I like my men tough and my women strong

Swan Kick by FlyingMouse 365

When I think of an ideal role model for my daughter, my goddaughter, Friend’s daughter, and me, I tend to think of a few specific attributes.

  • Intelligence. Knowledge is power, after all. And I’m not referring simply to a natural state of intelligence, I’m thinking of one who hungers for information always.
  • Excellent communication skills. She can explain complex theories in ways that are perfectly easy to grasp. She can convince you easily, smoothly. She can mediate. She can make peace. She can state her piece clearly, concisely.
  • Independence. She’s a free-thinking individual who doesn’t blindly follow the herd. Sometimes she takes the well-worn road, but she’ll forge her own path if she has to. The people she loves and brings into her life are there by her choosing and invitation and are not there because of fear, insecurity, or because everyone else has someone in their lives.
  • Hard-working. It doesn’t matter what the work is, when it’s time to get to it she does it. She puts her best effort, full concentration, and complete passion into the things that are meaningful in her life.
  • Confidence. She doesn’t look to others for approval because she doesn’t need it. She might raid your brain for some ideas or input or perspective but she makes up her own mind. She screws up, admits it, learns, and moves on. She knows she can handle “this” and this is everything.

If you ask me, any woman who has ever made a positive mark on history has possessed these qualities. If you want to be an effective woman and create change in your world, these qualities must be in your possession. These are the traits of a strong woman. This is what you will find in common among all women of significance on all levels– from a local environmental activist to an international advocate for women’s rights to a CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation.

Do you know what you may not find among the truly amazing women in our world?

Leather wardrobes, a penchant for armor and horseback riding, abilities to hot-wire a car or even change a tire much less the oil, guns, motorcycles, and other indicators of “toughness” Peg Aloi clamors for in her piece at Huffington, Tough Gals: Do They Still Exist?. Heck, I bet among the truly amazing, strong women in the world you may not always find even a pantsuit.

The strong women of today aren’t any less so than the women of yesterday because they may or may not own a Hello Kitty bra. Aloi bemoans the current fascination with all things girly, touting this as an indication we’ve gone as soft as a handknit cashmere scarf.

What happened to our hard-won bad-assery? All those years of being suffragettes, bra-burners, free love artists, corporate queen bees, supermoms and women-who-wanted-and-got-it all? I mean, hadn’t we arrived and become a force to be reckoned with? […] Maybe “having it all” was a silly fantasy that ultimately made women feel exhausted and inferior. Maybe we just wanted to sit on our asses and knit and eat cupcakes in our Hello Kitty jammies.

And now that so many women have seemingly retreated from our reign of awesomeness to immerse themselves in the feminine past-times of yesteryear, it does indeed appear that we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a badass, strong, tough woman.

Oh dear, Peg (can I call you Peggy? It’s so much cuter). It appears you have it all wrong. And you are so misguided in your judgment I can’t help but wonder– are you a member of the patriarchy in feminist clothing?

Here is a quick description of Peg’s longed for tough gals:

There are tough times ahead, and we need to be tough bitches to face them. Growing vegetables is useful; but so is learning how to shoot a gun, hot-wire a car, and manipulate our way into a bomb shelter. Remember our tough gal role models? They were strong, sexy, and took no crap. They wore leather and sang rock and roll.

Here’s what bothers me about that whole description she’s got going on there– those chicks sound a lot like… men. She even goes on to specifically mention the likes of Grace Jones who worked hard to look like… a man. And really? Courtney Love? As much as I love her music, I’d rather not hold her up on a pedestal as a kind of woman to aspire to.

I will not take away what the stereotypical tough gals do for the feminist cause. Specifically, they show men they’re not as precious as they think themselves they are. These women show them we can do a lot of the stuff they claim for themselves. Heck, they even show women can even look like men. These are the “Anything you can do, I can do better” variety and they have their place in the movement.

The problem is, as a feminist I demand equal rights for men and women. There’s no clause attached to that statement. See, I don’t want equal rights for men and women who emulate men.

As a matter of fact, I will go on to argue this type of op-ed piece is extremely damaging to the feminist movement. Here’s why.

This piece concedes the domestic, “ultra-femme” arts are sub-par to the more masculine arts of the gun-toting, hot-wiring variety. This piece is basically admitting a realization that women and the things they are often associated with are less important and less desirable. This is extremely dangerous and damaging thinking.

