Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fierce in Your Fifties

One might wonder, why would a corporate executive, one who used to agonize over curling iron or no curling iron in the 80's, who wore a bowtie once in those same 80's (granted I vowed never to do so again when I matched all the men in my office that day), and who has been known to buy a Giorgio Armani jacket just because the new client was a large well-known New York financial institution, why would she read something like some notes on napkins? Because of this.

See that Alexander Wang dress in the upper right hand corner? You can wear that when you are 50. You can wear it and feel the hope that fashion at its best brings with it. Hope that your self, as shown and recreated in your clothing, will carry on. That age will not wither, nor custom stale, your infinite variety.
Unless of course it's too short and shows your knee wrinkles. Then eff it but you are stuck with less than infinite variety. Finite, in other words.

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What Do I Read? Fashion+Design

In order to expand my blog reading, to optimize it (all those years of searching for optimization in my career do not go gentle into this good night), I am throwing back the curtain to any and all who would like to add their thoughts. This is part of my Google blog reader.

As you can see, I categorize the blogs I read. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this, although it’s not very Web 2.0 of me. I ought to have a tag cloud or something. But I came to computing maturity, such as I possess, in the era of folders. So folders it is; Fashion + Design, Funny, Midlife, Moms, Politics, The Web, Weddings (this is where I started) Young Women, and Blogs I’m following (since Google just gives you a folder for these and sometimes you can follow and sometimes you can subscribe. I’m still a little confused about it all).

I’d like to go folder by folder, a post at a time, and see if anyone now reading has suggestions for me. I should tell you a little bit about my opinions. Ha. That's the easy part.

Folder: Fashion+Design

I have a problem with what seems to be the current dominant aesthetic. I’m not fond of cute, fey, shabby per se, or what my father refers to in his Anglophile way as "twee". I read Frolic and Design Sponge, but often find myself cursing under my breath. I am much happier with simple + pretty (she likes Calvin Klein, that's enough), some notes on napkins (rad New York fashion girl), the impossible cool. (who doesn’t like cool movie and rock stars but who is Karina?), The Sartorialist (because he is god), Corporette (they say it's fashion for work but I think there's more to it. Also if you look in my blog reader you can see they posted my horrid outfit for all to see) and the Preppy Princess because she is very nice and smart and occasionally has stuff that isn’t too pink and green. Classic, clean-lined, even dramatic or over the top I prefer to cute. In other words, if I must err, let me err in the direction of Gianni Versace rather than Anthropologie.

However, I do like to read the best examples of the stuff I don't like. On my good days, this helps me expand my perspective. On my bad High WASP days it allows me the secret and harmful-only-to-my-soul pleasure of disdain. There you have it. Ideas anyone?

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Unemployment

I was talking to my youngest sister, who is also looking for work, although in her case as part of her emergence from the life of a full-time mom of 3. She said everyone tells her, "We're waiting." That's what I hear too. What we want to know is, waiting for what? Must be for someone, somewhere, to spend some money. So you, hey you out there! Reach into your purse. Take out your wallet. See that dollar? Yes, the old crinkly one? Give it to someone in exchange for a service or good. And if you can't do it now, can you just let us know when you might plan to do it? So we can go lie in the sun until the world of money, goods, and services is ready to start turning those massive gears and combusting the combustibles? Thanks. Much appreciated.

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Brief Digression on the Blogosphere

I am new to the blogosphere. The aspects that resemble a desktop I get, I can open up a tool and type, I can cut and paste, I can drag and drop. The aspects that are new, tied directly to the connectedness, I don't quite get. In particular, how do I find the blogs I really want to read? Technorati says there are 70 million blogs. That is a big number.

When I look in places like Alltop, Technorati, BlogHer, they list topics, categories, and tags - usually tags about topics. The thing is, I'm not interested in topics. I'm interested in people. I don't care what anyone is blogging about, I care who they are, how they talk, what is their attitude. I'm looking to be surprised by someone else's way of thinking, having inhabited my own thoughts for over 50 years.

The software product manager in me thought, "Couldn't we all tag ourselves rather than our posts?" My years in software made me think about icons. It might look something like this:



I think that gender is the prime determining characteristic of a blog's character. So, level 1. Then we have demographics, do you work or not work? How old are you? What country/ethnicity? That's level 2. Then level 3 is your attitude. You can choose as many as you like. Religious, Indie, Humor, Bride, Preppy (can you even tell that's a pink and green square?), Lesbian, Intellectual. Then at the bottom you can design your own icon, could be our avatar. I have a High WASP. At least for now.

This is a goofy answer. I know that. But it's a serious question. Does everyone in fact rely on word of mouth? Of questions asked of blog circles? And does everyone prefer it that way? People can resist categorizing themselves even while seeking it for the world. It may be a generational thing. Maybe in my generation we expect someone to be in charge, or at the very least, keeping track at the door. However, I have vowed not to be the old person who starts grouching to anyone who will listen, "The world is going to hell in a handbasket!" So if this is the way, I will take up my virtual walking stick and start walking.
(image by me on Powerpoint except for the Indie icon)

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

High WASP Weddings, Oriental Trading Company

My daughter may actually kill me if I keep putting up her daydreamed wedding. Even though I try to be so accomodating in my imaginary weddings, in reality I am still taking copyright of her future, a cardinal parental sin. No matter how good I am in my imagination, it's the reality that matters. Too bad for poets, right? But I love weddings, and I plan to continue to examine them. However, in order to prolong my life, we will consider them under the aegis of the "Deconstructing the High WASP" course syllabus.

Today we will consider the question of the Oriental Trading Company. One might assume that High WASPs hate the Oriental Trading Company. That we despise all things that can be acquired by the dozen. In fact, we do not. Please review the images below. Please think, hmm, which items would High WASPs want at their weddings or their imaginary daughters' weddings? From which items might they recoil in horror?

Source

Would the flutes, the most almost-tasteful items be chosen? No. Unfortunately, no. None of the items in the bottom row would make it. The card box is out because a) High WASPs don't give cards with money in them as presents b) the only abstract heart logo we endorse is Elsa Peretti's. The Love aisle runner is out, because decor is too sacred to mess around with and any emotion is too serious to walk on. The personalized flutes are out because SOMEONE MIGHT THINK WE MEANT IT! This is the worst outcome, to have someone think we thought these were OK when they are not. You see, we could maybe two Reidel flutes, or Kosta Boda. Even Waterford is a little too too unless your grandmother owned them first. We could really only use flutes at all if someone had given us a set of 12, or else the hotel handed them to us via someone dressed in a black jacket.

But you absolutely might find any of the objects in the top row at a High WASP wedding. "They are not very tasteful!", you might exclaim with an indrawn breath. No. They are kitsch. There is a fine but perilous line between tacky+cheesy, and kitsch. Kitsch is OK. Kitsch is on purpose. Kitsch is not you-tried-to-have-good-taste-but-failed. Kitschy things are what they are. A camera decorated with wedding roses? A light up colored alcohol drink fountain? A set of bride and groom bubble blowers? These things are what they are. They are not trying to be anything else. This above all the High WASP cherishes. Perhaps because we have decent hearts and shun artifice. Perhaps because we want each item to stay in its category and not try to pass itself off as high class, a status reserved for the few. Even I don't know which is the right answer and it's possible both are true. Possible, and terribly confusing when you are growing up.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Morning at 9:49am

I was in the supermarket the other day, Whole Foods to be precise, and the woman ahead of me in the checkout line had a baby/toddler in her cart. The baby had reached the stage of complaining where it was making fairly continuous noise but not yet crying. Then the baby apparently saw its yogurt being checked through but not handed over, and went ahead and cried. I talked to the baby. The baby was pretty suspicious, ducking its head to the shopping cart handle and looking down so as not to catch my eyes. I remember that gesture. But I kept talking, in a sort of, hey baby, if you don't want me to talk to you I get it, but I've been there with a crying baby in the supermarket, and I have an grown daughter now, and I know that all the spirit and intention you are showing now by crying is actually a trait to cherish and protect. The baby stopped crying. The mother (when she spoke it became apparent she was from a Northern European country, although since she was very blonde and six feet tall I might have guessed were I not focused on her baby) thanked me.

