Monday, November 12, 2007

Nature's Snacks

While waiting for the train this morning, I saw a ladybug fly straight into a spiderweb. Almost instinctively, I reached down and freed it.

After the little guy flew off, I realized that I just stole some spider's tasty breakfast. Save an insect, starve a spider? A lot of us may be repulsed by the idea of capturing and eating innocent bugs, but the spider has no such scruples. He doesn't have the option of driving to Whole Foods and picking up vegan tofu bug substitute. (Incidentally, this is the very theme of one of my favorite poems.) I didn't mean to punish the spider for its eating habits, though that could be one interpretation of what I did. I just didn't want to see a ladybug get eaten.

It wasn't until I'd actually gotten on the train that I noticed a crushed ladybug exoskeleton stuck to the sole of my shoe.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dammit, People, Stop Trying to Impose Rules on Jeans

Most people who have heard me talk or read my stream-of-consciousness writing for longer than five minutes are aware of the things I love to complain about. Stupid fashion is one of them, with stupid denim being a particular hot point. Another prickly matter is anything I perceive as a potential threat to my prettiness. I wouldn’t consider myself vain – I would probably say that I am on the cute side of average, all things considered – but attractiveness is something I am judged on as a woman, and until and unless society changes, I will defend my meager advantages any way I can.

So I was pretty piffed to see a recent comment on Ask MetaFilter that read, "Jeans should be worn sparingly at best. If you must leave the house in jeans, they should be dark and fitted properly. Chicks, this means boot cut or the long and lean cut from Gap. No mom jeans. No skinny jeans. None at all if you're above a size 10." The person who posted this already got chewed out enough for her opinion, and I don’t mean to single her out, but oh, please.

Dammit, people, jeans were not invented at the turn of the millenium by Seven For All Mankind for the express purpose of making rich skinny white girls look even more flat-assed. Jeans are for everyone, and there is no law that they have to do your appearance any favors. Otherwise, what would we wear to paint the house, to run errands, or to rush to the emergency room when your wife goes into labor at 4 am? They originated as work pants, and for plenty of people they still are.

One of the things I hate about stupid denim is the current, unrelenting obsession with labels. Let me clear something up once and for all:


Labels are often, well, kinda stupid.

Ditto the increasingly ornate back pocket embroidery that can make asses look like medieval tapestries or, in this case, VW Beetles:
Am I the only person who thinks these are the stupidest jeans ever?

Will the owner of the ass please turn her hazard lights off?

A few more things that need to be cleared up about jeans:

-They don’t actually have to cost more than your utility bill. You can buy your jeans secondhand for $5 a pair and still look good.

-Expensive jeans are expensive because they are expensive. The lovingly hand-finished detailing and precision weathering only accounts for so much of the price tag. Rather, those jeans cost $200 because they figured out that there are enough people willing to pay $200 for them.

-They are not an "investment." Stop fooling yourself into thinking that you'll get 5 years of wear out of that pair of jeans (you might, but it's not a guarantee), or justifying the price by calculating how many times you'll have to wear them for them to cost $5 per wear. There will usually be a pair of jeans that look as good and get you more bang for your buck. Mutual funds are an investment. Good running shoes are an investment, if you run in them regularly. Those jeans are not going to give you any health benefits or money or any noticeable returns other than maybe, just maybe, you will save money on another pair of jeans next year because you already have the perfect pair.

-There is no brand that magically makes everyone look better. There are cuts and colors that will make some people look better, but you do not automatically transform into a sex bomb the moment you put on a pair of $150 jeans. You still look like yourself. Your crotch, legs, and butt look like they did before. I have seen butts in all brands of premium denim, and I have seen butts in Old Navy, and there is no actual difference. (Keep in mind, also, that people concerned enough about their appearance to wear $150 jeans are often concerned enough to embark on rigorous diet and exercise regimens to get themselves in premium denim shape.) If you see an article promising that a certain brand of expensive jeans will make you look gorgeous, don't believe it.

-Moms, wear the mom jeans. Skinny people, wear the skinny jeans. Kris Kross, wear them backwards with pride. Many of us fashion people have your appearance's best interest at heart, but you can always tell us to take a running jump at a rolling donut. Trust yourself and your nearest full-length mirror, and you'll be fine.

