June 29, 2006

Up, Up and Away

My Feminist Hackles, That Is.

I have had it with superhero movies.

I know I’ve floated this theme before, so forgive me if I repeat myself, but how does Hollywood keep getting away with portraying females in action films in such an unflattering light? I don’t mean unattractive, because yeah, that woman standing around screaming while the men go kick some alien / evil being / mutant ass? She’s hot. But why in hell can’t she shut up, pick up a two-by-four, and make with the shit-kicking? The current bubble in my bloodstream on the topic: Spiderman II.

I have never seen either one of the Spiderman movies in its entirety, but what I have seen while passing through my living room leads me to believe that the plot is somehow centered on Kirsten Dunst’s inability to remove her clothes before showering. I have witnessed no less than two twenty-minute scenes where Ms. Dunst, clad in a thin cotton outfit, is soaked from head to toe in what I can confidently affirm to be cold water, sans adequate shelf support (which, fine; I’m not happy, but I’m hardly shocked). The latter of the two movies, in its endless ‘showdown’ sequence, features the Spidey, Doc-Oc and Her Dampness locked in battle—or rather, those possessed of sensible body weights are locked in battle; the other is whipped through both air and water, gravity her only ostensible opponent (perhaps also Hair and Makeup). Her main purpose in this scene, rather than to aid the guy trying to save her wee hiney kick some Doc-Oc ass, is to stand around, shrieking to beat the band, and being wetly ineffectual. In heels. She does get her one obligatory ‘sidekick’ hit in, though, before Doc-Oc backslaps her milky-whiteness back against the hostage wall [read: kitchen]. Again, nothing I haven’t seen before.

Post-fray, the hero and… MJ... have a little chat, the thrust of which is that Spiders and Cram-ity Jane would never work out, in his opinion. “You and I can never be.” [Together. Can never be together. I know it’s sad that she’s such a toothless whelp that you guys can’t date, but there’s no need to dangle your verb forms about it. I heart you, Tobey Maguire, so don’t make me come over there.] Basically, they are doomed because he can’t triumph over evil while she’s walking around with ‘BAIT’ stamped on her forehead, her only superpowers—being shrill, large-breasted and generally annoying—are ill-suited to shielding her from potential danger. True to form, and basically affirming his argument, she cries meekly (but prettily) and returns to her fiancé.

Now, I understand where he’s coming from: he’s a superhero, and pretty much infallible with them superpowers, up until the point where he has human flaws. Every mortal he loves becomes a liability, as they could be used against him by the villain du jour. True. But, dude? That’s true of everybody. And I know it’s particularly harsh because his G-rents got iced in the last movie but… they were old. They were hardly in a position to defend themselves. And in a bildungs-roman, the Mentors must die so the Heroes can mature and face the Ultimate Evil, so really it was necessary to the narrative that they kicked off. There is nothing complementary to the narrative about Mary Jane’s having the self-defense capacity of a newborn kitten, other than to have Spider-Man save her soggy ass over and over again. It’s not only degrading to her, but a little tedious—especially since, with those calories he could save putting MJ behind a beam so she doesn’t get her pretty face torn off, the Boss might not even have got a hit in. So I understand his frustration and, in light of her general character, his conclusion.

However…

If I were told that I couldn’t date a superhero because the bad guys would see me as a prime hostage opportunity, I don’t think I’d cry about it. I think, rather, I would hit JoAnn’s for some neon-green lycra, fashion an aerodynamic helmet of some sort and take some judo or kickboxing classes until I was, by all standards, a lethal adversary to any potential enemy. Then I would brainstorm a few cutesy-yet- killer names, like Aphidia or Krikket or Praying Mantress, tailor my togs accordingly, and spend nights fighting street crime while waiting for DC and Marvel to start the bidding wars. Just because you don’t have supernatural powers doesn’t mean you can’t be a considerable threat, much less unable to defend yourself.

By sobbing at the injustice of it all rather than picking up a freaking spear, Mary Jane is selling herself too short; she’s got plenty to work with. A woman made almost entirely of right angles should have no trouble impaling a few minions on her way to help Spiders out of a tight spot with the Big Boss (not that that would be her main function, mind you, but any punch is a plus in a fight), and her disarming looks would be considerably useful, when taken literally. Consider too that Spiderman is one of the wussiest superheroes of all time—he’s a spider. He shoots webs. If that’s not the bottom of the superpower barrel, then I don’t know what is (OK, I exaggerate; but it’s only marginally better than the Lasso of Truth). The latest incarnation really did a lot with a little, and one of the major difference between Maguire’s Spidey and the classic flavor? They made him ripped. He has formidable muscle tone. And he needs it, not least of which to fight people who have read the old comics and rightly assume he’s a total dork who regularly uses the word “tingling.” Can’t we get just a little love for the lady? There’s no reason for a superhero’s love interest to get slapped around other than to show the audience that the bad guy is ‘really bad’, which, having seen movies before, we already got from frame one.

Also, as much as I love to see a movie where the woman brings crazy-mad intelligence to the team, I don’t believe that necessarily delegates her to lookout post when the combat comes down. Ditto for feminine super-skill sets like healing, mind-reading, or talking to animals; all valuable in their turn, but of very little use when the poison hits the water supply. In movies of this ilk, the heroes must go through both ‘plan’ mode and ‘action’ mode, and it’s ridiculous that we have to divide into girls’ and boys’ teams—the women to do the lab work and deep thinking, and the men on pummel and destroy detail. I doubt this would happen in real life; given her druthers, any level-headed sister I know would not truck with the ‘stay here and answer the phone, Uhura’ bullshit—she would be all up in the fray like Shiva on a bender.

