Thursday, June 22, 2006


Have you ever had one of those mornings where you just wanted to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over your head? I was seriously considering doing just that today. I was tired. My head hurt. Between work and school I've been going non-stop since January. This girl could use a break! But I was prepared to soldier on and be a productive member of society. Well, maybe I thought I could manage to drag myself into work at the very least. Then, I made a major tactical error during my morning preparations. I tried on a pair of pants that used to fit me just fine only to discover that they are a little tighter in the thigh than they used to be. And that was it. I was officially too depressed to carry on. I suddenly felt hopeless and ugly. The idea of going out and facing people today was just overwhelming. How could I possibly expose myself to the judgments and critisims of the outside world when I'm obviously putting on so much weight? Add to that my current issues with my skin (ANOTHER effing zit? gah!) and I was seriously considering calling in sick today.

Kind of stupid, huh?

I mean, with all the real issues going on the world, am I actually this concerned about my thighs?!

I'm taking a sociology course right now as part of my general education requirements for a degree in journalism. I am loving this class. The teacher is engaging, open minded and very approachable. She runs a relaxed class that encourages discussion. I have a big mouth, I like discussion.

Last week we watched a film called Killing Us Softly, made by Jean Kilbourne. The piece is about the advertisements we are bombarded with all day, every day and how they tend to portray women. Kilbourne says that we see an average of 3,000 ads a day and spend about two YEARS of our lives watching television commercials (not the shows, just the commercials!). While most people say that the ads they see don't affect them, the truth is that they really do (as evidenced from my near breakdown this morning). Advertisements have a cumulative effect. You may not run out and buy the new Ford Mustang because you saw the commercial for it, but the message of the ad works on a sub-conscious level and is reinforced throughout the day by the other 2,999 ads you see. Messages like what a woman should look like and how men should behave etc.

The point of Ms. Kilbourne's film was that women are very often portrayed as submissive and are exclusively valued for their appearance. She uses a plethora of ads throughout the presentation to get her point across. Over and over again you see stick thin women, in overtly sexual, submissive poses while men are usually portrayed as powerful and active. Not a huge shock there. I don't know a woman in this country who is totally free from the pressure society puts on us to be attractive. We are taught from an early age that "pretty" is the ideal and to deviate from that is going to have major consequences. People won't like you, you won't get a husband, you won't be valued as a member of our society, blah, blah, blah.

With all this insanity bombarding us every day, is it any wonder our priorities might be a little skewed?

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I mean check out that first picture. When do you think that poor girl ate last? Yikes!

Here's the amusing part. When we talk about wanting equality in our society ie. for men and women to be valued and respected equally, part of what we are talking about is seeing more images like this:

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...and one of my all time favorites...

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NOT this:

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The copy reads -

Aging Gracefully?
Vince Vaughn epitomized Los Angeles' swinging lifestyle in "Swingers," when his svelte figure cut a fine silhouette in his shiny bowling shirts. Today, Vaughn covers a paunchier waistline in "The Breakup." Maybe no one told him he wasn't supposed to eat all that cake in "The Wedding Crashers."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I want a PONY!

"Mommy, can we get a pony? Please, Mommy! She could live in the back yard and I would feed her and brush her every day after school. I promise I would! Can we, Mommy, pleeeease, pleeeease?"

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I worked on that horse deal for years as a kid. I wanted one so badly. I read Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, My Friend Flicka and every damn Saddle Club book I could my little hands on. I wore out our vhs copy of National Velvet. I begged to go to the two week Girl Scout camp where you got to ride horses every day and learn how to brush them and pick their hooves and braid their manes. I didn't get to go because we moved that summer. I was crushed.

Then, fortune smiled on this little horse nut. We moved to southern California, the friggin horsey capital of the west. There were entire housing tracts designed for people to own and ride their horses in their back yards! There were barns full of ponies and riding instructors everywhere I looked. My parents were doomed. Eventually, I got a job mucking out stalls and feeding forty some odd horses at a local barn. Mom and I bought a horse named Shadow for (get this) $300! He even came with a saddle. There is no such thing as an inexpensive horse, what with shoes, vet bills, deworming, feed, boarding costs etc. ad nauseum. I worked my tail off to help pay for him. Shadow was the kind of horse that comes around once in a lifetime. He was smart, opiniated and incredibly talented. He passed away last year, an accomplished and happy "old man". He is missed.

