In Defense of Rory Gilmore

gilmore-girls-netflix-revival-rory

Alexis Bledel as ‘Rory Gilmore’ in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”; photo taken from Hypable 

I wrote the following after seeing multiple posts on blogs, Tumblr, and legitimate news sites basically slut shaming Rory Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” for decisions she makes regarding men.  Some of it isn’t actually slut shaming, some of it is simply die-hard fans who, like me, have probably watched the original series many times and have a romanticized idea of what Rory is like and how she should behave; they are disappointed, these fans, that thirty year old Rory isn’t making the same decisions as twenty year old Rory.

I think there are many factors to consider before judging Rory too harshly.

First of all: it’s been ten years.  No one dates exactly the same way they did ten years ago.  She’s in her thirties now, she’s less inhibited, less shy, more open to experiences.  As humans grow, we change, see things differently.  Rory is going to have a different mindset at 32 than she did when she was nineteen.

Secondly: We don’t know what her dating experience has been since leaving college.  Previous relationships have a great affect on how a person treats future romantic partners.  It’s possible she’s had one too many terrible boyfriends since Logan.  Also: Rory’s a bit of a nomad, it’s difficult to maintain exclusive relationships when you’re constantly moving.  Believe me, I know.

Thirdly: As a person ages, she becomes less idealistic.  Young people often have a rigid sense of morality, Rory certainly did.  This is why kids will often (foolishly) write off friends for not meeting a certain moral standard (see Veronica Mars).  But as we age and mature, we realize there’s a lot of gray in the world, and we are not the ultimate voice of right and wrong in the universe.  So we sleep with that guy we met at that party, and we drink the tequila, and drive to NYC to watch an SNL rehearsal and get a hot dog just to turn around and drive home again the same day.

Fourth: People also become less optimistic.  Which seems strange considering people become less cynical (unless you’re Louis C.K., or a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker) as they get older, but when it comes to relationships and dating, single, straight, American women seem to become more pessimistic about relationships.  Consider this Garfunkel and Oates song.

Fifth: We don’t know what sort of relationship Logan has with this French woman.  Maybe it’s an open relationship?  Maybe he has the same deal with her as he has with Rory?  The French are way less puritanical about sex than Americans.

We, especially those of us who grew up alongside Rory, want her to be a sort of moral beacon since she’s just like us only better, but really she’s not.  Rory is just as flaky as we are, she’s just as confused, just as meandering, just as flawed.  She is searching for her place in the world the same way we are.

And, as with all things, the viewer brings his or her own experience to the story.  All my girlfriends who are married, engaged, or in long term relationships had the same reaction: “Rory has had ample time to find someone new, loving, and stable, why is she back with old boyfriends and making these decisions?”  While all my fellow single girlfriends in their early thirties looked at Rory and said: “Yeah, nope, that’s exactly right!”

This post is edited slightly from the original post on Tumblr.

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Happy National Friendship Day: A Tribute

In the past two months I have written two short stories about a single woman looking for love.  One, specifically; the other, well, she sort of finds love by accident.  (Well, she meets a couple of dudes, we don’t know that she loves either of them.)  Neither of these stories would accomplish the wretchedly simple job of passing the Bechdel Test, a test I find important, but not as important as representing “real” women, whatever that means (see my post about Thor v The Avengers).  But neither story is about female relationships (although one could analyze the female relationships in the first story).  I tend to write about what I’m currently going through and my mind was heavily on my own hetero-romantic relationships while I was writing them.  Because those are in a constant state of flux.  I didn’t write about my female relationships because my female relationships are solid.

Today is National Friendship Day, or some such nonsense, and it’s got me thinking about my most significant friendships.  Weirdly, or not so weirdly, the older I get the more important my female friendships are to me.  I still love my boys and my life would be sad without them, but it’s my girls, if ‘importance’ were a scale, who are the most important.  There are specific women from various points in my life who have greatly impacted me and continue to be my friends despite my wildly narcissistic and transient lifestyle.  And, the beauty of these women is that they are all different.

My oldest friend is someone who has always been supportive of me.  We met in the third grade in violin class and I have valued her opinion and her esteem and her friendship very highly ever since.  We had a small period of separation in college, but managed to reconnect afterwards and are still very close.  A very confident woman, she is also confidence-inspiring.  I never feel more encouraged, more empowered, than after I speak with her.  She took me clothes shopping for a “professional” outfit when I was temping, she sends me information on writing retreats and contests, she buys me dinner a couple times a year, and a birthday present even when I want to ignore my own birthday.  Always so career driven, she has served as an inspiration in my own professional life, making me believe I can forge ahead with the notion that I am a writer and might actually get paid one day to write.  I was happy to be a part of her wedding party when she asked.  She and her husband are one of the coolest couples I’ve ever met and have never, even inadvertently, made me feel badly about being single.  Their daughter is five months old and I know they are going to be excellent parents because they’ve been practicing on me for years now.  Every time I visit with them they feed me, give me career advice, and counsel me on my most recent romantic disaster.  When their kid is a teenager they’d be wise to remember how they’ve advised me over the years.