All of us who have survived the mounting terror as our baby starts to wail in a public place, a public place where we are stuck completing a task required for survival such as buying food, when we are sleep-deprived and hungry and thirsty from the demands of nursing, well, it's our job to help mothers out in supermarkets. And on airplanes sometimes I want to walk over to mothers with crying babies and say, "You want me to walk her through the plane for a while?" But I don't for fear they will think, even though we are on an enclosed airplane, that I will steal her from them forever.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ironic Crafts - The Limits of Cozies

They are at it yet again. Cozies. On everything.

First it was rocks. They tried to trick us and called it crochet. But I knew. I knew it was a cozy. Now even design*sponge admits this is a cozy. They have a baby bottle cozy. Of course in my case since my children thought bottles were the devil the equivalent cozy was my cashmere sweater. But I understand bottle cozies. You need to keep the bottle warm. Although the thought of sticky milk or formula mixed with crochet does not make me feel too warm or fuzzy. Only sticky.

Sources, clockwise from upper left: design*sponge, design*sponge, for me for you

But now they are cozying clocks. Don’t they know that time is cold? Time doesn’t care one whit for crochet. You can’t cute up time, make it into a bunny, add some spring flowers and a fey frond or two. Time is not cozy. DIY all you want you cannot DIY immortality. Although the God in which I do not believe knows the human race can’t be stopped from trying.

Source: design*sponge

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Where Did You Go To School? Part 2

I was still 17 when I went to college. I was not a prodigy. My birthday is just in late September. I flew across the country by myself. Parents were less intent in 1974.

I stayed with my elderly cousins. They drove me to campus in an old station wagon with wood paneled sides. We parked outside the dormitory I would live in. It was built of gray stone; with mullioned windows of old glass. The stairway was dark. The room was small. I remember the bunk beds and the placement of our furniture and the size of the windows. And a dogged sense of having to pretend that I wasn’t on the edge of having to sit on the floor and admit I had no idea what I was doing.

Source

All the freshmen in those days ate at Commons. Ceilings close to 3 stories high. More dark, more stone. We stood in line to enter. One of the very first nights I was standing there in line by myself on the sidewalk. A boy stood in front of me. He turned. I was wearing jeans I had patched with pride, an Outward Bound logo squarely on my seat. In my "alternative" high school we had done survival training as part of the curriculum. I had a bandana on my head, probably navy blue but still, really? a bandana, pirate-style. The boy was wearing pants the color of faded strawberries. A button down shirt. A needlepoint belt with some small figures, could have been whales, could have been lacrosse sticks. I was not familiar with the secret life of belts in those days.

The boy asked me why I wore the bandana on my head. I was very nervous. I said in what I thought was a joke but actually was a manifestation of my discomfort, “Because my hair is dirty.” The boy was silent, unable to find a response. He turned away. Later it turned out that the boy was the son of someone everybody said was a member of La Cosa Nostra. Probably his belt was protective coloring, a disguise. But who can know at 17?

That’s just one piece. Here’s the other. I wrote my senior thesis, on Metaphor and Metonymy - List and Catalogues in Epic Poetry (the young are entitled to some hubris after all), in a study carrel, a small metal locker for people, combination lock and everything. I would go sit, read, write. Eat peanut M&Ms from a yellow 1-lb bag. Sit, read, write some more. And I would feel drunk. High. Stoned. Drunk on the workings of my own raw brain. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. That’s what it felt like at 21.

This is my own particular version of Princeton. It is embarassing to discuss here, in public, because it is so much the emblem of privilege and yet so important to me in my personal identity. What I say is true. I do not know if it is important.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where Did You Go To School? Part 1

Photo of the Princeton Tiger, sitting in the square now surrounded by J. Crew, Banana Republic, and their ilk....
While, were you me, you would not ask, "Where did YOU go to school? ",(somehow you just know not to ask because, you see, you might embarass someone) you will certainly say at some point, "Where did he go to school?" It's one of those questions High WASPs ask almost reflexively. As I think about the last time I asked that question, it was actually, "Oh, did he go to Stanford too?", since the wife had been identified as a Stanford alumna. It's the way I asked it that strikes me now. Under my emotional breath. Asking it without thinking, embarassed to be asking it, pretending I wasn't asking it, pretending I'm not the university snob that in fact, of course, I am.

In the old days, let's say the days of my grandfather, the question among High WASPs simply meant, "Did you go to Harvard, to Yale, or Princeton?" To be accepted to those places in those days all you needed was a diploma from Andover, St. Paul's, Exeter, or others of type. And to attend those boarding schools all you needed was a certain pedigree, a certain amount of money, and the capacity not to get arrested and actually thrown into jail, as it is hard to attend a boarding school when incarcerated. In my father's day I don't think the question was much different, except that in my father's day of course you could also have asked my mother the parallel question. In which case the question would have been, did you attend Smith, Vassar, or possibly Mt. Holyoke.

In my generation the question becomes more complex. Let me answer it therefore about myself. But I must first tell you where I didn't go. I didn't go to Harvard. My father went to Harvard. My uncle went to Harvard. My middle sister and younger brother went to Harvard. My grandfather went to Harvard. And then many other great-thises and great-thats went to Harvard. The family name is carved in various places. And no, to set expectations, it is not a name recognizable at all in general parlance.

I didn't go to Smith or Vassar either. My mother and aunt did, respectively.

I went to Princeton. That's what that tiger thingie is doing at the top of the page. I went to Princeton and my daughter is at Princeton and my son is at Princeton. I own a raw silk blazer printed all over with Tommy Bahamas-genre tigers peeking out of an archetypal yet imaginary palm frond jungle. Not discrete abstract high design tigers either. Not conceptual tigers. Big cheesy tigers. Stripes. Eyes. Teeth. Even whiskers. And, I own a straw fedora. More tigers running rampant round a band at the crown. Why do I, I who have trouble with all kinds of inappropriate attire issues, own these things? I wore said items to my 25th Reunion. Yes. Well.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Impunity

There's another key concept to all of this. Impunity. Along with the focus on good behaviour, there's a parallel and seemingly contradictory assumption that if we do it, it must be OK. Seen through a kindly lense, the assumption would be that all the scrutiny that precedes any act, by self and community, will prevent anything untoward. However, seen through perhaps a more realistic lense, this is simply another way for people to rationalize failure to live up to their own standards.

When I went shopping the other week, and wound up to my horror purchasing Naturalizer shoes, I also bought a dress at Banana Republic. When I put on said dress, all the usual things happen that happen for felicitous purchases. I felt pretty. No, the need to feel pretty doesn't disappear after 50, nor the capability, if you are careful. Given the dress itself, I also felt snappy, carefree, classic, and just elegant enough. All good High WASP parameters. I even reminded myself of my mother at her best. All good. But when I thought, "Hmm, what will I wear over this?", I realized I would probably wear, in this still chilly spring weather, the down jacket I purchased at a Decathalon sportswear store in Shanghai. In other words...
Silk Dresses in the Office?
Silk Dresses in the Office? - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

Yes. I would wear the down jacket even though it doesn't appear to be appropriate. Why? Because it's comfortable. Besides, it's black, so there is the ostensible color match. Deconstruct this outfit and many things become clear. A dress on sale at Banana Republic? Sure, why not? No need for fancy brands. We like Banana Republic, it feels like our aunt's house might feel. And the spring green color has a long and honorable High WASP heritage. Pink not required. Requisite good bag and shoes? Check. The jewelery we picked up in our travels? High WASPs love cultural authenticity, and high carat weight souvenirs. The down jacket? Impunity. Since we have done everything else necessary, if we want to wear a down jacket we will. And it will be OK. Because we say so. Which also can lead occasionally to leaving the house looking like this.

