Ladies of Habit Book Club: Meghan Daum’s The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion

Ladies of Habit Book club has recently been surveying the genre of lady essayists—Lena Dunham, Joan Didion etc.—who explore both autobiography and cultural criticism simultaneously.

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Daum not only is a central figure in this genre, but also a theorist of it when she distinguishes between “letting it all hang out” and “putting yourself out there.” She writes:

Letting it all hang out is indiscriminate and frequently gratuitous. It’s the stuff of paint flung mindlessly at a canvas and words brought up via reverse peristalsis, never to be revised or thought better of, always to be mystically discounted as “a gift from above.” Letting it all hang out is an inherently needy gesture. It asks the audience to do the heavy lifting. It dares the audience to “confront the material” without necessarily making that material worth anyone’s while.

Putting yourself out there is another matter entirely. It’s an inherently generous gesture, a gift from artist to listener or viewer or reader. The artist who puts herself out there is not foisting a confession on her audience as much as letting it in on a secret, which she then turns into a story.

This distinction comes from Daum’s essay on Joni Mitchell, or the “Joni Mitchell Problem”, and it makes perfect sense that Joni would become the patron philosopher of lady essaydom—being a lady essayist herself, as Daum argues. But this distinction is a little cruel and I have indeed heard it being used cruelly to critique Lena Dunham. Unlike Daum and Joni (and Didion), Dunham does not take every personal story and wrap it in the aura of a larger narrative that speaks to the conditions of ladies everywhere. I worry that Daum’s rejection of women’s writing that assaults the reader with its lack of a “so what” is a bit of self hatred, because some of her best writing is also firmly in “the letting it all hang out” category.

Amongst very pleasurable essays on her lack of interest in good food, what it is like to interview your hero, how straight women identify with butchness, there are two essays that slayed me—and both I think fit into the category of “letting it all hang out.” The first is “Matricide,” which explores her lack of sadness when her mother died, and the second is “Difference Maker,” an essay about the decision to not have children. These essays are not tear-jearkers so much as tragedies that never build to any kind of crescendo. There is no cathartic moment, just a kind of constant buzz of complex sadness. They are also page-turners. I kept thinking “but is she going to have a baby?” or “is this the moment when she will cry about her mother’s death?” But I also think that these essays are so powerful because they do not turn to any larger cultural touchstones. They explain nothing but themselves and thus they are “needy” “gifts from above.”

Daum is such a good writer that I am pretty sure I would enjoy her thoughts on ANYTHING. If Daum wrote an essay on her feelings about yogurt, Downton Abbey, or even crockery, I know that I would read it eagerly and love it. But there is something about the essays that explain nothing—that simply explore why certain options in life become completely impossible—that I loved the most.

Finally, reading Daum confirmed a nagging suspicion I have had about an emerging form of feminism represented by Daum, Cheryl Strayed and Lena Dunham. I’m going to call it competence feminism. While watching Wild, which I looooved, I kept thinking, “am I this competent?” Could I figure out the proper backpack for this kind of trip? Could I not die? I also have this question with Lena Dunham all the time. Could I write a book of essays while show-running and writing my own tv show, and would I have interesting stories to tell? Ironically this is not a “can I have it all” question. It is a question of whether I have the competence to choose worthwhile projects and complete them. In some ways the selection of projects is actually more important than the follow-through issue.

This was brought to the fore by Daum’s discussion of her decision to become a foster care advocate. I think it is so indicative of how I understand my own gendered power in the world that this idea resonated with me profoundly. I am a very competent person. I am very well educated and I could do a lot of different things. Should I thus put this competent energy towards helping kids who are totally screwed by the system, should I just go write to a public about that system, or should I have my own baby and make sure it never goes into that system? It is a credit to Daum’s embodiment of competence feminism that I completely trust her to do any of these options with total and utter skill. I both relate to the anxiety that this kind of competence entails, because it requires choice, and I relate to the sense of blustering can-do that women like Daum embody.

