Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Middle class"

As some of you might know, I'm hooked on BBC podcasts. The Woman's Hour and Comedy ones especially, but I sample around as well. British TV, especially if it's bad and from the 1970s-1990s. And British online newspapers, highbrow and decidedly less so. So! My question, Anglo- and Anglo-knowledgeable readers, is this: What do you people mean when you say "middle-class"? Various things are referred to as such, various cultural preferences, neuroses, etc. But does middle-class - as used in Britain today, not in some period when the aristocracy was more important - mean posh? Rich? Does it mean something like upper-middle-class means in the States, i.e. sort-of-rich, well-educated people who are not the 1%?

Or, conversely, does it have snobbish connotations as if from above, as in, middlebrow? In the States, "middle class" sounds sort of... ordinary? It means normal people, as vs. the destitute and as vs. the rich, but when used in, say, the media, without the "upper" qualifier, it means something closer, I think, to "working class" - a precarious status, not that of a definitive have. If you're middle class in the US, you would, for example, look at what things cost in the grocery store, and not be that guy who's rung up at Whole Foods, and the bill comes to like $200 for like three things, and he clearly does not bat an eye at this. (I may or may not be referring to a specific incident at the Princeton location.)

I suppose another way to put this is: Is there something between "middle-class" and the aristocratic elite? Would one of these schmancy business types who could actually afford to do and buy things in London (i.e. Kate Middleton's people), but who is not in the nobility, be "middle-class"? (Why is a Lorde lyric now stuck in my head? None of us can say for sure that we'll never be royals, now, can we?)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


-There is a dog in Japan that looks exactly like Bisou. Not as in, another gray poodle. Exactly.

-The housing changed the locks into card-entry, for the same reason as they came in and replaced our furniture - subsidized academic housing has its quirks. My husband's ID works to get into our apartment. Mine does not. I now have to enter through the back door (no innuendo intended!), which still allows a key. I'm sure it will all get resolved soon enough, but just, as they say, saying.

-Comfort-chic is so-very-now. According to a fashion expert, "[T]his season it’s about freedom and mobility." Flats, sweatshirts, etc. This - as I've said before - is a mixed blessing. If comfortable shoes are "this season," we can anticipate that next season will be a return of those horrible platform-plus-stiletto Louboutins, and the associated trend pieces calling such shoes (choice feminism! sex-worker-inspired!) empowering. Give it a couple months, and "mobility" will be so last season.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Bambi legs"

So. What is this? Humblebrag-the-article? ("With pale skin, red hair, gangly arms, and clumsy legs, I’ve been told I look like either a manga character or a high school senior. There is no mature beauty about me. [She is 30 and has a baby.] Rather than mourn that fact, I dress to embrace it.") Trolling? ("What grown woman wants to risk looking childish in an expensive designer dress? That would be me.") Something in between? ("[L]ike my mother before me, who got carded well into her thirties, I’m often mistaken for a student.")

Or is it some sort of personality issue on display (or - it's writing! - that of the author's narrative persona)? ("Undeniably, there’s a small thrill, a tiny power in rejecting other women’s standards, in playing the provocateur. And in knowing firsthand the one sure way to win the attention of every man and piss off every woman in any given room: Wear thigh-high socks.")

Or is just obliviousness? ("Kate [Moss] herself was a revelation, a one-woman shift in the beauty paradigm who made it seem possible that there was an upside to being built like I was.") It might be super-highbrow thinspiration, which is, if nothing else, not something one sees every day. Not a genre one sees much of, which is probably for the best.

Whatever it is, it's strangely compelling. Well done, Stephanie La Cava. I may be a year older and an unthinkable number of pounds heavier than you are, I may identify with exactly none of that article, but it was, I suppose, food for thought.

Speaking of food, see also her Grub Street Diet. Although it, too, should probably come with a trigger warning of some kind.

The same old song

Sucker for advice columns that I am, I've had to branch out from Prudie and Dan, because sometimes weekend NJ Transit trains take that long. Which brought me to this Mariella Frostrup letter, from a man who sure sounds like a winner:

I have a female colleague who has, over the past three years, told me she loves me and would like to marry me. The problem is that I do not love her and I have told her that. I used to be in a relationship with another girl, but we recently broke up. In April I was at a low point and my colleague visited me and we had sex, and now she is pregnant. The dilemma I have now is that she insists that I marry her because the child will need a father and a mother.
It goes on, but doesn't become much more sympathetic or, for that matter, straightforward. Was this woman confessing her love and proposing marriage before the two had any kind of sexual entanglement? Or were they seeing each other, and he considered things more casual than she did? Was this April visit significant because that's the hookup when Female Colleague became pregnant, or was it the one and only hookup between the two parties? All of this matters, because we're looking either at a massively unhinged woman who's asking an acquaintance who could very well not be the father to marry her, or at a woman whose what-in-quainter-times-would-have-been-called-boyfriend refuses to commit.

Frostrup (whose advice is pretty sound, I suppose, either way) seems to assume the former. I read the letter... as close as I could read anything on my phone on a Sunday night train, and I'd say it's 50-50. It's obviously in the man's interest to downplay the extent to which he may have led her on by, say, having had some sort of ongoing thing with her. I mean, in most ordinary life situations, when one party's in love and the other is not, the two are at the very least involved.

Anyway. The bigger takeaway here, for me, was that letters like this - stories like this, and it's one of so many - illustrate the problem with the so-very-now gender-neutral approach to understanding and giving advice on relationships. Precisely everything that's playing out in this letter is deeply wrapped up in both the sex and the gender of the participants. Their sex, because of the pregnancy that's resulted (something I don't think Savage's "monogamish" ever successfully addresses - birth control can fail, people who support abortion in principle don't always want to get one, etc. - not issues in same-sex relationships), and their gender, because of the same-old-song way this is playing out. She wants marriage and kids; he wants consequence-free intimacy with a woman who's either very bad news (but hot/available enough to be interesting for sex) or just far, far more into him than vice versa. We might speak of them as "partners," but to do so ignores both biology and deeply-ingrained social roles.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In lighter news

-A 32-year-old woman is enjoying college. Disagree with Dan Savage that the guy's into her, though - hard to pinpoint why, exactly. Maybe it's the comments, many of which are the sort of rationalizations women often give themselves - he's shy! he's afraid to ruin the friendship! - for why a guy hasn't made a move. While I'll accept that there are 20-year-old men interested in elderly women of 32 (#sarcasm, as one must note; I'll be 32 in under a year) attractive, I just don't get the sense that this 20-year-old finds this 32-year-old all that ravishing. On behalf of Team Women-In-Early-30s, I hope I'm wrong, though.

-More weirdness around adult women - and their uteri - being on their parents' health insurance. (Not lighter news, exactly, but not Iraq-war-announcement-of-erev-9/11, either.)

-Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere answers a question I'd long been wondering about: How does one do that 'statement lip' look without looking otherwise washed out? I mean, I had seriously not known, but wanted to know. I now know. Useful information.

-According to the latest official Science, Ashkenazi Jews and Flemish Belgians are not related. Everyone in an Ashkenazi-Flemish couple is breathing a sigh of relief.

-The great closet-cleanse of late June was supposed to lead to a discovery of all the somewhat dressier, more glamorous clothes I'd wear if I weren't so lazy about such things. Instead, it unearthed a couple business suits from 2005, a super-elegant dress shirt with certain wardrobe-malfunction tendencies when combined with a cross-body bag (which is the sort of thing one wants to notice before heading out in that shirt, with that bag; what's done is done), some pants that were too small in 2006 and are lo and behold no more zippable in 2014, and other winners. Also a really spectacular shoe collection... if all of the shoes were in wearable condition. Few were.

So if the hoped-for end goal (shopping-of-own-closet) was out, maybe something was accomplished? At least now I know, in stark terms, what it is I don't own. And it's basically ever item that the Average American Woman supposedly owns a dozen of. Except for gray v-neck t-shirts. An infinite supply of those. And somehow, when browsing the e-commerce-sphere, I found myself gravitating to... more gray v-necks. Stacey and Clinton, consider yourselves summoned.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Dressing for one's fourth decade

Guest-blogging at the Dish was fun. If you're so inclined, check out my posts there, which cover the usual WWPD gamut - European anti-Semitism, shiny things, "privilege," and so on.