What I am saying is true. Perhaps a little exaggerated. For a down jacket, I know it doesn't matter.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Inheritance, Part 2

The inheritance is a key component of the High WASP species. That’s how we develop the attitude and the taste. Growing up in privilege means growing up surrounded by deep resources and things of great beauty. Growing up with inherited money means that there is no associated person in the household risking themselves at a very difficult job, nor late night conference calls, nor extended trips to Japan, nor companies on the brink of running out of capital. It is possible that life after a fabled IPO is similar. That I can’t know.

In a life of privilege you acquire knowledge and experience that you do not have to earn. That may in fact be at a level beyond your capabilities to earn in the world of hunters and gatherers and counters and sorters. But there they are, knowledge, experience, and props. Oh, yes, the props. The silver baby bowl, the family locket with an old daguerretype of someone you don't know, the tweed hunting jacket from your grandmother. The props aren’t worth agonizing over. I see nothing worthwhile to do but enjoy the ivory dressing table brush, the gilt mirror with primitive cherubs, the early American bedstead. But the unearned experience bumps along with you, it goes to work with you, it raises your children with you. And at some point you have to figure out is there anything you are going to do with it.

Is there? Well-to-do liberal guilt seems silly to me. I mean, what, I got to go to Jamaica for Christmas when I was 18 but now since I feel bad about it we’re OK? I'll just feel bad here for a little minute and then time to polish the forks? No, there is no happy ending to this. No cue the strings , allegro, crescendo, off she goes to save the world. I have to work for a living and anyway I admit that I don't really have the disposition to save the world. It’s an ongoing debate for self to have with self.

*shakes head. unable to find answer*

The Inheritance, Part 1

A ways back, someone asked me what a High WASP was. The WASP part is straightforward. White Anglo Saxon Protestant. The High part is more difficult. I believe my answer was disingenuous and I apologize. I said in a comment I thought High referred to education. This was prevarication on my part. I apologize again. We are raised not to talk about money. But the time comes. Please forgive my bad manners.

Most if not all High WASPs have inherited money. I was 21. My inheritance was the tail end of a once envious family fortune which allowed people at the turn of the century to marry in lace, live on Park Avenue, travel to Africa, and then to write books about their lives with African tribes. I sat in our sun room on a wicker chair. I asked my father whether I would ever have to work. “Mmmmmmmm,” said my father, in that High WASP way fraught with unspoken meaning whose frequency you feel in your nerves but can’t decipher, “Hmmmm. Well. No. Mmmm. Probably not.” That was the end of the discussion. Of course, he was wrong. But never mind that. These things happen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Unemployment Redux

It’s Monday morning. In the days when my job had not been misplaced, that would have meant many things. Now it means that if I went to Whole Foods at lunchtime I would have to wait a long time for my sandwich. But the most striking difference between employment and waiting to see if they find my job, oddly perhaps given the high level import of earning a living, is that I no longer wake up to my cellphone alarm. Alarmlessness has changed my experience of waking up. Alarms introduce adrenalin before consciousness even has a chance to prepare. They don’t call it an alarm for nothing. You shoot into awareness, "Iyeeee!", there’s a noise. Noise first, thought after.

From a user experience site...get the irony?

Now when I wake up, I feel my consciousness before anything. It tickles. Yes, tickles is as close as I can get. If waking up were a noise it would be a little bit like a baby making exploratory vowel sounds, “Aaah, aaah, oooob, oobb.” It’s a little bit like my awake self says “Hi there” to my asleep self. Like they are both there at the same time for a brief minute.

Now when I wake up I look out the window and guess what time it is. Although it no longer matters. I do it just because when nothing has happened yet in my day I like the meaning of the light coming through the Chinese elm into my window.

From someone's backyard on Flickr

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Some Celebrities are High WASPs

It struck me that the the best way to identify these creatures is to show you some. The easiest people in this day and age to point out are clearly celebrities. So consider, if you will, Glenn Close, Sam Waterston, and Jodie Foster.

Glenn Close was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, and went to Rosemary Hall and William and Mary. Pretty much we could be done right there. High WASPs are rabid about a good education. But no. It goes on. Her father was a doctor who operated a clinic in the Belgian Congo while her grandfather was once married to the heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. So we have the conjunction of a generation or two of great wealth and then the guilt about wealth that leads the next generation to go do good, and the generation after that to throw caution to the winds and become an artist. This photo actually pierces my heart with ironic recognition, i.e "Dear god, that thing which must not be spoken is actually in a PHOTO". She has her pink bow on, for breast cancer prevention, but she's sitting on a Mercedes.



Now what about Sam? Sam Waterston reeks of High WASP. The quote from Wikipedia is just too rich for me to adulterate it.
Waterston, one of four siblings, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother, Alice Tucker (née Atkinson), was an American Mayflower descendant and worked as a landscape painter, and his father, George Chychele Waterston, was an immigrant from Leith, Scotland and a semanticist and language teacher.[1][2] Waterston attended both the Brooks School, a boarding school in North Andover, Massachusetts, and the Groton School. He entered Yale University on a scholarship in 1958 and graduated with a BA in 1962.
Iyeeeee! The Mayflower, landscape painting, Scottish immigrants AND a semanticist in one family tree? Yale is superfluous in his case. In the photo below he looks as silly as he does for one simple reason. He is very very embarrassed to be bowling and even more embarassed to be wearing a bowling shirt. High WASPs like to wear only what they have chosen to be their particular uniform.


Finally we have Jodie Foster. Her father was apparently both a war hero AND a wealthy man. Both characteristics are well thought of in High WASP circles. We won't mention that her parents are divorced. These things happen. It's widely known that Jodie attended Yale. But the key identifying point is that everyone knows she is gay and yet somehow she manages to determinedly neither talk about it nor leave revealing photos anywhere. After all, it's none of your business.


So think about it. Have you ever seen any of these people on the cover of US Weekly for consorting with a child prostitute? For beating their spouse? For wearing dresses that expose their nether regions? Does that mean they have not done these things? No. It just means that they believe in discretion above all else. And probably, that they say please and thank you repeatedly to reporters who then look just a little bit the other way. Oh, and Glenn's bunny-killing episode? An aberration. All High WASPs are allowed a little eccentricity. But I imagine at least one aunt was none-too-pleased about that behaviour.

(All bio references from Wikipedia, all photos via Starpulse. Which mortifies me, BTW, to even say the word Starpulse.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday Morning at 10:09am

The boy child has gone back to college. This is as it should be. Luckily I sneaked in a little sniff of his head when he was on the sofa watching television - television which involved tall teenagers bouncing balls around and showing off their tattos while people with faces painted in various colors yelled and screamed. I pretended to be casually kissing him goodnight, since I go to bed at human hours and he goes to bed at bat hours. This head kiss feint is a common maternal behaviour. Why we like to smell their heads I do not know. I only know that when they are 3 months old you have to do it hour after hour since any babies I was related to preferred to be carried at all times when awake and to curl themselves around my head when they slept. When the babies turn 5 you get to do it pretty much whenever you want. As in, "Come here you!" However once they hit the teen years you need a strategy. I figure it's good for the aging brain. How to satisfy your craving for the creature that you gave birth to, without letting on.

