Cougars, Coeds and Chick Lit.

I am here to tell you that I reject the following terms and
will not being using them: Cougars, Coeds and Chick Lit. I invite you all to
join in my campaign.
Cougars.  This has
come into fashion in the last few years, its name even graces(graced) (ahem) a
TV show.  A Cougar is an older woman who
is dating—or married to—a (much) younger man. 
They have now split, but the Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher union comes to
Coeds.  For years, I
read books that included the term Coed and I assumed it meant college student,
either male or female.  I assumed that
once colleges opened their doors to both men and women, the education was
coeducational and thus the students were called coeds.  I can still recall the feeling of horror I
felt my senior year in high school when the sentence structure I was reading
did not support this definition and I was forced to consider that the term only
applied to females.  I refused to believe
this, at first, but double checked with my mother who confirmed the grim news.
Chick Lit.  First of
all, this is an awful term because when it is said it aloud, a large percentage
of people think you are discussing gum (Chiclets) and then there is usually a
weird cognitive dissonance moment.  Chick
Lit is a novel written primarily for women and it usually contains some
elements of a romantic story and happy ending, though it should not be
considered the same as a “romance novel.” 
There is often something of one of these elements:  zaniness, work drama, conversation with best
friends.  Sometimes there is great
tragedy to overcome.
Why do we need to end our use of these terms?  I reject them all because they are all terms
focused on women that have no equivalent
for males.
 What do you call an older
man who dates/marries a much younger woman? 
There is no term, as it is an accepted practice in our society.  If you are channeling your inner frat boy,
you might call the man in question “lucky” and snigger after saying it.  What do you call a male student at a
college?  A student.  There is certainly no term that suggests that
they are added on to the scene and maybe it is okay they are there, they are
pretty and all, but they are not real students.
As for Chick Lit, are there no novels of fluff written for
men?  Of course there are.  What do we call them?  There is no term.  There are many genre specific terms of kinds
of fluff novels that are primarily read by men: 
science fiction, fantasy, spy thrillers, etc.  Though those genre specific books aren’t
looked upon as great literature, they are also not dismissed out of hand with
an overarching title:  Sperm Lit,
Language reflects our values and beliefs and none of these
three terms reflects an equality between women and men we pretend we have in
society.  Granted, our language
concerning gender is at a disadvantage from the get-go as the common terms we
use to describe the not-male part of the population (women, woman, female)
cannot be used without summoning the male part of the species.  Undoing this would be quite a feat and it is
not what I am here to do today.  Today, I
am just asking you to think before you use the above three terms.  If you chose to use them, what are you saying
about women’s place in the world?

Three sentence movie reviews: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

This movie was awesome in that it was entirely unbelievable and since it was not tethered to anything resembling real life, it totally worked.  As a passing bit of fluff, it is also fun to describe to people who won’t bother to see it.  I was also confused as how the actor playing Abraham Lincoln could morph from “nerdy” to “hot” from one scene to the next.

Lessons learned from PBS mini-series.

I have just discovered Downton Abbey and am in agreement with
all the fawning reviews I have been reading. 
It is fascinating, watching a social system that does not exist any
longer, and the contrasts between the upstairs and the downstairs.  The characters are wonderfully drawn and
shaded and I’m hooked on the plot.  But
this is not a fawning essay about a PBS show, it is an essay about discipline.
Watching the special features that accompany the DVD, I was
struck by someone’s comment that the life both the servants and their employers
lead takes a lot of discipline—and not imposed from above, but
self-discipline.  Self-discipline is
something I feel I could use more of, in more areas of my life and it’s
interesting that it doesn’t seem to be in vogue.
I think when we do mention discipline, it is in relation to
diet and exercise.  We are to be
disciplined eaters—firmly pushing away whatever food is “bad” for us and
regimentally heading out of doors for our daily—mostly punishing—exercises to
keep us toned and fit.  I think
discipline in this context is why we are nation of fat people.  It’s just so grim, and there are so many
other enticing offers—say a season of Downton Abby on DVD complete with extras
and a bowl of popcorn—that it is easy to throw that discipline out the window.
To me, discipline means setting up a routine that works for
you, and then doing it.  I’m pretty good
at this at work: the checks get written on Monday and Wednesday, Tuesday is for
data entry, Thursday I do the lunch order and manage the lunch program and
Friday I clean out the staff refrigerator. 
I don’t always feel like doing these tasks, but they all (except for the
refrigerator, which I notice I abandon around February every year) get done and
I feel the better for it. 
Home is another matter. 
Home is entirely ruled by the whiny, sullen teenager, especially of
late.  “But I don’t wannnnnnttttt to do
that,” the lazy teenager whines when it is time to cook, to clean, to
shop.  The lazy teenager wants to spend
her life in bed, reading books, watching movies and the occasional worthy TV
series.  The problem is that if the
teenager takes over, there is no one to procure the food, cook and clean the
house as well as plant the garden and do all those other things that make life
worth living.  So the lazy teenager finds
herself jangly from lack of exercise, living in filth and with an empty
I think this is one of the tasks of adult life.  Finding a way to get things done so you can
live in comfort with a sense of accomplishment as well as time for rest and leisure.  It’s a difficult task, at least for me.  It’s also probably one of the reasons there
are so many self-help books on the market.

