La boda

My Spanish host sister just emailed me this photo of us after her wedding this summer. Not only had I forgotten this was ever taken, but I am enormously relieved that it's not terrible. For example, I am not slouching to bring my height into accord with the local standard. It happens.

Isn't that a lovely church? N.B.: Their part of the country had been Inquisition Central.
Also worth noting is that the dress I'm wearing, which was what I wore to be a friggin' maid of honor for my sister, was not formal enough by half for this service. Women dressed for the wedding like they were dressing for prom: long slinky eveningwear in jewel tones with matching shoes and stoles, rhinestones, hair, the whole bit. The groom's mother was dressed like a lavender flamenco dancer. It was incredible. If you ever attend a ceremony performed by/for locals in Spain, you are forewarned.

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I think if I were a celebrity, I would secretly go out disguised not with a baseball cap and big sunglasses, like all these lazy-bones do, but in a gorilla mask. That way nobody could tell it was me.

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I should've known in 7th grade, when that bloody girl said, "I think you can judge a person by their shoes." She was a field hockey player, and funny, and about the only 7th grade girl I knew besides myself who wasn't embarrassed by her untanned skin—she even took pride in it—so she had some credibility. I wore gray Chuck Taylors at the time. That is perhaps an understatement—I had in fact specially ordered gray Chuck Taylors that year, thinking they were my key to fitting in, and I wore them like it was my job.

I don't know what my gray Chuck Taylors were supposed to tell you about 13-year-old me. They were shabby, so maybe that said something. I hate to think what "gray" said to anybody. Or dirt.

I think the people who judge people by their shoes fall into two camps: those basing their judgments on the life the shoes have seen (see the chatter about Obama's shoes two years ago), and those basing their judgments on the imaginary life those shoes had been imbued with by marketers. There are people (in ZIP codes you and I don't live in, mostly) who distinguish between a Bruno Magli and a Ferragamo man, or a Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik woman, just as others judge you by the car you drive.

It summons to mind a comment I read recently: "Nowadays we judge each other based on taste rather than, say, character or judgment. And taste is expressed primarily through purchasing/consumption decisions. So we figure we can get a handle on the essence of a person through the kind of music he likes, or the movies he watches, or the kind of cuisine he prefers. That observation feels true, but it makes us all seem so small."

I hate the idea of judging people first by their clothes, or their cars, their homes, music, or drink preferences. Because what it means is that we are constructing meaning via purchased identities. Yeah yeah, we're all above that. But no, we could march through a list of brands right now that would prove that we're not. Hummer. Whole Foods. Axe. And frankly, it places far too much of our lives in the hands of producers. They're in charge of our jobs, our paychecks, our environment, (most of) our government, our body image, and now our social intercourse.

For the record, I don't judge people by their shoes. I've tried. I spent years waiting for that insight to come into focus, to suddenly decode the secrets of a person's character through their feet, but it never has. Footwear is too fluid. I see party girls stumble down Hennepin on weekends in spindly stiletto boots, and I empathize; I see earthy gals in Dansko clogs, and I get those too. It'd be like judging someone for being a hammer-user, or more of a wrench type. Which I guess leaves brand-based judgment, which (beyond a few iconic brands) is usually beyond my capability, without catching an offhand glimpse of the label on the inside.

So how did that girl fifteen years ago mean it? I don't know. What I do know is she's now the kind of girl who buys Christian Louboutins, and does all the other things a trophy wife should do. Like tanning.

I missed the turtleneck-skirt fad that someone once did, probably in front of a NYT reporter

Getting ready for the annual trip up north, for which packing light is a virtue, I realized the need (really, the longtime absence) in my wardrobe for a simple elastic-waisted skirt. I'm thinking of the kind of thing you can just pull on over a bathing suit with a T-shirt.

This is the sort of purchase you usually work out between Target and Forever 21 with a ten-spot. But I gotta say I hate shopping at these places. Or rather, I love it. Which is why I hate it. The clothing is often subpar, but it's so cheap that any purchase can be rationalized away. I realize the labor practices are unethical. I realize that the consumption and disposal of chemically treated cotton knit is incredibly wasteful and environmentally destructive. And for a purchase of the aforementioned description - basically a swimsuit coverup that'll probably look crummy and stretched-out in about T-minus-15 and counting regardless of provenance, I hate actually buying new.

So I won't. I'm either thrifting this one, DIYing, or doing without.

