Monday, August 30, 2010

Who's Missing?

One evening, as I was getting ready to shut down the computer, Miss C came into the room. I had 4 or 5 sites up, and C stood by me as I clicked down each one. She inhaled deeply as she saw, for the first time, this blog.
"It's the princesses!" she exclaimed. "Let's just look at them for a minute."

She climbed up onto my lap and gazed at the picture which appears at the top here. We sat, cheek to cheek, studying the group of them. She pointed carefully, naming each one, "There's Belle, Jasmine, Cinderella, she standing on her tail?" she asked, incredulous.

"It looks like it," I said.

She cracked up, "Mermaids don't stand on their tail!"

Then she went on listing, "And Snow White, and Aurora. The princesses."

Sigh. The princesses.

"But you know," she continued, "that's not really all of the princesses."
Except she says really as weeeweeee. Which makes it hard not to eat her up.

"It's not?" I feigned shock. "Who's missing?"

"Princess Tiana!" she exclaimed. "She's not there."

"Well, where is she?"

"Well," she chewed her cheek, "she got married. And then, she died."

"Oh," I said.

"And you know who else?"


She looked at me as this silly creature, always needing explanations.

"Mulan is missing."

"Where is Mulan?"

"She got married. And then she died."



"Is that all of them?"

"No. Because you know, Pocohontas is missing."

"Where is Pocohontas?"

Exasperated now, "She got MARRIED and then she died!"

"My my. Well, is that everybody?"

"No," she sighed. "Because Princess Presto is not there either."

"Where is Princess Presto?"

"She is flying around. And she's spelling cat, C-A-T."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Funtime

One minute provided by Second City---enjoy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the World of Disney Store

From the Disney website:
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a beauty salon where little girls are magically transformed into little princesses at 2 locations: World of Disney Store in Downtown Disney Area and Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom theme park.
It's hard not to feel as happy as a princess in this charming little boutique, owned by Cinderella's Fairy Godmother and operated by Fairy Godmothers-in-training. The boutique offers multiple hair styles, nail color, make-up and a total package including Disney Princess costume and photographs.
Girls 3 years old and above can choose from 3 hair styles — Fairytale Princess, Disney Diva and Pop Princess — in 3 available packages.
The packages for your princess range from $49.95 to $189.95 .

But, if you have a boy, he can skate by on $7.50 with the Cool Dudes Package, complete with colorful hair gel.

My favorite of the packages, the Secret Star Makeover, touts:
Be your own star, just like Hannah Montana...
Because you can be your own star (just like Hannah Montana).
For $89.95 plus tax.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sex Ed

One day, when I was in 5th grade, my teacher tapped me on the shoulder and told me I could head down to the principal's office.  She was going to be beginning a segment on puberty and sex education.  As per school policy, a notice had been sent home alerting the parents, and each family was given the option of pulling their kid out if they desired.

My parents took the teacher up on this, and I, the lone student, wandered down to the principal's office, where I sat until the class was done learning about their bodies, their selves.

It wasn't that my parents didn't want me to know about sex, or the impending changes my body would soon undergo.  It was just, well, they thought they could do a better job explaining it to me.  They could answer my questions specifically, make the presentation fun and exciting, with a puppet show and some graphs and charts thrown in for good measure.  It would be the best sex education any 11 year had ever received.

And I bet it would have been, had they remembered to give it.

As it was, somewhere between pulling me out of that course and having lots of permission slips to sign and a brother who was always in the principal's office for other reasons, they forgot.  I got my sex ed on the back of the bus.  And if you have never been schooled there, I can tell you that it is terrifying.  

I sat near the older kids, and they explained all that they knew, none of which came from a proper sex ed course, or their parents.  It convinced me that sex should be illegal.  And then I started worrying about my parents.  Did they know?  I mean, maybe they didn't know.

So, one evening, as the plague of this miseducation floated in my brain, I got out of bed and walked into my parents room.  I stood beside their bed and asked them:
"Do you know where babies come from?"

I wasn't asking because I wanted to know.  I already knew, thank you Maly and TJ and Lucas. 
I wanted to know if they knew.
Because parents can seem so innocent, to an 11 year old.

