Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I want to like it: Summer 2016 trend ambivalence

Somewhere in that nebulous region between a desired/cherished clothing item or accessory and one that inspires indifference are the following:


They can look nice, I now understand, after a few months there of thinking it was odd how all the adult women in Toronto were dressing like toddlers. It grows on you. But... the bathroom. How do you use public restrooms when in a one-piece? Once you've Googled to find out how you'd go to the facilities in a given article of clothing, you're probably not purchasing it.

-Bucket bags

So chic! So plausible! So useless if it rains!


If Emily Weiss was wearing something in 2013, it's to be expected that the merely civilian-fashionable are wearing the same thing now. It's the look; bonus points if, when asked where the shorts are from, you reply with an insouciant, 'vintage Levis.' This is assuming that you're someone who can't go outside in shorts without being asked their provenance. This is not my situation. ('J. Crew outlet store' just doesn't have that ring to it, so it's for the best.) But I considered cutoffs. I browsed the used-clothing racks in front of a couple shops in the Kensington Market. I lost interest, partly because I'm not convinced shorts made out of thick denim (the only kind that works for the fringe and fit to be right) are really the way to go when it's 90 degrees and humid (even in Canada!), but mostly because - and this may well be Canada-specific - the look that shouts effortlessness is expensive. It was something like $35 for someone's used shorts. Relatedly...


The entire country of Canada is basically sponsored by Lululemon. Every woman, and surprisingly a lot of men, are in this clothing and/or carrying its reusable tote bags. There are graffiti'd ads for the store on my street. Yes, it's the most attractive workout-wear. And yes, the brand is cheaper in Canada. No, still not cheap. As with cutoffs, the question is always, why would I buy this casual thing that costs at least as much as a gorgeous not-casual item would? I know this marks me as a Bad Millennial to think this way, but so be it.


Loved the idea of a sturdier, perhaps more modern, alternative to ballet flats. So after the L.L. Bean dog-walking ones disintegrated, I bought - no, invested in, as they were expensive-ish and purchased to be practical, to teach in - a pair of black Salamander loafers. Loafers which... never quite crossed over from frumpy to chic, and more to the point, which never broke in, and which remained uncomfortable in that very specific way shoes can, where they regularly destroy all your socks.

-Off-the-shoulder shirts

I'd wanted a black, fitted one, but never found the right one, and wound up wanting, and ultimately over the span of a couple months, getting (and wearing!) a pale blue striped one and a solid white one. Both look nice, I think, but never quite right. Never quite how I'd imagined. The blue one is too cropped, while the white one keeps riding up, as in, it's only off-the-shoulder if I periodically pull it down, and is entirely incompatible with such activities as, say, letting a dog into a dog run. And I'm not sure they're worth the extra sunscreen I've learned they require, ever since getting my worst (and only!) sunburn in ages in the blue one.

-Oh, and why not a food item? Bowls

There's a place near my apartment that sells vegetarian, gluten-free $12 lunches. Its clientele is very glamorous, and sometimes I think, I should be someone who occasionally spends $12 on an Instagrammable bowl of cuisine-less bland slop. But then I remember the superior alternatives - toasting a frozen Montreal-style bagel at home or, on splurgier occasions, getting a similarly $12-ish but substantial bowl of ramen. Toronto has excellent food options; the ones that are sad, arctic imitations of southern California can probably be skipped.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Single-process I think not

-Finally get the haircut that removes the last attempt at hair color experimentation. (Comparable scenario: finally grow out bangs.) Restlessness ensues.

-Think, hmm, your hair doesn't look/feel that much healthier, plus hair "health" isn't even a thing, and your hair is looking sort of meh. Time to shake things up!

-Briefly contemplate a platinum pixie before remembering that you are not in fact Agyness Deyn circa several years ago, while remaining blissfully self-delusional about your non-resemblance to that other same-age hair icon, Alexa Chung, when settling on the more doable alternative inspiration. 

-Locate your long-forgotten Pinterest login information. Pin photos you've just found, only to realize they're repeats of ones you'd put there ages ago. If music tastes are stuck at what you liked at 14, hairstyle ones hover at give-or-take 26. 

-Edit - no, curate - the relevant board, taking care to remove photos where the appeal was probably not a realizable hairstyle, but rather... a very pretty model you'd subconsciously (or consciously!) wouldn't mind looking like, or shampoo-commercial shiny hair of a texture that you don't have now and certainly won't after bleach is involved. 

-Gaze, pleased with your 'accomplishment', at the assembled photos, most of which are (apparently; what else is new) of a Californian lifestyle blogger, who happens to have the hair of your dreams. Vow to suspend disbelief when it comes to your own non-resemblance to said blogger (as would make sense; your lifestyle could not have its own blog), including but not limited to: natural hair color; natural hair texture; tendency of hair, when bleached, to turn orange.

