Sunday, March 04, 2007

Housewives


I have a dirty little secret, and it's time to come clean. My name is marshmallowsoup(s) and I watch the Real Housewives of Orange County. There, I said it. I feel much better already.

I have become obsessed with these self-involved, fake, life-preserver breasted women. Clearly, lots of other people have too. If I am going into full disclosure mode, I might as well also come clean about checking Bravo message boards as well. There, I said that too. I feel better again.

This show causes quite a commotion on both the television and computer screens. Soon after I started checking in on how other people felt about these ladies, Bravo revealed that they were getting so many posts (many of which were extremely mean spirited) that they had to start censoring messages for the first time in their web site's history. I also heard rumor that Television Without Pity (another well traveled message board) had to actually shut their entire Real Housewives message board down for good. These women sure do engender a lot of feeling in people--mostly negative it seems.

Which brings me to this question: Why the heck do I like this show so much? If we all hate the Real Housewives so much, why do we spend our time watching and reading about them? If I'm honest, I think it's because I like to feel superior to these women. Yes, they may all drive $75,000 cars, wear outfits that cost more than everything in my closet combined, live in huge houses with pools, and seem to have a lot of time to play tennis and drink cosmos, but they also all seem pretty sad and not that bright. Most of the women are terrible parents, seem to have no clue about how to have a satisfying relationship with anybody, and one of my biggest pet peeves--possess absolutely no self awareness. And this it seems, is exactly why I watch.

I watch because I like to heckle at the screen, sigh loudly when one them does something ridiculous, and cry foul at all their stupid choices. I admit it, I like to watch rich people make fools of themselves. But, I must also admit that I feel a little sorry for them all too. These women have every material want supplied, but they sure don't seem very happy or fulfilled by life.

Whether intended or not, the show highlights the cracks in our country's current obsession with all things luxury and monied. One can have all the money in the world, and it still doesn't guarantee to make you happy. In fact, if one believes the things we see on the Real Housewives, being obsessed with money is more often than not a symptom of some sort of deep seeded psychological problem. Get these women some therapy!

Let's hope that the women of Coto, Orange County can serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of us. Having 15 Louis Vuitton bags and two Mercedes SUVs in your four car garage doesn't solve life's problems. In fact, it may actually cause some of them. Diamond necklaces and designer bags are nice and all, but they don't replace everything else in life. Let's stop obsessing about our own need for more and more luxury items and leave it to the ladies on television. Clearly, it's working out so well for them.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Put in Place


I was complaining to my mother today about something annoying my downstairs neighbors had done last week. Then, to put that final punch on my story, to show how absolutely, completely annoying they are, I ended my story with the following: "And then when I walked by their apartment today they were vacuuming. Can you believe it? Vacuuming. How bourgeois is that?"

My mom just looked at me. Rightly so.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lucky Magazine


I know that some of my dear readers have heard this rant before, but I believe that it warrants yet another reminder. Here we go. Why oh why did Lucky magazine go over to the luxury goods dark side?

I am what they refer to as a charter subscriber of Lucky magazine, and I remember back in the day when I was actually a tiny bit proud (okay, maybe the better word is pleased) to be tangentially associated with them. I liked that they were a bunch of smart girl Oberlin grads who seemingly created this magazine because they wanted to make sure that you knew it was okay to be intellectual and also like fashion. I liked the sly references to Carol Gilligan and Walt Whitman. Most importantly, I liked that the clothes they featured were actually within financial reach. There was a chance I could put together some of these outfits.

Fast forward four or five years, and Lucky has almost completely shed her sexy librarian image and has morphed into Ivanka Trump on steroids. It's difficult to find any item of clothing that costs less than $400, and when one does, it's listed as a "cheap deal." Gone are the sly references to life outside of fashion--literature, travel, or philosophy. Instead, we are handed only crumbs of the old Lucky in the form of glowing profiles of Daddy's little girl jewelry designers who live on the upper east side with their dog, huge walk in closet, and very shiny hair. I must admit that a small piece of me wishes that was my life, but there are plenty of magazines to turn to if I want to live vicariously through models and socialites. I miss the original and unique zest of Lucky.