My mom must have been proud, here was her kid, pulled out of sex ed, and now I was yearning for her to explain things to me!  I was coming to her.
She started to explain where babies come from.  She used terrifying words like penis and vagina and then I started to block out what was coming out of her mouth because although the terms she was using were not the ones TJ had taught me, and although the specifics were quite different, she knew.  I left my parents room, relieved that at least I didn't have to teach them anything.

And the next day, and all the days after that, I sat in the front of the bus. 

When I got to college, I became friends with a girl whose mother was the leading OB/GYN in Ohio.  And she found the differences between her sex education and mine hilarious.  Because by the age of 5, she knew all the female organs, where they were located, what their functions were, and whether they were derived from Greek or Latin.  She was not schooled on the back of the bus.

My oldest sister and I sometimes compare childhood memories only to find we were raised in entirely different families.  She recalls things from my early early days, and I recall things that she has chosen to forget.  And I remind her of these whenever possible.  We both have daughters, and we were reminiscing about old days, when she mentioned that I was the one who taught her what a vagina was.  The oldest three of us used to take our bath together, and although she can't remember exactly what age we were, she knows that I pointed out that she and I both had one, and my brother did not.

It should be no surprise then, that my daughter is moving from her stage of high interest in penises and vaginas, to one that mainly revolves around breasts.

The way this came about is not because I sat her down at the wise old age of 2 and began to teach her, but moreso...well, my youngest sister put it best:

"I know that whole 'Why?' and 'What?' stage happens for kids...but it seems like C has been in that stage for an unbearably long time."

It's been painful for all of us.

The stage of nonstop inquiry:  when she asked about What's that?  and What's that?  I told her.  And when she asked more, I would tell her a little more.  And then she found a book in my pile of therapy resources, and it's become almost as popular as Cinderella:
It is great for any age, and I have yet to find a Joanna Cole book that isn't superb.

We've been reading this on and off for over a year, and every now and then Miss C's thoughts and how she's processing this info will emerge in regular conversation.  An example, from last week:

C: "Dad, tell me a story about when you were 3."

D: "Well, one time when I was 3, I went hiking with my..."

C: "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait.  Where was I?"

D: "Well, I was 3, so you weren't born yet.  But you were in my heart."

C: "You mean, I was in your sperm heart."

Dave looks at me over her head, I shrug.  Better than the back of the bus.

D: "Well..."

C: "Yes, I was in your sperm heart, and I was also in mama's egg heart.  Okay, so what happened when you were 3?"

This one we could chalk up as sort of funny, but whatever it was, it was in the privacy of our own home.  A little lower on the funny scale, a little higher on the Where is the wine? scale would have been several months ago, while at a family gathering, when she greeted each member who entered the home with,
"Hi Uncle Sean.  You are a man, so do you have a penis?  You don't have a vagina, you have a penis, right Uncle Sean?"
And badgering them until they would claim their junk.

When she gets on this quest for knowledge and the confirmation of it, I can identify.  Because don't we all have that same burning desire to know?  Mine is a little more quiet, and tends to be satisfied through reading.  Or google.  Because I will google pretty much any word, except that one, Anonymous Commenter # 12, that one I will leave to you and your expertise, and now you know why I like terms that are for 6 year olds: my sex education just barely passed that age.

I still have no idea how that kid got into my womb, much less this house.

Every now and then I'll turn a corner and shout out of sheer fright that there is third human living here, and then she calmly explains to me that her Dad has a sperm heart, and I have an egg heart, and then I block out everything that follows. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Who Wore It Best?

I have a very old email account through yahoo, the first one that I opened when I first learned of the in-tra-net.
It has 5,027 unread emails.  But anyway.
Each time I sign in to that account, there are news stories featured to the right.
Or should I say "stories."

I have not customized this page, so how it selects what it shows I'm not quite sure.
But today, these are the sample titles, with accompanying photos:

'High Stakes Mosque Politics'
'Ruling Costs Golfer at PGA'
'Two Stars, One Shiny Dress'

The last one comes up frequently, under different titles.
Such as, 'Who Wore It Best?'
'Fashion Faceoff!'