First step: the internet! Not surprisingly there are, in fact, tutorials for making sweatshirt skirts. Here is one, for two styles. Here's another that is simple enough to fit the relevant instructions into one photo caption. This one's cute enough that I kind of want to try it for the next time I travel. And this link is the granddaddy of them all, with enough stupid projects to keep me busy well into 2011, when I probably won't have any time either.
The next step is to acquire a victim unloved sweatshirt to transform. I will ask first the gent asleep in the next room, or paw through my own bag of donatables; checking the free boxes around town is plan B. Barring all else I'll go a-thrifting, but if it comes to this I'll probably just buy a damn skirt in the first place and skip the sewing.

I'd say 'pray for me' but I don't really care.

Things I've never really understood that people I (sometimes) like do

- boys: chasing girls around on the playground while they scream.
- girls: letting boys chase them around on the playground. Also, screaming.
- screaming in general.
- eating super-sour candy. Also, super-hot candy.
- cooing over babies.
- dating "bad" boys.
- trying to love someone who's rejected you.
- watching horror movies.
- reading about celebrities.
- buying drinks for total strangers.
- voting Republican.
- taking up smoking.
- bouncing checks. Also, banking with Wells Fargo.
- sleeping with people they don't respect. Or, who don't respect them.
- marrying very young.
- finding religion.
- Reading editorials/listening to talk radio to get mad at the author/speaker.
- participating in home-party sales.
- not getting their kids vaccinated.
What'd I forget?


I entered this article about Rivers Cuomo skeptical, but I caught up with the author on about the second page, when she started writing about Pinkerton:

Then, "Pinkerton" came out. "Pinkerton" is the Weezer album that dudes like; or, in our current discourse, “the best Weezer album.”

Oh, otherwise-unknown-music-writer, how did you know?
Pinkerton always gave me trouble as a Weezer fan, though I loved it in its way just as much as the others.* I remember adoring "Pink Triangle", a song I interpreted as being about female unavailability, or the pipe dream about having the trump of all get-out-of-macking-free cards (I realize lesbianism doesn't work this way in the real world). "Tired" was funny, and "Getchoo" and "Why Bother" I could relate to on a level of generalized angst.

But it's what the author refers to as Japonisme that kept me from holding it dear. "El Scorcho" is a song I usually skipped, but "Across the Sea" was worse, nauseatingly so. Many of the other songs just left an unsettling feeling: "Butterfly" is such a pretty song on one level, but on another, what exactly are the lyrics doing? Probably didn't help that I came to this album at a moment when I was seriously fed up with the othering Japan fetish going on in my periphery. Scratch that: still there, still gross.

The difficulty with an album like this, or perhaps an artist like this, is that it's not always clear how you're supposed to see the music. Think of the subject of the songs like the narrator of a novel: it's not always clear when you're supposed to find the character understandable - when you're supposed to empathize - and when you're supposed to find the character flawed - when you're supposed to pity. Or scorn. Or whatever.

Like, I think that's what's going on with "No One Else." The author rightly rips this song apart, but I never took it literally. How could I? That song is... kinda crazy. I used to work evenings with a guy who liked that song. He defended it something like, "yeah I know it's totally not okay and unreasonable, but, sometimes you just feel like that." Fair enough; sometimes women imagine they want an Edward Cullen i.e. a guy who lives for No One Else. Common fantasy, still makes for uneasy listening. But that's where the author leaves you, so I guess I left the article skeptical as well?

But oh, the middle. I think she made me understand that all that goopy personal stuff, everything that made you feel like you walked in on a guy in his underwear, and that underwear is stained—all that stuff I worked to see past so I could listen—that stuff was part of the appeal for his devoutest dude adherents. What I took in as generalized angst was somebody's specific angst; Pinkerton's vaunted truth was just that.

As a woman, hearing the word "you" repeated so many times over the course of an album primarily about how terrible and hurtful and disastrous it is to interact with any woman, anywhere, ever, induces a deep and primal irritation. But maybe you have to be a girl to notice it. Because the vast majority of the men I have spoken to, about the album, are under the impression that it is about them.

And see, it's moments like these that make me think longer about things like the Bechdel Test: it's realizing that the extra work I spend interpreting stuff to make it seem less nauseating and more relatable—some people aren't doing that work. Some people actually find a bounty of stuff like this written about people like them, just for them, validating their tastes and expectations. It's like when you're in college and you're contorting your brain to understand some symbolism, some deep metaphor, only to discover hey, he's not being poetic, the guy's simply into horses. Or, you know, whatever.

*The others constitute the blue and green albums.