Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sexy Kale costumes, $3 a bunch

Halloween! Has it already happened, or is it about to? I'm not celebrating it until the weekend, which means there's time yet for a costume epiphany. The plan had been to go as Einstein, in the spirit of hyper-localism, but then the question was, how? It's not that there aren't Einstein costumes - there are - but they're this mix of not quite right and hideous. Cheaper at the local costume store than online, but I have trouble spending any money on something I find, well, ugly. (Not actual Einstein's hair-and-mustache, which worked for him. Just the acrylic approximations.)

But also, an Einstein costume is a big ol' statement against Sexy Halloween.* But maybe too much so. Maybe the better approach is to go with sexy, but take it to an extreme, ala Sexy Pizza, as recently parodied on the Daily Show. I have some farmers' market kale I need to get through in one way or another. Perhaps I'll go as Sexy Kale, or better yet, Sexy Cliché.

I understand that there's already a vibrant feminist debate about whether women should wear sexy costumes, and that weighing in on Halloween itself makes me late. The verdict is evidently no, given the lists of generally somewhat grim feminist-approved dress-up options. There are also dissenters, protesting the slut-shaming of those whose idea of a costume is themed lingerie. There's also Dan Savage, who makes the important point that dressing skimpy attracts men, whether the skimpy dresser is male or female, which is why men looking to attract women tend to avoid it. I'm sure there are also, somewhere on the internet, feminist defenses of sexy costumes, along the lines of 'I bought the Slutty Nurse costume and am going to wear it for me,' but there only so many blog-hours in the day.

My own thoughts on the matter are basically summed up here, in a post not about Halloween. As I see it, rather than women straightforwardly being pressured into dressing as sexy vegetables or whatever, there's on the one hand, well, that, and on the other, that any overt attempt to look sexy, on Halloween or otherwise, comes across as desperate or possibly - horrors - unattractive. After all, we have this popular belief that every woman is fending off constant attention, even when she goes to the proverbial supermarket in her proverbial sweats-and-no-makeup. What does it say about a woman if she has to try?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Incidental rhinoplasty

Lisa Kudrow* just gave an interview that's received a lot of press, essentially because in it, she admits to being glad that, at 16, she got a nose job. The Daily Mail helpfully intervened to provide the requisite before and after photos. Because let's get real - a nose job story needs pictures. In the same interview, by coincidence, Kudrow also discusses her Jewish background, including the Holocaust and her personal experiences with anti-Semitism.

Neither Kudrow nor her interviewer draws any connection between these two items. It's as if, by total coincidence, she had a deschnozzification, and is Jewish. Is this like interviewing a black woman about skin-bleaching, or an East Asian woman about eyelid surgery, and doing so in a way that suggests ethnicity didn't have anything to do with this? And I say "women" because, as they say, intersectionality. Sure, men do such things too, but there's the extra pressure on women to be beautiful, on top of whichever pressure's on everyone to look less ethnic.

I suppose we might look at it as progress. Look, an article going out of its way not to imply that Jews have big noses! Any actress might have had a nose job! How about Rachel from "Friends" - despite what the name might have had you believe, the actress who played her, at least, isn't Jewish.

Still, to admit that there's a tremendous Jewish angle here isn't to agree to the 'fact' that Jews have big noses, which, I wouldn't bet on it, nor am I offering my own as an example for Exhibit A for 'see, Jews can have button noses.' It's not so much that Jews have prominent noses (and it sure isn't that non-Jews don't!) as that when a Jew has a big nose, this is a feature associated with Jewishness, and thus more likely to be agonized over and, if funds are sufficient, trimmed. No, Jews aren't alone in that regard, and may no longer be the group most self-conscious about that trait. But certainly back in the day, when Kudrow underwent schnozz-reduction surgery, those were still the days of this procedure having a specific association with Jews.

*I have a complicated relationship with this actress, or more accurately, with the character she played on TV. Early in the days of self-Googling, I found a white-supremacist website where I was under attack for being Jewish. Or my name was, but they were, it was clear, discussing Phoebe from "Friends," and had somehow gotten the last names mixed up, and were under the impression that my name was that of the actress who plays Phoebe on that show. Cue requisite 'racists are idiots' remark.

That, and for as long as that show's been in syndication, I've had to field questions about whether I was named after Phoebe from "Friends." Which makes no sense - I was not plausibly born in or after 1994 - but once a sitcom reaches a certain age, it's just old, and short of being in black and white, when exactly it comes from is a blur. It might have been from the 1980s, but even if it had been, a part of me is like, you think my parents named me after something to do with "Friends"? Yes, there's a television connection to how I came to have this name, but not friggin' "Friends." It's just such a terrible show, and I say this as someone who really likes some sitcoms and readily tolerates even the mediocre ones. I can't put my finger on what about the show was so off-putting - I think it was mostly just the aesthetic, something between the set design and the hairstyles. Or that people were always conflating that with "Seinfeld."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A smattering of the usual

-Parental overshare at its most face-value creepy: Your child's having an age-appropriate tantrum? Publish a photo of your kid in tears, with a caption that implies your own kid is a brat. (And if so, whose fault would that be?)

-Tim Kreider on writing and illustrating for "exposure." It's not that I don't share the complaint - as a naive recent college grad, I wrote this Gothamist post, irony of ironies, for $0 - but it isn't really all that mysterious why someone would think to ask for free writing, but not free dental services. As comes up in the NYT comments, the fault may lie not with trust funds, but day jobs. As in, freelance writing, at least, is something you can do in your spare time, without special training or equipment, and that, unlike, say, accounting, you might enjoy doing regardless of what it pays. It's no coincidence that not one but two (if not more!) freelance writers without another source of income matter-of-factly describe themselves as unemployed. It's work, and it can pay something, but that something may be best thought of as supplemental. But it's not like an unpaid internship, where you're presumably going into some office during hours you might otherwise be at a job that pays, and doing tasks you yourself wouldn't have chosen. The more pressing issue might be that many of the positions that used to be day jobs for writers are now unpaid internships.

-According to Jezebel, Lena Dunham has written something "tinged with privilege." I can't possibly be the only one who's come to the conclusion that coming-across-as-privilege is Dunham's... not gimmick, exactly, but what? Niche? Career-defining motif? Whatever we're calling it, if I were Dunham, I'd keep it up.