On a different note, clothes-shopping. Sort of. Let me start over:

I find it incredibly relaxing to look at clothes. Online or in person. I understand that there's a whole web of privilege-critique to apply to this - if I were black and thus preemptively accused of shoplifting, I might not enjoy poking around stores so much; so, too, if I didn't fit into straight-sized clothes, although that bit matters somewhat less, because I don't often actually try on any clothes. As someone whose career has been in the academia-and-writing realm, I've never had a tremendous shopping budget. If anything, I think the fact that I can't have all-the-clothes makes looking at them somewhat more interesting, but not so much so that I'd look around in a place where I truly could never, ever afford anything. (That, and little boutiques where it's just you, the salesperson, and the unaffordable clothes are not for me.) It's not that I never buy clothes - the Uniqlo receipts floating around various surfaces in my apartment suggest I do this sometimes. It's just that the looking-to-buying ratio is somewhat skewed. And I spend far too much time on the COS website for someone who's never going to buy these $100 Scandinavian minimalist dresses that would look reasonable - if on anybody - on a six-foot, broad-shouldered Scandinavian woman.

Offline clothes-browsing is not an activity easily indulged where I live. Less so, still, on a Sunday evening. But Urban Outfitters was open, so I figured, why not?

And it was a sea of... familiarity. All plaid flannel skirts and crushed velvet. Pre-ripped all-cotton jeans (the skinnies are on clearance; so last season). And then it hit me: I remembered when this was first in fashion. What an old-person thought, but there it was. What Tavi had been precociously nostalgic for a few years ago is now mainstream-hip. I guess that makes sense. (Self-promotional aside: NYMag linked to something I wrote about Tavi! Not quite the same as founding a magazine while still in utero, but it'll do.) Anyway, it occurred to me that if I can vividly remember crushed velvet dresses and Angela Chase-chic from the first time around, none of it would benefit my wardrobe.

That said. I know I should be thinking: 30s! Like those spreads in fashion mags, where they tell you how to dress for each decade, which seems so ageist when you're in your teens or 20s, but which, once you've seen yourself in clothes from 15 at twice that age, start to make sense. (There's an amazing bit about that, but as it relates to discussions of cosmetic surgery, in Roz Chast's new book.) As much as I might like the holographic oxfords I spotted on a recent looking-but-not-buying trip to a local mall, they'd do nothing for me. But what is 30s dressing, if not office attire for a corporate life I don't lead?

All that said: what do we think of these jeans, in Ultrafaded? So-very-now? Or yet another gesture in the wrong sartorial direction?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

On haters and their tendency to hate

Facing a kind of mountain of everything-swamped, but must pause for a moment for a wonderful headline: "Designer Carolina Herrera Hates Your Outfit." That she no doubt does. While the chances are slim that she's seen my outfit (is she a deer? a rabbit? a newly-arrived physicist?), I can well imagine how she'd feel about a Muji cap-sleeved black t-shirt almost certainly selected for its $6-ness, a pair of Yves Klein blue (ha!) J.Crew shorts that also had a sale going for them (not fit, that much is for sure), and the Nikes (full-priced - fancy!) that I may have bought with some aesthetic vision in mind, but that I end up wearing every day with anything, which tends to defeat the purpose.

I'm sure that if Designer Carolina Herrera could take a crack at my NJ-humidity-styled hair, my I-was-thinking-about-nail-polish lack-thereof, and my plans regarding cookie-dough ice cream, she'd have the fashion police (and not, as is so often the case, the mold-removal people - so fun that there was a leak in the apt. upstairs after the people there moved out) at my door.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lessons learned

Do not read work-related email near midnight. Why not? Because if you do, the caffeine from the previous day will somehow hit you around 4am, and you'll wake up compelled to write down your most articulate ever thoughts on anti-Semitism... or so those thoughts will seem at 4am. They will seem very obviously unedited and middle-of-the-night the following day. Sleep - and editing! - helped the end result. Please, entire internet, tell me why I'm wrong about Israel, in response to a post that isn't even really about Israel. I know it's coming. I'd say I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but I think the reason I'm exhausted has more to do with the lack of sleep.

Or, if you are going to do this, do not also make plans to go running in the evening. Or... maybe do? This at least meant being definitively offline the moment it went online, in nature with friends, not at the computer, passively awaiting the blood-pressure-fest. In any case, whatever comes of my writing future, I know this much: I will need to alternate between topics I care deeply about (and that others think I'm WRONG about) and topics that I care in a less deep way about (and that others think are too frivolous to be written about at all).

Monday, August 25, 2014


I've been semi-following that controversy over a professor denied a job over some euphemistic anti-Zionism on Twitter. (WWPD is for that which is not yet fully thought through, so that you, my dear commenters, can tell me why I'm wrong.) The internet's various reasonables (including a WWPD reader or two) pointed out that you can very well be opposed to the retraction of an academic job offer over tweets and strongly disagree with the content of the tweets themselves. Which I agreed with - 'liked' even - at the time, because I tend to go along with defend-your-right-to-say-it arguments.

And I do still fundamentally agree. But I was reading Moebius Stripper's tweets on the subject, and got to thinking: Academic freedom sounds noble - like a self-evident subset of free speech that all right-thinking people would not only support in the nodding-along abstract but storm the barricades to defend. But - as Moebius points out - this freedom a) is a bit of a stretch when it applies to speech outside the speaker's academic area, and b) does not carry over to those outside academia, whose offensive ramblings may also not impede their job performance, but who may be fired for relatively uncontroversial behavior all the same. Moebius Stripper... makes a good point.

My inclination is still to support more free speech for all. Including the right to tweet iffy anti-Zionist ramblings and still keep one's job as a professor or - to stick with Moebius's example - a bus driver. (With, one should hope, equivalent job security for those who call out said ramblings as the anti-Semitism that they are.) But what doesn't sit right, for me, is the intense, righteous passion on this issue, at a time when the employment situation of so many college instructors is so precarious, even if they manage not to infuse their social-media accounts with blood-libel accusations.

Part of this seems to be the quasi-hazing professors must go through to even get to that point in their careers. To get into grad school, you need to have played by the rules, likely at an elite college you got into by playing by the rules in high school. In grad school, it might be something like, how could you even think of citing that author, when surely you knew that in 1981, your professor had a really famous feud with him! Don't let the professors know you have a life of any kind outside your work! (Esp. if you are a woman, and that life includes a partner!) It's not even about it being self-sabotage to have this or that view on a controversial topic - you're not meant to even have the time to be informed enough on current affairs to have formed an opinion about anything that isn't obscure and pertinent to your dissertation. Goes the thinking.

Much of this anxiety exists among grad students, separate from what professors themselves actually care about. (I have no reason to think - for example - that I was ever penalized for failing to stay up on professor-gossip from before I was born, or for writing non-academic things containing opinions, on WWPD and elsewhere.) But some of it is structural. You spend many years being reminded of just how low you are in the hierarchy, repeating the mantra, 'they pay me to read books!', even while the pay is barely enough to live on, with no such thing as a raise, and continues - if they don't cut you off - for over five years. Sometimes quite a bit over. Things may improve (or the reverse, if you're an adjunct for a pittance and no benefits) during post-graduation assignments, but the much-awaited Academic Freedom takes its time to arrive.

And then, if all goes according to plan, as you approach 35, by which I mean 40, you switch from an unusual amount of precariousness to the extreme in the other direction. Walking on eggshells switches over - as I understand it - to being the one with the authority to plant those eggshells. (Even if - see above - many such eggshells reside in the active imaginations of anxious grad students.) This... makes tenure and the freedom of speech that comes with it feel sacred, in a way, even to those within academia who don't have it and likely won't ever experience it. The sacredness, then, isn't - or isn't just - about protecting the quest for Truth. It's also about preserving the fantasy (and it is, at this point, largely that, given the number of jobs) of there being a light at the end of the academic tunnel. Of all that's been bottled up all those years having its chance to gush forth into the public sphere. What makes the risk-taking of tenured professors feel so special is that they were so severely forbidden from doing so earlier on in their careers.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Self-promotion is labor

Buried deep within Teddy Wayne's Styles piece on social-media self-promotion is an aside that should be at the front and center: "And, to be fair, most artists and small-business owners must act as their own publicists or risk obscurity and bankruptcy."