In high school I met my Best Friend (technically, all these women are my “best friend”, after all, like Mindy Lahiri says “best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier”, but this one is my Best Friend).  My Best Friend is a funny woman.  She’s very analytical, enjoys making lists, and loves setting “life goals” — she was the only teenager I knew with a five-year-plan.  We met in a church youth group when we were sixteen and have been friends from the moment she introduced herself to me.  I don’t really know what drew us together initially, but a desire for a certain sort of connection kept us together.  Best Friend is a friend with whom I can discuss Important Topics.  From the time we were juniors in high school, she has been the friend with whom I discuss books, articles, philosophy, current events, the political impact of music, education, careers, travel, and religious matters.  We rarely talk about boys, men, love, or sex.  It was never a subject either of us brought up in high school and we rarely bring it up now.  Only occasionally have those subjects arisen, and mostly when she’d first met her now-husband and wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  Our friendship not only passes, but defines the Bechdel Test.  Which is odd for a Best Friend relationship, one might think, in stories it’s always the best friend who the protagonist goes to for sex or love advice.  It’s an entire category of movie character, usually played by Judy Greer or Jeremy Piven.  But our friendship has never been of that sort.  In high school it was sort of a relief, because there were plenty of other girls who were happy to talk about those topics ad nauseam and nothing else.

College.  So many significant things happened to me in college.  One, I learned that I am smart.  Highly intelligent, even.  Not like Mensa intelligent, not like best-friend-from-college smart, but of above average intelligence.  I also learned how to drink alcohol, kiss boys, and to travel independently.  Sophomore year I met previously mentioned best-friend-from-college at our tiny college, in our even tinier English department.  Originally an equine major, she moved to the dark side after taking a seminar on Tolkien freshman year.  She and I wound up in almost all the same classes Sophomore year, including a Theater History class where, I feel, we really bonded.  Self-centered moron I am, I didn’t realize how close our friendship was until after the opening performance of Fahrenheit 451 when she ran up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me how well I’d done.  Starting then our friendship deepened significantly.  We were travel buddies during our semester abroad, she was there the first time I got really drunk, the first time I got really hung up on a dude, the first time I went home with a guy.  And I was there for her when she underwent similar foolishness.  We saw each other be incredibly silly about men, and make unbelievably wise decisions about our education and work.  We are each other’s favorite theater-going friend and she is still one of the first people I will talk to about dating woes.  All the things that brought us together in college — literature, theater, writing — are still our favorite topics.  She is lovely, generous, and supportive.  I see her the least of the four women I’m writing about today and, therefore, I miss her the most.  But I am always incredibly proud of her.

The friend I’ve seen the most lately is technically my boss.  We work for a seasonal outdoor education program where staff live all together on site, and recently I’ve shared a house with my direct supervisor.  We started working together in the spring of 2014, before that we knew each other a little, mostly by sight.  That first spring we worked together, however, our knowledge of one another turned from knowing a little about each other, to knowing everything about one another.  Staff relations that season were a little tense and few came to our house (even though that’s where the food is).  The Boss and I found ourselves, many nights and weekends, the only two hanging out.  A fun, friendly, chatty woman she and I quickly opened up to each other about a whole many things.  I used to lament that I didn’t have any Sex and the City friends, no group of women with which to discuss life, dating, and sex over brunch.  Suddenly, amongst other things, I had this: a woman I regard highly to whom I could unburden myself when feeling emotional, or frustrated about anything (not just men or sex).  She is a friend who would drink whisky with me when I broke up with someone and get excited with me when I met someone new.  The twelve months I was 29 turned out to be a particularly trying twelve months.  I was getting down about all the bummed out things that happened, sure nothing good happened that year.  But then I remembered the new friendship I’d developed with my housemate and colleague.  If there has ever been a bright spot, it has been her.  I am certain I would not have struggled through certain things as well as I did if it weren’t for her friendship.  I am happy she is there when I need her and I am more than happy to be there when she needs me.

The Girl Scout Law commands that one tries her best to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”.  Growing up with three older sisters, Girl Scout sisters, and, once I started school, a number of girl friends, I’ve always felt that line applies to all girls, all women, I chance to meet.  Sometimes those relationships don’t last, but others remain strong even when far apart.  That isn’t to say the latter is “better”, or “more real” than the former.  As Cher Horowitz says “all my friends [are] really good in different ways.”  I love all my friends for those things that make them good.  These four women, in particular, are friends whom I am exceptionally lucky to have because my life would be significantly different without them.

Hate, Racism, Using Me to Kill Black People: Things I Won’t Accept

It has come to my attention that Dylann Roof, that little prick who shot up a church in Charleston, is using me as his justification for his crimes.  He’s using me, my sisters, and our maidenheads like some antebellum, Jim Crow era rationalization to burn Rosewood to the ground.  This is some Emperor Palpatine-level bullshit.  I do not need some hyped up jerkface to protect me from squat.