-Put your full trust in the Japanese salon in the Kensington market, the one where you considered getting ombré on a whim, when first visiting Toronto a couple years ago, before you knew that this was a place where you need to book in advance. Wait, with eager anticipation, for your appointment.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Character-building, character-limits

Given the longstanding WWPD fixation on scrappiness oneupmanship, I am, like Flavia, fascinated by the "first seven jobs" hashtag. My take on the hashtag - already known, I suppose, to my avid Twitter follower(s) - is that the whole thing's a bit... misleading? Prone to error by omission?

The gist of the exercise was - as Oliver Burkeman suggested - for people who are now prominent or at least successful to reveal the tremendous self-made climb it took for them to get where they are. As in, who'd have thought, little Jimmy who used to be a lifeguard is now a journalist/director/professor! Who indeed.

But the structure of it - the listing, context-free, of seven jobs, all within the 140-character Twitter limit - doesn't leave room for explanation. Nothing about how long the jobs were for; how they were gotten; whether they were needed (or about 'building character'); what age; etc., etc. The result is that the having-of-jobs - of jobs that would be, if held full-time by a 40-year-old, blue-collar - sounds scrappy. Never mind that having jobs in one's youth may indicate... privilege. Not always - anyone working full-time during college, as a 19-year-old, merits all the scrappiness points - but often. What certainly does suggest at least present-day comfort is the implicit tone - specifically, that there's no fear in anyone's list-presentation of ever having to return to any of those lines of work, because that?, that was ages ago, and trajectories go just the one way: up.

But this isn't about privilege, exactly, but rather meritocratic oneupmanship. It's about showing how impressive you are by explicitly juxtaposing where you are now with where you once were. And there can be good fun in that - I'm not above that behavior, not averse to pointing out, where appropriate, that I've gotten to (thus far) the book deal and manuscript stage of the book-publishing process not through connections, but through copious blogging, then freelancing, much of this time also spent teaching. I totally get the appeal - especially if you're someone others might assume caught certain specific breaks that you did not - of pointing out that you had to work for it.

The question, though, is who can't come up with a nice list of seven first jobs? Presumably, the thinking is (no, this isn't scientific) the actual rich people, who went instead from unpaid internships and/or grad programs straight to white-collar work. But wait! Rich kids aren't (generally) the ones taking unpaid internships! Once you stop and look at what the profile is for a successful, grown-up professional, it starts to seem not surprising in the least that those with impressive jobs and achievements today worked a variety of less-glamorous jobs an eternity ago.

So who is this eternally-glamorous person-of-straw against whom we the list-providers are implicitly comparing ourselves? My grand theory of all this goes as follows: In certain situations (media and academia Twitter come to mind), due to stratification and income inequality and so forth, the 'poor' kids are actually middle or upper middle class. I say this both because I've read those articles and because I was that kid. I could scrappiness-one-up classmates whose parents paid their rent after college, but - despite campus jobs that I got to put on my list, thank you very much - I was far from financially independent during college. There are people who don't ever work; they tend to be very poor and thus excluded, structurally, from the workforce, or very rich and busy providing entertaining friends-of-friends Facebook content via photos of their Floridian perma-vacations. And it's that latter group who are inspiring this batch of exuberant resentment.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Ingrown branches

Every so often, I'll make some pronouncement about how, from that point on, I'll start only reading books that put me into different situations and different experiences. (As in, not that of Jewish women from New York who at least dipped a toe into humanities grad school.) Usually doing so is a way of guaranteeing that the used paperback I picked up on a whim for $2 somewhere, knowing little about it, will turn out to be the semi-autobiographical recollections of a woman with my exact life experience. There are, of course, demographic reasons for this (New York sells, or once did; graduates of literature programs are drawn to writing), but that's not the point of this post.

The point is that I've just now outdone myself in non-branched-out reading. And it was, in this case, kind of intentional. I'd heard interviews with Jessi Klein, whose excellent book of humor essays, You'll Grow Out Of It, was the culprit, and knew enough to realize that this was going to be one of those books that I could relate to a lot. See the last paragraph of this article I wrote, about straight female desire? Imagine a much-funnier (and less apologetically handwringing towards potentially offended populations) version of this, and that's the "tom man" concept. In this era where all female beautification is presented in 'I do it for me' terms, I knew there'd be something deeply relatable about a woman's experiences being attracted to men, but not being naturally drawn to certain aspects of conventional femininity, and thus adopting whichever primping rituals strategically (if subconsciously), to increase romantic prospects.

I knew she's a Jewish woman from New York. I knew that this was not going to be Knausgaard Volume Who Knows or Americanah. I knew what I was getting into.

What I hadn't realized was that Klein went to Stuyvesant. We went to the same high school.