It is in the same vein as declaring a teacher to be of a lesser class than a police officer. They’re both civil servants. They’re both employed to better the public. But being a teacher, in this context, is definitely not as awesome as being a police officer.

Peg claims shooting a gun to be as useful as gardening. At the same time, she’s pretty horrified by cupcakes. Funny enough, the first woman to come to mind when you talk to me about shooting guns is Sarah Palin while the first woman who comes to mind when you talk to me about cupcakes (and every domestic art) is Martha Stewart.

I’m pretty sure most people would concede Martha’s at least as tough as Sarah. I mean, Martha even served time in jail. And they’re both often referred to by that b-word Peg’s so fond of. For me, the differences come down to their contributions– Martha’s got a huge multi-faceted corporation and Sarah’s… well I’m not going to go into Sarah right now but I don’t count her as a feminist that’s for sure.

Not to mention, this kind of ridiculous commentary takes away from some really amazing women that are accomplishing some really amazing things right now.

  • Let’s start with BUST magazine. BUST is a feminist magazine. One of its founders was Debbie Stoller— the knitting rock star of the world if you will. Peg’s pissed they’re having a craft fair. The thing is, BUST’s got it right– equal rights for women: even the ones who do womanly things.
  • What about Miesha Tate? She’s the Strikeforce MMA fighter with a championship belt. She often wears pigtails into the ring and has posed in some very sexy and feminine poses. She looks cute and girly as heck but she’ll choke your lights out– while wearing pink.
  • There’s also Misty Copeland. She does this super girly thing called ballet. And she’s amazing at it. Is that too girly? Even if she’s more muscular than Xena? I haven’t even mentioned she’s a rare African-American ballerina and is making waves in the call for further diversity in the ballet world.
  • Let’s also talk about Daina Taimina. Don’t know her? She’s a mathematician (so feminine, right?). Daina solved a problem mathematicians had been struggling with for centuries– how to make a model of a hyperbolic plane that you can physically manipulate without damaging. Until Daina came along, mathematicians had to rely on computer models and you can’t touch those. And a colleague of her came up with paper models but those were really delicate little things that you couldn’t stretch or smoosh or twist or toss or anything. Well Daina saw those paper models and figured out the solution– she crocheted a hyperbolic model.
  • Peg really likes fictional female characters. She provides more examples of characters in movies and TV than real-life women in her piece. Since she likes those fake women so much, I have another recommendation for an interesting woman– Alexia Tarabotti. She’s the main character in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate novels. Alexia is quite concerned with manners, pastries, and parasols but she also gets down and dirty with the likes of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and other spooky things– all while keeping her hair as neat as possible, please.
  • Finally, there’s a whole segment of women that were recently in the news– female investors. Funny enough, Peg alludes to a particular “Wall Street ball-breaker in Working Girl” but what’s fascinating is the news that female investors have been more successful managing portfolios than men. Why? By being decidedly feminine in their investment strategies– i.e. risk-averse (and most likely not concerned with ball-breaking).

What is truly important to understand is the fight for equal rights for women is not a fight that requires masculinity or toughness. The fight for equal rights does not require blazing guns and fist fights. It doesn’t require armor. Honestly, it doesn’t even need these things and most women fighting for women’s rights don’t want to bring these things into the equation. And it’s not because we’re soft. It’s because we want our rights on our womanly, feminine terms.

As a matter of fact, if you ask me what a leader in the feminist movement should look like, I’d say I’d prefer one that looks decidedly feminine. We are women. There’s absolutely no shame in that. We don’t need to pretend. We don’t need to hide. I am woman, hear me roar– in my dress and stilettos.


“Just Kids”: Hope & Inspiration for Today from Yesterday

I’m reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids and I’m fascinated. I honestly didn’t think I’d be too intrigued by her story but it’s drawn me in and held me captive. Yes, there’s sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll but, honestly, there’s way less of all three than I was expecting. What I am really taking away from this book are much more abstract concepts, stirrings in my gut, and tugging at my heart. Patti is really evoking a sense of her time and place. There is this need for feeling (the physical, emotional, mental act) that reverberates through her book like a gong being slammed. And it’s not just her, it’s her time (1960’s and 1970’s), her place (New York City).