I did not grow up with many black kids.  There were a few handfulls of black families in my town, but for the most part our diversity was comprised of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Haitians, and Dominicans.  Lots of Caribbean influence, lots of Central American.  Some Black.  Since leaving high school, I’ve met a wider field of people: I’ve met British, I’ve met Greeks, I’ve met Swedes, I’ve met Chinese.  I’ve met Muslims, I’ve met Jews, I’ve met Rastas.  I’ve met criminals, and I’ve met upstanding citizens.  I’ve met farm-boys, and inner-city ballers.  I’ve met friendly New Zealanders, and douchey Australians.  I’ve met black girls who can’t stop touching my hair, and Ghanaian pastors who invite me to visit their churches.  I’ve met vegan lesbians, and queer Persians, and trans men.  I’m only thirty and I’ve had thousands of students and dozens of roommates from a great many walks of life.  I have had many friends, people who will be my friends for life, and those who were well-needed friends for the time being.  No friendship is superior or inferior to any other.  I love all of my friends.  My friends get to know me and understand who I am.  They have my back if I ever need them to, and I theirs.

Recently, I went on a pseudo-blind date with a man I met on the Internet.  My friend D—- encouraged me to go out with him and not to worry because he’d be there watching if I needed him.  I laughed and told him I wouldn’t need him (and I didn’t) but his offering to be there just in case was appreciated.  I can hold my own with a man.  I know how to handle myself.  There was a time when I didn’t.  There was a time, when I was younger, when I didn’t know how to advocate for myself with men.  I was inexperienced and unused to people trying to take advantage of me, and I found myself in an uncomfortable situation.  He didn’t ask me if he could touch me.  He didn’t ask me if he could do things to me.  I was wise enough to push him away, and he was kind enough to stop, but the damage was done.  I felt dirty and violated.  By a white, mid-western boy.

In my experience, which isn’t singular or unique, I’ve been fucked over by white men.  Almost exclusively.  Black men, in my experience, have always had my back.  I don’t feel as though I need any protection from Black Men.  I don’t feel that I need any protection from White Men, for that matter.  Same goes for Asian Men and American Indians and Caribbean Men.  My vagina isn’t a thing I need a man to worry about.  Women (all women) do not need a man to stand up and, on behalf of us all, make any decisions about our well-being.  We most especially don’t need a man to murder anyone on our behalf.  I will not take on that responsibility.

Far too often Women have been the justification for horrible acts.  Not any specific woman, but Women, in general.  As if we’re all in constant danger and we need the Menfolk to eliminate that danger so we can feel safe.  Quite frankly, I feel less safe with a man who thinks that is a reasonable argument.  It is as twisted as the man who shot women on his college campus because other women wouldn’t have sex with him.  Women are not some abstract concept that can be invoked as a rallying cry.  We’re not “Democracy”, or “Freedom”, or “God”, or other terrible reasons to justify killing other people: we are people.  We are individuals.  We each have a unique point of view and our own opinions.  If Dylann Roof had asked a woman if she felt unsafe from the “threat of Black Men” he would have known better than to use Women as one of his reasons for shooting innocent people.  Rather than invoking the concept of Women (alongside the notion that Black People have “taken over” the country), he should have just stood behind his unreasonable hatred.  It’s no better a reason, but it’s honest.

I refuse to be someone’s rallying cry.  I refuse to be someone’s concept.  I am a white woman, I am not a White Woman.  You may not capitalize those words and do horrendous things because of me.  I love all of my friends.  I love all people.  I do not accept the burden of Dylann Roof’s crimes.  His unchecked hate led him to shoot people, not my sisters, my mother, my nieces, or my friends, and certainly not me.  Do not use me as your excuse to kill black people.

My prayers are with the Charleston community today.  My love for them abounds.  I pray to God to give them strength and compassion.  I also pray that people everywhere stop seeing women as a concept, stop using us for their own purposes, and start seeing women as people.  So many times I’ve read the questions: why do we focus on race?  And, Why do we need feminism?  Because, my dear, there are those out there who still don’t see us.

Perspective is a funny thing: Mo’ne Davis shows Good Sportsmanship.

Huff Post Women picked up an article, written by a man, condemning the dude who used Twitter to call Mo’ne Davis a “slut”.  The writer commends Davis for being gracious enough to forgive the dude and speak up on his behalf.  But even though she’s forgiven him, the writer cannot.

I agree with the writer, it’s sad how often a child is the bigger person, forgiving an adult for their wrongs.  My hope is that anyone who thought it might be ok to call a 13 year old girl a “slut [or to make jokes that sexualize little girls (Seth MacFarlane)] will rethink their point of view when said thirteen year old girl comes forward and says, ‘You did wrong, dude, but “everyone makes mistakes”; I’m going to forgive you.’  And then help you get reinstated on your sports team.

