Saturday, February 28, 2009

Peonies and Polaroids

Clearly the blogosphere is a new form of identity construction - as well as a new form of identity revelation. What's most fascinating to me is the different communities. As I said before, there seems to be a whole community of self-identified preppy girls. Even more prolific is the community of wedding bloggers and all their sub-types.

I LOVE weddings. I have loved weddings since I was in my 20’s. I love them unabashedly. I read wedding magazines in the break between sections when I took the GMATs before I was even engaged. And now I have discovered wedding bloggers.

There is a lot more to say about wedding bloggers, For now, however, there's this. Amongst my favorites is a young woman (yeah well they are pretty much all young to me) in the UK. She goes by Peonies and Polaroids. (Cute name, huh?) If I break the wedding bloggers into sub-types, I'd put Peonies into the hip but traditional fairy category. (This is the irony part). There are also non-hip, traditional fairy brides (now that I think of it almost everyone in a veil looks a little fairylike, no?), hip but non-traditional fairy brides (prone to wearing wings at their weddings or at least having someone wear wings), and brides who aren't the least bit fairylike.

Peonies' wedding was just beautiful. As was her writing about her wedding. And, as a future mother of the bride following her story, you know, one becomes somewhat maternal listening in over the Internet. So I wanted to support her here. Maternal instincts always win over irony. In my particular existence.

One of the reasons her wedding blog was so beautiful was the photography. She has a real way with images - whether she creates them or requests them. Turns out she's a photographer herself, and now willing to admit it. And, today she opens an Etsy store. Congrats, Peonies. And to all the young women collecting pictures that remind them of a dream they have somewhere in the back of their mind, congratulations in advance.

A key to dealing with the problem of eventual death is to find an ironic stance towards one’s identity, while still embracing all the acts and experiences that create that identity. Embracing them over and over and over again. While irony gives distance, embrace brings immediacy. In an immediate moment, who can worry so much about eventual death?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

I'd Rather be a Big Baby Sometimes

My employer has currently, as I have said, misplaced my job. This may change. Still, as of now, I am not working.

This is unusual. I have worked at a paying job most of my post-undergraduate life. After college until business school in various entry level jobs, after business school for a Fortune 250 chemical company until my first pregnancy, 15 months after my second pregnancy on and off in various marketing and strategy consulting projects, and from the time the child the second pregnancy turned into was 7 – full-time in computer hardware and software. Until now.

Being released, however briefly, from corporate life is very interesting. For the last 6 or 7 years I have been a vice president of something or other. Granted, a promoted-very quickly-not-having-enough-experience-for-the-job kind of VP, and an only-had-a-group-working for me for part of that time VP, but still, a VP.

The part of not working that warms my heart is that if I want to be a big baby at any moment - I can. The part of working that I was never really good enough at was this. Executive stature. Imagine your boss, at that time the COO of a well-funded startup, says to you, High WASP, what you need to work on is your executive stature. Eeek. When you are the kind of person who nursed her children past the cultural norm, whose father and mother have never voted Republican, whose high school prom featured Jimi Hendrix music, the concept of executive stature is pretty alien.

I didn’t at first understand what he was saying. What the hell is executive stature? I’m not a tall man with a square jaw? But when he told me what I had been doing that degraded my executive stature, I got it. What had I done? I talked too much. I revealed how I felt about things. I showed my love for people and life outside of work.

Executive stature. The High WASP in me translated. Aha. You mean stiff upper lip. Stiff upper lip crossed with square jawed testosterone production.

Which thankfully is not required for sofa-sitting, taking my recyclables out on Tuesday morning, weeding my front yard, or buying whole grain bread at Whole Foods. Unemployment in other words.

