Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday roundup

Civil society must step up (and has). [Here, I am an accidental hypocrite; I have yet to make a march--always some personal issue or poor planning. But I communicate with my elected representatives and donate.]

Let the unraveling of this disastrous executive order be the beginning of the end. Not that hard when the other side is more interested in symbolism than reality:
“It’s symbolic of greater security and greater control,” Ayres said. “If he gets part of a wall built and Congress has to pay for it, the response from his supporters will be, ‘Well, we didn’t get Mexico to pay for it but at least we got the wall.’ ”
And Judd Gregg, a former Republican governor and senator from New Hampshire, said that for Trump supporters, concrete changes may be beside the point, at least initially.

“They’re more interested in the verbal jockeying and the confrontational verbal approach than the results,” he said. “So as long as he’s poking a stick in the eye of the people his constituency feels are a problem, the rest won’t matter.”
The end, also, of insulting the memories of people who have died for their country; national self-sabotage; and international cruelty.

On gaslighting.

Rebecca Traister's approach to intersectionality and the opposition movement is the most articulate I've seen:
If there was an over-representation of “nice white ladies” marching, it’s important to note that those white women were showing up for a march led by nonwhite women, in support of a radical and intersectional set of policy principles laid out by nonwhite women, carrying signs and marching in solidarity with plenty of women’s issues that do not center on white women. No, we shouldn’t give them too much credit for showing up where they should have been for years. And yes, the next steps must include white women (and men) showing up for women of color in other ways, at other demonstrations and with other actions (including not voting with an eye to their own privilege).
The Post's attempted normalization of drunk driving would be enough to turn me conservative (except it's not):
“My wife is not a criminal,” said Jimenez, calling his wife’s arrest “something that can happen to anybody.”
I can give you two examples in less than three months of times I either opted out of another drink because I was driving or didn't go somewhere spontaneously (i.e., last night's Dulles protest once I found out about it) because I'd had a drink or two. Personal responsibility, matters.

Portico on Wednesday said it had rewritten its code almost immediately after the issue was raised by Ms. Thorp, dropping the heel requirement, among others. Its old code had warned employees against such things as greasy or highly gelled hair or wearing flowers as accessories. It had also called for heel height to be two to four inches and for makeup to be “worn at all times” and “regularly reapplied,” with a minimum of lipstick, mascara and eye shadow.
A generally good column.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saturday roundup

Yes, things can get worse.

The dossier story is bananas.

Of course the women's march was going to be complicated, and of course (some) men were going to take issue about it not being about them.
It seems likely to me that many women have taken this march as a rare opportunity to devote no thought whatsoever to what men might, or might not, decide to do. It’s also interesting to see a relative lack of male enthusiasm interpreted as a problem that falls on women. Women have spent centuries being coerced and socialized into showing support for “men’s issues”—thus, directly to our detriment, the election of soon-to-be-President Trump.
I'm not usually a fan of Adam Gopnik's writing but when he's right he's right.

We have a whole other set of big, big problems if the POTUS is targeting businesses who won't give his family freebies and omg:
But after The Washington Post contacted the PR representative, Kelly received ominous messages from her client, who had first put her in touch with Maples’s camp. “You are messing with the president of the United States,” the Maples contact wrote her, adding that Maples was worried about her financial situation with Tiffany out of college, ending child-support payments from the president-elect. “She is used to a certain lifestyle and you don’t understand that.”
No, Cory Booker did not sell you out to Big Pharma.

