trying to sabotage her). If someone's out to get you - perhaps because you're a black lesbian in a position of power in a traditionalist environment? - then you, whoever you are, certainly if you're high school aged, have probably left incriminating dribs and drabs all over the internet and even if you have not, they can be created.

-The Jezebels are arguing about reverse racism - is it a thing? The usual argument - that you can't be racist against a group with more power in society than you have - is mostly right, but not entirely. For example: anti-Semites believe Jews to be more powerful than they are. That's how that form of racism works. For another example: one group may have more power than another in society at large, but not in, say, a particular community. It doesn't seem impossible that the only white kid at a high school would have a tough time. But yes, in usual situations, it holds. And here, I suppose I'm not entirely sure why this is being cited as an example of anti-white anything. What this young woman was mocking was a subculture, not a race. Is the idea that a white person mocking a black subculture would come across as racist? Perhaps, but this is exactly where the power-imbalance thing enters into it. No one thinks all white people are douchey lacrosse players (with all due respect to non-douchey lacrosse players), whereas conflation of minority groups with equivalent subcultures is definitely a thing. (I guarantee that every American Jewish woman has, whether she knows it or not, been called a JAP, no matter how hippie-dippie her routine.) But more to the point, she was making fun of white people who fly Confederate flags, in the North at that. Regardless of where one stands on it being possible or not to be racist against white people, I don't think you can be racist for mocking certain white people's racism.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Not a thing to wear

This morning I did what had to be done and dropped maybe half the contents of my closet off at the closest thrift shop. There are two consignment boutiques closer by (one too intimidatingly pretentious for me to have ever been inside), but if there was ever a moment to even attempt consignment with these items, it was over five years ago at least. Most of what was in there seemed late-college-era at the newest, with a little bit from the interviews-and-job I had between college and grad school. Including one truly hideous pinstriped flared pantsuit (!) from Express, a tag still on the jacket, indicating not that I hadn't worn it, nor even that I was sneakily planning to wear then return it (it wasn't even a price tag, just something identifying the item), but rather that my attention to detail in that area in 2006 was somewhat lacking. Needless to say, there was stitching still left where it shouldn't have been in the suit I wore for a kind of important interview in 2005. Oh well.

The hope with this organization-fest was that I'd discover all the great stuff I already owned and not need to shop. That I would, as the cringe-inducing saying goes, 'shop my closet.' With the exception of one Uniqlo mini-ish skirt of recent-ish vintage, that did not happen. The reality is, the wearable, reasonably-well-fitting clothing I own is precisely the stuff I already wear. The other stuff was all sort of terrible, but for so many different reasons. Much of it had to do with details - button size, flared-ness of sleeves and pant legs - that make clothing look dated after a decade. But there were also all the items that never quite fit but were a nice color or print or something, which is maybe easier to get away with at 19 than 30. And then, of course, was the stuff that was just stained or worn out. But the main takeaway was that it took me ages to develop a sense (chaotic as it may be) of personal style. Whatever was in evidence in the items bought prior to, say, 25, it wasn't that.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


When does adulthood begin? There are the articles regularly placing it older and older, according to the latest neuroscience. The 'the human brain only stops developing at' articles, according to which I, at the tail end of 30, am probably too young to be making any major life decisions.

But the real ambiguity is the one surrounding college students. We've decided that they're too old to live at home but too young to pay their own way. If 60% of 20-somethings and early-30-somethings are getting financial help from their parents (how I read the relevant, startling paragraph), that's not a phenomenon that can be dismissed as impacting only the rich. Certainly if you consider that those not receiving help are probably clustered mostly on the older end of that range. The way the economy is now structured, it's unlikely that a 20-year-old, especially one in school, is entirely financially independent. That exceptions exist, or that many managed this in a different economy, is a distraction.