The main problem is that in order to have enough money to stay alive, not to die under a freeway somewhere clutching my bottle of generic alcohol, I need to work. Which in my case, means I have to muster up some executive stature. Deep sigh.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not Working

I, like 2.6 million other people in 2008, and more in 2009, have recently lost my job. Well, technically, it isn’t lost. More like misplaced. Like they are saying to me, “Wait, I know it’s here, in this closet. Just hold on. It should be here, I know it’s here. Hmm, not in the closet. It must be here, in the drawer under the toaster. Hold on, I know it’s here. No, that’s the cable TV receipt. No, that’s the manual for the garage door opener. Hmm. Now where did I put that job?”

So far I am rather enjoying looking out the window.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Went to Target

OK. So I went to Target to see if my little collage actually existed. One can’t actually cut and paste, or browse and clip, a life. Putting together a life usually unfortunately involves getting into the car. And getting out of the car. And carrying a wallet.

So I went to Target. Here’s the thing. Those jeans do exist. However, at Target, what they call a size 2 is what Banana Republic would call a size 6. Chanel might call it a size 8. And Target actually does not appear to carry a size 0. So although those nice Merona jeans do exist, I can’t tell you what they look like when they fit because I seem to be too small. And I promise you I am not one of those annoyingly skinny women who look artistic even when walking around in a pair of gym shorts because the angle of their thigh bone is just so perfect. I'm regular.

The experience of going into a dressing room at Target caused severe ironic shift. I have been used to to going to Target to buy, and enjoying buying, kitchen goods, bathroom products, and in the decade where I had little children, kid stuff. I was never prepared to undress in Target. However, I survived this.

And, despite the size 2 jeans that were too large for me, Merona actually had another jacket in the Target I went to, and I liked it very much. So I bought it. For $35.00. What do you think?

Then, I saw a tshirt. It cost $7.50. It’s navy. You can’t go wrong with navy in the world of High WASPness. Even irony bows down to navy.

Even at 52 no one should think they are done learning how the world might operate.

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For the Love of Children

So on the day our new president was being inaugurated, I was also texting my offspring. Who were, the two of them, standing on the Mall trying not to let their various appendages freeze. I encourage them not to lose body parts. The thing about being a mother is that you can watch something as historic and moving as the Inauguration of the United States of America’s first African American president in the context of our history as a slave-trading nation, and still your first thought just might be for the way it makes your children feel. I think maybe I should be ashamed of myself. On the other hand, maybe it’s OK. Clearly one of the few valid reactions to the problem of mortality is the love we each have the opportunity to feel for our children. Not everyone can seize the opportunity - poverty, sorrow, illness, war, may prevent it. But if you come from privilege, if you are secure enough materially to give you time to be worried about dying, then one thing that cures the horror even for a minute is to be overwhelmed by love for your own children. All runny-nosed, teenaged-texting, eye-rolling 275 pounds of them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering

Let me just say, that despite any and all evidence to the contrary, I find almost every minute of every day to be a terribly profound experience.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ironic Crafts - Cozies

I saw this on design*sponge.

These appear to be rock cozies. Cozies are usually for tea.

via Flickr

Cozies, as the name implies, are to keep things warm. I don't really need to keep any rocks warm at this point in life. Perhaps in other years it would have been helpful. If we abstract the concept of a cozy to the next level, cozies are for something you took some time and care with, and that you are looking forward to enjoying. But if you leave this thing uncozied, it may suffer.

I do need cozies for other things in my life. My work, for example.

Me, with PictureIt!, since I am getting cooler by the minute, using this Flickr image.
My hellebores.

Me, with PictureIt!, even though I plan to learn the Adobe suite, using this Flickr image

I wish I had cozies for many things.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

The Oscars are tonight. I went to see Slumdog Millionaire yesterday. And I loved it.

27 years ago I traveled alone in India for three months, writing a speculative freelance article on India’s film industry. In 1981 almost no one in the West knew anything about Bollywood. I was also going to India as many 25-year-olds about to get an MBA might do, in terror of growing up and looking for what I mistakenly thought would be my last adventure. I took the train from what was then Bombay, to Rajasthan, New Delhi, Agra and the Taj Majal, Bhopal, the temples of Khajuraho, the oldest Buddhist stupa in the country in Sanchi, what was then Madras, Trivandrum, back to what was then Madras, Bhubaneshwar, what was then Calcutta, then through Bihar, where I saw a woman carrying a dwarf child on her back as she vomited onto the train tracks, to Darjeeling, a side trip to Nepal (which required an airplane), down to what was already Varanasi, up to Swami Muktananda’s ashram, back to Bombay, and home. The red and pink lines above mark my trip. But that’s another story.

