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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hollywood's "Daddy Issues"

So now it's official - 26-year-old actress Scarlett Johansson and 50-year-old actor/activist/abuser of paparazzi/ex-husband of Madonna Sean Penn are dating. Creepy though this is, it's also troubling, as we now have clear, incontrovertible proof that Hollywood has Daddy Issues. I know, you're wondering how can Hollywood have Daddy Issues? Usually, this term is flippantly reserved for ladies in clear-heels dancing for cash tips and implies that these young girls, so unloved and rejected by their fathers, will do anything to score an older man's attention and simulate that missing dynamic. What I mean, though, is that the rulers of Hollywood - the men who produce, direct, and star in films - love this myth, and if you're an actress with success on her mind, then you'd be wise to get with the program. Think I'm Just Saying is off her rocker???Let's apply this methodology to Scarlett.

Scarlett Johansson, with her throaty voice, plush lips, and curvaceous body has been compared to a latter-day pin-up girl, and a real-life Jessica Rabbit. She made her big-screen debut when she was only nine years old, encouraged by what looks to be a large, supportive family. But soon, like Britney and Miley, Scarlett the little girl became Scarlett the woman, and the Hollywood Hyper-Sexualization Machine was in full throttle. It was like the dirty old men that inhabit Tinseltown had been lying in wait, anxiously wringing their hands over what they would do once this precious little thing reached the legal age of consent! And while the rumor mill linked Scarlett to names such as Benicio del Toro (a.k.a. the Puerto Rican Brad Pitt) and Justin "[Junk] in the Box" Timberlake, her actual connections with older men show an interesting pattern.

Her role in Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" had her playing the romantic lead opposite Bill Murray. Look, I loved him on "Saturday Night Live" - I even liked him in "What About Bob", but the fact that this man was 34 years old when Scarlett was born??? That's creepy!

Let's move onto another movie starring Scarlett - "Girl with a Pearl Earring," where she plays a young maid and inspiration for the Dutch painter Vermeer's 17th Century painting by the same name. Colin Firth was cast as Vermeer, and the story takes on the rather traditional turn of the older man teaching the young woman and guiding her to understanding her blossoming sexuality. Sounds rather sweet, doesn't it - until you realize that Colin Firth was 24 years old when Scarlett was born!! That's one more point for the creepy side.

And then there was Scarlett's three-movie arc with Woody Allen ("Match Point", "Scoop", and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") - she may have earned a PhD in the Creep Factor with that! I'm sure that he and his ex-stepdaughter/wife Soon-Yi Previn, and their 34 year age gap, served as constant sources of inspiration for Scarlett! In one of the creepiest quotes ever, Woody Allen, when asked about his impressions of Scarlett during the filming of "Match Point" described Scarlett as "sexually overwhelming." She was 20 years old at the time. That's Double Creepy!!

By the time Scarlett announced she was getting married to actor Ryan Reynolds, who is 8 years older than her, we thought "great!!" Yes, he was older, but we were thrilled that the age gap hadn't hit double digits. This is progress people!!

But soon that progress was put to the test when Scarlett headed to Broadway to play yet another sultry, under aged seductress to a hard-edged, older man in Arthur Miller's, "A View from the Bridge." The chipmunk-cheeked actor Liev Schreiber was 17 years older than his leading lady, and while the critics heaped praise on the inspired casting of this production, all I could think was YUCK!!

Last year brought with it the end of Scarlett's marriage to Ryan Reynolds, and now she's back in the saddle with yet another Old Raisin! Hollywood's old coots must be beside themselves with joy for their Lolita myth has been restored. Maybe she and Sean Penn can do a remake of "Love in the Afternoon", with Sean Penn in Gary Cooper's role and Scarlett replacing Audrey Hepburn. Don't know what the story's about? Well, an older, more sophisticated man meets a younger woman who discovers her blossoming sexuality.....I'm just saying!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Birth and Death of Chocolate City: A New Perspective on Washington, DC

Last weekend, my husband and I took my mom and dad on a field trip down memory lane. Our destination was Ben's Chili Bowl, the eatery made famous in recent years by a visit from a certain White House resident who goes by the name of POTUS. But Ben's Chili Bowl already had established a warm spot in the hearts of the citizens of the Nation's Capitol, and not just because of its chili and cheese Philly half-smokes! Ben Ali and his wife, Virginia, opened Ben's Chili Bowl in 1958 on U Street. The street was dotted with clubs where legendary black entertainers performed, earning the area the nickname of the "Black Broadway". U Street was a part of the Shaw neighborhood, and it was into this neighborhood that my dad and his mom settled upon their arrival from rural southeast Virginia.