-D

Tactility and Feminism

I recently gave a lecture at DePauw University on Beauty Youtube videos, mostly because when your friends are real faculty members this is the kind of thing you can get away with.
Unfortunately this seminal video from Ms. Lisa was not released in time for me to subject the class to its genius. Skip to 5:20 if you want to see the pure pleasure of the “Facial Massage”:

I presented the thesis that these vidoes are important because they are about tactility and the visual experience of watching a woman touch herself in a non-sexual manner. You feel her skin and her skin feels good. In this way it turns the highly objectified surface of a woman inside out by allowing you to enter her very tiny tiny pores.

It was fascinating how much the 19 year olds hated these videos. They found her voice pretentious, they hated all the talk, the slipperyness of her sss’. But most importantly, they hated the way it reminded them of their mothers who spend hours getting ready in the morning and evening. I realized part of my attraction to these beauty processes is that I never saw women attending to their faces obsessively as a kid. It is a foreign territory for me

But if I have inspired one 19 year old to make facial massage performance art, my work is done.

Pornography for Self-Improvement

It is almost summer and that means doubling down on our prettyness regimens. Fortunately it is now socially acceptable to watch porn as part of our “inspiration” routines. #Fitspo is the pernicious and wonderful trend of very fit people posting images of themselves on social media in order to inspire us fatties to workout more. I am generally anti this trend when it involves posting quotes on Pinterest or Instagram with such noxious quotes as:

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On the other hand, I am very pro this trend when it means that I am constantly being inundated with images and videos of naked bodies flexing.

AND IT IS NOT JUST LADIES!

 

-D

Top THIS!

Of all the celebrities, Jennifer Aniston has never been a top priority in my skin wearing interests, but things have changed.

Recently I have started to like Jennifer better because her new fiancee co-wrote Tropic Thunder.

But I have also fallen in love with Jen’s charming and good-at-cueing-yoga-poses trainer Mandy Ingber

My initial interest in Mandy Ingber was purely a remnant of my nineties fling with Jen hair and The Zone, but the more yoga videos I have done with Mandy the more I think, maybe I should start doing yoga every day again. I did yoga every single day for a summer in college and got REALLY pretty. But it is hard to say if it was the yoga or the fact that I was 18.

But back to Mandy, this lady has great energy and after a little research it all became clear . . .  MANDY IS FROM TEEN WITCH!

Here is Mandy in all her glory:

AND THAT IS NOT ALL! Mandy is cool enough to be proud of her early and very important work:

 

-D

 

 

 

 

Will GOOP be OK?

After receiving the traumatizing news of Gwynnie’s divorce, I raced to GOOP for the full BE newsletter. Unfortunately GOOP had crashed and I had to wait a full night to read the newsletter on “Conscious Uncoupling.” My devotion to the the cultural formation that is Gwynnie runs deep, and if you are a real GOOP defender you need to really put the announcement of the divorce in the full context of the rest of the newsletter, which is basically a guide to enlightened divorce.

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I was very worried about the state of my own marriage when I read the headline about the divorce (if she can’t make it work, who can?), but upon completing the lengthy BE newsletter I feel much better. My marriage might not make it, but GOOP style divorce actually sounds great.

The basic principles of GOOP divorce are: you gain an internal support system through the time you spend with a partner, whether or not you stay with them. With not a bit of snark I can actually fully get behind this. It is kind of a lovely sentiment.

GOOP is not only going to be fine post divorce, I think we have some amazing BE’s, GO’s, and DO’s ahead. Here are some suggestions:

1. BE on how to have all your girlfriends move in with you after you get a divorce. Cameron Diaz, Stella McCartney and Jessica Seinfeld will all be featured in this article, which (fingers crossed) includes a video of them cooking tacos together. Beyonce will stop by for drinks.

2. GO on traveling by yourself with expert advice from Elizabeth Gilbert.

3. DO on how Tracy Anderson and Gwynnie put together the perfect single lady dance play list.

 

The future is bright.

 

-D

 

No more “accessibility”!

A lady who has a PhD and successfully publishes think pieces on pop culture is leaving academia. Why? Well, Buzzfeed is hiring her. But also, she points out, because academia is broken. I applaud people pointing out the structural inequality of the university and I love when people write critically about pop culture so why do I kind of despise this lady?

