There’s a starman waiting in the skyHe’d like to come and meet usBut he thinks he’d blow our mindsThere’s a starman waiting in the skyHe’s told us not to blow it‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhileHe told meLet the children lose itLet the children use itLet all the children boogie
Oh, They’re Weird & Wonderful January 11, 2016
You Should Feel Guilty December 11, 2014
This time of year, every nonprofit organization out there is tugging at our heartstrings. Asking us to make year-end contributions and to gift others donations in lieu of wrappable presents. Showing us sad photos of slow-motion dogs crying to Sarah McLachlan songs, or children with grave illnesses or whatever else makes you choke up in the commercial breaks during A Charlie Brown Christmas. Well, I’m not passing a value judgement on those charities, and I have a few I donate to. But if there’s one nonprofit you’re not donating to that you should be, it’s your local public radio station.
If you listen an hour a month, you need to donate. If you visit WYPR.org or WAMU.org, or you like them on Facebook and repost their articles in pursuit of a vigorous debate, you need to donate. It will make you stronger, smarter, better-informed, happier, and better-looking. Here are my top five reasons why contributing, say, $10 a month to public radio is an immeasurably wonderful spend:
The news public radio distributes is top-notch. As news organizations across the nation coalesce into broader and shallower national news pools and tiny outlets collapse (or compromise their values to sell blog ads), public radio stations continue to distribute excellent news programs from multiple organizations. Organizations that adhere to the highest journalistic standards are uniquely grouped & distributed on public radio. My local station carries programming from NPR, BBC, CBC, PRX, PRI, APM, and several local affiliates. What cable channel can you turn on and watch content from, say, Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, FOX, ESPN, HBO, and Netflix Studios? Oh right. You can’t turn on this channel, because only public radio provides this marvelous service. And I know there are the NPR haters out there, but NPR is known to be very thorough and fair in their reporting. If you’re still concerned about NPR’s journalistic integrity it’s OK because you can tune into programs from other lauded news agencies on the same frequency. For example, CBC’s As It Happens is one of my favorite programs for getting a fresh perspective on North American affairs. Thanks, Neighbors to the North. I hear you on my local public radio station.
Their non-news broadcasts also happen to be top-notch. Don’t want to listen to a bunch of whiny liberals reporting the news? No problem, because your local public radio station is most likely carrying a bunch of kickass entertainment and culture programming. Have you ever listened to This American Life? It’s amazing. A collection of stories centered around a theme, expertly curated, and compellingly narrated– usually by the people who lived those stories. Not only is it heartfelt and revealing, it’s often hysterical. Nothing makes cleaning the house on a Saturday easier, except that you can’t vacuum until there’s a news break. It’s that good.
Ditto for RadioLab, which explores how science and the human spirit intersect; Science Friday, a spinoff of Talk of the Nation that breaks down what’s happening in science without dumbing it down; The Splendid Table, which somehow makes food porn into audio; and Marketplace, which makes seemingly droll financial news relevant. Don’t get me started on my beloved Fresh Air.
It’s not about you! You know why public radio membership is an even better investment than your Netflix membership? (And I am wholly, deeply addicted to OITNB.) Because it’s not just about you. There is no quid pro quo here. Your public radio station provides all these wonderful programs, plus hours of local and regional programming, for free, to everybody. That means when you donate, you’re keeping this programming on the air for everyone in your community, and there are surely people who need the programming and couldn’t afford it on a subscription service. Hell, if I had to pay the true cost of my beloved public radio I couldn’t afford it. But here I am, listening to my fifth consecutive hour of public radio TODAY. If you pay for Netflix, you get Netflix. If you pay for public radio, everybody gets public radio. How cool is that?
It’s also not just about public radio. Or NPR, or whatever show you’re listening to. Plenty of the major news outlets just want to tell you their version of the story over and over again, and keep you in their bubble. Not public radio. You can tune into a public radio station and they will curate for you the best programs from Netflix and HBO, interview the writers behind the latest NYT Bestsellers, and even dissect their very own events coverage during On The Media. They’ll pique your interest in culture and the arts far beyond what they’re providing, and they’ll suggest to you alternative sources for news and information. They’ll interview people who wholeheartedly disagree with each other and grill everybody! It’s marvelous! And yes, you will be more attractive if you are more cultured, more interesting to talk to at parties, and more well-rounded. That wasn’t a myth. But..
“Massive public funding” is a myth. Public radio is not rolling in cash supplied by Uncle Sam. NPR is a public service, and it receives some federal funding. Local public radio stations apply for some grants, and receive, on average, about 5% of their funding from federal, state, and local government. The other 95% of their funding comes from listener-members and community support, as well as outside foundation funding. Your donations really do matter and they do keep public radio on the air.