But we still have this notion of 18 as adult. And it's this tension that leads to messes like the one described in this week's Social Qs:

I am the mother of a 20-year-old college student who is still on our family health insurance plan. I was confused about a benefit statement we received regarding her visit to the gynecologist. The insurance company told me the charge was for fitting her with a diaphragm. I am not sure if this is correct, but my husband and I disagree whether it’s appropriate to discuss it with her. Thoughts?
Philip Galanes answers the question in a way that almost makes sense, until you remember that the child in question is 20:
Of course you should talk to her! What are you waiting for — your daughter to hit menopause? If you suspect the bill is incorrect because your 20-year-old is not having sex, let me assure you that you are probably wrong (statistically speaking). And whether your daughter likes it or not, it is your job as a parent, along with her father, to insist on a running dialogue about her emotional and psychological readiness for all kinds of adult activities she is on the verge of undertaking — including sex. 
As with many important talks, this one may be squirmy to start. So, whichever of you is better at intimate chatting should sidle into her bedroom one night, and ask her sweetly about her love life: “Anyone special?” And no matter what your personal views of premarital sex, let her know that you just want to help her make the right decision — for her. Feel free to wax poetic about waiting for true love, but for God’s sake, make sure she knows that a diaphragm will not protect her from sexually-transmitted diseases. Now, get to work, Mom!
A 20-year-old looking for contraception is, one would hope, informed enough to know which forms do and don't prevent STDs. If she's gone to a doctor for said contraception, seemingly the doctor would also discuss this with her. 20 seems sort of ancient to be learning the facts of life. A conversation about this with one's 10-year-old might be "squirmy," but with one's 20-year-old, it's squirmy in the same way as it would be squirmy for any adult to discuss any other adult relative's sex life. A 20-year-old should feel comfortable going to her parents in a time of crisis, but what, in this case, is the crisis? This seems like a case of an adult behaving sensibly.

More to the point: isn't doctor-patient confidentiality supposed to be a thing? Again, maybe there would be some emergency situation where that would have to be breached, but does a 20-year-old getting contraception count as such?

But it's the parents' insurance! They are paying for the diaphragm, so they have the right to... what, exactly? It *is* an awkward situation. It's now appropriate (says the government!) to stay on one's parents health insurance until 26, as well as quite possible to be employed without benefits. So the health information of generally functional 25-year-olds is open information for their parents. Should the parents happen to be writers of overshare (and who isn't these days), they're thus free to spill not only anonymously, to advice columnists, but in any public forum they desire. 'My Millenial Child Has Herpes,' coming soon to a magazine cover near you. But back to the matter at hand: 20 is at one and the same time too old to ask for a parent's permission (or owe an explanation!) for something so private as contraception, and too young to deal with this truly independently.

The answer I always lean to, for this sort of thing, is the one that will rile my libertarian readers: get the state involved. For people of limbo age, in higher education or the lowest, most precarious rungs of employment, basic living expenses and health insurance should come from the government. The parents (and non-parent adults) are still paying, yes, but in tax dollars. This would apply not to children, but to those in whichever age range we determine is both definitively adult and realistically tough to be 100% self-supporting at in our economy. Maybe 18-22, maybe 18-25. This would accomplish two things. First, it would level the playing field at a time in people's lives where this is especially key, but also especially possible to address. (An equal playing field within the childhood home is, for obvious reasons, more complicated.) Second, it would take away the awkwardness around children owing not just society but their parents specific behaviors as adults. Because it's not exactly that the 20-year-old's mother is wrong to want to pry, but that society should be structured in such a way that this would be considered outrageous.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Expectations exceeded UPDATED

To those who may be interested (Kei, Commenter Petey), the moment finally came: I drove to Mitsuwa! And back! While I get that driving from Central NJ to Northern NJ doesn't sound especially momentous, this was my first time on the NJ Turnpike, or any toll road for that matter. It was also my first experience of steep-hill driving, in either Edgewater or Fort Lee, whatever town it was between the road and the store. 

I'd been slightly worried that this would be like my last Japanese-supermarket excursion, to one in the Philadelphia suburbs, which turned out to be nice enough but a glorified convenience store, and which was only worth it in the end because of some good French bakeries nearby. Not so this time around! Mitsuwa is basically a suburban-NJ-sized Japanese supermarket/food hall, combined with a drug store, a few housewares sections, and a food court. A really cheap one, I should add - bowls of excellent noodle soup (kitsune udon) for about $5. It was a bit of sensory overload - I could have spent five hours in the soap-and-shampoo section alone! - but sort of manageable. 