I always say that I am not going to renew my subscription this year. And every year I do. I think it's because I'm holding out hope. Hope that someday Lucky will return to the way it was--or at least give me some sign. A reference to Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed perhaps? That would seem just. But of course I just keep hanging on--either hoping they finally do see the light, or I can start affording $400 sweaters.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Teeny Boppers


It's been a long time since I have written here. It's a whole new year in fact--2007. Take a bit of inertia, add a glob of job exhaustion, and then mix them both with a little fear. I'm back though, at least for a while.

And you know what has inspired me to blog again? A stupid television commercial--a stupid television commercial for a breakfast cereal no less.

Said commercial is for Total cereal and involves a teenage girl and mom. Girl borrows her mother's "vintage" jeans from some unknown past era. Girl wears the jeans a lot and looks good in them. Mom gets jealous because daughter looks good in jeans (um, hello? Your 16 year daughter is SUPPOSED to look better than the 45 year old you--that's called the cycle of life), and starts obsessively eating Total cereal every morning.

It seems mom starts eating Total cereal at the expensive of good parenting. We watch her passively let her daughter walk in and out of the kitchen day after day with different boyfriends (in the MORNING!), hair styles, and outfits, but always wearing those jeans. Mom only has eyes for her 100 calorie serving of Total cereal--and for one upping her daughter it seems.

Finally, the day arrives. Mom has eaten so many bowls of Total cereal that she can now get her new and improved "Mom butt" into those jeans again. She smuggly tells her daughter that she wants them back, and the last scene shows her bouncing down the stairs, hair in ponytail, t-shirt on, and wearing of course, those jeans. All she needs is some bubble gum to complete the teeny bopper picture.

I know I sound old and decrepit saying this, but parents are supposed to be parents. They are not supposed to be their children's best friend or co-conspirator, and certainly not their competition. They are the parents. They make rules, they set boundaries, and they care if their teenage daughter wanders up to her bedroom with a variety of sketchy looking teenage boys!

Parents and people over 30 are not supposed to try to look like they are 15. It may be tempting, but it is unbecoming. I thought for a brief moment that some of the more current teenage wannabe fashion trends were fading. Audrey Hepburn's image starting showing up in Gap ads, waists got a little higher on pants, and layering and structure showed up in clothes again. It seemed that it was beginning to be cool again to act your age.

I'm not so sure now. If Total cereal is trying to appeal to the typical American consumer, I take this ad as a very bad sign. I pity the poor teenage girls trying to navigate the world these days. And I think I pity the poor moms even more.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Daylight Savings

I used to somewhat look forward to daylight savings. It was an event that often worked in my favor. When I was in college, it gave me an extra hour to finish that paper or study for a test. When I was newly out of college and exploring my new home of San Francisco, daylight savings gave me an extra hour to spend out and about experiencing city nightlife. And don't forget that glorious feeling of being able to sleep yet an hour longer without the guilt. I still didn't like that it got darker earlier every evening, but the perks that came along with it made it seem not that bad. I should also mention that living the west coast also tended to soften the blow. I don't ever recall it getting dark at 3:45 p.m.!

But fast forward a few years, and daylight savings is practically giving me hives. You see, now I live on the east coast, where it does in fact seem to get dark at 3:45 p.m. in afternoon. The changing of the clocks also serves as a harbinger of what is to come--wintry, cold, miserable days. I'm older now, and getting to spend an extra hour on Saturday night drinking doesn't bring the same thrill anymore. I'm much more likely to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. now.