Time travel

The Atlantic posted a personal essay by a Nazi sympathizer - an American of German "Aryan" origin, as she puts it - married to a Jew. She doesn't understand why Jews make such a fuss about that nice Mr. Hitler, who's only just trying to solve Germany's Jewish problem. Those around her are fascinated by her "interracial" (as she puts it) marriage to a Jew, so she's decided to head to her typewriter and tell the world about her very exotic experience.

In case the typewriter didn't give it away, the article's not recent. It's from 1939, but it seems when the magazine first put it online, in 2011, that wasn't entirely clear. (There's now an editor's note in addition to a small-print dateline.) And so brings us the convergence of all my interests: Modern Jewish history! Historical intermarriage! Internet comments! Where oh where to begin?

-We kind of have to begin with the fact that some commenters - that is, commenters today, what with the scarcity of internet commenters in 1939 - agree with the author. As in, they think they're reading a new article, and it's one they agree with. And you know what? I can sort of see why they think it's a regular Atlantic article, not from the archives. It's a personal essay, a relationship essay, by a woman, written in a conversational tone. That to me says 2011 more than 1939. It's the agreement that's unsettling.

-Then there's the tremendous difference between what the article tells us about the author given when it was written, and what it would tell us about her if it had been written even a few years later, let alone in 2011. If you take a look at a timeline from the period, that whole invading-Poland thing hadn't happened yet. The U.S. wouldn't enter the war for quite a while. And if you consider the lag between when something was written and when it was published back in the age of print journalism, that this appeared in a January 1939 issue means it was written, almost certainly, in 1938. So plausibly before Kristallnacht. Point being, what "Nazis" meant to an American at that time, what Nazis were at that time, was radically different from what we hear when we hear that word.

-But, but, the author and her husband did argue about Nazi anti-Jewish policy! Evidently someone saw the Nazis for what they were! But here's the thing: Political anti-Semitism wasn't yet associated with death camps, what with that having not happened yet. By 1938, even, it was plenty clear Nazis weren't fond of Jews, but not remotely clear what they were going to do about it. When you read today about a regime with a repressive policy towards gays or Roma, you may disapprove or protest, but you're probably not in all-out panic that gas chambers are being set up. While it would have been a nice gesture for the author to condemn a regime abroad that had it in for her husband, her level of callousness isn't as extreme as it seems, reading the essay today.

-If the essay is about Jewish assimilation in America, it's also, in a more subtle way, about German-American particularity. The author describes a very specific kind of family culture, something about vacationing in the mountains and not having a warm relationship with relatives, as if that's just American, which, no. I can think of plenty of groups, apart from Jews, who'd be more "Jewish" than "German" in this regard. (See: many groups of non-German Catholics.) I venture to say there'd have been culture clash had this woman married into an Italian or a Belgian family.

-While reading the essay is a lesson in avoiding anachronism, it's also a reminder that, well, that there's a reason 'some of my best friends are X' has taken on the meaning it has. It's entirely possible for your best friend or spouse to be X, and for you to be intensely bigoted against that group. While we have no reason to think the author would have supported the Final Solution, there's not much of a sense, either, that being married to a Jew in some way stopped her from holding anti-Semitic views typical of her era. Or even above and beyond. She has quite the deeply-theorized anti-Semitism going, and has clearly given The Jew a lot of thought:
'But look at the matter from the political side,' I advise Ben. 'When a Swede or a Chinese settles down in a foreign land, such as the United States, the Swede makes haste to become a thorough American—at any rate he lets his children become thorough Americans; the Chinese, realizing that this is impossible, lives aloofly in Chinatown, minds his own business, and keeps out of American political affairs. The Jew, however, wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Like the Chinese, he clings to his own race, culture, and tradition; he trains his children to cling to these just as tenaciously. Then, like the Swede, he sets out to annex all the privileges of Americanism. He wants to rise to the top of the Gentile social structure, to wield power in Gentile politics of the community, state and nation. He wants to be left alone, but he also wants the country in which he lives to take good care of him. He wants to have full citizenship in that country, yet retain his citizenship in the Jewish nation.
I think the proper response here, the only one that can properly, and in a nuanced way, comment on this is: oy. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Driving, Identity, and Resistance

If you learn to drive as an adult, a lot of things go differently. For instance, you don't need to be so worried about what to do in a car full of other teenagers. Nor are you exploring your alcohol limits and learning right on red at the same time. (I was at a cocktail party at six this evening, not to drive until eleven, and went with only seltzer, because I'm that well-acquainted with my tolerance, from those years before so much as being a passenger in a car was much of an issue.) But the main difference is, you have to contend with having the identity of a non-driver.

Think of it like this: If you graduate from college somewhere in the 21-23 range, it's likely not going to be a big deal for you to think of yourself as a college graduate. Similarly, if you learn to drive at the traditional age (which is what in this country, 12?), there was certainly a time when you couldn't drive, and you may well remember your lessons, your mother or father screaming at you from the passenger seat, but you won't identify as someone who doesn't drive. The entire thing won't seem like something other people do, but not you.

This evening, I got back to town, following an interesting experiment in Penn Station-avoidance, involving the PATH train from Newark to the World Trade Center. I was, in other words, tired. But then there I was, and I saw this impeccably parked vehicle, and there, in my hand, was a key that opened it. How about that! So I got in and drove home, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Unfazed by a traffic diversion I'd never approached from quite that angle, nor by the cone that had tipped over slightly into the road.

While that level of comfort driving in town isn't new for me, what was different was, I'd been at an event with friends I made shortly before learning to drive, held in the neighborhood where I went to high school, at an organization I worked at one summer during college. I was in Non-Driver Phoebe mode, and then lo and behold, this car. While driving just now, I was having these odd moments of, is this really me, doing this? But fear not, fellow New Jersey drivers. It's reached the point where not knowing how to drive would be impossible. I'm going along and knowing intellectually that this process would have not long ago struck me as magic, akin to being an Olympic gymnast as far as I was concerned. I know I could go back to WWPD posts and try to return to that mindset. But it's become impossible to really remember what that felt like.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

For non-blonds UPDATED

By now, everyone's seen the story of the blonde girl found in a Roma home. Commenter Quasimodo asked for my thoughts, which I started getting into in the comments, but this may merit a whole entire post of its own:

-Let's please not start assuming blond children of not-blond families are somehow suspect. This, for so many reasons. Such as: Adoption happens across ethnic lines. Lots of light-haired children grow up to be dark-haired adults. Police of the world, don't start swooping in and removing blond children from families to which they belong.

