Thursday, April 26, 2012

SATC vs Girls

Are both of these shows just an effort to chase the high of the Golden Girls? I was a huge Golden Girls fan; I remember spending months at home watching the show in reruns twice a day; I was off school recovering from surgery and I distinctly remember my father saying to me "You can't live your life according to when the Golden Girls are on!". (Other TV obsessions included "Twin Peaks", "Thirtysomething", "Murder She Wrote" and "Northern Exposure"--clearly it was a simpler time).
For me, Golden Girls, SATC and Girls exist in some hazy guilty-type pleasure zone. Part of it is, I think, the sheer pleasure of watching women act like women on TV. By that I mean: within the context of intimate relationships with other women. Otherwise known as "friendship". The shows are all different, clearly. And all amazing, also clearly. All are products of a particular time and place, and reflect a certain aspect of a white, upper middle class life.

(I'm still a little bummed about the criticisms of Girls--and I guess SATC too to some degree--for it's lack of characters of colour. I'm more bummed about the criticism than I am about the lack of POCs in the show. I think it's bs that shows reflecting or catering to a modern female audience are expected to be all things to all marginalized demographics. This seems like a clear product of not having enough fucking female-focussed or feminist shows to begin with.)

There have not been a tonne of great shows pitched to women over the past 50 years. In 10 seconds off the top of my head I can think of MTM, Rhoda, My So Called Life, Maude, Kate and Allie, One Day at a Time: 'my' shows are the aforementioned. For whatever reason, I like and relate to them. I think all three are feminist; if you don't agree I'd probably think you're just wrong. I think there is some quality of the interaction that felt real to me; or that felt familiar to me in a way that felt good.

I was raised in a home culture that was sort of a matriarchy. Outside of my nuclear family we had relatives in Ottawa and Montreal; all older women (my mom's mother and aunts primarily); and all super funny. From age 5 until my 20s I was exposed to women talking, women laughing, women sitting at the kitchen table whenever time permitted; smoking and drinking coffee and talking about everything from politics to gossip. Basically when I think about having a really good conversation with someone; in my life that person has been a woman; often a relative/sister/mom/cousin/aunt; often a friend, but usually a woman. I just feel like the quality of the conversation and humour are different with women. Of course there are rare male exceptions and I have had very affecting and important (to me) friendships with men. It just hasn't been the norm. I guess in some way; GG felt like home to me. Not sure how else to explain my obsession with in from age 15-through....well, now. It's also fucking funny. It's well written. Even the dumb stuff is awesome (the fashion; some of the silly premises etc). 

Ok, SATC. I hate that I feel a little sheepish about loving this show so much. There is truly, so much to love here! The writing was amazing, it blazed a trail in it's portrayal of women talking about sex; engaging in sex and; oh yeah relationships! The friendship between the women is written beautifully. THIS bunch of cosmo swilling, funny women is exactly what you and your friends feel like when you're shooting the shit on a night out (or in or whatever). The clothes are the fucking bomb, so shut up if you have some problem with the show sartorially. I feel like maybe the second film jumped the shark on this show and retroactively caused the show to stink or something? Don't get me wrong, I loved the second film too! I will probably agree with every criticism that could be levelled against it; and still love it. My partner cemented our bond by buying me every season and both films on dvd. He's never seen the show; I know he would hate it. It might be one of those shows that heterosexual men just don't get the decoder ring for. Or else it's straight up misogyny that prevents men from liking it. Just kidding! It strikes me as maybe the MOST quintessentially "women's" shows (well, say 'scripted' women's shows); and with that in mind I'm just really stoked that it's also so likeable. I may have to go watch all the episodes again soon. 
Oh where was I? Yes, it's RELATABLE. It's funny. It makes promiscuous sex! adventurous! Not lousy and regrettable; and allows watchers to reframe their own (lousy, regrettable) sex that way. Thanks SATC, I love you. I don't give a shit about all the haters who say GG and SATC became the same show, I say GOOD because they're both fucking awesome! 