This book is doing things to me. The people she writes about crave to feel things and to have others feel things. I’ve always looked at drugs and, at times, sex as an escape—a shutdown of bad feelings. And though there is a sense that such a thing was part of the reason these things were so rampant, it is nothing more than a part. There’s a desperation to feel more, more, more. Patti Smith’s personal experience with drug use is small. It was experimental and she voiced a preference to partake in drug use as an enhancement to her creativity versus a tool for navigating social scenes. But drug use wasn’t the only thing that led her to be creative. She didn’t have that crutch. She was creative before, during, and after a drug. She was creative without it and with it and more often than not, she went without.

The name-dropping is mind-blowing and yet it doesn’t feel like the name-dropping of today. In Patti’s stories, Robert Mapplethorpe, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Janis Joplin, Sam Shepard, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and so many others are touchable. They are not precious. They are not on pedestals. They’re dirty. They’re heartbroken. They’re working. They’re sweating. They’re grunting. They’re dying. They’re failing. They’re succeeding. They’re aging. They’re normal.

Today, you hear the names of famous people and for one, they’re famous for mostly wrong reasons, but also, there is a feeling that they live in a world apart—untouchable. The famous ones of today put themselves in crystal castles. They enclose themselves in expensive, dark vehicles. They hide in security-laden resorts. What are they afraid of? The people? Have they forgotten they’re as much us as we are them?

Patti’s people were addicted to living and feeling everything. And that’s missing today. There’s a rawness in Patti Smith’s stories that I don’t think is possible today. Yes, a lot of these people wrecked themselves– look back at that list and note how many are dead and gone. They wanted to elevate, elevate, elevate, and crashed and burned. They were disappointed in the numbness they saw around them and the preoccupations people had. They wanted to shake the world and say, “Wake Up!”

They’d be horrified today. They’d be smashing their heads into walls and all for naught. That’s what saddens me. In the 60s and 70s, very small but determined groups of people were able to shake the world. They were able to cause ripples with the equivalent of pebbles. And though we claim the world has gotten smaller with the evolution of technology, we’ve also created a much larger pond. The ripples of a pebble don’t get close to the shoreline.

It is fascinating to me that it is far easier today to truly tune out than it was during a time where drug abuse was rampant. It’s not just the glows of televisions, computers, and video game consoles. It’s the medications. It’s even the food. For their weed, we have Cartoon Network, FaceBook, Prozac, and Whoppers. For their LSD, we have Fox News, World of Warcraft, Xanax, and French Fries (extra large). For their speed, we have ESPN, Grand Theft Auto, Ritalin, and Coca Cola.

Please don’t mistake me as romanticizing the 60’s and 70’s. I think they must have been extremely difficult times to grow up in, and even harder times to be a grown up in (imagine being a parent or grandparent). I think there was conflict raging at all levels—micro to macro. Homes and governments alike were in turmoil. The lives Patti’s people led were truly difficult. They were often malnourished, plagued by disease, and surrounded by crime scenes.

And please don’t mistake me as dismissive of our present life and times. I haven’t given up on today or even tomorrow. I don’t think we’re living in a world completely inhabited by zombies. I have hope.

And maybe that’s where I find my kinship with Patti Smith. I haven’t even finished the book—I begin the last section today, but I sense something connecting there and it’s a hope.

I have a hope for beauty to return to our world—true, raw, glorious, unforgiving beauty. I have a hope it returns and resurrects our seemingly slumbering muses. I have a hope it stirs its way into paints, pencils and camera lenses. I have a hope it slinks into pens, keyboards, and typewriters. I have a hope it shimmies into pianos, guitars, and vocal chords. I have a hope it swells into fabric, metals, and leathers.

And more than anything, I hope it shakes us all and screams like a banshee—“WAKE THE FUCK UP!”

Why Spielberg’s $200M yacht purchase is not a “crazy, immoral waste of money”

Photo courtesy of The JamesList

Last Friday, J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly posted the kind of post that drives people nuts in all kinds of ways as evidenced by the 225 (at last check) comments generated. He posed a reader questions to his audience that centered on this point:

Just yesterday, I read an article on an entertainment site about Steven Spielberg’s $200 million personal yacht. I think that this is a crazy, immoral waste of money. He could make a HUGE difference by using that $200 million for charity.