I hold out very little hope for the new Superman for this very reason… especially in light of the casting choice of Lois Lane. Ms. Lane was a hardened, chain-smoking cynic, and a solid career woman (hi, Margot Kidder!). Miss Bosworth, I have my eye on you. You can be a hero, or you can be Sailor Moon. I really hope it’s the former.

June 26, 2006

I Think I'll Pass

Little kids are fascinated by my single status. Especially little girls, which is sad, because when I was little I don’t recall giving a fig who was married to whom, and if or why not they ever would be married; I took adults as they came. So I don’t see why little girls should feel the need for the Spanish Inquisition (I wasn’t expecting it, natch) when confronted with my singlehood. Particularly exhausting is the fact that they will not accept ‘I don’t have a boyfriend because I don’t want one’ as a plausible answer. Blame cartoons, or Hollywood—or the history of the world in general—but being single by choice is incomprehensible to children; you might as well tell them you live on the moon. And it’s not like I can explain my position fully, because I’m sitting right next to her mother, and if I go off on any sort of feminist ‘marriage-is-misogynistic-slavery’ diatribe someone is going to take offense. I’d like to answer the question honestly, but I can’t make her understand; introducing a contrary viewpoint would confuse her, thereby making more work in the reprogramming department for her mother, thereby making my life unmitigated hell. So whatta ya gonna do?

Luckily, kids also don’t understand sarcasm.

SCENE: Dinner, last night, at local pizza joint

Dramatis Personae:

GRAMA: My grandmother; Aunt Mary’s mother
AUNT MARY: Emily’s mother
EMILY: Precocious five-year-old
ME: Unwitting victim

EMILY: Do you have a boyfriend?

ME: Nope.

EMILY: Why not?

ME: Because I don’t want one, Em. Boys are too much work.

EMILY: I think you need to have one.

ME: It seems to be the general consensus, yeah.

EMILY: I could get one for you.

ME: Well, thanks, but I’m good.

EMILY: You could have Derek. He can drive.

ME: Derek who?

AUNT MARY: One of her cousins.

ME: Well, that’s keeping it in the family.

AUNT MARY: It’s one of her Dad’s cousins.

ME: Do people still marry second cousins? I thought that went out with syphilis.

AUNT MARY: She doesn’t seem to think so.

EMILY: He doesn’t have his own car, though. It’s his Mom’s.

ME: Um… how old is this kid?

AUNT MARY: (barely containing her giggles) Sixteen.

ME: Oh, good. I was worried there for a minute.

EMILY: But you guys could still get married. And then you could be his wife.

ME: Hooray.

EMILY: And you could move to Milford and live there and we could play sometimes.

ME: (containing a shudder with a face like I’m passing a stone) Fun!

EMILY: You’ve lived here a long time—maybe you should just live here in the summertime, and then live there for wintertime.

ME: What about my job? I have a job here.

EMILY: You only have to work it for when you’re here.

ME: Uh-huh. And who pays for my food and my car, then?

EMILY: Mom will.

ME: (to AM) Don’t worry; I’m sure my intended has a paper route or something.

EMILY: So there we go. You can marry him.

ME: Perfect. Except that I’d be spending the honeymoon in jail.

[GRAMA does spit take onto AUNT MARY’S shirt]

EMILY: And you could baby-sit me, because I hate my babysitter now.

ME: (over shoulder) Any chance the building’s on fire?

EMILY: Then you could sleep over, or you could go back to his house and live with his Mom and Dad.

ME: Why not? I bet his Mom and I are the same age.

EMILY: You could come to our house for Christmas.

ME: Fantastic. I’ll bring a football and a pre-nup.

GRAMA: You have to stop talking. I want to eat my food now, and I don’t want to choke to death.

ME: Gram—we’re planning my future happiness.

GRAMA: Well, do it after dinner.

EMILY: We’re done now, Gram. You can eat. They’re getting married.

ME: Champagne, anyone?

AUNT MARY: I think you might need a martini.

ME: I shouldn’t; I don’t want his parents to think I’m a drunk.

GRAMA: I’m gonna starve to death.

ME: I’m done. I wouldn’t have thought I was old enough to be Mrs. Robinson. Thanks, Em.

EMILY: You’re welcome. Can I have some more of your chicken?

June 21, 2006

Dead People Are Scary

Today it happened that, after about ten minutes of link jumping, I came upon a site called rotten.com (which I will not link, for reasons that will become rapidly apparent), which achieved fame as the source of the evergreen barfing-pumpkin photo that inevitably appears in my inbox in the weeks preceding Halloween. It turns out they do not specialize in off-color pictures of vomiting gourds, but rather, pictures of any subject running the gamut from off-color to depraved, usually middling around revolting. Because that’s entertainment, or something. (I realize these are relative terms, so to give some perspective, I’ll mark the ‘vegetables in various orifices’ series as off-color, whereas the ‘mutilated corpses of people who got hit by trains’ as depraved, just so’s you can establish a frame of reference.) Now, I understand that the internet is protected by the first amendment, and I can click ‘close’ at any time if I am offended (which I totally was, being sane). What I don’t get it how people can look at pictures of dead, butchered, murdered, or otherwise un-living persons and not lose whatever meal is most chronologically convenient.