What's the point of this reader's digest account of my horsey history? Just this, what little girl didn't want a pony growing up? I lucked out and managed to be in the right place with the right parents at the right time. (my mom had a horse named Sugar when she was in high school so she was predisposed to the idea). Just because you might not have gotten your pony, though doesn't mean that you can't still have something to do with them.

Have you heard about Premarin?

Premarin is an estrogen product extracted from pregnant mare urine - "Premarin" - get it?. It is manufactured by Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals and is most commonly prescribed for women going through menopause or those who have had a hysterectomy. It is the most widely used drug today for estrogen replacement therapy. It has been marketed for more than fifty years and is currently prescribed to more than 9,000,000 American women.

The problem with the stuff is that 1.) the method of collection and the use of the horses is cruel 2.) the babies are treated as a by-product and slaughtered and 3.) there are now better, safer hormone replacements called bio-identical hormones that are derived from plants.

"Mares may be used for up to twenty years providing they become pregnant during
the short summer breeding season. Once they have outlived their usefulness they
are usually sent to auction and thence to slaughter. It is estimated that there
are between 50,000 and 75,000 mares giving birth annually at the PMU farms. The
foals that result are allowed to be with their mothers for about four months,
rather than the usual six before being weaned. These foals are then sent
directly to slaughter or unsheltered feedlots to gain weight before being sent
to slaughter with the meat used for human consumption in Europe, Japan and
Mexico via American Airlines, one of the largest carriers of frozen horse meat.
Young foal meat is very much in demand since according to the USDA it is much
more tender."

Yeah, that's just not good.

Then there is the financial factor. You see, Wyclef can patent "Premarin" and "Prempro" because it is not a naturally occurring substance in the human body. Thus they can make a lot of money off of their patented product. Bio-identical hormones are plant derived hormones that are identical at the molecular level to the hormones naturally created by the human body. You can't patent something that is identical to a naturally occurring substance. Guess what a huge pharmaceutical company can make more money on? Yep, the unnatural, cruel, but patented substance.

I am on hormone replacement therapy myself and will be for the rest of my life. I'm a little young for it (29) but, hey that's the way things worked out. When I was first going through all this fun, I didn't question my doctors too much. I just listened to what they told me and behaved myself. These days I am much more of a pain in the ass. When I found out what they were trying to prescribe for me I went ballistic. The hormone patch that I currently use is called "Climara" and, despite the similar name, is derived from soy. Amazing little things those soy beans.

There is good news and bad news to all this today. The good news is that women are becoming aware of how Premarin is made and are switching to other methods of hormone replacement therapy. The bad news is that as the PMU farms slow down production, the mares are no longer needed. If you think it's hard to find homes for a million cats and dogs at the animal shelter, try finding homes for thousands of premarin mares. But, folks are working on it!

Why do I give a damn?

My mom recently adopted a new horse. Her name is Kahlua 'n Creme. She's a beautiful, gentle filly who is going to grow up to be a lovely horse.

She was rescued from a Premarin farm in Canada.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Truth Comes Out.

I have a confession to make.

I like yarn. I like the pretty colors. I like the different textures. I go simply weak in the knees when I pick up a skein of soft merino wool at my local yarn shop. Visions of nifty knit items fall over themselves for attention in my head. I could spend a truly offensive amount of money on hand dyed wool and wooden knitting kneedles.

I spend lots and lots of time online looking up knitting patterns and knitting advice. How exactly do I "purl two together knitwise?", how do I accomplish the perfect "intarsia pattern" without leaving little tails of yarn all over my work? These questions, and others like them, plague me. One of my favorite places to find these answers is I highly recommend browsing through there if you have a spare day or two. Seriously, it's a slippery slope. Be careful. :)

The really cool thing about being a happy little feminist and a slightly angsty knitter is that I am not alone. You may have noticed that in recent years, knitting is popular again. And not just with your grandma, but with the gurrrls knitting on the subway and the ladies clicking and clacking away at the coffee shop. It's downright cool to be a crafty woman. We are reclaiming such "womanly arts" and updating them for today. Guys are even getting into the act as well, which is very cool.