To my dad and others like him, DC was the land of opportunity, where a black man could own his own home, start a business, and eat a hot dog seated next to stars like Ella Fitzgerald or Bill Cosby. He was a frequent visitor to Ben's Chili Bowl, in good times and in bad, and the bad times came with the riots of 1968. The riots tore through the city, leaving city blocks in tatters. In the first few days after the riots, while the streets of DC were still smoldering, Ben's Chili Bowl was one of the few restaurants open to feed the exhausted firefighters and volunteers who were working to restore order. The aftermath of the riots would bring about some of the most profound changes in DC. The city's white population fled to the safety of the suburbs in large numbers, and in the years to follow, Washington, DC became Chocolate City.

My dad considered himself one of the lucky ones, having forsaken his adopted city shortly before the riots to take up his role as husband, and later as father in the suburbs outside of DC. However, he made frequent return trips to the old neighborhood to visit his mom. By the 1970's, seven out of ten of every Washingtonian was black, but those numbers don't really portray the state of their existence in those sections of the city that had been leveled by the '68 riots. The city block on which his mother lived had been the epicenter of the riots, and was several bus rides away from all of the necessities one needed for life. It was also turning exceedingly dangerous as open air drug markets and violent crime took over the landscape. There was a growing divide between the blacks who "made it" and were living the suburban dream of manicured lawns and thriving children, and the blacks who were "stuck" in the city.

While last week's release of the latest Census data - showing an 11% decrease in Washington, DC's African-American population - made for blaring headlines, there is a much more intimate narrative at work here. Sitting at a table at Ben's Chili Bowl, and listening as my mom and dad and Virginia Ali spoke of old times, I was suddenly struck by how profound a loss is the loss of a community of shared experience. But I was also struck by how these new residents will erect their own communities of meaning.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chris Brown and Charlie Sheen: Separate and Unequal??

It's been quite a week for (in)famous (alleged) batterers of women. Charlie Sheen sells out Madison Square Garden while denying rumors that he's returned to "Two and a Half Men," and hip-hop artist Chris Brown emerges shirtless from the Good Morning America NYC studio after a violent rage caused by a tough interview. Somewhere the ghost of Ike Turner is kicking himself and wishing he was alive right now!! What a terrific time to be a male star who abuses women. The world is your oyster - you can release your comeback album, throw temper tantrums (and chairs), play the victim, and be treated to a lap dance in a 12-hour period (Mr. Brown); or you can have two strippers/porn stars babysit your children and can cash in on the psycho-babblings of your Twitter feed (Mr. Sheen).

But, alas, not all is well. Following the firestorm that erupted after his post-GMA tirade, Chris Brown tweeted that he was angry that the media continues to bring up his domestic violence, while Charlie Sheen is given a pass (the actual tweet contained some spicier verbiage!). So is there a double standard in the treatment of Chris Brown and Charlie Sheen? Yes, there is. So what is it based on? The answer may not be so obvious. Here are some factors that may be at work:

  1. Race - The image of the violent, angry black man is, unfortunately, still a go-to stereotype in the minds of some, and images of a snarling, smirking, and shirtless Chris Brown only serve to reinforce this prejudice. He has been portrayed as an animalistic, violent thug, while Charlie Sheen is viewed as the sad, drunken uncle that your mom warns you about whose completely harmless. His rantings are fodder for "The Soup" and his jovial, even affable manner, has made him a media darling.
  2. Bimbo vs. Good Girl - Charlie Sheen has a long history of violence against women, however, with the exception of Kelly Preston, whom he shot in 1990 when they were engaged, these women have either had careers in the adult entertainment industry or were abusing drugs and alcohol. These women were no match for Sheen and his millions, and a public who believes the worst when it comes to certain types of women who do certain kinds of things with men. Contrast this situation with Chris Brown who had the nerve to rough up Rihanna, a "nice" girl who was successful on her own. The fact that the two had been in a long-term committed relationship only added to the public's sense of betrayal, after all we'd watched them on countless red carpets together. Add to this that there were actual photos showing Rihanna's bruised, puffy punch-battered face and you've got a slam dunk! 
  3. Addiction vs. Anger - The treatment of addiction is both illusive and frustrating, and for celebrities the fame and narcissism can make addiction fatal. Reality shows, like the repulsive "Celebrity Rehab," and the over-the-top "Being Bobby Brown," while exploiting their celeb subjects, have also taken us behind the fame wall and made us sympathetic to those wrestling with addiction. It's become standard operating procedure for celebrities like La-Lohan to sign themselves immediately into a rehab facility following extremely bad behavior. We can forgive addiction. So it's little wonder that Charlie Sheen has found a soft spot in the hearts and minds of so many, after all, his rages were fueled by addiction, or so we assume, and so he is given a pass. Not so with Chris Brown, though. He's an angry man, that's it, pure and simple - case closed!
Of course, lost in all of this are the limitations of the law in prosecuting violence against women, and our own limitations as we allow ourselves to be entertained by a couple of clowns who beat and threaten women and collect a paycheck for their efforts. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When "The Rules" Ruled the World: A 2011 Update on a Relationship Classic

The Rules. Do you remember it? This slender tome with a diamond engagement ring as its cover illustration rocked the dating world, breaking open the myths of gender equality and exposing the soft, underbelly of the modern single woman. We, the Young and the Ring-less, snatched up the book as if it were pure gold. After all, its two authors - Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider - promised us a life of marital bliss with these, "time-tested secrets for capturing the heart of Mr. Right." So I caved. It was 1996 and I thought, "why not?"

