Does a Man's Perspective of Women Effect How They Lead?

image

( image from Business Insider)

I remember summers ago watching a live broadcast when President Clinton admitted to his sexual scandal, sitting around a family dinner of chips and tacos during a summer trip in Maine. Odd combination, Maine, Mexican food and political scandals, but it’s what I remember. 

“Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.” It was an unforgettable viewing for most of us.  Though Clinton’s reputation upon his impeachment still held up (if not more so after than before, and likely due to his public statement of confession) he did not continue to lead us for the obvious reasons. Clearly the man had to step down, work on his marriage and leave the spotlight, not asking anything of the public for some time to pull his life back together. He was deemed as not fit to lead our Nation. He had to get back to the basics, like leading his own household. 

We all know this definitely wasn’t the first of sexual scandals among our Nation’s “fearless leaders” but it certainly was the most publicized and televised in history. It would be nice if it could stay that way, but with the recent revealings (no pun intended) of Anthony Weiner’s appalling behavior flooding the media, who’s to say it’s the last of it. 

Anthony Weiner returned in the race to run for Mayor of New York City this year, after his supposed “therapy” and break from his sexual addictions. However stepping back into the race for Mayor has revealed his sexual scandals and explicit behavior, showing more of Anthony Weiner (or Carlos Danger, or what have you) than we ever bargained for.

After disturbing images and texts were found of Weiner (the name alone … sorry, I digress) his campaign has come crumbling down again.  His polls have dropped, he’s lost his campaign manager (at least, the one we know of) and even the media’s support, who was eager to highlight the politician in a unbiased and redemptive light, they too have lost their faith in what seemed a hopeful leader. Though I’m sure the media doesn’t mind a good political scandal all too much, and neither does late night television.

Could a city really see a man with a history of such sexual struggles and disturbing addictions as fit to lead? 

After receiving so much support to jump back into the race and so quickly after his last falling out, one has to wonder what weight (if any) we hold to a man’s sexual activity, and view of women, as whether he is fit to lead a city, a nation or any vicinity of our government for that matter. 

Anthony’s foolish activities are just a grade below the kind of behavior you’d expect of a faithless husband and more like something of an airhead frat boy. Then again, who’s to say one differs all that much from the other in these situations. What was already known of Anthony was just that: foolish, frat boy frivolity with a clear contempt for women, and lack of any ability to serve them as citizens, let alone hold them up (them meaning his wife, his daughters and the many women who encountered him ) with any basic human respect. Could a man who would so easily and so often use women just for the momentary rush, while their wives at home have seemed to have lost their attention (because in these situation they always seem to be married), possibly lead anyone with clarity and dignity? How can a full grown man who so easily falls into these self-destructive patterns conduct himself as a leader?  What aspect of this character would anyone want leading them? 

The stage for a politician these days is shared with the stage of celebrity. In the sense that they are spotlighted, praised and put on a pedestal when we don’t always have reason except for the beautiful performances that first inspire us from our screens. Even still, when a man’s view of a woman become so routinely objective there are deeper issues rooted than one year of “therapy” can clear out. The conduct and sexual habits of a man no doubt carry a ripple effect into the lives they lead. Hopefully in the future we’ll take such conduct and behavior into more consideration before they’re even in the run to begin with.

New Girl for the New Woman

So, I am shamelessly making my way through the first season of New Girl, for the second time. Yes, I said New Girl… for the second time. And yes, shamelessly.  Let’s just say for us single, later 20-something, forever temp-housing girls, Zooey Deschanel’s interpretation of life is hysterically relatable. Except for the fact that I don’t live with three guys. (Though living with males often seems it would be less complex than finding female roommates, but I don’t see that happening in my near future.)

Jess, (aka Zooey) is at this ripe, unique stage, as if to be reentering womanhood in a sense. Journeying life single after a certain age as a female  can at time make you feel somewhat out of place. Still facing major questions like, “What vocation do I want to commit the next years of my life to?”, “What grad degree should I pursue?” “Should I pursue a degree?” “ “What kind of guys should I date?”, let alone asking “What kind of guy should I marry?” (call me crazy but some prospects need to be in line first), all the small questions you thought you’d never have to entertain at this age are still staring you in the face. 

Questions you just don’t think about having to deal with as an “adult”, like “How can I quickly pay off student loans and still eat out?”, “How can I find single girls past the age of 25 who I could stand (and afford) to live with?” Heck, how can you find single girls past the age of 25 you can stand to enjoy coffee with? (Why do you think Jess only has one girlfriend in this show?) But thank God such rare friendships have never been more abundant in my life than now. 

These are questions you just don’t anticipate dealing with as an adult.

New Girl is just that kind of show that makes me feel, hmmm, how do I say… normal? Or, makes me feel normal. Like, it’s ok to not own a home yet, work a job to bring you joy, rather than to make bank, laugh at awkward situations, make situations awkward by laughing… it’s just what some of us young people do. While I may not love every dynamic of single living that the show celebrates (because we’re talking about a TV show, not real life) I appreciate the face value it brings to the oddities of this season of life. Odd, because… well, what else can you call it really. 

While I’ve never been a major TV show buff, somehow, someone was right in thinking I just might find this show freak’n hilarious (because it is.) This “stage” of life of such single females, who aren’t necessarily spending each weekday morning brunching in SoHo to rehash last night’s fling, in between writing an opinion column, is a bit overdue. Those females who’ve realized they don’t need to have everything figured out, lined up, have climbed up the ladder and have a “ring on it” by now, have more options that we would have had say, 10 or 20 years ago. So it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. Thank God I am not living in my mother’s decade (no offense Mom.) She gets what I’m saying.

She's Still a Young'n

I feel I’m at that middle ground age, not “middle age” or old, but at this in between post-graduating college (which I realize, I always make sound as if it was yesterday) and official “I feel like an adult” stage. Guess we always feel like we’re in between something. I guess America isn’t too different herself. Through giant achievements and mammouth steps our Nation has made in innovations, technology, education, and fame’s to claim like Justin Beiber, the cheeseburger, fast food as a whole and a slew of health issues now affecting other nations - (Excuse my cynicism, I’ll try save my sarcastic tone concerning health for Better Vita, where it’s more fitting.) American is only 237 years old. Yes, only 237. Among countries like France (age 1107) and  Russia (1151) you could say America is young professional in comparison. Like me looking at my late 20‘s, still reminding myself I’m still young have a lot of life ahead of me, America - the beautiful - is still a young’n herself. 

America has had quite the life within 237 years : 70-some wars, 44 Presidents, she took the first steps on the moon, discovered electricity, accidentally invented the x-ray, was the birth of Jazz & as well the first full length featured film in CGI. Those last two are enough to keep me proud of my National heritage. Yes, I know. I’m such an American, eh?

As I write this I’ve been sitting here watching a favorite film (cause what else would I be doing). If you haven’t seen it you’re not American. Kidding. Kidding (now, if you haven’t seen The Princess Bride I might say that, but otherwise). If you haven’t seen Far & Away, let me sum it up for you so you can determine whether it would be worth your time. Far & Away (starring Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise and directed by the one and only ginger, Ron Howard) is the story a wealthy Irish daughter (Kidman) & her recent boy (Cruise), an errand runaway boy you could say, who’s she’s roped into following her to Boston (yes, the greatest city) with plans of traveling west to claim land. They arrive to the Boston Bay just to discover this so-called “free land” to be more difficult than anticipated. Pretending to be brother and sister to make ends meet and eventually get to Oklahoma, their differing ways help them find love and land. It’s a Ron Howard film, so it should go without saying, it’s an epic. Meaning, yes, a bit of a long-winded, romantic with green open land and a full fledged Irish-leaping score with a bit of boxing and blood to keep the guys attentive. Like I said, a favorite.