I recognized India in Slumdog, even all these years later. I loved the movie despite its complete lack of irony. I thought it was art. It felt like art. I felt exalted when I walked out onto the street, like I now knew something I hadn't know before, that I couldn't articulate.

I don’t know that we could make the same movie in America these days. Direct narrative disappoints us, unless a lot of explosives are detonated in the process, or we can define it a priori as a chick flick, a date movie. Only commercial, consumable movies get the direct plot and the high production values. Our art movies need a plotline with a twist, the boy is actually a girl, the girl was molested by her stepfather, or they need some unusual visual statement, everything is black or takes place in one room. We need something that surprises us, that adds sweet to sour, or sour to sweet. We are a little bored by boy meets girl, boy loves girl, girl loves boy, everyone dances. Why? Because the background for our stories is strip malls where all the signage has to match? Because despite the problems in America so many live in relative prosperity and as a result we need more unusual distress in the plotline? I don’t know, and the answer requires a grander capability for generalization than I have got.

India on its own plays a role in Slumdog. The editing and cinematography brought it all back to me. I felt surprise. I suppose you could say, and someone probably has, that India is the real filmi star here, that India itself provides sufficient drama, grotesquerie, and humor. The movie’s story can unfold directly, all the while giving us the >>sense of rising above previously known meaning<< (I'd use one word but there isn't one that I know of) that in Western movies requires irony.

Or something like that.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

On a Shoe

Can’t say I agree with this as the archetype of a perfect shoe. Generally for a shoe to be “perfect”, for me at least, I’d have to be able to put it on my foot and then walk to my car. At a minimum.

some notes on napkins

But maybe it's just me.


Friday, February 20, 2009

No, Seriously, What Can We Wear?

So let’s be serious. What does a High WASP midlife woman, tormented by the death problem, and attempting therefore to maintain an ironic stance to her identity, wear? In my 40’s I was working at corporate jobs. As a result, I developed a uniform. Every day I wore a pair of pants, a t-shirt, and a cashmere cardigan. Well, except when I worked for the dot-com when I temporarily wore things like low-waisted corduroy pants and tops designed by arty men from Spain. One must adapt to one’s surroundings after all. Anyway. So for most of my 40’s I looked like this:

Cardigan 40's
Cardigan 40's - by High WASP on

In my 30’s I was mostly pregnant or home with small children. You know what that looks like.

In my 20’s I was natively good-looking enough that who cares what I wore. I wish I had known that then, as we all wish we had been wiser when we were young. It would have saved me a lot of capacity for anxiety that I could have used later in life for more important issues.

Now that I have hit 50, I find a little more effort is required. Things on the top half of my body need structure, i.e. a jacket. I can’t for the life of me wear low-waisted jeans, I get too exhausted from holding my stomach in all day. But the pants that used to look classic, or so I told myself, now look dowdy. So trouser jeans it is. Shoes need some kind of a heel, or some girly sort of detail, otherwise I look too butch. I suppose as I get older I am in fact losing some dimorphism (i.e. that set of characteristics that make me look different from males) hence the increasing tendency towards looking too butch if I don’t watch out. A little butch is good. A little butch says don’t you DARE think you can swindle me into giving you more money than is fair, don’t you DARE think you can ignore me when I tell you your calculations are incorrect, don’t you DARE write me off in any way that matters. But I’m still wearing girlier shoes these days. For the most part.

