Thursday, June 19, 2008

Forced segues

-Gawker on the Weekly Standard on Hyde Park. Huh?

-On the topic of 'huh,' today was Day 1 of teaching myself Dutch. Ik ben extremely confused by the word order, but as skilled as ever at rote memorization of verb conjugations. Give me a language and a stack of index cards... But, as I learned when showing off my new Dutch skills to Jo, I am still incapable of pronouncing a single word of this language.

-Quite possibly, the problem is that I am too short to speak Dutch. Both the Dutch and the Flemish are ridiculously tall. This is my attempt at a segue into Amber's post (and the many interesting comments) on the lunacy that is height-extension surgery. To these individuals, the men going berserk because they fail to reach 5'10", I suggest a foray into Flemish cinema. You will soon enough learn that even where everyone is tall, things can be gloomy from time to time.

As for short men not getting dates... who knows? My guess is that (to generalize; comes with the territory) short men don't want to date short women, a) because they don't want short children, and b) because the ability to attract a conventionally 'hot' lady (and such a woman is, apologies to Ms. Portman, tall) is itself a form of compensation. Of course you will not get short women complaining that 'only' tall men like them, except, I'd imagine, in specific cases when a specific short woman likes a specific short man. But in general, this kind of complaint gets classified with 'I'm too small, even the XS at chain stores doesn't fit me,' or, better yet, 'I have two dishwashers.' A thought best kept to one's self.

Women, of course, are not supposed to care about our own height, just weight. Well, to quote the song, I wish I was a little bit taller. Not to attract men--on the subway in the summer, there's more male attention than any woman could possibly appreciate--but so that, for once, I would get the right of way on a crowded sidewalk. It has never happened, because everyone is taller than I am, and the taller person gets the right of way. This sounds unimportant but in lower Manhattan, it would make all the difference in the world.

-Speaking of lower Manhattan, the keffiyeh is now officially over, because I saw two very obviously Modern Orthodox high school girls wearing them. It is now just a trendy scarf, whatever attachment it was supposed to have with an accompanying trendy cause is now a thing of the past.

-And finally, on the subject(s) of gender and politics, I finished the Coontz book, The Way We Never Were, whose title I seem to have gotten wrong in my last post on the subject. If it had been about how the traditional family as social conservatives imagine it never really existed, then it would have been amazing. Instead, while she does address this (and has, quite well, more recently), there were a lot, a lot, of mentions of how much better things would be if Americans would only look to contemporary (1990s) Europe, or better yet to precolonial-period Native Americans, and model our families after theirs. So much for trying to convince a right-wing, center-right, or even centrist audience of her arguments. That Scandinavia is fantastic does not make me want a village raising my (theoretical) child. But moreover, her refusal to attribute any antisocial behavior to personal or communal failings--unless the behavior is exhibited by white, Protestant, middle-class heterosexual men--brings a good amount of the book into the territory of Left that reminds me why I would feel uncomfortable with that label.

Coontz fails to address the "Sex and the City" question, that is, what to make of the many women--some fictitious, some not--who want nothing more than a 'traditional' family, but through their own misunderstandings of/halfway approach to feminism, end up single and menopausal. Granted in 1992, one would have to have been remarkably prescient to mention "Sex and the City," but the phenomenon it explores was not invented with Carrie and Big. Whether or not we should, by an abstract feminist standard, most women I know--and, I'd say, most men--want good ol' hetero monogamy for themselves, even while most are plenty accepting of other routes for those that ideal would not satisfy. Regardless of why we want this, we do, so in this sense, a turn 'backwards'--albeit one that allows for change, encouraging, for example, legally-recognized gay marriage--is less intrusive than suggesting we abandon the nuclear family altogether.

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