UPDATE: Too late, via.

-There isn't some great, global 'blondness belt' where everyone's rich, extending from comfortably socialized Scandinavia to New England WASPs, Southern belles, and California surfers. There's also this little thing called Russia. (Closer to home: Appalachia. Also: the "Gypsies" of Ireland.) Other Eastern European countries as well. This matters in terms of how we try to make sense of this incident. It's being discussed as if there's obviously some Western middle-class or wealthy family whose missing child this is. When the full story may - in any number of ways, some more upsetting than others - relate to the family of origin being poor and desperate. Of course, there could well be an impoverished Russian family whose child was abducted, or a rich British one, say, who for some reason dropped their baby by the doorstep. But point is, 'blond' doesn't say as much about socioeconomic or global origins as we might think.

-We don't want to overshoot the mark and start talking about the privilege of abductees who happen to be pretty blonde girls. Abducted is still abducted, and is still unthinkably worse than being dark-haired and/or plain in the comfort of your own home. Same deal if the abductee comes from a well-off family. This came up (where else?) in a Jezebel thread about Elizabeth Smart, with commenters debating whether maybe the real message of the story was that access to services for the abducted isn't as equal as we'd like. When something truly horrific happens to someone rich, it's still horrific. It's not as if being abducted from your childhood bedroom at knifepoint by a deranged would-be cult leader and getting raped by him and abused by his wife is an ordinary poor or working-class experience, either.

-Every time a minority is accused of refusing to integrate, I get suspicious. Are we sure it isn't that the majority won't have them? This, in response to anti-Roma bigots who - like everyone who's been to a European tourist destination - has a story, but feel compelled to extrapolate from that story that they were mugged or near-mugged not because Roma have no other options in some areas, but because they're just like that. When looking at issues of integration, what matters isn't just whether the government has some plan in place involving schooling or who knows. It's also how a minority's received socially.

-Can we please not make this a discussion about how those terrible, selfish Jews insist on claiming that they were WWII's only victims? Who exactly are the Jews not aware that Roma, gays, and the disabled also had the Nazis to contend with? Or aware but denying this? I'll grant that what we learned in Hebrew school or whatever might have been about roundups of "Gypsies," so there may be some misuse of terminology, if no more among Jews than the general population. But really. It would be nice if, every time the Roma came up, anti-Semites didn't come out of the woodwork to hold forth on how Jews think they're so special, with their fancy Holocaust. On behalf of The Jews, I'll say that what we don't appreciate is when other aspects of that period of history are brought up in such a way as to deny the Jewish experience. As in, without an 'actually Jews didn't have it so bad' angle tagged onto the discussion of the suffering of other groups.

-While this really doesn't have anything to do with Jews directly, it does bring to mind the blood libel. Not that this couple was falsely accused of having a kid they hadn't officially adopted (that may be right), nor that they were at all accused of planning to serve the kid for dinner. (They do stand accused, by Internet commenters, of prostituting her out, based on no particular evidence as far as I can tell.) But just this idea that there's something particularly squicky about a blond child being lost to the blond community, and something particularly nefarious going on in the non-blond population.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Public service announcement, super-parochial edition

Neat, isn't it, that Einstein used to live in that house? I know I thought so when I first moved here. I get it. But please, visitors and the otherwise curious: Don't walk backwards into the busy road the house is on, without looking, to get a better photo. Yes, I know to look out for this, because it's down the street and happens all the time. (I only screamed, 'Oh no, why is someone suddenly walking backwards into the road there???' the first few dozen times driving to town.) But what if someone's driving down the road - and it's just at the point where it's gone from 45mph to 25mph, so if they're not from the area, they may not have noticed and slowed down - and they don't know the significance of that nearly unmarked and otherwise ordinary-looking house? Hmm?


-George Washington University, need-blind-ish.

-Cosmetic breast enhancement, feminist-ish.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Concealing, "shrinking"

Man, I wish I were still guest-blogging over at Autumn's, because I think this may be more for her audience than mine, but here goes:

There's this thing in beauty writing where the woman recommending whichever product or approach must not have the 'problem' being 'corrected.' See: Gwyneth Paltrow's diet advice. See also: a woman without under-eye circles learns how to conceal under-eye circles. And also: a wrinkle-cream recommendation from a young woman who "[hasn't] started to think about that yet."

Somehow I relate this to "Japanese" hair-straightening. There's this sense in which the women in the market for advice on how to fix whichever perceived flaw will be drawn to images of women who don't have it, or who barely do, or who wouldn't be thought to. I suppose that's just how advertising works, period. But if there was ever a moment to get all Naomi Wolf about the beauty industry, it would be when advice on whichever miracle product, presented as ostensibly editorial, can only be given via the images of a woman on whom nothing changes. Like, if the thing worked, it would be demonstrated on a woman who didn't so visibly not need it.

(Oh, and Fourtinefork, thanks to a big-enough coupon, I got the Nars concealer. It's OK, not miraculous.)


This Upworthy video has been making the viral rounds. It's a young woman's slam poem (just ignore the background snapping and groaning) about men, women, and body image. And I'm having trouble deciding what to make of it. On the one hand, if I were the sort who snapped and groaned to express agreement with the sentiment, I'd be snapping and groaning with the best of 'em to what Lily Myers has to say. (Instead, I've long since misplaced the black turtleneck I think I once owned.)

On the other, if the poem is indeed strictly autobiographical - which, maybe it's not, but every reference seems to be about it being "about her family" - it's some fine reverse-parental-overshare. While the ethics of spilling about one's parents and grandparents are different from those of spilling about one's kids, it seemed a very personal glimpse of mom at home, one she might not want shared with the positive-thinking masses. And, she called her male relatives fat. While Myers makes a good point about the difference between male and female body-image concerns (while at the same time making a much bigger point about gender and assertiveness - thus the strength of the poem), it's not as if men don't have any. I can't imagine any man I know being pleased to hear himself called rotund in a viral video.