In all, there were 35 Rules, beginning with Rule #1 - "Be a Creature Unlike Any Other." While this one sounded rather Sphinx-like, the others seemed like a throw-back to the 1950s, like Rule #2 - "Don't talk to a man first (and don't ask him to dance)," or this one, Rule #3 - "Don't stare at men or talk too much." The more I read, the more incredulous I was, but, I was also feeling another, unexpected emotion - wonder. Wondering if I did talk too much. Wondering if my flirty glances at men were indeed too much. In short, The Rules made me a self-doubting basket case. And just when I thought I'd had enough, then came Rule #33 - "Do The Rules and you'll live happily ever after." Awesome, just when I thought I was out, The Rules dragged me back again!#%*&!!!

Looking back at my dog-eared, and much thumbed-through copy of The Rules, I'm shocked that I was led down this path by two uncredentialed hacks, but a lot of us were so I figure I was in good company. There's a whole new generation of young ladies, though, dating footloose and fancy-free, flagrantly violating The Rules!! Technology is to blame for a lot of it. In this age of texting, Tweeting, and Facebooking, Rule #5 ("Don't call him and rarely return his calls") is unthinkable. And Rules #19 ("Don't open up too fast") and #20 ("Be honest but mysterious") are counter intuitive in our over-share culture where your Flickr gallery allows you to instantly upload a highlight reel of every hour of your day!

So let's write our own rules, The I'm Just Saying Relationship and Dating Rules 2011. Here goes:

  1. Don't post naked/scantily clad photos of yourself on your Facebook page because the boys who see your page might think you're a tramp.
  2. The "I'm so buzzed" pics that you snap on your camera phone make you look like a sweaty mess. If you're going out for a raucous evening with your posse, either leave the phone at home or keep it tucked safely in the pocket of your jeans.
  3. If you go to your friends' weddings, don't take too many trips to the bar. The man of your dreams might be a cute cousin of the groom, so you just might be singing your stunning, staggering version of Ke$ha's "Don't Stop" in front of people who could be your future in-laws!!
  4. Catching up on your reading doesn't mean paying a visit to Wikipedia. Being stupid is never attractive, not even if you're an over-paid television actor who wears hokey shirts and has a last name that rhymes with "clean."
  5. Maybe it's not a good idea to tell the guy on your first date about your gluten-free, vegan, organic diet. Instead, skip dinner and go listen to a band.
  6. If you spend your first date together sharing your iPhone apps, it does not mean that you should start shopping for engagement rings!
  7. Ugg boots are NOT suitable for every dating occasion and outfit, so leave the Chewbacca footwear to the ski slopes and bust out a nice ballet flat for date night.
  8. If he picks you up for your date in a Zip Car then he should go home ALONE in the Zip Car!!
  9. Pausing the date several times in order to upload your review on Yelp is obnoxious - your thoughts on the ragout of candied cherry tomatoes is just not that important, so get over yourself.
  10. If you're non-exclusively dating, then resist the urge to hit the "Like" button every time your part-time beau updates their status.
If you follow these new rules, well, I can't promise you anything. All I can do is hope that you'll use them as a rough guide to better dating behavior and then do what I should've done in 1996 - make your own Rules! I'm just saying:)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don't Diss the Clogs: One Woman's Crusade Against the Agony of De-Feet!

Recently, celebrity shoe-meister Christian Louboutin announced from his 5-inch Mount Olympus that he detests clogs - I'm talking the shoes, not those pesky plumbing problems. For those not in the know, today's clogs are a far cry from the old wooden shoes your grandparents brought back from their trip to Holland. The clog is a rugged, comfortable piece of footwear - maybe not so stylish if you equate style with excruciatingly painful strutting about on sky-high stilts.

The Clog Nation - that's what I'm calling us - is a proud collection of smart, productive people with very comfortable feet. Turn on an episode of "Top Chef" and you'll see our legions proudly stomping around kitchens doing things with lamb and rosemary that will make you weep with joy. Not a foodie? Then take a trip to the nearest ER or your dentist's office and you'll see more of our number in their hospital white clogs. Want to get that new hairdo? Well while your stylist is giving you a cut and a blow-dry, you might want to check out their tootsies sporting the latest in clog fashion.

