The Cult of True Organization

It all started with the bullet journal video:

Then, I found myself watching videos by people who had hacked the bullet journal system:

Soon, I was deep into the hard stuff, the crack of planner culture: the Filofax video. Most of them are astonishingly similar: a woman in her thirties or forties narrates a detailed exploration of her lovingly decorated personal planner. Everyone uses the same Martha Stewart stickers, they all love the “suppleness” of the Filofax’s leather, and they all wrap their extra washi tape around pieces of plastic they’ve cut to fit into the little front pockets.

In spite of this repetitiveness, and in spite of the fact that this sh*t is seriously the lamest, I can’t stop watching.

At first, I wondered what in god’s name had gotten into me. Part of me wanted to clear my browser history and turn on a documentary about Kathleen Hanna. But another part of me* can’t stop clicking on links to watch yet another Filofax setup. The only way I’ve been able to have any level of comfort about this is to affect a sort of anthropological stance toward these vlogs. So my time spent watching video after video is, like, research into a relic of 1980s white male corporate culture that has been appropriated by twenty-first century women who use it not for work, but to organize their household and personal lives.

But really, I think my obsession boils down to two things: my love for A System and the vicarious pleasure of watching other women Get Credit.

I have this illusion that if I only had The Right System, the messy pieces of my life would fall neatly into place. I wouldn’t panic because my to-do list was too long or because I couldn’t manage to finish folding the laundry that day. A System takes care of things like that. Like some of the women who make the Filofax videos I love, I’ve tried out several different approaches to organizing my life.

In my search for The Right System, I’ve experimented with intensive, all-encompassing approaches like David Allen’s Getting It Done . D might remember my foray into simpler project management systems like the sticky note board featured on Alejandra.TV:

No system ever lasts longer than six months, but implementing them gives me a satisfying, if brief, feeling of ownership and control over my life.** Like making New Year’s resolutions, it’s more about the fantasies you can engage in about a new you. It’s a glimpse into a worry-free, uncomplicated and sparkling clean future.

So watching women talk about their System is great, but the major appeal of Filofaxing is the fact that it’s all about visualizing and thus in some way getting credit for the mostly unacknowledged and unnoticed work of maintaining a household (work that is still largely done by women, whether or not they also work outside of the home). In a culture in which we no longer have the validation of the (thankfully) bygone Cult of True Womanhood, there still exists a desire to valorize and justify the actual labor it takes to maintain the home. Filofaxes and similar planners allow women the opportunity to make visible the largely invisible work of keeping house. The obsessive charting, recording and color coding of household and everyday chores makes quantifiable that which was formerly unquantified. All those hours you spent folding laundry, making meal plans, grocery shopping and taking your kids to ballet practice no longer slip away into the ether:

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All of your unpaid labor, all of the time lost to what amounts to drudgery, is now beautifully and meticulously recorded for posterity.***

-C

 

*The part of me that recently bought a scrapbook.

**I’m making it seem as though I have this really chaotic, hectic lifestyle. I do not. I am simply a lady of habit, and therefore have an almost comical need for structure.

***Or just recorded for you. Probably just you.

Basic Bitches?

The title of this post is posed as a question, because like other Basic Bitches I think Carrie of SATC is good at “think pieces.” Basic Bitches are my new obsession. The elegant summary of the concept in New York Magazine is a must read, possibly the most important cultural analysis since N+1’s thesis on the hipster. I hope that there will be an entire issue of N+1 devoted to the Basic Bitch, the perfect description of a particular synthesis of middle class aspiration and feminine mediocrity.

Pumpkin Spice lattes, Sex and The City, and Pure Barre fill their twitter feeds and thus they are basic in the sense of being pop culture’s unquestioning consumers. An excellent podcast on The Double X explored the relationship of Basic Bitches to individuality. The more radical critique of Basic Bitches comes via Kreayshawn, the generator of the term’s popularity, and she defines them by their inauthenticity:

But after my busy day of making myself protein pancakes, attending a trendy workout, sipping a celeb-associated smoothie, then watching the first 10 episodes of Sex in the City (which are just as awkward, biting, and weird as Girls), I have been wondering . . . am I a Basic Bitch? And more importantly, what is the relationship of Basic Bitches and Ladies of Habit?