Set in1893 and it’s hard to imagine just over a lifetime’s length we were racing and fighting over “free” land. Today we’re still kind of on this race. What for exactly, I’m not sure. While it’s not exactly claiming land, something keeps people coming and fighting for this free land. While we’ve evolved and are influential as a Nations, it’s good to be reminded just how young we are, how much life we have left to live, how much growing we have left to do. America is still a young’n. 

What do Guys Think of "Modern Beauty"?

image



I’ve always been told guys don’t care for most trends, each time I’ve explored the latest hipster, bohemian or Kirstin Stewart-”what do I freak’n care” trends through the years. I would always think, well I don’t dress for guys so what does it matter?

There is something to be said to live in an era where fashion is purely a statement of self-expression and no longer of class, vocation or age. Yet current styles from the industry sweep up more territory than others, setting trends that define a decade.  It is now the age of  “modern beauty.” At least that’s what W magazine would name it. From it’s appearance, this “modern beauty,” if you will, is a sort-of plain, monochromatic faced, clean slated look that says, “I put a lot of time into looking like I didn’t take much time”; A rather engrossed simplicity. Think well-tailored, streamlined and tonal, makeup minimalistic, playing up harsher features like deep sunk-in cheek bones or fiercely thick and groomed brows. It’s been making a mad rush down runways and the likes, while famed stylist to the stars, Rachel Zoe would like to sum their personal style as such (eh, I would disagree.) Today one would call this look androgynous. 

image

I’ve always been a fan of the masculine look. Probably ever since first watching When Harry Met Sally with all Meg Ryan’s grandpa sweaters, fall trousers & matching vest attire, like camouflage against a New York City Fall. Then later, to my late discovery, there was the great Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (a film that couldn’t possibly embody one women’s personal style better, always so fully herself) who’s tomboyish look was altogether effortless, clean, beautiful and all the while masculine.

Come each Fall, or no Fall (I don’t believe I’ve had a real one since NYC in 2010, *sigh*) I always love classic trousers, a wool vest, some sweet old man loafers fit for a dainty foot, and a great fedora or some boyish bowler hat (when I have the guts). There are very feminine ways to be “masculine.” I may be wrong, but I would say dressing masculine every now and then is neither a turn off or so-called man-repeler. 

Androgynous is commonly misinterpreted as today’s version of masculine (ha, though by the judge of things it just might be.) The word androgyny is derived from the Greek root words ανήρ, (andr-, meaning man) and γυνή (gyné, meaning woman), referring to the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics.That being said, it is not meant to own solely masculine or feminine traits but genderless and unisex. It’s a rather flat look that, yes like every other style, has evolved to a mainstream “look”. Today you will even find a category for Androgynous models, specifically tailored for such genderless appeal.

image

What is considered as androgynous has evolved greatly throughout the years. In the 1920’s, better known to most of you as the decade of The Great Gatsby (aka the Jazz Age), the bob was the infamous androgynous fashion statement of the century. It was considered by many as masculine and unbecoming, (again where I question my taste: I find bobs the most flattering and becoming haircuts, though my brother always manages to eagerly sway me from making the cut once again,) reminding me of a favorite quote from Downton Abbey when the series enters the 1920’s and bob are all the rage: Referring the new fashion Matthew’s fiance states, “I don’t know how feminine they are.” Spiteful, Mary replies “ I don’t know how feminine I am.” I guess it was a tomboy’s ways of being a rebel in that day, though today’s androgyny statements don’t quite compare to Daisy Buchanan’s sleek coiffe. 

Today’s androgynous statement is a different look entirely. Its one that is cold, not manly. Flat, not masculine. Structured, not buff or burly. Due to this uproar, I will even admit succumbing to the desire to grow in and bush up my thinner eyebrows for the sake of some similar looks, but, getting finally to my point, do men find this look becoming or repelling?

image

While I know many men could care less what style a woman wears, let alone notices (cause frankly most men don’t), this one peaked my curiosity. Could this androgynous fashion statement be a little less becoming than some women may think? Or is that altogether the point. It may be that sexless styles and fashions are for that very purpose, to confuse and repel men from any interest.

While these modern designs and cover looks continue to flourish for woman I can’t help but wonder (for those shallow and vein women like myself who, yes, actually do care at times what you think of what we wear) if this androgynous trend is something guys care for? So tell me men, what is your take on this so-called “modern beauty”?




Women In Esquire Are "Ornamental" ( And This Is Surprising?)

women esquire


There’s nothing like hearing what a man is really thinking. And then there’s nothing like a magazine blatantly, and unapologetically, stating “the women that we feature in the magazine are ornamental.”

Alex Bilmes, editor of UK’s Esquire, is such a blatantly honest man.

In London last week during a panel discussion about feminism, Bilmes spoke out about women’s place in Esquire Magazine, which is (no surprise here) “aimed at men, specifically.” Bilmes’ words on the topic slipped off the tongue assured and without an ounce of regret throughout the discussion:

I could lie to you if you want and say we’re interested in their brains as well, but on the whole we’re not. They’re there to be a beautiful object. To be objectified…

What we do is more honest…

The fact is that heterosexual men regard women in many, may ways: they’re our sisters, our daughters our wives, mothers and we do see them as 3-dimensional human beings. But there are certain times we just want to look at them because they’re sexy.”

Needless to say, the world of media, female and male journalists alike, were appalled at Bilmes charmingly subtle approach, that he will likely never live down. But could you say that Bilmes’ words present the truth of how most magazines (and film and television alike) tick, and the truth just isn’t pretty to hear? 

Bilmes is honest enough to know that not all women are dumb enough to buy the pitch that “yes, Esquire loves to hear about women’s views on politics and social media.” No, most of them couldn’t care less what we think. You can look at the cover of Esquire and see that, or Maxim, or flip through GQ or Details for that matter. It doesn’t take a scientist to discover this, and hearing it from Bilmes mouth surely isn’t the first time we (any woman who lives on this planet) have been introduced to the idea that certain materials exists as pure sugar cane eye-candy to feed men. Whether or not you think it’s right is entirely another topic, but it should not be a surprise. What exactly did we want to hear from the editor of Esquire of why women exists in their male-targeted magazine? To buy into an idea from a men’s magazine that why every other feature displays a glamazon in teeny, tiny lingerie or bikinis (or what have you) is because of their deep interest and care for the psyche and persona of these female individuals would be a joke, and a degradation of feminism itself.

Obviously the targeted readership of Esquire are not men who read the magazine eager to dive into by the minds and wit of it’s featured women. This should be no surprise to us. 

The editors of the US Esquire could lie to us and say that they decided to feature Megan Fox for the cover of the January 2013 issue because of the fascinating opinion on war in the Middle East or her experiences speaking in tongues, but really, who’s the fool if we were sold on that pitch? For decades magazines have featured women for the exact reasons Bilmes explained for Esquire. So why is this so all of the sudden so appalling to us?

One thing can be said for Bilmes, like him or not, I’m sure he will have no communication problems in his marriage.

It’s Saturday Night and All Your Married Friends Have Plans, Again...

At some point after college you realize that you have more friends who are married than who are single. Of course it takes facing a few Saturday nights solo to realize that, not only you are now the minority, but making plans with your married friends becomes increasingly difficult. Then again, who can blame them for being busy? When you’re married your list of priorities, week in and week out, completely changes. You’re time is spent with things like decorating an apartment, eating out, or arguing about how you’re spending too much money on decorating and eating out. But until that day comes (and likely for most, it’s not anytime soon) here’s a few ideas of how to spend those lonely Saturday nights when you wish to do something other than sulk at home or work on your blog at Starbucks…

  1. Use the time to invest. Finally start that Etsy or cupcake business you’ve been dreaming up.
  2. Grow your brain cells. Maybe nows the time to get your Masters. (I know married couples with Full Time jobs and kids who manage to make this happen.)
  3. Take up a yoga, boxing or ballet… or any activity you wouldn’t typically make time to do during the week. Plus now with the variety of accessible workouts online, you can try new activities without having to worry about making a fool in public.
  4. Be more intentional with your single friends. Don’t wait for them to call you! Make the initiative and call up those single friends you keep talking about “hanging out” with.
  5. Ask your Grandpa out for coffee. Go out with anyone in your family for that matter, if you’re lucky enough to have family nearby. It may be awkward at first for some more than others, but you’ll soon find it a wise investment of your time .
  6. Make raisin scones and watch (or re-watch) some Downton Abbey. Seriously, if you work full time and support yourself, when else do you have time to make scones? Plus, no one else is around to change the channel. ( You boys can make boxed brownies and watch reruns of Breaking Bad or Arrested Development, uninterrupted, if the above just sounds altogether too involved.)