Upon arrival.

UPDATE: Ducklings (not goslings - thanks Caryatis!) and Manhattan right outside the store.

More sponges.

The drive back. Near the Secaucus train station. So far north!

It was kind of incredible, I suppose, because it felt like being back in the very stores where I so wanted to buy stuff in Japan, except everything was identified in a script I could read (not necessarily explained or translated, but transliterated), and, more importantly, we were there with a trunk-having car. Lots was even on sale. And yes, a predictably enormous bag of sushi rice, a comically huge bottle of cooking sake, and other such items are now in our apartment. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I can't say I think of myself as a social conservative. On all the usual checklist items (same-sex marriage, premarital sex, contraception, abortion...), my stance would make it difficult for me to, say, vote Republican. And I wouldn't exactly classify myself as on the puritanical left, either. But I may have clutched some metaphorical pearls when reading the Prudie letter and response about wedding etiquette around plus-ones for the person with whom a guest is having an affair. A woman's "partner" happens to be a married man with young children - married-married, not even separated - and she's miffed that her partner hasn't been invited to her sister's wedding. While the sister sounds interesting as well - a thrice-married born-again Christian - this seems kind of irrelevant. Is society really so evolved that wedding hosts must include plus-ones who are, in theory, attending other weddings as their own spouses' plus-ones as well? And not even in a polyamorous sense, but in an adulterous one?

The idea, in this case, is that the wife has refused to have sex with the husband for five years, and is fine with him seeing another woman. These seem like kind of classic things a man looking to have an affair would claim, but Prudie goes with taking the letter-writer at her word. So, rather than giving the no-nonsense, telling-it-like-it-is answer one might expect (namely, this man isn't your "partner," but you're an old-school Other Woman bound to get hurt), Prudie gives her blessing to the relationship, on the grounds that if these things are true, the man is justified in looking elsewhere. No discussion of just what a major "if" that is!

But even if so, even if the man and his "partner" aren't doing anything wrong, why exactly does the man need to be the woman's date to weddings? Isn't the idea with the man staying married to his wife, despite her no longer being his real "partner," that they're maintaining a public façade of still being together? Doesn't the whole 'for the children' bit fall apart, not when the man sleeps with someone else (unless that someone else gets pregnant), but when dad is showing up at public events as a different woman's date? Why can't that sort of thing wait until the day comes (which it probably won't) when he actually leaves the one woman and full-on takes up with the other?

Where am I going with this? Where I'm going with this is, it's been my sense for a while now that a certain amount of old-timey, boys-will-be-boys behavior has been recategorized as the sort of thing that progressives - feminists! - must support. While I do think progressives must support consenting-adults-type choices insofar as, it's not progressive to suggest that the cops march in and bust the dude for adultery, is it really necessary, just because this is being presented with up-to-date terminology like "partner," to celebrate scenarios like the one described?

My raw facialist says hi

-Must find this book.

-I have combed the internet and found the best blog-comment of all time: "I like the idea of making yourself get dressed every morning and putting on makeup." It's in response to some (very sensible, if tough to follow) advice on working from home, but it has a certain out-of-context hilarity.

-ITG never ceases to amaze. It turns out there's such a thing as a "raw facialist." As someone who's in more of the 'should I get this spider bite confirmed by a dermatologist or just let it be?' persuasion, I don't think I'm the audience for it, but I'm also not entirely sure what it is. I'm not sure what it means (in the G-rated sense) when someone says they've gotten a facial, either. Are they normally cooked?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Articles of the hot and humid day

-Apparently that thing I'd always had a sneaking suspicion about - that making it in the writing world is easier if your friends happen to be writers - is true.

-I think the technical, journalistic classification for the following link is wut.