I guess my point is: Am I really any better? No, I’m not buying a yacht anytime soon, but I do buy luxury items. And someday I’d like the satisfaction of being able to buy my husband a Range Rover. (He loves those damn cars.) My husband doesn’t feel guilt for having these things, but (if I’m being completely honest with myself) I do. Oddly enough, I majored in finance in college and am currently studying for the CFA exam, so the topic of “efficiency and equity” is really on my mind.

As I mentioned in the comments, I really dislike questions like this because I think they’re pointless as there is no real right or wrong answer and it comes down to an individual conscience. But what really bothers me is the focus on the price tag without taking anything else into consideration. I mean you’re judging this guy’s yacht but isn’t the homeless guy totally entitled to judge your designer bag/shoes/cell phone/car/etc?

So, to see if I was way off base with this feeling (I usually am and enjoy disproving myself) I did what I do best and I got on the net and started researching.

Do you know what Steven Spielberg’s net worth is?

Three billion dollars ($3,000,000,000).

He bought a yacht that cost two hundred million dollars ($200,000,000).

$200M is 6.67% of $3B.

If that’s still hard to relate to because those numbers are bigger than Monopoly, consider this: According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2009 the average American’s net worth was $182,000. They also admitted the average was pulled upwards by a very small group of the incredibly wealthy, but let’s use that number for right now.

Do you know what 6.67% of $182k is?


According to Motor Trend, the lowest base price on the reader’s aforementioned Range Rover is $59,645 . Are things starting to come into focus yet? Let’s look at an even lower net worth since the Journal admits that number is skewed thanks to those ultra-rich dudes.

A more relatable net worth for some might very well be $45,500. 6.67% of that amount is $3,034.85, the equivalent of a gorgeous huge new 3D LCD HDTV. If you’re a loyal GRS reader, you’ll know commenters have a huge thing for TV’s so I thought they’d enjoy that comparison in particular.

At this point in the number-crunching, I’m completely unconvinced his yacht purchase is a “crazy, immoral waste of money.” But maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re just not sure. Maybe 6% of anyone’s money going to a total and complete Want is hard to stomach.

On his website, JD talks a lot about this little thing called the Balanced Money Formula, as proposed by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi. It’s very simple.

You take your net income and split it three ways: 50% to needs, 20% to savings, and 30% to wants. In case you’re curious, 30% of $3B is $900M. And yes, I’m aware this formula is intended for income but considering income builds worth, I think it’s applicable.

30% of the $182k average net worth is $54,600 (still less than the cheapest Range Rover). 30% of $45,500 is $13,650 which isn’t enough to buy you a new Honda Civic. And remember, this is assuming a net worth of some sort. With debt, I don’t have any net worth. Not even Adam Baker of Man vs Debt has achieved a positive net worth yet!

Are we starting to back off of Steven yet?

 My answer to the reader is this: No, you’re not really better than Steven Spielberg, but that’s ok because there’s nothing wrong with Steven Spielberg. You’re saying he could do a lot of good with that money, but Spielberg has a history of doing good with his money and that’s just a snapshot of charity he’s actually assigned his name to.

We work very hard to earn our money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging our wants if we are doing it responsibly and within reason. If you go by the Balanced Money Formula, that’s 30% you’re free to do with as you please!

$200M as a stand-alone figure is pretty shocking and seemingly unreasonable but when you take everything into account, it’s really not that big of a deal—definitely less so than justifying the purchase of a Range Rover with an average net worth (not that the reader has an average net worth– I have no idea what their net worth is).

By the way, in case the reader wants to be better than Spielberg, they should know that in order for that cheapest base price Range Rover to reflect 6.67% of your net worth, it needs to be $894,228. So to come in under 6.67%, you need more than that. A net worth of $950k will put your Range Rover at 5.75% if that helps.

We each have to find our own way with our finances. You may decide 20% of your Wants category is perfect for charity. You might not. The only wrong answer is that you’re making enough money to have a surplus and are doing absolutely nothing positive with it ever.

For me, it’s simple—Live below or within your means. Provide for a good future. Give.

What about you? Do you think Spielberg was out of line? When it comes to money, what do you do that lets you sleep at night?  

Mutant SuperModel and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I went to sleep with wet hair and now my hair is sticking up everywhere and when I got out of bed this morning I stepped on my son’s Legos and by mistake I dropped toothpaste drool on my silk blouse while brushing my teeth and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At breakfast Eldest tipped over his juice cup and Daughter dropped her cereal bowl and Baby peed his pants and the coffee pot cracked right when I was going to pour myself a cup.