Dead people scare me. Because they’re scary. They’re not really people, they just look like people, and we as human beings have a hard time getting our heads around that (the ones that can become doctors and make millions, which I have no qualms about, because if I had to be in the presence of a dead body in any venue other than a funeral parlor I would be found shortly thereafter in a small white room, rocking back and forth, quite possibly unable to return to my former life ever again because dead. People. Are. Scary). I don’t know if it’s the closed eyes / blank stare (equally creepy), or the fact that they’re so still that you can’t get within a foot of them because they ARE GOING TO JUMP UP AND SCARE you and small white room. It’s probably the subconscious fear of death, and being presented with it in such an immediate and paradoxical way (person was alive / is now dead / looks the same as when alive / I’m alive / I’ll look like this when I’m dead / what exactly is death, anyway?) that makes me want to run in the opposite direction with a mighty banshee wail, skin optional, at a Yeager-challenging clip until I reach my childhood bedroom, get under the covers and go wide-eyedly, mutteringly insane.

[Aside: Maintenance is experiencing a difficulty with the fire alarm system; the damn thing keeps going off in my ear every five minutes. Since they’ll never realize that it’s just Peter O’Toole trying to steal the Cellini Venus, I have to take a minute out of my busy life, sneak into his hidey-closet, and selflessly make out with him so we can all get some damn peace and quiet…and I can get a piece O’Toole].

I do, however, get a great deal of enjoyment out of sites like morbidcuriosity.com, which lists the final resting places of many notable dead people. I usually have no trouble with this, as they (as most legends will) have been dead a while, and the only pictures posted are either publicity stills or headstones—plenty respectable. That’s a memorial. It’s a tribute to a person’s life, and an affirmation as to the equality of all human life, i.e. we all gonna die. They do not have, say, morgue photos of bloodied corpses, like a certain other websites prominently feature—and go on in more detail on their sister site, featuring cadavers.

CADAVERS.

I mentioned that I respect doctors. I work with them, and they’re by-and-large a nice bunch of folks, but that’s not why I respect them. It is because of the fact that every one of them, in the course of their medical training, had to do some sort of clinical practice on a dead body. A person who used to be alive, but is dead now. The empty shell of human meat we leave behind. They have to get ALL UP IN THAT SHIT. TO THE ELBOWS [shudder shudder blearg blearg bllaaaaaaar] if necessary, and then not only must they complete whatever ‘procedure' they’re attempting on Dead Fred, but then continue to lead a normal life afterward. I can’t watch an episode of CSI without hovering over the john, maw agape, at least once—because dead people are that scary. So scary they have the power to upset my digestive processes and give me the urge to raalph like a hackneyed pumpkin photo. The only thing scarier than a dead person is, of course, a zombie, because it’s a dead person who walks, and has a 100% better chance of getting close to you with its stenchy deadness. I dunno what it’s going to do when it catches up to you, but it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t make it any less scary.

I’m not a scaredy-cat. It takes a fair bit of eeriness to really rattle me. We just all have our hang-ups (spiders, ghosts, outdated surgical equipment, mannish nurses) that will creep us all the way out to the top of our tree, where no amount of rational conversation will be had until said thing is at a very distant proximity. It’s understandable. It’s human. And I will continue to watch History Channel documentaries of Lincoln and only get one mild ‘heebie’ when they show him lying in state (a much more noticeable ‘jeebie’ is reserved for the Life of Lizze Borden), safe in the knowledge that not only are they not in the room, but they’ve been dead since before color photography was invented, and that takes the creepitude down a notch.

But dead people are still effing scary.

June 20, 2006

Grandpa's Mohawk (what I've been working on)

This poem was under commission from my Grama, and as such, took a lot of time and second-guessing to complete. Caveat: My poetry is not my best feature.

Grandpa's Mohawk

No sound in the kitchen
If one were to listen;
No chit-chat or other such small talk.
It had been stopped in its tracks,
Our ‘gobs’ duly smacked
As Grandpa walked in… with a Mohawk.

We all sat quite still;
There was no telling what ill
Had reduced our poor Gramps to this state.
Disease? Or a clot?
For our Grandpa was not
A man likely to sport a ‘punk’ pate.

Grandma rose, face-to-face,
(We all kept our place;
Post-Shock, she would surely put Fury on).
For how would you feel
Should your mate, once-genteel
Look at once like a Roman centurion?

As Grandma stood there and shook,
He asked her how he looked;
And although she seemed tearful and harried,
She grabbed his cheek in a pinch,
And replied “Every inch
Like the stallion I knew I had married.”

She smiled, and he laughed,
“They’ve both gone daft!”
Was the family’s general consensus.
My thought was, however:
‘They go everywhere together’—
Even (apparently) non compos mentis.

The next year found them changed,
The G-rents acted strange;
The events seem to trace back to that day.
More kisses on lips,
And they went out on trips
To Boston and Chesapeake Bay.

One day it so happened,
As Grandma was nappin’,
I thought maybe Grandpa I’d try.
Not up to the task,
But I just had to ask.
“A Mohawk?! Lord, Grandpa—why?”

He, a smile in his eye,
Said “That morning, she cried,
And said only on my constant appeal:
‘Before the children were grown,
I couldn’t have known
How incredibly old I would feel.’

“So I ran out that day,
And had my hair shaved away.
Although it caused people to gawk,
You should know, for my wife,
Who is my whole life
I would do so much more than a Mohawk.”

Not the madness we’d feared,
But to stop Grandma’s tears
There’s nothing Grandpa would not do.
Looking back, I knew why
There were tears in her eyes,
Because mine were welling up, too.

Now Grandpa is gone,
But Grandma’s life goes on,
And when sadness threatens to upset it
She remembers the day
Her husband’s coif had to say
I love you, so she’d never forget it.

June 14, 2006

Vac You

Happy Birthday to my oldest sister Jen, who is the only family member (that I know of) who reads this. Have a happy one, and move back to MI so I can see the bebbies at my convenience, mmm-kay?

