Sunday, July 1, 2018


My work life has gotten interesting lately, so I've taken to looking up the videos of 80s and 90s songs on YouTube as a sort of comfort. I looked up Phil Collins's "You Can't Hurry Love" one evening and saw the video below. I was immediately transported back to 1990--my friend Goldie had stayed over for a night at my house. We were supposed to be studying for the Biology Achievement test, but instead we spent the whole night dancing to Phil Collins Greatest Hits. 

It was a happy memory (if a bit embarrassing to admit) but here's the thing. Watching old videos by Phil Collins or Billy Joel or Bananara or Michael Jackson does not make me wish it was 199X again--not one little bit--not even 1998 (the year I lived in Paris after college.)

Why? Because I was miserable for most of that time. I went to a specialized high school and a good college, so I was probably less miserable than I could have been, but I spent an awful lot of my young-adulthood being miserable. Some of this was due to depression,  some of it I suspect is that it sucks being an adolescent.  It also--in my experience--sucks being a recent college grad. Of course, that's my experience only. Judging by the younger folks where I work, it doesn't suck so much if you majored in Business.

Do other people forget the misery of adolescence on purpose? Does high school appeal as a better simpler world, because the pains of having that guy/girl not like you, or passing Math pale compared to the drudgery of work/chores/bill-paying?

I don't know. All I can think is that when anyone near me says "Man I wish I was 21 again." I think of crying about my eviction notice written in Latin.

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying--perhaps it high school and college look especially bad because I've viewing them through the lens of my miserable 20s. I spent some time thinking about this today ( I wrote a sloppy draft of this last night.)

On one hand, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I had my first bout of adult depression the summer before my senior year of high school That blew normal adolescent anxieties (Math, Drafting, will I ever be asked out by someone I like? Why did I decide to cut my own bangs? etc.) out of the water. That doesn't mean they were all fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Frida Kahlo Barbie

Frida Kahlo Barbie

There’s a Frida Kahlo Barbie out now—also an Amelia Earhart Barbie and a Katherine Johnson[1] Barbie. The Frida Kahlo Barbie has two eyebrows, which some people are objecting to[2]. I can see their point. I can also see the point of the people who decided that it would be a good thing for girls to have dolls of daring, famous women.

Speaking as the former owner of a set of Famous Women paper dolls[3], this whole campaign seems well intentioned, but pointless to me. Why? Because it didn’t matter what the short bio said the paper doll was, I used them all for whatever parts the play they fit in the play my brain came up with.  

Maybe I played with toys differently than other kids, but the whole point of a doll (or a set of Legos) was that it was a toy you could make into whatever you decided it should be. To my mind, that’s part of the point of play. If you give a kid a toy and tell them “This is Frida Kahlo” then you are telling them what to do with the toy—are they playing with it wrong if Frida is cast in the part of Morgan Le Fay for the afternoon[4]?

Similarly, (to my mind) if you give a kid a Lego kit and tell them that the kit only makes one thing, then the toy is done (and no longer fun) once they have made the X-Wing Fighter, or the Moon Landing Unit.[5]

I admit I am biased, but if you want girls to know and be inspired by women like Frida Kahlo, buy them books—not just the boring, wholesome/virtuous, scholastic library books (although you may have to start there), but books of her art. Tell them why you think she’s important (don’t wait until your daughter has to do a report for women’s history month—that defeats the purpose.)  If you do this, girls will not need a Frida Kahlo doll—if they want a doll to be Frida, they will make her so.


[1] Mathematician and Physicist. She’s in Hidden Figures, and yes I had to look this up.
[2] Yes, I get why Frida Kahlo Barbie should violate the rules of the Universe—making a Communist into a Barbie is probably a sign of the appocolypse.
[3] They probably came from the Smithsonian. They were to be colored in. Each doll came with one other “outfit” (Amelia’s Earhart’s outfit was her plane.) Each doll had a bio, explaining why this woman was cool.a
[4] I’m sorry to say that My Amelia Earhart paper doll often had to play a dude, because she had short hair and wore pants and a baggy coat and some of my plotlines as a kid called for dudes, but there were (obviously) no male paper dolls in my set of Famous Women paper dolls.
[5] When I first saw these kits, I was horrified. I see them differently now—more like puzzles or model-building kits, but they still don’t encourage creativity the way a giant box of random Legos does.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Favorite Films of Mine take the Bechdel Test*

Amadeus—fails (I’m sure Constanza spoke with her mother—just not on screen.)
The Princess Bride—fails
Bram Stoker’s Dracula—passes (Lucy talks to Mina about changing (“I can hear mice in the attic stomping like elephants.”))
Velvet Underground—fails
Dead Man Walking—passes (Sister Helen speaks with fellow sisters.)
Steel Magnolias—passes
The Little Mermaid—nope, but then again Arial can’t speak for most of the movie
The Downfall—passes
Le Comte De Monte Cristo—fails
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—passes
The Great Escape—fails. But it takes place in a POW camp, so maybe it doesn’t count?
Spirited Away—passes
Howl’s Moving Castle—passes (Sophie complains to the Witch of the Waste discuss the curse the Witch has put on Sophie)
Das Boot—Are you high?
Les Adieux à la Reine—passes
The Shadow of the Vampire—fails
All of the Lord of the Rings movies—fail, but that’s Tolkein’s fault
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton version)—passes so long as we count girls as women.
Corpse Bride—passes
The Nightmare Before Christmas—on the fence—do two witches singing together count as “speaking with each other?”
Batman (Tim Burton)--dear me, no
Night Watch—fails
The Seventh Seal—Fails
Topsy Tury—passes. (The Three Little Maids speak with the costume designer.)
Antonia’s Line—passes
9 to 5--passes
Never-ending Story—fails
Lars and the Real Girl—passes
The Imitation Game—passes
The Wizard of Oz—passes
Dead Poet’s Society—why do you even ask?
Scrooge--passes (discussion of bed curtains)