It took a long while, and many painful steps on blistered feet to make me a clog convert. At age 13, I got my first pair of heels. They were bright white and we bought them at Fayva, a purveyor of cheap and plentiful shoes. The occasion was my Confirmation, which required that I wear a white dress, and, hence, the white heels. I tried them on under the brassy, fluorescent store lights and made my first, tentative steps over to my mom, just like I was a one-year old taking my first steps all over again. I should've known, then, that my feet were in for one hell of a tough road. The shoes stayed in their box until the day of the Confirmation service. I was more excited about the shoes than the religious ceremony, but soon I was praying to God harder than I'd ever prayed before because those crappy white heels put the hurt on me, but good! After 3 hours in 3-inch heels I was more than happy to put those beasts back in the box, and I did, for a while.

But then I went to grad school and the heels came back - sky high platforms, stilettos, stacked-heel boots. I trucked throughout Boston on a closet full of Aldo shoes, even braving the icy, snowy sidewalks in uncomfortable and wobbly footwear. I looked fabulous - don't get me wrong! But the shin splints and Achilles tendon issues put a painful crimp in my style. Ever walked up the stairs to your fourth-floor walk-up with swollen feet crammed into 4-inch peep-toe pumps at the end of the night?

My "scared straight" moment occurred during a two-day conference after grad school. I was a member of the team running the conference, with an emphasis on "running." As the youngest staffer and the new hire, I was the gopher, pounding the boiling hot summertime Washington, DC pavements on every conceivable errand for my boss. And yes, I was in heels - silly, stupid 3-inch croc-embossed, black heels. By the end of the first day of the conference, minutes before I was to go home and soak my tired toes, I was, unexpectedly dispatched to take care of a top-priority last-minute item - bringing materials to the evening reception and dinner for the conference attendees. Oh, and I'd need to remain on-site until the dinner concluded. On my way over to the reception site, though, I passed a small shoe store. I'd passed this store several times, but that day I went in, and there, on the walls were the keys to my salvation - the ugliest shoe in the world. They had my size and as the salesman was spouting me the sales talking points, my feet and I were falling in love - a deep, undeniable love. I threw my heels in the trashcan and my life was changed forever.

My clogs and I have seen some amazing things - we've met Presidents of the United States, Secretaries of State, religious leaders, and various Senators and Congressmen. We've traveled the world, from Bangkok to Budapest. We've sailed the high seas, performed in concert halls, and chased after house cats. In short, my ugly shoes have opened up my world, freeing me from the toe tyranny of the legion of little French men who create absurd shoes for women. So, here's my personal challenge to Mr. Louboutin - go and live your life, do what you do every day, but do it wearing those ridiculous shoes that you create for us ladies. My clogs and I will be waiting to hear from you:) I'm just saying!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our before My, and We before I: A Crash Course in Relationship Linguistics

There was a time in my not-so-distant past that I was an "I", and what was mine was mine. But that was when I was single. Oh, occasionally when I was dating a fellow I'd slip in the odd "we" or "our", but never within earshot of the guy or he'd be sprinting out the door! It seems that a pronoun change says more about commitment than putting a ring on it.

But I must admit that after all these years of marriage, I find myself uneasy and on the cusp of rebellion against the customs which dictate that "we" come before "I." I once sent a birthday present to a friend of mine, a friend whom I'd cultivated and known for years prior to meeting the man who would become my husband. She's single and the present was intended for her and her alone. So when the thank you card arrived at my home addressed to both my husband and I, I was beyond peeved. He hadn't remembered her birthday, special ordered the blinged out t-shirt, or selected the poignant-yet-funny birthday card - I did! I hadn't even signed his name to the card, or used our joint mailing labels (that's right, I keep my very own solo mailing labels!). No where in that perfectly packed parcel of birthday delights had I indicated that my husband was in any way involved in this process, and yet the thank you note was addressed to both of us.
I'm still baffled by this one!

The whole "we" before "I" debate can become even more prickly when the matter involves one of the most vile phrases ever: "we're pregnant!" We've all heard that one, and some of us have even spoken those words. And, I get what the phrase is meant to convey - that Dear Old Dad has a place in the vortex of pregnancy. We've all read chapter and verse about how dads can feel left out of the process and, seeking to minimize those feelings, we go all inclusive. But, guess what, unless dads-to-be have finagled a way to gain 30-60 pounds, make their breasts tender, and strap a watermelon on so that it's resting inconveniently on their bladders and forcing them to sleep on their backs for 9 months then "WE" are not pregnant! Now, I don't want to come off as an absolutist, so for those of you who love using this phrase, please, go right ahead, but don't just save it up for pre-natal uses. How's about this: "we're having our period" or, "we look fat in these jeans." Does that sound ridiculous?? Good - case closed!

