One girl’s frizz

I have been unhappy with my hair this week.

No false modesty here, I have great hair. When it’s good, it’s really good. I’ve been propositioned to sell it*. It’s thick, and strong. It has body and volume. But when it’s bad, it’s bad. 

My hair was unruly on Monday. Not Fantasy-Novel-Princess-Surveys-Windy-Plains-As-Her-Curls-Fly-About unruly. No. Frizzy, fly-away, dry, crazy-lady unruly. I was too sick and busy to care enough to do anything about it. 

Then a monk told me my hair was gorgeous. “Just absolutely gorgeous,” he said again. A monk. A classmate of mine, upon entering the classroom and before saying hello, commented on how awesome my hair looks. I look at it and it still seems frizzy and dry. 

So, ok. Everyone? Let’s just stop being mean to ourselves. Because clearly, as a species, we have no fucking clue what other people find attractive.

Read all the beauty magazines you want, it’s still a total crap shoot. Evidenced by the backlash against the most recent episode of HBO’s Girls, “One Man’s Trash” (which may well deserve its own blog post, if I can convince myself that the world needs another internet opinion on Girls), we love to pretend that there is some universal attractiveness rubric, and then BOOM, beautiful chiseled Patrick Wilson goes and fucks Lena Dunham, whose thighs touch, and everything we thought we knew was wrong and the internet explodes. Jesus christ. 

I know it sounds hokey to tell you to remember, the next time you’re hating on something about your appearance, that someone out there thinks it looks awesome, but literally, that is what happens. Somebody thinks my frizzy hair looks gorgeous. Somebody wants to bang that fat ass. 

 

*At this point, you should know that the only way I would sell my hair is if the love of my life were in need of a watch chain. 

Five Facts about Female Bodies from the Todd Akin Anatomy Textbook

Renowned Fertility Specialist and all-around Learned Person Todd Akin recently informed the public that victims of Legitimate Rape cannot get pregnant because the female body can “shut it down,” so we don’t have to worry about exceptions in abortion bans. You didn’t know that? Funny, neither did I. In light of this important scientific1 discovery, I did some serious research2 about what other awesome tricks the female body can get up to when threatened.

Prepare to be enlightened.

  1. When approached by an unwanted suitor, either in a bar or a dark alley, women can spit a paralyzing venom from a gland found at the back of their throats.
  2. Ovaries will emit an Electromagnetic Pulse with a half-mile “blast” radius.
  3. If pursued by a predator, a woman will shed her breasts, much like a gecko sheds its tail. The breasts will continue to wriggle on the ground to confuse the predator. It generally takes 6-8 weeks to regenerate.
  4. Progesterone can serve as a crude form of chloroform.
  5. Under extreme duress, five women can band together to form Voltron.

If, perhaps, these facts don’t quite sit right with you, you may want to throw some money toward Claire McCaskill, Mr. Akin’s Democratic opponent.

1. Not actual science
2. No actual research was completed

The Newsroom: Behind Every Great Man are 15 Other Great Men (and One & a Half Great Women)

The Newsroom is smart. It is witty, and impassioned and oh, did I mention smart? I liked a number of things about The Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin at his best is my favorite thing to watch. He makes intellectualism a moral issue and I love him for it. If I could boil the first season of The West Wing in a spoon and inject it into my veins, I would.

But Aaron Sorkin has lady trouble. In that, he doesn’t really like to write them as characters. Oh sure, they exist, and sometimes they’re even awesome, but for every CJ Cregg, there are 20 Josh Lymans. 20 whip smart, misunderstood Aaron Sorkin avatars at every stage of life, shooting through hallways soliloquizing at record speed.

If Sorkin were a new writer, fresh to societal criticism, I would note the gender failings of The Newsroom and hope for better next time. Lena Dunham was rightly criticized for her alarmingly racially homogenous cast, but I can note the (correct) criticism of Girls and still enjoy all of the things it did right, because I genuinely believe Lena Dunham will learn, and that her mistakes come from inexperience and ignorance, not hatred. But now she knows, and if her next project features the same palette, she will have made an active choice. “I’m sorry, I just didn’t think…” becomes “I chose not to think.” Aaron Sorkin has had chance after chance to fix the glaring hole in his record and he doesn’t care to.

I guess it isn’t everyone’s job to fix sexism. I suppose it’s anyone’s right to just not give a shit about racial and gender diversity. But Aaron Sorkin’s whole schtick is “doing better.” Being better. Tilting at windmills. Which I love! But it is hypocritical to rant at the American public for sinking into the intellectual and moral mire, to pat yourself on the back for “speaking truth to stupid” and then blithely ignore the negative impact your work has on 51% of the population. Aaron Sorkin prides himself on tackling The Big Issues. Well, Aaron, gender equality is a Big Issue. It is a moral issue. When you are a self-appointed prince of the liberal elite, you must be held to a higher standard. Depressingly, the “higher standard” for mainstream tv is still pretty low and shouldn’t be that hard to reach.  

Sorkin is an experienced writer, one who crafts meticulously and understands structure and symbolism. I do not believe any of his choices are haphazard, though I do suspect his motivations are sometimes subconscious.

Let me run through my specific issues:

1. In the opening rant (you’ll recognize it from Studio 60 and the Sunset Strip, with like, relevant bits cut and paste) Will McAvoy sneers at a “sorority girl” then goes on to extol the virtues of some mythical foregone time when you could “be a man” and there were “great men” who were venerated for being great men.  