Alien, as we all know,  passes


Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Green and White Dress

My Granny* made me a green and white dress when I was a toddler. I remember the dress well, but not because I remember wearing it. I remember it because there were pictures of me wearing it, and because my younger sister wore  it (sadly I don't have a picture of her in the dress--although I'm sure there's one somewhere in my parents' house.)

 Until a few years ago I didn't know that Granny had made that dress. I was surprised to hear this--I knew that Granny had been a knitter (there were afghans and ski sweaters as evidence). However sewing a dress is another matter--one that was a surprise to me.

Most children's clothes take a beating, but "dressy" clothes for kids who are old enough not yak/pee on them don't get much wear. Perhaps this is why this dress is still in circulation. In any case, here is me wearing the dress at about age 2 (with my mom and my great aunt Lilian)..

Here is my niece wearing the dress at age 5(?) in any case, older than I was, wearing the same dress.

Finally, here is my cousin's daughter wearing the green and white dress in 2016 that my Granny made in 1977.

*My dad's mother

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pictures I have taken

Top of Lynch Park

Yesterday my boyfriend and I took our two dogs to Lynch Park. It was a beautiful fall day and because there were two of us* I could take pictures of the fall day** and my dogs and him. “Please don’t take pictures of me,” he asked.  I replied that I was taking pictures of the dogs and he was just there to hold the leashes, but of course that was not entirely true. After all, it’s not just the dogs I love, and so it’s not just the dogs I want to take pictures of.

In my opinion, it is almost impossible to take a bad picture on a beach on the North Shore. This is even more true in the fall. Just point your phone and click and you will have something worth looking at. It may not observe the rule of thirds, but so what—it will still be a picture of something beautiful. This—combined with the advent of phones that are cameras connected to the Internet—is why I started to take pictures of everything as soon as I moved to the North Shore.

St. Peter's Festival in Glosta

I have countless pictures of friends walking on the beach in the fall of 2009, of other people’s dogs, of Bass Rocks, my niece and nephews and swans swimming in the river in Waltham***.  Sometimes I took these pictures because there was something I wanted to capture or something that made me happy and sometimes just to remind myself of where I had been and what I had done.

These days I mostly take pictures of my dogs and those pictures are mostly in the house, with them at rest. This is because it is pretty much impossible to take pictures of anything while I’m walking them and I can’t imagine taking a walk for pleasure around Beverly without them. So my photos are much less interesting, but I still have the urge to take a picture when I see something I love—even if that thing is Daisy, curled up on her dog bed and I already have 500 similar pictures.

Mon vrai nom est "Elizabeth Taylor.

I have often wished there was someone else around me with my photo-journalistic impulse so that in addition to 1,000 pictures of my dogs with my boyfriend, there would also be 1,000 pictures of my dogs with me. This is not because I’m vain—it’s because I love them and I want to record that they love me.

At the same time, even though it makes me sad, I can understand my boyfriend not wanting me to take his picture or not wanting me to share his picture on social media because he doesn’t like the way he looks right now. I look at the few pictures that are taken of me and think, “I look old” or “I look fat” or “is this what other people see when they look at me?” This doesn’t make me wish for fewer pictures of me however—it makes me wish there were more. If I saw myself more often as others see me, it would be less of a shock.

I had a dream early this morning. In it I was standing outside of a house that had just been intentionally collapsed. Even though I knew it was going to be collapsed, I had somehow failed to retrieve my belongings from it before the collapse. Fortunately, they were all in the attic. I dug through the top of the roof to find broken panes of glass and broken frames with layers of ripped pictures****.  There were pictures from college and pictures of my sister and me as kids. Somehow I knew (because this was a dream) that there were also all the albums of photos of us as kids in there somewhere. But I couldn’t find them, no matter how I dug.

As I woke up I thought about how those pictures would one day be found by some future archeologist who would get to watch my transition from object in the earlier pictures to watcher in the later ones—starting with the imperfect attempts to capture my adolescent point of view.

The only picture I took as a kid that I could find on my computer

*As opposed to just me, trying to keep control of 130 pounds of dogs of dog-mass pulling in two separate directions

** I was not the only person taking pictures that afternoon. There were about four other photo shoots going on (one bridal, one student taking fashion shots, one family taking pictures for their Midwestern brag letter and one engagement shoot.) I had never been somewhere and seen so many more people intent on having their picture taken having fun than of actually having it.

***Picture taken when I had to go there to interview employees in a restaurant for my first big grad school paper.

****In my family picture frames are reused and the previous pictures left in them, so if you take out the back, you can see more pictures behind the one currently behind the glass