“Lolita” photo from Styling Dutchman

This girl did not have to respond to that dude.  She could have responded with hate and condemnation.  But she responded with love and compassion.  She took the high road.  She showed Good Sportsmanship.

The writer of the article agrees, Davis acted appropriately, but is still outraged a) (and rightly so) that she was even in this situation and b) that her reaction (and everyone’s praise of her actions) is some sort of Uncle Tom nonsense.  He cites her forgiveness as another example of a black person “turning the other cheek” for a white person’s foolish mistakes.  Ah, perspective!  I saw it as yet another female “turning the other cheek” for a male’s boneheaded comments.  That is my perspective.  Way too often I’ve heard my young, male coworkers make comments about our female students dress, calling them “skanks” for wearing spaghetti strap tanks and using crude hyperbole to say “her shorts are too short”.

Women of all races, ages, and colors are expected to simply “accept” comments about their appearance, dress, and body whether it makes them uncomfortable or not.  Once, in a bar, I wore my father’s old naval shirt complete with patches and our name stenciled across the front.  A man I did not know, upon hearing the shirt’s history, commented “Wow, he must have been barrel-chested in his youth!”  I turned away, done with him.  He thought my reaction was extreme and tried to assure me it was a joke.  I said, “Yeah, I know; I’m not talking to you.”  There is possibly a version of this story out there where he is the innocent party and I am a stuck-up bitch.  I will not, however, apologize for not talking to what was probably a perfectly normal dude who happened to make a creepy comment.  This bonehead who called Mo’ne Davis a “slut” is probably a normal dude.  Normal Dudes don’t realize what they think are acceptable comments aren’t until someone tells them, and even then they don’t always get it.

Mo’ne Davis; photo via Black Celeb Kids

I think Mo’ne Davis is genuinely classy.  She is an inspiring young person.  But I also agree with the writer of the article, whether it’s institutionalized racism, or institutionalized sexism no one should be automatically expected to forgive and forget.  It is those that do who are truly exceptional.

Why I’m still rooting for Becca Tilley.

Photo credit: Steve Cachero

Ew, not for her relationship with Chris; in life.

Becca Tilley is the final lady rejected by Chris Soules on the most recent season of ABC’s “The Bachelor”.  She is a 26 year old chiropractic assistant in California, raised in Louisiana.  She is smart, gorgeous, and nice.  Unlike so many of the other girls who wind up on ABC’s reality-drama “looking for love”, she’s “unemotional”.  Which is to say she doesn’t break down crying or laugh really loudly or talk a lot.  Despite her reserve and her sweet appearance, Becca is tough and I want to see her succeed.

The Internet has been pretty harsh about Becca since the finale aired last week calling her “unemotional” and “unfeeling”.  Even the Bachelor himself, Mr. Sensitivity, wrote a misunderstood account of the scene in the barn when he broke up with Becca.  He dis-compassionately cited “the lack of emotion she showed in that moment” as being what hurt the most for him.  In a “moment” like that, being dumped, some girls might cry, some might throw a tantrum, some girls might get combative, but other girls immediately click into “self-preservation mode”.  Whether or not this was the case with Becca Tilley, I certainly don’t know (perhaps she was just in “shock” as she later says in the limo).  I can, however, think of several reasons why Becca’s outward expressions are entirely reasonable.

1. Self-preservation.  Getting dumped is the worst.  Break-ups are hard and emotionally taxing.  Some of us, when we’re told by someone we care about that they “don’t want us” have a knee-jerk reaction to “save face”.  After Chris tells Becca she’s not the one he’s choosing, she stiffens up, her smile goes away, she keeps nodding as he’s talking, all of which could indicate some major self-preservation kicking in.  She doesn’t want to look weak, or foolish, or vulnerable in front of this man whom she has come to trust as he is, essentially, betraying that trust.

2. She saw it coming?  The program was down to Becca and Whitney.  Becca is no fool, she knew that Chris has strong feelings for Whitney, and more importantly, Whitney’s life-goals line up with Chris’; Whitney also wants to settle down, get married, and start a family right now.  Whitney over Becca is the logical choice, assuming all parties are being 100% honest about what they want.  It’s entirely possible Becca knew she was saying goodbye to Chris that day because she was aware of her limitations in regards to Chris’s desires.  She entered the barn full of smiles, which could mean she was still hopeful, but it’s possible she’d already resigned herself to the fact that she and Chris were saying goodbye.

3. Becca doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve.  Anyone watching the program at all knows that Becca is a bit of a dark horse, which isn’t a bad thing!  She doesn’t openly share her emotions, she isn’t loud and mouthy like Ashley I., and she isn’t dramatic like Kelsey, and she isn’t effervescent like Whitney.  Becca doesn’t try to be the loudest person in the room, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel anything, or notice what’s going on, or have opinions.  One out of three people, studies, and common sense, tell us, are Introverts: people who aren’t going to be the loudest person in the room, people who are probably going to keep their opinions to themselves, unless specifically asked.  But, since people don’t usually ask, Introverts can be overwhelmed when put on the spot.  They can become flustered and say “I don’t know” a lot.  Because they probably don’t know.  Becca has struck me throughout this cycle as a young woman who thinks before she speaks and if she is unsure about something she isn’t going to say that she is.  If she is an Introvert, Becca’s lack of outward emotion in the barn is entirely natural.  It’s entirely acceptable even if she isn’t.  She was receiving tough news and she probably needed time to process it.  Maybe she had an epic break down later off-camera?