Please donate to your local public radio! And tell them to keep the premium gift. You can buy yourself a hoodie or coffee cup from the website if you really want one. They make it so easy now; you can make a small monthly donation instead of writing a big check. So join, and donate, and bump up your donation levels every year. Start with ten bucks a month, and set your alarm clock radio to the local public radio frequency.
Stop Hating Your Living Room For A Hundred Bucks October 10, 2014
Like many of my newly minted 30-year-old friends, I’ve recently found my home styling– mostly hand-me-downs mixed with eclectic thrift store finds– wanting. I’m still not ready to commit to a matching Ethan Allen living room set, but my living room definitely looked more college dorm than cozy reader’s den.
Lucky for me, I grew up watching my mom tackle projects that would make This Old House jealous with little beyond a can of paint and some determination. I decided I would turn my living room into a place where I actually wanted to spend the winter reading and drinking tea, but I knew I was on a tight budget. My biggest complaints were the rug (not bad by itself, but too dark for the small space) and the awesome hand-me-down steamer trunk that belonged to my great-grandmother (a gorgeous piece that was entirely too huge to use as a coffee table).
I decided the Van Gogh close-up on my mantle would be my inspiration, and got shopping. The new rug was a present, but it cost $40 so I’ll include that in my budget. First trick, courtesy of Mom: Shop around your house. An old plant stand from a yard sale years ago, and a cute two-tiered table with a very battered finish were on the chopping block: I’d grown tired of them, so it was time to upgrade them.
Next, the thrift store. I found this coffee table with great lines but a hideous veneer finish and decided to buy it. Price: $20 without tax, thank you Salvation Army! After a little wedging I got it into my Mazda 3. Next stop: Lowe’s. I’ve always loved using interior high-gloss paints for their durable finish, but they’re getting far too expensive by the quart. Enter sample sizes!! Each of these beautiful little jars covers 16 square feet or so of surface, and they cost 3 bucks a pop. I bought some painter’s tape and a can of spray primer, plus a can of high-gloss spray paint. I also bought a one-inch and a three-inch brush. Total bill: 26 bucks. On to the backyard.
Once the decision was made to carry the teal-and-white theme through the living room, the rest was easy. I taped off the metal legs of the coffee table, since they had a cool patina finish, and primed & spray-painted the table a high-gloss white. Once the primer dried on the two-tier table, I taped off the trim and painted the flat surfaces that pretty robin’s egg blue color. I just did a wash of the same teal on the plant stand. It’s already rickety– why make it fancy? I took my time detailing the small table, and painted all the trim surfaces a creamy off-white.
Two days of drying under my deck, and one afternoon of handy moving help from my boyfriend, later, the final step: Rearranging time. I put the coffee table in the center of my living room, and my old nightstand became a two-tier side table by my couch.
The resulting room is much more pulled-together thanks to touches of that teal/blue in the painting and rug echoed throughout. The white surface of the coffee table brightens everything, and I chose to leave it un-cluttered with just a simple coffee tray.
Total cost: $106 and a few afternoons! Happy thrifting 🙂
Breasts, Bodies, & Being Beautiful February 13, 2014
When I was a teenager– maybe sixteen– I bought tons of lingerie. I was too young to know what to do with it, really, but I was internalizing and idolizing popular images of gorgeous Victoria’s Secret models hired to strut their stuff. At the time, I knew that having the face of a girl next door coupled with the body of a grown woman in her prime would equal success in love, relationships, and sex. Without knowing why it was so important, I wanted to look like Gisele when I took off my clothes, so I bought in.
That initial runway-fed fascination opened the door to over a decade of lingerie purchases from VS, especially bras. Underwear can come from other places, but I think most women would agree that once you find the bra that fits, you’re not moving around stores. I’ve watched technological advances in the fabric, fits, and omnipresent push-up engineering of these undergarments accelerate in recent years. There are foams, pads, air pockets, and what I can only assume are magic linings that prevent peeps, slips, and lines as they keep your breasts looking like, well, two half-spheres mounted just below your clavicle. Somewhere along the line, that half-sphere Wonderbra ideal became the accepted standard for presenting breasts in public, and these bras deliver.
Usually, I’d say the only times I think about my breasts when I’m in public are a) checking to see if my push-up bra is doing its job or b) realizing they are experiencing a painful hormonal tenderness that means I should go buy tampons. Working out more means I’m rocking more sports bras, and as I was working out the other day I actually noticed my breasts for the first time in a long while. This vague realization I had as they actually moved and stretched while I did arm presses was crystallized when I went to see American Hustle the other day and saw all of Amy Adams’ bra-defying, impossibly sensual low-cut dresses: I want my breasts to be breasts, dammit, not balloons.