I have to vacuum the apartment tonight, and I am dreading it. I hate most household drudgery: dishes, dusting, tidying, etc, not because I have precious few hours to myself, which I do, but because it seems like life is just too damn short to worry about cleaning up after yourself.* I’m not a huge slob, but I don’t mind a healthy clutter, so long as it doesn’t develop some sort of smell or an insect population. I just hate having to acknowledge my miniscule lifespan and futility of being by washing the remnants of my dinner off of a plate and into a drain. The metaphor is so palpable it hurts me physically. Same with making a bed; you’re just going to be in it again in twelve hours. [Why do we develop daily habits that erase all the evidence that we exist? Won’t that pretty much happen when we kick off? Anyway…] Luckily, I don’t thrash much when I sleep, so I can throw the covers open and closed like a mini-hinge over the passenger side when I get up, and pull them closed at night. I’m a creature of convenience, and as such, hate the act of cleaning.

I do, however, like the feeling of getting things done; I always feel a little lighter after I’ve paid bills or done laundry, knowing that even though it’s a pain, it’s one less damn thing to think about. Also, it allows me to do scut work without ever having to touch anything I might deem ‘icky’. And after Jackie’s recent run in with the Killer Centipede, it occurred to me that my own place could use a little freshening up to discourage multi-legged invaders coming in out of the rain (and into my front room), because really, who needs her Lost rerun interrupted by a poisonous trilobite monching a forgotten Sun Chip? So tonight, I do the vacuuming.

It wouldn’t really be that tough, except you can’t just whip out the Hoover and go to town; it’s a process. You have to pick up all the magazines, papers, free weights, clothing items, DVD towers, plush animals and various other kitschery before you can even plug the thing in, not including the full sweep for the big bits of detritus that are too much for your stone-age piece of crap (how many people have a new vacuum?) to successfully suck up.** Then, and only then, can you move on to the unnecessarily loud BROOOOOOR of annoying stops and starts, switching plugs (with accompanying shocks from the oft-duct-taped cord), the funny warm-carpet-and-old-Cheetos smell, and the perpetual stooping down to throw something over your shoulder and out of your path; with all the preparation, it’s the indoor equivalent of mowing the lawn.

The parallel to lawn-grooming differs, however, when you inevitably roll over something that you weren’t ready to say goodbye to. This usually happens on the nine-hundredth time you’re going over a piece of weightless fluff: a long-forgotten earring will zip out from behind the wainscoting five feet away and straight up into the evil mechanism. Because with a lawn mower, you lose it. It’s gone. You mourn it and move on. With a vacuum, you gasp and swear and ultimately disgorge the contents of the past hour’s worth of work back onto the carpet, because you can’t do this over the trash can, as the precious item will end up in old macaroni at the bottom of the bag. And after all that, you would never believe the number of industrial staples that look exactly—exactly—like my favorite pair of faux-diamond studs. You would believe even less the number of times I have (not) learned this lesson.

Some things, like cleaning the shower or taking out the trash, I can get done two at a time. I can usually list four or five menial tasks in my little Wednesday planner tab, and have a hope / prayer of completing them in the same night. Hell, I can couple a fridge-cleaning with a closet reorganizing if I hustle at the gym. But if you’ve got to vacuum, no matter how seemingly tiny the space, it will be the only thing on the agenda. Oh, you can pretend you’ll be able to empty the dishwasher or, you know, eat—but by the time you make the last pass under the kitchen table and hear the sweet swansong of BROOOouuuuurrr… as you yank the plug out of the wall from across the room, there’s no way anything else is getting done. Because if by some miracle it isn’t twenty minutes to bedtime, you will still be drained of every micro-joule of energy your body once possessed. You will be done. Sapped. Spent. The vacuum will have taken your life force and left you with only a marginally-cleaner carpet and a tingling right hand.

And you still missed that frickin’ Sun Chip under the drapes.

* Only as far as personal cleanliness is concerned; I still recycle, ride buses, and refrain from otherwise pock-marking the ozone layer with my slovenly lifestyle. I consider that more of an investment than a futility, so it doesn’t bug me like Swiffing does.

** And yes, you have to move things, including furniture. This is mainly directed at certain brothers (and other boys) who seem to expect some kind of Good Housekeeping badge for their one-time vacuuming stint, despite leaving a one-inch forcefield of dust around every item resting on the carpet, including shoes.

June 12, 2006

Kaffeeklatsch

CASSIE: Hey, you know what the trivia question should be?

ME: What?

CASSIE: “How many calories are in the Banana Crème Crunch Bar?”

KATE: Oh God. People can’t count that high.

ME: Do we give it to them if they just say ‘billions’? Can we round it?

KATE: … down?

CASSIE: What are the actual numbers, anyway?

KATE: I think they were too afraid to list it on the board.

ME: It just says ‘Higher than the thread count on Oprah’s sheets.’

KATE: What?

CASSIE: Oh, I remember that—the whole audience got those kajillion-count sheets.

ME: It’s good to be Oprah.

KATE: Man, she has more money than the Pope. Do you think she even sleeps on sheets?

ME: Probably not. Probably, like, the skins of a hundred cheetahs.

KATE: Or a hundred blue-footed boobies…

ME: Or a hundred babies…

CASSIE: Eeeew!

ME: Well, she could. She’s rich enough.

KATE: Famous enough.

ME: She’d probably be able to get a fresh batch every night, too.

KATE: Being rich means never having to sleep on the same dead babies twice.

ME: That’s probably the motto of the Rich People Masons.

KATE: Or the Skull and Bones society; I’m pretty sure they’re all rich. And white. And men.

ME: Coincidentally.

CASSIE: Guys, Oprah gives billions to like, Save the Children and African relief and stuff.