-The scientist village where I live is not open to the public, I think, who knows. But there are always tourists coming by to look at it, photograph it, and... I can't quite figure out what they hope to see. Einstein doesn't work here anymore. The scholars who do are on their computers or at their notebooks in their offices. There's nothing to see, and tourists aren't allowed inside the buildings to see it. That doesn't stop them from trying. Sometimes, walking my dog in the area, I feel as if I'm part of some kind of real-life Big Bang Theory fantasy tour, in which I play the disheveled brunette Penny.

But that's nothing! As Shulem Deen explains, the Hasids of Williamsburg have become a tourist attraction. And the poor tourists are disappointed when the anthropological exhibition they've come to observe fails to greet them with the appropriate small-town friendliness. As Deen notes, the tourist whining about this happens to be a middle-aged man, who was trying to make eye contact with women and, more disturbingly, little girls. That they were squicked out and avoided him seems very much unrelated to their being Hasids, and very much about them being sensible female city-dwellers. Deen also notes that there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of the Hasidic community, but that the failure of their eight-year-old girls to smile at male tourists isn't one of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fabulous small purchases*

-A mouse for my "broken computer" which was really just a reasonably-functional if aging computer with a broken trackpad. $15 rather than $1,000 or whatever a computer is these days. Thanks to commenter FarFromBreton for pointing me to Staples, which had been right there all the time.

-A $20 Uniqlo dress (now possibly cheaper still) that solves the easy-to-wear formal-ish dress conundrum.

-One Montreal-style cinnamon-raisin bagel in Philadelphia - the owner (?) threw in a sesame as well. At $2 a bagel this was not the deal of the century, but I did enjoy both bagels and am thus not complaining.

*Apologies to Joseph Epstein.

When "powerful words" fail

By the end of grad school, I was able to convey what my dissertation was about in anything from a sentence to nearly 500 pages. This is a potentially useful skill, but doesn't seem to carry over to Twitter, where, whenever I get into anything like a serious discussion, my first impulse is to move it off Twitter, either to email or just... anywhere, online or off, without a 140-character limit. So, @pronetolaughter, my reply to your recent tweets is here.

For readers who are not @pronetolaughter (whom I take to be a WWPD reader, because of the apparent response to something I'd written here), the issue was whether there's any advantage to using "racism" rather than "privilege" to discuss systematic unfairness based on race. @pronetolaughter argues that people don't react well to being called racist (true!), and that this is where the term "privilege" comes in - as a gentler (correct me if I'm misunderstanding) way to convey this point. @pronetolaughter also seems to be arguing, if between the lines (and again, feel free to correct), that because I question the efficacy of certain terms in calling out racism, sexism, etc., it's because I, deep down, support racism, sexism, and so forth, and am infiltrating anti-bigotry conversations to spread that message. Well, that's not it, I'm afraid.

My thinking, then, is basically this: The "powerful words" @pronetolaughter criticizes me for trying to get rid of are indeed powerful, but possibly too powerful, such that they're perceived of as overshooting the mark. I'm reminded of a course I once took, where the professor referred to various forms of subtle oppression experienced by marginalized groups (not in the U.S.) as "violences," a "violence" being anything bad, not merely anything violent. I think this may have just been the terminology of whichever subfield this was, but in any case, I found it confusing. I got the general idea - microaggression, more or less - but something about the term seemed forced. Yes, there are non-physical forms of violence, but to call everything bad "violence" ends up making it more difficult to discuss violence-violence, and makes it easier to dismiss non-violent, small-scale forms of oppression. While there is indeed a continuum between calling a black person "articulate" and purchasing a black person as a slave, or between a disproportionate obsession with Israel's flaws vs. that of any other country and holding Nazi sympathies, or between staring a bit too long at a woman on the subway and raping a woman...

I guess where I'm going with this is, you want terms that convey the entire spectrum, and that don't hone in on the worst-case-scenario. As much as it's a powerful argument to point out how low-level bigotry relates to more serious offenses, it them becomes far too easy to brush aside the lower-level stuff as not really counting because it's so plainly not the higher-level stuff. It's become just about impossible to discuss low-level anti-Jewish bigotry because "anti-Semitism" has become too powerful to use.