4. SHE WAS BEING DUMPED ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.  Lest we forget “The Bachelor” is a fucking television show, Becca and the other contestants, I’m sure, never did.  They have cameras and microphones, a host, and a director, for fucks sake, hovering around them as they are attempting, presumably, to find their soulmate from a pool of pretty people carefully selected by a team of producers.  The stigma surrounding being vulnerable is pretty much bullshit, but something I can understand.  I can understand Becca not wanting all of America to see her vulnerability as the man she’s come to care for breaks up with her.  Were I in her shoes, I would probably want to keep some of my feelings private too.

To call this young woman “cold” and “unemotional” is downright rude, and only works to promote the incorrect notion that there is one “normal” mode of behavior.  The people who want Becca to have a breakdown, or cry, when Chris breaks up with her are naive.  It may have been sometimes subtle, but Becca struggled throughout the season.  She wants to fall in love, she doesn’t want to hurt Chris, and she doesn’t want to get hurt herself.  Part of her really wants to be with Chris, but ABC’s imposed timeline is not Becca’s timeline.  The network wants the Reality Couple to make certain declarations after only knowing each other for approximately two months and Becca’s hesitation is entirely rational.  As Queen Elsa says, “You can’t marry a man you just met!”.

Were Becca and Chris able to date exclusively for a while without the cameras, giving Becca time to figure out what her life in Iowa would be (kudos to her for not being willing to assimilate to his life foregoing one of her own!) perhaps they could make a go of it.  They seemed to genuinely care for one another and, given time, it could blossom into something strong and wonderful.  As it is, ABC puts the pressure on the couple to make a decision and make it now.  Whitney was ready to make a decision now.  Chris was ready to make a decision now.  Becca, like any reasonable twenty six year old, was not.

As a spectator of their lives, I like Becca.  I like Whitney, too.  I like a lot of the girls.  I even like Chris.  But, in life, I’m rooting for Becca.  Chris and Whitney can get married, break up, get back together, never see each other again.  But I want to see Becca Tilley achieve great things in this life on her own terms.  She isn’t unemotional at all, America (Chris), she just doesn’t share her emotions as readily as most people.  Something I view as a strength rather than a weakness.  Becca will use whatever she is feeling after this experience and funnel it into whatever she does next.  And whatever she does next is going to be brilliant.

Wham! George Michael follow-up post.

Because, obviously, after listening to Faith all the way through I’m listening to more George Michael/Wham! songs popular in another country when I was a very small child.  I like the fun ones; Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, I’m Your Man, etc.  But the rest are so tortured!  His woman is either not sleeping with him, has done him wrong, or looks down on him, or all three.  A major theme of inadequacy screams from a number of songs: Everything She Wants, and Monkey.  Then there’s Father Figure…. what the fuck is that?  Is he adopting a child?  What is this song about?

Seriously, though, George Michael is the Dolly Parton of British Pop Singers.

(Have you ever listened to Jolene? Go listen to that album.)

There’s also a whole lot of snapping in these songs…..

#LegoFriends: For Boys and Girls.

Someone gave my niece a Lego Friends kit for Valentine’s Day.  Lego Friends, for those of you who don’t know, is the “girl” line from Lego.  The Lego people are all girls and the kits are all geared toward “girls’ interests”.  Now, I, personally, have never had any desire to climb up onto a large quadruped or build a hotel, but Lego must know what they’re doing, right?

The kits aren’t really any different from the rest of Lego’s kits.  Buildings, cars, boats, etc.

There’s really nothing offensive about Lego Friends, not in actuality.  The line actually opens up options for people inclined to build Lego kits.  Friends provides builders with swimming pools, horse stables, hair salons, and veterinarian offices.  After all, not everyone wants to build Police stations, Fire stations, speedboats, and construction sites.  Lego Friends works to reach a certain demographic heretofore not included by the toymakers.

A little personal history: I didn’t know Lego made kits until I was about ten years old.  I knew Legos, I played with them often.  We had a Tupperware container (a large one meant for cakes) filled with bricks and five or six Lego people in various states of disarray.  I built all sorts of things throughout my childhood, both with my sisters and alone.  Our Lego people were a little sad; some were missing hands, some of them had their faces rubbed off, one was even missing an entire leg.  All of their hats were broken, the ones we still had.  They were the 1980s Space Adventure Guys, the one The Lego Movie portrayed as an excitable fool.  The space ship building kits were long since incorporated into the general Lego brick collection, their instructions lost to the annuls of familial history.  Sometimes we still built flying machines with the wing pieces, but never once in my memory did I see the pieces assembled as intended in the kit.