ME: Yes she does.

CASSIE: SHE DOES NOT SLEEP ON DEAD BABIES.

KATE: We’re just saying it’s possible. She most likely doesn’t.

ME: Most likely. Or the cheetahs.

KATE: No. She’s anti-fur. I think she’s a Peta member.

ME: Well yeah; because you can’t save the children and not the animals, jeez.

KATE: All the liberal rich people are anti-fur, so they can be icons.

ME: Yeah, the only people wearing fur are like, foreign dignitaries—

KATE: And Jennifer Lopez—

ME: Because nobody’s going to tell them not to.*

KATE: Exactly.

CASSIE: Whatever. Just leave Oprah out of it, OK?

ME: We’re not slamming Oprah; we’re saying that rich people can do mildly eccentric to outright criminal things, because they’re rich and they can. We’re not even talking about Oprah.

KATE: She does have that wicked-high thread count, though.

ME: That’s not all that eccentric; that’s just good, if crazy-expensive, taste.

KATE: You know who does sleep on dead babies, though.

ME: Oh, I know.

CASSIE: Guys…

ME: Rhymes with ‘whore’s tush’.

KATE: Yup. Dead babies all the way.

ME: Dead African babies, no less.

KATE: Metaphorically at least.

ME: At the very least. 20 Billion thread count.

KATE: And wasn’t it nice of us to buy them for him?

ME: Don’t look at me. I ride a bike.

KATE: And I tell you one thing—not everybody in the audience gets one.

ME: Why isn’t Oprah all over this? And why haven’t we elected Barack Obama yet?

KATE: Oprah’s too busy with the book club. And the charities.

ME: Maybe we should call her. Those books kinda suck anyways.

CASSIE: You’re right.

ME: Huh? I thought you were sticking by Oprah.

CASSIE: I am. I meant, they don’t list the Banana Crème Crunch Bar.

KATE: Oh.

ME: Does this feel like a Samuel Beckett play to anyone else?

* Except Paul. I mean, at a Peta convention? That shit is beyond tacky.

June 08, 2006

How Not to Diet

A Very Special Beedoo’s Book Club:

Finished: Conquer Your Food Addiction : The Ehrlich 8-Step Program for Permanent Weight Loss This books sucks. I mean, really sucks. I feel bad saying that, since it took her so long to write it, but this is one of those instances where personal experience does not give you the right to tell other people how to live their lives, even if you are just trying to help. The whole thing just has a defeatist attitude to it—I started seeing food as the enemy where I never had before. She tells you to drink a cup of hot water instead of tea, like, wha? And no lemon, because then it counts as dessert. The HELL?

This is one of those diet books that make fat people decide that weight loss is impossible. I read that and thought “If a lemon is dessert, what the hell is the muffin I had for breakfast?” She makes it so much harder than it is, and it’s not an easy road to begin with. I understand that the book is aimed at an extreme—people who consume food until there is absolutely nothing left—but when those people can’t stop eating, this book would only drag them down.

Particular points I hated:

1. Drink hot water – OK, this is one of those ‘model behaviors’, like socially-acceptable puking and cocaine instead of food, that I find really sickening. If you deprive yourself of a frickin’ teabag because it has three calories, your weight is not your biggest problem.

2. Reminding yourself of your goals with the particular verbiage “I want to weigh ___ pounds.” A lot of diets have failed based on the obsession with the number on the scale, not to mention the number of eating disorders it engenders in people desperate to reach their ‘goal weight’. The book has no such disclaimer, however, since

3. Caryl Erlich is not a doctor. I don’t have a problem with non-professionals writing how-tos, but they should a) acknowledge that they are not, and b) remind us to occasionally visit those who are, especially if we are about to make drastic changes in our diet and exercise regimen. Whether out of ego or ignorance, she does neither, and but for the tiny disclaimer on the copyright page, she would be so sued.

4. “Overheard Conversations” – These little vignettes of non-wisdom are supposed to be… funny? They feature two women in a restaurant, having a conversation about (surprise!) Erlich’s Own Diet and Hating Yourself Plan, rationalizing their breadstick-eating and dessert-splitting ways. The stories don’t have a point, anthropomorphize food as a mustache-twirling villain (not in a good way), and make fun of the dieter. Comedy! Or not.

5. “Leave food on your plate.” CANNOT express how much this pisses me off. Aside from, you know, the people STARVING in third-world countries and all—what kinda morons cook their own food in their own home, then deliberately waste it? This book was written in 2002; I’m pretty sure Tupperware had been invented. Wrap it up and take it for lunch tomorrow. [Not to mention, I dunno--cook less food in the first place? Dry pasta will keep, people.] The only reason to leave or discard food is because you didn’t enjoy it—and even then, give it away. God, it’s so wasteful. Stupid American culture-of-plenty. I can’t believe she wrote that. I’m still all… Oooh! I hate it!

6. “The Program” – Again, can you really call it a weight-loss program if you’re not a doctor? I expected red ‘caveat’ stamps all over this one, but again, if you’re a desperate overeater and picked up this book, you don’t know this lady from Atkins. Lawsuit.