I have a suspicion that he knows. But we are very High WASP about not discussing the matter. And BTW if I am so lucky as to have grandchildren, I will hold them and bounce them as much as my capacity to bounce by that time allows. But I am not planning to have them sleep curled around my head.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mother of the Bride #2

So what if my daughter said to me, "Mom, I just want to get married at City Hall and then all go out to a restaurant in the City (that's what Northern California natives call San Francisco, like it was the only one of type)." Well not too far away from my little suburban enclave is the San Francisco City Hall. Which is beautiful. If you saw the movie "Milk", you saw Sean Penn running up and down the its stairs.

Now if my daughter said to me she just wanted to get married at City Hall, it's quite possible that she might look at me in that way daughters who have been your child for a long time do, and say, "Mom (the word is drawn out here, almost drawled, and inflected upwards at the end, perhaps even with a little riff a la American Idol), how about since I am saving you so much money I get to have whatever wedding dress I want?" After all I have always told my daughter that she is my replacement for the Barbie doll my parents wouldn't let me have because they were intellectual Democrats. So this doesn't come out of nowhere. Yeah, I might just say yes.

Then let's say she might continue, "Mom, and since I am saving you so much money how about I can have some diamonds by the yard?" (This is unlikely. She isn't too much about luxury per se. This is more me talking. I have not yet recovered from my upbringing.) I still might say yes. And then I might go hog-wild and throw High WASP principles of keep-displays-of-wealth to a minimum, and rent her a white Jaguar to get the restaurant just because I think she would look so beautiful. Should all of those things occur, this is what we would get.

Bride: Oscar de la Renta . Images: Clockwise, Fifth Floor, Mrs. Tiramisu, Classic Wedding Car Hire, Flickr, Saipua, Camilla Flowers, City Hall, Overstock.com

For full disclosure I should mention that the redhead in the corner isn't my redhead. It's an anonymous redhead. Included for the general principle of redheads. Have a lovely weekend all.

A Few More Indications of Structural Change, And Then We Will Return To Pictures

Final bit on the wedding industry. For now at least. It must be my job hiatus speaking, repressed desires to say words like infrastructure, strategy and content. Actually High WASPs aren't supposed to talk this much unless handed the microphone by someone in a tuxedo and told to address the waiting audience, who should also be in tuxedos. Which my mother insists should be called dinner jackets, that the word tuxedo is declasse. But I digress.

I believe that the changes in the wedding industry - both those past and those future - are recognizable and not unique to weddings. (Although probably not too similar to the liquid nitrogen industry, my first job out of business school). I believe that as our communications infrastructure, i.e. Adobe software, digital cameras, the Internet and cable TV, grew robust enough (robust is another word we love to say in corporations) to sustain enormous amounts of content, the "Knot-ization" of weddings flourished. Image inventory generated by the magazine machines ruled. Volume ruled. Broad appeal ruled. Essentially, it was like the days when we had three broadcast TV channels and nothing to watch but Leave it to Beaver. (Yes, I do remember that, since you ask). "Trends", and "keeping up with with the Jones's", prevailed.

The business theory that applies here is that large systems have to standardize to optimize. The hope is that once the infrastructure is built, once the industry absorbs the new techologies, once processes are established, the supply chain can once again fragment, specialize, and customize. The industry disintermediates (means the middlemen get the axe). The little guys now have access to the technology and infrastructure and buying patterns that the big guys built. For brides, that means if you want to do it your way, you should now or soon be able to find talent and resources that can make it possible, without having to go to the equivalent of Walmart.

I see some signs of this. Net a Porter and Bluefly now have wedding sections. Used to be you needed the salon-style purchasing economies of scale (meaning you need to buy a lot to get good prices and make it worth your while) to deal with bridesmaids dresses, for example. No longer. I've already mentioned the smaller wedding planners like In the Now, and Weddings Fresh putting themself out there with pictures and commentary that really convey who they are. The florists like Saipua and Artfool and Camilla in Santa Barbara that make beautiful design using flowers visible to all rather than the property of the elite. Clearly the indie wedding sites like A Practical Wedding are about disintermediation in part. Although I don't recommend you get up every morning and think, "Gee, I'll have a little disintermediation with my crown of purple anenomes."

So I look forward to continuing to read wedding blogs. You are, if you ask me, participating in an industry shift. Having been in high tech ever since I quit selling liquid nitrogen and having babies, I know that shifting industries take their direction from visionary customers. Have at it. Have visions. Me, I'm going to make some more inspiration boards for my daughter's imaginary wedding. Until she finds out about this and kills me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When In Doubt, Deconstruct

What I notice in the wedding industry is something I noticed in business. In the beginning there is purpose. In the fullness of time, purpose becomes activity. After a while people relegate purpose to the closet in the corner and define their job as marking items off the activities checklist. The only way to stay true to the purpose is to take the checklist apart and remind yourself, and all the people in the irritating meeting of course, why it got constructed in the first place.

Deconstructed, weddings are a legal binding of two people into the state of marriage. So yes, you do need a marriage license and an officiant. Not optional. Weddings are optionally a ritual that binds two people into the belief and cultural system of marriage via acts of magical significance. So maybe you should have some ceremonial acts. And perhaps some ceremonial artifacts. Weddings are also optionally a celebration of the binding of two people into marriage. If you take this option, you should have some celebration accoutrements. And if you want to celebrate, well then give a mouse a cookie, because all kinds of fresh hell break loose.

You can see how quickly we move from needing a marriage license and officiant to needing strands of crystals hanging from pale blue manzanita branches or custom 4-foot high sand candles or a fabulous Swedish paper cutout altar hanging. How quickly we subsume the theater of ritual to the requirements of a photography schedule. Yes, if you are going to have a celebration, it will have a visual aspect. It will look like something. But that is all you have to know for sure. Nothing says you have to have a color palette or flowers or lighting or signage or anything. Your wedding has to look like something because we are humans with eyes. That's it. But what it looks like doesn't make it more or less of a wedding. Once you take that checklist apart.

All of this has been said before, and said very well. Maybe it matters. Probably so.

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The Brides of Wedding Blogs, Part 2

This being a wide world, there are also bride blogs that I read for nothing but the pleasure of the familiar. Intellectual, aesthetic, emotional, no matter. And, as always when we rummage through the attics of our own people, wherever we find those people, however we decide that they are our people, we exclaim with recognition as we read. “Oh yes, look, I had that sparkly thing on my head! And look, how funny, she’s right, yes I thought that too! And yes of course you want black calla lilies or all white water lilies or wildflowers from a High Sierra meadow!” In my case, east side bride and her native coolness, Mother and Bride who wants to get married in cowboy boots, Cats, Cheese, and a Wedding Please!, where a woman who identifies as queer is marrying a man in New Orleans, eating amazing food, and fighting with her mother, I read them all without having any analytical filter. Just because I like them. And oddly enough, with none of them do I have the feeling of peering into an alien culture. But that’s just me and the cohort I have chosen for myself. With any luck, it will be an ever-widening cohort.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab via A Practical Wedding


Speaking of cohorts: “This is not a tie”. Yes. This is how High WASPs address weddings. Either they say, “This is a wedding, nothing more, nothing less. We will not discuss the implications.” Or they say, “This? This little thing? This isn’t a wedding. We just happen to be getting married. I promise.” The image above is from the bride blog that I think addresses weddings and the wedding industry from a clear space. A Practical Wedding. Meg’s premise is that weddings ought to be first and foremost the creation and the reflection of the people getting married. Well, yeah. But that simple premise can be difficult to realize. Why?

1. The minute that two people say to each other, “Maybe we will get married some day….,” someone somewhere senses the possibility of large sums of money. Planning a wedding can be like trying to take a romantic walk down a mountain path, only large billboards block the view on either side. Silicon Valley billboards too, the kinds that light up and blink, and change, and tell you the future is now.