Lessons Learned On Regent St.

You can easily learn what kind of shopper you are on Regent Street or any other crowded shopping scene. Visiting London, with all it’s richness in history, all it’s mammoth buildings and culture, of all I visited no place had more traffic or more people than Regent Street, the famous shoppng strip in London. So, while there is plenty to do in London besides shopping, and probably many other places to shop that just Regent street, don’t ask me why I found myself here more than once on this one week trip.

Already I find shopping to be incredibly frustrating, my common issue, among the others, being that I never leave with what I came to shop initially. My additional problems would be lacking the income that will satiate my taste, not being some nationally known actress who has stylist knocking at her door to play dress up (cause let’s be honest - planning outfits actually takes some level of organization and skill not all of us are naturally born with) and lastly, and less obvously, the actual event of shopping can exhaust me to a ridiculous extent.  Outside of my lessons this could be better titled as “White Girl Problems.” Typically I’m more inclined to spend an equal amount of money on fashion magazines, than the actual items I’m eyeing in the magazines. I love fashion, I love the history of it, the creativity of it, the aesthetics of it, and yet still I find the event of shopping to be exhausting.

In observing theses issues about myself I do have a point  - somewhere. I am unbelievably asthetically affected, probably not much more than most of you, but for the sake of my issues, let my walk you through how a typical routine goes for me: I see a JCrew catalog shot in streets of Prague; a deep, dominant, Bond-like beautifully haunting scenery to offset the bright, lusterous, but typically clean basic layers of clothing and I am elated with awe and want. I am inspired and ready to hunt. Next, I go to the stores I assume will have such lustrously layered pieces, often traveling an hour or more away, since Lakeland is no-shopping-man’s land. I see what I want, in store I clearly cannot afford to dress half myself with and I am dumb founded. I see prices tags and am frustrated. Then after three hours of relentless searching, I’m tired, hungry and frustrated. 

So I’m in London for a week, and what do I do when I’m in the, possibly, most gorgeous, enriching cities in the world? I go shopping. And I go again. The first time on Regent Street almost felt like the end times, as if only hours are left before the earth crumbles and it’s everyone’s last opportunity to shop. That or zombies have taken over the city and they are just minutes from hitting Regent Street and climb up Topshop to sabotage every last article of clothing. So naturally everyone shops like it’s a sport. People clammer over clothes like stores will never restock. I couldn’t even see the clothes in front of me, let alone compare one shirt to the next. What possessed me to go more than once? Well, it’s London for crying out loud. It doesn’t matter that I can buy everything online now, or that every store in the city is are globally accessible, I wanted to say “I bought this from London.” But by second time I went there I was cofused as to why my already tired legs dragged me all the way over and in lue of skipping dinner no less (and this is a girl who likes to eat!) I couldn’t figure out why I was there again since I already couldn’t loosen my tight grips off the pounds in my hands (a 1.6 equivalent of the US dollar) to put down for all the clothes I envisioned returning home with.

My shopping issues really are quite lame but putting them on paper somehow helps to see the variety of other issues I often face in making up my mind: what it will cost me to get what I want or where I know need to be. Will I be depressed if I’ve forked out the $200 for an outfit (because, believe it or not, this amount is lavish for me at the moment)? Likely not. Regretful? Maybe. I might end up at customer’s service to return an item (since I already have a shameful habit of resorting to do this more often that I’ll admit). Likely. But I would not be depressed, wondering or overwhelmed if I finally made a decision rather than just wondering and wishing. Shopping is a hassel for some. Desicion making for others, a monster. 

Deciding what you want and following through with it, paying up for it, is something we all have access to but don’t necessarily commit to. Well, this may seem like a heavier lesson than most might face while shopping on Regent Str., but then again that’s just an little insight into my over-worked, analytical mind and a one place not to go on your next trip to London.

BOOK: The Great Gatsby

I’m not sure what it is about The Jazz Age that is so intoxicating, whether it’s an idea we get from film or fiction, but there is this carefree, throw caution to the wind, all wrapped up in chiffon and glitz image that we, ok - or, that I correlate with the roaring 20‘s. Maybe that’s what drew me to reread a book that was already a High School requirement. Though I had read through it before, (at least claimed to) I couldn’t recollect much more than the last scene from this 9 chapter story. Reading The Great Gatsby is like being in Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” only you would call it “Midnight in New York.” It’s like following F. Scott Fitzgerald around and drinking in his view of America of the 1920’s. It’s intoxicating, yet simple. Brief, yet timeless. Likely my random fixation to reread this tale was sparked by the recent remake of this film (which sadly has been pushed back till May of ’13, no doubt due to fear of another remake that was scheduled to premiere the same day) still everyone knows a film is nearly never as great as the book. So while I was anticipating two major Christmas film adaptions from literature (now left with only one come Christmas Day) I still wanted to walk through the classic story as it was first written.

The Great Gatsby is introduced as an enchanted, fairytale flapper-esque world that I wouldn’t have minded living in. Taken place during the Prohibition era, when drinking was “untouchable” and crime was at it’s peak, Fitzgerald paints for us the veil of this corrupt age. Like a silhouette covering a mess that you never clearly see, past billows of softly laid silk and satin, it may be the prettiest mess on paper.  Life seemed to be all parties, drinking and love though both were “off-limits,” it’s conveyed as if love, drinking and money were fruitful and free for all. Everyone felt entitled to the glitz, glamour and wealthy lifestyles whether they could afford it or not, both literally and figuratively speaking. Sound familiar? It’s likely that the real America during this era was not the dreamy effortless world I envisioned it to be and, even less, the dream world that Fitzgerald initially depicts for us. But depict it, any which way, he does so well. 

The Great Gatsby has been referred to as a story of the loss of innocence, one of the first of it’s kind. Knowing this before you read F. Scott’s story really puts things in perspective, as far as our culture’s reflection of itself at such a young, ripe age. Charles Hitchens may have put it best: That phrase, ‘loss of innocence,’ has become stale with overuse and diminishing returns; no other culture is so addicted to this narcissistic impression of itself as having any innocence to lose in the first place.”

From mundane high-society marriages and bright shallow party scenes, The Great Gatsby was the American Dream, living for the moment. Though it’s set in a time that seems distant and unfamiliar to us, it’s a story that can probably resonate with our cultural values and pursuits, whether we’d like to identify with it or not. I’m sure F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote it in hopes to change the ways of money, love and status or at least thought we might not still be so deep in it now. But update the flapper gowns and men’s many colorful shirts a few decades further and Fitzgerald himself might be taken back at how little we’ve progressed. This age seemed untouchable and ethereal but truly, as the if it were the formative young adults years of America’s life, it was the era of decayed social and moral values. It was the time when forbidden lovers were the norm, when extravagant parties were the casual nights outing, and when romance and affairs were the closest form of thrill and entertainment at our fingertips.  The only difference now, along with the same induldgences and ways of losing our innocence, is that we have thrills such as The Great Gatsby right at our fingertips.

Fight. Fight. Fight To The Death.