I think I’ll move to Tahiti.

In the car Baby kept rolling down the window. Daughter kept singing out of her window. Eldest said he was being scrunched. Eldest said he was being smushed. I said, if everyone doesn’t be quiet right now I am going to be carsick. They only got louder.

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At my morning meeting, my boss liked Phyllis’ five agenda items instead of my one agenda item to not have morning meetings.

At my desk, he said my music was too loud. At my afternoon meeting, he said I left out page sixteen of my budget report. Who needs page sixteen?

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I could tell because Angela said I wasn’t on the party committee anymore. She said Phyllis Peterson and Kelly Clark were on the committee now and I was only on the helpers’ list.

I hope you break a nail, I said to Angela. I hope the next time you get your hair done it falls out in clumps and lands in Tahiti.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

That’s what it was because when I left work early, it was to go to the dentist and Dr. Fritz said I needed a root canal. Come back next week and I’ll fix it, he said.

Next week, I said, I’m going to Tahiti.

On the way to pick up the kids at school I was cut off and while the kids were scrambling to the car Baby made Daughter fall where it was gravelly and when she started crying Eldest called her a crybaby and when Daughter tried punching Eldest for calling her a crybaby she punched me instead.

I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day I told everybody. They only got louder.

So then we went to the shoestore to buy some sneakers. Baby needed velcro ones in size 9. Daughter needed white and velcro ones in size 10. Eldest needed white and lace-up ones in size 13 but then the shoe man said, We’re all sold out. He showed me some expensive light-up ones the kids wanted instead, but they can’t make me buy them.

When we got home, I said they couldn’t play with my laptop but they forgot. I also said to watch out for the pile of folded laundry, and they were careful except for their hands. I also said don’t fool around with my cell phone but I think they called Tahiti. I said please don’t come near me anymore.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

There were tantrums at dinner and I hate tantrums.

There was Spongebob on Tv and I hate Spongebob.

The bath was too hot, they got soap in their eyes, a Lego clogged the drain and they had to wear pajamas. They hate wearing pajamas.

When they went to bed Daughter wanted water and Baby bounced on his bed and Eldest’s reading light burned out.

The cat wants to hide under the couch instead of cuddle with me.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that.

Even in Tahiti.

*This was written 100% completely and totally inspired by the amazing Judith Viorst and her wonderfully timeless Alexander. We love you Judith! Please don’t sue me or I’d have my most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ever. XOXO -Mutant

Words of Gratitude

It’s Friday, and before I get to the usual Friday blog stuff I do, I want to say something very important—Thank You. When I first started this blog, it was because I felt single moms were very under-represented absolutely everywhere. Maybe it’s because we’re really busy or don’t usually have much money to burn or maybe we’re pretty intimidating as we manage entire households without the help of a man. Either way, we’re not a demographic that gets much attention yet when we do, it’s rarely of the positive variety.

Another reason I started writing was sheer loneliness. Not really knowing anyone personally that had been through what I experienced made me feel a strong urge to reach out and say, “Hello? Anyone out there?” Lo and behold, there are indeed signs of life—vibrant, intelligent, strong, creative, compassionate life forms at that.

Most of the time, when I sit to write, I don’t really have a goal, objective, or even a topic. Sometimes, I just write because I absolutely have to but I’m not even sure where I’m going to start, much less end up. I never expect a response either but, admittedly, often desire one.

So, that’s where you all and the thanks come in. Over the past few months, so many of you have felt inclined to respond to my words. E-mails and comments have come my way in so many shapes, sizes, and styles. You have shown me so much support and encouragement—more than I imagined and in ways I couldn’t have fathomed.

I am so very grateful. I know my blog’s a bit scattered breaking that supposed blogging golden rule to streamline and stick to one overall topic. I talk a lot about money but I wouldn’t dream of pegging myself a Personal Finance blog. Crochet? Ditto. Books? Ditto? Mommyness? Ditto. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, I have commitment issues and that invariably extends to the topics my blog touches upon. I do find it quite remarkable then, to have such a diverse group of readers who remain interested and involved.