2. Weddings create marriages. And marriages create families. And created families have meaning for the families of origin. And meaning creates opinions.
3. Weddings create parents. And parents create children, and children are our only real hope of thwarting death. In our hearts. If you remember, I find death to be a real problem. A lot of mythic weight, then.

Brides have to make their way through a dynamic industry where high voltage technology changes and branding fervor run rampant. Then they have their own culture and their own family emotions to navigate. Then they have the human myth of living forever telling itself in the background.

No wonder. But tulle is a lovely narcotic. And the enduring pursuit of an aesthetic is the same instinct that drives artists. It endures. So I love weddings. And I love wedding blogs. And I hope the little fish of personal hope at the heart of most weddings keeps everyone going while the industry clashes and trumpets above.

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The Brides of Wedding Blogs, Part 1

I have read a lot of bride wedding blogs. A lot. And I confess to having done so originally with my High WASP upturned nose firmly in the air. And truth be told I still have to yank that nose down hard. And real truth be told, sometimes I am weak and I surrender and I feel disdain. As I have said before, it is hard for High WASPs to put aside their disdain for the tacky, the cheesy, the overtly sentimental, the overly-coordinated, to say nothing of tawdry and unecessarily earnest color combinations.

But I would be letting the side down (sports term, derived I think primarily from cricket) if I left it there. Bride wedding blogs offer a glimpse into alternate cultures, personalities, and aesthetics in a world where most of us build social circles that reflect our own values. Reading bride blogs is like taking a shower in another country for the first time. You reevaluate a lot of things you had taken for granted.

Wedding blogs make very clear that judging someone on first impressions is a bad idea. For example, when I first found out that there are entire forums devoted to brides getting married at Walt Disney properties, my initial surprise was only exceeded by my ultimate surprise that Walt Disney offered wedding packages in the first place. High WASPs do not at first blush think that weddings at Walt Disney properties are in good taste. High WASPs would really not even want to say the word Disney and wedding in the same breath. However, Carly’s blog convinced me that if I were young again it might be possible that I would become best friends with someone getting married at a Disney property, even if I couldn’t quite throw off the High WASP shackles and don a set of white Minnie Mouse ears and veil myself.

Then there's Jenna. Jenna writes for Weddingbee. She has her own blog as well. Without Jenna’s blog I would be completely ignorant of what it is like to be an early-20’s LDS bride - marrying a Polish immigrant trained as an IT Systems Engineer. And I would not know that that a Mormon small town girl could bring on the diva. All of which seems like a pretty specific and small set of knowledge to bother acquiring. But it’s not the particular. It’s the general.

I'm sure there's an uplifting message somewhere nearby but it would not be possible for me to go there. High WASP issue.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Little Break - What Is A WASP Again?

I've now been asked this question, "But what is a WASP?" several times. In comments. In emails. And since I have the dadgum word in the title of the blog it does seem like it's my responsibility to offer a definition. But first, let me just say, that sheer fact that I am asked this question is a sign of the how much the world has changed since I was born. In 1956. Yeah, so last century.

WASP stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. We could leave it at that. But like many terms, WASP has several layers of meaning. White. Well, we all by now should have a sense of the multiple meanings there. Largely these days, and for the good, around what it means to be not-White. Anglo-Saxon. If you can believe it, it used to matter whether you were from Italy, France, Spain, vs. England, Scotland, Ireland, or Germany. How silly. Germany/Belgium/Netherlands are the Saxons. Protestant. In the days when WASPs ruled the Western world, they were really only trying to tell the Catholics to go away. They failed.

But that's the simple meaning set. The complex meaning is, um, gee, complex. It was the WASPs who originally took sail across the ocean, left England and Scotland, maybe Ireland, behind, and founded America. It was those same WASPs who then set mysterious standards, complete with arcane artifacts, to keep what they had won to themselves. I hope the values can be separated from the artifacts. And that's what I'm trying to do here. Along of course with amusing myself and anyone else who shares my somewhat cracked sense of humor. To speak for the values that drove us to leave behind our sheep farming and cheese making, and to brave very deep oceans. The values that created a society in which we really did believe that your effort trumps your origin. And to repudiate, if it still matters, the devolution of that society into a place of too many noses in the air for no good reason.

And I suppose to discuss the various pieces of cloth we all like to wrap ourselves in. Because at the end of the day fun is still a good goal. IMO.

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I Love Weddings Almost Most Of All

As you will surely remember, I love wedding blogs. They are full of pictures of flowers, smiling young women with beautiful shoulders, and tulle. What's not to love? Wedding bloggers were the first blogs I ever read. Sitting at my desk, on yet another conference call where tinny voices slogged their way through project status, trying to decide whose fault it all was. Solution? Wedding blogs. If you're a woman between 18 and 35, you may know it well already.

Snippet & Ink

Unfortunately for fairy tales, for a corporate type glowing brides and tuxedoed grooms sometimes pale in comparison to the vivid patterns of industries. As I see it, the wedding blog business is in its early stages, but still shows some classic industry structures. As my experience is in software, that's the parallel I draw. As follows. You have the integrated systems houses, in the Martha Stewart/Brides/The Knot triumvirate. I think of them as IBM/Sun/Hewlett Packard. In their cases the blog was not the original offering and their primary revenue stream may still come from the 'hardware", the website/print vehicles. In the "started-with-blog", or "software only" segment, we have what I see as the market leaders with broad and broadening offerings,Weddingbee and Style Me Pretty, with several challengers including Southern Weddings, Elizabeth Anne Designs, etc. Weddingbee and SMP might be, let's say, Oracle and Microsoft, with Southern Weddings and EAD as McAfee or Symantec challenging. I assume that we will see the usual disaggregation and re-aggregation common to industries in this stage, and eventually some combination of website/blog will become the ultimate industry leader. The 800-lb gorilla as we call it here in Silicon Valley. Not very romantic, but there you go. I am damaged by so many years in business and I make my apologies in advance.

As is common in other early stage industries, you also see the single product leaders, similar to the company building only image creation software, but the absolute best image creation software, so even though they come to market narrowly they are successful. In this category I would put Snippet & Ink, where Kathryn (thanks Meg, I am old Father William I am old, and forgetful) puts out the most beautiful collages (known as inspiration boards in industry jargon) centered around various wedding modes, again and again and again.

Next you have the independent contractors, the supply chain to the wedding blog industry. Wedding vendors and brides are in fact the supply chain to the wedding blog industry. Not to take away from the romance... What I have found is that the big vendors, wedding planners, photographers and florist being the primary generators of a large inventory of images, tend to show up often enough on the market leader blogs that I don't have to read their blogs separately. So I read the vendors who's particular approach I enjoy. This would include, in my case, Weddings Fresh, Bride Chic, In the Now, Lyndsey Hamilton Events, and Sasha Souza Events. Oh wait, the last one I read for her cocktails. Oops. And Saipua, because I wish Sarah would let me be her mother so she could say funny things to me all the time. Except I guess she'd be more apt to roll her eyes if the current data set is any reflection of future probability.

In this vendor segment, we see some classic industry patterns, i.e. smaller companies setting up alliances to broaden their offerings, rather than acquiring, merging, or simply accelerating product development. For example, Dani at Weddings Fresh has Amy Jo from Bride Chic doing a Gown Friday on her site. Perfect example of how a squadron of partners can operate in a world of big guns. (Can you BELIEVE I can use these terms with a straight face?)

Finally, the brides. With their own blogs. Ah. My favorites. They in fact deserve their own post. Because, after all, they are people, rather than mere players in an industry, strutting and fretting their hour upon a stage.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Untitled

I should make something clear. Since I hold these opinions - about shoes, purses, typefonts, overt displays of sentimentalism - I CAN write about them. I know them intimately. Since I also know that these opinions are reprehensible in many many ways, I am WILLING to write about them. Otherwise they go unspoken. Look at what happened to Jay Gatsby.