The last Presidential debate had a new level of fight in it than the previous, showing a a bit more rumble, a tab more hostility - as much as you could in a produced, civil, seated and televised conversation. Many have expressed that the final debate was rather tame compared to previous debates (like possibly the vice presidential debate, the seemingly most hearty of the four - which I must say I wish took place more than just once.) President Obama was apparently more engaging and Romney, more reserved. It’s obvious that some coaching went into Monday night events, as the race gets tighter near the finish line.

The moderator, Bob Schieffer, has been criticized for not being in control and letting the topics veer off track, especially back to issues that seem to be the most controversial among the two at the moment: Obamacare, education & other domestic policies (hence not too focused on foreign policies - the scheduled topic of the night). Yet Schieffer’s poised and noninvasive approach really allowed us to see more of a debate, more of a fight.

Many blogs and news sites I frequent highlighted the overall “kinder, gentler conversation” between the two. I’m not sure what debate they were watching that gave off the feeling of something more “gentler” than the past two, unless that seemed like a completely civil way of discussing matters that concern our National security and education system, inbetween personal jabs. Other websites have taken note of the President’s overall argumentative tone that drove most of the night. At one point President Obama looked like he was going to pounce on Romney, sometime after burning holes in his head. Romney on the other hand appeared trained to stay seated as if he had been super glued to his chair or as if a dog-trainer was holding a treat a few feet in front of him. Obama was confrontational and personal; like night an day compared to the first debate. It seemed our President was pepped to think that an in-your-face, “booyah” tactics would win him this one. No doubt both men were trained to work against some of their natural tendencies, as Obama kept a steady gaze at his target and Romney seemed to have been slipped a sedative to keep from combating, but a little verbal combating was exactly what took place.

The candidates may have not stayed directly on the topic of foreign affairs, breifly touching on matters of Libya and Israel, but they clearly debated some issue than concern our Nation. And it was a good debate. The idea that these Presidential debates should be programed or orderly is an arbitrary ideal for an opportunity to see how each candidate handles confrontation and how well they stand to their views.

Regardless of how they were trained, of how poor a job Bob may have done as a moderator (though I personally think he handled it best) it’s good for us to see how each candidate handles awkward conversations, confrotations and personal attacks.  It was good to see a debate. I’m all for peace, but considering we have two weeks left to help us a make a desicion that will effect our next four years (and likely much more than that) it was good to see a fight. 


The Perfect Cup: My Starbucks Dilemma

Most of the time I order a drink at Starbucks, which is most of the time (I know “addiction issues” - I’m working on it) I’m likely viewed as that customer. The one most Baristas dread as they walk in. Not necessarily because I ask for a drink that’s 187 degrees hot and always bring it back because I can tell it’s a few degrees too cool, but something like that.

I have a very specific order, though I’ll alter it sometimes depending on who is making my drink (it doesn’t matter how many hoops a Barista has to jump through, no two Baristas are the same therefore no two drinks are ever the same.) I know what I like, and while what I like may change due to my mood, the climate or the season, majority of the time my order is consistent but sadly the results aren’t. At Starbucks, I’m paying for the perfect cup of coffee, but have a harder time ever getting it.

I once went on a missions trip to Romania with a group from my University. My coffee experience nearly scarred me for life, and anyone else who has to drink from a pot I’ve brewed. Romanian coffee was ethereal in Eastern Europe and it was everywhere. Literally there was coffee being served to us wherever we went. And with every cup, when I anticipated a not-so-great or at least halfway decent cup of coffee, I was shocked that it was always the equivalent or even more decadent than the experience before. Even when we went to visit the schools they’d serve us equally rich, gold-rimmed coffee in the teacher’s lounge, with these wafer-like finger size cookies and a small old television playing MTV. Though I was the only one who genuinely enjoyed it from our group. Secretly everyone that was served just kept passing their cups down to me, faking that they were finishing up as another empty cup had circled their way. Served in the type of porceline cup size that most Americans would assumed they were being jipped by, it would taste like anyone here like shots of espresso, but it was amazing. Did I mention all their sugar was raw too?! (Sometimes it doesn’t take too much to make me happy.) Anyways, I always loved a good strong cup of coffee and continued to brew to my Starbucks standards after Romania, also following demos like Stumptown.  I was making it right, even though friends and family would consider it all too strong. Ok so, all coffee expertise put aside I just like strong coffee. But what is coffee for? Certainly not to hydrate oneself.

Having worked at Starbucks for 6 and a half glorious years, I have a good idea of how the whole Starbuck/Barista system works. It’s no glamorous job. (It’s hard work making people like me happy.) So I know the kind of training one goes under, the testing, the tasting, and the complaining you deal with on a daily basis. But making the perfect cup of coffee is on of the last concerns of most Baristas. The real concern is getting your drink to you in under 90 seconds. Starbucks has quickly grown from a place that promises to make my drink just the way I like, to a juicing, panini-pressing franchise that’s mainly focused on getting me my drink and getting me out of there. You know those signs they have at the bar that say “We promise to make your drink just the way you like it”? I swear they takes those down the moment I walk in. That or Starbucks has had a major shift in value and purpose.

The years I worked there the focus was on making the perfect cup every time. As a Barista I was tested, eyed and schrutinized by my first manager to make sure I got it - every time. He was a hard manager, but hands down the best. Plus he was an avid Dave Matthew’s fan, so come on, you know he must’ve been pretty great. He taught me some of the basic stages of a cup of coffee, like the art of steaming milk. You need cold milk, a clean stainless steel pitcher and you have to break the top film of the milk with the nozzle in such a consistent and steady way that creates tight bubbles for a real frothy, whipped foam; not too much air and perfectly dense, cloudy puffs of foam gather. Thanks to my high-maintanance manager I was a better barista, adding to my high-maintanance coffee tastes. But, working at Starbucks will do that to you (that or you will despise it and make horrible coffee.)

Honestly, Starbucks in Europe (and I’m making a general assumption here) likely make a more perfect cup of coffee than Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) is ever concerned with making in the states, at least not before adding refresher drinks and green juices to the menu. But really, can you expect one place do it all? Or do it all perfectly? No wonder, while Baristas are learning new formulas for Frappacinos and trying to sell you Via packets, they find my slightly unusual order, that occupies only 3 of the 7 options on the cup, rather difficult to execute. Come on, there are 7 options on the cup for a reason. And I am paying… well let’s not get dollar signs right now, but you know you’re paying for a customized cup of coffee. Ironically, if I were in Australia or the UK I don’t think they’d be looking at me so funny as they do here when I order my drink. Come to find out, there are actually some countries who have a name for my crazy little concoction, which half of my family now orders as well (yes, we’re all pretty much crazy-annoying-Starbucks-addicts.) It’s called a White Flat, I believe. It’s basically a denser, stronger and richer cappucino. It’s brilliant. It’s also not in America. Like I said, brilliant.

Jack, in England’s Romford store, was featured from a Starbuck’s in Essex about making the perfect cup of coffee. If only Starbucks would get back on its feet and remember why it opened up an insane coffee shop in a garage to begin with. I thought it was to make the perfect cup. Of course in America, it hard for us to stay focused on doing just one thing well. Granted the perfect cup may be a little different time to time, taken the quality of the machine (just pulling shots, espresso shots, is another conversation all its own,) the temperature of the milk or roast of the bean, a drink can be slightly varied. But there’s just a certain overall quality that can be noted when the person making your coffee, really appreciates coffee. Jack seems to at least know (and like) coffee, which is more than I can say about the majority of Baristas these days. Note when watching the video: The magic is in microfoam. But trying to communicate just this kind of foam when ordering my drink is like talking another language here. Sadly, I find that lately more of my trips to Starbucks break my day rather than make it. Not quite the coffee-high I’m looking for. Jack - I wish you worked at my local Starbucks.