Look, I'm sure that "we" works better than "I" in some of those tricky situations that couples often find themselves confronting. For instance, it sounds much better to say, "We can't make it to dinner with you" than to say, "I can't stand your husband so I won't be joining you for dinner." And, "we're sorry we're late" is much classier than saying, "Sorry that I spent so much time begging my husband to get dressed to come to your tedious party, which made us late." "We" avoids conflict and lets people fill in the blank in their own minds as to what or who the problem is. It's a very useful united front, that is until the couple divorces, and that "we" gets dropped like a bad habit!

But still, I don't understand why the "we" persists. Hmm. Maybe, it's because the "we" must persist. Maybe it's a means of protecting our fragile psyches from the existential angst that occasionally unmasks the unknown void as our physical bodies journey towards their end. Wow, that got really deep, didn't it?? I'm just saying:)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

All Plugged in and Nothing to Say: The Art of Conversation in 2011

The other day, as my hubby and I sat staring at the glow from our PDAs, we attempted a conversation about the latest news happenings, only to discover that we were both sourcing the same article on Huff Post. A second attempt landed a similar result, only this time the source was a New York Times article. A third attempt was called off, and we, instead, resumed our online wanderings with only the click of the trackball and the slide of the finger across the touchscreen punctuating the silence.

Welcome to Conversation 2011.

With so much information at our fingertips, we are constantly grabbing little bits of facts and cramming them into our heads, only to instantly regurgitate them to each other. Information becomes circular, and pretty soon you hear that same cool factoid that you'd just read spilling out of the mouth of someone else, or see it in someone's Twitter feed. And sadly, this is what passes for conversation.

When I was in college, taking the liberal arts educational equivalent of circuit training - with classes in philosophy, history, literature, science, math, and religion - I remember conversations that lasted from noon to night-time. We talked about everything and in every way. Sure, we had hours of classroom lectures and hundreds of pages of textbooks to draw upon, but our discussions were more than just spitting out what we had memorized. We digested and played with the facts that we learned, exploding them and creating new worlds of meaning and possibility.

That's all changed, and not just because of the passage of a couple of decades. Our entire experience of information has been forever altered by the technological leaps that continue to transform how we access information. We see so much so fast that it's like Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory! We've become great generalists who can quote lots of little things about lots and lots of things, all without a depth and a connection to the subject matter. We are familiar with things, but we don't know them.

The quality of our conversations, then, becomes a casualty. So I'm on a mission to restore the art of conversation to its former glory. First, I've got to get some basic training under my belt. That's right - back to reading one book a week, reading the daily newspaper cover to cover, and avoiding the snack time served up on one of those news aggregator sites. I'll steer clear of CNN Headline News and spend a little quality time with C-SPAN. While I may not be able to go cold turkey on "The Today Show",  I'll limit my viewing to thirty minutes and will read more background pieces on the topics that the show covers.

The second component to this basic training is creating better opportunities for conversation, which means scheduling brunches and dinners with people. This one's a bit tricky, but I'll take it on. Sitting down at a meal takes people away from those distractions that interfere with great conversations, and, untethered from your PDAs, you may even find the space to flex those mental muscles! Of course, there's the danger that, once at table with these people, you find that you have nothing to say to each other. But you can always pull out your iPhones and compare apps, if need be - just think of your phone like one of those "break glass in case of emergency" boxes! I'm just saying:)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

YouPad, WePad, iPad, too!

So now that the dust has settled and the temporary camp sites that were erected outside of Apple stores have been broken down, it's safe to say goodbye to all of the iPad 2 hype. It was fun while it lasted, though, wasn't it? There were the joyful proclamations by the Mac masses, ever faithful to their brand, and confident that THIS would change the very face of computing. There were the Haters, poking a finger in the eye at the subpar camera and the other dubious upgrades offered on the device. There were the urban legends, including the one where a woman who had the coveted first spot in the long, snaking line outside of an Apple store sold her spot to a man for $900.

I wanted to see for myself, but, as I had a life, I waited until Saturday, after the dust had settled, to wonder into the nearest Apple store. The storefront window was festooned with silver balloons and oversized cardboard versions of the iPad 2 and its rainbow of colorful carrying cases. Inside the store stood two weary security guards and the team of blue-shirted geniuses, with various piercings, wool beanie hats, and soul patches, all zipping around tending to the 40 or so customers. They were exhausted, partly from crowd control the day before, but mostly, I suspect, from being asked the same question over and over again, "so, when are you getting more iPad 2s??"