From this long read on neanderthals, I appreciated this:
It was the day of the Brexit vote. After re-emerging from the cave with Finlayson, I would spend the rest of the afternoon rejiggering my travel plans in a mild panic, trying to catch a ride out of Gibraltar and into Spain that night, so that if the Spanish exacted a retaliatory border-clogging after the results were announced, I could still make my flight home from Malaga the next day. I won’t describe the scenes I saw that morning — the blankness on people’s faces at the airport, phone calls I overheard — except to say that when I woke up on Nov. 9, after our own election, I felt equipped with at least a faint frame of reference. Reality seemed heightened and a little dangerous, because for so many people, including me, it had broken away from our expectations. We had misunderstood the present in the same way archaeologists can misunderstand the past. What was possible was suddenly exposed as grossly insufficient, because, to borrow Finlayson’s metaphor, we never imagined that the few jigsaw puzzle pieces we based it on constituted such a tiny part of the whole. 
Don't take health and/or beauty advice from Gwyneth Paltrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

An epiphany over mom's jewelry

I had another epiphany about my family dynamics.

I was awkwardly telling someone about how my dad asked me to take my mom's awful costume jewelry. We were talking about jewelry in general, and this person didn't know anything about my mother--I only said that she was very ill, which made it al the more awkward to talk about her terrible taste in jewelry. It was fine, but in retrospect I might have said that my mother and I have very different tastes in jewelry.

Our very different tastes in jewelry very much reflect who we (each) are: my mother chose large, statement pieces, whereas I prefer subtle jewelry that enhances my overall look. I like to wear jewelry and clothes, and thought that my mother went for jewelry (and clothes) that wore her. She didn't hesitate to tell me that I had terrible taste, that my choices were insufficiently loud. In a way, my rejection of her jewelry choices then and my aversion to them now goes beyond aesthetics; it's an aversion to her tastes and to her relentless campaigns to impose her choices on me.

She was the same with food, or, I should say, we are each the same with food. I like for garlic, or any other flavor, to enhance my dish; she seemed to think that the dish should be a vehicle for garlic. She didn't hesitate, on more than one occasion, to interfere with something I was preparing by blatantly adding more garlic against my objections. Similarly, she once ripped lady fingers out of my hands and over-soaked them in coffee--she didn't think I was using enough coffee--to the point where they practically fell apart. That was how she rolled.

Thursday roundup

Poland's democracy was only skin-deep.

RIP Jeremy Stone
“With a free press,” Mr. Stone wrote recently, repeating what his father had told him, “if the government does something wrong, it will become known and the government can fix it. But if something goes wrong with a free press, the country will go straight to hell.”
And Clare Hollingworth.

This is the country I know.
It's good that the women's march has raised intersectionality as an issue (though I agree that finger-wagging isn’t best way to have that conversation), but someone please explain to me how reproductive rights are for well-off white women, as per the article:
For too long, the march organizers said, the women’s rights movement focused on issues that were important to well-off white women, such as the ability to work outside the home and attain the same high-powered positions that men do. But minority women, they said, have had different priorities. Black women who have worked their whole lives as maids might care more about the minimum wage or police brutality than about seeing a woman in the White House. Undocumented immigrant women might care about abortion rights, they said, but not nearly as much as they worry about being deported.

I care about the minimum wage and police brutality, too, but it's insulting to black women who work as maids to assume they don't care about other issues. Presumably, some of these black women have children or relatives in other career fields where equal pay matters. Similarly, who thinks "Well-off white women" have the most to lose in restricting abortion rights? Well-off women (of any race) will always find a way to get an abortion.

Much of these musings about class resonated with me. I, too, grew up among "white ethnics," though my family's circles were more diverse. I'm not sure when exactly my family went from living frugally by necessity to living frugally by choice (or at least habit).

It's always interesting to me when a letter-writer is really far off, as is this misguided women worried about her sister's kitchen reveal party. I had a party to try out my grill. So what?

Fashion is art, and by extension, a political statement.

Yeah, I wouldn't even apologize for not taking dietary advice from obese people (yes, there are obese people in my life who think they are in a position to critique my eating habits).