Yes. That. Work-related self-promotion online is self-oriented, yes, but not in the ego-stroking, 'likes'-feeding-narcissism sense. Or, to be more accurate, the ratio as Wayne presents it strikes me as off. Obviously it's nice if people like the work you're proud enough of to share on social media. And some of it, if the thing you've written is about a cause you care about, may be about promoting that cause. But if the thing you're sharing depends on an audience for you to go on doing it for pay, you're sharing because sharing is - at least implicitly - part of your job.

Put another way: If I share something I've written on social media, it's not to make someone I went to school with, haven't seen in 15 years, who unbeknownst to me is an aspiring writer for that very publication, feel bad about himself. Nor is it to really show whichever English teachers or high school classmates may have found me less than brilliant that, see look, someone found my thoughts worthy of publication! It's not, to be clear, that I lack any neuroses in those or related areas. It's just that all of that is secondary to my understanding of how this aspect of my career works.

The best I've come up with is to save the more shameless share-share-share for Twitter, which is something I use more professionally than personally, and to save Facebook shares for things I think friends and family might want to see. (Pinterest and Instagram are just about pretty pictures, and, fine, my not-so-secret aspiration for Bisou to become famous in Japan; to then be invited to Japan to go on some kind of grand poodle tour; and to become host of my own YouTube channel, Blogging With Dog.) But this is by no means an absolute or deeply-thought-through divide, and... and basically anything posted to Facebook - positive or negative - is going to annoy somebody (some find all posting annoying, but are nevertheless on Facebook because it's their address book, which... I can kind of understand), so at a certain point, you just have to not worry too much about it.

Oh, and I wrote another thing. Which you already knew if you are my friend or follow me on social media.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A fan letter to The Cut

NYMag's The Cut is kind of great. So, two links to it:

-The first is just to say that what Maggie Lange calls the universal boyfriend shirt is one I own and wear all the time. Except that mine is from Uniqlo, not J.Crew, and is flannel-material. Another for the why-do-I-identify-as-feminine-yet-dress-like-an-adolescent-boy files. Part of it is, I just really like that shirt. Although the likeliest answer is laziness - it's much easier to read Garance Doré or Elle about the cutting edge in Fashion than to actually wear the dresses and skirts I do own, when the jeans are in a pile on top of the dresser.

-The second is Kat Stoeffel's post on why it's OK to objectify men. And while I agree with the premise, I'm not so sure about the reasons:

“Not being objectified” is just one of the many advantages of being male. When we selectively revoke this freedom from body scrutiny, we don’t do anything to diminish the meaningful economic and reproductive advantages men enjoy. 
Put another way: We will stop Dong Watch once there’s a female president, zero wage gap, and Swedish-level paid parental leave; once tampons, birth control, and abortions are all available free and on-demand.
All fair points, but they make it seem as if women are merely pretending to lust after men, to make a point. Then she seems to kind of address this: "Male objectification isn’t about making men feel bad. It’s about not caring how men feel. Or at least, putting it aside long enough to think about what we desire." But then the concluding sentence? "As long as the covers of men's and women’s magazines are both devoted to what men want, that will feel pretty cathartic." Maybe?

But the point of appreciating male beauty isn't catharsis. It's... that many women already are already doing this appreciating. The idea isn't to punish men by objectifying, or even to disregard them. Seeing as women aren't under quite the same pressure to be attracted only to the conventionally attractive (except for the whole height thing, which I tend to think is more about perceived status than beauty, but I digress), freeing women to be openly attracted to men is arguably a good thing for men, including the one or two men who don't look like Jon Hamm.

Some attention really is bad attention

Pardon the bloggy narcissism, but when I saw Miss Self-Important's post on people who get overly outraged at those who make small talk with them, I thought of my own, on people who project hostile, judgmental thoughts onto strangers with whom they have the most minimal interactions. These are, it would seem, related phenomena. Her post also reminded me of the thing where people complain about a gift someone has gotten them, forgetting that the alternative to the unexciting gift was the person not getting them anything, with the symbolism that would entail. So I kind of see her point.

That said, I'm not sure I totally agree with MSI on this. There is, after all, such a thing as concern-trolling, which exists offline as well. While it's not my thing to take to the internet to express outrage at interpersonal relations, I can certainly think of instances of witnessing this phenomenon. Sometimes someone says something to you or a friend of yours and their intentions aren't friendly. Sometimes if they'd just ignored, that would have been the kinder way to go. This is especially so in cases - such as the one MSI brings up - that involve acquaintances questioning one's life choices. Such conversations very often manage to hit a nerve, and the just-being-friendly questioner may well be perceptive enough to know that. Not always! But, not never.

OK, I'll give one obvious, fairly generic example: Say you're studying something that doesn't sound very marketable, and someone asks you what you're going to do with that degree. This can be a genuine-curiosity question, but, tweak the tone a bit, and it's 'What are you going to do with that?' Yes, sometimes genuine curiosity reads as judgy-nasty because of the insecurities of the recipient. But sometimes bad attention really is bad attention.

As for appreciating catcalls... I suppose I differ from many other feminists on this, in that I think there's been something of an overemphasis on the too-many-men-are-looking-at-me plight and not enough on certain other issues. While I agree with the party line, as it were, about catcalling, and particularly object to the variants that cross the line into intimidation, I think we hear about it more than we might because it's a relatively easy conversation to have. The sisterhood of men-keep-calling-me-beautiful is quite simply an easier one to sign up for than the sisterhoods relating to abortion, rape, eating disorders, domestic abuse, not fitting into straight-sized clothes, etc. That doesn't mean it isn't annoying to be catcalled, or that it doesn't connect, in some broader way, to these larger issues. It's just... If I were the dictator of feminist priorities, I'd make it a lower priority.

Anyway! That digression was because MSI links to me as Exhibit A of the Feminist War On Catcalling. I just wanted to be clear that that I'm not the warrior she's looking for. (I'm also pro-stranger-chit-chat when there's no sexual component.) What she links to, though, is a post of mine where I call out a very specific kind of street attention, namely being asked to smile. I do hate this, and am pleased that being ancient means no one cares what sort of expression I've got.

But what's unpleasant about "smile" requests is precisely that they're not about someone being nice. They're the opposite of that! The man who tells the young woman to smile is not complimenting her! It's... I believe the popular expression for this sort of thing a while back was, it's a "neg." It is, in other words, an insult. The man is saying that the woman looks mopey, depressed. And let's say she is one of those things. She's supposed to get some joy out of having that pointed out? How does that interaction not end with the woman feeling worse?

So yes, stranger conversations can be convivial, and yes, I have them kind of all the time, considering I have one of those natural don't-talk-to-me expressions. I mean, I have a dog - there's no dog-walking without such interactions. But being ordered to smile, that I'd skip.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What where when why how?

So Bisou was scouted as a model, and was supposed to appear in an Italian magazine, but then the issue appeared, and... nothing! But maybe this will appear elsewhere? Readers, do any of you have any idea what the shoot may have been for, or may ultimately have been used for? My mother took this photo of it as it was happening and... we're more or less stumped. 

Chanel, it seems, but what? An ad? Editorial? Bisou evidently had to stop chasing squirrels for several minutes for this to take place, and she demands answers.

Used J.Crew

In Princeton, for my purposes, there are two clothing stores: J.Crew and a consignment shop that doesn't but very well could go by the name of Used J.Crew. Because of the tremendous sales at the former every time the students go on vacation, both are comparably affordable, but the latter has other brands, seasons, etc., and was closer to where I'd gotten a late-afternoon Eiskaffee, so when I'd finished my work for the day, it was there that I browsed.

I had a goal in mind, kinda-sorta, namely something floral and Elaine Benes. Yes, I know, that was the look several seasons (that is, years ago), revived as part of normcore or pre-normcore or something. But maybe the dream I had last night that was set in my elementary school lobby as per usual got me on a 1993-nostalgia kick? Who can say. Whatever the case, Used J.Crew didn't have anything of the sort.

