Christie Brinkley was on the cover of People magazine, and I pointed out the story to the twins: “Can you believe she’s 60?”
“She doesn’t look 60,” the Wolvog agreed despite NEVER being able to judge a person’s age regardless.
“How does a person not look their age?” the ChickieNob asked.
“You have a lot of work done,” I commented.
“You get a job?”
“Well no, it’s just something people say when someone else has had plastic surgery or other treatments to change their skin or hair or body. I actually don’t know if she’s done anything to enhance herself so I shouldn’t say that*. But a lot of women do have surgery and then other women compare their natural body to that surgically-enhanced body, but it isn’t a fair comparison.”
“She’s definitely been Photoshopped,” Josh commented. There was not one blemish on her perfectly smooth, perfectly highlighted legs.
The ChickieNob is taking a digital illustration class utilizing Photoshop so she stared at the picture. “How was it Photoshopped?”
“Sweetie, when you see pictures of people in magazines, they’ve been digitally altered. Even in movies, they sometimes digitally alter people’s image sometimes, frame by frame.”
We started showing them videos on YouTube, explaining how images are manipulated until the final result looks nothing like the original model.
Or this one; a little hair and make-up, and a whole lot of Photoshopping:
Later that day, I took the twins to the library to check out books, and while I was talking to the librarian, I noticed that the ChickieNob had wandered over to the magazine rack and was perusing all the covers. I walked over to look at the pictures with her.
“All these women have been Photoshopped,” she said, running her finger over Rihanna’s nose. “I don’t think her neck looks that long when she’s singing.”
“No, they probably lengthened it,” I agreed. “But take a look at the faces of the men.”
She touched the crow’s feet, lining their eyes, and the wrinkles in their foreheads and the stubble along their jaw line. “They left all the things that make them look old.”
“I’m sure they’ve been Photoshopped too. But their skin hasn’t been smoothed out and had all the blemishes removed. They’re still allowed to look a little like a human being.”
You could practically see the little gears in her head turning, and she returned to the topic a few more times since, wondering why women’s bodies are changed and why we can’t just look the way we look and how do women feel when they see themselves Photoshopped and can they ever be happy with how they look after they’re told quite clearly that certain features they possess need changing? And she wanted to know who came up with the idea of make-up or hair dye. And who decided that bigger eyes or longer necks were prettier?
And you could see the gears turning and turning and turning. I just hope they stop somewhere that allows her to laugh at the ridiculousness of others and love herself intensely.
* She has, it turns out, according to the article. Though nothing invasive… yet.
March 10, 2014 7 Comments
I have come to the conclusion that if we stopped talking about whether or not we can have it all, we’d save ourselves several hours a day. Those hours could be put towards useful endeavours. And then, instead of constantly slamming our hands against the glass ceiling like mimes, we could enjoy those lives we’ve worked hard to build.
The latest “can women have it all” discussion centers on Wendy Davis, the Democrat running for governor of Texas. You may remember Wendy Davis from her multi-hour filibuster over abortion restrictions. The New York Times asks if Wendy Davis can have it all. And lest you’re confused about whether they’re asking if she could be both a state senator AND governor, no, parenting comes up within the first few sentences.
The tone of the article wavers between neutral and negative, accusing her of “self-congratulation” when she points out her accomplishments. (“Seated behind the wheel of her black Tahoe hybrid S.U.V., Davis was wearing a fitted black dress and high heels and an omnipresent half-smile that could be interpreted as both drowsy and sly. She slowed whenever we came upon a structure or a street that bore her imprint, which seemed to happen every two or three minutes.”) Though I’m not really sure what the reporter, Robert Draper, wanted Davis to do? Not speak of her accomplishments? So he could accuse her of being uncooperative and hiding something?
Draper dissects her campaign strategy, claiming that the story she’s presenting is one of “Supermom”:
Instead, the campaign had chosen as its lead narrative a heroic struggle of a different sort: that of a teenage, trailer-dwelling single mother, who, while raising two daughters, bootstrapped her way into Harvard Law School and soon, possibly, the governorship. On many levels, the story was politically exquisite. It connected the candidate and her devotion to issues like education in a personal rather than an ideological manner. It also sidestepped the divisive issue of abortion while framing her as the kind of hard-working mother to whom suburban women (a critical voting bloc) could relate.