Sigh. I agree that we have to balance our own sanity with activism
So I don’t read the news as much as I did. I don’t go on social media as much as I used to. I’ve started to retreat inwards. I read books and walk my dog and try to ignore the dumpster fire going on outside, the smell of democracy burning.
but self-care as I define it isn't self-coddling; it's taking care of ourselves because we do everything better--activism included--when we're well. Self-care, then, means eating and sleeping well, exercising, and whatever else it takes to stay strong. It's not some fru-fru "treat yourself to a pedicure and forget don't bother calling your elected representatives."
There's no joy in starving artistry (or writerdom).

I've long written about how food informs who we are, even as it doesn't define us. I, too, couldn't date someone boring enough to prefer boring food. But this piece is terribly written; I hope her food writing is better.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday roundup

The evacuation of forced displacement from Aleppo was a crime against humanity in a series of crimes against humanity.

A correspondent looks back on her 12 years in Africa.

Repatriating kleptocratically gained assets is complicated.

Agrochemical companies try to buy scientists.

And now, the Carolyn roundup:

Eating meat makes one just as complicit in animal cruelty as growing it.

It's never too soon to talk to children about consent and boundaries. You can and should talk to kids about things, including what words mean.

This generally applies to all kinds of decisions,
Spouses are each other’s No. 1 person in day-to-day life, so neither one has any business making decisions that favor a parent without the other’s input, consent and support.
And this applies to all kinds of forgiveness and grudges:
You figure out why the apology wasn’t enough. Then you figure out what would qualify as enough. Then you ask for it — of the offender, if that’s where it needs to originate, or of yourself, if it’s a change that must come from within.
Then, fun part, you learn whether “enough” is possible.
If it turns out not to be, then you make a choice: Keep the anger, or keep the person in your life. It’s not fair to keep clinging to both.
This reminded me of RM.
The whole point of intimacy is that it’s mutual — I give freely, you give freely. The idea that you can breach anyone’s defenses by working angles till they buckle is intrusion plus delusion, not to mention an alert to them to maintain some protective distance between you.
I used to think that having plenty of money would immunize couples against having to fight about it, but I've since learned better (I may have posted this before and mused about how I see no value in living frugally for its own sake; there's a fine line between conspicuous consumption and martyrdom).

I heard echoes of my mother here. I learned years later that the others know (they don't buy her side of the story).

How to handle divisions of labor and requests for help. Pair with this piece on mutual support, which you should in turn pair with these examples of mommyjacking:
Somewhat related and very true:
I haven’t seen any situation end well where half of a couple feels (or continues to feel) entitled to use leverage against the other half.
Two tricky questions, well answered.

Spot on:
The difference is insecurity, which I don’t believe is a personality trait. It’s a fear that you won’t be okay if you don’t get exactly what you want, and frankly that’s a stressful and exhausting way to live. Life doesn’t just serve up what we want. It puts us in situations we can’t control, it introduces us to people who have their own ideas and agendas, it makes us sick or better sometimes on a whim, it subjects us all to temptations and feelings and variables we can’t predict.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


It seems so obvious now, I can't believe I didn't think of it before. I'm so on top of analyzing my own family dynamics and trying to understand how people operate, but I was largely blind to this dynamic in particular. Until today. Maybe because I'd just caught up on months' worth of Carolyn Hax columns (which I've curated for you and will blog about tomorrow); maybe it's because I bitched to Nina this morning on our New Year's walk and she said "yeah that's pretty much my family," and the event that triggered it the night before was so egregious, so obvious. I'd also bitched about it, by text, to the guy I've been dating, and he pointed out that it was part of a pattern before I did.

The dynamic: nobody in my family *listens.* That's part of why there's so much yelling: no one feels heard, because nobody listens. I've known for a while that mom didn't listen, but it's taken mom's being in the nursing home and dad's being the head of the household for me to appreciate the fact that he doesn't listen. I mean, I sort of knew that he didn't listen to mom--because she'd always yelled at him for it--and I wasn't sure I blamed him, or her. I'm not sure which is the chicken or which is the egg or which came first: mom being so bossy that one simply quits paying attention to anything she says, or dad not listening to the point where mom felt the need to go full bossy and constantly tell dad what to do. I know that I have a tendency to see dad's side of things, given what a nightmare mom was in so many ways, but that having to deal with dad as head of household has made me appreciate mom's point of view.