Today I clicked on the news story, the one with the shiny dress and the stars, and I discovered two things:
1. I don't know who the stars are.
2. They are wearing the same dress.

And I am supposed to vote for the who looks better.  Because that is what women do.  We judge each other.

This 'story' pops up at least once a week, and I have yet to see one that features men in the fashion face-off.  Because men can (gasp) wear the same thing and it doesn't cause us to think of how embarrassed they might be, or to compare their elbows and triceps and thighs.  I tried this at a wedding recently, I put my hand to my mouth and whispered loudly to my brother, "Don't look, but you and Dave are wearing the same thing."
They both had red ties.  And all night, all anyone could talk about was who wore the tie better: Dave?  Sean?  It was a very important question.

I am submitting a fashion face-off story for yahoo and I hope they accept it.
Because I think there is a clear winner in this one:
Two Stars, One Shiny Suit...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Your Body Belongs to You

One morning, I woke to the most unique sensation.
Different than having your dog leap onto the bed demanding a walk.
Different than having your partner sleep-kick your groin.
I jolted up, my right breast throbbing, and opened my eyes.
Two inches from my face was Miss C.
"I just pinched your thimble," she informed me.
Thimble is her word for nipple.

I looked at the clock, which read 6:03 am.

Now holding my aching thimble, I looked at my daughter, who stood before me, matter of fact.  As though she'd just stated that she'd like some Cheerios, with milk please, and a side of toast.

"Why?" I asked her.

"It was there, and I wanted to."

I think I'll hang onto this phrase lest I develop a penchant for kleptomania.  It's simple and gets right to the point.

"That's not okay," I told her, as I swung my legs over the side of the bed.

She stood unmoved.

"Because, that hurt me.  And also because those are my breasts."

"But can I touch them if I'm not pinching?"

It was 6:04 am.  And since my little one has been highly interested in all body parts lately, I decided now is as good a time as any to school her a little further.

"Do you remember which parts of our body are private?"

"Like some playgrounds are private?" she asked.

"Sort of.  What do you mean?

"The ones with a fence around them.  Like Allison's."

"Yes," I said."Do we just go on Allison's playground?"

"No," she sighed.  "We have to ask her."

"Right.  Well, breasts are like that.  You can't just touch someone's breasts."

"I have to ask?"


"Can I touch your breast?"


"Well okay," she said, thinking of a back-up plan.  "Can we go on Allison's playground then?"

My clock clicked 6:05, and I decided there is no other job that requires such conversation before allowing you to get your daily caffeine. 

"We'll see," I replied.

"Well," she still stood next to my bed, unmoved.  "I don't have breasts.  And dad only has thimbles."

"Yes," I said.



"So, what about our breasts?"

"Dad will not get breasts.  Men don't grow them."

"Well okay.  But will I grow them?"

"Yes, when you are older, as you become a young woman, you will grow breasts."



"Mama, can you say, 'Mmmm-kay?'"

"No, I'd rather say okay.  Okay?"

"Mmm-kay.  But I say mmmm-kay."

"Fine.  Now please go get your pants on if you want some breakfast."


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How To Get Hot Chicks

I just laughed so hard I spit out my tiny baby burger.

Don't Ask; Apologize.

To ask permission for something you know you oughtn't be doing will get you an immediate 'no.'
However, if you just go ahead and do it without asking, you can always apologize.  As though you didn't entirely mean it.

Like when Miss C asks if she can pour a glass of milk onto the floor "just to see how fast it will flow."  Versus doing it, looking surprised and saying, "Sorry!  It was an accident."
Then getting irate with me, because that was her glass of milk, and here I am judging her intent.

She may have a strong career in advertising ahead of her.

Ralph Lauren last year apologized for this digitally altered photo which ran in Australia:
Ralph Lauren ad

And then this one in Japan:

The Ralph Lauren ad featuring Filippa Hamilton-Palmstierna, as posted on Photoshop Disasters and BoingBoing.