10k and Why I Run

I ran my first 10K on the weekend. It was a cool one; straight down Yonge St. in Toronto; all the way to Richmond; west to Blue Jay Way; down to Front and over to the Bathurst bridge; then to Fort York. I don't know about my time; I don't care about that at all. I'm still just kind of blown away that I've actually become someone who identifies as a 'runner'.
I started running in May of 2011, basically as a way to keep off 20lbs I'd lost. I read a 'couch to 10k' article in a women's magazine and just started doing it; almost on a whim.
I had never run before; I smoked from the ages of 18 to around 32 and quit when I felt the first signs of obstructive lung disease. I really felt like I couldn't breathe that well; much less run.

I had done two 5k's over the past year; and generally run about 3 times a week. I kept the 20lbs off effortlessly and felt really good about running. It's the perfect sport for someone who really isn't that interested in exercise. It's hard but quick; you generally only need to do it for about a 1/2 hr. I know everyone's metabolism is different but for me it has been truly an effortless way to maintain my weight and stay relatively fit. It's solitary which I like, you're not expected to interact with anyone or even talk to anyone really. It's totally cheap and portable, I bring my runners now when I travel and it excites me that I'm enough of a 'runner' to run elsewhere; along the east river in NYC, along the beach in San Diego, on a treadmill in Mexico City. I'm a runner, that's what we do. 
An unexpected benefit has been the stress release; all that bs you've heard all these years is true! These day if I get home from work and immediately tell my partner I'm going running; he knows exactly what that means. It means that I'm going to spend 30-45 minutes restoring my mental health and that the time might well spare us an argument, partially induced by work/commute related stress. 
When I tell people I'm running, they're surprised. I am not an athletic type at all. I often get the same response I used to give runners--"I HATE running"; "it's so boring", "it's too hard"--etc. etc. And I guess all that is true, until it isn't, and you find you ARE one. 

Basically I run for my ass; I run for my weight; I run to look better; for my heart, my health, my head, my relationship, my mood---I run for my life. It feels to me the same way I feel about quitting smoking; I'm truly grateful for it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Amazing Biographies

I love biographies. I especially love biographies of women. I particularly and especially love biographies of women reporting back from the dark side of drugs, sex, rock and roll, hideous abuse and underdog struggle! 
Of course I love these books with the full understanding that there is no such thing as an objective memoir. As Lidia Yuknavitch put it so well in her book you can't take memories out and handle them repeatedly without changing them. I don't confuse a good biography or autobiography with hard fact. That isn't really the point as far as I'm concerned. 

Man enough to be a Woman - Jayne County
This is a great book about a NYC punk legend. Part of its interest is that it straddles a couple of interesting worlds including the underground punk scene in NYC in the 70s; the Warhol underground; and the journey of Wayne County transitioning to Jayne in the public eye. 
The great thing about this book is she writes really frankly; she's not delicate in any way. And she's seen every sleazy joint in the world. I saw her DJ in Toronto in the early 2000s; it was great. She has also suffered poverty for most of her life and is incredibly tough. 
She winds up playing 'every toilet' in England and kind of bottoms out in Berlin in the drag scerne. 

It's basically a cross section of completely fascinating subcultures. There is also the requisite Max's Kansas City gossip including details of Jayne's ongoing feud with Handsome Dick Manitoba from the Dictators who gave her a really hard time about her gender transition. And all kinds of run ins with famous underground types. 

Whipping Girl - Julia Serano
I'm always interested in gender issues. This book has aspects of memoir but the author is also a scientist, biology researcher and an academic and basically deconstructs gender. Serano is a transwoman and as such has a lot of insight into the experience of living as a man and also as a woman. She talks a lot about cultural expectations and prejudice she experienced during transition. A couple of things stuck with me about this book; namely she gets into the issue of compounded sexism she experienced as a transwoman. Basically she found that in becoming female and giving up male privilege she was subject to a unique brand of scorn; in the case of transmen they are basically 'trading up' in society's eyes. She makes a convincing arguement that transwomen deal with another level of scorn and are trivialized for their desire to join the 'weaker' sex. There is also a part where she kind of takes heterosexual women to task for rewarding chauvinism; she observes both as a male and a female that men who posture in typical macho ways are rewarded with sex and attention by women. Her point is that if we purport to want men who are more egalitarian and more sensitized to gender issues; we should actually date those men and have sex with those men. I found that interesting. In many ways it's difficult or impossible to rejig what you find attractive in the opposite sex; I just thought she made a good point on this one.
A similiar book came out a few years ago. Written by Norah Vincent, Self Made Man  is sort of the reverse; this female journalist lives as a man for a year and writes about her experiences. It was also really interesting but I liked Serano's better I think because of her analysis. Vincent didn't transition to male either, it was basically an experiment. She does discuss the privileges she experienced as a man but I don't recall her actually dating.

Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary - Lydia Lunch
I love Lydia Lunch. She started out at age 15 in NYCs No Wave moment of the late 70s/early 80s singing in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. She really is a one of a kind. She writes, performs spoken word and does some music too. I had the good fortune to see her a couple of times in the past few years, first at Pop Montreal with Teenage Jesus who had regrouped for the occasion. She's always amazing, totally charismatic, I'll never forget her literally kicking some emo kid off the stage with her boot. If you're not familiar with her work, I envy you actually because you can run out and experience it now! Her writing/spoken word are really aggressive, violent, sexual, visceral--she kind of presents herself as a Kali* type woman--just searing, destructive, relentless, pitiless and fucking angry. Even better she writes really well! 

*Kali: Goddess of destruction and dissolution in Hinduism; known for destroying ignorance

Sister of the Road: The Autobiography of Boxcar Bertha - Dr. Ben Reitman
This is a great account of female 'hobo' during the depression, basically doing what she has to to survive.Evidently it's an actual biography transcribed by a doctor. It's the story of Bertha Thompson who became known as 'Boxcar Bertha' because of riding the rails. She gets involved in the sex trade, free love movement in radicalized NYC in the labour movement. I loved this book because it seems like you don't see many first person accounts of women living in poverty especially from the early part of the 1900s; those stories don't get told much. Bertha is also highly intelligent despite her lack of formal schooling. It's a great read. 

Edie: An American Biography - Jean Stein
This is a total classic in biographies. It's in a league of it's own, it's such an amazing account of Edie Sedgwick; the Warhol 'it' girl from the mid 1960s. It's an oral history meaning it's written from interviews with hundreds of people who knew her. She was a socialite who became an integral part of the Warhol factory in New York. As Warhol's muse she was at his side all the time, modelled and acted in his films and took absurd quantities of uppers. She sort of epitomized the best and worst of that creative scene, blowing the doors of artistic convention and being part of this merger of visual art, film and music (the Velvet Underground got their start here too). But because she's a socialite there is another element of the disapproval and extreme eccentricity of her wealthy family. It's just a great read. I remember reading it as a teenager and just being obsessed with this lens on New York as being so decadent, creative, exciting and dangerous. Edie wound up leaving the factory scene and moving to California and sort of becoming a hippie. Eventually she died of a abarbiturate/alcohol overdose. It's a very sad story. I  have to read this book again, it's that good. She was also incredibly stylish and still inspires the fashion world today. 

Candy Girl: A Year in the LIfe of an Unlikely Stripper - Diablo Cody
I read this book in an evening in the bathtub; it's that type of book. Cody is really relatable, you kind of relate to her and she's identifiable enough that you can see yourself looking at this world with the same perspective as her in a way. She was a bit of a fish out of water in the stripping world, as a midwestern woman with a natural body. She kind of fell into it on a whim. She's a great writer, and I say that with previous reservations because I really didn't like Juno, or Jennifer's Body. (I did love Young Adult however.....) She worked in a few clubs for a year in Minneapolis. She doesn't pretend she was a super successful stripper but she does give a great credible insider view into that world. I like reading memoirs by sex workers, I just find it fascinating. The nice thing about this book as I said is that the writer is relatable. I've read dozens of books by sex workers and sometimes the POV isn't anything you can relate to; sometimes the writer is so busy trying to convince the reader that sex work is real work, or that the workers are all law students or whatever. This one doesn't make those assumptions that the reader is prejudiced against the work. Maybe becaue Diablo herself was such an 'unlikely' stripper, I'm not sure. Anyway warm up the bathtub for this one! 

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright - Jean Nathan
This is a really sad story of mother-daughter pathos; plus a nice portrait of New York in the 40s-50s and the life of an introverted artist. Dare Wright (this must be the most glamourous name ever?) wrote a classic kids book called "The Lonely Doll"  which is an ok children's book but became notorious because of some vaguely S+M type doll + stuffed bear scenes. There is a scene in the book where a stuffed bear gives a doll a bare bottom spanking. In writing it doesn't sound that scandalous but it does read a bit strange in the book. Needless to say it's a must buy for any friends who have little kids. But her biography is really sad; she couldn't really individuate from her mother and basically just devolved into a life of destitute alcoholism. At the end she's almost homeless and really ill. I find this type of book really fascinating, love reading about creative types going off the deep end. 