-Most importantly, there is no universal canon of jeans. Like all clothes, they’re subject to trends changing. The dark-rinse, boot-cut, two-fingers-below-the-navel jeans that look so good on everyone this decade may not be in favor next decade. Anyone older than twenty should know this. (Anyone older than twenty should also know not to bet they'll be wearing the same jeans size by next decade.) Treat any denim "rules" as guidelines, not law.

The point is, jeans are for all of humanity, not just those in Citizens of Humanity. It doesn't matter whether you're four feet tall or eight, whether you're young or old, whether you're so skinny you can stand with your feet together and throw a football between your thighs or whether you have to wash yourself with a rag on a stick. It doesn't matter if you found those jeans at Saks or in a dumpster. If you can find a pair of jeans that fit comfortably, jeans are for you.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Dammit, Camel.

Dammit, Camel, I've been happily tobacco-free for eight months. It's gotten to the point where I don't even want a cigarette, ever. But if you keep sending me elaborate, thick promotional packages...

The crappy pink martini of cigarettes. least put something in there I can smoke.

Do people even buy the No. 9s? I figure that if women wanted girly cigarettes, they'd buy Mistys or Virginia Slims.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

L'esprit de Stutter

I was in high school when I first heard of l'esprit d'escalier - literally, "staircase wit." Some French guy named Diderot came up with the notion, though I think I read about it in a Sandman issue or something. (I'm just glad it wasn't invented by Seinfeld, because I'd never want to use it then.) Anyway, l'esprit d'escalier is the phenomenon of coming up with the perfect retort long after the fact, supposedly when you have exited the conversation and are going back down the stairs towards your pathetic, non-witty life.

I get bouts of the ol' staircase wit all the time. Who doesn't? It's sometimes taken me years to come up with the very thing I should have said.

My wit's reflexes are crap.

Most of the time, when something happens to inspire a post hoc retort, it's something that completely catches me off guard. I don't engage in verbal sparring, so I don't expect it. It often takes me a minute or two to even register if I'm annoyed or offended by something said to me.

Like this evening, at the gym. An older woman I've seen a few times came up to me and said, conversationally, "Have you lost any weight yet?"

"Mm. Yeah," I mumbled.
"How much?"
What the hell? "Um. Dunno." (This is a lie.)
"'Cause I haven't lost any weight yet!"
"Well, just keep going," I said in a half-hearted attempt at encouragement.

The appropriate response, of course, would have been "THAT is a PERSONAL question!" You'd think I would have figured that out right away. I was certainly thrown by the question, and on some level I did recognize that it was out of line, since I didn't give her the details of my weight loss. But I wish I could have said "hey, that's not right" while still on the Stairmaster, not outside in the stairway.

I don't think she was trying to be offensive. I attributed her question to a misguided but friendly, Jean Teasdale-esque hybrid of curiosity and small talk: "Gee, I've been lifting these three-pound weights twice a week for two weeks and nothing's happened!" But it did make me feel a little bad about myself. After the fact, I thought, Oh my God, I look like someone who works out just to lose weight! I mean, yes, I work out to lose weight, but also to gain muscle strength and energy, and because I've gotten to the point where I kind of like running a mile after a long, hard day of sitting on my butt. And, now that I think about it, I work out so that I won't look like the kind of person who works out just to lose weight.

In situations like this, though, I think our too-slow wits help us rather than hinder us. There are thousands of things I could have said to her, things along the lines of how maybe she'd lose some weight if her workout routine involved any actual physical challenge, or how she has no idea of what exercise I do or how long I've been doing it or how healthy I am and therefore she has no right to judge me or make assumptions. I could have taken the opposite tack and talked her ear off about all of the things over the past six months to get me where I am now. I could have just huffed about how it was a personal question. I did none of those things. I just grunted a noncommittal answer and we were both on our separate ways, she on the treadmill, I on the elliptical. She's probably forgotten about it by now. If I weren't writing about it right now, I would have too. I don't want to punish her or hurt her or teach her a lesson.

I'm fine with just letting it go.

If you ever do think of a great comeback after the fact, all is not lost - there's a blog devoted to such anecdotes.

Meanwhile, I'll check out Diderot's Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown. That's something I can relate to.