For example, in the every-item-costs-at-least $200 from Bluefly/Petit Bateau/Cole Hahn world we have this:

Over 50
Over 50 - by High WASP on

And, in the no-item-costs-more-than-$50 from Target (except the necklace) world, we have this:

Target Over 50
Target Over 50 - by High WASP on

I would be lying if I said I have ever actually gone out into the world wearing nothing but clothes from Target. However, now that I think about it, why ever not? In fact, I may actually GO TO TARGET, I love Target who are we kidding, and try some clothes on. Wait, do they have dressing rooms? It is difficult to be a High WASP in this day and age.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

High WASPs and Preppies

Another thing I do on the Internet to ignore the DP (death problem) is to look at things other bloggers post. They are pretty good at this. They find cool things. However, sometimes this blog world causes me consternation. Causes me anxiety due to shifting understanding of the world.

For example, it has come to my attention that there is a whole sub-species of bloggers who define themselves as Preppies. Girl bloggers. Preppy girl bloggers. I have no ill-will for any of them. As I have said before, I come from what you might call High WASP. As in the most totemic item from my childhood is a set of silver ice tea spoons that my mother owns. The spoon base is a heart. The spoon handle is a straw. It took me a couple of decades to realize that my dear little memory was a signifier of my privileged and therefore morally bankrupt status. And I have spent a lot of karmic capital on trying to evolve out of and beyond the high WASP mode. On the trivial side, I turn down a lot of clothing items on purpose so I don’t feel too preppy.


I was reading a blog by Muffy Martini. Apparently irony has undergone quite a shift in the time I have spent doing things like having kids, paying mortgages. and having some sort of career. So Muffy was referring to something called “Jack Rogers.” Apparently all good preppy girls wear them. They are de rigueur. They are also shoes. These are they.
Hmm. I have shoes that look suspiciously like these in my closet.


An ironic stance is critical to ignoring the DP.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ironic Wine Charms

At the lovely and famous blog, design*sponge, they showed this DIY project today. Making wine charms, you know, so no one else drinks your Pinot. So pretty.

However. At this point in my life I do NOT need my wine glass to look any prettier. It looks pretty enough already. It calls to me. Here are the wine charms that I would like someone to DIY for me.

By me on PowerPoint since that's all I know

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The Sunday before Obama's Inauguration I was lying...

The Sunday before Obama’s inauguration I was lying on my sofa, watching TV. Eventually the President-elect came out to give a speech. It was pretty short. Halfway through the speech, I noticed there was a tear in one of my eyes.

I am not a political person per se. I vote, but out of duty rather than passion. I’m skeptical, about almost every form of formal human organization.

But here’s the thing. As I have said, I come from a High WASP background. In fact, as is common amongst this social pod, I have an ancestor who was involved in the early days of America. Two, actually. One signed the Declaration of Independence. One helped to draft the Preamble to the Constitution. So maybe I ought to be wildly conservative and elitist in my thinking, given my history of privilege and the human tendency towards keeping what they got to themselves. As it turns out, not all High WASPs, contrary to popular opinion, are Republicans. I’m not. (And of course I think my way is better, but I am of course open to the idea that I am wrong.)

However, I am patriotic. And I felt as though the administration in charge over the last several years, and the conservative Republicans, had absconded with the rights to patriotism and it made me sad. How sad if 9/11 and the deaths of so many innocent people was the only time someone like me could fly a flag and be correctly understood.

So that day on my sofa I had a tear in my eye because I was moved. I love America. I love the idea of America. I feel as though the American value of, to quote Jimmy Cliff the Reggae Master, “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, is a good value. The idea that we are all created equal is an idea that leads to very good behavior. And, it makes me feel that the fact that we all have to die is a tiny bit less awful. If we as a species can really hold a value that leads to generosity and support and applause for all, then maybe there is some life beyond death for humanity.

And at the very least, electing a black man to be President of the United States means we mean what we say in America. That our enduring myth finds its way into real lives somehow.

But let the Reggae Master speak. Maybe I will rock a bandanna like Jimmy today.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Might a 52-Year Old Woman Wear?