Mostly my sisters and I built houses.

Really.  We had  a large, green baseplate that we would line with multicolored one by whatever sized pieces, We’d make doorways and section off rooms to create bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.  Red slanty pieces and flat four by eight pieces became beds, sometimes bunk beds.  Often there was a room that was built up with two by four and two by two rectangle and square bricks, the bed would pull up revealing a hole underneath it for storing treasure and secrets.  Once we’d built the houses, we’d play with them.  The Lego Space People being boys or girls as needed, doing whatever whimsy popped into our childish minds.  (We did the same things with our blocks.)

By the time I realized Legos sometimes came in kits with instructions to make specific things, I was already phasing out of Legos (which, unfortunately weren’t replaced by robotics kits or other more sophisticated building toys).  I was in middle school, and it was dawning on me: other kids had Lego sets.  What a concept!  Youngest kid, it never occurred to me to ask for more Legos.  As far as I was concerned we had exactly the right amount as I was always able to make whatever I thought up.

Fast forward twenty years, my nieces and nephews are discovering the world of Legos.  My six year old niece is happy to sit in her play area and build tall Lego cars complete with bathrooms, but she will also, Emmet-style, flip through the instructions and build exact replicas of what Lego intended those 250 pieces to make.  Both are admirable and I commend my small friend for her ability to do both open-ended play and structured play (is that the right term?).

That being said, I think Lego Friends is stupid.

Reason 1: It’s specifically marketed toward girls.  I’ve already mentioned I was never a horse girl.  In fact, I only knew of two girls growing up who had a deep interest in riding horses.  Two out of the dozens of girls I knew from school, church, Girl Scouts, and summer camp.  It’s possible some of the others were interested, but their families were too poor to support such an activity (we were a mixed community, socio-economically speaking).  But only two girls in my memory took horseback riding lessons and/or rode regularly.  Neither was I all that interested in Princesses or shopping or malls or hair salons or horse shows (there’s a lot of horse related Lego Friends stuff).  I wasn’t that kind of Girl, and I’m no original: there must be plenty of girls turned off of Lego because of what Lego is telling them their interests should be.

And what about the boys?  The boys who would love a Lego hair salon set, but feel like they aren’t “supposed to” want the hair salon Lego set because it’s a girls toy and therefore “unmanly”?  Because it’s one thing for a girl to want to build the Lego Millennium Falcon (who doesn’t want to build the Lego Millennium Falcon?), but for a boy to want pink riding stables would be a bit…. queer.

Reason 2 (somewhat related to Reason 1): Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink!  I like pink.  I did not like pink when I was nine years old.  I put up with it… because I was a girl… but I preferred purple: the color of royalty (yeah, I was that girl*).  When I was Lego building age, marketing things in pink would have made me wrinkle my little nose and heave the sigh of a thirty year old spinster who’s seen it all.  My cousin’s daughter, a charming young woman, began her pink-hate at the tender age of three.  My lovely, well-meaning mother gave the child a casual pink summer dress for her birthday that year.  The kid took one look at it, wrinkled her little nose, and dropped it on the ground.  This pink marketing crap is equally lost on her.  A boy one of my sisters used to babysit, however, loved him some pink.  In fact, his most treasured toy was a Barbie hair styling head.  Had the Lego Friends line been a thing when he was little, he might have been attracted to their bright colors and “fun” things to build.

Reason 3, and probably the biggest peeve: No crossover.  Or limited crossover, at least.  I’ll start here: I don’t think Lego Friends is an entirely evil concept.  As already stated, I think the Friends line fills a gap previously unfilled.  The kids who don’t want to build Lego emergency vehicles, and space ships need something to build too.  And if a child is interested in Horse Shows and building Legos, then why shouldn’t he or she have a Lego Horse Show kit?  And if a kid needs their doll to come with a name and a vague backstory, why not have them come with names and have families and all that?  (Instead of, say, encouraging the child to make up their own — ok, maybe I’m not as cool with that aspect…)  Some kids need a larger story in order to have effective play (some big kids need that too ;).

But why do the Friends characters stand head and shoulders over the regular Lego people?

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These two are the epitome of a middle school dance!  One of his friends asked her to dance with him, she says sure, then proceeds to awkwardly pretend she’s about to make small talk while she stares over his head, and he pretends he’s about to make small talk while awkwardly stares as her developing breasts.

Why aren’t these characters the same size and shape?  There isn’t a chance the Friends character will fit in the Regular character’s spaceship, or airplane, or Batmobile.  She’ll have to sit awkwardly half out and the kid will probably spend most of the play session putting her back into the vehicle while she tries to swoop in and blast the oppressive Storm Trooper out of the sky and off the Rebel’s tail!  Making the Friends characters entirely different from the standard Lego person further removes the Friends line from the rest of Lego.  And, really, aren’t the two already segregated enough?