Here is why: “Oh man, this is a sensitive subject, and I might burn some bridges with it, but here goes: much of academic writing prides itself on being as inaccessible as possible, and I mean that both literally and figuratively—you can’t understand it unless you’ve had at least five years of graduate school, and you can’t actually get your hands on it without affiliation with a major institution.”

First, her point about the pay wall on academic articles and books is well taken, but . . . on the “figurative” front . . . hmmm.

I strongly believe in a more democratic diffusion of culture criticism, but this is not the same thing as thinking academic writing should be more “accessible” as she argues.

There should be room for many different kinds of writers: people who model critical but accessible criticism in newspapers and magazines, people who write history books that tell a compelling narrative that both college freshmen and the history-curious can enjoy, and listicles that help me remember the best parts of the 90’s. But none of these genres replace the “hard” academic writing that people love to hate on. Just because it takes a graduate education to understand a book or article does not make it useless jargon. Good academic writing is complicated/rich/generative and useful to advancing our understanding of BIG THINGS like language/beauty/domination/materiality.

The good thing about having complex accounts of these ideas is that they are MORE TRUE.

This person did not miss an opportunity to write an accessible deconstruction of Scandal just because he wrote this incredibly valuable sentence:

“Simply put, ‘race’ is the consequence and not the cause of racial ascription or racialisation processes which justify historically asymmetrical power relationships through reference to phenotypical characteristics and ancestry: ‘Substituted for racism, race transforms the act of a subject into an attribute of the object.'”

Let’s stop pretending that getting rid of inaccessible academic writing is the only way to have more accessible writing.

-D

Paleo Parenting

Recently I was bragging to my parent about how great I am at raising children because I follow the principles laid out in the recent All Joy, No Fun parenting manifesto. If you are like me and don’t want to read the whole book, you can read the article and listen to this podcast. The author finds some awesome pseudo science about the idea of “flow” and how children are happiest when they are not aware of time. The problem is that parents are terrible at joining in children’s flow (I cannot watch the same Tinker Bell movie 10,000 times or convincingly get lost in a game of doll dressing and undressing). The other problem is that parents these days are incapable of ignoring their own children, thus becoming sad and tired, while inhibiting their kids’ flow. I LOVE this theory because it justifies all of my nanny technique. Basically I ignore the child by reading a New Yorker or having a conversation with another adult. The kid is all like “I don’t know what to do!” and I’m like “figure it out.” Then an hour later I notice that he is roaming around the house talking to himself and making sure all his My Little Ponies are appropriately prepared for the Grand Galloping Gala. This works even better when another kid is around and can also talk to itself while walking around next to him. But life is not always one big play date, sometimes you have to have a play date with yourself. You know, work on your own flow. God I love this term.

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But, as I was talking about how great I am at childcare with my parent, they were like “I used to fantasize about potty training all my children by having them be naked all the time.” See the genius idea is that if the kid did not have diapers or pants to mystify its own pee, then it would learn to hold its pee, direct its pee, put its pee on particular things.

Then we had a real revelation: this single genius parenting idea could be the basis of a whole parenting manifesto: Paleo Parenting! Like people who try to rid themselves of fat and disease by getting back to a caveman’s diet, we could help (trick?) parents into raising children without the shackles of modernity! Think about it–all paleo kids would have long hair and no clothes and thus evade the gender distinctions of hairstyles and dresses vs. pants. They would be around each others’ genitals all the time and thus get over the weird secrecy surrounding “private parts.” We could play on the nostalgia for the negligent parenting of the 70’s by having the kids run around outside and build structurally unsound forts without any parental supervision. I would make a million dollars writing this book (as would you C., if you want to co-author) because having things be unsupervised is the opposite of how Park Slope parents raise their kids and 1) Park Slope parents love a counter-intuitive theory and 2) they love buying parenting manifestos.

–D

How it feels to stay with all your lady friends in one hotel room during an academic conference

The Literary Origins of Contemporary Female Experience

The foundational texts of a young lady of habit circa 1995, or what girls read before the Golden Age of Young Adult Fiction and the arrival of The Golden Compass, Twilight and The Hunger Games:

The Betsy-Tacy Books

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I will forever crave onion sandwiches and believe that I am entitled to a Grand Tour in Europe.