I have opined in previous entries on this blog that I wish I had something to throw at my television when stupid things invade my living room via the "idiot box". Everytime that heinous Carl's Junior ad with that vapid plastic surgeon and the chicken comes on, I can't find the mute button fast enough. Oh, what could I possibly have in my hand that would be safe to chuck at my television screen yet not leave me feeling as though I am railing at the world with tiny little ineffectual fists? I stumbled across the answer a few weeks ago and am proud to announce that I have finally knit something not only useful but darn fun.

Um, I may have mentioned that I have a rather twisted sense of humor.

I give you...."Hand Grenade in Green Yarn."

The pattern and article from The Guardian can be found here.

Yes, the little grey and gold item in the second pic is a knitted bullet (of my own design). I've been thinking I could knit them in sets of six and toss them in handfuls at offending commercials and whatnot.

I know I need therapy. Until I can afford it I'm going to continue to knit and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The "Chicks" Speak

I love David Bowie...and The Who...and The Beatles, also Sheryl Crow, Joni Mitchell and The Indigo Girls, to name a few. My iPod/cd collection/record collection is a bit eclectic to be sure. However, there are no country music types on my shelves. I don't have anything in particular against country. I'm just not a fan.

I think I'm going to have to break with precedent, though and go out and buy the new Dixie Chicks album. It's just a matter of principal damn it! I knew they were different when a friend had me listen to "Goodbye Earl" off of their 1999 album, Fly. It's this rollicking, upbeat song about a battered woman and her best friend. After her husband, Earl, beats her into the I.C.U. her friend comes for a visit and they kill the S.O.B. and quietly dispose of the body. The police half-heartedly look for him but don't pursue the matter because "It turned out he was a missing person that nobody missed at all." I smile every time I hear that. I have a rather dark and twisted sense of humor.

Anyway, all the craziness that went on with the Dixie Chicks three years ago is being discussed again because of their new album. You may remember that they made an off-hand comment about our peace loving President, saying that they were embarrassed to be from the same state. The comment was repeated in a review and the shit exploded from there. Record sales dropped, country music stations stopped playing their songs and they actually received death threats. Kind of an extreme response to me, but I guess politics is a more contentious issue than even I thought. Or maybe it's just that some people's heads explode when an attractive woman (or three) has the unmitigated temerity to have a controversial opinion as well as tits. Hmmmm....

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Now they have this new album out called "Taking The Long Way" with a single titled "Not Ready To Make Nice". I just adore them for this. It's so inspiring to see these ladies come back with an album that has spunk, character and musical integrity. The songs that I have heard are pretty cool. I'm no professional, but I like 'em. They have spent the last couple of years having kids, taking care of their families and writing new music. They have had to acknowledge the fall-out from their "outspokenness" and are dealing with it head on.

"It would have felt very false to just kind of go, 'OK. Nothing happened.' And
there is obviously this important issue that hasn't been dealt with, because we
did go away to have kids, and I think a lot of people thought we were in hiding,"
said group member EmilyRobison. "But we went away to have lives and let things
settle down a little bit, and to come back out and act as if nothing had happened
would have been strange to me."

So often, after I've gone and shot my mouth off, I want to do just that - hide and pretend nothing has happened. Couldn't I just pretend like it never occurred, move to another city so I don't ever have to see the person again and have radical plastic surgery so I wouldn’t be recognized in case I do run into them? (sigh) Let's just say I am no stranger to chewing on my own foot. With my big mouth, I tend to offend by accident and realize it a split second after the words have escaped. I don't know that I would have the guts to come out and release a record with songs addressing the fun-filled situation, especially if I had done it on a "national" level.

So, right now The Dixie Chicks exemplify the courage that I would like to bring out in myself. I would like to think that I would stand up for myself in a similar situation.

Maybe I'll start wearing cowboy boots and learn to play the fiddle.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

'Tis The Season

Well, it's official. Summer is upon us. The temperature has been in the 90s all week and I am eyeing the A/C at home with a dangerous disregard for my electric bill.