Needless to say, what you bring to this blog is very much appreciated. I really love meeting each of you who venture from the reader shadowlands. Even those of you who stay silent observers mean so much to me simply because you come and read my equivalent of therapy sessions—and you return for more!

Giving me a moment of your time, a word of kindness, or even a little link love gives me a lot of strength and confidence. Every time you share a similarity, I’m pleased to know I’m really not alone. Those of you with advice open my eyes to another view. Any small praise builds me up a little bit more. And every vote of confidence you place in me is a reassuring pat on the back.

Life is not a smooth, straight path. It’s not the type of thing you really want to go at alone. And even though it’s quite small, I’m so grateful to all of you who make up this little community. So thank you, thank you, thank you. For those of you who come here to find someone who can possibly encourage you and help you through your personal challenge, know that I really hope I can give you even just a tiny bit of the support I’ve received here.

Even though I’ve done a lot of gushing, I’ve not forgotten what day it is—Friday. Nor have I forgotten that Fridays are for showing off. So today, I present to you my first little Panda bear made from Milky Robot’s pattern. He was great fun to make and I’m happily working on two more projects from her patterns that I will hopefully unveil next week. I think you will find her patterns very simple and clear and with lots of room to play with and make your creation your own. I’m working on finessing my sewing abilities but that’s a comment on my ability instead of the pattern’s. No matter how good her instructions are, it’s still up to me to piece the little guy properly. Enjoy the little guy and did anyone find my special hidden message?

Happy Endings = False Advertising

Happily Ever After - Kinsale

“Happily Ever After” by Sonia Luna

Last night, I watched The Jane Austen Book Club while slightly drunk on Nyquil to work on the cape some more. I want to finish it this month. The only thing I can think of is watching a movie every night to keep me working on it. If I can just finish this one last tedious tentacle, I can get to the hat and finish.

But, the point of this post is not crocheting monster cape projects while watching chick flicks, it’s about Happy Endings. If you know me personally, you probably haven’t really gotten over the fact I admitted to watching The Jane Austen Book Clubwhich is so obviously a chick flick. You know I don’t do girly movies. You know I don’t do movies generally but scary movies, suspense movies, and girly movies are all pretty much not movies I’m into. I watched it because I decided to ignore the fact it was a girly movie and focused purely on the fact it was a movie about a book club. This worked rather well when I focused on the How to Make an American Quilt aspect of that movie and ignored the fact it was a girly girl drama. I was fifty-fifty on the Jane Austen part because I haven’t read Jane Austen since high school and I can’t remember if it was those books I absolutely hated or if those were by someone else. Judging from the movie, I think maybe I hated Jane Austen but I’m not entirely sure because even though the movie is supposed to be about a Jane Austen Book Club, it’s really about romantic relationships and happy endings and I still have no idea whether or not I want to read a Jane Austen book (or re-read for that matter).

As far as the existence of Happy Endings, there appear to be the same camps as there are revolving around God. Meaning, there is Camp I Believe (Gnostics), Camp I Don’t Believe (Atheists), and Camp There Really Isn’t Sufficient Evidence to Prove or Disprove Happy Endings So I Cannot Make a Satisfactory Conclusion on the Matter (Agnostics). I know this is super simplifying but, under medication I can’t muster much deeper conversation here. Apparently, when it comes to God and Happy Endings, I’m in the same Camp– There Really Isn’t Sufficient Evidence to Prove or Disprove Happy Endings So I Cannot Make a Satisfactory Conclusion on the Matter. This is why I’m not a fan of most Happy Ending-geared fictions. Besides, given my personal experiences, I’m leaning more to the Don’t Believe side of things. Can you blame me?

The thing about Happy Endings is they seem a) Conclusive and b) Exclusive. When these movies give you some romantic rocky place you can relate to, you’re right there with them the entire way—until the happy ending part. Because that part? Skipped you. Or maybe, Camp I Believe says, “Hasn’t happened to you yet.” And the real problem with Happy Endings is that they aren’t really Endings. They’re endings in a movie, sure, but most of the time Happy Endings are really Happy Beginnings in character relationships. You assume things stay that way because we grew up on fairy tales that told us so (all together now: “And they lived happily ever after”) but reality dictates all of these Happy Endings movies should have sequels at the very least, if not prequels and additional sequels. The most realistic love story I can think of in movies is the one we saw from start to finish across six movies—Darth Vader and Amidala. And we all know how that ended.

