Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Summer Reading

I bet I can already guess which book everyone at the airport, on the train, and sitting by the pool will be reading this summer. Though, due to its subject matter, it may be well hidden inside an e-reader. This one is a trilogy (shocker). Any guesses? My own prediction is after the jump.

Last summer, it seemed like everyone was reading "The Hunger Games." The summer before that, everyone was reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its progeny. And before that, "Twilight." (Me? I liked the movies so much better than the books - I didn't even finish "GWTDT" because to me it was begging for some serious condensing, and the violence was too much. I didn't finish "Twilight" because if I'm going to be reading about vampires, I need to be reading about them having wild sex. As for "HG," if I were Katniss I would have had sex with movie Gale looong before those games even started. Run the risk of dying a virgin? Hell to the no. Not after spending so much time alone in the woods with that fine piece. Hard to suspend my disbelief on that one. Where was I? ...)

I want to inquire about your reading habits. How do you decide what you're going to read for pleasure?

I do it two ways: 1) I keep a list of books I want to read, and 2) I'm in two shitty book clubs and I actually do the reading. Also, I only read real books - I don't have an e-reader (not that e-books aren't "real"). Open to conversion someday. Just not now. I use my local public library constantly, and I have my book list uploaded there. They send me an email when something from my list is in. I could also elect to have them mail it to me. They have a drive through book drop. Heaven. They also do e-books, so I can painlessly make the switch someday.

Personally, I don't divide the literary world into "kid stuff" and "adult stuff." I try to remain open to suggestion, and I'll read anything. I won't necessarily finish everything though. But I will give it a fair shake for 75 pages. I'm sure you've heard how Joel Stein caught hell for poking fun at grown-ups who read young adult fiction here:

"I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults."
His brief commentary inspired quite a little debate on the internets. Funny how people think he is "wrong" for having his own personal boundaries about what he will and will not read. I think we all have the right to get irrational when it comes to our opinions on books. Anyway, I love that reading stirs such passion in the American public. Gives me hope for our future.

Summer 2012 reading prediction time.....

I predict everyone will be reading "Fifty Shades of Grey." I understand it's basically "Twilight" fan fiction about S&M. In the last 2 weeks, this book has been recommended to me several times, by some very straight-laced folk. One of my shitty book clubs just added it to our reading list. (This review has inspired me not to read it - be sure to read the comments, there is some damn clever writing in there, too. And this critique is hilarious.)

Instead, I think my inaugural 2012 summer read is going to be a little gem described by a friend I trust to be an underrated classic - "The Dud Avocado." What are your summer reading plans?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New To Me Songs

11 Songs New To My iPod

"No Cars Go" - Arcade Fire
"Helena Beat" - Foster the People
"Two Weeks" - Grizzly Bear
"We Are Young" - Fun. (featuring Janelle Monae)
"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye (featuring Kimbra)
"Gold On The Ceiling" - The Black Keys
"Rocket" - Goldfrapp
"11th Dimension" - Julian Casablancas
"Uprising" - Muse
"Seventeen" - Ladytron
"Spitting Games" - Snow Patrol

What songs are you enjoying these days?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Arizona, You suck.

Oh Arizona, are you fucking kidding me with this? After we've already been through the first 8 circles of hell with all of this nonsense, thanks to your elected officials? Not to mention the fact that one of them could have been our current president.

By late July, within your state borders, life officially begins on the last day of a woman's menstrual period. As in over a week before sperm meets egg. As in even before some subset of future parents will have met each another. As in a virgin could be pregnant.

I need a drink.

Somebody please tell me why crazy ass legislation like this is not front page news, but the current national parenting non-versation Just. Won't. Go. Away. No, actually, don't. Just pass me that drink please.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are Your Kids Introverts, Extroverts, or Somewhere Inbetween-ers?

I love me some Myers-Briggs personality types. INFJ here. (Possibly the rarest type in the US, which may explain a lot.) I'm really looking forward to seeing what types my kids are someday.

While I'm technically an introvert, I can also pass for extrovert - if I don't have to spend gobs of time interacting. Clocking in over 3 hours with someone, they might catch on. Somehow I even managed to be popular in high school, though I didn't feel like it at the time. As one of the "intellectuals" in my school, I often felt lumped in socially with the kids who were decidedly un-popular and who I clicked with. But I also played sports (extremely well), so the "jocks" loved me, and perhaps not coincidentally, I was one of those kids who had friends in every clique. Where am I going with this walk down memory lane? I've noticed I am actively socializing my kids to behave in a more extroverted way ("go over and introduce yourself to the kid playing over there"). So much so that yesterday after school DS demanded I take him to a park so he could meet a friend. And, lo and behold, he did. And mama got a crapload of work done before we had to get home.

DS's Montessori teacher (a proud introvert himself) and I were chatting after class, and he mentioned how he is usually able to pick out the kids who are more extroverted, the kids who are more introverted, and everyone in between. But DS is throwing him for a loop. After 6 months of interactions, he still can't tell which one DS is. DS almost always prefers to work alone, but when it is play time he is extremely social.

We both agreed that's a really good thing. He's about letting kids be who they are. He feels introverts tend to get a bad name in America today, because we live in such an extrovert-oriented society. He shared with me how the public schools he used to teach in eventually started moving from an introvert-friendly orientation (more individual work, at single desks) towards the current extrovert-friendly orientation, featuring working interpersonally (collaborative problem solving, sitting at shared tables). Perhaps he's speaking from his own place of introversion when he said often the extroverts get mistakenly identified as the most intelligent ones in the group because they talk so much, often before they've thought deeply on a subject.

What do you think? Are you persuaded by Myers-Briggs Type Indicators? Which type are you? Your kids? Is there a mismatch in your family?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Will we recognize ourselves in the hot mess female protagonist of 'Girls' ?