But is this her family? Or is it a poem, and therefore fiction? College-student slam poetry, where my literary-analysis tools fail me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sephora and secularism

Here's some highly relevant French-Jewish news, in a tangential way: Sephora wants to keep its French stores open on Sundays, which according to Jezebel, a leading resource on the French legal system, violates French labor laws. And the face-value interpretation is of course, does anyone really need Dior tinted moisturizer on a Sunday, like need it? Shouldn't we care more about labor than some white lady's sense of entitlement to 24-7 access to the lip stain of her choice? Can't we all just lead slower, simpler lives? Why not just shop on Saturday and take a walk on Sunday, like Sartre describes in La nausée?

While it's not false that consumers want to buy silly things, and are sometimes petulant when the shop's closed, there's a whole lot more going on here.

Which brings up something I... not necessarily should know but will now have to look into: Why does the Marais, one of Paris's traditionally Jewish neighborhoods, stay open on Sundays? And no, not Judaica shops - all the same boutique-chain retailers as have closed branches everywhere else in the city/country. And I don't believe they're closed on Saturdays (or any other day) to compensate. Evidently because it's a tourist area, but the Jewish angle seems not irrelevant.

More broadly, France has a whole lot of non-Christians, about 600,000 Jews last I heard (or 599,999 since I moved far away from Le Boulanger des Invalides, sniff sniff) and far more Muslims. While secular sorts of Christian origin may maintain the cultural practice of a Sunday sabbath without even thinking about it, and may not see it as religious, keeping one going is a form of discrimination against non-Christians, who may well have their own secular or religious sabbaths, and who may well just generally not enjoy the weekly reminder of the Christian-ness of their allegedly oh-so-secular country. (I'm not speaking for this population, imagining what might offend - Albert Memmi had a whole riff on this topic.) If you're an observant Jew and you work an office job, when can you buy anything? Shops aren't open late, and Saturday's not an option.

Maybe the more fair - but tougher to enforce - thing would be to have a law insisting that workers get at least one day per week off, and if a Muslim or Jewish Sephora salesperson wants to be the, err, Shabbos Goy of high-end cosmetics, so be it. Or maybe it's really so terrible to have a day off that doesn't match up with that of the rest of society that if France's religious and cultural minorities are kind of screwed over, those are the breaks. But the whole 'how charming, a day of rest' approach always strikes me as, yes, missing something.

"The bride, 27, will take her husband’s name. She flies the RC-135, a reconnaissance aircraft. She graduated from the Air Force Academy."

This, from today's NYT Weddings pages, jumped out at me because I'd had open, in another window, the latest Facebook thread about women, marriage, and name-change. This is a subject of endless fascination to many women (and some men) my age. We have on the one hand the contingent convinced that marital name-change is a self-evident evil, and on the other, a whole bunch of seemingly reasonable - even, at times (see above example) quite impressive women taking their husband's names. There are also women who are not living their lives at all along feminist lines, of course, doing so.

Has anyone ever looked into whether there's a relationship between traditional gender roles within a marriage (i.e. who makes the most money, who has the gendered-male or gendered-female career, who does most of the housework/childcare) and whether the wife changed her name? Because my anecdotal evidence is a whole big pile of there being no particular relationship between these things. It seems as though whichever cultural-values thing is governing whether a woman chooses to change her name is different from the one that determines how to approach life in other areas. 

What tends to skew the conversation is that the women whose voices are heard most loudly in cultural discussions are ones who happen to work as writers, and who have really made their names already, in a way that doesn't correspond to how most lives go, where it's really not such a big deal to learn that Ms. A from Accounting now goes by Ms. B. (Miss and Mrs. seem to have gone out of favor.) Even established writers who would be open to taking a husband's name are still writers, coming at the question from the perspective of someone who has a name that means something already to a great many strangers.

My own thoughts about the compatibility of feminism and name-change, which I've probably already discussed here, are as follows: The performance of gender is something we all must do along the lines we feel comfortable with. If someone born male feels female, she's a woman. If someone born female feels female but prefers pants to dresses and short hair to long, this variant of female self-presentation should be accepted. These are not statements about financial independence or lack thereof, career ambition or lack thereof, but seemingly superficial trappings with which we demonstrate gender identity. 

It follows that if a feminist woman wants to play 'the woman' in one or more ways consistent with traditional gender norms (and that could be name-change, makeup-wearing, etc.), she should engage in a bit of hand-wringing over whether this is really her desire or social norms, but may end up concluding that this is how she feels comfortable. And then that's what she has to do. Depending her milieu, she's either doing what everyone hoped she'd do anyway, or feeling as though she must defend her decision to disappointed peers. That's where the whole 'it was my father's name anyway' or 'his name just happens to be nicer' discussions arise. 'I choose, in this area, to play the woman' never seems to be an option, even if that's probably closest to the truth.

When someone's gender-self-presentation matches up with traditional expectations, these things can never be separated out entirely - what's culture, and what's me? Where we want to get, as a society - and here I borrow from Dan Savage, who explained this so well in a recent interview I'm forgetting where - is to a place where the boys who play with dolls are accepted, but so too is the likely fact that most people will feel the same drive to perform the expected gender-roles (at least to a degree) as that boy does to play with Barbies. Of course it's all subjective - of course if we lived in a society with different naming systems, there wouldn't be women performing femininity by changing their names. But we live in the society we do, and that's what's going on.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The I-95 Flag Great Adventure

Today I conquered my last remaining learning-to-drive task. Unless we're counting parallel parking in a tiny city spot in busy traffic, which we're not, because that's a) avoidable, and b) something lots of the driving-since-16 sorts can't do, either. What I'm saying is, I drove on the highway! Alone! And am typing from my apartment, which means I made it back!

I could give excuses-excuses reasons for why it took so long - that nowhere around here requires a highway, and longer trips are more fun not to take alone anyway - but who am I kidding, I was terrified. But then this morning, I first drove my husband to the train station, then my dog to the dog run, and on the second of those trips, I started noticing that the big road to the run is basically like a highway - there's merging and a speed limit of 50, which in NJ-driver terms means highway speeds. (Of course, highway speed limits are similarly deceptive.) I thought, if I can do this like it's second nature, the highway can't possibly be so dire. That, and I was having one of those home-alone-on-the-weekend moments when I suddenly realized that I was browsing the Wikipedia pages of the cast members of "Frasier." An activity begun with some kind of Further Thoughts on "Frasier" in mind, but at a certain point, my eyes were glazing over, over the fact that Daphne was not only Marla the Virgin on "Seinfeld," but also a dancer in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." I had to get out of the house.