And this is where he gleefully takes offense, pointing out the myriad ways this story is untrue. Even though he equally admits that it is true. She was a single mother. She did work hard to get through Harvard Law, even though she had financial help in paying for her tuition. She did fight tooth and nail — as most politicians do when they’re starting their career — to become a state senator. She is a success story in the sense that she has existed from time to time in her life in difficult situations, and she is now poised to possibly become governor of an enormous state.
The reality is that Davis’s team needs to find an angle that appeals to voters. It’s that simple. That is the job of a campaign strategist, and in this case, her angle isn’t a terrible one even if Draper takes offense. And frankly, Draper — as far as I know — is a writer, not a campaign manager. It’s easy to play armchair strategist, never having to actually produce results. And this is something pointless that we do as general citizens every election: we critique campaigns vs. critiquing the candidates. Every citizen gets a chance to voice their opinion; but the only place our opinion counts is whether we think she (or any candidate) will do a good job in office.
So Mr. Draper, let the woman choose the angle she thinks will work for her. Vote her or don’t vote for her: that’s your job as a citizen. It isn’t to be her campaign manager.
But Draper’s article goes beyond Wendy Davis, and so much of his commentary is what women fight against on a daily basis. Aren’t women always fighting between the humble brag (I kinda sorta did this amazing thing on my own) and the demur objection (it’s really not such a big deal). We’re accused of being a stuck-up bitch if we own our accomplishments, and we’re accused of being a downright loser not up to task if we don’t own what we’ve done. No one does anything on their own; we always have people behind the scenes making the moments in our life possible. Yes, I write books, but I could never have the time to write books without Josh’s paycheck, the twins’ cooperation, my parent’s childcare help, the twins’ teachers, friends, family members, etc.
But where is line between ownership of our accomplishments and sharing those achievements with our personal support team?
Why aren’t men being held to task for not pointing out the hundreds of people who stand behind them who give them the space to do what they do? Find me the one article that complains that a man takes credit for all he has done. Truly, I’ll eat my words if you can find one. Because I’ve offered up this New York Times article to you as one in which a woman is taken to task for stating her accomplishments.
Show me the article that calls into question the capabilities of a father for putting his education front and center. Draper spends a lot of time reiterating that Davis lived in Massachusetts while her children remained in Texas with her husband. (Who he tells us many many many times was paying for her law school.) His word choice shows his judgment. I want someone to trot out an article that frets over the amount of time a father spends working instead of being at home with his children.
We’re a country that is obsessed with individualism. We want to be the best, the only. We respond to strength. And yet we come down on a woman who is strong. Who has ambition. We love the gumption story UNTIL we get to the apex. And then we want that woman to fall, and we want her to fall hard. We try to knock anyone off their pedestal the moment they rise above the masses, and that is especially true when it comes to women. Take a look at the adoration and backlash of every woman in Hollywood.
Is some of that backlash tied to our own frustration of perceiving the person receiving the accolades to have reached that accomplishment on their own whereas we need a small army just to get through our mundane lives? Draper isn’t wrong that we need to spend less time perpetuating the myth that anyone builds their life entirely on their own and that anyone can do so if they just pull themselves up by the bootstraps. But at the same time, what is the alternative: to demur and show weakness, which is disdained by both men and women in America? We can’t change this story when it’s the one people seemingly want to hear so they can play their role in tearing it apart.
It seems like every time a woman shows a hint of ambition, she’s shot down. And then women question why there aren’t more women in office. Would you want to run, knowing this is what will greet you?
Instead of dissecting Wendy Davis as a woman, let’s dissect her as a candidate. Can she do the job? Does she represent your interests if you live in Texas? If so, vote for her. If not, please don’t. But let’s not make this about her vagina. Let’s not hold her to standards we don’t hold our male candidates. Let’s not ask if she can have it all when as a society we’ve already answered that question with a resound “no.”
Wait, I’m sorry, it’s not that we can’t have it all. Other countries are much better at allowing all people — men and women — to balance home and work. If she lived somewhere else, she maybe could have it all. But the American narrative is to not allow women to have it all and to slap their wrists when they try to reach for it.