What they did have, however, was a tremendous clearance section upstairs, and it was there that I was reminded of the other item I'd been looking for, namely a short-but-somewhat-voluminous checked-pattern skirt like the ones the super-elegant women of Tokyo would wear. I had tried on some skirts or maybe dresses along those lines, but the problem was that this is a look that's very often designed to give ultraslim women the illusion of hips. I require no such illusion. What I needed was a skirt in that style, but designed for the Western consumer of tremendous amounts of pasta.

And there it was! Pale-blue-and-white thick-patterned gingham, even - perfection! Specifically, this - formerly (allegedly) $69.50, but for $8. I say allegedly because this is a skirt that lies. Not citing specific numbers, but J.Crew has vanity-sized itself into absurdity. Not that I, post-Eiskaffee, was necessarily complaining. But it does get confusing when you see a garment you want, and it comes in just the one size, and it's one that, in principle, you shouldn't be able to even try on without ripping.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The "eating pant"

So many great articles, and no longer my official week of Dish guest-blogging, so you, WWPD readers, are in luck. We have:

-A Room For Debate I haven't yet had time to read, on parental overshare. Note that under my definition of the phenomenon, it's not about putting baby photos on Facebook, ideally with some privacy settings, but even if not, eh. That's... what a family photo album is these days, and I see no reason to be paranoid about hackers chasing after your baby photos for nefarious, baby-harming purposes. Parental overshare involves sharing the sorts of things that wouldn't normally go into some sanitized, public face of one's family. Parental overshare is "brave" and involves spilling the sort of info that's only actually brave if you're spilling it about yourself.

-Allison P. Davis's account of being a disappointingly slovenly-dressed daughter of a stylish mother. Another note: I totally own the J.Crew "eating pant" (there's no link or photo, I just know) and had given them a similar name. And had, of course, worn them to hot-pot.

-Monica Kim on eyelids:

Before blogs, makeup tips and tutorials did not cater to different eyelid shapes in the US. Even today, the issue of the eyelid is often swept aside by beauty bloggers like Michelle Phan, who like to remind people that Asian eyelids come in all different types. That may be true—my mom and sister were both born with double eyelids—but it’s unhelpful to us single-lidded girls, who must go it alone.
This is exactly what I was trying to get at re: Jewish-looking, and doubtless applicable to other '-looking' variations as well. It doesn’t do much good for those of us who are whatever-it-is-looking to be reminded time and time again that there’s no such thing as that-looking. We know that not all members of our group have exactly the same features, and can often point to people in our own immediate families who don't have whichever fraught traits we do. I have relatives just as ethnically Jewish as I am, who have completely straight hair, the kind that doesn't even frizz in the rain, as vs. my own, which does something different every day, depending the humidity. Does that make my own choices regarding hair-iron usage automatically apolitical? Does that make frizz-prone hair not a stereotypically Jewish trait, and one that's underrepresented in mainstream images of beauty? 

Even if one is delighted with one's single-lidded eyes (or frizz-prone hair), as Kim says, styling advice tends to be geared towards the less-'ethnic' way that even an 'ethnic' person may look. (And yes, I've read many times that eyelid and paleness concerns in certain parts of Asia are not about looking 'white' and predate any such notions. As for Jewish hair concerns, as a rule, they sort of are, although my own may stem from envy directed at the popular Korean kids at my high school.) Which is, in a sense, the issue. There's clearly an audience, if you will, for women of every ethnicity. The problem with not being 'mainstream' in whichever way really is - once one is an adult, and has gotten past the phase of imagining that the only people who ever find a boyfriend, ever, are blue-eyed blondes - one of figuring out which products to use in which way. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A basic placeholder

Having figured out what an Instagram is (a place to shamelessly spam anyone who chooses to follow me with whatever I see fit; mostly poodle photos and food photos), if not entirely how the site works, I was able to spend my weekend eating and documenting. All in the very same weekend, I managed a Viennese breakfast, Chinese/worldwide-chain hot-pot, and, at home, non-American pancakes (the thin ones that don't go with maple syrup), and yakitori. I thought about going running, but there just wasn't the time.

I was also going to write something about "basic" (followers of memes and Lauren Conrad will know what I'm referring to; posting food and pet photos on Instagram apparently counts, as - I can infer - does singing along to Bastille when it comes on the car radio), expanding on this, but then I realized everything I'm responding to (such as Daisy Buchanan's fabulous admission of basicness) happened more than five minutes ago, meaning that this topic goes back into the long-haul pile.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What's an Instagram?

So I have joined Instagram, inspired in part by Kei, and in part by desire to get in on Japanese toy poodle Instagram. If I have my way, Bisou will soon be a huge Japanese celebrity. This is unlikely, because a) brushing her every other day and getting her groomed every month and a half doesn't add up to her looking like the glamorous Japanese poodles Into The Gloss profiled, and b) she doesn't have the wardrobe. There were absolutely stores in Tokyo that sold amazing small-dog outfits (including kimonos), but Bisou wasn't there with us, so we didn't know her size, plus I don't think these outfits would fit with her lifestyle, which principally involves trying to eat deer poop when I'm not looking and chasing squirrels up trees. (Not, thankfully, in that order.) Of course, I'm sure the poodles of Nara present similar challenges...

But I can't figure out anything about Instagram. How does one search it for people, images, anything? Also: What is Instagram etiquette? People are adding me and, on the wild off-chance that I ever figure out the mechanics of adding people back, whom is one 'friends' with on this site? Part of what inspired me to join was that I felt like it was a way to avoid spamming Facebook with every last photo of my amateur Cooking With Dog existence. I can't imagine most of these people would want to see any of this. I don't flatter myself that anyone's losing sleep over whether I follow them on Instagram or whether I restrict my follows almost exclusively to people who pose large groups of lap dogs in fields in Japan. For all I know, these are automatic adds that happen when someone one is Facebook-friends with joins the site. But the situation I don't want to get into is feeling like I'm spamming people on Instagram by posting... the very sort of items I got on the site in order to post.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Dish, and a bat

Anything I have written or will write for the Dish can be found here

I'm a little bit blogged-out for the day as you might imagine, but I will link to this Planet Princeton story, simply because, that bat. The local news has a tendency to make everything - storms mostly - sound apocalyptic (these are, after all, the big stories), but... that's a pretty scary bat. I doubt it's the bat that's terrorizing the residents of Linden Lane, but I also doubt if that bat - which we know to be rabid - is less frightening.

Monday, August 11, 2014

When not on WWPD...

This week I'll be guest-blogging, alongside Elizabeth Nolan Brown, at the Dish! Introductions here, gratuitous young-Keanu reference and more here.

Posts specific to Japanese from-scratch cooking and Pinterest avant-garde fantasy shopping may just appear here, but you never know.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When pasta won't do

Weekends are for impractical cooking. That and impractically long NJ Transit trips, but the cooking's more interesting. The latest:

-Tofu! With from-scratch soy milk, which I sort of remembered how to make from the yuba, but barely. It... didn't turn out right, but this was my own fault for not measuring anything nor taking any temperatures. Next project on this front will likely be more yuba. What I came up with, tofu-wise, tasted like a watery version of store-bought firm tofu. Meh.

-Grilling! A friend who left town gave us his grill and we're trying to figure out how one works. Today it at first seemed like we had no idea what we were doing, then suddenly it was working as one would hope. And... it turns out that a grill is an efficient way to use up wrinkled bell peppers, but even grilled, one can only eat so many bell peppers. Now that we know that it works, yakitori on the grill is surely up next.