Ironic Wedding Invitations

MBM asked me a very good question. What is an ironic wedding invitation? Well, in the world of High WASPs, emotions are a very tricky thing. One must have them, after all, being human. But one must not carry on about them. So classic wedding invitations have to say, "Here I am. I am an invitation to a wedding. A wedding is a known ritual in which two people are getting married. That is all we need to discuss." But an ironic invitation, like this one below, can say a little more.

This invitation and reply card etc. says, "Oh look, a somewhat tacky (the ultimate shame) romantic image. However, we will ignore that image, and even poke sly fun at it with our rock and roll BBQ. All the while we will adhere to all wedding conventions and language." And the calligraphy will be hand done, "Because, (name of person being scolded) calligraphy type fonts are not... (the done thing is implied but not said)." A type font is a type font and should admit to its origins.

The final effect is one of respecting all conventions and yet indicating that one might somehow rise above them. Of making a gesture towards love, but quickly, so that no embarassment can be felt, by anyone. Frankly it's all pretty exhausting. And while what I'm saying is true, I'm exaggerating. You have to exaggerate to be able to describe all this, and once exaggerated it sounds worse than it is. For the most part. And BTW I made the invitation up:).

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Monday, March 16, 2009

What The Mother Of The Bride Cares About

Bride: Claire Pettibone. Images, clockwise from upper left hand corner: Camilla Flowers, In the Now, Flickr, WeddingBee, Jerusalem Tallit, Dempsey and Carroll


Right off the bat I have to say I am NOT the mother of a bride at the moment. My daughter is 21 and just graduating college, so I don't even WANT to be the mother of a bride right now. However, it is never too early to start daydreaming. I love weddings, as I have said, and therefore if I want to imagine my daughter's wedding, I will. Actually, I will probably imagine several versions, just because I can.

So how can you tell this is a mother of the bride imagination artifact? Notice that it is all about the bride. Notice that we do NOT care about favors, photobooths, guest books, match books, seating cards. We just care about our daughter, how beautiful she is, and how everything around her will serve to highlight that fact. Well, I guess we also care about the groom. However in that arena I do not even daydream. That's her business. But the accoutrements? Hell yes I'm in her business.

Clues to why this looks the way it does. 1. My mother lives in Santa Barbara. 2. It's possible that images are being featured that highlight tall, slim, redheads. 3. High WASPs are afraid of invitations unless they are classic or ironic.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

5 Things To Watch Out For In High WASPism

1. Colonialism. Exploiting other creatures, i.e. using their capacity without fair recompense, is never good behavior.

2. Disdain and contempt. Except for shoes. I am OK with contempt for others' shoes. And maybe purses. Oh and some kinds of wallpaper. And since this is High WASPism we don't have to worry about any pointing.

3. Eating disorders. Yeah, pretty much invented anorexia and bulemia.

4. Hysteria. Of the Victorian kind.

5. Inability to sob if it looks undignified.

One could also argue that Wall Street is another thing that of late has been bad about High WASPism. I would posit that the people behaving badly in the Financial District - no matter what their background or socioeconomic category - were just plain greedy and every living person should watch out for that. Greed is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins for nothing.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Morning at 8:05am

It's Saturday morning. And my son is home from college.

My children are grown. They have not a vestige of body fat left on them that I can call my own. Nothing to pinch. I do not own their sweetness any more. But still when they are here it's like I've remembered to put slippers and a bathrobe on after sitting at a cold kitchen counter for hours. Some part of me just wants to hum. Like Winnie-the-Pooh with honey.

I had been dying to have children all my life. I worried I wouldn't be able to, maybe because it was so important to me. I remember to this day my first ultrasound. I didn't know what was going to happen - I had no idea you could hear a baby's heartbeat at 10 weeks of pregnancy. I remember looking at my 30-year old belly. The gel they put on you so they can use the ultrasound wand is chilly. And the OB squooging the wand around. I didn't know it, but he was searching for the heartbeat. Good thing I didn't know it or I would have been terrified since I was terrified of everything during pregnancy that might have meant there was a problem.

The sounds at first are like the soundtrack of a submarine movie. All gurgle and swoosh. Then suddenly and quietly you hear the very quick thump thump thump. Almost closer to a pitpitpitpitpitpitpitpit. The OB said, "There it is." And all I could think was, "Oh my god, I'm a mother."

I still think that. And when my son is sleeping in his bed, I get to sit here with a cup of tea and warm my feet at that fire.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ironic Lilly

Over in the preppy blogging circles the girl called "Hopsy" was interviewed on the Martha Stewart show. How cute to see someone so young stand up so self-possessed. Pink and green might not be my aesthetic but young women making their way can wear whatever colors they like and I'm a fan. In honor, here's what I would have worn virutally to watch the show. Of course, the shoes look painful. Couldn't have worn them in real life. But what's the good of suffering the slings and arrows of human existence if you can't pretend now and again? Have a lovely weekend.
Ironic Lily #4
Ironic Lily #4 - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

The Unbearable Import of Shoes and Bags

Shoes and bags are terribly important to High WASPs. You can wear anything as long as you have good shoes and a good bag. Which until recently we called a purse. Sad but true. Not sad about nomenclature, sad about own shallowness. We wish it weren't so, that we were more enlightened. However I am not here to tell the story of who I wish I were. Here are some shoes and bags I would purchase,and carry/wear in full confidence, if the family fortune had not gone the way of the horse and carriage.


Bags: Marc Jacobs, Bottega Veneta, Nancy Gonzalez via Barney's and Saks
Shoes: Ferragamo, Stuart Weitzman, Donald Pliner all via Beren


There are a few salient characteristics. (This is not a test). First, no, or very small logos. Logos are for show-offs. (But we might fall off the wagon and buy Chanel sunglasses for fun). And yes, we are prone to use old-fashioned terms like show-offs. Second, however, and again I regret the shallowness this reveals, all these bags and some of the shoes have discernible brand details for those in the know. We don't want to be showy but we are still prey to the need for social signalling. Third, the shoes are comfortable. I have had more conversations than I like to admit about how the Ferragamo last really is the best thing for narrow feet. Fourth, the bags are large and relatively functional. No fringe to catch in subway doors, no danging charms to snag our cashmere tops, and no oversized chain straps to leave welts on our shoulders.

There are other shoes and bags we would like to purchase, but would avoid.


Tano, Donald Pliner, Nancy Gonzalez, via Neiman Marcus and Beren

Why avoid these things we think are very good-looking? (Good-looking means cool but appropriate in WASP-speak). A yellow purse probably ought to be saved for the beach. Or someplace where you can wear bathing suits to eat food. The lovely purse with coral leaves? Well, we just won't buy enough purses to get around to buying one with coral leaves. We will buy a black one, of course, Then we will have to have brown. Then we might get really wild and get a dark green one. Or navy. But by the time we might have enough required bags that we could justify one with coral leaves we would be too embarassed at the excess to buy it.

The black shoes with the peace sign? I take it back. That we would buy. Especially in the People's Republic of Berkeley.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

High WASP Code of Conduct Redux

east side bride added "A firm handshake" to the High WASP code of conduct. Yes. I think our handshakes get so firm in part because we start shaking hands with adults when we are only six. Six year olds have to shake hands very firmly when their handshake partners are large men or their little handies will get crushed.

My sister added, in an email to me, "Never complain." However, as long as you complain in a very ironic manner and don't use "lay" for "lie" or "I" for "me", it's probably OK. My sister also told me I spelled tableclothes wrong. It's tablecloths. My sister is a good egg. That's the kind of thing High WASPs used to say.