March 9, 2014 8 Comments
I don’t know what inspired me to do so, but last week at shul, I leaned over during a prayer and started singing to the ChickieNob and Wolvog the naughty words we used to slip in as kids. They were the usual ones — the standards that all Jewish kids who have been to Jewish sleepaway camp know — such as “I swear I share my bras” for “asher asher bara.” (For that one, we got in a lot of trouble as teens because we’d snap each other’s bra straps when we sang that.)
The ChickieNob was delighted to discover such subversiveness existed within the context of shul. As we drove home, she made me sing the prayers over and over again so she could memorize where to put in these phrases. And in doing so, she actually learned the words to the prayers in order to masticate them into a new wad of meaning. I warned them that they may want to be discreet. Use them infrequently. Don’t end up in the principal’s office at Hebrew school as much as I did.
So I heard about this new app made by Spritz which allows you to speed read. As of now, the app is only on Samsung devices? Anyway, I tried it out on the Spritz site. I felt very comfortable at 500 wpm (220 wpm is average for regular reading). I could do 600 wpm. I will definitely be downloading this app when it comes available on iOS devices.
Even though I know I will definitely buy this app and use it, I’m not sure how/when I’ll use it. Will I consume books this way? Yes, but which books? Most likely books I have to read vs. want to read. I don’t think I’d use it for email, though I could see myself using it for magazine articles. It will change the way I do research, though I don’t see how I would use a speed reading app if I needed to take notes. By the time my brain processed that I wanted to remember a fact, I’d be three or four sentences away.
I guess I see it as the difference between eating to sustain myself and eating to enjoy the meal. There are times when I grab a granola bar just because if I don’t put something in my body, I’ll faint. And that’s fine sometimes. But other times, I want to sit down with a nice, home-cooked meal and focus on eating something to enjoying it.
If you can’t wait for this app to be available, there are ones online that seem to work just as well. Even though they’re really only great for blog posts and not for whole books, such as spreeder.
What do you think of speed reading apps?
And now the blogs…
But first, second helpings of the posts that appeared in the open comment thread last week. In order to read the description before clicking over, please return to the open thread:
- “Fertility: A Spectrum” (Genuine Greavu)
- “Thoughts on Empathy” (A Fox in the Hen House)
- “The Club” (A Glimpse Inside)
- “The Golden Ticket” (Serenity Now)
- “The Tension Between Manifestation and Letting Go” (The Unexpected Trip)
Okay, now my choices this week.
Mama Said Knock You Out is back with a post about life after family building. It’s a little pop-in; a message to anyone who stumbles across the space, letting them know the epilogue. That whatever you’re feeling today, you will not feel forever. I love the ending: “For now, I hope to continue that float up. Not too quickly or too soon as I fear once I break the surface, it shall mean I have died. It’s not too bad here. It’s OK.”
Feeding My Inner Child… Hopefully has a post about infertility souvenirs, a different way of looking at lessons learned through the experience. She writes, “I was originally going to title this ‘The Gift of Infertility,’ but in many ways, infertility was not a present and I was definitely not pleased to receive it. Souvenir sounds so much better. It’s something I’ve chosen to take away from my journey, and something that I will keep forever.” She points out that her list is personal, but I think the post will resonate with a lot of people.
Lastly, Two Adults, One Child about the lifespan of an infertility/loss blog. She writes, “So, of course I have lost some readers along the way. I’m really NOT that interesting anymore — at least, from the standpoint of infertility. I will always be able to identify with the infertility community, but perhaps there are some in the infertility community who can no longer identify with me.” Thankfully, she’s not going away. But it is an interesting observation.
The roundup to the Roundup: Bad influence on the twins. What do you think of speed reading apps? And lots of great posts to read. So what did you find this week? Please use a permalink to the blog post (written between February 28th and March 7th) and not the blog’s main url. Not understanding why I’m asking you what you found this week? Read the original open thread post here.
March 7, 2014 8 Comments
On March 7 and 8, people across the world will participate in a day of unplugging. But I’m not going to join them. Sorry, rebooters.