So, highway driving. It's still not second-nature to me how to merge or change lanes above 60mph, or how to anticipate when someone else is about to do so, given that people don't always signal. But it's doable. Far more difficult is parking once you get to the place. Lambertville was better than, say, Philadelphia might have been, but still somewhat challenging. Also difficult: finding where to get onto the highway on the way back. It's supposed to be the first left, but is really the second - the first puts you back on the same road. That I've been on the same trip probably a dozen times, as a passenger and driver, ought to have made this not so confusing, but no. Still, all told, a success.

Friday, October 18, 2013

From Paris to Gristedes

-It's another day, so there are yet more instructions on how to look French. It's the usual, though - Frenchwomen don't go to the gym, don't use much makeup, do use a lot of moisturizers, and get medical pedicures. (I remember seeing those places all over Paris - had I been there as a beauty writer and not, you know, a grad student with a croissants-and-discounted-t-shirts budget, I might have had to investigate.) Frenchwomen look "natural," although what this means is that whatever they do, they call "natural," even if it involves injections of something that isn't Botox, but is instead "natural." (Isn't botulism natural? Isn't injecting anything into your face reasonably high up on the artifice spectrum?) And there's once again the French-hair recommendation, which those of us without the "French" hair texture can go on ignoring.

-The latest twist in YPIS: insufferable Thought Catalog essays on how terrible it is to be hated for one's privilege. What I suspect, but couldn't prove, is that what's brought this merry band of poor-little-rich-girls* to this topic - to this spiral of guilt and defensiveness - isn't, as they claim, that those who have less are making them feel bad. Rather, it's that there's a whole lot of YPIS being hurled among those of comparable levels of privilege, and a certain number of rich kids fail to catch on. While it's not impossible that a cashier at Gristedes is judging her for having shopped at a sample sale, my guess is that this young woman (who lives in a "West Village Apartment" [sic], because she's so rich, "apartment" must be capitalized?) has learned just how fancy and schmancy she is from peers who are just a bit more discreet. Peers who know it's not socially acceptable (in the UK maybe, but not here) to condemn someone for seeming gauche and nouveau-riche, and who then channel that sentiment into sanctimonious claims about how terrible the Gristedes cashiers must feel when ringing up some college kid with a discounted but likely still expensive handbag.

My theory, then, is that somehow all that YPIS gets unfairly projected onto the actual not-so-privileged, who are likely far more interested in when their shift at Gristedes ends than in whether the woman whose Diet Coke they're ringing up has student loans and if so, whether her parents are helping her pay them back. Which... I'm not sure what to conclude. There have always been ostentatious types who self-present as unashamed rich girls, in a Real Housewife-type way. But now, at least in some circles, the message has gotten through that there should be some embarrassment at unearned advantage. Which, I guess, why not? But as much as it's fun to mock the rich and oblivious, it seems as though the fight against obliviousness ends up subsuming whichever fight against inequality. Reduced obliviousness among the Gristedes customer base doesn't do much to help Gristedes workers. Whether it does anything is its own discussion.

*The gender angle here is huge, too huge to properly get to in this post, although it's kind of like what I was saying here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Let's go to the Cheesecake Factory at the mall!"

-me, entirely non-ironically, to my husband, just now.

Because my computer cord broke, and the Apple Store is in a mall that just got a Uniqlo, and we've never been to a Cheesecake Factory, not out of some kind of strategic avoidance, there just aren't a lot (or any!) where we're from. There was a context. But still. Whatever persona I may have once had of the native New Yorker who studies nineteenth-century French literature and wears "a jacket" from time to time, all of that was taken away from me in exchange for that much-struggled-for New Jersey drivers' license. You can take the girl out of Manhattan and, evidently, take the Manhattan out of the girl.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"A jacket"

Inès de la Fressange (whom we've met before) is now offering five tips for how to be a chic Frenchwoman or just look like one. Fashion advice is often accused of being out-of-touch, or misogynistic in its demands to suffer for fashion. This, however, swings marvelously (comically?) in the other direction. To look the part of a Française, you will need the following:

1) "A denim shirt"

2) "Ballerina flats"

3) "Jeans"

4) "A jacket"

5) "A navy sweater"

In other words, there's an excellent chance that the ingredients for being a chic Frenchwoman are already in your wardrobe. You're a fifth of the way there if you own jeans! And note that four of the five items are as much menswear as women's, the remaining one being a relatively comfortable alternative to the usual.

Still, because this genre demands that The Frenchwoman chastise The Anglowoman, we get a bit about how you "look like a rat" (!) if you wear a black sweater rather than a navy one. Whatever that means. And she advises buying a shrunken blazer (fair enough), and doing so... at a children's department. That is the ultimate taboo - a woman who mentions shopping in a children's department is, according to the rules of this sort of thing, announcing that she's tiny. Which, maybe she is, maybe she isn't - she might just be short, and since "kids" effectively means petites in up to an 8 or 10, it's altogether possible to be not-so-tiny (if not-so-big, either) and shop kids'. But Fressange is twelve feet tall, a former model and Professional Thin Frenchwoman, so rest assured, that's her meaning.

Even so - even though Fressange calls the women she's advising rodent-like and makes them feel fat, even though there's nothing especially "French" about most of these items or combining them - this is probably the most appealing fashion advice I've seen in ages.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Idiosyncratic disadvantage

Commenter (and college friend) Jena brought up a good point in the comments to the post below:

I see a second issue with the scholarship, too, but I'm having trouble articulating it beyond a few examples. I have friends who didn't apply for a scholarship for cancer survivors "because I was never an inpatient" and others who didn't apply for a scholarship for children of divorce "because my parents still like each other." There's already a lot of downplaying of health and family problems as "not as bad as others" - sort of an anti-one-upmanship? - which seems counter to the point of such scholarship. Sure, the writer doesn't have AS BAD a disadvantage as others ... but does that matter?
With scholarships, there are merit-based ones, need-based ones, and then special-factor ones, which may or may not be about obstacles overcome. But given that this discussion was in reference to the ones that are - inspired by the qualms of a grad-school applicant with hearing loss - let's focus on that angle. The following thoughts come out of some off-blog discussions of this topic, but it seemed worth bringing back to WWPD as well. Some more half-formed thoughts are below:

In principle, it seems like a good thing that scholarships acknowledge an ever-broader spectrum of disadvantages. One of the big problems with "privilege" as a framework, as it's generally used, is that we can kind of forget that all things equal, the white/male/rich have it easy, but that on an individual basis, obstacles come from a great many sources, and don't all fit into the (admittedly ever-expanding) list of generally-agreed-upon categories.