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I May Need Help

I went shopping yesterday. For clothing. This is an unusual happening. I haven't shopped for clothes in ages except my sortie to Target, which was really more for existential dislocation than purchase. And I haven't shopped for clothes that weren't work clothes in centuries. But I went out for drinks with some of my colleagues from my misplaced job, and I saw one of them looking at me oddly. "What," I said, "You are amazed at my wildly stylish look and the depths to which I have sunk?" "Something like that," he said.

Below is what I was wearing. Yes, really. Notice the High WASP behavior in which you just always wear the same jewelry and carry the same "good" bag.

Really, What Would Your Mother Say?
Really, What Would Your Mother Say? - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

These are clothes that belonged to my kids and even my kids had the good sense to leave behind. Honestly, my mother would never recover if she knew I left the house like that. My mother is a good woman. She wouldn't judge me. But some part of her would wonder what she had done wrong. Or whether I had some terrible sorrow I wasn't telling her about. And, more pratically, since I cannot live forever on cute photos of my son eating baby sweet potatoes and the sight of my garden out my back window, I will need to return to work. And let's just say that if I were to meet someone as I walked around wearing those clothes, the likelihood that anyone in a position to hire me would be favorably swayed approaches zero. So. I went shopping.

Most importantly I needed shoes. But here's the problem. High WASPs don't want to wear uncomfortable shoes. Actually, they won't do it unless they are winning an award or something. There is no point in my going all Stacy and Clinton and getting myself a cute green jacket and some wacky pumps because I won't put them on. My goal here was only to find some things comfortable enough to put them on and respectable enough that I don't have to duck into a doorway should I spot someone I might know in a professional context. That's it. That's all I have to do. So I got shoes. Then I went to Banana Republic and got pants. I might also go to Levi's and get some boyfriend jeans.

But Naturalizers?

At Least When You Leave the House...
At Least When You Leave the House... - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

And then, even if the above is OK, then what on earth do I wear to replace my son's Santa Barbara Surf Shop sweatshirt? Jeans jacket? Too butch. Cardigan? Whatever it is has to be of throw in the washing machine caliber. Hoodie? People I am 52 years old, despite any delusions of indie hip I may cultivate. Lordy lordy lordy I may have to go back to the mall twice in one week. Save me.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ironic Crafts - Tea Cozies Redux

OMG. Someone else was overwhelmed by the thought of tea cozies for rocks. She, however, persevered.




design*sponge

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Ironic Crafts - Make Your Own Teabags

This DIY project over on merriment design, via EAD, where you make tea bags, (you know, tea bags) reminded me of a cooking moment I had once. It was for the Field of Greens cookbook, an delicious but elaborate vegetarian set of recipes, by Deborah Madison of, yes, Greens restaurant in San Francisco. The recipe had artichokes in it. There was an elaborate (surprise) set of instructions on washing and cutting and chopping and scraping 12 whole artichokes. I assumed when I started down the recipe path that I was going to wind up with some architectural construction of artichokes with leaves all lovely etc. So I washed and chopped and sliced and scraped. I sustained injuries. Artichokes are really a fancy kind of thistle and they have some serious prickles. At the end of all this, I had, ta-da! - artichoke hearts. Yeah, the kind that come in all sorts of jars and cans. I cursed. I bled. And then I cursed some more.

I am unlikely to make my own teabags. Or any for you. Sorry.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

The High WASP Code of Conduct

High WASPs may or may not be religious. They may or may not have attended an Ivy League college. They may or may not live in a large house with stables out back. But they all subscribe to the High WASP code of conduct. You learn tenets of the code as you grow up, starting as a very young child, and continuing throughout your life.

Note that this is a draft. My sister hasn’t confirmed yet that I have this right. Others may also have ideas. High WASPs believe in the civil exchange of opposing opinions.


The High WASP Code of Conduct

1. Look people in the eye when you shake hands.


2. Stand up straight. High WASPs are obsessed with posture.


3. Do what you said you would do. Including show up on time. Two minutes early is even better.


4. Assume that others will behave as you behave. That others also know the rules. Play by the rules.


5. Speak about others only as you are prepared to have them speak about you. Never ever try to make anyone feel bad.


6. Vote and give to charitable causes.


7. Use your good silver and linen tablecloths as often as you can.


8. When you are beaten, or badly treated, forgive when possible rather than seek revenge. Revenge is childish.


9. Bad taste, vulgarity, and ostentation, however, are most difficult to forgive. This will make #5 a very difficult tenet to adhere to.


10. Send sincere, thoughtful condolences in the event of death.


11. Always, always remember: A simple thank you will suffice.

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On What Counts As "Over The Top"

I should tell you my father only likes German opera. He thinks Italian opera is too emotional. He will not even countenance American musical theater. My father's older cousin, and therefore something like my once-removed or my second cousin, I never did figure all that out, loved New Mexico. Except it was all a little too "ranchero" for him.

This should explain some things.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nah, It Wouldn't Have Helped

On second thought, there is probably nothing I could do to rescue my gardening self from witchhood. Since I am sure I would still grab one of my son's t-shirts. And probably one of the Volcom caps he left behind on the shelf in the hall closet. And would still forget to tweeze my chin. Yeah, I know, really gross. My apologies. I do love these sunglasses though.

Ironic Lily #3
Ironic Lily #3 - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

Clearly I Should Have Worn Lilly

A few weeks ago I was gardening. That’s a fancy word for pulling plants out of the ground that I don’t like, especially when they are next to plants I do like. I noticed a large area of the garden that could use mulch. And I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if relationships were like gardening? Like the time I drank too much and made inappropriate comments to my son about his grades, wouldn’t it have been great if I could have just cut that puppy back and then covered it with mulch?

But that wasn’t my serious thought. I was gardening wearing my son’s sweatshirt. My hair was dirty. My face had various smudges all over it. I hadn’t tweezed my chin. (Gross, huh?)

So the neighbor’s cute little girl, maybe 4 years old, was outside. I waved at her. She sort of waved back. This was my serious thought. It occurred to me that this is how the stories of witches were born. Middle aged women doing tasks without regard to how they look. But boy dirt smells good in Northern California when the sun comes out in early spring. Since early spring starts, well, early here.

Clearly I should have worn Lilly.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Godzilla Meets Mothra: Lilly Pulitzer and Martha Stewart

A big day is coming. Lilly Pulitzer (represented by a person I assume as opposed to a pair of green pants) and Martha Stewart will be on TV together. Lots of people are excited. It's like Godzilla meets Mothra, Shiva meets Hera, or Mr. Big meets Mr. Darcy. Well, not really. I am amusing myself. Nothing wrong with brand loyalty - it's the Holy Grail in this day and age.

So Lilly Pulitzer was once an iconic High WASP brand. But as the High WASPs have splintered into subcategories, and post-modernism has entered the picture, many High WASPs might now disdain these clothes. This is unecessary. With a little irony, High WASPs can wear Lilly, even downtown. As she says, have their demure with a small side of badass.

The cheaters' way to do this is to add a motorcycle jacket, high white patent pumps, and a white Chanel watch. Anything can be post-modern if you wear a biker jacket AND white pumps. Lilly pants here are just an ironic comment.
Ironic Lily #2
Ironic Lily #2 - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

For the advanced user, the set below combines more Lily items - the pants, the shirt, and the elephant necklace. The subtle reference to East Asia in the post-modern era brings colonialism quietly to the back of our minds. This is appropriate. The gladiator sandals are there as a signature fashion item of the 2000's, juxtaposed with the headband and other artifacts of the High WASP's former dominance.
Ironic Lily #1
Ironic Lily #1 - by High WASP on Polyvore.com

Again, what I say is true. I am still unclear as to whether it matters.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mac and Cheese

The good thing about making macaroni and cheese is that absolutely no chopping is required. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there's the grating, but that's nothing compared to the requirements of chopping. Think about it.