Overheard conversation that makes me smile.

This morning* on the Max train:

Person:  Hey Kevin! How are you?
Other person:  Good man, good to see you.  How have you been?
Person:  Great!  I’m 110 days sober.
Other person:  That’s great!

*This conversation happened at some point in May. But blogger moved this to June and I can’t remember now when it happened it May.  So here it is in the June posts.

Three sentence movie reviews: He’s just not that into you.

In trying to describe who should have been Snow White* in Snow White and the Huntsman, my friend who can’t remember names of actors ended up talking about this movie and recommended I see it.  I totally disagreed with the premise,** but by ignoring my disagreement, I found this was a pretty enjoyable film.  The whole Jennifer Aniston/Ben Affleck ending really annoyed me though and I couldn’t let it go.

*she was talking about Ginnifer Goodwin.
**If you want to go on a date with someone ask them.  If you want to call someone, call them.  If you want to marry someone, propose.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. This movie was set in the present, but had the gender roles of the 1950s front and center for the ladies.  Geez!

Three sentence movie reviews: Cabin in the Woods

So, you can probably guess who is in this movie which prompted me to see it, despite the fact it is a horror movie and I am not a fan of the genre.  That said, I really enjoyed this, despite the gore, and mostly owing to the fact it was incredibly clever and had a whole host of actors I enjoy, not just Chris Hemsworth.  It seems the key to the horror movie genre is to give me a puzzle to solve while watching.

ps.  The poster above was the one I saw used to advertise the movie, and it is very clever.  But according to my movie poster site the one below was the original one. I like it more, but I can see why they had to go with something else. The third poster is a bonus poster, just for fun.

A time I felt loved.

Each month the committee on which I serve has a meeting and
at that meeting we have an opening reading and a question.  The question this month was, “talk about a
time when you felt loved.”  I gave an
answer, but halfway through the meeting I thought of a better answer, excellent
for this week’s essay.