7. She can’t write. She can’t. At all. The sentence structure was confusing; there were tangents and circular reasoning that was really more ovoid in shape and sometimes she’d start a sentence and sort of forget to finish it. Now, she addresses the book to confessed addicts—people who need very little provocation to revert back to old behavior patterns. Know what doesn’t curb a craving? A nice long verb-hunt. Her faux-cheery and condescending tone makes me think she meant it to be plain-spoken, but it ended up more… unbearable. The ‘anecdotes’ portrayed her as shrewish and demanding, and her ‘subjects’ as mindless cattle. And to make matters worse

8. She never shuts up. Seriously. I understand you want to sell a book, and the points you have are fairly easy to convey in a couple of pages, but books cost more, so hey, padding; I just wish the padding weren’t the same words—verbatim—from the previous chapter. She has maybe one or two valid points, which are all but lost when she mixes them with cliches and tripe and pinch of drivel and then hits Copy / Paste to fill the remaining 200 pages. Except, of course, for the pages where she inserted ‘checklists’ and ‘worksheets’ to help you ‘track your progress’ (I’ll save you some time: How much water are you drinking? ___ How many times did you leave food on your plate?____ Add up your scores. If you get a number, you suck as a person. Don’t give up!)

I never wrote a diet book. Hell, I never read a diet book (still haven’t). But when I think just how bad this book is, I am absolutely inspired to write one. Here is my outline; I’ll make sure to add the two points from Erlich’s book that actually have merit.

Beedoo’s Not-Program for Healthy Eating and Living: Proven to Work for Her Personally, So Probably for You Too, Being as We Are Both Bipedal Humanoids, But I’m not a Doctor, so What Do I Know?

Drink water. This one is true. Drink a lot of it. I drink three liters a day, but two will get you by. It’s so good for you, you will be completely different person once you start doing it. [YOU “Yeah—one that pees all the time.” True. But hey—peeing all the time not only releases toxins, but also gives you way less chance of getting UTIs, bladder cancer, and kidney stones. Did I mention the cancer? Yeah. Drink water.] I don’t know if it’s “more effective than caffeiene at waking you up”, as health nuts have told me, and since I two-fist it every morning with the coffee and water, I may never know. The point is, the list of water benefits keeps on growing, and you can’t get fat off it, so drink it. The well-hydrated shall inherit the earth—you just watch.

You’re hungry. Yeah? Me too. In the first couple weeks, I was hungry all the time—because I wasn’t eating the four portions my stomach was used to. Give the stomach less, and it wonders where the rest is—aka growls at you like it’s still hungry, when really it’s just confused. Luckily, you can retrain your stomach to realize that; all parts of the body adapt pretty well—skin stretches, bones heal, wounds close. Your stomach will shrink back down to a normal size. Be patient. Just remember: Your dog will continue to pee on the carpet if you give it a treat each time it does.

Do I really have to exercise? OK: Yes. You need to, mathematically speaking, burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. Eat less, move more. You know that. You were just hoping I’d say no. Well, tough. Yes, you need to exercise, but more than that, your body needs exercise. All those times you ate because of stress, or because you were tired, or went out drinking because you were depressed? Your body totally wanted to go running instead. I hate it when people say “I hate my body.” After all the abuse it puts up with, what in hell do you think your body thinks of you? Your body doesn’t want a beer; you do. It doesn’t ever want several pieces of cake; you do. It does a lot for you, so be nice and give it some exercise—it likes it. People are equal parts brain and body; your body carts the brain around so you can do your work and live your life—would you really begrudge your car an oil change? Your body takes you places. Everybody, regardless of weight-loss goals, should exercise, or work out, or go running, or whatever you choose to call it. Your tired body deserves some frickin’ respect. The mind also feels better when the body exercises; I ran 3 miles a day during my senior finals week—my head would have exploded if I didn’t. True, some days it’s a bitch, I won’t lie, but nine times out of ten it will only make you feel better.

Is it hard? Exercise? Not when you get used to it.

No… losing weight. Sometimes. Again, I’m not all flowers and sunshine on this, so yes, it’s hard sometimes. There are times when I absolutely cannot work out, and I feel guilty. There are times when I overeat, and I feel guilty. There are times when the weight plateaus, where you were so happy because you were losing and now you can’t seem to go any lower and it’s hard and what’s the damn point of life? That happens. It never not happens. Roll with it. If it’s what you want, it doesn’t matter. There are more benefits to being a healthy skinny person than there are to being an unhealthy fat person—and the biggest ones are emotional. You can’t learn that weight isn’t everything until you’ve lost it, and unfortunately, nobody can lose it for you. I really think the biggest benefits are those you don’t even realize—not wearing tank tops because of jiggly-arms, hating pantyhose because they cut your woman-flab in two, looking like a floating head on a Jabbaesque body in your prom pictures—because they don’t happen anymore. When I get skinny comments, I don’t even know what to say now—but I don’t say it was hard, because when people tell you that you look better, it isn’t hard. When it’s thirty below, and you have to either walk to the gym or go home to some slippers and cocoa, then it’s hard. It’s a commitment. Sometimes those are hard. But if you get as much out of it as you put in, then most commitment is worth it.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Would you read it?*

* It’s still better than Erlich’s. Hot water? GAH.

June 05, 2006

Lose Weight, Get Balls

You know something I failed to mention about the Goddess? Sometimes she makes you do crazy things. Not like crime-of-passion, homicidal things (but yeah, those too), but things that she thinks will make her happy. And like the little manipulative spirit she is, she will use your body to get what she wants. Hence the events that took place last night at work.

I’m slinging coffee, par for a Sunday, balancing my lack of sleep / shower with the requisite shots of espresso, and am maintaining a pretty good mood, when I wait on a guy that seems fairly sweet. He asked me how it was going, and my long pause before I said OK gave us enough time for the Starbucks-approved Ten Second Chat. He gets his coffee, I take his cash, but I notice that he’s looking at me a little differently. Almost… flirtily? Maybe? I’d have to shake some dust off of something to accurately place the feeling, but it seemed genuine. He sat down to study, and my fellow baristas encouraged me to give him the digits. Oddly enough, I found myself agreeing with them (my usual tack is to blush, deny any attraction, etc) and wishing business would die down a little bit so I could get my schwerve on. To my chagrin, it didn’t, and he left unceremoniously. Dammit.