Image: Suri via Flickr
It’s a fine idea in theory. For 24 hours, get off your devices. Shut down the computer and go outside. Hang out with friends and family instead of looking at a screen. Read a book, join up with other people who are unplugging, pick up that guitar you’ve neglected for the last few months that has been collecting dust in the corner.
But here’s the thing: if a person truly has difficulty self-regulating their screen usage, a single day of unplugging isn’t going to erase months or years of bad habits. If a person has stopped interacting with the people around them in favour for catching up with their friends’ lives via Facebook, they need a lot more than 24 hours to reboot. Likewise if they rudely stare at a screen while people try to speak with them, or reject the face-to-face world altogether in favour of experiencing life via YouTube.
For the rest of us — those of us who maintain a fairly healthy balance with screen time, perhaps giving screens more time than we did in the past because the Internet brings us happiness but still meeting up with friends sans smartphones, playing with our kids, and cooking meals — the idea of unplugging because someone else has told us to unplug is to give in to someone else’s judgment on the way we spend our time.
Because that’s what this is at its heart: a judgment of what is “better” — online or offline. It places a value on how you spend your time, and the underlying message is that the worth of online time is less than offline time.
And beyond that, it creates a heirarchy to how people derive their happiness or health.
Not everyone feels fulfilled by stepping out into nature. There are plenty of us who better enjoy sitting inside with a good book. But we don’t have a National Day of Going Indoors. Perhaps it is because organizers of events believe that everyone spends enough time indoors, and they need to get us outdoors to fulfill an ulterior motive such as saving the forests. (“If we could just get them to see the beauty of this site, surely they would contribute to saving the land!”)
But really, I think it comes down to the fact that people like to judge other people. Telling us to unplug (not on an individual basis because you think your friend has a problem, but as a blanket statement for all people) is just one more time when a group of people are judging the behaviour of another group of people in order to feel superior.
In the judgment of your life, being outdoors trumps being indoors. Being active trumps relaxing. Doing something that furthers intelligence trumps something that merely fills you with happiness. Be productive, but don’t be too productive. Connect with friends, but not at the detriment to your work; and don’t work too much to the detriment of your relationships!
You can’t win, so you might as well not try.
I think the most grating words expelled by humans is “you’ll love this.” What the speaker usually means is that they love it, and they can’t fathom how someone else would not find what they love beyond fabulous. This is especially true when people tell me that I’ll love something, but they don’t know me at all. The reality is that if I wanted to live someone else’s life, I would. If I wanted to spend more time unplugged, I would. If I wanted to travel more, I would, or spend time in nature or hang out with my friends. If I’m not doing these things, chances are — especially at my age knowing full well the plethora of options that exist — I don’t want to do these things. They wouldn’t bring me happiness, even if they bring other people happiness.
So I think it’s great that other people take digital sabbaticals. I’m glad they learn a lot of stuff about themselves when they do that. I’m even glad that they feel that they’ve changed their lives. I wish them a lot of happiness on their endeavours. But I feel no need to partake myself.
So on March 7 and 8, I will be looking at a screen as much as I need or want to look at a screen. I’ll also hang out with my kids, read Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat, and do a little yoga. After the kids go to bed, I’ll spend some meaningful time with my husband… cough. What I won’t do is feel a moment of guilt. Nor will I long to be surrounded by trees or looking at a mountain or smelling flowers. If I wanted those things, I wouldn’t wait until an assigned day to do them. I would get outside… now. But I’m not, and I’m okay with that.
And since no one else has to live my life, they should be okay with that too.
Are you unplugging this weekend?
cross-posted with BlogHer
March 6, 2014 12 Comments
So I read Emily Gould’s essay on what her novel cost her on the Daily Dot. (Unfortunately, they removed the post, but you can read it here.) I stuck with it until the end, even though I considered jumping ship when she started cataloging her cat’s health woes. She’s a talented writer and an engaging one, but I can’t say that I was emotionally invested in the cat. Still, I’m glad I made it to the end even though it’s a really really really long piece.
Which is noteworthy because we seem to live in an age where writing pieces are getting shorter and shorter. Magazine articles are getting shorter, blog posts are getting shorter, and some people don’t even use up all 140 characters on Twitter. Soon we’ll be reduced to just throwing up single letters. Or numbers. We’ll assign all of our most common thoughts a number and there will be a posted key that people can use in order to understand our brief, brief updates.