The Socially Awkward Network

          Image: The Atlantic May 2012


My first “dump” (as indirect and odd it was) was on instant message, the old-school IM on AOL. I was sitting in the computer lab for English class, messaging my best friend (also a friend of this guy “friend”) trying, in my most unassuming way, to figure out when this guy was going to ask me out to prom, only to discover he had already asked out another girl. A little later (again via AOL) I discovered that though we were hanging out one-on-one for a few months (and I must add, he paid for more meals and opened more doors than possibly any other “dating” relationship I’ve had thus far) he resigned to use IM to let me know he was only interested in being friend all along. Though dating was an unusual experience for me itself, discovering I hadn’t been “dating” all through a few measly typed words online, as I did, was probably more odd and unresolved a feeling as any. Well, at least people can’t see you tear up online. Little did I know how quickly my social life would be wrapped up online. 

Certainly social networks have broaden our circle of friendships and opportunities for social interaction in ways that many senior citizen’s can barely comprehend, let alone navigate (expect for my Facebook-savvy Grandma, of course). Who of us can fathom what it would be like to rely solely on a phone number or address to conduct our social lives? Nowadays it’s just more normal for us to develop relationships online than off. Heck, we can barely remember life any other way. While we are in awe of the speed and creativity of technology year after year, that increase of our circles and “friends” on online, is our habitual reliance on social networks for the growth and care of our “relationships” making us socially immature and emotionally inept?

Stephen Marche’s cover story, in The Atlantic back in May, asks “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” noting that, “Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever.” True, we’ve never been more socially equipped. And it’s not just Facebook that motivate us to make sure we have WiFi connection before we book our next vacation. Really we’ve never had more ways to socialize online; We date, we meet ancestors, we shout out to strangers,  we have google “hang outs.” But while the sound of endless opportunities ring as we open our browsers, could relying on these sources for the majority of our socializing be making us more emotionally out of tune than ever, maybe even socially awkward? Marche addresses Facebook’s high influence in our daily interactions:

The beauty of Facebook, the source of its power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the embarrassing reality of society—the accidental revelations we make at parties, the awkward pauses, the farting and the spilled drinks and the general gaucherie of face-to-face contact. Instead, we have the lovely smoothness of a seemingly social machine. Everything’s so simple…

While ideally we may think that attention to an unstoppable newsfeed (ex. Jim’s chicken-salad sandwich for lunch or Sally’s job promotion) is keeping us more intimate and aware of details in each others lives, we maintain a comfortable distance through our 13” screens, giving us the picturesque illusion that we are somehow involved in each other’s personal lives, and somehow surrounded by people. One statistic in the Atlantic says that roughly 20 percent of Americans — about 60 million people — are unhappy with their lives because of loneliness. Truly we’re lonelier than ever, and quite possibly due to this figment of our imagination that we are so socially connected.  Have we relied too heavily on online systems, rather than our own common sensiblities, to carry daily conversations, confrontations and initiation with the majority of the people in our lives? Though it’s likely that the “people” in our lives through social networks, are about as much a concern to us as how we’re ordering our coffee that day (or even less for some Starbucks gold card members - you addicts, you); we give thought to the issues of peoples lives about as much time as they are current in our news feeds. Our primary concern engaging social networks seems to be our status (or at least the appearance of it), to a point that our brains no longer know how to connect with any innate social graces or sensitivity when faced with a live conversation.

There was a time that etiquette was a sought after skill. It was expected; a rite of passage to finding one’s place in an adult society. Rewind about 100 years ago and you’re looking at 500 years of a groomed era, where young women would have been prohibited to voice an opinion, let alone declare to the world to “lay off because it’s that time of month!” Though once women were of age, men would come knocking on a their doors, at a time where the distances to travel were likely greater and conditions certainly inconvenient, rather than messaging her for a casual date and considering it giving it their best. Our social networks have certainly affected the dating realm of young men and women. Women feel a little more empowered and aggressive, tweeting their mind and using spaces like Facebook to pursue what they want. Men seem to have become a more relaxed in any pursuit, a little more entitled even. If she really is interested she can text him or message him. After all, you messaged her so the ball is in her court now, right? Why call a woman or waste gas money to come knocking, if she can respond with the click of a button?

Even more deceiving than the idea that our circle of friends are so broad, is the idea that we’re using all these sources to really get to know people better. Marche also reviewed the Australian study “Who Uses Facebook?” where the study’s authors write, “In fact, it could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behavior.” Marche follows up, “Many practitioners agree that narcissism manifests in patterns of fantastic grandiosity, craving for attention, and lack of empathy.” We are becoming more self-consumed, more interested in other’s view of us and less interested in others, making us all the less interesting

Our lack of interest in others, at least those with the dull profiles or tweets, or those with no profiles at all, such as the elderly or those in leadership, has produced a disconnect of respect, either due to the lack of interest or depth in how to be interested. Or how to be respectful, honorable and tactful for that matter? When the large part of our day is consumed by communicating online, we seem to have less patience to listen to someone’s feelings over coffee, when all our attention is demanded of one person for more than 30 minutes (especially when online we could be messaging Sally, while we avoid Joe’s open wounds and let him bleed a little longer than we would if we were sitting across from him.) Because God forbid we have to face confrontation or an awkward conversation.Twitter, nor Facebook are the culprits of our below-grade social skills or graceless ability to maintain eye contact with a person for more than a minute. We are creating these new social norms, where actual socializing is far removed.

In 2009 The Guardian interviewed British scientist, and member of the House of Lords, Susan Greenfield on the effects of social networks on children and young adults: “This might make you a kind of person that doesn’t have a notion of identity and identity of others but rather, where you are just the passive recipient of your sound bite and it’s just about you.” Lady Greenfield also emphasized the grave difference between electronic interactions versus spoken conversations which involve risk for an individual, comparing a realization of our substitution for relationships, like that keen awareness of dietary substitutions in our Nation:

Real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf. Perhaps future generations will recoil with similar horror at the messiness, unpredictability and immediate personal involvement of a three-dimensional, real-time interaction.

So much time online may be draining us of empathy, or common sense in how to handle conversations. Then again, when we can easily pick and choose the layout of our relationships and direction of our conversations online, maybe we just don’t have the patience anymore. As I continue to explain to my parents my distaste over prepackaged turkey slices, I wonder if Lady Greenfield is right. Will my children one day be able to realize the abnormal norms of online “friendships” and networks that they will one day be born into, or will we one day pull back into needing more “real time”? At this rate, when that day comes we may be too detached to comprehend our underdeveloped emotional skills. 


Impersonal Elements of "Personal Style"

Image: Elle Magazine

          Image: Elle Magazine

There are few things in life that cause me mental angst; a kind of worry that builds up in my jaw, like a tightly wound rubber band. With each straining thought and it feels like whole thing might pop! “This … is your brain on drugs.” No, actually this is more like my brain clearly over analytical as a young lady over important issues, the vain things in life: style and clothes. What can I say, I’m a woman. You could say we women are entitled to stress over such insignificant matters, right? Okay, well obviously not to the point of resembling someone with a methamphetamine addiction. (Speaking of addictions, clearly someone has been spending too much time catching up on a certain show on Netflix.) Initially I wasn’t sure what the root cause of such heightened concnern was, but when it comes to a woman’s style and her sense of worth, well let’s just say we have issues. OK, I have issues. When physical tension was becoming the result of endless worry over what to wear , what I “needed,” and what was currently “in,” clearly it was time to deal with the issue. There came a point I had to ask myself, “Who am I dressing for?” 

While fashion changes every year, one thing doesn’t: our female awareness of what’s in fashion and what’s in our closets. Even worse is our acute awareness of what other women wear and what they think about what we’re wearing. (Yes, we care about these things.) Style, first intended to be a means of self expression, has become more of an expression of who others might accept us or admire us to be. Expressing our “true self” typically falls somewhere far below meeting the current trends and norms to gain the attention we desire.