I watched the movie start to finish because it seemed full of promise. There were five females in completely different and entirely screwed up relationships, at least one of them was bound to end up unhappy and alone like me many of us, right? [SPOILER ALERT IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF] The woman whose husband leaves her for another woman gets back together with him after he realizes what a huge mistake he’s made, reads Jane Austen, and apologizes with a letter. They’re making out when their young lesbian daughter walks in on them at the end. Speaking of the young lesbian, she goes from one passionate impromptu relationship to another and ends the movie young, single, and full of promise for The One. There’s the sophisticated Hard Older Woman who melts like butter in the hands of a young Jane Austen reading sci-fi nerd who is mysteriously wealthy and goofy and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in your life because he’s not real. We have the young wife who is Old World to the core, in rebellion to her hippie mom, married to a complete jerk of a jock who suddenly turns into a softie when she begs him to read Austen and crying reads a couple of sentences out loud to him. He reads the whole book, “Persuasion” and their relationship is renewed as he is now officially romantic and passionate and must truly love her. Lastly, there’s the most interesting character who gets the least attention. She’s the Love Veteran. Detached enough to enjoy the game for what it is. She’s been married six times, enjoyed them all for what they were, and ends married a seventh to a handsome wealthy man she can’t understand (literally, he speaks Spanish) but it doesn’t matter because she’s got a huge rock on her finger and you imagine he’s got a huge rock in his pants because boy does she look satisfied with herself. And everyone is so happy for her, cheering her with a champagne toast in the end. Your seventh husband! How wonderful!

Each of these scenarios is so completely far-fetched, they’d be hard to deal with on an individual basis. Combined, it just comes this question of the viewer: “What’s wrong with you?” Also, “Why aren’t you forcing potential lovers/mates/husbands/boyfriends to read Jane Austen? She has magic powers!”All of these nutcase women are happy—every single one. So what is your problem? If these five looney bins can be happy winners in the game of love surely you must be broken. Or maybe, it’s ok. Because it’s fiction. And we just want to pretend these are the things that happen. I remember another stupid movie I watched called He’s Just Not That Into Youand one solid piece of advice in the movie—these stories are all about the exception. You are the rule, not the exception. Movies and stories are always about the exceptions because no one cares about the normal.

So, there’s nothing wrong with you—with us. The makers of these Happy Endings are just gigantic fantasizers and wishful thinkers. They are all members of Camp I Believe. You won’t find evidence against Happy Endings in movies (outside of Star Wars at least), but you don’t have to look there either. Look in the mirror, call your best friend, your sister, your mother, your aunt, your cousin, your brother’s ex-girlfriends, etc. You’ll likely find lots of Happy Beginnings, some Sad Endings, some Sad Endings that turned into other Happy Beginnings, some Happy Beginnings that look like they just make it to Happy Endings (then again, ask my grieving grandmother who’s still grieving the death of her husband of over fifty years and Happy Endings seem impossible) and mostly you’ll find lots of In-Betweens. Because as long as you’re living, there is no real ending—happy or otherwise.

Look Like a Lady, Act Like a Woman

A month ago, I caught a post on The Sartorialist that apparently crawled deep into my brain to grow. The post was seemingly innocent enough– The Sartorialist noticed a stark difference between two of the most impressive collections of the season, Celine & Louis Vuitton; however, what really intrigued The Sartorialist was the complete gender gap in response to the collections. The Sartorialist claimed he had noticed most women said they wanted to be the Celine woman and yet most men expressed the desire to be WITH the Louis Vuitton woman. So, he posed the question to his readers. It seems the comments support his inclination and this whole concept apparently really and truly bugs me.

In case you are not inclined to click through the link and see the post and photos of the collections yourself, let me give you a quick summary of the goods. The Sartorialist put up three looks from each designer. The Celine looks are:

  1. Skinny navy pants, white blouse, large navy blue thick trench coat with slick hair parted to the side and picked up in a bun or ponytail. Her shoes are black boot looking things.
  2. Very tight black leather-looking sleeveless top paired with a navy blue pencil skirt and black tights; hair is also a slick side part ponytail thing. She holds a bright orange clutch.Her shoes are big black suede heels.
  3. A white short sleeved blouse with what looks like a slight ruffle detail and possible over-sized pockets paired with a black leather pencil skirt and black tights. She carries what looks like a burgundy portfolio and her hair is in the same super slick side parted updo. She also wears the big suede heels.

