A couple came to Purim dressed as The Dress. The man was wearing it in white and gold and his wife was wearing it in blue and black. It, of course, triggered a sharing moment through the congregation: “how did you see The Dress?”
Blue and black.
When it first popped up in my Facebook feed, I didn’t get it. It was clearly blue and black to me; so much so that it would not have ever occurred to me that someone else would see it otherwise. There are plenty of colours that straddle a fence, and I understand that some may label it red while others label it brown. But this wasn’t one of those situations. It was a deep blue for me. And underneath the question the poster posed — “what colour do you see this dress” — everyone had written white and gold.
I didn’t get the joke.
I tentatively pointed out that it was blue and black, feeling like I was back in middle school and not in on the joke and therefore had become the joke by stepping straight into it, like inadvertently stepping in dog shit on the grass. Because everyone else kept saying, “white and gold! Honestly, how can anyone not see this as white and gold!” And the more they said it and the less I understood why they were saying it, the more I felt as if everyone was making fun of me.
Like there had been a discussion somewhere else that the best way to make people feel foolish is to create an Emperor’s New Clothes moment on Facebook and insist that something is what it isn’t. And I just hadn’t been clued in on that decision. And why hadn’t I been included in that discussion? Because I was being tested? Or because someone had to be the butt of the joke?
What clinched the deal was when I brought the picture to Josh and he glanced at it and said, “it’s white and gold.” What had felt like a giant game of keep-away had now entered my house, and even my husband was in on making me feel foolish that I saw The Dress differently from everyone else. And not slightly different. I saw it as completely different, without an understanding of why they were saying two colours that I didn’t see.
Josh promised me that he wasn’t in on some big joke, and after a while, I believed him as we Googled it and discovered that half of the world was talking about this dress. That was, perhaps, too big a playing field for playing a joke on Melissa. Plus the twins weighed in with what they saw (one was blue-black, the other was white-gold), and I assumed that they weren’t prepped to take part in a joke.
I’ve read all the articles that say that The Dress highlights our inability to see the world from anyone else’s point-of-view. There have been points made about everything from racism to autism. Maybe I am inflexible in my vision of the world, but that’s not why I thought about and discussed The Dress.
My incredulity was because the whole thing made me feel like I was back at the elementary school lunch table, asking for the joke to be explained because I didn’t get it, and seeing everyone laugh even harder over my lack of understanding. In my head, I was hearing a chorus of “Melissa doesn’t get it!”
And I am still not entirely convinced that all the white and gold people won’t turn to me next week and say, “we were just kidding. You’re right, it is blue and black.”
Because it is blue and black.
March 5, 2015 17 Comments
The piece I was writing needed a visual example, and I thought to myself that this ink drawing I made back in graduate school would be perfect. It was the sketch for an intaglio I never made. I left my computer and went down in the basement to grab the pad so I could scan it. But the pad wasn’t there.
I started removing the most likely boxes and opening them, but while I yielded a lot of other sketch pads, I couldn’t find the one from graduate school. I started amassing all my art supplies and drawings and prints into one enormous pile, returning to it over and over again to flip through every single page of the pads in case I had forgotten that the sketch was buried somewhere in the middle of a book.
I got out a ladder so I could methodically go through the boxes, dozens and dozens of them. I left a mess behind in my wake, unable to lift the boxes back up to their shelves once I got them down. And then I left the basement and moved upstairs, taking apart drawers, going through file cabinets clearly too small to hold the sketch pad, and even checking the pantry that I just cleaned a few days earlier.
The longer I couldn’t find it, the more distraught I became. I wasted my entire work day looking for this drawing, and in the meantime, more work had come in. But I couldn’t think to do the work because I was obsessing over the location of the sketch pad.
When Josh came home, we went through the storage room together while the twins unhelpfully danced in the basement. The ChickieNob promised me that it was in the storage room. “You showed it to me a few years ago, and then you put it back inside a box.” Yes! Yes, it was inside the storage room. It was confirmation; a clue.
Josh patiently brought down the boxes and put them back up, sometimes doing it a second or third time to give me peace of mind. I took a break for a video meeting, the whole time my brain working through other places I hadn’t looked yet, and then we returned to the storage room again to check the very same boxes. By 11 o’clock, I had to concede that the sketch pad wasn’t there.
My plan was to return to looking in the storage room the moment Josh left for work the next day.
I woke up that morning and went down to do yoga. My first thought when I walked into the living room was that I should clean Truman’s cage. I turned on the light and thought that it didn’t look that dirty, but sure, I’d do it that evening after I had been to pick up more bedding. I jotted it down on my to-do list and turned on my yoga app.
After I finished the routine, I heard the shower go on upstairs. Josh was getting ready for work, and it was going to be 15 minutes before I could get my day started. Annoyed, I debated returning to the storage room to fill the time, but then turned around and looked at Truman’s cage. I might as well clean it now rather than wait for later.
I scrubbed it down, still obsessing about the lost sketch pad. Where could I have packed it away?
We keep his bedding underneath the table holding his cage. As I opened it, my brain thought, “reach to the left.” So I reached to the left, and my hand connected with a tight stack of papers atop a box that had been left underneath. My sketch pad.
I have no clue why my sketch pad was underneath Truman’s cage. I have no clue how long it had been there. I have no memory of placing it in such a bizarre location. It was one of the only places I didn’t check the day before because… well… you don’t expect to see a sketch pad amongst guinea pig supplies.