2. The first time we meet Maggie (the charming Alison Pill), she is being emotionally bulldozed by her older, more successful boyfriend. I’m not saying people don’t have boyfriends, or personal drama, but Sorkin is a writer who nearly fetishizes the Character Introduction, so to have Pill’s first words on a show about journalism, politics, and morality be about her relationship is insulting.

3. Will McAvoy knows the names of his white, male colleagues, but not his female assistant or his Indian blogger.

4. The first time the two named female characters (The aforementioned Maggie and our main female protagonist Mackenzie) interact on this show about journalism, politics, and morality they discuss….clothes, beauty, and boys. Again, I’m not saying that female co-workers don’t discuss fashion or relationships. I do! But in Aaron Sorkin-land, to make this their primary interaction is defining and insulting.

5. When Maggie is promoted by Mackenzie, it is not because she does something noteworthy in her work (which she does later in the episode!). No, the impetus for her promotion is that she has displayed a warm, fuzzy feeling. While loyalty is certainly an admirable quality, in Sorkin-land, men are lauded for merit, even when they’re assholes. Women are rewarded for being nurturing.

6. So far, there are zero visible LGBTQ characters.

I have not given up hope. Mackenzie is pretty great so far, not seeming to suffering from any of the usual trope ailments that seem to strike Sorkin ladies: Hungry Thin Lady Syndrome, Beautiful Klutz, Neurotic Overanalyzer. Future episodes promise other prominent female characters from Jane Fonda and Olivia Munn (although, good god, am I really pinning any feminist hopes on Olivia Munn?!) Pill’s character Maggie had a shaky start (and Sorkin was especially lazy with her, pulling her almost quirk for quirk from The West Wing’s Donna Moss), but I think there’s potential in that arc.

The Newsroom has other problems that have nothing to do with feminism, most notably that, seriously, I believe Aaron Sorkin does not think we will notice that he is recycling himself at an alarming rate, including his own personal issues. Yeah, you gotta work your shit out through your art, but you’re obviously not making any progress, because you’re chewing the same gristle you were 4 years ago.

A lot of people hate The Newsroom because it’s made by pedantic blowhards for pedantic blowhards. I have a pretty high tolerance for pedantic blowhards (myself included) so that won’t be what drives me away from the show. Sometimes, I need my hour in the liberal, intellectual echo chamber. But I do need to see him try to respect my gender, to try to write something new. I know it’s hard to leave the formula when you feel like the formula works. Bad news, though. It doesn’t work anymore.

I’m still holding my breath for Aaron Sorkin to grow. I want to believe there’s another great show in him. Call it quixotic.

It’s not scratch ‘n sniff, guys

During a recent trip to Las Vegas, my girlfriends decided we should have at least one “Wooo, Vegas!” night, so we gussied up (I knew I’d find a use for you, $3 Sequin Skirt!) and hit the Strip.


The definitive “Girls in Vegas” photo

By virtue of being a group of women, someone put wristbands on us and waved us through a velvet rope. I was the last to go through, and as I was about the pass, the bouncer grabbed my wrist and yanked me back. “I’m found out,” I thought, “I am not a person who gets ushered past lines into clubs! You caught me!” Still holding my arm, the bouncer said something I couldn’t hear over the bass (“Does it have to be so loud in here?” say the Old Lady in My Head). I shrugged and pointed to my wristband with big sad eyes, hoping he would take pity on me since my friends were already inside. Then he flipped my arm over and stroked the inside of my forearm, circling my tattoo and mouthing “What is it? I like it.” At least, I think that’s what he said, because when I shouted “A Phoenix. PHOENIX,” he smiled, winked at me, and let me go. I should be used to this by now.

I got my first tattoo this summer. I’ve wanted one since I can remember, and I finally took the leap as part of “Summer of Yes,” a manifesto my friend Annie and I conceived after both of us had particularly rough springs, and it was basically permission to live every day like it was Spring Break. I had a really fun summer.


Still red. It’s all healed now.

I was prepared for it to hurt (it did, but only about as much as waxing my eyebrows) and to have to conceal it at work. I knew it would bleed, and I knew my skin would “reject” some of the ink over the first few weeks (weird! but ultimately fine). What I did not expect is that my tattoo would turn my forearm into an interactive museum exhibit.

People love to touch my tattoo. No. Sorry. Guys. Guys love to touch my tattoo. Sometimes, it makes sense. Every dude I’ve gone on a first date with since I got it has used it as an open to caress my arm, which is pretty reasonable first date material. After swapping a few stories and last names, the gesture feels flirtatious, not intrusive.

It’s the strangers that irk me. When I’m standing on the bus, hanging on to the overhead bar for dear life, the last thing I want is to feel an unknown fingernail tracing lines on my arm. Maybe I’m unusually sensitive about personal space. I know I have watched mouth agape when my pregnant friends have cheerfully endured people in line at Starbucks rubbing their bellies without asking, because I cannot imagine a world in which pregnant-me would not FREAK OUT about that.

Are there unspoken cues that tell strangers it is acceptable to touch one person, but not another? A girl in middle school had Pantene-glossy hair down to her butt. People used to touch it constantly in public and were always surprised if she (or her parents) balked, as though her decision to have extraordinary hair made it public property. Does having art on my arm make it perceived as up for public consumption? These touchy strangers must be the bane of museums everywhere, rubbing up on the Warhols and licking the still life.