-Filling crepe-like pancakes with chocolate! (I do occasionally cook things that are not Japanese. More than occasionally, in fact, if one counts the 98% of meals that are pasta.) This is something I'd probably considered but never tried before. Basically you fill the pancake with a piece of (dark, is my preference) chocolate, as in, roll and wrap it around the chocolate, and return it to the pan for more heating. The end result is as close to a chocolate croissant as something that simple can be. The pancakes themselves are a simple enough ratio: one egg, half a cup flour, just under a cup milk, pinch of salt, and maybe a tablespoon, if that, melted butter.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Kale and klezmer

Farmer's market love-hate, the eternal topic. Mark Bittman wants us to feel OK about swapping our checking account for a small handful of really top-notch tomatoes. I want to feel OK about having done so this morning. Current objections, though, are as follows:

-The markets here are either Thursday from 11-4 (tough if you have what South Park once referred to as a jerb) or Saturdays 9-1 (tough if you have any sleep to catch up on from the week, or if you did anything other than anticipate the following morning's produce options on Friday night).

-I do live in a big produce-growing region. But for obvious population-density reasons, the local farms ship their goods to the city. I doubt if lettuce season is actually over (in fact, the presence of local lettuce at the supermarket suggests it's not), but at the market today it seemed to be.

-As Bittman says, "Farmers’ markets are not just markets. They’re educational systems that teach us how food is raised and why that matters." And, indeed, everyone on front of you in line demands copious education. For themselves or, if bringing kids, for the kids as well. If this has to happen at each stand, it can go from convivial to there goes the day rather quickly.

-The number of cars parked near the market this morning in no way matched up with the amount of produce available. This is a thing to do, a place to listen to pesticide-free banjo klezmer music or whatever, but not by any means an alternative to the supermarket.

-Buying kale or chard doesn't necessarily mean going on to eat either. Although I'm now starting to see where that green-juice fad emerged from. Other people probably also had fridges full of uneaten bitter greens, and, in attempt to do something with them, threw them into the blender.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Recentish, splurgish

My ongoing quest to look less like an American slob and more like a... Franco-Japanese non-slob (it's hopeless) doesn't actually require all that much shopping. It's mostly a matter of wearing the better things I own, "better" defined as things with buttons and zippers. Given my work-mostly-from-home, walk-a-dog-through-a-deserted-campus lifestyle, there isn't much incentive. So it's nice to shake things up on occasionally with items I didn't purchase aged 19-21. With that in mind...

-Uniqlo mini pencil skirt. Very similar to the two regular Uniqlo pencil skirts I have from several years ago, except for the fact that it doesn't make me look Hasidic if paired with a long-sleeved shirt. Not that there's anything wrong with that, my (many, no doubt) Hasidic readers. It's just that I don't want to give the wrong impression. Even if that cheese was made with animal rennet, I want in.

-Ballerina earrings in silver from Catbird. Dainty, but neither knuckle-rings nor requiring of odd ear piercings. (Those, btw, can't be counted on to close up. I don't recall how I old I was when I got that double pierce, but it's still at the ready.) They go well with a not quite so recent anymore purchase: this necklace, but in all-silver.

-Thanks to a coupon, the RMS eye shadow in Lunar. It's fantastic except for the part where applying it makes my finger sparkly. This might be higher-maintenance than I can handle on a daily basis.

-One subdivided $10 portion of wild salmon (ahem) from Whole Foods, chosen as a way to not have pasta for every meal, but which the cashier deemed unjustifiable. That's a new one for Whole Foods, being shamed for splurging. And on one ingredient! At least I didn't mention that some was for me, some for my husband, and some for a certain tremendously fancy poodle.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Feel like a womyn

Like the rest of the internet-to-whom-it-may-concern, I've been reading about the tensions between radical feminists and the transwomen they exclude. And... I guess there are two takeaways from Michelle Goldberg's fascinating article. One, that if you're trying to be progressive, not being exclusionary is usually the way to err. Common sense dictates that if you're a biological man who self-presents and self-identifies as a woman, your "privilege" is if anything less than that of a cisgender woman. (All things equal, of course.)

But at the same time, the article wouldn't be interesting if that were the whole point. The other issue is that a good amount of The Female Experience, or one version of it at least, is rooted in biological facts, not gender identity. Periods, developing (oh that euphemism), pregnancy/pregnancy avoidance/pregnancy scares, rape/rape avoidance/rape-near-misses, street harassment (at its most obscene when directed at young girls), relative physical vulnerability... All of these could well amount to obstacles less profound than those faced by transwomen (I don't buy the argument that "male privilege" extends to transwomen), but they are without a doubt different obstacles.

Basically, the plight of the biologically female is a thing, and it's not necessarily transphobic, I think, that some would make this their cause. A transwoman has always felt female, but didn't spend her adolescence petrified she'd become a teen mom. Where transphobia enters into it is, it seems to me, stuff like the refusal to use correct pronouns (i.e. pronouns people want used about themselves), and just generally being... phobic. That transwomen don't know what it's like to be a 12-year-old with uterus doesn't mean they're a menace, for crying out loud. "Womyn-born womyn" could plausibly make sense for certain kinds of support groups, but a music festival?

All of which points back to what I think is the reason trans identity is so hard to conceptualize for many of us who are not trans. While there probably are some biologically-female women who really feel like women, my guess is that many of us experience femaleness the same way as we experience being the height, age, and ethnicity we happen to be. Which is to say, as traits we've just kind of landed with, that we might try to gently alter in superficial ways (heels, sunscreen, etc.), but that just sort of are what they are, and feel like non-negotiables. Much of women's famed performance of gender isn't so much a celebration of femininity as... a way to make the least effort possible to look acceptable in society. Femininity can seem like a burden quite a lot of the time, to those of us who didn't opt in. Which is why my sense is that this is a problem of terminology - transwomen didn't opt in, either. They're not - as the radfems seem to believe - men who choose to live as women. They're women who ended up -pre-transition - looking like men. Who - like cisgender women - surely know that life is easier in our society for men, but who see living as a man as just as impossible as cisgender women do.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Firstest Worldest of Problems

Growing up, I always loved air-conditioning. Friends and family alike would remind me of the environmental and monetary costs, but what could I say? I enjoyed full-room refrigeration.

These days, eh, not so much. Maybe it's the guilt that comes with no longer having 'well at least I don't drive' as an excuse. Maybe it's time spent in Europe, and more time still spent with Europeans. Maybe it's that it just hasn't been all that hot this summer. But I'd sort of forgotten about a/c, and sort of stopped using it.

Which is a problem, it turns out. I've recently learned that the "leak" in my apartment is condensation caused by... drumroll please... not having the air conditioner on. And a fine a/c unit it must be. I've been officially instructed to keep it on at all times, windows closed, of course. (The leak hasn't stopped, but it's a puddle rather than a swimming pool.) As for the obvious, we don't pay extra for electricity. But even so.

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Bushy-brow fatigue"

-The strong brow trend has come and gone, which means the time is ripe for the NYT to discover it. As someone whose eyebrows simply don't do the caterpillar thing, my thinking is that, by accepting them as they are (which is to say, shaping slightly, but not striving for the illusion of thickness), I'm simply anticipating what ITG is already referring to as "bushy-brow fatigue." I am, as always, a step ahead of the trend. Which is why I will not be going to Doris Day (!) the dermatologist for eyebrow-enhancing medicine. The near-unused eyebrow pencil was plenty to throw at the now-non-problem.

-HMYF (hipsters make your food), your day, like that of the bushy brow, is done. The newish Viennese coffee shop in town has no hipster shabbiness whatsoever. It's full-on elegant, like if you order tea (which I will have to do sometime), it comes in a white-and-gold porcelain tea set. And it's just so much better than all the hipster-lite establishments, none of which have managed to have decent coffee, food, and atmosphere. And then... There are two much-celebrated farm-to-table places in town, neither of which is even a third as good as Little Sheep, the Edison outpost of what seems to be a very international hot-pot chain. You get to Little Sheep and while you wait for your table (and it's quite a wait), they have a video up promoting their corporation, complete with scenes of the marketing department meeting to discuss how to promote the company, as well as ones of the factory (?) where everything's standardized. HMYF can be a proxy for quality in an otherwise barren landscape, but it can only ever be so good. Whereas really good strudel, hot-pot, bulgogi, oyako don, bagels, pizza-by-the-slice, pain au chocolat... And this isn't even, clearly, a "white" vs. "non-white" issue, except under the OITNB/"white lady" definition of "white" in which "white" stands in for bland-and-yuppie.