In college it use to be that I solely based what was “in” by what Johanna was wearing (our campus’ fashion-forward, blonde, barbie-doll-of-a-student) or by studying the latest J.Crew catalogue. Now with thousands of style diary blogs, shopping guide magazines like Lucky and InStyle and daily fashion updates on our Tumblr and Apps, how can we go wrong, right? While this new world of fashion news (now holding up it’s own section in The New York Times) should make today’s woman feel equipped and dressed-to-kill, it ultimately leaves many of us with more to want and more to base our self-worth on.  There are bloggers all around the world (their hobby now turned to full time careers) who continue to defy what was thought to be “fashionable” and define what ought to be “fashionable.” Such “Satorialist” (a person who practices or is interested in the tailoring of clothing) communities, who’s style-stalker photography blog is like eye-candy for anyone like myself, moves as rapidly as a New York Fashion show; it comes early in September 2012, to tell us what to be ready-to-wear by next Spring 2013. 

Since our economic decline, this new wave of “Personal Style” has taken off with the flood of such style sources online. In many ways it has allowed fashion to become more accessible to us. Designer’s are now eager to collaborate with lower distributors like Target, Top Shop or J. Crew (though not all might be so low-end to some of us) giving more of us a chance to wear trends that wouldn’t have been in our reach ten years ago.  But how is my “personhood” being expressed if I’m so highly concerned with meeting current trends? Maybe I make the whole fashion-thing more complicated an issue than it should be. (Though I would personally take the Baroque Flourishes.) Let me rephrase that earlier suggestion: I do make fashion out to be more difficult than it should be. While it is the idea that your individual characteristics shine through your wardrobe, the basic elements of “Personal Style” are inevitably based a trendsetters, making closets like my own, along with middle-class-can-barely-pay-my-bills women of the world, feel inferior. But do we choose to feel inferior, not only by sizing up ourselves by what we wear, but wearing what we do to impress other women? 

This “Personal Style” should be much more appeasing to women, but we like to copy what we see, attempt to wear “what she was wearing” in an attempt to look “like her” or gain “her” approval; “her” being this mammoth awareness of fashion in our current culture, or the women we covet and desire envy from. (Yes, women desire to be envied; a conniving component of our sex that certainly would lead to other questions and discussions.) Women love to watch other women. Maybe as much, or more than men do, though for entirely different reason. I mean to refer to straight women checking out other women, gawking out of jealously, disgust or whatever have you. It’s like an unspoken disease many of us carry, as is our “need” to follow what is “fashionable” to maintain acceptance.

We can us allow this thing called Fashion, a personal expression, to become a pressure that brings unnecessary worry to our lives and unwanted lines to our faces; concerns over amount of likes on Instagram and hunger for comments on Facebook, are becoming a rating system we enable for our self-worth. Females are funny creatures, that seemed to be more concerned with dressing to impress women more than express themselves, more than even men at times. If women were to get to the root of why we work so hard to maintain a certain image, and began to dress for ourselves, truly catering to our own personas and tastes, we may find our style would look entirely different from what “she” is wearing. But, if it’s “personal style” who cares what “she” thinks.

Life Lessons I'm Learning From Walter White

breaking badLast night launched off a season of a show I did not expect to find myself so quickly consumed by. I am in no means (except for the occasional comedies, that will remain nameless) a TV-show-kind-of -person. As much of a movie-buff as I am, I’m known for easily leaving a show half-way through because little in TV ever excites me. Until a little bird told me something about this “insanely good show” Breaking Bad. After about a month and a free Netflix trail, getting reeled into this ridiculous roller-coaster ride, I found myself filled with glee at the premiere of the two last installments of Breaking Bad. Though the show is known for little good, I found some reflection, or rather deflection of light that we can take from the life of Walter White. 

1. Excellence Pays Off

Walt finds his success because of the 99.9% purity of his product. While Walter never tests the stimulant (that we know of) even as a meth producer, in some contorted way, he appears your average law-abiding citizen for the first season. It’s hard to view straight-laced Walt as the rebellious bad boy he quickly becomes. In fact, Bryan Cranston’s character development is so seemless, that after his initial moments of victory, leaving Tuco’s place in flames, with his rightfully owned cash, we all want to shout out with him as he beats his steering wheel with the release of excitement. Walt and Jesse’s product of hard work, through the toil and pain, through the trailer lab in the desert, lack of sleep and diet of Funyuns, pays off big, bright and green. No one is perfect and certainly I, of all people, aren’t endorsing perfectionism (or methamphetamine for that matter) but excellence will not go unnoticed and will have its rewards (even if only momentarily.)

2. The Right Partner Will Help You Succeed

By the thirds season Walt knows he cannot produce the high-demanded product on his own. So when Walt refuses to work with anyone but Jesse, it’s probably one of the smartest decisions he makes. (Note I said smartest, not wise. There’s a difference. At this point Walt has loss any sense of what is wise, so that topic is out the window.) But it goes without saying, the moment Walt tells Gus he’d have to kill him if he’s gonna kill Jesse, a new bond is formed between the two. And while Walt still lacks the social graces and all humane instincts dry up from his bones to play go-carts with Jesse just once, he knows Jesse is the only one he can count on to make an excellent product with. You know you have a good thing going when you’d rather die than be without that persons support. 

3. If Your Husband Is Cooking Breakfast Every Morning, He Must Be Cooking Up Something Else

There are endless husband/father lessons that can be learned from Walter White, as in what not to do. Like maybe keep your wife in the know, because she just may have the same level of smarts or more than you do, at least socially. The moment things get shady enough for his wife to get a whiff of anything, Walt begins waking up early in the morning to make a breakfast fit for a queen, clearly in attempt to distract his pregnant wife. Now, I’m not saying guys can’t have the pure goodness in them to do this on a regular basis. I do have a few married friends who tell me their husbands do all the cooking and even wake up earlier with breakfast, coffee ready and work lunches ready to go. (Where do you find these guys? Clearly not in America.) Before Walt began cooking up his blue stuff, he was rather unmotivated, and lack-luster as a husband and father. But when things get shady, breakfast is hot and ready every morning (for a short season, at least.) So if you’re husband is all the sudden, highly motivated to be cooking in the kitchen for you, you may want to see what else he has cooking up. Or, just stay seated and finish up those pancakes, because they’ll only be hot for so long.

4. Bad Boys Have Souls Too

So I tapped on this a bit in number 2, and maybe it’s because every time Jesse cries it feels like it’s your little brother is crying and you want to pick up the pieces and get his life in order. While initially Jesse is just this punk-kid, who can’t think straight and gets on your nerves, by season 2 his heart break makes you hurt for him. His soul is suddenly exposed. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading and go watch season 2 on Netflix. Now.) A desire for companionship evolves and you empathize with this vulnerable Jesse. (Maybe he was vulnerable before, but now as a viewer, you care.) 

As much of a bad boy that Jesse is and continues to be, when a guy tears up because he has to inflict pain on another, you know his soul is still intact - somewhat. Even by season 4, when Jesse and Walt aren’t cooking as much, leaving Jesse with more time on his hands to burn money in his pockets, he continues to seek camaraderie with Walt and asks to go play go-carts, but Walt seems to have better things to do…all the time. If only Walt might spend some time goofing off playing go-carts with Jesse or invest in the relationship outside of the lab, it might feed the parts of Jesse’s soul that are dying off and in turn help Walt maintain his senses.

5. Say You’re Sorry Already

Initially I was told I wouldn’t like Skyler (Walt’s wife) for various reasons. For the sake of my point, let’s just say we blame Ted. (Ok, not completely. Poor guy.) While Skyler isn’t all-together the perfect wife, her husband certainly doesn’t deserve any reward. At this point of the disastrous mess Walt’s brought to the family into, all in an effort to “do what’s best” for them, I’d say a sorry was in order for Skyler.