Well, they sort of apologized, but mostly they focused on feeling indignant that someone had reprinted their copyrighted photo.  Because that was the important thing, not truth in advertising.
Their milk.  
And they just wanted so see how small it could get.

But you need not be Ralph Lauren to give this a try.
You could be Ann Taylor, which issued this statement when called out for such tactics:
We agree, we may have been overzealous on some retouching but going forward we’ll make sure to feature more real, beautiful images.
We want to support and celebrate the natural beauty of women, and we apologize if in the process of retouching that was lost.
Be sure to lookout for better photos on our site in the future!
Overzealous!  Like, can't you just picture a room of them working away on this picture.  But they've had too much coffee!  And they're so excited!  And they just got carried away!  With shaving entire limbs off of their models!

anntaylor_tops_e.jpg anntaylor_bottoms_e.jpg

Also, notice they don't say, "It won't happen again."
Miss C, as she mopped up milk from the floor, said, "It came out faster than I thought."
But she never said, "Whew, that was a mistake.  You won't find me dumping milk on our floor again!"

No, Ann Taylor wants to "feature more real beautiful images."
However, if they non-feature non-real images, just know that it was an overcaffeinated excited and honest mistake. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sexy Flexy and Promiscuous Girls

An Ottawa pole dance studio offers classes and birthday parties for girls ages 5 and older.
A brief article, with explanation from the instructor here.

(Thanks Kristi, for sending this my way.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mamapedia Voices

Today a post from Disney Princess Recovery is being featured on Mamapedia Voices.

If you stop over, you'll view it before me since by the time this posts, I will be on the road with Miss C and Dave heading to one of those towns in Massachusetts that only the locals can pronounce.  Wuhstah?  Glahstah?  Lahminstah?   I'll be working on losing my R the entire drive there.  Because nothing is more embarrassing than pronouncing an R within an hour of Boston.  People point and laugh at you.

Princess Parent Groups: Are You Still Sexy???

Three question marks seems about right.

The Disney family website hosts a group called Princess Parent Group.

Not sure if it's right for you?  Read the intro to see if it's a fit:
Is it a whole new world with Jasmine at your house? How about Ariel? Do you scour the stores looking for her favorite princess stuff? Do these questions make you grin? Then you fit right in with other parents raising a princess.
There are currently 254 members, and then "family host" members, who pose questions, such as:

"Do you let your princess wear a bikini?"

"Has your princess met a princess?"

"Have you pierced your princess' ears?"

"Although every other day of the year is about your little princess, Mother's Day is when YOU get to be the Queen!  So what did your castle do for you?"

"Plan a princess pampering day.  If you had $50, would you get a manicure together?  Or go to a movie?"

There are also threads tackling these topics:

"Help your princess click with the clique"

"Provocative Princess."
This is a really smart marketing tool, because many of the questions revolve around which products your princess has, or which ones you'll get her.  Once parents have been thoroughly schooled on what experiences their daughter is missing out on (haven't met a princess yet?  Better get to Disney!), they can then move on to content that is specific to their adult needs.

Here's today's special topic: Are You Still Sexy?

If you're not interested in finding out if you are still sexy (but how can you go on with your day?  If you don't know??? If  you're still sexy???????),  I'll share with you my favorite question:

How regularly do you get a bikini wax?

a. Once, fortunately I'm very good with a razor.
b. I don't even have a bikini, why would I need a wax?
c. I have a standing bi-monthly appointment at the place where I get my upper lip bleached, my lower lips plumped, and my brows plucked and shaped.

Because, many clinical studies have found, having your lips plumped and your pubic hair properly shaped has been linked to a more satisfying and vibrant sex life.

I think my favorite part of the quiz is that on the sidebar, these are the flashing advertisements:

Hershey's chocolate bars
Abilify (try 2 weeks free!)
Clinique Dark Spot Correcting lotion (in which speckled eggs are used to demonstrate what your skin looks like now, as in Before, as in gross, you have speckled bird egg face! And how will you get your daughter to click with the clique?  And does your provocative princess wear a bikini?  And do you wax regularly?)