Anne of Green Gables

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But really I mean Anne of the Island or the Diana books, ’cause that is when the full domesticity porn started.

Alanna-The Song of the Lioness Series

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If you wish Arya (from Game of Thrones) had her own series, rejoice! More importantly, these books instilled in me the truth that all the best romances come from cross dressing.

A Ring of Endless Light

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Or really, I should say, any of the Vicky Austin books (Troubling a Star, The Moon by Night) or Polly O’Keefe books (The Arm of the Starfish, A House like a Lotus). A Wrinkle in Time might be L’Engle’s most celebrated work, but these other series were the ones that made me dream of going to Lisbon, Antarctica, and Massachusetts. They have tons of romance but they are also strangely fantastic and mystical without going full sci-fi or fantasy. They are kind of romantic mysteries about science!

 

-D

In Defense of Goop

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Gwynnie, Gwyneth, the Goopertrooper. We are close. I will also defend Gwyneth’s emerging lifestyle brand and groundbreaking newsletter/blog Goop until my dying breath.

It is hard, however, to love such a despised figure. So here is some ammunition for defending your excitement when Goop lands in your inbox every Thursday.

1. Gwynnie is the original mommy blogger, style blogger, here-are-some-photos-of-my-breakfast sharer. The feminine performance of the self is now defined in part by this green juice bragging and “I drink wine during the afternoon nap” confessional culture, and Goop deserves major credit for this development. I haven’t done a careful chronological study, but someone should.

2. One of my favorite innovations of the last ten years is the “Stars, they’re just like us” feature in US Weekly. But Gwynnie resists the fallacy that celebrities pump gas just like us and instead gives us access to world that is fully alien: the world of super fancy people. She applies the method of obsessive chronicling of routines, shopping hauls, and diet regimes to a life that is truly glamorous. Sure we see a lot of sausage getting made in The Real Housewives, but the very fact that they need to be on the show to afford their Hamptons rental means they aren’t truly glamorous. Gwynnie combines the intimacy of the mommy blog with the other worldliness of the un-relatable old fashioned celebrity. We can’t afford her cashmere throw that makes her first class flight to LA bearable, and that is the point.

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3. Gwyneth is the Mormons of the lifestyle gurus. Unlike Oprah who repents for her past slip-ups evangelical style (and is reborn again and again and again into new diets and dogmas), Gwyneth simply gets a new revelation. She used to be macrobiotic, and then she was interested in “indulgence” (see the first cookbook), and is now into elimination diets (see the new cookbook), but none of these updates requires renunciation of the former position. She was never wrong, she just hadn’t received the most up to date revelation yet. As her audience we anticipate her new revelations, rather than lose faith when her advice is contradictory.

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Dana is a graduate student and nanny living in Brooklyn.

The Politics of Lady Exercise

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I workout alone partly because I like the time to myself but also because the idea of revealing my embarrassing exercise interests to my very smart lady friends makes me uncomfortable. I really really wish that I was interested in CrossFit, so that I too could talk to the world about how strength is my only goal and how women have been shamed into lifting small weights as a new form of subjugation. Some very smart people have been talking about women’s right to take up space with fat, muscles, or whatever they please (I say women, because I don’t know these people and thus feel like the familiar “lady” would be unfair). Or I wish that I was a marathon runner who could link my fitness goals to being outside and conquering my fears. But,

1) CrossFit costs money and makes me worried about injuries

2) I am still subject to the ideology of taking up less space (hey, if we are being precise, we don’t choose our ideologies)

3) Training and running for marathons takes too much time.

So here is my meager defense of my exercise style:

1) The ability to keep working out is entirely dependent on how you feel WHILE you are doing it (anyone who tells you that the feeling afterwards is enough is bulls**ting you). And I like to feel like a Janet Jackson backup dancer, a cast member of Center Stage, or a vaguely orientalist Sun goddess. Basically I am defending my right to feeling like a femme while I sweat.

2) My desire to be skinny is pretty indefensible and I am working on it, OK?! As long as I turn off the volume on Tracy Anderson or the really annoying blogilates lady I can work on shifting the focus of these workouts from weight loss towards personal happiness.

