Sunday, May 29, 2005

Things that make me happy

My sister's infatuation with Rufus Wainwright
Chocolate-maple sauce
My triennial post-Star Wars visit to costuming sites to ooh and ah over Amidala's costumes

Things that make me unhappy:
Rufus Wainwright mispronouncing "agnus dei"

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Why white men can't dance

I think I’ve figured out a big part of why that is, at least stereotypically. Revelation came in the form of two three-year-old girls telling me excitedly that their dance recital was that evening and that their mommies were going to come watch them. I have no idea what kind of dance one teaches three-year-olds, but the point is that it’s only taught to girls. In the suburbs, small boys are carted to martial arts studios where they wear little white uniforms, and small girls are carted to dance studios where they learn some semblance of ballet and tap but mostly enjoy wearing pink leotards and twirling a lot. Whether or not we actually go to the lessons, we’re trained from birth to believe that girls dance and boys kick things and yell.

Fast forward twenty years or so to a college party. A crowd of girls is in the middle of the room dancing, some awkwardly, some not. A ring of guys is sitting or standing around, just watching. It's creepy even when the guys don't mean it that way.

Now fast forward another twenty years. A ballroom studio is packed with women, but men are in short supply. The man leading the class is a svelte Latino who wiggles better than the women. I would read his dress and mannerisms as gay if I didn’t know they were the height of masculinity in some countries. If only the white middle-class US concept of masculinity had more room in it for hip-wiggling.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Where you found her

Two words of advice to any single men out there looking for (middle-aged and up) women: ballroom dancing. I went last night for the first time, and the demographics were very curious. Lots of old people, almost no young. A couple of English men but no English women that I noticed. A good number of Asian women but no Asian men. Not quite two girls for every boy, but boys could definitely manage a good 1.3 girls each.

A very nice Englishman named Alistair showed me how to rhumba, then took my arm and escorted me very formally back to the chair where I'd been sitting. He said his mother told him to always put a girl back where he found her. I can just picture him bringing dates home decades ago as a teenager and his mother shouting, "Alistair! I don't know where you picked up that hussy, but you put her back where you found her right now!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

In which I am frustrated by news reports

Why is it that criminals' gender is never specified in news reports unless the criminal is female? "Mr. so-and-so was murdered by a female assailant. She was arrested the next day." The murderer's gender has nothing to do with the story. Even if you want to include it for the man-bites-dog factor, you already have "she" in there, so why do you need to specify "female"? Same with "Bob Smith is a male nurse."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What to do? Who to be?

There seem to be two models of people I admire, the artist and the activist. The first are the kind who have weaving studios in their attics, play music, go to contra dances, write novels in their spare time. I’ve sort of been resisting this model because I felt it precludes the second model – the type who are active in politics or social movements or what have you. The problem is that while I’d love to live the first lifestyle, to live life for the sake of its own beauty, I can’t justify that in a world where so much is so bad and needs to be changed. Ideally one could do both, but I’ve almost never heard of people who take time and money for beautiful houses and clothes and music and art and still have time and money enough to make the world a better place (in some way more significant than making it prettier.) This month my compromise has been putting up a Pre-Raphaelite poster Ellen gave me on my wall and going to the contra dance in Shepherdstown last Saturday.

Lately I find myself looking for role models – for people who’ve done what I want to do, just to convince myself it’s possible. I can find people who have done each of the things I want to do with my life, but I haven’t found anyone who’s done it all. I hear an NPR story on a white woman who adopts a black baby – but it’s a baby, not a child from foster care, and the woman isn’t doing anything else noteworthy for the world. Or I read the book of interviews with second-wave feminists and their grown daughters that Eli gave me, but most of those women are living in posh suburban homes and sending their children to private schools. Or I read about women community organizers in low-income urban neighborhoods, but their children were stuck going to the worst schools in the country. Or I read about parents home-schooling their children but giving up their own lives and work to do so and ceasing to make much difference to anybody but their own family. (And by “parents” I mean “usually mothers.”)

Probably this means it’s impossible. Probably I can’t have a life’s work that makes a difference in the world and keep only a bare minimum of my income and not turn my kids over to the monster that is inner-city public schools and not go crazy from it all. But I’m sure going to try until I find out for sure.