No wonder Abilify is on there, good night.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Op-Ed Project

When I was 17, I spent the summer babysitting for 4 brothers.  I'd babysat these boys since I was 11 years old, had seen them learn to swim and ride their bicycles, and grow into older boys, boys who would become the kind of young men any parent would be proud of.  They were a pack, traveled as one unit, and although they fought like the dickens at times, they always watched out for each other and looked after one another.

They lived one block from a neighborhood community center, and summer afternoons, we spent countless hours there, in the gymnasium, the pool, and the playroom.  One day, while walking home from a long session of swimming and basketball and foosball (I just had to spell that 5 times, because wouldn't you think it's fooseball?  It is not, according to google), Brett, the second oldest, relayed to me how he'd been playing the neighborhood bully at the foosball table, and the bully kept cheating, trying to distract Brett from the fact that he was pushing the ball toward the goal with his hand.  Which is completely not how you play foosball, there are no hands allowed.  So, as Brett gushed about this, and as I watched the pack, each holding their rolled up towel and two still wearing their dripping swim trunks, Brett continued, "So I told him, I said, 'Cheaters never prosper!' "

I was 14 when this happened, and I literally had to stop on the sidewalk, because here was this 8 year old kid, beaming at me, confirming that a phrase I was always repeating to the boys, was what he had just told the neighborhood bully.  It was one of those sharp learning moments for me, when I understood that kids absorb the sage and silly and stupid things we do and say, even when they act like they're not paying attention. 

So, three years later for me and this family, and they've gone through a divorce, are living with their mother, have moved from the family home into a two-bedroom rental in a rougher part of town, and I am still babysitting them over the summer, while their mom works 50+ hour weeks trying to hold it all together.
After all these changes, she arranges to take the boys on a road trip down south for one week to visit family, and I am to watch their extremely hyperactive and maniacal dog, Fudge. 

I ride my bike to their rented apartment each morning before work, get dragged around by Fudge, feed her; ride there after work, get dragged around by Fudge, feed her, and return one final time in the evening, final drag around of the day.  On the third day of this relaxing routine, I arrive for the morning drag-about and when I enter the home, it is wrecked.  I can stand in the hallway and barely take two steps because every inch of the floor has been covered with...the contents of the house.  I see the kitchen straight ahead, every cupboard open, every dish smashed on the floor, the silverware drawer dumped out, the garbage tipped and spilled.  I groan, not in the mood for a massive clean up after this demented dog.  "FUDGE!" I roar.  She is nowhere, hiding of course.  I bound up the stairs, two at time, throw open the door to a bedroom, hollering for the dog, and that's when I see that a back window is open, and a ladder is propped up to it, leaning against the back of the house.  I stand there, looking at the mess in the room, the contents of each drawer strewn, the mattresses pulled from the bunks, the lone jewelry box smashed, and begin to shake.  I shake as I walk down the stairs, out of the house, onto the quiet street, and find Fudge tied up to the back post. 

Within that hour, I learned that a neighbor found Fudge wandering the street at 5 am, and tied her up in the backyard.  I called the single mother visiting her family down south and told her that her house was broken into, and robbed.  I tearfully gave my report to two police officers, and one looked at me like the naive teen I was, and soberly told me that the house must have been under surveillance and a planned burglary, and that I was lucky that no one was still there when I arrived.  Because there I would have been all, FUDGE YOU DAMN DOG and then I'd meed Mr. Robber and be all, "Can you believe the nerve of this dog? Ooh, I love that necklace you're holding, where'd you get it?"

So, not only naive but also deeply perturbed by this occurrence, I did what any person who'd never been the victim of a crime would do.  I wrote a letter, to the burglar, and sent it to the Rochester newspaper, and a week later it was printed on the Op-Ed page.  Because, you know, the burglar probably goes through the night's loot, then brews a cup of Chamomile tea, and opens up to the Op-Ed to see if anyone objects to his chosen way of life.  I told that burglar, in no uncertain terms, that the family he picked (or she, equal opportunity here) was not the ideal family to burgle, Sir Burgler.  You jerk.

That was the first and last Op-Ed I wrote.  And it was to a robber.
If you've never tried this exercise, I can tell you this: not a real high rate of return on such correspondence.  You're better off penning a line to your grandmother. 