-Considering a shimmery cream eyeshadow. Yes? No? Anyone with thoughts on the RMS line?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Euphemistic humility

Thank you, thank you, Doctor Cleveland*:

There is nothing a snobbish Ivy Leaguer likes better than putting down the Ivy League. It's an easy way to signal that you are above your own Ivy League school and the privilege it confers -- all a big humbug that your superior perspective sees right through -- while holding on to every last scrap of that privilege. It allows you to position yourself as not only 1. better than people who didn't get into Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, but 2. the benevolent champion of those little people who didn't get in and also 3. better than everyone else who did get into your school and who, unlike you, need to take the place seriously.
This is more or less what I was thinking, but unable to articulate, when I read that Deresiewicz piece, but also Reihan's takedown of Stuyvesant. These essays are always a way to announce that you made whichever cut, while at the same time... just read Doctor Cleveland. It's a little different when it refers to a high school - there, the provincial nature of the concern can outweigh the rest, and most of the readership didn't even have the chance to not get into the school in question, so there's maybe more tuning-out than resentment - but the principle's the same. Whenever these debates arise, what happens is, the only people qualified to speak are those who went to whichever school (which even Doctor Cleveland can't avoid, but somehow this is much easier to take from a pseudonym, esp. one making the better argument), alums of which are already having their voices heard plenty. These articles inspire immense, intense interest from fellow alums, but not a whole heck of a lot from everyone else. Not because "everyone else" is too busy drooling in the vague direction of a Kardashian show to read The New Republic, but because reading about the fate of schools you didn't attend is never that interesting.

Which is... fine. If the graduates of schools both fancy and schmancy want to have an insular conversation about euphemistic-whichever-location, that's perfectly reasonable. But maybe classify these stories as "lifestyle" and not "education." It's not that they never delve into big-picture questions about the educational system, or that there's never any reason to look at how it goes in the top 0.0001% of any hierarchy. It's just that the bulk of this Very Important Conversation is of the small-potato variety.

*This bit was spot-on as well: "Public colleges, and the students at public colleges, are merely rhetorically convenient symbols for him."

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Friday night unlikely to inspire a pop song UPDATED

Bus to the train to the other train to the shuttle. Lags almost each step of the way. It's almost as if I don't really live in greater New York, is what I start to think on such occasions. Princeton's a suburb, but one where you need to sign up years (!) in advance to be able to get a parking spot at the train station, and where overnight parking is permit-only regardless. It's certainly suburban, but what exactly is it a suburb of? Philadelphia radio works here better than NY radio, which maybe tells us something.

So yes, slightly tired, even though none of this was today, even though I just had a jumbo cappuccino* at the (fabulous) Viennese coffee shop in town. Commenters who believe my linking to a story about French anti-Semitism makes me a fascist (!!!) can expect snippier and shorter responses than the usual graphomaniacal graciousness to which they've grown accustomed. (And, uh, no further responses. Tapped out when it comes to that sort of thing.) Great ambitions for the evening include remembering where I parked, driving home, walking my supermodel dog, and... that's probably it.

*Caffeine, wonder drug. I tend to forget, because the coffee I make at home, no matter the method, no matter the beans, never seems to have much of it. Meanwhile, thanks to the hugeness of this outside-coffee, I finally figured out this thing I've been trying to write, finally. And no, I'm not referring to this somewhat phoned-in blog post.


So the evening ended up more exciting than planned - I ran into some astrophysicists and ended up seeing Saturn through a telescope. And before that, parking someone I don't normally park led me to pass by the... Japanese language school of Princeton. I had no idea such a thing existed, but now know its fees (not bad!), when the intro class meets, and when I'd need to have signed up by. Technically Dutch is first on the new-languages priorities list, but there's the small matter of it not being taught anywhere outside the countries where it's spoken. (I exaggerate, but slightly.) Also of being able to get by in Belgium in English or French, whereas if I ever do make it back to Japan...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Poodle privilege

My mother took Bisou for a walk in Central Park this morning, and Bisou - fresh off NJ Transit - was, it seems, 'discovered,' in the way that sometimes happens to waifish Estonian 13-year-olds. Which is to say, she made her modeling debut. For a big-name Italian magazine, it seems. No spoilers, but let's just say there's photographic evidence. Pictures of Bisou with a human model and what may very well be next season's it-bag. This really happened. As for whether it will appear, for this we have to wait until September.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

For the farmer's market love-haters among my readers

While assembling my beige, too-tired-to-cook dinner of rice and defrosted (prepackaged) yuba (with scallion, mainly for aesthetics, and with the packet of whatever the sauce was that came with the yuba poured on top), I noticed that the local farmer's market had posted to Facebook (yes, I follow them on Facebook) about a produce recall affecting NJ supermarkets such as Wegmans, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods. In other words, my fruit! An unsearchable PDF would tell me what this means for my apricots, or, rather, since I'm planning to eat those apricots, what to expect for the next 24-48 hours. (Upon closer examination, I see that apricots are in the clear. And thank goodness for that.)

Anyway! The point of this story was actually the farmer's market's takeaway: "We can't stress enough the importance of knowing your farmer." Because, the implication goes, a farmer's market couldn't possibly sell contaminated fruit

And, I mean, I like this farmer's market. I follow them on Facebook! I "like" them and everything! But this seems a bit ridiculous as a way to promote the weekly event. Especially considering that anyone wishing to eat fruit more than a month out of the year is, in this region, shopping at the supermarket. If the farmer's market really believed you're poisoning yourself if you shop elsewhere, maybe they want to find a way to be open every month of the year, even if that means a single stand selling a single turnip.

Monday, July 21, 2014


A month or so ago, I bought sneakers. I love these sneakers. I'm wearing them right now. They're not only the best-fitting shoes I've ever owned, ever, but they're super chic.

Or so I thought. Think. Everyone else, however, has been... less enthusiastic. After holding forth on their fabulousness to my nearest and dearest, I've heard a variety of frank assessments, all adding up to, they make me look like a badly-dressed teenager. And I was starting to think those around me had a point. (Not that this in any way stopped me wearing them.)

Well! I noticed some sneakers with a familiar silhouette on Pinterest. Pinned onto (into?) the shopping cart of one... Garance Doré. Yes, that Garance Doré. The one who dates The Sartorialist. And, as anyone who follows such things knows, Sart is way harsh about such matters.

Now I'm just waiting for a prominent fashion blogger with a discerning beau to endorse the unflattering-but-comfortable, possibly-tempura-splattered linen pants I recently got for $25 at J.Crew.


This, as the kids used to say. Writers writing about writing not paying. Shall I join in? Places I've written for as a freelancer tend to pay between $50 and $100 an article. This can be parlayed into other things, and something is absolutely better than nothing (which is what my first regular post-college writing gig paid, back when I was too naive to know one was meant to ask for payment), and it's probably a different story for people who establish themselves on staff various places and then switch to freelance (I'm thinking of someone like Jessica Grose)... but it does say something about the viability of full-time freelancing as a career.

What the article unfortunately doesn't mention is how what "writing" consists of has changed. Yes, if you wanted to be a poet or novelist, this was always going to be a struggle if you didn't come from money or hit it big with something you wrote while still in high school. But now, anything however tangentially related to publishing or journalism likely won't pay. I do repeat myself on this, but it's important: The day job has become, for many, an unpaid, no-insurance-providing "dream job." Work that isn't particularly artistic (sorry but that first episode of "Girls"...) is somehow The Arts.

I could try to analyze this further - is this about places marketing themselves cleverly in order to get clerical work done for free? - but I want to make the most of this enormous stamp-card mocha and get some other writing done.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In ascending order of seriousness

-Because all roads lead to Sunrise Mart, I now have nigari tofu coagulant. In liquid form, because that was what they had. Not sure what that'll mean for the recipe, but this is on.

Only the essentials. (Wall of DeCecco not pictured.)

-NJ Transit has basically given up for the summer. They seem to have put all their resources into keeping the train refrigerator-cold, and exactly none into such things as having trains match up with other trains, or arrive at something like the time indicated. I think this may be my first time experiencing "As a New Jersey taxpayer..." thoughts, but there it is.