The length of Gould’s piece (and perhaps it’s because it also rambled) makes me think that maybe I find shorter pieces more enjoyable. Something longer than Twitter but shorter than 5000+ words. Here’s a tangential question: where do you fall on the happy reading length continuum? Do you prefer long novels that are broken up into two or three page scenes? The brevity of Twitter? Blog posts or magazine articles that go on for many pages but hold your interest due to the subject matter? Long chapters with no page breaks?
Anyway Emily Gould outlines the true cost of writing. Mostly she covers the financial cost of writing. If you’re writing full-time, you’re not earning money another way. If you’re spending hours online building your platform, then you’re not doing other work that comes with a clear-cut paycheck. But she talks about the other cost of spending a lot of time online:
It was miraculous, I wanted to shout into the wind, how much space opened up in your brain when you stopped filling it with a steady stream of other people’s thoughts!
Twitter and Tumblr and even email—anything that rewards constant vigilance and creates repetitive cycles of need based on intermittent reinforcement—were the bitterest foes of the sustained concentration that’s necessary to making worthwhile art!
In other words, reading this blog post or writing your own is keeping you from writing your Great American Novel. (Or, if you’re not in the US, your Great Wherever-You-Are Novel.) Yet we read other people’s work (such as Gould’s essay) in order to be challenged or inspired. We go online to engage with people because we’re human beings who long for connection. And we spend hours “building our platform” because if we don’t, we have no chance of selling that Great American Novel. Gone are the days when the vast majority of writers had no Internet presence and only a select few were online. It’s now the inverse. The vast majority of writers spend time online, and it’s the select few who still publish easily but have no Internet presence.
But it begs the question: why do we treat online time differently from how we treat paper time? Meaning, if space opens up in your brain when you stop reading other people’s thoughts, why are writers encouraged to read books? Why do MFA programs have required literature credits? Why don’t we encourage every writer out there to dump books in the same way that writers encourage other writers to go offline?
I don’t think that I’m more plugged in than I am distracted by books. I was the kid who carried a book around on the playground during elementary school. I always have a book tucked into my purse. I mean, I wouldn’t dream of even going to the grocery store without a book. (What if the car broke down and I needed to wait for AAA? Wouldn’t I want something to read?) I spend about an equal amount of time being distracted by online writing — mostly blog posts but also Twitter and Facebook — as I do offline writing such as magazines and books.
And I don’t consider that time wasted. I don’t consider book reading OR blog reading time wasted.
A case in point: I took the time to read Gould’s essay and it inspired me to write this post. It made me look at how much time I’m reading other people’s words vs. putting down my own. Let’s be frank; I certainly put enough words into the world. What is my word consumption obligation? Sort of like carbon offsets protect the world from our environmental impact, what should we take in order to balance the scales with our idea impact?
It’s hubris to think that OUR words are more important than someone else’s words. That if we read their words and don’t take time to write down our words, that it’s detrimental, even on a personal level. I think the world will still be as groovy if I only read and don’t write. And even when I’m attempting to write because that’s my job and I need to turn in writing, it doesn’t really hurt the process to read a little. If anything, those breaks from putting down my own words help them to come faster when I do sit down to write.
To consider answering emails or responding to a Tweet a waste of time is to consider human connection a waste of time. It’s nice when we have enough face-to-face connections to have our needs satiated, but I think online connections certainly count towards that daily ration of human contact.
I cringe when I read writers telling people to connect less. If anything, to be able to write, to observe humanity, to comment on the state of our humanness, we need to connect more.
I’m all for minimizing our personal distractions, but I worry when people talk about unplugging as a panacea. Because within the advice is judgment: that what we read online is of lesser worth. While we may enjoy paper publications that have gone through an editor more than personal blogs or vice versa (in the same way that some people prefer restaurant meals over those prepared by a home chef), I would hate to write off one as having more worth than the others. Sometimes words are just words, and the ideas they express are more important than the way they’re packaged. But that’s just me. I find a lot of diamond-in-the-rough blog posts, and I also find a lot of needed-a-better-editor novels.
And vice versa.
March 5, 2014 16 Comments