The young lady who came to help me was a friendly soul who bore the look of one of those actors hired to stay in character all day at Disney - you know that look that says "I'm tired, and even though this is the happiest place on earth I'm mustering this smile purely out of obligation and not the actual emotion of joy." I felt bad for her, and soon we were chatting like old friends, that is until we were interrupted by a customer in the uniform of the hipster Mac owner - interesting glasses, functional footwear, expensive outdoor wear. He was feverish, having missed out on an iPad 2 the day before. He'd resorted to Apple's online store, but his beloved iPad 2 wouldn't be delivered for 3-4 weeks, so here he was, trying to get some hard intel from my genius on the arrival of the next shipment to the store. But my genius was formidable, and inscrutable, telling him that only the great and powerful Oz, oops, I meant Jobs would know when the next shipment would arrive. Our hipster friend left, most likely on his way to another Apple store, but he wasn't the only one who came in telling a similar story.

I sat down and toyed around with one of the display models, and while it is a very cool machine, I wondered just how much more special it could possibly be in comparison to its much hyped big sister, the original iPad. And what about the next very special thing that will inevitably be released from the gods of Cupertino? Will there ever be a time when we'll be allowed to just be happy with what we have?

Unfortunately, I think the answer is no. The iPad is like a lot of new technology - it's not something that we need, it's something that we desire. Need is so basic - I need shelter, I need air, I need clothing, I need food to eat and water to drink.  But desire - the desire to have the biggest house I can afford, to wear expensive clothing, to eat expensive food and drink expensive designer bottles of water - desire knows no end. Now, after getting the object of our desire, we may then press it into service and say that it does fulfill a need. This is the genius of Apple - the subversion of need with the perversion of desire all for a tidy profit. But hey, it's not like they invented this, I mean temptation has been around since a nice girl gave the first apple to a nice boy, and we know where that led us! I'm just saying:)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Don't Throw Away the Fat Clothes!

Last week, actor Seth Rogen, the gravely-voiced, fuzzy haired thespian from the House of Judd Apatow said that he needs his fat clothes back. Rogen, whose career centered on playing doughy slackers in such films as "Knocked Up" (doughy slacker impregnates hot girl), and "Funny People" (doughy slacker pursuing a career as stand-up comic), had recently shed some major LBs in preparation for his role in the reboot of the 1960s TV show, "The Green Hornet." As he made the rounds of various talk shows hawking the film, he was praised for his new and improved physique. In fact, it wasn't just the weight loss that people noticed. The formerly rumpled performer who had appeared in the past to resemble an unmade bed was cleaning up his act. His hair underwent a massive deforesting, going from matted, cranky curls of afro proportions to a sleek, close cut. His clothing selections changed, as well, with his usual nasty, wrinkled cord jacket and ironic graphic t-shirt upgraded to a fitted suit. He looked good and we all cheered. So what happened?

Rogen himself has always been very vocal about his weight and his reluctance to lose it: "I lost the weight for a role, but I don't know if I'll keep it off. That's the big question. I have a lot of tantrums. I want my food. I cry for no reason." While Rogen may have put a funny spin on it, a lot of us share his struggle. Going from fat to thin is more than physical, it's an intense emotional and psychological experience and one of the prime battlegrounds is your closet.

As you start to lose weight, it's the clothes in your closet that can serve as constant reminders of your former, fatter self. Some people do a massive closet purge, giving away all of their larger size items. Most people, though, will retain some of their plus-sized clothing items, pushing them way back in their closets, while buying new things in their smaller size. The result is a closet that has clothing in several sizes - fat, thin, and in-between. My own closet fits this model, but I've often wondered if my fat clothes have become my crutch. Look, I know we're in the middle of a recession and some of those items in my wardrobe have special meaning to me, but could they be doing me a mental disservice?

The ghosts of dress sizes past can really do a number on you, reminding you of that phantom fat person who dwelled inside of you. Here are some quick tips on what to do with those fat clothes:

  • KEEP those clothes that have deep emotional meaning to you. If the dress you had made in Thailand is too large for you, then buy a belt, have it altered, or put it in the back of the closet.
  • GIVE AWAY those larger sized items that are no longer your taste and style.
  • KEEP those crazy, super-expensive designer duds that you bought on a whim.
  • GIVE AWAY those larger sized suits and career dresses to a group like Dress for Success as they always need gently used professional items for larger sizes.
  • GIVE AWAY dress trousers, because it's difficult to alter them to fit your smaller self.
  • KEEP skirts, as the waists can be taken in or let out as needed.
And don't beat yourself up, remember that the goal is improved health and not just weight loss. Also, buy more purses and shoes because even if your pants don't fit, you can console yourself with your fabulous accessories! I'm just saying:)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hey Ladies, Where's Our Hall Pass??

At some point, between the first time and the second time that the ad for the movie, "Hall Pass," I started to feel a slight twinge in my right forefinger. That twinge became a persistent poking that had spread to my entire right arm by the fourth or fifth viewing of the "Hall Pass" ad, and by the seventh viewing, I figured that I'd have to either change the TV channel, or scream my head off. "Hall Pass" stars an ensemble cast of c-list actors from television sitcoms, including that guy who looks like that guy from "The Hangover", but who's on "Saturday Night Live" in that red Adidas track suit doing the Running Man in that skit with that guy from that show that was on Nickelodeon. But I digress! "Hall Pass" is about a group of men who are given permission by their wives to indulge in a voyage of debauchery, with the understanding that after their romp, they'll return home to their significant others, fully sated.