Nodding my head in agreement to Julianne Escobedo Shepherd's feminist piece Why I'm Deeply Skeptical of HBO's Super-Hyped Show 'Girls.' I, too, am having trouble digesting the idea of yet another show that's putatively about to blow up and may likely become a significant part of the cultural zeitgeist, but which features an all phenotypically white lead cast. Yet again. (See also "Friends," "Seinfeld," "Sex in the City"...) Tonight the show finally premieres, so we shall see... In the meantime, I think Escobedo Shepherd is right on about why, sight unseen, it's giving her pause:

"I appreciate the fact that when a TV show like “Girls” or movie like Bridesmaids is released, it can feel like a revelation. We’re so used to seeing ourselves portrayed in basic, often degrading ways, that when a developed, woman-written female character emerges, it feels like we’re able to come up for air. Lena Dunham is certainly admirable for her willingness to exhibit her non-model-esque body on film, a very welcome counterpoint to the unrelenting deluge of unrealistic body standards we are expected to aspire to. But it also seems like we might be so desperate for images of ourselves that are even mildly realistic, we give certain films and shows a pass in other arenas..."
"I often worry if some depictions aren’t just replacing the Mary-Eve dichotomy with an “Overachiever”- “Slacker” one. Bridesmaids was a good example of this: Hailed as a counterpoint to the man-saturated Apatow buddy oeuvre, it pitted a seemingly picture-perfect antagonist against an emotionally stunted hot mess of a protagonist and wrapped it up neatly at the end. Based on the trailers and preview clips for “Girls,” Dunham’s character reprises the concept of the hot-mess protagonist. It just seems like we deserve more than this."

"I also realize that, from a credible critical standpoint, it is not a good look to predetermine how one feels about a work of art without having experienced it first. But I can determine what I’m afraid “Girls” will be."

"Most of all, I’m afraid that “Girls” will be a “Sex and the City” redux, racially speaking: that its portrayal of New York City, the most ethnically diverse metropolis in the nation, will reduce its vast swathes of residents of color to background noise, to bit parts, to token roles in the lives of its privileged white main characters. The trailers depict as much, but for a token voice of wisdom in the form of a gynecologist, and I fear that this show will be another in a string that minimizes its own whiteness by touting its "liberalness." In her New York Magazine rave, Emily Nussbaum calls “Girls” “FUBU: for us by us,” and yet I’m worried that a lot of “us” aren’t going to recognize ourselves in this so-hailed feminist milestone of a show."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Friends Don't Treat Friends Like Their Own Personal Unpaid Therapists

Came across another one of "those discussions" on the internets where the (mostly hetero female) commenters air various grievances about their husbands not sharing the weekend childcare load equally. Specifically, where the men make these unilateral choices to just leave the kids alone with the wife at their house for several hours on the weekend, while they go off to pursue their hobbies without first communicating or seeking any sort of agreement beforehand. How sucky. And just Wrong.

It seems to me that "how to actually solve the problem" talk is NOT particularly welcome in (most of) these discussions. Yes, I understand folks need to vent. Yes, I get that sometimes we need to seek feedback to assess what is typical across society, to see if our situation is really as off as it feels. However, at some point, we all need move on to the next logical steps.

We eventually need to identify and address the actual problem. (Unless, of course, we're enjoying the shitty status quo pity party. Clue #1 you are wallowing in your shitty status quo: you leave a blog comment saying you're distancing yourself from your real life friends who you have convinced yourself are just lying/bullshitting/sugarcoating about their marital happiness in order to try to make you feel bad.)

Then someone offered this viewpoint:

"Who needs a therapist when you have really great friends?"

To which my initial reaction is "Aw, hell NOOOOOO!!!!!"

And then I laughed a little, because I recognize that sentiment as the exact thinking of one of my (recently-divorced) best friends. She has totally gone over her limit of office visits to the Friend-as-Unpaid-Therapist's Office. An old econ professor once made the "friendship as a form of social insurance" argument, and it never rang true until recently.

Going over one's social insurance limit with friends generally looked like this in my world: My BFF's other BFF would call me up (or vice versa) and say he's at his wits end with her, he thinks she's making bad choices, he wants to stop being her nonjudgmental shoulder to cry on. He's about to say something to her he'll regret a la the Cher character in Moonstruck: "Snap out of it!!" Inevitably, I'd tell him to hang in there, but maybe have better boundaries, take a break from those heavy discussions with her. He'd do the same for me. It got to the point where we finally mentioned it to our BFF, and shared our feelings that she would be better served by speaking to a licensed therapist instead of us. Luckily, she's a real and true friend, and did not reject us for saying so.

Anyway, I know folks generally want to vent and have people empathize with them while doing whatever it is they really want to do anyway - and it is great there are spaces out there on the internets for that. Up to a point. It can't go on forever. Whenever I read same, I can't help but want to move right into SOLUTION mode, and make a comment about improving the communication, or going to therapy, or working through a Hendrix or Gottman book together as spouses. I have a bias towards Doing Something About It.

So I don't generally comment.

Look, I don't claim to have all the answers to the problem of being married to a good person but having fallen into a shitty dynamic you can't seem to address. That said, I do feel qualified to say that I know what does not work.

What generally does not work is kvetching to your mother or your friends in real life who will then be forced to continue to interact with both you and your spouse forever. More often than not, they will begin to resent your spouse if you talk too much shit about them. It's just human nature when you care about someone. You'll eventually forgive them and have sex. Your friends and mom won't. So please, go ahead and talk directly to your spouse. And exercise extreme caution when bitching about your spouse behind his/her back.

Bottom line. Licensed therapists, relationship books, blogs = yes. Overburdening your friends and family = no. End rant.