And now, due to my job, I'm afraid that I will won't see the sun again until April. I leave the house at 6:30 a.m. and often don't get home until 5:30 p.m. or so. I also never leave the building once I get to work. Minus a few moments in the morning when I am too sleepy to care, I predict long, depressing days lighted only by office quality fluorescent overheads. Goodbye sun, hello Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

I better start searching the Internet for sun lamps and discount trips to Aruba.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Berk's in Harvard Square


When I was a Massachusetts high school and college student I tended to favor fuzzy sweaters, patched jeans, and I must admit, accompanying fuzzy hair.

I was still finding my own personal style, but I did love to shop. Harvard Square was my shopping Mecca, and I loved the shoe store Berk's most of all. If I remember correctly, it was even where I bought my first pair of Doc Martens! I could always count on Berk's to provide me with some stylish, yet comfortable shoes (minus that Doc Martin purchase--but hey they were cool and stylish for ladies back in 1990).

My taste in shoes and hair products has become more sophisticated over the years, but I still love Berk's. And why shouldn't I? Just as my style has changed with the times, so has Berk's. Case in point: Berk's now carries a small, but well edited, collection of reasonably priced clothes.

The collection consists mostly of basics--designer jeans, American Apparel shirts, and Tulle jackets and sweaters. Although it's not the kind of place you would go looking for that perfect party dress, it's definitely the place to go to fill out a wardrobe. And if you are like me, you have a lot more use for a great fitting pair of jeans and a sweater than a $300 silk dress. But that's just me. I'm much more of a Cambridge gal than a Newbury street gal.

I highly recommend taking a peek at both the current shoes and clothes.

I did note on my last trip there that they even still carry a good selection of Doc Martens. Sure brought me back, but I'm also sure glad that I've since figured out how to successfully defrizz my hair--well, most days at least.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Politics of the Fryeburg Fair


I went to the Fryeburg, Maine fair earlier this month. The fair has existed in various forms for about 150 years. Founded in 1851, it started out as a place for Maine farmers to show off their best agricultural and bovine specimens.

Speed up to the year 2006, and the fair now has it's share of commercial kiosks that ply mops, dream catchers and hot tubs, but it still continues most of the traditional events such as a skillet toss, harness racing, and ox pull contests.

The best parts are generally the demonstrations: How to hook a rug, dogs herding geese as they would sheep, flower arrangements and maple sugaring to name a few. And don't forget the food. In a period of about three hours I ate one Italian sausage, eight fried dough "nuggets," one maple sugar ice cream cone, and some french fries.

Unfortunately, I arrived on the last day of the fair this year and it definitely had a bit of the "party is over" feel to it by the time I got there. The 4-H kids were packing up their poster boards that they had lovingly decorated to inform us city folk about the complexities of goat raising, there were two for one sales on everything from baby rabbits to belt buckles, you could tell that the smiles were becoming a little forced on all the staff.

Tired as both we and the rest of the fair goers and staff were, there were still some amazing moments. As we were heading back the car, we stopped by the main demonstration area. The place was packed. And why wouldn't it be? It was the tractor pull finals! Mullets and Black Sabbath t-shirts were the fashion of choice, along with John Deere hats and plaid shirts. We decided to mull around a bit and waited for the opening ceremonies.

They opened with an oral history of New England tractor pulls. Interesting, but not that compelling. Then, a woman who sold tickets at one of the fair gates, got up to sing the national anthem. She stepped up to the mike and belted out one of the best versions of the song I have ever heard. It was clear, unsentimental, and heartfelt. Men stood and placed their caps over their hearts. Women quietly sang along to themselves. It was getting close to sunset, and the light on the red and orange leaves the served as the backdrop to the event was lovely.

There was no political rhetoric, there were no professional photo opps, and no thought of all the recent political scandals. We were all simply listening to a woman singing about a place that she loves. And we were agreeing with her. If I had done a poll, I would guess that I vote differently than most of the other people in attendance. But in that moment, it didn't matter. We were all brought together by a shared hope and caring for our country.

I want this country to return to its best intentions, and I assume in their own way, so did everyone else around me that afternoon. We may differ in how we think our country should go about it, but my hunch is that having moments like these can only help.