In practice, category-expansion (and we're using scholarships as the example) poses several problems. The first is that there will always be obstacles that fall through the cracks, that fail to reach the public's awareness, or that are just too idiosyncratic to get categories of their own. This, though, isn't necessarily such a problem, for the obvious 'why not do some good even if there's no fixing everything' reasons. That Person A comes from a messed-up family doesn't change the fact that racism continues to exist, or that those without rich parents have a tougher time paying for college. (Caryatis, does this at all address your concern?)

The second and more pressing is that the further you get from a category like race or class, the more likely you are to venture into the kind of territory individuals may not want to disclose about. Indeed, disclosure would be a strange phrasing if we're talking about putting "Pacific Islander" or bare-bones financial information on a form. It's not that race and class are always visible or (ha!) never sensitive. But think about this in terms what might constitute a privacy violation if shared about someone else. These are things about which someone has the option of not telling the entire world, and maybe they want to exercise that.

Giving these additional obstacles official recognition - as with scholarships - requires public (or quasi-public, if the funds are given somehow anonymously) admission of whichever obstacle, which is just plain going to be tougher to get in these cases than it is to convince someone whose obstacle is that their parents didn't go to college to put that on a form. Maybe you won't want to apply for the My Family Is Massively Dysfunctional Fellowship or the I'm Severely Deformed Under My Clothes Due To An Accident Scholarship, not because these weren't setbacks, but because that's not what you want to lead with in new situations. Or maybe whichever private trauma is too great for you to want to relive it by thinking about it, even if there's no line on your CV about it.

But there's also a third problem, which is that idiosyncratic obstacles are precisely the ones least likely to be overcome by throwing money at the problem. Obstacles not related to socioeconomic depravation are more likely to lead to things like lower grades and fewer extracurriculars than lower family income. Someone who faced terrible-but-unclassifiable obstacles as a child needs, I don't know, a GPA and SAT pseudo-boost, not necessarily a scholarship, any more than everyone does given what college costs these days.

Natalia Vodianova looks tired

Embrace your flaws! Anyone familiar with fashion writing will know this is code for, time to use a model who's airbrushed-flawless but for a delightful gap between the two front teeth. Meant to indicate, I suppose, that the girl/woman in question is effortlessly beautiful. After all, how hard would it have been to fix that flaw? If she's left that alone, presumably no artifice whatsoever has entered into the rest of what we see before us. And it's reached the point of cliché: new models now regularly have that gap, because it's the perfect flaw-that-isn't. It's the kind of thing that, on an ordinary-looking person, might be thought to detract from an appearance. Or it must be: I had such a gap as a kid, and my family paid good money - and I underwent good tooth-agony - for this to be closed up. (This was allegedly for legitimate dental reasons, something about what would happen to my teeth as I got older if this wasn't fixed. Maybe?)

See also: the gigantic-eyebrow craze. Traits that add a certain off-beat edge to conventional beauty will, if adopted by the merely tweezer-lazy, lead to the not-charming version of effortless, a kind of sad return to those elementary-school pictures, before you learned that eyebrows even could be shaped. By all means resist the tweezer as a way of standing up against beauty norms (and fine, don't overdo it if you do tweeze). But if you're doing so in order to look more beautiful, and you're not a certain British model-socialite with the world's most energetic PR team...

The flaw of the moment is under-eye circles. As someone blessed with this trait - since childhood, and yes, even if I get plenty of sleep, probably related to being this pale - I ought to be thrilled. Huzzah, I can toss my concealer! (Better yet: I can hold off buying the Nars "creamy" one I keep going back and forth on - it seems so great, but for $28? Fourtinefork, oh commenter, oh official WWPD makeup advisor, thoughts?) And yes, there's the secondary problem of this particular slideshow - of course if you have mere under-eye shadows i.e. nothing to conceal, you'll only make matters worse by painting over your under-eye area with a shade that inevitably won't be a perfect match for your skin tone. But it's entirely conceivable to me that a Natalia Vodianova who did in fact have splotchy, purple half-moons under her eyes would be that much more intriguing. Which in no way liberates me from the beige-goop hold.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Class, parents

-So, this week's second "Ethicist" question. There are two issues, the first - and the one I wouldn't know how to address - being the ethics of applying for a scholarship for those with a disability you don't necessarily have. (Is someone who functions well in whichever area, but with extensive intervention, no longer thought to have whichever disability? I'd imagine that if you have prosthetic devices that could even out-perform regular legs in a race, you'd still be disabled on account of not having legs, even if you were relatively advantaged over someone else without legs or prosthetics.)

The second is the ethical question of whether a graduate student from a wealthy family should not accept scholarship money, or not do so if said family has offered to pay for school. I've thought about this before, in the context of law schools asking financial-aid applicants, or just those under a certain age, to provide parental income information. It seems clear why colleges must do this, but is there a cultural assumption that parents pay for their adult children? Put another way, is an adult child of rich parents necessarily "rich"?

It seems like there's a huge difference between someone who's independently wealthy in a trust-fund sense, whose money is theirs (even if there's a healthy dose of guilt at that unearned stroke of luck), and someone whose parents would pay for this but not that, and might use that capacity to control life choices. Which could be anything from an insistence on law school but no MFA, to, don't marry X, or don't be (openly) gay, or keep observing whichever religion. Structures in place that make it more difficult for the child of wealthy, controlling parents to renounce that support and live independently... on the one hand, this is a way of indirectly giving a boost to those who didn't grow up rich (with the exposure to all kinds of cultural-capital-enhancement and good schools that implies), which is a good thing. On the other, it's not exactly no-harm-done, either.

And then there's the question of whether graduate merit-based scholarships are more like scholarships - where we can have a reasonable conversation about whether there's much point directing these at kids whose parents can pay - or jobs. We generally don't ask whether it's really right to pay a 25-year-old a salary because maybe this person's parents could afford to keep them as dependents. We don't generally think it's wrong for a job to offer health insurance to people whose parents could, in theory, foot that bill. Or maybe we kind of do - thus the rise of unpaid internships and stipend-paying fellowships in lieu of full-on grown-up jobs for those at an age where maybe parents theoretically might be paying, even if most of the time, they're not.