I had just about rationalized all of the risks not taken, as usual, when he came back in. He got another cappuccino (yeah, I paid attention. Shut it.) and sat at the same table. Since I rely very heavily on signs from the universe (I can’t make decisions; if you think of the world as one giant 8-Ball, they all get made for you, with the added bonus that nothing is ever your fault), I decided that he had come back so I could hit on him, in proper accordance with cosmic destiny. It wasn’t until the end of my shift that I got the chance.

Let me say that I do not do this. Ever. I have never asked a complete stranger out on a date, or coffee, or whatever the hell people do before they decide they’re a couple. My two relationships were right out of high school, and I had known both boys for upwards of four years, and the dating was pretty much a sure thing. Let me also say that I have a well-known reputation for not trusting people; I tend to assume that one in every five people is a serial killer (and, as Aunt Sooz put it, “the other four have ‘issues’.”) But there was something about this guy that instantly made me like him. Not trust him, exactly, but not fear him in any capacity. He wasn’t even overly personable, I just felt like we were on the same level. After two sentences comprised of thirty seconds. This does not happen to me. I ascribe the event to his personality, the aforementioned Goddess-possession, and a little voice in the back of my head saying ‘You lost 30 pounds. Would Fat Me have asked him out? Never. Go find out what Skinny Me does.’

I tapped him on the shoulder, and I suppose the second he took to unplug his headphones should have given me a minute to figure out what the hell to say. I don’t even remember being nervous, or working out sentences in my head; I apologized for interrupting his studying, and told him that I knew that if he came back, I would have to ask him if he would go out with me.

Crap. That came out really quiet. Did he even hear me? God, I don’t know if I can repeat it. How do boys do this? It’s hard! Oh, his eyebrows went up. He heard me.

CUTE BOY: Oh, wow…
BEEDOO: Just say you have a girlfriend. It’s fine.

WHAT?! You TOOL! Way to blow it!

CUTE BOY: No, well, I do, actually—
BEEDOO: Right. That’s OK.

Keep smiling, for Chrissakes; try to keep it light. And stop interrupting.

CUTE BOY: No, but if I didn’t… yes, I would go out with you.
BEEDOO: (backing up to quit annoying him) Oh, well, thanks anyways.
CUTE BOY: I mean obviously. You’re so beautiful.

?

BEEDOO: Oh, you’d better marry her.
CUTE BOY: (laughs) Well, I don’t know…
BEEDOO: You’re so nice. This is hard.
CUTE BOY: Thank you. I think. I’m just—wow, I’m… this is really nice.

This is not going at all like I thought.

BEEDOO: Thanks. Well, I’m going to go now—
CUTE BOY: (getting up, I think with a hand on my elbow, but it’s all a bit fuzzy now) No, wait—you don’t have to go...
BEEDOO: Um, I do actually. My shift just ended.
CUTE BOY: (slightly embarrassed) Oh. Well, then… yeah. (smiles)
BEEDOO: (laughs) OK. Well, then…

Dude. He wanted me to stay. That is adorable. Crap. He has dimples. I wonder how fast I can sprint to my car. NO! Finish conversation. Keep smiling.

CUTE BOY: No, really, I mean it. If I didn’t have a girlfriend, then yes, I… of course would.
BEEDOO: Oh, well that’s fine, I understand.

Hey, a full sentence! Good job! Keep it up!

CUTE BOY: (offers hand) I’m John.
BEEDOO: (shaking hands) [Beedoo].
CUTE JOHN: (notably still holding my hand) You have beautiful eyes.

Duh? Huh? Wha? …D’oh! Say ‘thank you!’

BEEDOO: Oh.. I.. uh.

THANK YOU!

BEEDOO: Thank you.
CUTE JOHN: You’re welcome.
BEEDOO: Well… I’ll see you around?
CUTE JOHN: Yes. It was really nice to meet you.
BEEDOO: And you. Thanks, John.

Good job. Get your jacket. I’m hyperventilating, so I’ll meet you in the car.

So yeah, Tae Bo basically did itself last night.

I think the lesson here is that all women need to get the hell over feeling sorry about the way they look. If a man can tell me honestly that I’m beautiful with unwashed hair, unplucked eyebrows, wearing a Starbucks apron with a dishrag in my hand on the first day of my period, then every woman everywhere is beautiful. Trust me.

June 01, 2006

Geranium!! (Sorry.)

Happy Summer, everyone—I know it took its damn time, but it is here. And I’m not even going to complain about the rain or humidity, because neither is spelled s-n-o-w, and therefore know when to shut up and enjoy life already.

I rang in the new season over Memorial Day weekend (a paid holiday, hence the short posting hiatus), and what better way to show remembrance for the dead than to spend it planting flowers? My mother and I decided that, even though the mercury was scheduled to shoot to a record high (93 F), it was the only day both of us would have off work to get the summer plants in before blooming season ended, and so we set out for the garden center at 11 AM.

CUT TO: three hours later, as we pull three heavy shopping carts of various perennials, mulch and topsoil to the front of a very annoyed line of gardening enthusiasts, like, “get over it, ya hypocrite—I’m sure you came here for A plant”. Having paid, we then load my teeny-tiny car with said herbage, lastly cramming ourselves into the boiling hot seats, taking care not to crush the smaller cartons with our inconvenient feet. A small side trip to the gas station for refueling (ourselves as well as the car; three hours of plant shopping in 75% humidity will give you one helluva sugar low) and we were off to get these babies in the ground.