The Last LIving Slut - Roxana Shirazi
This one is published by Neil Strauss who I have come to love for his amazing music bios (he wrote "The Dirt" about Motley Crue--one of the best books EVER, plus "The Long Hard Road out of Hell" about Marilyn Manson--another eye popper; AND another good book of essays called "Everyone loves you when You're Dead" which compiles a whole bunch of music interviews and is excellent). But this book by Shirazi is completely insane. In the best way. This woman started out in Iran, raised Muslim and then flees to 
London during the Iranian revolution. She describes herself as being really sexually precocious and flirtatious basically her whole life; as a teenager she gets into exotic dancing and from there immerses herself in the life of a rock groupie. At the same time she earns a Master's degree in English, and has sex with every third string roadie in the Western hemisphere. It's a strange story because although she drops a few names of huge bands like G'n'R, Motley Crue and Velvet Revolver, it becomes clear that she has a LOT of sex with either roadies or other people peripheral to these bands or with other musicians in metal bands I had no knowledge of. I'm not a metal aficianado but clearly this is not the groupie big time. I found it fascinating only in that she seemed really compulsive about her sexual behaviour and I sort of felt like she was using the 'groupie' thing to just act out sexually in response to some psychological problem. It's true that the book makes Pamela DesBarres sound chaste. I'm sure Pamela would be appalled by this. I love seeing the rare interview with DesBarres where she's all 'We were MUSES!'---or trying to distance herself from the newer generations of rock tramps. HA! Anyway, This book is entertaining. 

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star - Jenna Jameson
This is a Neil Strauss joint, and another completely insane book. Aside from the basic interest in how Jameson came to superstardom as a porn actress, producer and mega product; there is something fascinating about how un-self aware she comes across. She describes being happy and well adjusted and then two pages later she's wasted down to like 80lbs due to a crystal meth addiction. Later after her recovery she goes on an exotic dancing club tour and seems to have come completely off the rails again on drugs. It's almost like she can't decide whether to focus on how successful and happy/heatlhy she is or to focus on the more fucked up aspects of her business. The porn world has clearly changed so much since she started her career and she obviously was in the right place at the right time, and is a hard worker/great performer etc. (I say this mostly from reading the book and understanding her place in the cultural zeitgeist, I'm not that familiar with her porn work) This is a huge book and it is well edited. Jameson comes across as a real chameleon. There are lots of photographs in the book and I was struck by how different her face looks in each one, and not from plastic surgery. I think she just has a really mutable face that looks different. Probably an asset in her field. The book is interesting if you are curious about her but also if you're interested in the world of porn/sex work in general. There is lots of gossip and drug use and general insanity.

A Piece of Cake - Cupcake Brown
This is an amazing story about someone who started life with the decks completely stacked against them. Brown basically suffered every nightmare that a childhood could from her mom dying; her dad giving her away; and every kind of abuse in the foster care system. She winds up as a gangbanger in her early teens, then later gets introduced to crack cocaine and completely bottoms out. Eventually she gets some work in a law firm and balances her drug use with a straight life. Finally she gets help from her boss who assists and encourages her to clean up her life; go back to school...and become a lawyer. She writes really well, it's pretty amazing to read about this kind of total transition. The horror story of her early life is fascinating, and it really is inspirational to think she came so far from so little. Girl gangbanger makes good--what else do you want in an autobiography? 

Tiny Furniture, HBOs 'Girls' and SATC plus reading!

Great quote from this film. Incidentally I liked it a lot.
'Relationships aren't rocket science; if you find yourself having to really think about it a lot, analysing it, it's over. It's kaput'
So true.
After I saw the movie I realized this writer/film maker Lena Dunham was featured in the new Bust magazine. She has a new show for HBO called "Girls" which is supposed to be amazing. I read something recently in an interview with one of the actresses (I have no clue who) where she was asked to comment about comparisons to Sex and the City. She responded that comparisons are erroneous because this show is for a new generation and basically totally different---which kind of bummed me out. I feel like SATC doesn't get the credit it deserves for being as fucking amazing as it was. Somehow the last crappy film has just turned the tide against the show; which was truly new, refreshing, amazingly well written, and even new in its use of fashion and integretion of modern sexual politics. I like SATC a lot. Anyway then I read something from Lena Dunham getting asked the same question, and she responded that without SATC, her show couldn't and wouldn't exist. Which is totally cool of her to say.
AND I was SO EXCITED to see this feature in the NYT about what Lena Dunham reads. All I want to know about anyone is what they read; and if they are female, what makeup and skincare they use. I am shallow.