3) Femme workouts are just as effective as butch workouts. Effective at what you ask? Effective at giving you functional strength and endurance (lifting, bending, moving for a while), preventing injuries from the terrifying parts of life (sitting for hours, falling, twisting your ankle in high heels). Joseph Pilates was pretty smart. And I totally understand that the people who like butch workouts are tired of defending their preferences against misogynist and strangely homophobic threats of “bulkiness;” but, there is also another kind of anti-femme rhetoric embedded in CrossFit people’s defensive statements about what beautiful functional bodies look like.

My real shame? I wish I could just do this all the time:

Some day. Sigh.

Dana is a graduate student and nanny living in Brooklyn.

Sarah-Neel’s Morning Routine

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What I wish I did with my morning:

6:00am Wake up
6:05am Step out on my balcony, greeted by a cool breeze while some birds tie a bow in my hair Cinderella-style
6:10am Consume a Peanut Butter Dream smoothie
6:30am Go for a long walk
7:30am-8:30am Write something brilliant while finishing my Peanut Butter Dream smoothie and finish knowing I’ve accomplished the most important part of the day

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What I really do with my morning:

8:00am Wake up
8:10am Bribe myself to do some Jane Fonda style stretches on a towel by putting a cup of coffee on the floor in front of me
8:40am Wish I had a blender to make Peanut Butter Dream smoothie while writing the same three paragraphs
9:40am-10am Wash hair

Sarah-Neel is a grad student living in Istanbul seeking gainful employment in the art world.

Side by Side

It has been pointed out that men often hang out with each other side by side while women feel the need to commune through eye contact and talking about important life matters. While I am dubious about the gendered nature of this dichotomy, it is totally true that side by side hanging out is by far the less stressful and ultimately more sustainable form of friend-time. Grown up ladies need to do more of it. Especially because sitting next to each other while you are writing, reading or watching tv, only allows the immanent concerns of life to bubble up more organically.

Dana is a graduate student and nanny in New York City

Rom Coms You Haven’t Seen Yet

They don’t make them much anymore, so our supply has really dwindled. Fortunately the endangered species has been popping up in some unlikely places. Like Obvious Child and the Big Sick, these new variations have exciting twists on the genre (abortion! old people! bi-lingual).

  1. My Name is Doris
  2. Everybody Loves Somebody

  1. Love is All You Need
  2. Mr. Right
  3. The Meddler
  4. Sleeping with Other People

-D.

Habitus Jeans

I can’t in good conscience recommend these jeans to you.

  1. They cost $200.
  2. I could not sit or walk in them for the first month.
  3. You are not supposed to wash them

But . . . I think this is the best I’ve ever looked in a pair of pants.

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Marc Maron has a whole essay on these pants. And I understand why. When I bought them I had to lay down on the floor of the dressing room to get them on, which really made me face my darkest self.

But every time I wear them I feel an ascetic pleasure in the pain of “wearing them in.” Every second of pain will be rewarded with another quarter inch of give. Or who knows, maybe they are slowly reshaping me.

D.

Julie and I went to Barre3 to produce some content for you

We started out with a butternut squash smoothie. IMG_1398

The St. Louis suburbs are pretty good at being suburbs. They have barre3 after all. But they’re not the best suburbs. We had to get our pre-workout smoothies at a Schnucks, which is no Whole Foods.

I’m very excited to introduce the blog to barre3, which is my honest to god plan b if my current career doesn’t work out. As a franchise they know what they’re doing. Good body mechanics, child care, and most importantly, excellent branding. It feels like you are working out in a soothing Creamsicle.

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Also they anticipated our desire to take photos of ourselves bonding and working out! We were taking rookie photos with bad lighting when the instructor came over and said “would you like me take your photo? Also would you like some props?” This wall is actually lit for this purpose!

Apparently it was a challenging workout for Julie, because she declared “I need a martini” afterwards. Fortunately in the suburbs, they anticipate these needs.

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Why do mall restaurants cost as much as fancy Brooklyn restaurants? Well the good thing about this really expensive chain restaurant is that you can eat there in your sweaty workout gear.