-I don't do Middle East on social media. (By which I mean, Facebook or Twitter.) I observe. I read what friends and journalists and such post, and am definitely getting a wide range of at the very least Jewish opinion, ranging from the Israel-was-a-bad-idea-in-the-first-place perspective (yes, there are Jews who think this - maybe worth noting if you're hoisting up a placard against The Jews) to it's-all-Hamas's-fault (gosh, not all, but even if that were the case, these deaths are plenty upsetting), and, thank goodness, lots in between. I do plan to write on this at some point, but not in 140-character bursts. I don't think my views on this lend themselves to sound bytes (I do go on), and my reaction to the situation is more sadness than outrage, and it's the latter that's expected in such forums. If you're not outraged, you can't possibly care, or something. If I did enter a thread, I could probably summon some outrage, although depending whose thread, it could be in any which direction. (Well, not any.) And I'm not an amateur military strategist, which is the other approach that seems to lend itself to social-media weighing-in on such topics.

But I did pass along the Tablet stories about the French synagogue attacks, because that's sort of my beat, and because... ugh. One way to think of it: Let's say you believe Israel is 100% in the wrong, and get all Godwin about it. How does that justify attacks on French Jews? Ah, but they may support Israel! They may have family there! Think for a moment about where this logic leads. Oh right: stuff like internment camps. Was Japan on the right side of WWII? Not so much. Did that justify internment of Japanese-Americans? No, it did not. And no, it's not a perfect analogy obviously, for so many reasons, but I think the connection is clear.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Groceries are complicated

-I need something called "nigari tofu coagulant." After watching the latest and most compelling Cooking with Dog, where Chef and Francis Host of the Show prepare soft tofu from scratch and top it with scallions, ginger, and bonito flakes... actually, even just once seeing such a video existed, I realized I'm obviously going to be doing this. It's only a matter of time. Well, of time, and of finding this ingredient in a quantity not advertised as allowing one to make 100 pounds of tofu. Where the proper sort of soy milk will come from is its own question. One I've answered before, that time I made yuba, but I'd rather avoid DIY on that part if possible.

-Caryatis, you'll be so proud! I bought eggs at a farmers market and totally checked them for cracks. The farmer or farmer-stand-in selling the eggs didn't seem even a little bit offended.

-I'm not going to defend this, but I'm one of those people who gets two different kinds of olive oil, the regular one for cooking, and the more expensive one for drizzling. I'm not sure I can taste a difference, but I tell myself I can, and even if it's just the pretty bottle, there are surely worse forms of self-deception, and clearly I'm not going through much of the fancy one. I have no brand loyalty in this area, and choose based on which pretty bottle is on sale at a given time. One or another always will be, and the brands seem to rotate quite frequently, rarely being ones I have any familiarity with. This evening, doing so, I was hit by a wave of cynicism: How on earth do I know that the bottle going for $11 (say) is really normally $20? Of course, if it's all the culinary placebo effect anyway...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In un-defense of Princeton in summer

-Because nothing happens in Princeton, and extra-nothing happens in the summer, the local news has taken to posting photos (well, a photo) of relatively minor (no apparent injuries) car accidents in the area, including of the individuals involved. I was not involved, nor do I know these people; this is an online-shaming question. It's not exactly unethical to post a photo of this, but is it necessary? Is it news? It's at any rate still up on Facebook but down from Twitter - maybe there are some legal or ethical issues here apart from being me being squicked out by that sort of thing.

OK, there's a slight personal angle, which is that I'm sort of convinced that someone's going to take one of those viral "bad parking" videos of me, given how long it can take for me to get into a spot.

-More flooding! While an excuse to not go running is semi-welcome, it would be nice to be able to properly walk a certain dog, as vs. taking her out in the snippets of time when it's not feeling too apocalyptic.

-If I were a 20-year-old model who looked great regardless, I might do one of those "ugly selfies" to convey just how terrible my hair looks in this weather. You will instead just have to take my word for it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In defense of Princeton in summer

-It's not as bad as it might be. And low expectations have a way of being exceeded. I mean, my husband's away, as are most of my friends. It's hot and humid, and my hair looks awful. It's tick season for humans and dogs, so the woods are, if not out altogether, substantially less appealing. Expectations were really, really low.

-Everything's on sale. At least everything in Princeton I might want to buy, which admittedly isn't much. But I just got discounted coffee beans from Rojo's at a pop-up (!) in Urban Outfitters and then, for $25, the pair of $70 linen pants I'd long been admiring at J.Crew, thereby filling the summer-clothing-other-than-shorts-or-nightgown gap in my wardrobe. (While I'm by no means a 000 at that store, I can extrapolate from their vanity sizing why such a size would be necessary.) But J.Crew at sub-Uniqlo prices, with tremendous selection... let's just say whatever shtetl peddler-type lives within me returned atavistically at this discovery.

-No one's around. Which is sort of bleak when it comes to Bisou-walking (if easier to handle after a week in Manhattan), but sort of fabulous when it comes to driving and parking.

Excessive loyalty

I thought I'd organized my wallet and gone through stuff on the entryway table. Wrong I was. The loyalty card situation is out of control. Sharing partly to entertain the easily entertained, partly for my own "records", as I attempt to divide into NY and Princeton piles, and to prioritize each:

-One card to the new Viennese café in town, Café Vienna, indicating my one visit there thus far.
-One stamp card for Chelsea Thai.
-One for Bent Spoon, schmancy ice cream, and principle source of amusement in town.
-Two for Rojo's, a local coffee mini-chain.
-Surprisingly, only three for Small World, the default coffee shop in town.
-One for Joe, NY and Philadelphia (never been in the latter) coffee mini-chain.
-Three for Stumptown (one for beans, two for drinks.)
-I must have once bought underwear at frou-frou-in-a-good-way Journelle, because I have a stamp card indicating as much. Unlikely to do so the 11 additional times needed for free underwear.
-One Paris Baguette bread-specific stamp card. I do like their bread, and must keep this in mind for the next trip to Edison.
-Two cards for Murray's Cheese, indicating that I've bought cheese as well as grilled cheese there.
-A card with one stamp from Kaffe 1668, the very expensive but chic café near-ish to where I lived a while ago in Battery Park City. Chances I'd be in that area looking for coffee enough to merit this card are slim.
-Two from NYU-area favorite Third Rail. Miss that place!
-One from Commune, the fabulous and reasonably-priced Japanese salon in Williamsburg where I get my hair cut.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Probably the most WWPD post ever

-Parental overshare for profit.

-So much YPIS: A woman - sorry, a "white lady" - was middle/upper-middle class, until some life events happened, and she was all of a sudden poor. A turn of events led to her picking up food stamps in a Mercedes, thereby outdoing a certain food-stamps applicant from a while back, whose only crime had been spending $1.50 on a coffee she might have made at home or skipped entirely. But the Mercedes-ness and whiteness of all of this seems to have caused controversy. Presumably because of the broke vs. poor obsession - as in, it's seen as so terribly offensive to claim poverty when you're merely broke that people who honest-to-goodness once had some money and now don't end up somehow getting classified as "broke," as if the cultural capital from having once been not-poor can fix everything.

-Tara Metal seems to have had just the same experience I did upon seeing an image of Jenny Slate. I saw an ad for "Obvious Child" on the subway and thought, huh, so that's what's meant by seeing faces that look like yours. My only disagreement with Metal is over the need to explain that this was the experience of women who "may be Jewish, or Italian, or just blessed with slightly unruly strands that cannot be dyed lighter or made straight without a significant amount of sturm and drang." While it's absolutely true that white people of various ethnicities (including super-Anglo - see British actor Daniel Hill, the oddly attractive villain on "Waiting For God") can have not-so-"white" hair, this has particular significance to people for whom that hair texture has political significance. I know that there's this compulsion, if you're Jewish, to make a point of not being parochial, to explain that whatever you're talking about doesn't just apply to Jews. And... hair politics certainly don't just apply to Jews, but I'm not aware of other ethnic whites having this concern. An Italian-American woman might straighten her hair, but is it understood to be about wanting to look less Italian?