Anyway, the Ethicist seems to buy into the idea that a young (?) but post-college adult remains an implicit dependent, or that's what this bit - "as a responsible child, you feel a responsibility to save your parents as much money as possible" - leads me to believe. I'd say this is more about being a responsible adult, which generally means someone who turns to parents for financial assistance sparingly if ever.

-I heard Lisa Miller, author of a story I still need to read, about "ethical parenting," interviewed on Leonard Lopate. Miller said something about parents getting their kids internships, and Lopate, providing the devil's-advocate position (or just disagreeing?) explained that his own interns have arrived through connections. Which... here's the thing. Yes, that's how life works, and yes, 99.99% of why this sort of thing gets to me is that not only is this a form of advantage I've never had, but one I kind of suspect many assume I do have, as if coming from New York (and being Jewish?) inherently provides media connections. Not so! Yes, the waambulence has been contacted to this effect. There's some klezmer playing on the tiniest violins, I assure.

But it seems like there's a difference between the seeming unfairness - but perhaps, ultimately, fairness - of the knowing-the-right-people that comes from networking (is it unfair that friendlier, more outgoing, more persistent people get ahead?), and the kind of knowing-people that arises from having been born to those people. It's not that I doubt that Lopate's friends' kids would be capable of internship-type work (or that, if they're not, they wouldn't be fired/not recommended for permanent employment). It's that so, too, would be a great many more college students, but if the position's never advertised... Again, word-of-mouth is one thing if there's some world of people who already have whichever achievements, and who are benefitting from "privilege" they've actually earned. It's another if we're talking people whose sole achievement thus far is having been born into the right family. Longwinded story short, Lopate generally seems a good liberal, so I was a bit surprised by his blasé attitude towards what it says about the news business and what gets covered if that's how you get a foot in the door.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

"In November 2009, she finally came out."

OK, so these days, it's very popular to take artists and Lena Dunhams to task for having gotten where they are through connections, and to discredit works whose creators had any advantages, anything from famous parents to indoor plumbing. And while I understand the sentiment, I tend to think we don't want to take this line of thought too far, because some really great works emerge from people who began their careers on third base, as the saying goes. Do we really want to not adore Rufus Wainwright because his parents were also musicians? Can't we just be glad that he wasn't born into a family that expected him to become an orthodontist?

But what I, even I, might question is when profiles of the children of famous artists insist that it's this great act of courage for such an individual to also go into the arts, to "come out" as an artist. As if whichever neuroses one might understandably feel about not wanting to go into the family business in any way, shape, or form compare to, let alone exceed, the obstacle that is not having famous parents.

Into The What?

When guilty pleasures collide. Emily Schuman (of "Cupcakes and Cashmere" fame) has come across better than possibly anyone else profiled on "Into The Gloss." Which is to say, there isn't the requisite posturing about being so very low-maintenance... followed by a list of dozens of serums and moisturizers used daily. It also isn't a great big list of Estee Lauder, her sponsor... unless all the brands she mentioned are owned by one conglomerate. (Where's my corporate sponsor? Ideally this would be Uniqlo, but I'd settle for Nars. Or Zabar's, Murray's Cheese, Strand...) She just frankly discusses what it is she has to work with ("a pretty athletic build"; "I lack any real facial definition"; "mousy-brown" hair that she bleaches), and the end result is relatable rather than self-deprecating. Relatable not because these happen to be my own personal concerns (which I have, fear not, just not those), but because the whole thing reads more as 'within-normal-limits woman making the best of what she's got' than the trials and travails of being naturally stunning in a world with too many parabens and not enough pulverized kale.


Unrelated question relating to a different post on the same site: What does the following mean? "Last year, a friend gifted me with [fancy soap]." Why not the far more direct "a friend gave me"? While I know that "gift" can now be used as a verb (and that some contingent cringes every time it is), I'd thought it was more in the context of, say, a fashion blogger is comped whichever handbag from a designer, and then it can be that Coach or whatever "gifted" the bag. But do friends now "gift"? Is this used to indicate that something was given as a gift, as versus I don't even know, handed to someone? Like where "give" is just a synonym for "hand," like hand/give it to me? Or does it just add an air of luxe to whatever's being discussed? So your friend might gift you luxury soaps, but give you an extra roll of toilet paper.


Unrelated comment relating to yet a third. The so-very-now look for men's hair is apparently the one that's been so-very-now since forever among male physicists. (For obvious reasons.)

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

On the need to call things by their proper names

-What are "skinny jeans"? Are they a) the jeans you wore at your skinniest (after reaching your full height) or bought too small (what Zara jeans?) and occasionally try to squeeze into; b) the narrow-cut, stretchy jeans that were ubiquitous until stores went all-out with jeggings; or c) jeans that make you look skinny? This can get confusing, particularly when stories about Item C are illustrated with photos of very slim (is "skinny" pejorative?) women in what may or may not be skinny jeans in the Item B sense of the term. In any case, my on-again, off-again quest for jeans without stretch is now that much more futile, now that "the technology behind Spanx" is involved.

-Where does entitled male behavior cross over into a mental-health crisis where yes, you feel sorry for the woman, but you kind of also have to feel bad for the guy as well?

Jews' "sheer sexiness," and the insist-too-much paradox

At various points in the gargantuan stack of paper called my dissertation, I needed to cite something to do with modern-day intermarriage panic. Because the way it works, in academic writing, is that the fact that I know from living and breathing that the American Jewish community has long concerned itself with this topic isn't sufficient. That's not how scholarship works, nor should it. You can't footnote 'Take my word for it.' So in the process, I ended up finding that the whole 'intermarriage finishes what Hitler started' line comes up more often in references to anti-intermarriage sentiment (such as) than in the anti-intermarriage articles themselves. It's not that there isn't panic, just that it's often less hysterical than its more hysterical extremes.

In any case, if only I'd seen this sooner. I've now read Jack Wertheimer's essays and a couple of the others, but will need to read the lot of it. Mosaic Magazine (which... how had I just found this?) has an very useful array of the range of standard Jewish opinion on the matter, albeit the most informed and intelligent array one is likely to find. (And hey, a UChicago student is among the participants!) 