What the wha??!!

I wish that "Hall Pass" was unique, but, sadly, it's just a carbon copy of "The Hangover", which starred that guy who's not Josh Lucas or Matthew McConaughey. And you might as well add in "Cedar Rapids" while you're at it, which, from its trailers, appears to be a mash-up of "Porkys" and "The Office"! In each of these movies, the men folk are free to roam, set loose on an open prairie populated by scantily clad ladies and a convenient and abundant supply of booze, snacks, and stripper poles. There are some ladies in these films who manage to keep their clothes on, though, and these women are called The Wives. They pop up at the worst possible moments, like when their husbands are having a good time with the scantily clad ladies, booze, snacks and stripper poles!

By the end of these films, the boys return home from their lost weekends, with a renewed and profound love for their wives. Sounds great, huh? HELL TO THE NO!!

So here's my question: where's my hall pass????

Answer: ask Thelma and Louise.

You all remember the film, "Thelma and Louise" don't you?? It's about two girls gone wild, out on a crazy tear after one of them suffers physical abuse at the hands of her significant other. Of course, this film doesn't include a cameo by boxer Mike Tyson, and the two titular heroines choose to hurl their car into the Grand Canyon rather than be caught alive! So here's the "takeaway" for us ladies - no hall pass for us!

You won't see "The Hangover Part 3: The Book Club Hits the Strip Club" anytime soon, or "Soccer Moms in Vegas" or "Bunko Gone Bad" at the local cineplex. You see, the sad truth is that when we think of women getting together and letting their hair down, we confine our thoughts to chardonney, shopping, and the spa.  We don't get a hall pass because why would we need one? We are the Thing Planners, the Schedule Keepers, the List Makers, in short, the responsible ones. While men will be boys, women will always be women, at least that's how it is in the movies. But maybe that's not really what bugs me about these films. Maybe, it's that these movies are telling a truth, all be it from one point of view. I'm just saying!

Lent: Not Just for Catholics Anymore!

I'm at that age where everything old is now retro and hip. My old neon Reebok high tops from high school are vintage, and Tupperware parties are ironic. And now we can add Lent to that pile. For those not in the know, Lent is a liturgical season of reflection that prepares us for the coming of Easter. Growing up Roman Catholic as I did, Lent was a time of rules, lots of rules - fasting on Ash Wednesday, no meat on Fridays.

Lent also meant giving up something. The nuns at my elementary school said that in order for us to understand the sacrifice that Jesus would make for us when he was crucified, we needed to give up something dear to ourselves. So, like Star Trek, the search would begin for that meaningful thing. In years past, I'd focus on certain foods, like French fries, or sodas, or meat, or desserts. Thus, my Lenten journey became a jump start to my diet.

Some years, I tried to give up bad habits that I felt were stifling the development of my personal character, like gossiping. But I didn't last long with these, and would soon find myself swearing off of French fries for the duration of Lent.

Now, I've found that my non-RC (that's short for Roman Catholic) brothers and sisters are getting hip to Lent. Turns out that people like the idea of affecting deep personal change in the span of one month!! Lent has become their very own makeover show. Don't get me wrong, I think that it's a good thing when people take some sort of inventory of their lives. But the Lenten sacrifice, like New Year's resolutions to lose weight or join the gym, can become a short-lived endeavor that's abandoned when it's no longer convenient.

I've found myself at the end of Lent lighter in girth, but not necessarily more spiritually aware. Lent can become a time of intense navel-gazing, but it also has the potential to direct your focus outside of yourself.  So what'll it be for me this Lent? I'm still unsure, but just to be on the safe side, I'll just avoid the McDonald's drive-thru for the next 40 days and 40 nights - no use in tempting fate! I'm just saying:)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Run Like Hell: A How-To Guide When Couples You Know De-Couple

While the world seems focused on Charlie Sheen and his polyamorous ways, I started thinking about the marital break-up that precipitated this current free-fall. While Charlie's plight has some very Hollywood elements to it, all marital break-ups have one thing in common: friends caught in the middle. And while no-fault divorce exists in the courtroom, in the living room or dining room or wherever friends gather, there is only war. Couples become friends with other couples, but if the marriage of one of those couples falls off of a cliff, then you might just find yourself hurtling into the void.

But how does this happen? Sometimes, it starts small, with little drips of information about the relationship being unintentionally leaked during an unguarded moment by Spouse A. Then, maybe there's an invitation to coffee where Spouse A wants to ask your advice about Spouse B. Next thing you know, you and your significant other are at dinner with this couple, and you're being dragged into the middle of a sudden disagreement between Spouse A and Spouse B.