Last night’s closing scene was both infuriating and shocking as to just how “bad” Walt has become. Loosing all sense of direction, as much as we all are thrilled for him through what he’s conquered by the end of season 4, Walt seems to have steeped to a new level of badness, when his conscious thinks he deserves an apology. This is a good one for you guys with any hopes to get married and keep the women: Say your sorry already! It’s a clear picture of how good some men are at lying to themselves, just to inflate their ego when no one else is around to do so. And if they’re not praising you may want to reconsider your past actions. If you’ve wronged your woman, family or friends, no matter how nobel your intentions may be, own up to it. Don’t ever become to so low to the earth that you think you deserve an apology.

There it is for now. I’m almost certain the next 15 episodes will have plenty for us to chew on as well.


Single and Finding My Way

 

If you would’ve told the 18 year-old me, who woke up every day listening to Celine Dion on replay, that she would face 28 without a man, she probably would still be in her bed. As a young girl it’s easier to be vocal about romanticized hopes, but growing up as a young adult in this feminine-empowering culture you tend to want to mask such emotions. Thank God, we no longer live in a time that rates a women’s success on her relationship status, well at least outside of your your extended relative do (been there.) We’re well past the days where a woman is viewed as incomplete without a ring on her finger. We’re finally viewed as prosperous beings all on own.  Though I think, whether we’d admit it or not, many of us single ladies feel at times that we’d have a clearer sense of direction in life with a man by our side. You know, as if they know what they’re doing any better than we do. (Am I wrong?)

There’s never been a more opportune time to be a female in our culture, but I think there are parts of the feminine psyche that can still attaches much of it’s self-worth and potential to our relational status, regardless of what era we live in. It’s one reason why films like Pride & Prejudice will always have an audience. Women of their time lived to love. Though it’s hard to imagine what it would’ve been like as a female in those day; say Sense and Sensibility. Most of the women sat around reading sonnets and fine tuning their piano skills all day, waiting for this one man to come “calling” and finally take them to progress beyond their current home lives. What we romanticize, really seemed like rather a daunting role; waiting on a man to make sense of your life.

I can’t  think of a time when I was more confused than when I was dating, (which is typically a good sign you shouldn’t be dating.) Though with each guy I dated, I kind of hoped it would bring more clarity to my life and my purpose. Still after every one of them, life made less sense than before. Rather than feeling like every relationship was “forming the woman I am today” it felt more it was stunting my growth. Most of us know when you’re dating there’s this initial tinge of excitement you alway meet, like life might finally feel complete with this one person. Like your Jerry McGuire “You complete me.”- moment might be just dates away. But if it’s not right (like in all my cases) it’s not too long before that excitement wears off, and you have a clear picture of what feels like this big black whole your on the brink of blindly jumping into. And… you find you’re back at square one, hoping the next guy will have the answers. Hoping the next guy will somehow draw out of you the women you want to be.

Why wait to be that woman? Some of us let singleness lead us to this confused or lost state of mind that immobilizes us from developing our passions, when singleness is  the most opportune time to do just that. We underestimate all that we are able to bring to life as single individuals. There is never a time, like when you’re single, where you’re more free to discover what you do best and what will drive you to grab every opportunity that life gives. Sure life isn’t always comfortable as single woman in this world, but someone put’s best that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” So I’m glad life didn’t quite to fall into place the way I anticipated at age 18.  So if you’re reading this and are 18 (or any age) and single. Soak it up and live. It’s a gift. (1 Cor. 7)

 


"Mirror, Mirror On The Wall...

The Queen

Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Fast-forward ahead 200 years and a Queen might ask “Facebook, Instagram on my screen, who’s the fairest of them all?” Normally a villian, like the Queen in Snow White, is this far-removed, distant, bottom-feeder creature that we love to hate. But after seeing “Snow White & the Huntsman,” in my opinion, the Queen appeared to have more in common with the audience than some of us might ever admit. We might not all be clutching and sucking the life out of every young, beautiful thing that walks by (though it’s frightening how some women can convey just that through one look,) but we feed this cultural, unquenchable desire to be viewed as “the fairest.”  

When the Grimm Brother’s told fairy tales, they weren’t planning on using them as cute bedtime stories to share with the kiddies. Tales like Snow White, and it’s struggles of vanity and jealously, were horrific tales told to convey the consequences of current issues. Charlize Theron and Kristin Stewart’s film was finally the fairy tale made for adults; a more gritty and raw version than Disney’s, who’s evil Queen even leaves a confectionate taste in our mouths. Actually, compared to the Grimm’s version, where the Queen consumes a boar’s liver, guts and intestines sautéed with onions, that the Huntsman presents as belonging to Snow White, “Snow White & The Huntsman” is a rather tame account. But watching the depiction of the Queen, was a freakish and  familiar reflection of our current society. Only now our desire to be viewed as the thinnest, prettiest and “the fairest of them all” can be reassured through sources such as Facebook.

Social networking has become an additional, if not daily, means for us women (and men alike) to praise our vain-selves. And while our technology and genius innovations progressed, it in turn may be aiding in destructing our self-consumed priorities and slightly narcissistic behaviors to be viewed as more attractive, if not just to be viewed at all. I admit, I myself am a daily reader of personal fashion blogs or my Instagram’s daily newsfeed. So I don’t credit the web as our source of vanity, but as the mirror that we visit for the daily self-assurance, when we can’t seem find it elsewhere.

So what’s wrong with looking good or be noticed? Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with the simple pleasure of being called beautiful or grinning to yourself after 8 “likes” pop up to your profile picture within a minute of uploading. But when a desire to be called the prettiest, the hottest or the “the fairest ” are what drive us to utlilize social networks on a daily basis, our idea of beauty begins to wither.  We cater and feed our self-aware, self-consumed, visually obsessive nation as a highly shared value. And we show for it. The misconstrued social norms that Snow White was addressing to a culture far-removed from today, has escalated somewhat since the nineteenth century. A Queen may forever struggle with this self-destructing pursuit to be forever young and beautiful, asking “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” And if Facebook and Instagram can’t daily reaffirm her self-worth, what could be the end to this obsession before it consumes her?

Why Can’t Women Be Cat Women?

I’ll preface this by saying, yes I am a TED geek. And while browsing their site I came across a familiar face, a young girl by the name of Tavi Gevinson (who I am familiar with because I’m also a fashion blog-browsing geek.) Tavi Gevinson is a fifteen year old, self-proclaimed “feminist,” who’s popular fashion blog and magazine, The Rookie has created a buzzing community for teen girls. At a frightening young age, Tavi offers provoking opinions on the image of women that the media has created and how it effects teens today. Her magazine itself isn’t geared toward your typical image of the teenage girl, but more so for those who feel out of the norm or who feel they don’t fit the ideal image let’s say, “The Hills”-type of girl (which I don’t know anything about *sarcasm insert - for those of you who don’t know me well enough yet*.) 

Though this video is only 7 minutes long, time that most could spare to listen, I’ll go ahead and spoil it with a few thoughts. Tavi explains how most tv and film have portrayed women as flat, 2 dimensional characters; such as Cat Women, 

“who plays her sexuality up a lot and it’s seen as power. But they’re not strong characters who happen to be female. They’re completely flat and basically cardboard characters. The problem with that is that people expect women to be that easy to understand and women are mad at themselves for being that simple. When in actuality women are complicated, women are multi-faceted. Not because women are crazy. People are crazy and women happen to be people.”

I admire such honesty of a brilliant 15 year old. While Tavi gears most of this speech towards the media’s effect on the perception and identity of teen girls, I dare say that this struggle to “figure it out” doesn’t end as you age. Though our ever-evolving culture and media has grown to enable and broaden what was once a generalized view of women (think of characters such a Betty Draper, Liz Lemon or even Pam from the office) the picture of the ideal women still effects what men expect from women and what women expect of themselves. I myself, know I have moments when my emotions and brain feel like mush and I wonder why I don’t have it “figured out” just yet. Why can’t I be Cat Women? How can we know what we want, see it and take it? Life just isn’t that simple. And striving to be so simple would deplete the female gender of the multi-faceted, complex and beautiful ways that her character enrich life in more ways than one. 