I have, as you might imagine, exactly ten trillion things to say in response even just to the parts of this series I have read, and maybe five trillion ideas of ways and places to pitch whichever aspect of my response doesn't get channeled into the academic version of this that I'm also working on. And I suppose, Petey, I also have thoughts on the new finding that Jews are actually Northern Italian, although this is really a single thought, one I'd already expressed on Facebook, which is that this explains why my apartment is basically the kitchen of an Italian restaurant, Casa Della Bisou. But in the interest of not blathering on altogether forever, I'm going to narrow this post down to the awkward question that always comes up with this topic: How, or really if, Jews who oppose intermarriage should try to eroticize endogamy.

Sylvia Barack Fishman, probably the leading scholar in the field of contemporary Jewish intermarriage, writes: "Individuals, families, and communities need to show, by example and by word, why Jewishness matters—to create in sons and daughters an appreciation of the appeal, and the sheer sexiness, of Jewish men and women." This came up on my Birthright trip as well, when the group leader asked the young men in the auditorium to behold the beauty of Jewish women. The first part - "why Jewishness matters" makes sense, but the second? There's nothing like a well-meaning authority figure telling you that someone - or some group - should do something for you erotically for that not to happen. While I personally have no trouble believing Jewish men can be good-looking, somehow the statement that I, as a Jewish woman, ought to think this summons the image of Brian Krakow - the guy you know you should like, but can't get yourself to. 

Which brings us to the problem with addressing intermarriage with more outreach along existing lines. As it stands, Jewish events aimed at the maybe-not-yet-married age demographic are virtually always thinly-veiled attempts at matchmaking. College students are invited to attend Jewish "singles" events, as though one can be an urban American single at 19. What if you just wanted to see an Israeli movie, or learn about the Dreyfus Affair, and if you happened to be unattached and met someone romantically, so be it? Why couldn't it all be a bit more casual? College itself, for instance, doesn't feel, while you're there, like an elaborate plot to mate you off to someone on a similar socioeconomic path.

Mostly, I'm just skeptical that unless we return to an era of something drastically less casual - arranged or quasi-arranged marriages, or unless all Jews up and moved to Israel, any sort of large-scale change in this area could occur. Points of contact among Jews can be increased, but without a full-on secession from the mainstream community, socialization will continue between Jews and non-Jews. And if every time Jews are placed in close proximity, there needs to be this overt now go mate vibe, a certain number of Jews with an interest in Jewish culture end up not going to what they fear will be a meat market. 

It would be much simpler to say (as used to be said) that marriage is about reproducing the community, forging allegiances between families, and whether or not you find your spouse "sexy" is irrelevant. But once spouses are to be chosen on the basis of individual desire - which is to say, once a baseline of chemistry needs to be there before either party even considers compatibility in other areas, not that chemistry trumps incompatibility - it's only natural that the conversation about how to stop intermarriage would veer towards the ill-fated project of asking Jews to find one another hot. 

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Flannel's many returns, and other items

-I don't think there are enough articles about the woes of academia. By way of forcing a connection between the two latest, while Eileen Pollack's story is plenty interesting and at times quite convincing, I'm not sure Exhibit A of sexism is one's professors not encouraging one to pursue a doctorate. In my experience - and this is kind of what Pollack finds - this just isn't something professors do, and why? Because academia's a risky choice - yes, even in STEM fields, perhaps there all the more so, considering the amount of money someone with such skills could make elsewhere. It's like converting to Judaism - you have to be turned away, but persist.

Of course there isn't spontaneously this interest in pursuing a PhD distributed equally across the population (thus the noticeable overrepresentation of grad students whose parents hold PhDs in the very same field), so there's still the argument that even if outreach to undergrads isn't the norm, it needs to happen with respect to some populations, women among them. Which again, perhaps so, but wouldn't the appropriate thing to do be to steer the kind of women who might have gotten physics PhDs but it never occurred to them into management consulting, say, and away from gendered-female floundering? How much of the diversity issue in STEM academia comes from the fact that if you're talented in one of those areas and from a marginalized population, you might be more tempted to convert those skills into something more lucrative?

-This is, I suppose, the standard defense of Jewish intermarriage, and it (indirectly) gets the essential right: intermarriage is the result of assimilation, not some kind of act of assimilation on the part of previously isolated Jews. All I'll add, in a busman's-holiday, contrarian way, is a reminder that high rates of intermarriage can evidently coincide with high levels of endemic anti-Semitism.

-How is flannel "back"? I ask because I remember (and have Uniqlo-purchased evidence of) the flannel revival of maybe four or five years ago. If flannel was so-very-now in 2009, isn't 2013 too soon for a new revival? Is this about a) shorter attention spans, such that we are now reviving things from a few years ago, or b) a different kind of flannel - the previous was hipster, farmer-chic, while the current version involves 1990s edginess gone Fashion. I've never known this to happen before - for a trend likely still in everyone's closet from the last time around coming back, but with a different framework.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Complexities of desire

-The NYT deems a recent murder of a white man as not racially motivated for the following reasons:

A closer look at the shooting shows it was not about race. One of the three suspects was white, another had a white mother and a third had many white friends, including a girl he had been dating. 
Yes, if one of the alleged offenders is also white, and there was no other detail suggesting racial animosity, this would be a strange one to investigate as a hate crime. But what interests me here is the notion that someone can't be racist against a particular race if they have a parent who's that race, if some of their friends are, or if their significant other is. As came up on occasion in my dissertation, anti-Semites with Jewish lovers or spouses were plenty common in 19th-century French fiction, and not unheard-of in life. And the more familiar American example: do we really think all black people with white ancestry are the product of unions born of interracial understanding? And, you know, the some of my best friends thing?

-So, the first Prudie letter here. While there is, once again, far more going on than the angle I'm focusing on, what's interesting for WWPD persistent-motif purposes is the way female desire sometimes gets expressed as the desire to be desired. The backstory for the too-busy-for-links/the "Dear Prudence" boycotters: a married woman has this outrageous, insatiable sex drive, but because her husband isn't available every five minutes or whatever, she fears that he doesn't find her attractive. Mismatched libido - or maybe it's just that she's not particularly monogamous, it's not clear (the "I fantasize constantly about having sex with others" bit, and the cheating on her first husband one...), but in any case, why does she articulate this as being about how pretty she is? Is this, as Prudie concludes, because of this woman's "shriveled and needy ego"? While I second Prudie's suggestion that the woman seek help, this seems only an extreme example of something that goes on even among the not-unhinged: women following whichever script it is that asks them to articulate their own urges for beautiful (which is subjective) men as a wish to be thought beautiful by men.