But, even though I have to die some day, I still like to spend my life on highly trivial activities. For example. Looking at celebrities in dressup clothes. When I was little, my mother would give us all her old nightgowns and bathrobes, which were really I suppose pegnoirs, and we kept them in a hamper and would pull them out and play dressup. Three little tow heads wearing pink nylon robes with fake satin and roses. That’s what ladies wore in those days.

Anyway. Celebrities. In dressup clothes. In any clothes actually. And lately I’ve begun to wonder if I would ever see anything I, as a 52 year old woman, might wear…. This? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t even know what to call the area of my body between my clavicle and my navel that isn’t occupied by anatomy that used to feed babies.

But please don’t tell me I have to do this:

The thing about being middle-aged, technically if not spiritually, is that you want to look appropriate without looking like you tried to look appropriate.

And if I wear this I have a vague fear that I might be mistaken for a sofa by someone who wanted very badly to sit down:

Not to mention that fact that I think I would also have to buy a gun and attach it to the back of my middle-aged lady Toyota Rav4. I never did get country western music. Not since Hank Williams and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

Ah well. Who am I kidding? I look at celebrities not to find something to wear. I have something to wear. Several somethings. A perfectly good pair of sweatpants with bleach stains that my son left behind. Several perfectly good sweatshirts that said son deemed, for reasons unknown, too dorky. Myriads of black and gray pants and myriads of white tshirts and a small flock of cashmere sweaters to wear to jobs. When I have them. So no, I don’t look at celebrities to find something to wear. I look at them so that I can pretend for a brief glorious moment that I am this girl again:

Squint. Yeah, like that. See? I could be her. I could. I really could. Just gotta keep growing my hair. And fervently ignoring that death problem. That getting older issue.

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Monday, February 16, 2009


It has been raining here in Northern California. For those of you unfamiliar with California you might be surprised that we notice the nature of our rain. Those who believe we have no seasons perhaps are not so sensitized as we are to the different rains, or for that matter the different shades of profoundly blue sky.

These days it's fruit rain. Fat, wet rain drops with heft. If this rain were fruit it would be melons that knock hollow, or red grapes that burst when bitten, or strawberries you can smell all the way across the fruit aisle into the vegetables. The technical term is Pineapple Express, since the rain sweeps in water all the way from the Hawaiian islands. But pineapples aren't juicy enough for me.

When the sun breaks through, as it's doing right now, it is quite surprising.


The Real Issue

I think the real issue here is that I can’t stand it that I have to die some day. This has bothered me in one way or another since I was about 12 years old. I remember very vividly lying on my father and mother’s bed – they were still married at the time – and looking down at my hand. My parents had one of those old-style white chenille bedspreads that we all used to have before Pottery Barn made coordinating Hawaiian folk quilts match with 16 different photo frames and the exact right scented candles. I am actually expecting boring white chenille to come back into style, this time with its very own candle. But we’re not there yet. Chenille at the moment seems to be imprisoned at Penney’s and Walmart.

In any case, I remember looking down at my 12 year old hand and thinking to myself, “Some day this will be the hand of an old lady.” Sure enough, I was right. I am 52 now. And my hands are showing signs of old lady-ness. Visible tendons, prominent veins, spots I can’t in good conscience pretend are freckles. I’m not all the way to what my 12 year old self worried about. But I’m closing in.

I suppose I shouldn’t mind. Fancy celebrities who get to wear the oddest things and make money for playing pretend get old lady hands too. It’s not the hands. That’s the thing. It’s the part that comes next. The part where one day we close our eyes and don’t open them. I think that’s the problem. I can’t reconcile that with the extraordinary reality of being alive.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day

Here is an interesting if fairly useless fact. High WASPs make their own valentines. They start with one of these.

Then add this paired with this:

To make these:

Made by self on PowerPoint(R) since that' s all I know.

Then you can add a sprinkling of this:

And that’s pretty much it. Writing should be done by hand. If you want to get really wild and use red and pink pens, OK, but judiciously.

Unless you are between the ages of 2-18. Then you can do whatever you like.

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