The Louis Vuitton looks are:

  1. A gray and pink floral print dress with a low v-neck and a full shin-length skirt. Her shoes look low heeled or flats with bows. She carries a large gray LV bowler bag and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail but not in the slick style. She also dons gray gloves that come just below her elbows.
  2. A gray, pink, and white floral halter bustier style top tucked into a knee-length full plaid skirt. She dons a small gray/white clutch and also has the low bow shoes as the previous model, dons gloves as well, and shares the same swept back ponytail.
  3. A tweed-looking sleeveless top with a full knee-length brown leather skirt. She wears low-heeled shoes with bows, a small bowling bag type, gloves, and the signature swept back updo.

Those are my objective snapshots of the looks. But there are other things that come through that are perhaps more subjective. In regards to Celine, I notice a hardness to the models and, dare I say, age. The colors are dark and there is a sort of slickness to all the looks. On the other hand, with Vuitton the first thing I notice is an abundance of flesh. The models are also younger-looking than Celine and there is an overall softness that permeates the looks. And so what you end up with, and this is not just me but is pretty much culled from the comments as well, is a sort of clash of women types. Immediately women associate the Celine looks with power and confidence and often dismiss the Louis looks as frilly, girly, and weak. My problem here is as far as I see it, Celine’s looks are a very masculine woman and Louis has given us a very feminine woman. We clearly associate power and confidence with manliness.

It’s an image issue I constantly see and resist. I’m a woman. My power is in the fact that I am a woman. I want to emphasize that I am a woman and I don’t want to be taken for granted, especially professionally because I fully embrace being feminine. Let’s get this straight: femininity does not equal weakness, softness, self-doubt, or a lack of intelligence. And because apparently even we women have a hard time accepting this whole concept: masculinity does not equal strength, hardness, confidence, or intelligence. Current events seem to support me here. Who portrays strength, intelligence, and confidence better– Elin or Tiger? Jesse or Sandra? Granted, I accept that showing a lot of flesh at work is not appropriate, male or female. But who is to say wearing that tweed top with leather skirt and throwing a sweater over it makes me less confident and powerful than the Celine creature in her skinny pants and overwhelming trench coat? A few comments suggested the problem with the Vuitton looks is they harked back to the 1950s– a bad time for women and their rights. Isn’t this then more reason to bring back those looks and show the country, “Anything you can do I can do better, IN A PRETTY DRESS!”?

This goes hand in hand with fellow mothers who decry their daughters loving pink. Why? It so often happens that are our children are seemingly more evolved than we as adults are. I can pretty much guarantee that my daughter feels no less powerful or confident in a full blown pink ballerina tutu and sparkly shoes than she does in a pair of jeans. As a matter of fact, my daughter loathes wearing jeans and pants. She feels these are contrary to what she is. Maybe there’s something to that. The only pants she’s ok with wearing are in feminine colors or with feminine details. Take for a second the matter of Princesses. Princess Jasmine is my daughter’s favorite Princess. And my favorite thing about her is she takes a chalice to a powerful villain’s head in full-blown harem type clothing. Sure, she wears pants but they’re pretty pants.

So it is I ask you to reconsider when you claim you “wear the pants in the relationship.” Please, don’t. Don’t “man up” to a challenge or attack a problem “balls to the wall”. We are not men and more importantly, we don’t have to behave like them– or even remotely look like them, to get what we want. If we continue bowing to that concept, we continue conceding to the idea men are the superior sex. The fact is the 1950’s housewife can easily run a boardroom as effectively as her husband ever could and in many cases, possibly even better. So wear the dresses, the lace, the pearls, the gloves, the dainty purses. Enjoy pink. Aren’t we constantly trying to teach our children and each other, it’s not what’s on the outside that counts? You think you won’t be taken seriously at work if you show up in a frilly dress? Why? At first, sure, it’ll be different. I remember the first time I wore a dress to this office I got several reactions and one stuck out more than the others– “Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a woman wear a nice dress to the office.” Your wearing a dress or a full skirt doesn’t take away from your hard work and strong work ethic. It doesn’t affect your deadlines. Be persistent and deconstruct the preconceptions. Take your power from what you are at the core, not what you are expected to be.