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I think that writing this blog has essentially been an exercise in coming to terms with my own “basicness.” But despite the overlap, here is why ladies of habit are not basic bitches:

1. A lady of habit wishes a friend would accompany them to their trendy workout but never convinces her friends to come because her friends have the good sense to keep exercise and friendship separate.

2. Ladies of habit don’t wonder if they are a Carrie or a Miranda because they are too busy wondering if they are a Leslie or a Liz.

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4. Ladies of habit acquire their first purses after the age of 27.

5. Ladies of habit secretly wish that they belonged to a weekly gathering of single lady friends who all get so drunk that they can’t get home and have to sleep in a cuddle puddle on the ground, but they DON’T because they are so worried about waking up early in the morning and sticking to their routine. We are too neurotic to enjoy the sorority of Basic of Bitches. Sigh.

 

-D

(Super) Ladies of Habit: Feminist Footwear Edition

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We are living in a new golden age for women in comic books. Sort of. Even though Batwoman (above), one of the only LGBT characters to headline her own title, couldn’t get married, even though publishers continue to put out putatively teenage women with boobs the size of their heads and the resulting criticism itself results in rape threats, women in comics have made tiny steps forward. Not figuratively.

Power Girl:

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I’m talking about the wedge heel in particular, and more practical footwear in general. Feet are not usually that important to artists. Some of them cannot draw feet of either gender. But while male superheroes have long had nondescript bootie-looking footwear, many heroines have had to fight crime in heels, sometimes stripper heels, bringing to mind the quote about Ginger Rogers, but with more cosmic radiation.

Black Canary:

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Huntress:

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The heel is not just a 90s thing. From the beginnings of comics some of the more prominent heroines had them, though in keeping with the times both the heels and the costumes were more modest than some today. One early notable exception came during the character-defining arc in the late 80s/early 90s where She-Hulk (below) tried to balance her day job as a lawyer with her costumed adventuring, which led to some fantastic 9 to 5/ Working Girl business suits with Reeboks. She has been drawn with sneakers off and on ever since.

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I would give Isabel Marant’s now-ubiquitous wedge sneaker a lot of credit, though I would also give credit to the comic writers and artists who give these details attention. Greg Rucka, who co-created Batwoman, is particularly good at writing comics that pass the Bechdel Test, and Amanda Conner, responsible for Power Girl, is one of the more prominent women working in comics today. Books and movies like the Hunger Games and Divergent also help by featuring female leads who need to be able to run and kick plausibly (throwing shade here at Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman. And Halle Berry’s. And even Michelle Pfeiffer’s). The end result is that some of the most stripperific characters have been toned down just a little bit. One of them even got pants (below). They are still bruisers and (depending on the artist) sex fantasies, but by getting rid of the spike heel their feats are slightly more plausible, and slightly more comfortable.

Ms. Marvel, now Captain Marvel:

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-W.

Our very first man of habit contributor!!!!

Alternate Lives

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I could have been a different lady of habit if I had stayed in Boulder instead of moving to other parts of the country. Here is a schedule of this alternate form of my life.

9am – Have my first green juice of the day from Wonder Press, run by my childhood friends. I’m probably married to a venture capitalist, so I am also an investor in this juice bar.

10am-Go to Pilates and chat about my heel fibers with the other ladies of habit. None of us go to work, naturally. Sweat as little as possible because this is just the first workout of the day and you have to pace yourself.

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11am – Time for my daily hike up Sanitas in the foothills. I can get from my downtown Boulder home to the trail head in 15 minutes.

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11:30am – Stop mid hike to drink my yam juice from Wonder Press.