Here is episode one posted on HBO:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ellen Ripley: "Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?"

Not sure how I avoided seeing the Aliens series all these years. I think I thought it was sci-fi and was just turned off. I've watched parts 1, 2 and 3 over as many days and I'm pretty blown away by Ellen Ripley. It seems like a series from a completely other time and place; and I guess it was. This character is completely radical by today's standards. It's just so obvious when you watch this how dumbed down and pandering modern movies are; and how, not just sexist but misogynist things have become.

So refreshing to see this character whose gender is entirely superfluous to her character. There isn't a hint of paternalism to this portrayal. It kind of reinforces my belief that especially at its fringe, and I guess in its past; the modern horror movie provides a forum for women to be strong. I"m thinking of the 'final girl' who is seen over and over again in horror; and the portrayals that the book Men, Women and Chainsaws. This book was written by a feminist PhD candidate interested in portrayals of women in horror movies. It's a great read. The worst cover on a book I can remember seeing in a long time.

Don't get me started either on the positive portrayal of cats in Alien; Jonesy stole every scene he was in!

Then in the sequel, Aliens; Ripley takes reponsibility for a 7 year old girl, Newt. Whatever maternal instincts she works out in the role are strictly of an ass-kicking variety; and thank gods for it. There is no backstory offered to explain her stewardship over the child, we know she had a kid of her own but not the details.

I can't overstate how refreshing these films are to the weary feminist; it's so great to see a woman in her twenties through her forties and beyond portraying a non-sexualized heroine. If these films were made today, Selena Gomez would play Ripley with a shopping montage and a few sweaty workout scenes. The idea that there isn't even a love interest for Ripley; or if there is some peripheral romantic entanglement, it's left at that, peripheral. Now films are so dumbed down and concepts are so watered down by THIS STUFF.

Anyway; I'm happy and excited to finally get a proper introduction to Ellen Ripley.

Music Writing + Women

I guess I saw this on tumblr. I love reading non-fiction, I love biographies and reading about music/musicians.

OMG i'm excited about this list: I guess I found the link on twitter or somewhere. Of these I've read two; Rock She Wrote and Please Kill Me. I loved both of them. I'll seek out more, I"d like to read Richard Meltzer. Not sure where Lester Bangs is on this list.

Then another list came out featuring women writers.  I read Rat Girl when it came out. I had never listened to Throwing Muses but Kristen Hersh's story is great anyway. I read and liked Girls to the Front; I liked Just Kids a lot despite not being a Patti Smith fan.

Please add me on Goodreads if you're so inclined.....

40 is NOT the new 20 (thank gods) or; stop scratching at the coffin lid

I turned 40 last month. I am now older, not much wiser but about one thing I am quite certain: 40 is not the new 20 and thank god for that! I think I've learned a lot via popular culture about navigating middle age; mainly what NOT to do. I've learned that 40 is not the new 20--and why the fuck would you want it to be? I don't know about other people but I am a HELL of a lot smarter and more together now than at 20. I hate that this analogy or comparison is made; between 20 and 40; as though it would be desirable for 40 to equal 20. Why? For whom? I did 20; it was great. It was 20 years ago, I'm now prepared to leave 20 to the actual 20 year olds.

True, I am aware of a changing of the tides; I have made certain concessions to age, mostly with respect to behaviour, attitude, and most importantly--fashion and personal style. (I'm only sort of joking there.)
If I'm not mistaken, the fear of aging or of *yeegads* appearing old---has to do with vulnerability; or the appearance of vulnerability. No one wants to be the middle aged woman chasing the dragon of youth. No one wants to accidentally appear on the fashion landscape wearing something that underscores her age rather than her youth.