Opening that book, seeing the ink drawing, made me internally unravel. It was such an intense flood of relief; like I had finally gotten a key to fit in a lock and now I could re-enter a space. I could work again; thoughts of the sketch pad were finally released from my brain.
I know it’s a form of control. It’s a constant need to have a neatly ordered world because it’s the one thing I can command when the rest of life feels so tenuous, so beyond reach. Knowing where things are, having everything in a place, is about neatness. About creating calm when things feel tumultuous.
Let’s just say that I completely understand Bert in a world of Ernies.
March 4, 2015 15 Comments
I am, once again, eating my words. Remember how I said that we were a long way from starting Harry Potter 7? Yeah, not so much. Our plan had been to read the His Dark Materials trilogy next, but the ChickieNob started getting stressed about spoilers. A lot of their friends were reading book 7, and the chances were increasing that someone would accidentally say something in front of them.
That, of course, is not a reason to race head-first into a book you’re not ready to read, but what cemented the deal was that she finally explained why she wasn’t ready. She didn’t want to start book 7 because that meant the series ended. She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t upset. She just didn’t want to get to the last book.
Once I explained that we were going to do an infinite loop of Potter, and that the end of book 7 was only a halfway point in understanding the series — we still needed to read them a second time through once she understood all the back stories because she would have a different understanding of the other 6 books — she told me she was ready. So we sat down and started.
Actually, first we had a 5 hour marathon session of reading aloud Wonder. Had to finish the book we were on. My throat was a little scratchy after that, but you do what you need to do when your child is biting her lip, urging you to race the spoiler clock. After we finished Wonder, we opened 7 and read the first few chapters.
This is what I’ll say about book 7, and this is a complete assumption since I only have my own point-of-view, but I strongly suspect this is true: it is very different to read this book as a minority (especially part of a group that has been through a historically recent or current mass genocide) than as part of the majority. It is very different to read about Voldemort’s plan to exterminate Muggle-borns and create a pureblood race of wizards. It is very different, especially in light of continued anti-Semitism in the world, especially Europe.
The twins read. The twins hear adults talking. They know about Copenhagan. They know about Paris. They know about Berlin. They were keenly aware of the differences that came from going to shul in London vs. going to shul at home. They know what is going on.
None of us can read and process book 7 as a Muggle-born wizard, but Jewish children (and many other minority groups) can read these books through a lens of being cognizant of the hate that exists in this world. It doesn’t create a deeper reading, but it creates a different reading. I sense that some kids process these books differently from their white, Christian, straight, non-disabled friends.
Reading the books together — and I’m a strong believer that Harry Potter books should be read together with adults whenever possible — has raised a lot of questions about hate; questions to which there are no sufficient answers. It stands against reason that the very same people who currently perpetuate that hate are also sometimes people who have read Harry Potter. Isn’t that odd? That you can have someone read these books and still come away from them believing their own cultural or religious or sexual superiority?
Sort of misses the whole point of the series.
March 3, 2015 9 Comments
Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.
I save too much stuff. It’s time for a massive decluttering. I need to go through the drawers, go through the cabinets, clear out the storage room. I need to admit that oversized sweaters from the 80s are not going to have a renaissance. And I don’t need to save all the back issues of Mental Floss.
Part of the problem with my clutter is that it isn’t really sentimental in nature. There aren’t, let’s say, a lot of tchotchkes. My clutter is of the “could be useful” variety. I can convince myself to save anything with a well-intentioned what if. What if I need glasses cleaner one day? What if someone visits our house with a baby and needs a booster seat? What if I’m in a crazy situation where we need 12 travel mugs at the same time?
The other problem is that I hate to waste things, and throwing perfectly useful items into a landfill feels like waste. It also feels like a waste of money if I end up needing to buy the item again.
We have a wonderful donation solution a few blocks away — a thrift shop that will take anything from kitchen stuff to baby bottles. I’m going to do it, but it’s hard to get rid of things. To trust that we have no need for them anymore.
Are the things you save more emotional or “what if” in nature?
Are you also doing #MicroblogMondays? Add your link below. The list will be open until Tuesday morning. Link to the post itself, not your blog URL. (Don’t know what that means? Please read the three rules on this post to understand the difference between a permalink to a post and a blog’s main URL.) Only personal blogs can be added to the list. I will remove any posts that are connected to businesses or are sponsored posts.
March 2, 2015 47 Comments
March 14th is always Pi Day, but this year is special. Especially at 9:26 AM (and 53 seconds). Because the first 10 digits of pi will all play out in listing the time: 3.141592653. Get it? March (3) 14th (14) 2015 (15) at 9:26 (926) and 53 seconds (53).
I don’t really have a bucket list, but I’ve always thought it would be nice to memorize beyond the first 10 digits of pi. For what reason? I have no clue. Numerical meditation?
With all 10 digits lining up, it seems like a good time to tack on a few more. I think I need to get Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein and read about memorization techniques. Wish me luck. If all goes according to plan, I’ll wow everyone at BlogHer this summer by standing in the hotel lobby and reciting pi. Nothing nets you more friends than reciting numbers to yourself.
It’s the only pi day when the important moment will be 9:26 in the morning vs. 1:59 in the middle of the night. I feel like I need to make the best breakfast ever. What should I make? Give me your best breakfast recipes or ideas.
Side note: Don’t forget to work on your #MicroblogMonday post for tomorrow.
March 1, 2015 9 Comments