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We went to Nordstrom afterwards to buy shoes, but we forgot to produce content for you there.

-D

Beauty in the Era of Trump

I recently asked my students to show me the Youtube videos they love, and . . . wow. We are living in a dark age of terrible observational comedy, pranks, and not very well thought out identity politics. But, glass houses. I’m not not proud of my Youtube consumption either. Recently, however, beauty Youtube for old ladies has made a turn towards the political. It happened because of Trump. Something feels particularly icky about “hauls” and sponsored videos when we have a snake-oil salesman in the White House.

Our beloved Anna and our strange friend Mercedes have been inspired to stop pushing products at us. And they are inspired by a genuinely delightful Youtuber: Kimberly Clark. Her videos are funny and genuinely woke.

Kimberly Clark is not radical because she is a drag queen. In fact her new videos have thrown into relief the key role drag queens, and appropriations of drag queen makeup, have played in the explosive growth of the beauty industry. She is radical because she wants to buy everything (so I can relate to her), but she is doing the valuable work of talking us and herself down from actually buying all the products.

Another valuable resource in this radical anti-buying stuff turn is Dr. Dray on Youtube. She is a dermatologist who, for reasons that are unclear to me, is giving away her expertise for free. She is willing to answer basically all questions in the comments. Her wisdom is timely: put your sunscreen on, use retinoids for heavy duty wrinkle/acne work, stop irritating your skin with serums, oils, and masks, and see a dermatologist for genuine skin problems. Amen.

-D

Let Us All Bend and Snap

 

Full Disclosure: I now spend eighty percent of my Youtube time on the millennium dance complex videos. There are about five different choreographer-specific Youtube channels that make videos at this dance studio. Mostly it is really accomplished LA dance video dancers. But they also teach classes to wannabees. Increasingly I love the videos of the not so great dancers. The first video is full of Big Deal dancers (Jade for instance is a genuine wholebrity for thirteen year old dance competition girls, and many of the other  dancers in this video tour with Beyonce, etc.). The second video is the not famous people. And, as they say on So You Think You Can Dance, they are dancing for their lives.

Happy Friday! I’ll be practicing my floor work all weekend.

-D

Julie and I went to lunch to produce some content for you

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. . . also the pants have arrived!

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and, I don’t know, I think they look great.

-D.

(oh also, the pants, t-shirt, and shoes are Everlane. Why aren’t these people paying me?)

The Most Flattering Pant Ever?

Everlane has thrown us all in a tizzy. Have we been gas lit into believing the skinny/strechy jean was flattering? Is the wide-leg, high-waisted, cropped pant our actual perfect pant?

The case for this pant:

Everlane has put models of different sizes in the pant. We should applaud this kind of marketing.

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The pant is a knock off of the Kamm pant, which objectively looks adorable on skinny rich women. It is also $300 + and the Everlane pant is less than $100, so JUSTICE.

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Based on the many women who are doing god’s work by modeling these pants for the rest of us (Gretchen is my hero), it does seem that the wide-legged cut has benefits. It doesn’t make you look like a sausage in loose casing. The high waist does emphasize a lovely hourglass figure. I like butts to look bigger. This pant does that.

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The case against this pant:

To summarize Sonia (friend of the blog): “These pants make you look like a hideous toddler.” Also, as many of us who have played around with the Imogene + Willie jeans (high-waisted, no stretch) already know, you look amazing standing up, but sitting down in pants like this is unbearable.

If you are going to take these warnings and proceed anyway, you MUST wear a cropped top or tuck your shirt in. If this makes you feel self-conscious of your stomach pooch, don’t buy these pants. You can’t really do this shape half way. As one small concession to hiding the middle of your body, this kind of pant looks great with a boxy (square) top that is moderately cropped. I’m in love with my Everlane wool square turtleneck, and I think this shape would look great with a high-waisted wide-legged pant. Ditto for a boxy striped shirt.