I remember shopping with a friend whose style I admired (and still admire) greatly--we passed baby doll dresses at Beacon's Closet and I pointed them out to her, "Those are you". She responded that she'd ditched the baby dolls after age 35. I'm still impressed by the maturity of that decision! Of course I can clearly see, for myself, the fashion tics I've left behind: pigtails, knee socks, mary janes, most tshirts that aren't either completely plain or have a band logo, miniskirts with bare legs, peter pan collars, and yeah, baby doll dresses. They fell away naturally, I didn't have to think about it. I'm blessed with a sister who is merciless in her fashion critiques; and a partner who is judicious in his sartorial appraisals. From him I learned that you pretty much get one shot at a trend; that means if you wore neon and off the shoulder sweatshirts in the 80s; you don't get another chance now. If you wore acid wash the first time around, you're done. You can keep the same editorial stance in your closet, but some concessions should be made.

In my case I've given this whole transition some thought, and even made a New Year's resolution about it this past January. I adopted a fashion philosophy and a guiding principle which I call "the Witch". The witch fits my personality style perfectly; basically it's lots of eye makeup and black/grey clothes. It's almost like goth light. I don't have the time or energy to invest in anything high maintenance but this seems to fit me. If you can imagine a black and white picture of Stevie Nicks, that might be it. The jewellery is all understated but creepy, should look as though it would be serviceable in casting a spell or two. It's been terribly helpful in culling my existing wardrobe; all the bright colours, flower prints, and pastels are pretty much out.

The best investment in your appearance is staying healthy and grooming. It's boring but true. I don't regret smoking for 15 years because of my skin; I regret it because it sucked up a lot of time and money, and was stupid. I have worn 'wrinkle cream' since I was 18 years old; I'm here to tell you none of it works. I still have the wrinkles of 40 well lived years on my face. It's fine! It's all's funny now that I'm in my prime advertisers demographic years of age fear, I can see the con for what it is. Now I think the most important things to looking good are genes, diet, avoiding cigs and sun, and judicious use of cosmetics. Every woman who puts virtually any effort into her appearance looks good. I call it looking 'sexually viable'--basically it just means that your appearance suggests you considered it in some way before you left the house. Whether it is combing your hair and putting on lipstick, or hair extensions, 100 abdominal crunches a day or a leopard print skirt is immaterial, you showed up and made an effort. For myself I do put in effort every day to look good. I enjoy it. I love makeup and all that crap. I get a kick out of the performance of femininity. And I appreciate that effort in other people.

As for age, the older I get the less I think of plastic surgery. It doesn't make anyone look younger!! I mean, am I missing something? I don't shop at Whole Foods much, it's too expensive and frankly I hate the people who shop there, but it is a great place to go and just get scared about how facial plastic surgery can go wrong. And no one looks a day younger than their age. They just look SCARED. Scared of aging, scared of looking like they have some life experience, scared of not being able to compete in the sexual arena. I'm not talking about breast enhancement, nose jobs, vaginal rejuvenation or what have you, that stuff may be crazy for other reasons, I'm talking about procedures that put you on a surgeon's table in an effort to appear more youthful. I'm talking about clawing at the coffin lid. Because that is all I see anymore.
I guess as the years and decades tick by it's possible that my 'sexual viability' will ebb away too, I'll deal with that when it happens.

sex tips for girls (and boys, and women,!)

When I was a tween my older sister had a book titled 'Sex Tips for Girls' by the amazing Cynthia Heimel.

I've always been a sucker for self help books, I just love the idea that you can read a book, make a plan, take some steps and your life will improve in whatever manner you'd hoped, you'll 'make friends and influence people'; learn the seven habits of highly effective people, master your metabolism, beguile babies and puppies...whatever! Whatever YOU want to do. It's very positive, I tend towards extreme cynicism, these books are like my version of shameful porn.

Among the most pleasing in the genre are the 'attract your perfect mate' type books. I've read a lot of them, they are mostly hilarious, regressive, and stupid. A few I thought were good, but I think any dating guide or relationship manual that spends much time deconstructing your external appearance is probably complete bunkum. I'm thinking of the most recent book I read in this genre which was "Become Your Own Matchmaker" by Patti Stanger (the Millionaire Matchmaker). I'm not linking to the book or anything because I don't think this woman is that great; she seems a bit retrograde in her approach. The emphasis is very 'straighten your hair, fix your teeth and get thee to a gym' and more about how to "attract" then considering WHO you might attract.