3:00pm – After an afternoon of reading Buddhist philosophy I am feeling peckish and make sure to refuel with a pot of tea brewed in almond milk.

5:00pm – Yoga class. Duh.

7:00pm – Meet friends for drinks and dinner at The Kitchen, which is owned by Kimbal Musk (Elon’s brother). My venture capitalist husband and I kvetch with Musk about Boulder’s need for a high speed train to the airport. We realize our annual trips to the Andes are carbon intensive, but our work in glamorizing high speed rail will more than make up for our karmic deficit.

10pm – Gaze in the mirror at my glowing skin and scarily bright eyes (its a symptom of all the juicing).

 

-D

 

 

Workout Pants

In the post-Lululemon age we are living with an abundance of workout wear brands, all of which are better than Lululemon. Here my new favorites:

NUX

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These are hands down the most high quality workout pants I have ever found. They are made of a surprisingly thick compression fabric that basically is the exoskeleton you never knew you needed. They never inch down and they are incredibly supportive. What? You didn’t know that your butt needed support? Well it does. The fabric and fit is incredibly flattering because they suck you in like Spanx but they don’t at all feel constricting. They are also now available on Zappos, so you can try them on in the privacy of your own home.

ONZIE

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These are fabric-wise very different than NUX because they are super thin and thus are really comfortable to sweat buckets in, but they are surprisingly supportive none the less. They also come in the most satisfying range of prints. I like to be the largest woman in a New York fitness class while wearing this, because it kind of says “Hey, I am not trying to sink into my own shadow.”

OLD NAVY

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You really really don’t need to spend $80 on workout pants. The Old Navy compression line is so good. They are basically what you think you would get from Lululemon but they cost $20 on sale and they have a whole bunch of awesome new prints. They also come  in a much wider range of sizes than most workout wear. 

Also, you can’t afford anything on here, but for a good aspiration session go to Carbon 38, where graphic leggings and sheer cut-outs are worn by famous New York trainers and other “fitness” celebrities. 

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-D

Ladies of Habit “Book” Club

I generally try to avoid my husband’s interests. We both assume that if we foisted our young adult novels, Real Housewives tv shows, professional wrestling, or transit podcasts on each other (I’ll let you guess whose is whose), that both of us would feel like we were consuming homework instead of recreational media. But when one of us does foist something on the other, we know its going to be good.

I have now consumed and been totally engaged by my first comic book series. Saga is a comic book that mashes together the genres of space opera and fantasy. There are people with fairy wings and there are robots. It also passes my single most important test: it is about girls (mostly).

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Drawn by Fiona Staples, this is a gorgeous series and not just in a pretty Dinotopia way. Everyone in the Saga universe is stylish, like “I never knew I wanted a tree-shaped space vehicle” stylish. Or, “my, what a flattering high-waisted pair of shorts,” stylish. And the story lines are engrossing, full of psychological drama about cross-species mating and moving in with your in laws.

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I also like that sex is not just a way to show thirteen year old boy readers some heaving breasts. Rather, it is a way to treat thirty year old lady readers to some male and female back muscles AND to move story lines forward.

I hate to say it, but comics are serial and you know what ladies of habit love? Serial media. But only if it this good.

 

-D

Jumpsuits! By our new guest contributor

I am not typically an adventurous dresser. Since starting grad school my uniform has been skirts, cardigans, and black flats in an attempt to mature my wardrobe out of eight years of black t-shirts and ratty jeans. So when I bought a jumper with “Beetle juice genie pants” this spring, it was a big deal for me.

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A little background: my sister lives in Tucson, AZ, where caramel-brown babes wear neon rompers (the jumper’s more flirtatious cousin) all year round. She has been the patient target of no less than two rants about my dislike of rompers and their inability to ever cover someone’s ass and chest at the same time. You may get one, but never both. I railed against the foolishness of wearing clothes that are sewn together as both uncomfortable and impractical.