But, you may say, I'm a reasonable person and I have a great relationship with MY spouse, so there's no danger in my counseling Spouse A. And I'd have to say you're completely wrong!

A marriage ending is like a bomb going off and it can injure those in closest proximity to it. So here's an easy to use how-to guide to get you through someone else's rough patch:

  1. Screen Your Calls - In this era of high-tech gadgetry meant to keep us in constant contact, you are always accessible. This is a not good if you've got a needy couple in crisis texting/calling/emailing every hour on the hour to tell you what an A.S.S. their significant other is. Call-screening is a time-honored practice, dating back to the very first answering machine.
  2. Get Thee to a Therapist - Maybe I shouldn't be the one that has to tell you this, but, guess what? You're probably not a therapist. Your combative couple friends may know that, but they willfully choose to ignore it when they start the Debbie Downer Download. And while it's nice to feel needed, don't give into the Siren Song of Seduction that is the Couple in Crisis. Instead, learn this phrase, practice it until it is burned into the synapses of your brain: "You know, maybe you should see a therapist." Now relax and breath. Ah:)
  3. Forget Neutral - Some friends of the de-coupling couple like to try to remain friends with both parties, and think that by stating this, and then listening to all of the pains and woes and trials and tribulations of both spouses that they're being fair and balanced and remaining neutral. News flash: there's no such thing as neutral in this situation. At some point, one or both of them will try to pump you for info on the other, and soon you'll find yourself called to testify in their testy divorce proceedings. Or, worse, your own spouse will choose a side and you'll find your own home life compromised as somebody else's mess seeps into your home. 
  4. Stop Making Friends with Other Couples - After the couple has moved from crisis to counseling to divorce and onto living the newly single life, reflect back on your friendship and instead of trying to be friends with 2 people, why not try a friendship with one person. You see, couple friendships are so tricky because they're built on a false premise - the premise that if I like you that I must also like your spouse. That's such bunk! Friendship, true friendship, is a choice that happens when two people like each other and spend time with each other of their own free will. Deep friendship is an emotionally intimate relationship that grounds you and uplifts you. This isn't about liking one spouse and dis-liking the other spouse, it's truly about connection.
I'm just saying!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Putting the "Real" in Reality

With the announcement of the new cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (Wendy Williams - how YOU doin'??) and the introduction of yet another set of plump-lipped, tacky tarts clawing at each other in the "Real Housewives" franchise, it's clear that the Spring 2011 Reality TV season is upon us. And, like the award season that has just ended, capped by last week's Academy Awards, there will be some clear winners and losers in some of the more anticipated contests - will Ne Ne reign down blows on Star Jones in "Celebrity Apprentice?" And which of the returning baddies will be the last one standing on Survivor: Redemption Island?" But there's one reality show that tops them all and it stars Charlie Sheen, his Goddesses, his ex-wife, and his two adorable sons.

Perhaps you've seen it - on "Extra", or "Entertainment Tonight", or E!News or "The Today Show", ad nauseum and ad infinitum! The Charlie Sheen show is the hottest ticket in town, it seems, and everyone in the media has a finger in this poison pie. From his off-kilter Tweets to his intimate and sprawling 2-part interview with "The Today Show", Sheen has put the "real" back into Reality TV, with the reporters happily joining in for their 15 minutes! The interviews on "The Today Show" were some of the worst, with the reporter treating this like high camp, instead of a person's mental illness on public display. Sheen himself seemed to be in on the joke, too, smirking and grimacing with perfect comedic timing. Every now and again he'd put on the "reasonable man" voice, you know, the one you use in a sitcom when you're about to reveal something serious and weighty, only to be followed by a zinger that sends the studio audience into fits of laughter - and scene!

Only, this isn't a sitcom, where, in the span of 24 minutes, problems will be solved and then the credits roll. A line has been crossed. Hell, I wouldn't be the first to accuse an actor of being delusional, of making a character that he plays a part of his actual identity. And some actors will readily admit that they share lots of qualities with their on-screen alter-egos. Friends of the late Heath Ledger spoke of the extreme emotional demands that he faced when he portrayed the maniacal, murderous Joker in "The Dark Night".  It seemed that the fragile line between real and unreal eroded to a point that it caused distress in the late actor.

So what does that mean for the Sheen Machine? Well, it could mean that he's taken on the persona of the glib, womanizing man he portrays on "Two and a Half Men" in some sort of Vulcan mind-meld. He has, literally, become the character. But some would argue that the character he plays on television is loosely based on the reality of Sheen's own indiscreet past.  So, then, which Charlie Sheen is the REAL Charlie Sheen? Wow, I'm having one of those Absurdist Ionesco moments, again! I'm just saying:)