Okay so back to my plan for attracting your perfect mate (aka: sex tips for anyone)--I'm writing as a heterosexual woman but I believe these principles are applicable to any sex or gender preference.

There are only 3 principles to practice, the catch is they aren't easy and require dedication!
The 3 are confidence, narcissism and loving men. 

I think everyone knows confidence is by far the most important element. I can think of many examples of friends I've had who were just really secure in themselves and could pretty much pull anyone, regardless of looks or style. I'm thinking of women who just don't seem to give a fuck--I'm convinced it's attractive to men. Hell it's attractive to everyone! When you think of who YOU find appealing, there is a good chance that confidence plays a part. Confidence says 'I have something which may not be obvious to the casual observer; something everyone wants'. Truly confidence can make a homely person hot, it's crucial. Peripheral to confidence is style. A word about it: if there is something about you that might put people off; all the better. In my case I stand over 6'; de facto, men who are afraid of women are probably going to steer clear. If your style is more sartorially offbeat, like one of these people; you're already doing it. You will attract the weirdies; that's exactly what you want. You're not competing for the manscaped metrosexuals with No Fear baseball hats; your clothes are doing the work for you by weeding these dudes out.

Ok, then narcissism: a certain level of narcissism is crucial. If you think of the most charismatic people you know, chances are they find themselves pretty charismatic too! Cultivate a certain level of self absorption, you really can't go wrong with this. If you don't find yourself interesting, who else is going to? Even beyond interesting, even better if you find yourself hot--would you want to date yourself? If so, good. Along with some healthy (even a little unhealthy) narcissism, absorbing interests are very attractive. Having confidence in a strong point of view; I'm always fascinated by people who perceive themselves to have a taste for the finer things in life. It's not the 'finer things' I find interesting but the commitment to their own taste and their own point of view. Having a strong aesthetic sense and a degree of narcissism can tip a person into eccentric territory; that's great too!

The final tip which is the hardest (for me) is to honestly just love men. By that I mean find them exciting, titillating, fascinating and worthy of your adoring attention. I read this somewhere a long time ago, basically it was some self help thing that said you could change your perspective by just looking at men differently--just cultivate an appreciative eye. As a woman in this culture we are used to the male gaze, to being evaluated and appraised all the time. So this tip is about doing the same to men, but with rose-coloured glasses. And do it to ALL the men you meet---the wizened old man ("wow look at his laughing eyes, his wispy hair, how he wields that cane....!"), the juicehead gorilla on the subway ("pumping IRON....yes!"). You're basically playing a role, the role is appraising appreciative woman. The reason I find this tricky is like many women I don't look at men much in my daily commute or activities. Frankly when I'm on public transportation I have earphones on and a book in front of me; I'm trying to create a bubble of space for myself. I do not want to engage, and certainly not with strange men. But this exercise is about just getting into a different headspace with regards to being aware of male energy around you. Again, if you're not straight or not seeking a man you can change the game however it makes sense. In my experience, this exercise works but like I said it's work to pay that much attention to dudes. It's a different lens, public transportation is the most common venue to practice this for me. Usually the lens I wear is more about scanning my periphery to see if there is anyone weird around I need to avoid or keep an eye on. This is a little different.

I think all these three elements are equally important and effective. Even if you only do one it would probably work to a degree.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gloria Steinem

well that pretty much says it all....

The Chronology of Water

 I read a review of this book in Bitch magazine an issue ago and had requested it from the library. In the interim I read two Game of Thrones books....which were great. This book was totally worth the wait though. I'm probably going to buy a copy just because I can't believe how well written it is. It's kind of reawakened my interest in biography. I love biographies. If the person's life is interesting it doesn't even matter if it's poorly written, if it's well written it's just even better. I can't even really compare her writing to anyone else's, there is a poetic and non-linear quality to it, it's really visceral and just rings really true emotionally.
She doesn't even detail too much what kind of trauma her childhood left her with; there was some alienation of affection from her parents, her mom was an alcoholic and her father sounds at least emotionally/verbally abusive. She sort of cannonballs out of her life with her family into one messed up situation after another and tries her best to sabotage every good thing that starts to happen to her.
In the course of becoming a writer she goes to grad school, gets a PhD, exorcises demons with S+M and finds her voice. She mentions gravitating toward the 'deviants' in her English studes: Kathy Acker, Dennis Cooper, Marquis de Sade, Georges Bataille and William Burroughs.
I read my first Dennis Cooper book a short while ago, I realized I'd had a graphic novel of his a long time ago and never knew who or what he was. The book I read was Try; it was again unlike anything I'd read before. Except maybe Hubert Selby or William Burroughs, just incredibly disturbing. It's kind of like the feeling a really good horror movie gives you, like a free fall into something totally sickening where you have to surrender to the story because you couldn't come up with this kind of stuff if you tried. Or maybe you could, but don't want to acknowledge it.
Anyway I'm super excited about this book, excited to read more of Yuknavitch's stuff, plus happy to be reminded of Dennis Cooper and Kathy Acker (I went out and bought 2 books by each of them).