Take a listen to Tavi and tell me, especially you women out there, if this topic still doesn’t effect females today. I think grown women may need their own “Rookie” magazine as well…

True Happiness (Isn't Until Age 33?)

So apparently the happiest year of life has been discovered. If you haven’t already heard and can easily tune out monotonous spotify ads, British scientist have determined “People aren’t happiest until they’ve reach age 33.” This leaves myself, along with the rest of you young adults and teens of the world, to assume we should anticipate life being “less then” up to this magical age.  Not only does this imply that you must wait for happiness until reaching your 30’s, but that you are lacking materialistic, relational, vocational and personal contentment.

For anyone who’s left college or your youth and stepped into adulthood, life rarely feels as “happy” as you imagine it to be. Love songs, coming-of-age formulated films, and childhood fairytales ( excluding Brothers Grimm of course) often suggest that we’ve “yet to arrive.” This study seems to convey the same idea. But since these scientist are such experts on true happiness and have done their homework, I guess it should give me something to look forward to?  

Time magazine reports: “The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naiveté and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth,” psychologist Donna Dawson said in the survey’s findings. “By this age innocence has been lost, but our sense of reality is mixed with a strong sense of hope, a ‘can do’ spirit, and a healthy belief in our own talents and abilities.”

So what are some things that could make today’s 33 so deliriously happy an age? While most 33 year olds today are single (or just settling into marriage,) have time for more than one job (one which probably pacifies their passion, while the other pays the rent) and likely don’t own a home, there is a lot of room left for … yourself. Granted any career-driven 33 year-old working 60-plus-hour weeks, or juggling grad school or on the dating scene or writing a book adapted from their blog (or all the above) may beg to differ. But such a life allows for much time ( a commodity most of us may never grasp until having children) much time for meeting one’s own needs than life may have ever allowed before. At least, this is the vague picture I have of most 33 (or 30-some)year olds I know. And apparently the studies show, such a life makes one the happiest. So do I really need to wait till I’m 33 to taste of such bliss? And how exactly would one define “happiest”? Merely crazy-busy success and more money to play with?

Our generation harps and criticizes the boomer generation (our parents and their parents) for working too hard for the sake of success, for the sake of money, also known as the “American Dream.” Unfamiliar with that term? Read or watch “Death of a Salesman.” That should give some perspective to the “American Dream.”

Could it be that “happiness” is this generation’s “American Dream”; where it’s not so much that success in wealth is the goal, but the dream of a spotlight on your originality or genius for, let’s say, one’s brilliant app idea, or best-selling book about how to be your happiest self is the ultimate end? Is there much of a difference between fixating on attaining the “American Dream” and the “happiest” point of life? But success and spotlight put aside, where does happiness fall? What’s it’s worth beyond the given fame and increased income?

We all anticipate “happier” years, weeks or moments of life. But this tends to taint every moment leading up to our “happiest” as less than. Labeling the years that frame our “happier” years as not-“happy”, not only is depressing, but demotivates and sucks the life and vision from out present.  Worst of all, this mindset sets our gaze more on ourself and our own “happiness”. Happiness just might not be all it’s cracked up to be. The pursuit of happiness may not be a means to more than money and success. Our hunt for happiness may be a wasted pursuit, if just for the sake of happiness.

CS Lewis, as always, put it best:

"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

As much as I myself anticipate happier moments in life, moments when my income is increased to a comfortable level, moments where dreams and passions do come to life, I can not allow my daily happiness (let alone the years of my life) to depend on such things. I know when my mind and heart are commited to living each age of life dedicated to loving God, I am my happiest, no matter where I am and no matter what age. Because life is meant for so much more than to merely be “happy.”

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/03/29/survey-people-arent-happiest-until-they-reach-age-33/#ixzz1svJMb2mn

The Word set to Jazz. Esperanza is like a present-day David, only tearing up her bass instead of a harp (or lyre.)

The Possible Reviving Of What Is "Beautiful"? (or What Our Culture Deems Is "Beautiful")

If what was considered desirable, in regards to physical appearance, was what was balanced and moderate, how different might our culture be? While the media tends to spotlight either the extremely slender or the rather curvaceous “goddesses”, be it Gisele or Cristina Hendricks, anyone considerably “average” tends to go unnoticed. It’s always one extreme or another that grabs our eyes, our praise and the cover of Vogue magazine. Though beauty is “a many splendid things,” nowadays, truth be told, we hold a very narrow view of what is physically appealing. Yet, there is one woman who’s career could be redefining fashion’s view  and inevitably, our view. Crystal Renn, a model who has been the extremely thin, the plus-sized now has arrived somewhere in the middle (if your concern is numbers, you’re at the wrong blog. Google it.) To cut to the short of it, Crystal became anorexic initially when modeling and went into rehab. Afterwards, when she began eating and ceased her compulsive exercising habit, she became a world-famous plus-size model and wrote a book called “Hungry.” The years following,  Crystal reintroduced a healthy diet and workout routine that has brought her somewhere in between two extremes; placing her as one of the world’s only “average-sized” models.

Obviously healthier than ever, Crystal is in high demand and returns with a clear voice and message. On the Today Show, a few years ago, Crystal Renn was interviewed about her revived career in modeling and stated:

“What I think would end the confusion is if we just called each other, all the models, just models. No more straight-size. No more plus-size… I want to get rid of titles, because they bemean women. And there’s no need for that.”

Her return will surely have a high impact on the modeling industry. Renn actually may be paving the way for, not only a new demand of “average-sized” models, new faces on the cover of Vogue, but a new desirable trait; a revived allure of what is currently considered moderate, fair or average. It very well could negate the picture of beauty and the idea of what “sexy” is, that our culture has instilled in the minds of men, women, boys and girls alike. When the majority of the models, as well as actors on t.v. and film are continually thinner and tighter, our brains tend to correlate these figures with what is “sexy” and “beautiful” more than we think (unless of course you’re the kind of man who is less vain than a woman; though there seem to be fewer and fewer of you. But that’s just my biased opinion.) So sadly this means, we often correlate anything outside of that as “less than.”

While to the public eye, the media’s mainstream of figures are indeed either runway thin or plus-size figures (which are becoming more the norm.) But this creates a divide; a divide with a massive gap. And this gap instills massive insecurities among women who feel they are “less than.” (Because it is more likely than not, that even with the rise of plus-size, the runway - size is still the most demanded and coveted.) What the media ignites through this is a disarray of aspirations and a spread of unhealthy habits that are attained in the name of “beauty.” When our culture continues to hold such extremes as the picture of enviable allure, it creates a disillusion, in the minds of men and women alike) of what is and isn’t attractive.

There was a day when things weren’t so confusing. When women were beautiful, not because of their religious vegan practice or high-end personal fashion taste, but because they were women. We’ve lost a sense of femininity in our culture. Perfection (in whatever extremity the media is momentarily demanding) is the new feminine.  There is beauty in not trying so hard to “maintain” or be like “so and so…” There is beauty in just being. But we’ve lost such simplistic and humble appreciation for life. We’ve limited our definition of what is lovely and what is womanly.

Crystal Renn may be breaking new ground not just for mainstream fashion, but for our culture’s concept of beauty. Whether or not it was Crystal’s intention to explore all extremes of sizes, just to find herself a normal-sized beauty, her journey is certainly helping shape our culture’s concept of what is beautiful.  Maybe now, with the likes of Crystal Renn, we will see a greater aspiration and a greater appreciation for what is fair or “average.” It would be a relief if what was displayed as “beautiful”, was real beauty afterall.