Why is the Lego Friends line only marketed to girls?  And why is acceptable for girls to have the other Lego kits, but “wrong” for a boy to have one of the Friends kits?  Why even make a distinction like that?  A Lego ad from the mid 80s has been getting a lot of attention lately, you know the one: adorable redhaired kid with her Legos and the tagline: What it is is beautiful.

Is that girl ever upset with the current marketing trends Lego has fallen into?  She’s so annoyed, grown person and practicing doctor, Rachel Giordano participated in this comparison advertisement:

Giordano’s ad was, in fact, one of many Lego produced in the 80s.  The others were equally neutral and non-gendered.  They even provided encouragement to build whatever the fuck you want to build.  Mazel Tov, children!  Build away!

What happened Lego?

Eventually, in the lives of the individual toys, none of this will matter.  Eventual the parental person will become sick of all the kits winding up loose and underfoot (little bastard pieces hide out in the carpet fibers just waiting for the unsuspecting barefoot adult to come ambling along, plotting little plastic fuckers…) and will toss all the Lego pieces into one bin (“There!  Doesn’t that make everything easier?”)  the Friends line pieces and the Regular Lego pieces become homogenized in the large Tupperware cake bin.  The youngest kid, unaware of “sets” and “kits”, will build houses and cars and spaceships that fit the people characters no matter their size and they’ll put the Friends hair on the Regular Lego person and the Regular Lego Person hat on the Friends character, never thinking there’s anything wrong about it until they’re thirty and they ask themselves: Yeah?  Why is the Friends Character a Lego-Foot taller than the other Lego People?  What the fuck, Lego?

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**My six year old niece put the Friend hair on the Regular Lego Person, showed it to me and snickered. Snickered. She thought it was so funny!  True Story.  I put the hat on the Friend character.

*If you do not know what sort of girl I mean, it’s this: I was the girl who didn’t want to be a Princess, I wanted to be a Queen.  It was my understanding of the hierarchy that princesses would maybe one day be queens, if they married the right prince, but most likely they’d remain just a princess with few duties but to look pretty and sing or weave tapestries or some shit.  But Queens, them bitches could make decisions and effect change.  Queens had power.  Why be a useless princess, I thought, when I could be a Queen.

A Question About How Women Interact With One Another (or don’t) at Portland’s Japanese Gardens

This week I visited Portland’s Japanese Gardens.  The day was cloudy, and the Gardens were damp and calm and peaceful and lovely.  I was excited to be there, I’d brought my new art supplies anticipating I would do some sketching.  Early in my visit I got turned around and almost didn’t go to the Natural Garden.  The Garden map made it seem as though it would be quite the hike to get there.  I mulled it over and decided the $9.50 admission wasn’t something I was going to pay a second time during this trip, I’d backtrack.  Happy I did, I sat down to sketch.

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The Natural Garden is a small, seemingly wild space with a zig-zag stone path that takes visitors across the water and around to the side of the pool.  Plants appear to grow at their leisure, with little maintenance.  The water bubbles lazily from one side of the pool to the other.  Along the edge are benches where one can sit, empty one’s mind and appreciate the moment.

That is where I did my sketching.

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Muscle memory is amazing.

Just as I was thinking this a noisy group of tourists came through (not that I’m not a tourist, but I’m a quiet, introspective tourist).  Loud Man Tourist comes immediately over to me asking loudly: “Have you captured it?” and leans over to see what I’m working on.  I answer politely; the man didn’t seem like he meant any harm, but his actions did feel intrusive.  Then, believing I am ten years younger than I am, I’m sure, he asked if I am in art school.  I’m not.  I told him so and even offered that I used to take art classes (meaning: as a child).  He told me to “keep it up” before going off with his (silent) wife to the Zen Garden.

Another couple had come along during this (either with the Loud Man couple, or simply behind them), the man from that couple murmured that my drawing is “very nice”.  Him I thanked sincerely as he and his also silent woman passed by.

After they were gone, I had this thought: What did those women think?  Neither of them had said a word.  I’m not sure either really even looked at me.  I was only peripherally aware of any of them, myself, wanting to focus on my sketching.  But the women were conspicuously  silent while their men talked to me.  Why?  Did these women sense that the men speaking to me was intrusive and not want to add to my interruption?  Were they embarrassed the Loud Man checked out my drawing without asking me for permission?  Did they think their men were paying too much attention to the pretty, solitary woman in the Garden?  Did they like my sketch?

I became so engrossed by this topic I no longer cared about that man’s presumption.  I wanted to know what those women were thinking.  What they thought of their men during that interaction.  If they thought anything of it at all!  Maybe it didn’t seem weird to them that their men spoke to me and I to them, but between us women no acknowledgement was made?  But maybe it did.  It certainly is interesting.

Fifty Shades of What the Fracking Bull?

What with the upcoming release, I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials lately for  Fifty Shades of Grey.  My question is simple: What the fracking bull?