Most of the bras in my drawer, and most of the ones in the Victoria’s Secret store window, are made of a foam-lined, padded material that lifts and pushes breasts into that spherical ideal I mentioned. They provide a smooth line under clothes, I’ll give them that. But natural breasts aren’t spherical, and they don’t have equal volume at the top and bottom. They’re round at the bottom, and plump, and weighty and they swing around when we move– they’re not supposed to stay bolted in place like the machine gun nipples in Austin Powers. Sometimes, even small ones bounce.
There’s an article in the New York Times right now about recent red carpet trends that makes a joke about how SAG is not just an awards show anymore, it’s a cleavage trend. Well, I say, yes please and let’s not call it a trend. Let’s call it breasts being breasts. Let’s allow actresses and celebrities to rock a silhouette that fits underneath a blazer. Let’s stop trying to shove small breasts (like mine) into a super-deep V shape that throws off the proportions of the entire rest of the garment. Not only is it uncomfortable, it’s putting all the focus on this little bit of tissue that’s awfully important and highly sexualized, but is very far away from its natural intimate state. In short, nobody’s breasts actually look like they look in a Bombshell bra. Not even larger ones.
It’s a strange form of subjugation to have a part of your body that is so intimately tied to being and becoming a woman turned into a hard, unmoving, plastic molded accessory that tops off a cocktail dress. Those breasts I was seeing in American Hustle and in my gym’s locker room are the ones I want to show off in a dress, hide casually under a sweater, and share with my partner. We should not let our breasts become so disconnected as presentation and offering that they are no longer a celebrated, accepted part of our bodies and our sexuality.
Look, I love a good push-up bra once in a while. But In Madrid two summers ago, I went lingerie-crazy again and bought a rack’s worth of thin, lacy bralettes (which are making a comeback as outerwear too). Even though it’s the dead of winter, I vote give the uber-padded breastplate armor a break. Sure, hold ’em up and don’t let them kill you when you run down stairs. But let’s see about letting our breasts do their thing for a few days!
What could have been on Roe V. Wade’s 41st January 22, 2014
Even bearing witness is too important to pass up.
This article was uncomfortable to read. At times personal, and at times rooted in explanations of abortion law. But it’s worth reading, and may remind us how far we’ve come since that article in Ms. Magazine.
A Case Against A Pragmatic Marriage November 6, 2013
Recently, I was informed by an ex-boyfriend that I’d probably better hurry up and get back together with him, because going it alone approaching the age of 30 was not going to get any easier for either of us, and he is a functioning adult with a reasonable financial outlook and all of his hair.
Yes, those were actual reasons given.
As I scraped myself off the floor after this dazzling, romantic proposal, I weighed heavily the prospect of throwing my lot in with this dreamboat for a life together. Aside from my objection to this particular individual, there are also some global reasons I’m not in the hurry he thinks I should be in:
I have been in love before. At the ripe old age of 29, I can honestly say I’ve fallen in love a few times. Each time was delightfully different, rewarding, and I wasn’t the same person afterwards– for better or for worse– but I can say I’m glad for each experience. I’m not afraid to say I want love in my life as much as financial security. This isn’t the Dark Ages.
I haven’t settled yet. Every time I’ve said “no” to partnering up with someone, sooner or later I’ve been happy for it and known I am better off. Sometimes I knew immediately that I’d made the right choice. Other times, it wasn’t initially apparent to me but over time the validity of my decision came to light.
My favorite example of this is breaking up with my college sweetheart. He was (and is) a great guy, and I have a list of reasons why I love him– but we both knew we weren’t “the one” for each other. He’s now a better partner to the woman he did marry than he ever would have been to me, and it’s affirming to see him so content.
The number one thing American couples fight about is money. You think a loveless marriage is going to make your life run more smoothly because you’re getting a marriage tax credit? Think again. If there’s not a solid foundation of love and mutual respect in place, I highly doubt we’ll be skipping through a field of daisies as we juggle unexpected bills, unemployment, parenting, or home repairs.
I shouldn’t have to choose. Why on Earth should a woman, who has equal standing and responsibilities to a man in the 21st century, have to pick between love and security in her marriage? Yes, I expect that a man who loves me would want to provide for me, but why would any guy sign up to take care of a woman he didn’t love?
I would be honored to do what my grandparents did: Fall in love and commit to growing and building a life as a team. Marriage is undoubtedly incredibly hard work. But if both parties are willing to eat some casserole and scale back their date nights, a dual-income household where both parties are fortunate to be well-educated should be able to make a go of it. I am a damn hard worker and actively seek the same characteristic in my future partner, but love doesn’t come second to ambition.
So, thanks but no thanks. I’ll ride it out and, even though it looks like an increasingly winding road, I’m confident my road will NOT dead-end with a copy of “Eat, Pray, Love” and a divorce in the next 10 years. I will pass on a marriage lacking love.