I hate summer. I know, I know, it's the time of year when you're supposed to have fun, go to the beach and generally enjoy yourself in the great Out-of-Doors. For me, it means the beginning of three to four months of misery, slinking from one air conditioned building to the next, not venturing outside until after dark and feeling like a beached whale 'cause my clothes are sticking to me. I hate being sweaty. I don't wear shorts. I will not try on a bathing suit. I won't, I won't, I won't! You can't make me!! (stamps foot) So there.

I currently own three of the cursed things. They reside in the back of my sock and undies drawer where they are mercifully ignored for most of the year. On the hottest day of the summer, when I am forced to take a dip in the apartment complex's pool, I pluck them from obscurity, toss them on the bedspread and glare at them. Their mere existence is an offense to me. The first is a black one-piece I have had for so long I don't remember when I bought it. The second suit is a tank-ini. It is green with "boy bottoms". There is also an alternate bikini top that I have never had the guts to wear outside. I tried it on once in the privacy of my bedroom and immediately fell into a deep depression. The last one is a festive, red tank-ini given to me by my friend Marisa. This is the least hated of the three because it fits nicely, is generally flattering and besides, I can always trust Marisa's sense of style. The girl has good taste.

I hate the pressure of having to look good in a f*%#ing swimsuit. Every year I am bombarded with pictures of tall, skinny, long-legged women in their string bikinis parading around Malibu and South Beach. Even if I had a figure like that, I wouldn't feel comfortable out in public with naught between me and nakedness but a bit of absorbent floss and luck. Yikes! I am a shortish, roundy girl with comparatively stumpy legs. These women make me feel like a toad in my frumpy old one piece.

Then there are the unavoidable talk show segments about how to choose the right swim suit for your body type (Does anyone sell a burlap sack suitable for full aqua submersion?). I am constantly amazed that this is of interest year after year after year. I can only assume that there are a lot of slow news days at the beginning of summer. Personally, I'd like to see a segment where the fashion experts come out and explain why the speedo is a bad idea for 99% percent of the male population. Now that would at least serve the public good.

Now Glamour Magazine has a solution. In addition to their fashion Dos and Donts (barf) you can now create a computer model in your likeness to try on swimsuits for you. I don't know if I am amused or disturbed. On one hand, these glossy mags are so stuffed with articles about how to loose weight, catch the man and properly apply mascara that they can scarcely be taken seriously. On the other, they are so prevalent, that it's almost impossible to escape their air-brushed images. My interest and possibly my hope was piqued, so I went to the site and made my model.

Here she is:

She's supposedly 5'4", 130-ish lbs (ah-hem) and generally my body type. You can choose your face, hair style, height, weight, approximate bust and waist size et al. I was disturbingly fascinated with seeing what I would look like at the same weight, but taller, or with 20 lbs less on my frame. Sad, huh?

Once you create your cyber self, you can have her try on different designer, brand-name swimsuits. As long as we're messing with your head, we might as well push our overpriced lycra scraps on you, right? It's fascinating and kind of creepy all at once. First of all, I think they need to let you customize your model a little bit more. I needed to add the belly pooch and slightly chubby upper arms to mine for a start. I would also have liked the option to see the suits that would properly display or conceal my tattoo. I have one on by back right butt cheek. Most of the time my swim suits just cut it in half and it looks stupid. I would also like to add tan lines, freckles, the occasional zit and unsightly skin discolorations. I mean come on, let's be accurate.

As long as I'm living in fantasyland, though, here is my model in some different styles:

Yeah, if I actually looked like that in real life, I wouldn't be afraid of trying on swimsuits in the first place now would I? I walk into the dressing room thinking I look something like that because I am safely contained in a cute pair of jeans and a long, streamlined top. Once I get into the evil bit of swim wear, though, and turn around to face the mirror, I feel more like this.

After all of that, I have decided that if I were to buy another swimsuit, it would probably be a newer version of the Red Tank-ini Marisa Special (perhaps with added tummy holding technology).

Of course, the real innovation here would not be that I would go out and buy one of Glamour Magazine's contributing advertiser's swimsuits, as much as I'm sure they would like me to. Nope, what I want is a life size version of that airbrushed looking faux me to send out to the beach in my stead. She can parade around in the new Calvin Klein bikini while I hunker down at the air conditioned, 65 degree movie theatre and watch car chases and see things blow up while imbibing pop-corn.

I may even bring a jacket!