I was someone in the middle of my adolescence, hanging about
while my mother cleaned out a drawer. 
From that drawer, my mother pulled out a stack of small cards, the kind
that are delivered with flowers.  She
flipped through them, smiled, and tossed the packet over to me.
“What are these?” I asked her. 
“Those are from when you were born.”
I looked through the cards, which were a great example of
mid-seventies design, appropriate for a baby girl.  They featured a lot of pink and yellow and
drawings in the style of the big eyed naked children holding hands that were
popular then. There were also soft pastels of teddy bears and baby blankets and
bassinets.  I knew some of the people,
but many of the names on the cards were unfamiliar to me.  “Who is this?” I would ask and mom would tell
me it was her cousin so-and-so. 
Mom had 41 cousins, due to the fact that her mother, my
grandmother was the oldest of the 15 children of Raymond and Helen Catherine
Whitmore.  They were a tight clan,
growing up in and around Portland, Oregon and the size of their brood was
unique enough to be remarked on, even then. 
Though their family was born and came of age from 1912 to the 1930s, a
time when many more children were born to each family than today, fifteen
children was still a huge number.  There
is a picture of the entire family, standing on the stairs at the Paramount
Theater (now the Arlene Schintzer Concert Hall).  It’s an impressive lineup.  They were there because they won a
contest.  They were the biggest family in
Portland and their picture appeared in the paper.  There might have even been free admission to
the movie. 
Mom grew up in a gaggle of cousins.  None of the original 15 went on to have
nearly as many as their parents: my grandmother stopped at three and one of the
children topped out at eight.  Many of
the 15 settled around Portland and I get the impression that most of them spent
goodly amounts of time together over the years depending on geography and which
siblings were getting along with each other at the time.
My experience was very different.  Growing up, though I could claim at least 41
second cousins, it was as if I had no first cousins of my own.  My father’s nieces and nephews were much
older than me—most were adults or nearly so when I was a child—and they lived
either halfway, or on the other side of the country. We rarely saw them.  Neither of my Aunts on my mother’s side had
children, so when we visited my Grandparents we were a party of eight (Grandma,
Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Aunt Pat, Aunt Carol, my brother and myself) but with no one
else but my brother in my age cohort.  We
visited Portland often and sometimes would hang out with the extended family,
but I made few cousin connections.
Hearing the tales of the large Whitmore’s exploits, combined
with the fact that I grew up in a city where the large Mormon population meant
that many of my classmates had large numbers of cousins—some who even went to
the same school—meant that I mythologized and idolized the large family.  To me, having cousins meant having a built-in
companions.  Best friends. Since we were
from the same family, we would have so much in common and undoubtedly get along.  Adulthood has disabused me of this notion,
but growing up I just felt the longing for a tribe.
My adolescent self flipped through the cards from my
mother’s cousins and cards from my Great Aunts and Uncles congratulating my
parents.  Weighing the cards in my hand,
I imagined all the flower bouquets attached to the cards.  I thought of the givers making arrangements
to have the flowers sent to a different state and time zone and I thought of
each person counting out the money to pay for the flowers.  None of the Whitmore clan can be said to be
rolling in dough. It was an overwhelming picture.
“A lot of people were pretty excited I was born.” I said in
wonder to my mother.
“Your grandmother waited a very long time for a grandchild,”
my mother explained, “so many people were happy that she finally had one.”
I thought of my loneliness growing up and the intermittent
wish for cousins, or even a few more brothers and sisters.  Looking at those cards I suddenly felt folded
into the family, a part of the fabric, despite the distance.  I might not see them often, but when I did, I
would always be “Helen’s granddaughter.” 
The first granddaughter of the first child of the Whitmore Family.

Three sentence movie reviews: Glee, the 3-D Concert Movie (in 2-D)

So this movie was not so engrossing as to pull me away from many various thoughts and wonderings* while watching, but for the ending of a stressful day when I forgot to take a full breath the entire time I was at work, this was perfect.  I loved seeing the actors perform (as opposed to acting like they are performing, which is what we see on the show,) like the moment when the actor who plays Blane finished singing and gave a short laugh of delight at the crowd’s reaction.  I also thought the stories told by the featured Glee fans were quite good.

*Examples of various thoughts and wonderings would be:

  • Has Brittany had implants?  It might be the top, but her breasts look rather big for her frame.
  • Do they Auto-Tune Quinn?
  • Do they 
    Auto-Tune  Santana?
  • I’m pretty sure they don’t 
    Auto-Tune  Rachel, and if they 
    Auto-Tune  Mercedes, I would be incredibly disappointed.
  • Are they really singing during this concert?  Really?  Maybe just the lead singer, the ones they don’t 
    Auto-Tune ?  Maybe the rest are lip syncing?
  • Man, if anyone won the “Glee lottery” it’s Finn: he’s old, he can’t really sing, he has amazingly normal looks and we all know he can’t dance that well.  Yet still, he’s a star and people love him, myself included.
  • What must their rehearsal and preparation schedule look like?  It’s probably pretty intense.
  • I could watch a whole movie of Brittany and Mike Chang dancing.
  • It’s over already? If I payed 3-D prices for this movie I would be annoyed that this is only an hour and 13 minutes total.

ps.  The name of this movie in the library catalogue is:  Glee, the 3-D Concert Movie.  And when you scroll down on the page it says, “2-D version”  So I delighted in telling people I saw Glee, the 3-D Concert Movie in 2-D