There is a point!  Yes, there is a point indeedy.

This past November, I attended a conference held at Case Western in Cleveland called the Op-Ed Seminar.  It was sponsored by the Op-Ed Project and here is the point: Op-Eds, which are run daily in every newspaper throughout the nation, and read by your neighbor, congress rep and president alike....are not written by you.  They're not written by your mother, or your sister or your best friend who is so smart and so funny and knows so much.

Because 80% of them are written by men.

This is not because newspapers are throwing out every letter or opinion piece a woman submits, but because, ladies, we're not writing in. 

Think of how the absence of womens voices affects public debate.
And how public debate shapes local and national policy.
And how those things shape our daily existence.
The Op-Ed is where producers and politicians turn to see what is on the mind of the people.
If women are talking about things that affect their lives amongst each other, but not sending our thoughts onto the bigger conversation, then we are silent.

While sitting in the room where the conference was held, there were roughly two dozen other women from all professions and walks of life, ages 19 to 89.  Their expertise was far and wide, and each was knowledgeable about something.  Most were representing an organization.

We did a simple exercise at the beginning, the instruction was: Go around the room, say your name, and state what you are an expert on.

It took us nearly 40 minutes to complete this, and it sounded like this:
"My name is Jane, and, well, expert?  I don't know...I'm not really an expert on anything, I mean, I work for X group, and I have some experience doing...hmm, I mean I'm passionate about Y, but I don't know nearly as much as a lot of other people."

The leader of the seminar listened and when we finally wrapped up, she told us that the same activity, when done with organizations that were entirely male, took about 2 minutes.

Not because men have more expertise in any given field, but because they claim it.  They are more likely to overclaim, and women, we are often too hesitant to claim anything at all.

One woman in this group was a professor of economics, in her 50's, and was not just an expert, but an actual Expert.  She'd been interviewed several times by NPR, the New York Times, and other major publications.  And even she took a little too long to claim her expertise in this exercise.
At the end of one of the discussions, she commented, "I always thought self-consciousness was something we grow out of.  But that's not true.  It's something we choose out of." 

At 17 I was so blinded by anger at harm brought to a family I loved that I didn't have an ounce of self-consciousness to keep me from writing my thoughts about it. To the very worldly and daily newspaper reading robber.  And since then, has there really been nothing in all these years that's warranted another letter to the editor?

Take note on yourself and your conversations over the next 14 days or so.  See what gets you fired up at work, or at home, or in the news.  And see what you do with that fire.  Do you spew off to your mate?  Your mother?  Or, do you stew a little at the state of the world and how hopeless it all is?  Do you go for a run to work it out and then drop it?  Or cut yourself a nice slab of chocolate cake and instead start calculating calories instead of thinking about that thing, what was that thing you were thinking about?

I have been guilty of all of the above, and so I'm going to pay attention to my conversations and cravings for change over the next two weeks, and who knows, I might just pen another note to the local paper.  It's been some time, I bet they must get tired of the same old 80% after awhile.

If I saw Brett now, I'd apologize for not dropping more accurate catch phrases into his childhood psyche.  Like, "Actually, cheaters sometimes prosper, but you don't have to accept it."
It's a little more clunky, but I think it still works.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thirsty in the Rain*

Anorexic young women tend to be popular with the opposite sex.  They epitomize our cultural definitions of feminine: thin, passive, weak and eager to please.  Oftentimes young women report that they are complimented on their appearance right up until they are admitted to hospitals for emergency feeding.
I think anorexia is a metaphor.  It is a young woman's statement that she will become what the culture asks of its women, which is that they be thin and nonthreatening.  Anorexia signifies that a young woman is so delicate that...she needs a man to shelter and protect her from a world she cannot handle.  Anorexic women signal with their bodies "I will take up only a small amount of space.  I won't get in the way."  They signal, "I won't be intimidating or threatening."  (Who is afraid of a seventy-pound adult?)
---Mary Pipher, Ph.D.  (from Reviving Ophelia, p. 175)
*Peter Rowan