The data points: I've found dad to be super stubborn about low-risk, non-issue things where anyone else would just *listen.* For example, last night he wouldn't refrigerate the champagne we would bring to Nina's parents'. He said he'd stick it outside, except he didn't. But he could have just stuck it in the fridge when I suggested it and he wouldn't have had to remember to stick it outside. But my whole family has a tendency to resist when someone else tells them what to do. I can understand that for more complicated things, but not for chilling champagne and such.

More explanation: Mom loves (loved?) to boss people around. It's what she did. As you know, she liked to tell me in what order to eat the food on my plate. No decision was too personal for her not to feel like she should be the one to make it for me. When I was little, mom would make a mess of coupons and circulars--maybe even newspaper sections--on the floor. She'd go through them and just throw them on the floor. And then order me to drop what I was doing and pick them up. And I'd tell her I was in the middle of something and would pick them up when I was done, and she'd get mad that I didn't drop everything and pick them up and I'd ask her why she couldn't throw things straight into a paper bag for recycling. And the answer--which she of course did not provide--was because she enjoyed telling me what to do.

I found this unacceptable and refused to do it. Dad pretty much also just wouldn't do anything mom said, even when it made sense. Again, I don't know if dad was just always like this or if it was his resistance to mom's overbearingness.

I am not my mother--I make a point of not being my mother--and I *don't* like to boss people around. I do ask people to do things as appropriate. For example, I would ask my former roommate to clean out the crumb tray under the toaster oven and toss anything with food scraps only into the covered trash can. I would explain that these actions would help us prevent cockroaches. And I would get very, very annoyed that he didn't do these things, that he would go about as if these conversations never happened. My point: I don't tell people what to do so I can feel like the boss or so that I can hear the sound of my own voice; I tell people what to do when appropriate. When there's a good reason. And therefore, I expect people to listen. And I get angry when they don't.

I've told you about the times I've yelled at my dad--it's in instances of abject not listening, where there could have been very real consequences to not listening. The time when he wouldn't get the fuck away from the car I was parking on ice, and I was afraid I'd lose control of it. I yelled at him to get away from the car; he yelled at me to stop yelling. I yell when I feel like I really need someone to do something now; when inside voices just won't do. When I fucking mean it. So fucking do it.

Meanwhile, my dad--like my mom--responds to being told what to do by refusing to do it, no matter how much it makes sense. I don't know if it's a post-Soviet resistance to authority thing or if it's just them, but--CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS JUST HIT ME TODAY--they both respond with defiance to polite requests as well as to panicked orders. It does not cross their mind that maybe there's logic behind their request; their gut reaction is "someone is telling me what to do so I'm going to not do it."

Naturally, the response of the person doing the asking/telling is yelling.

I don't yell easily, but I yell when I feel like I'm not being listened to and--because I wouldn't be telling you what to do if I didn't have a good reason--you need to be listening. The respect issues are clearly there--not listening is a passive-aggressive way of showing disrespect--but really, I feel like something real is at stake and on a gut level, I need the other person to act on what I'm saying.

So tonight, we were not far from home on the way back from the nursing home when Nina texted to say that she'd retrieved my dad's hat from her parents' (where we celebrated New Year's last night) and had brought it to her airbnb, not far from where we were. So I said to dad, "Nina has your hat, let's go get it. Keep going straight."

At which point, dad turns left.

Dad: Getting the hat.
A.: I said go straight! Nina's that way.
Dad: Oh, that Nina. I didn't know. Why are you yelling.
A. Because you don't listen. I said go straight.
Dad: I didn't realize.
A.: But I said go straight.
Dad: You shouldn't yell at me.
A. :You should listen to me.
Dad: You shouldn't yell.
A.: You should listen.

We were both right.