Also, some of you might remember I bought the Madewell version of this pant last year. If you think I look terrible in them, use that information to help guide your own decisions.

xo D

More Light in the Darkness

So many good things to share:

1. The Good Fight–the bad news: there is no way to watch this without getting a bullshit CBS all access account, which after the one week free trial is $7 a month. This is extortion because the show is so good that I’m forced to download this dumb app and pay. The good news: this show feels like the people who made the Good Wife held a conference for educated fans and critics and used all the input. No terrible Alicia wigs, no ignoring excellent characters. All your favorite characters, formerly stuck in B plots, now have A plots. And Cush Jumbo (Luca) seems to have taken all the money wasted on Alicia’s bad wigs and invested in a new wardrobe of embossed prints.

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3. Big Little Lies on HBO, starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern is everything you ever wanted from a TV show about rich beautiful people fighting about parenting.

2. Did you enjoy that video of dancing I posted two weeks ago? Are you thinking a lot about how queer people are unsafe? Then I suggest the documentary Paris is Burning, now streaming on Netflix. Drag Balls in 1980s New York are fascinating, the dancing is exquisite, and it’s a useful reminder that making bathrooms (or marriage) the central issue of queer politics is a little odd. Let’s think bigger people!

3. I am a broken record: Who Weekly is the podcast-tonic for our times. But the interview with Spencer Pratt that aired last week is next level. Spencer Pratt should be awarded an honorary degree at the Cultural Studies Association for his visionary work and insightful analysis.

-D.

 

 

Adulthood is boring and dumb

A Guide to Oscar Prep

As a committed Oscar movie viewer, I’m happy to say that the chore of seeing every nominated movie this year has actually left me deeply satisfied. Most of my favorite movies of the last year (plus the last two months) have been nominated. I want to mention the one movie that has zero nominations and encourage you to go see it as part of this movie frenzy: Patterson (Adam Driver, bus driver, poetry, Jim Jarmusch).

The Oscars are going to break my heart and award La La Land everything, but the speeches will be great this year. A preview:

  1. Hidden Figures– it’s entertaining and political. I was surprised to find it is not secretly conservative on racial issues (it is not at all like The Help). It also presents you with the most vivid and counterintuitive encapsulation of racialized labor: the “colored computer.”
  2. Lion– I am shocked at how much I love this movie. Like Hidden Figures I thought it would be schlock designed to make old people feel uplifted. Instead it kind of breaks you open so far that you can’t ever fully repair the rupture. So even in the moment of resolution (that you know is coming, because this is a true story), I felt so raw and the aware of all the pain that led up to that moment, that I couldn’t neatly fold it away in my brain. Also INDIA. Any movie that makes you think about how big India is for two hours is doing important work.
  3. Manchester By the Sea–See this even if you are concerned about Casey Affleck’s crimes. For those of you who have read A Little Life, I think there is a very similar kind of aesthetic project going on here, and I want to talk to you about it. As with A Little Life, critics are concerned with the similarity to melodrama. I think there is something about our moment that is cultivating “excess emotion” masterpieces. It freaks people out because there is something unapologetically satisfying about the proxy-pain, but that’s the thing, it is deeply satisfying. It rejects the boring emotional minimalism associated with high art.
  4. Captain Fantastic–I also want to talk to you about this movie. Like the others it is fun and tragic, and Viggo is very worthy. But it is hitting on a fantasy we are all flirting with these days: retreating from the fascist dumbness of the world. Its reflections on the ethics of this kind of retreat are fascinating.
  5. Moonlight–JUST GO SEE IT ALREADY. If you feel like it is going to traumatize you, it won’t.
  6. I’ve already suggested it, so this is redundant, but I’m so excited that Hell or Highwater  was nominated because now people might see it!
  7. Arrival–Lucky you! This is on your homework list and it’s not homework. It has so many interesting things to say about communication and its soundscape of weird sounds deserves all the Oscars. I would happily see this movie again. I’m also really sad that Amy wasn’t nominated. I’d take her performance over Natalie Portman’s Jackie any day.
  8. Jackie–This is the exception to my general thesis about this year’s movies. Not just bad aesthetically, but potentially morally suspect.
  9. I’m pretending I’ve seen Fences–can I just keep pretending?
  10. I am also pretending that Hacksaw Ridge is not nominated.
  11. Nocturnal Animals, Elle, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Loving are left on my list. If you would like to coerce me into watching any of them, let me know!

-D

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