Couldn't help but think again as I've thought as million times before reading a memoir, that the idea that a memoir has any real basis in reality is probably totally crazy. That the concept of an objective reality is crazy, because people are crazy and once they filter information through their crazy minds, there cannot be any objectivity left. I pretty much never believe anything I read in an autobiography; but I think the point of an a-b is to read what the writer WANTS you to think is reality. Or what was their reality. I can't remember what happened last week, never mind convesations about contentious issues that happened months, years, decades ago. I like this though, I like the idea that we create our own realities. To read an autobiography is to hand over control to the author, go with them on the ride and don't question too much how they got there or how 'truthy' the whole thing is.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bust magazine: Milk Men

makes sense this isn't a photograph...
I love Bust magazine. I"ve been a reader since it was a zine in the mid 1990s. It has evolved over the years for good and bad. I like the fashion and beauty stuff alot. I do wish they'd use more 'real' models or at least 'real size' models, but it's fine. Their cover subjects have definitely skewed to prime time TV plugs but that's ok, it would be cool if someone picked up the magazine because they like a certain TV show and then got interested in the DIY stuff or the feminist news.
Which brings me to this months issue, I just had to whine about this 'feature'. The whole 3 page article (illustrated by one cute cartoon) basically chronicles some heroic male breast feeding efforts which don't go far. Don't get me wrong, this is not an "EWWW" complaint, or even a "men should be men, and let us ladies be ladies!"---it's just a simple, 'let's not call this unicorn a horse'. I hate this type of reporting. This is not a real phenomenon. I understand that a handful of men have endeavoured to overcome biology and try to breastfeed their kids, I actually think that idea, or sentiment, is laudable. But he article suggests that this practice is a) something other than a very unusual practice attempted by a small fringe minority; or b) a means to feed a baby. As the article details, there ain't much milk to be had from dudes. They do cite the research that shows the skin to skin contact with a caring parent has amazing benefits for both baby and dad (or mom)....that's fantastic. But they are not breast feeding.
I feel like this almost undermines the most obvious biological advantage that women have over men; the ability to create and sustain life! Is it really necessary for men to come around and try to grab this brass ring too? At the same time, that type of argument suggests biological determinism, that biology is destiny and any attempt to tinker with it is folly. And I don't think that is the case, there are lots of good arguments to be made for rejecting this kind of determinism and also for challenging gender norms and roles.
And yet.....
I couldn't help but think of this as akin to female ejaculation--yes I know that is very real, there are squirters among us. But it's not typical. It is a HELL of a lot more common than men breastfeeding. The idea that this is something to strive for seems to ignore the fact that 90% of women have trouble reaching any orgasm at all; or that 10-15% of women have never had one (stats from our friend Dr. Phil) seems a bit silly to add a new layer of performative ejaculate to the proceedings. If it happens naturally, by all means. If it's going to make anyones 'dry' orgasm feel inadequate, that is unfortunate.
Clearly there are some physiologic similiarities between the G-spot and prostate gland. I'm sure the female and male breast have some similiarities too. What ISN"T the same is the cascade of hormonal triggers that cause milk let down.
Of course there is another layer of complexity to this gendered biological behaviour; namely that for men to struggle to perform physiologic feats associated with women (breast feeding) will always be marginalized; unlike women striving to ejaculate 'just like a man'. Female ejaculation may not be typical but nor is it marginalized, maligned or considered laughable the way male breast feeding might be. 

I do still love BUST though.