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In Memory

Someone in my extended family died two nights ago. In the middle of the night. My daughter texted me to tell me. It was not a surprise, one of the illnesses that takes people but gives notice. However, he was young. 44, I think. No kids, but had a wife. Those are always the first questions - who did he leave behind?

I will not be going to the funeral, but my kids are. I took care of the logistics yesterday. And I cried, on and off. Sometime I just cried, really without thought, only the feeling of sadness. But I can only go without thought for a very short period of time.

So I thought about sadness. And death. I felt two kinds of sadness. One, painful, if only, I wish I had...One, sweeter but just as sad if not sadder, oh, his self has left the earth, and his self was a pleasure. And it's gone.

Maybe this gives me a way to see my own future death, which I am so afraid of. Make sure I know who I leave behind and that they will be OK despite their sadness. Make sure to keep the if only to a minimum. I have always said that I only regret what I don't do. And then, in the face of the sadness of my self has left the earth, what are the sweet things that I will cry never to see again. There are so many. It's not the things in themselves, it's the experience of encountering them. I will be just as sad never to see the red brake lights of cars ahead of me in a rainstorm, as I will be never to feel my fingers on my skin when I touch my own face, as I will be never to pour hot water into my teacup in the morning.

That problem no thought can solve.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Long Drive Back from My Mom's House

Driving back from Santa Barbara I mostly noticed the music. In that vast middle area of California there aren’t a lot of radio stations. Those stations you can find seem to be either Christian or Spanish. Of course, some may be both, but since Jesus is a fairly common Hispanic name and I don’t speak Spanish I couldn’t tell. I could however tell when one of the Spanish stations was advertising a restaurant. Being from California I know the Spanish names of common Mexican/Salvadoran/Guatemalan/CalMex food items. So when the DJ started saying Carne Asada, Ensalata, Chile Rellenos, plus words that even I recognized as numbers at first for a brief moment I felt like it was a station for Spanish-illiterate people so they could hear some words they knew – then I realized I was being ridiculous and he was just reading the menu. But it’s not always easy to be rational in the third hour of a five hour drive by yourself along largely flat roads, accompanied only by passing oil rigs and cattle.

I should point out, I am an atheist.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Long Drive to My Mom's House

A few weekends ago I drove down to Santa Barbara. I should explain that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes known as Silicon Valley, at least my part of it is. I drove down to Santa Barbara to visit my mother and her husband. By myself. It takes about 5 hours given the speed at which I tend to drive, i.e. fast enough to get there while fingers are crossed avoiding black and white cars that stop you and hand you pieces of paper that mean you have to take tests on the Internet and pay money to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I took 101. As those of us in California know, that’s the freeway that goes from the top to the bottom of our rather large state. As those of us in California also know, in Northern California we call it 101. In Southern California, they call it THE 101. I have now given you the ultimate weapon should you ever want to appear cool to a Californian – i.e. simply that you know that the top half of the state uses different terminology than the bottom half of the state for our many big fast roads.

As those of us in California also know, the area south of San Jose and north of Santa Barbara doesn’t bear much resemblance to the California one might see on TV. Few starlets. Few Internet millionaires. Far more cows than you might expect. This is the area I am talking about.



You will notice there is a town called Greenfield. This is not an accident. The drive from Silicon Valley to Santa Barbara, then, is a palimpsest (big word of the day meaning layers of painted history) of California from the present, to the past, and back. As follows:

+ Earth-toned tract homes (High WASPs don't like the term home meaning house but it is just too prevalent in this world to avoid it)
+ Large outlet malls selling clothes named after male golf players (where is the Michelle Wie line of clothing I wonder?)
+ Home-made garlic product stores with handpainted signs advising that cherries too can be found there
+ A concrete culvert, full of recent rain, recovering from an urban dream and harboring new low pale green marsh grass and two white egrets
+ Broccoli
+ More broccoli
+ Yet more broccoli, this time fronted by a 16 foot high cut out painted sign of a farmer, and words that say, “Now Growing – Broccoli”
+ Latin-inspired colored tract homes (this is how you know you are approaching Southern California, granite colored stucco is replaced by coral)
+ Large outlet malls

And so on – until you run into the ocean and then all bets are off.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ironic Crafts - Wedding Program

Among the many wedding bloggers I really enjoy is a blogger from the UK. She goes by Eli and Me, the name of her blog is Mother and Bride. I actually found her when I was looking for someone who was a mother of a bride to follow, so I could vicariously enjoy in advance what I expect to go through when my beloved daughter eventually gets married. Instead I found a British mother of a little boy preparing to get married herself.

Anyway, she posted recently that she looks forward to starting to craft. Programs are among her proposed projects. She writes, "And if a project can't be done whilst drinking wine and enjoying the company, it never even gets started."

I can just IMAGINE what lovely handmade programs would look like were I in charge, drinking wine, and crafting away, and drinking wine...





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Job Misplacement = Anxiety

When I first misplaced my job, I was secretly thrilled. At least during those moments when I could put aside the fear of dying homeless in my later years and sleeping under a freeway. I was thrilled because I so looked forward to sitting on my sofa for long, undisturbed stretches of time.

But now that I am actually here there is a small problem.

I might become part of the sofa. I might one day be unable to get up. Being unemployed means no structure to the day. No structure means stretching into endlessness. Unfortunately, this makes me feel like I might be dying. Now I am not in any kind of clinical state, so I don’t actually THINK I am dying. But a nameless dread starts to fill my being. I might just sit here on the sofa forever.

As a result, I am inventing myself the job of being unemployed. As in, sophisticated decision-making processes around how many pieces of toast to have. As in, deadlines for when I will exercise, when I will pay my bills. Arbitrary schedules for random but required tasks.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

High WASP x People's Republic of Berkeley

Had a conversation with my sister today. She said she thought that there were sub-groups of WASPs. Yes, I said, exactly what I was thinking! She said, our family isn't Southern golf-playing WASPs or even New England thrifty WASPs. Actually, I said, you are sort of High WASP meets People's Republic of Berkeley. Yes, she said, I am a hippie intellectual WASP. But, I said, the WASPs in Palo Alto (another Bay Area suburb in case you aren't familiar with our area) are also sort of hippie intellectual, but different. Yes, she said, they have more money. They have good cars. They care more about the environment, we care more about poverty.

My sister said, it's almost a diaspora of WASPs. She pronounced the word correctly. Yes, I said, exactly what I was thinking! Except I didn't know how to pronounce the word. However, she said, diaspora is largely used in another context. So the word needs to be used carefully. My sister meant that when you come from a background of privilege, you really don't get to coopt certain terms. She's right. That's part of post-modern High WASPism. Of liberal North California High WASPism. You know your ancestors exploited all kinds of people. You applaud the flood of ethnic and economic and class diversity across America. You are very careful not to speak openly (except in the privacy of the entire Internet of course) about the privilege you have experienced. But even so you do feel wistful about your childhood, because, after all, as a child you only knew that it was your mom and your dad and your brother and your sisters and your house.

Even if everyone was blond. And the house was, well, big.

So we will just say that sub-species have developed. Originally, high WASPs came from Boston, New York, or Philadelphia. And the distinction between the three cities mattered. Now the WASP archetype seems to have devolved into relative - although fun - trivia. Where to buy cute pink and green picture frames? Should a man wear a faded red sports jacket and call it chambray? Is that the end of the discussion? Does it matter if it is? And what are high WASPs like in Chicago? In St. Louis? In Charleston? In Cleveland?

What I am saying is true. I just can't tell if it matters.

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