But when I saw MY jumper hanging on a rack at a Tulsa Ross, I decided to try it on despite my doubts about the practicality of the garment or fears about what sort of optical illusion I might be inflicting on myself by encasing my lower half in an almost dizzying print. It turned out to be as comfortable as my favorite type of clothing, the maxi dress, and had pockets, which made it irresistible.

Since then, while wearing my jumper, my confidence has grown to fill the billowy pant legs. My partner, who is much more stylish than me, praised it as my “most fashion forward choice ever” and I get appreciative comments and nods from the effortlessly cool servers at my favorite restaurant. Instead of always trying to make myself appear as little as possible, I genuinely enjoy seeming a little wider, because I just feel so cool.

 

–K. a doctoral student and a lady.

Ladies of Habit Book Club

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*Spoilers

Not-young-anymore lady goes on a quest to find herself–yes this happens in this book too. But it happens really really late in the game, and Gilbert almost manages to keep all the exoticism of Tahiti completely off the page. It is hard not to read this book as the second book of Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, and that must kill her, but hey YOU HAVE ALL THE MONEY, LADY.

I think I don’t like this book. I loved parts of it. There are some moments between the leading lady Alma and her crazy friend, man friend, and sister that were incredibly vivid portraits of love done by people who are terrible at loving. The no touching sex scene was awesome. I liked when her cray cray friend sat around asking stupid questions while Alma “does” botany in her little rich lady den. I also like when Hanneke de Groot gives Alma some #realtalk. The character of Alma herself is also impressively flawed and still likeable. But I have to be totally honest, I spent eighty percent of this book thinking “is she going to have sex now?”

I think there are two issues here. Like my other recent read the Goldfinch, there is an obvious attempt to write a serious book by a woman who is not taken seriously by the literary world. But Gilbert seems to think that serious literature has incredibly lengthy treatises on the nature of Tahitian missions, the diseases of sailors, and abolition, and whatever plant it is that makes quinine. She is good at writing these, but it made me appreciate that Franzen publishes a book of essays on his pet interests (birds, the brain etc.) instead of inserting his vanity research projects into his books.

But the first problem is also a product of the second, namely that the book is meant to mimic a nineteenth century novel in topic and style. Long treatises on boring topics is oh so very George Eliot of Gilbert. This aspect of the book made me think about the interesting role of historical fiction and what I want it to do. In some ways my perfect historical fiction gives me everything I love about Eliot or Austen but inserts more “real” stuff that they could not talk about (sex, sex, sex). Or it self-consciously dwells on the aesthetic beauty of the era and flatters the present by pointing to their backwardness while giving us hints of the progress to come: Mad Men. The Signature of All Things has hints of both these modes, but to an impressive extent it sticks to the constraints of an actual nineteenth century novel. These seems to me to be a literary exercise rather than a full creative concept that uses the experience of the present in order to reveal more about both now and then.

TV Review

Silicon Valley on HBO:

Martin Starr

Ladies of Habit Book Club

 

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I have heard a very good review of this book compare The Goldfinch to Harry Potter (a boy alone in the world embarks on epic life, has magical objects), but I think it might actually borrow more from the show Scandal. Like Shonda Rhimes, Donna Tartt is excellent at creating juicy tension and improbable scenarios that you still feel committed to seeing through to the end. This gives the book a pulpy feel, which sometimes is overwhelmed by her literary bravado ripped straight from Dickens. I like the Scandal parts of this book a lot more than the Dickens parts of this book. In other words, when Tart embraces the idea that people who do morally questionable things are more glamorous and thus more fun, I am with her. When morality itself is discussed and debated abstractly in the book (ala’ Dickens) I kind of wanted to give up on the book.

If you loved early Tartt, you will appreciate the delicious and immersive quality of her writing, but with The Goldfinch she is trying to write a BIG book (literally 700+ pages) and it kind of makes me miss the lack of pretense in her early work. I was bored in parts of this book, and I am not always sure my boredom was worth it.

 

–D

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