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades Darker, or Fifty Shades of Pissed Off Writers Everywhere, or whatever the sequels are called.  “Mommy Porn” that originated as fan fiction of an already terrible series does not interest me.  Learning the notoriously naughty BDSM the story boasts is vanilla at best, and, at worst, secondhand, drove my interest even lower.  I have no issue with YA fiction, romance novels, or erotica, but something about E.L. James’s skyrocket into the “literary world” bothers the shit out of me.  How these books were published is beyond my understanding.

Even worse: they’ve made a movie out of it…

What the fish….

And here’s where American Capitalistic Opportunism wins out over Moral and Creative Integrity.  Not only has a publishing house republished a terrible story with a slight twist, now Hollywood has produced a movie they’ve already made.  Because we should, none of us, forget the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight fan fiction.

When Hollywood made the Twilight movies they cast actors who actually, sort of, mostly resembled the images of the characters I had in my head while reading the insipid novels.  Cedric Diggory made a great Sparkly Vampire, and Never-Learned-to-Smile made for an exquisitely boring heroine.  A pretty English boy and a symmetrical American girl made us believe in vampires, if only for the one hundred twenty minutes each movie runs.

Now with Fifty Shades, a story that appears to be primarily porn about kinky sex, the casting director, who had her fucking job cut out for her, failed to deliver.  Or, if it wasn’t that person who dropped the ball, it was the makeup/costuming department that failed.

They took a pretty girl:

Dakota Johnson

and made her incredibly homely:

Anastasia Steele

Which, perhaps, is more true to the character (again: I have not read the books).  But if you’re going to put a book reported to be one big sexy, handcuffed romp on the big screen why not make her attractive?  (Especially when you’ve cast an already attractive woman?)

And the dude (because straight men are not this movie’s target audience):

Jamie Dornan

They cast one of Calvin Klein’s interchangeable parts (who looks way sexy with facial hair), shaved him down to his baby-face and made him look like he’s trying on daddy’s suit for the first time:

Christian Grey

Not attractive.  Not alluring.  Mostly creepy.  If a real, live dude looked and dressed and behaved how they portray Christian Grey in the clips and trailers any curious, sane, crazy, intelligent, or insecure woman would, hopefully, have a voice in her head telling her to run… run fast.  Dude is creepily aggressive half the time, and eerily emotionless the rest.  If he were a vampire his behavior might be acceptable.  As it stands, he’s got “sociopath” written all over him.  No one is going to let their friend date a person like this without either saying something, or at least watching them very, very carefully.

But, as far as I know, no one stops Anastasia from letting this jackwad bind her and assume control over her person in the name of Love.  And the audience is supposed to believe he cares for her more than he wants to control her.  We are supposed to buy into this illusion of romance so much that the fact it’s being released on Valentine’s Day (not February 14th, Valentine’s Day) shouldn’t creep out the American public.

It’s fucking twisted.  The trailer features an amazingly creepy clip of him feeling her up under the table at a dinner party with his voice over telling us that he “doesn’t do romance” leading this American, heterosexual woman to believe the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is not intended to be Romantic in any regard despite the movie’s release date.

I believe there are romantic, loving couples who enjoy a healthy, consensual bondage-based sex life.  And that they should celebrate!  To each, his own, I say!  I’m not about to get in your way or pass judgement.  None of my qualms about this work come from my puritanical beliefs about sex and love, but from my standpoint as a woman and a writer.  The story is about an insecure young woman being entirely enveloped by an aggressive alpha male.  She subsequently disappears entirely into his way of life, rather than growing and developing as her own person.  As a woman that makes me sad.  So many real life women are lost to other, stronger willed people as it is; sometimes it’s a partner, sometimes it’s family or friends.  No matter the situation, it’s unfortunate that women so easily disappear into someone else’s idea of who they should be.

As a writer, I’m pissed Twilight fan fiction is being hailed as anything other than what it is: poorly written porn.  These books, and subsequent movie, are a travesty of American literature.

It has, however, inspired some great sarcastic Internet memes*:

This query from Claire Standish:

As well as this brilliant advice from Ellen:

Ellen Ellen1 Ellen2

And a comic of what the actual story should have been:

*I got most of these from typing “Fifty Shades of Bullshit” into a Google Image search.  Which, it turns out, is a pretty funny anti-Fifty Shades Tumblr: FiftyShadesofBullshit.

It has become increasingly important to me that my life has meaning.  A byproduct of getting older?  A byproduct of this past year?  I don’t know.  I don’t suppose it matters much.  But I want the things that I do to have meaning.  And I’d like to share that sense of meaning with other people.  Friends, family, a man, a community, something.  I don’t regret one single bit the lifestyle I’ve been living, but it’s not strictly what I want anymore.  That is a very strange feeling.

I’d like to belong somewhere.  I’d like to not only belong there all the time, but year-round.  I will always belong at NC, but I need something more stable in my life now that I didn’t need before.  I still want to travel, but I’d like a base of operations.  I want a community that is always in one place.  A place to call Home.

Oh, shit, we’re getting sentimental in our old age.