Now, a smart person would have made sure that all of the weeding, tilling, and preparation of the planting grounds was already well taken care of before it came to the planting stage… and while I consider myself to be a smart person, I am a smart person with an annoying dearth of free time. My fervent (if only once-weekly) weeding is sadly ineffective at keeping the little bastards at bay, to the end that some last minute (can it be called ‘last-minute’ if it takes forty-five?) crouching, pulling and swearing was in order. After several rigorous applications of SPF 50 (I work for a dermatologist; if I walk into work with a sunburn, I walk out with a Xerox box of my personal effects) and aloe-scented OFF! (utterly impotent in the face of the rabid mutant tsetse flies that live in my underbrush—my knees are on fire as we speak), my mother and I engage in a round of speed weeding, turf chucking over our shoulders at extreme velocity, vaguely resembling a groundhog puppet from a really bad movie. Then two bags of topsoil and one of peat to ensure growth of our costly investment get spread on, before we can even think about the plants.

But let me tell you about thinking about plants. The planning. The obsessive, nerve-wracking, which-plant-is-taller / don’t-put-a-red-plant-next-to-another-red-plant aneurysm that is planning a garden. I believe the cathartic relief when it was all over was not because I was sapped of all of energy (I’d been lifting / shopping / planting for eight hours, mind) but the mental exhaustion of having flexed the creative right-brain to deflation—and the realization that I’d never have to do it again. Well, not in this capacity, anyway. That weight lifted, all that remained was to water my virgin foliage in a fatigue-wobbly haze of satisfaction, and hope like hell they did their one job (i.e. not die).

As I lacked foresight (and, honestly, the requisite calories) to take a picture of le jardin, I shall link to the separate flowers, and trust your imagination.

The fruits of my labor:

Echinacea
Blue Hydrangea
Hostas
Chrysanthemums (red, yellow, white)
Dianthus
Red Sedum
Hen & Chicks
Coreopsis
Bugleweed
Rosebushes (yellow & white)
Yarrow
Russian Sage
Lobelia (Queen Victoria)
Speedwell
Joe Pye Weed
Balloon flower – how awesome?
Astilbe
Black-Eyed Susans

There is also one that looks like a purple-striped hosta, that had no tag or identifying marks and was the only of its kind on the shelf, which I have christened the Audrey II. If we’re all invaded and eaten alive by Venus fly-trap aliens with voices remarkably like Motown stars in the coming weeks… my bad; it looked cool.

Beedoo’s Book Club:

Finished Reading: Good in Bed. I liked it. I was at least gripped by this one; I wasn’t forcing myself through it (*cough*beeseason*cough*), but was a little shaken when it turned out she was pregnant [spoiler!] because that seems to be a fairly heavy plot device for what had been, up to that point, a fairly lighthearted book. At the time, I remember thinking “God, how is this going to turn out? Is she going to keep it? She has to, otherwise the book would be too big a downer, and she’s not going to be able to complain about skinny people and annoying co-workers after an abortion—it would make her look like a heinous bitch and the reader would end up hating her. So she keeps it and… marries the father? No, there’s no real lesson there. Finds someone new to love her as she is, with lovechild in tow? Probably.” What I was really hoping for was that she had the baby, moved to the south of France to be a yoga instructor and raised her child to forever question Western ideals. That didn’t happen. I guess that’s the plot of my book, now.

My main problem with the story was… now, I understand that it’s hard to write a book from the point of view of a fat girl. I deal with the issue in a lot of things that I write, so I understand some of the basic concepts (I especially appreciated the lack of actual numbers regarding the main character’s weight, since every woman alive can relate to the tight-pants and low self-esteem she experiences, regardless what the scale says). I, like Jennifer here, have never had a problem with the snark—the jibes at the skinny, the good-humored acceptance of fat jokes, the comedic reaction to hide the embarrassment at being overweight. What I have trouble with is ending that story. A fat girl (and I think I have earned the right to use this term, having been one for many years, and object to many of the more PC euphemisms, prefer to tell it like it frickin’ is) living on her own in the big city, getting a good job and making her way in the world… what? Gets married? Does that nullify the independence that made us love the character? Has babies? Does that buy into the moral that all women will eventually “settle down” after having their “fun”, and all women ultimately want is a husband and a house full of kids? If she stays single, is she denying herself all those things? How do you make a woman win?

That’s the point of the ‘chick’ book, for the main character to triumph, not settle. This book had one more question to answer, though: Does she lose weight, or stay fat? It’s a double-edged sword, that one; if she loses weight and the book ends happily, she’s conforming to an ideal as well as implying that the fat women who identified with her should do the same. If she remains fat, it has to appear that 1) she is completely comfortable with herself 2) she is not unhealthy and 3) she must end up either brilliantly wealthy or married to a wonderful man. Fat, single, and loving it would alienate almost every woman who picked this book up, and the globe would be covered with well-decorated apartments sporting book-shaped dents in the bedroom wall. It’s a hard row to hoe, figuring out what women want—even as a woman—and getting it all down on paper, let alone out to print. Essentially it boiled down to what the character wanted: if she wanted to be fat, let her be that way. She wants a man? Let her get one. She joins a roving band of bohemian gypsies and becomes their concubine? Tight. Because any of these things, when handled and written well, is going to make for a good book.

And it did; everything did work out in the end—not exactly in a Nora Ephron way, but not in a apathetic-coma-of-the-pointlessness-of-existence way either. I’ll definitely read Jennifer Weiner’s other books, because she’s funny, and something about the character and voice kept me reading.

Beedoo’s Book Rating: In honor of the book, I reserve number value. It was just good.