-Miss Self-Important and I may have different politics, but we definitely agree on the fundamental issue re: elite high schools, namely that, as she puts it, "when a school becomes 'too Asian,' we immediately complain that it is not black or Hispanic enough." The "we" being society, not MSI and me, neither of whom are arguing this. My pet theory is this: Some offspring of rich white families regress to the mean (see the second item here, actually...), and this produces tremendous anxiety in rich-white-land. It's not guaranteed that those from any but the most established families will do just fine in the end. But! No one wants to say, outright, that the mediocre offspring of the rich deserve better. It sounds so much nicer to complain about meritocracy on behalf of the poor or underrepresented minorities.

City dog

Since I didn't feel like being the last (wo)man standing in Princeton, Bisou and I have taken a trip to see what the bumper stickers would call her grandparents. (Hadley Freeman would maybe agree?) This isn't her first experience of being a city dog, but it's my first seeing her as one for more than, say, an afternoon. Thoughts thus far are below.


-If you have a fluffy little dog, you will have to converse with every other person walking a fluffy little dog. Given the area, that is a *lot* of people. Women of a certain age, but not exclusively. And... it's kind of nice! They say that people are friendlier in the country/suburbs than the city, but the thing is, there are actually people around in the city, so even if a smaller % of them are chatty, there's so much more chatting going on. Plus, being on my home turf, I must give off a vibe of familiarity. Even to socialite-seeming women! Who are oddly not put off by my choice of years-old Gap-nightgown-as-dress. Maybe it's the vaguely-Chanel-looking thrift store bag I'm using until my regular bag is repaired, but you'd think these would be exactly the women who'd know what's what in that department.

-A far, far longer walk is feasible when there's actually stuff to see. With all due respect to nature. The deers, etc., are great, but relatively infrequent. Whereas glamorous Italian tourists (who don't talk to me, obvs) are pretty much everywhere here.

-Thanks to those first two, headphones are not needed. I'm way behind in my podcasts, and thus extra-prepared for NJ Transit being useless.

-No ticks!


-There's so, so much on city streets for a dog to surreptitiously ingest. I'd like to think so far, so good, but who can say?

-The dog run is a nice idea and all, but walking Bisou to the run, as vs. driving her there, means she's exhausted by the time we get there. And while I'm sure Bisou wouldn't be the first poodle to ride the crosstown bus...

-A country dog has certain... requirements, having to do with the need for a patch of grass.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

What lurks beyond the bagel shop

Lawrenceville, which I previously knew as the boarding school next to the so-so bagel shop we'd go to before discovering the far superior one in the Montgomery shopping center, is apparently more than just a bagel-adjacent landmark. It's also the most expensive high school in the nation. And - I learned from Jezebel and Twitter - it's the site of the race-and-privilege scandal of the moment. The student body president - black, female, and gay - had to step down after taking to the Instagram to make fun of the douchier elements of the white, male, and straight student population. If I had a thesis-driven sort of argument to make about this, I'd pitch and fast. As it stands, too scattered for that. So:

-This part of NJ is maybe not the least racist place ever. Even I, someone female and paler than most, have seen firsthand how young black men are questioned by the police, how black men of all ages are avoided and hassled on the train. If this is what I'm seeing, I'd imagine there's more I'm not seeing. There's also preppy culture, which is hard to explain, but which goes beyond whatever's experienced at any particular private school or college in the area. It's so white that even white people notice the whiteness. Friends even whiter than I am (being, as regular readers know, pale but ethnic) have pointed this out.

-Private schools are weird. They can end up this odd mix of rich white kids (getting in through the usual rich-white-person channels) and poor non-white kids (getting in through some mix of intellect, hard work, and having adults around devoted to their education), in some kind of tremendous exaggeration of society at large. As in, "white" becomes associated with wealth, "black" with poverty, in a way that far exceeds the situation at a regular public school. (From Buzzfeed: "Lawrenceville students say racial and class divides — which frequently work in tandem because minority students often come to boarding schools through scholarship organizations [...]." So it went at my private elementary-and-middle school in New York.) The numbers may say "diversity," but the reality can be something more complicated.

-The specific black, female student at the center of the controversy, the student-body president who had to step down after mocking douche-bro classmates on Instagram, was not on scholarship. Commenter Pronetolaughter, if you're reading, this begins to get at how "privilege" as a term can fail where "racism" succeeds at conveying a problem. As the half of the internet that's already weighed in on this has noted, if you're at an elite high school that costs $53k a year, certainly if you're not there on scholarship, you have just a touch of unearned advantage. As in, you're richer and probably better-connected than most. But! That doesn't mean you're not also the victim of some other sort of oppression - in this case, racism. Confederate flags, insistence that she didn't really win the election, and other racist incidents cited in the Buzzfeed piece suggest that the young woman in question had good reason to be fed up.

-But oh, social media! It's bad judgment - if entirely age-appropriate bad judgment - to have an Instagram mocking your classmates, particularly if you want to lead your classmates. Back in the day, the mocking of entitled douche-bro classmates happened, sure, but in private. Buzzfeed reports that this wasn't even the student's first blip of this nature - she'd already been in trouble for pot photos (real, and forwarded by someone trying to sabotage her) and racist tweets (invented by someone trying to sabotage her). If someone's out to get you - perhaps because you're a black lesbian in a position of power in a traditionalist environment? - then you, whoever you are, certainly if you're high school aged, have probably left incriminating dribs and drabs all over the internet and even if you have not, they can be created.

-The Jezebels are arguing about reverse racism - is it a thing? The usual argument - that you can't be racist against a group with more power in society than you have - is mostly right, but not entirely. For example: anti-Semites believe Jews to be more powerful than they are. That's how that form of racism works. For another example: one group may have more power than another in society at large, but not in, say, a particular community. It doesn't seem impossible that the only white kid at a high school would have a tough time. But yes, in usual situations, it holds. And here, I suppose I'm not entirely sure why this is being cited as an example of anti-white anything. What this young woman was mocking was a subculture, not a race. Is the idea that a white person mocking a black subculture would come across as racist? Perhaps, but this is exactly where the power-imbalance thing enters into it. No one thinks all white people are douchey lacrosse players (with all due respect to non-douchey lacrosse players), whereas conflation of minority groups with equivalent subcultures is definitely a thing. (I guarantee that every American Jewish woman has, whether she knows it or not, been called a JAP, no matter how hippie-dippie her routine.) But more to the point, she was making fun of white people who fly Confederate flags, in the North at that. Regardless of where one stands on it being possible or not to be racist against white people, I don't think you can be racist for mocking certain white people's racism.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Not a thing to wear

This morning I did what had to be done and dropped maybe half the contents of my closet off at the closest thrift shop. There are two consignment boutiques closer by (one too intimidatingly pretentious for me to have ever been inside), but if there was ever a moment to even attempt consignment with these items, it was over five years ago at least. Most of what was in there seemed late-college-era at the newest, with a little bit from the interviews-and-job I had between college and grad school. Including one truly hideous pinstriped flared pantsuit (!) from Express, a tag still on the jacket, indicating not that I hadn't worn it, nor even that I was sneakily planning to wear then return it (it wasn't even a price tag, just something identifying the item), but rather that my attention to detail in that area in 2006 was somewhat lacking. Needless to say, there was stitching still left where it shouldn't have been in the suit I wore for a kind of important interview in 2005. Oh well.

The hope with this organization-fest was that I'd discover all the great stuff I already owned and not need to shop. That I would, as the cringe-inducing saying goes, 'shop my closet.' With the exception of one Uniqlo mini-ish skirt of recent-ish vintage, that did not happen. The reality is, the wearable, reasonably-well-fitting clothing I own is precisely the stuff I already wear. The other stuff was all sort of terrible, but for so many different reasons. Much of it had to do with details - button size, flared-ness of sleeves and pant legs - that make clothing look dated after a decade. But there were also all the items that never quite fit but were a nice color or print or something, which is maybe easier to get away with at 19 than 30. And then, of course, was the stuff that was just stained or worn out. But the main takeaway was that it took me ages to develop a sense (chaotic as it may be) of personal style. Whatever was in evidence in the items bought prior to, say, 25, it wasn't that.