At Clog Last…

Photo on 5-26-16 at 10.50 PM #3Great news! I finally got some clunky, Danish-style clogs. So I guess I can (finally!) be a real librarian now.

What I’m wearing:

  • J.Jill taupe jersey blazer thing, gift from MIL ca. 2012
  • Burgundy swingy tank top thing, Target, 2006 (oh God this tank top is 10 years old probably not OK to wear to work…)
  • Black linen cropped pants, Old Navy, 2016
  • Sanita “Professional Dream Work” (a-what now?) clog in in red

These shoes come in European sizes and I am almost certain I should have sized up. I normally wear 8 1/2. Tried a “40,” which seemed like the right conversion, but it felt like a boat on my foot, so went 39, which at least stayed on. But now after a day of wear, they seem pretty snug. Oh well: we’ll let ’em break in, stretch, etc.

Last night at DSW I was supposed to be getting new gym shoes, but I put them back in order to justify purchasing these.

I felt remarkably steady on my feet this morning as I crashed down the steps with three bags and a toddler on my hip, but then, wouldn’t you know it, later in the day I completely tripped and rolled my ankle while carrying nothing at all. So, you know. Walking: still dangerous.

That would be enough?

More swirling thoughts on Hamilton from the recesses of my brain, this time coming to you from my dad’s hospital room, where we are waiting out serious lung complications after what should have been a pretty routine surgery. Typing with latex gloves on, so forgive the blunders and thanks for the distraction!

Much has been made of the character of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, portrayed on stage by the almost ridiculously lovely Phillipa Soo. Some even suggest that–especially given that she closes out the whole damn show with a list that’s three miles long (no doubt) of all the crap she did after everyone else died–that the arguably ambiguous title Hamilton is supposed to signal she is the hero of the story as much as Alexander is. For reasons rambled on upon at great length elsewhere, I think it’s clear almost by definition that Alexander is our hero. But regardless of how, precisely, you categorize her role, there’s no denying that Eliza’s an incredibly important character, and the one whose development is, perhaps, more quietly interesting than anyone else’s.

I hadn’t thought much about this on my first 10,000 listens to the album–I took her for granted as the virtuous foil to A. Ham as well as Angelica (if Angelica is dazzling the room, Eliza must, by contrast, be full of boring if lovely domestic virtue/nagging, yes?)–until I listened to the excellent Theater People podcast interview with Soo. When asked about the song “Burn,” which seriously still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, Soo talks about the trajectory of Eliza as a character, saying that she’d had a “slow burn” going over the course of the whole show.

I mean, of course I’d noticed Eliza’s increasing frustration with Alexander (that desperate bum, bum, bum…Alexander… Bum, bum, bum…Alexander! In Non-Stop), which peaks with “Burn,” apparently simmers down into forgiveness in “Quiet Uptown” (though in fact she doesn’t speak in that song at all), and ultimately glows into romanticized adoration in the finale.

But what I had not noticed until I started listening just for her was the subtle tension between how we assume she is, how the people surrounding her tell us she is, maybe even how she thinks she is…and what her words tell us about her. Continue reading

“Yay Hamlet!”: Hamilton as Shakespearean Tragedy

Hamilton! Awesome! Wow!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, five months later (“…I’m writing a letter nightly”) and my love for Hamilton has not abated. Rather, like a happy marriage or a fine wine, it has matured into something even richer and more complex.

And so it took a new arrival to the private Hamilton chat group I’m in (you guys should see the Hamilton stream-of-consciousness-commentary I don’t post to Facebook) who said today, with all the wonder of Eternal September:

I can’t wrap my mind around the genius of this album. It’s perfection. Every single song. How did he do it? I don’t remember the last time something knocked me over like this.

to get me really thinking again. And? She’s right. Genius is an easy word to throw around. And certainly the breathlessness and hype over this show is enough to make any thinking person sit back and say, enough already! But there is something real here. Like this: I don’t know a single person who has seriously spent time with the show who can choose a favorite song.  And more telling, I think, is not that they have “more than one favorite” or that they “like the whole thing,” but that in fact on repeated listening, and depending on what’s happening in the world and in the listener’s own life, different songs resonate from week to week. It seems like there is always something new to hear, a quotable quote for the week. The play is not just the thing, but a living thing.

And–I swear to God this isn’t just me–once you really know the show, you can’t help but hear and speak in shades of Hamilton at all times. Everyday phrases–wait for it, sometimes that’s how it goes, you are the worst–speak volumes. Following the cadence of someone’s conversation–about anything at all–will suddenly lead you stumbling dactyl over tetrameter into I’M in the CABinet I am comPLICit in WATCHing him TAKing that POWer and KISSin’ it. You find yourself waking up with lines repeating in your mind–and the thing is that you don’t mind.

In just over a year, Hamilton has both captured the imagination and infected the minds and language of its fans (admittedly a small group, with respect to the whole world, but a large one I would argue, compared to the usual audience of a one-year-old musical). It’s changed the way we think and speak. This is beyond catchy, beyond trendy (“our odds are beyond scary”)–there is something monumental here. But what?

Hm, let’s see: Hamilton is an old story, lifted from the chronicles of our nation, re-packaged and re-told in a contemporary voice for a contemporary audience. It’s almost entirely in verse and loaded with every shade of allusion. It is the tale of a promising and successful man raised high and laid low by his ambition. Or his fate. Or both.

In other words: Hamilton evokes a Shakespearean tragedy and that, I think, is why it feels both familiar and fresh, why it resonates in such a significant way.

Oddly enough, though, amid 8 million gushing think pieces,I haven’t seen much about Hamilton and Shakespeare at all–except of course the infamous Lin-Manuel Miranda tweet that spawned the hashtag #yayhamlet.

So, why not? Is it because it’s too obvious? Like, Hamilton tells us this himself in Act II when he refers to “another Scottish tragedy”? Or because drawing such a comparison sounds so over-the-top–Lin-Manuel is Shakespeare now, heavens preserve us, no, that’s not what I said–that no internet critic wants to imagine the backlash? Or because we’re distracted by the fact that Hamilton is a musical, which tend to play by different rules?

I dunno. But in any case, it was a new idea to me, on my evening commute home tonight. So, just for fun, let’s see how Hamilton (and by Hamilton I mean the cast recording, of course, since that’s what I have access to, though I know there are a few important moments missing from it) maps onto Freytag’s five-act structure of a Shakspearean tragedy. Of course, one could break the acts anywhere one wanted, and one could probably tell any number of compelling narratives about why one did so. (Do it! In the comments!) This is just one way of doing it. Here goes: Continue reading

Cookiegate 2016

Yesterday in passing conversation, I heard two senior colleagues discussing the recent promotion of an equally senior female peer (“equally senior” is what peer means, right? Just want to make that part clear). One of them said, “Well, she’s a smart cookie.” This was said with admiration and something akin to professional affection–clearly not intended to cut or criticize–and yet it really freaking bugged me for some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So I turned to Facebook, asking:

Am I right in thinking that no man has ever been called a “smart cookie”?

Immediately, women near my age and/or in my profession started liking (or “angry facing” the post).

Just as immediately, an investigation was launched into the history of the phrase “smart cookie,” calling upon online dictionaries, historical newspaper databases, etc., which suggested no gender bias in the history of the phrase–indeed, “smart cookie” (and “tough cookie,” for that matter) seems to have emerged out of military culture, which is nothing if not male-oriented.

Of course, throwing out a claim of “never ever” invites exactly this kind of research, because you never ever find that something never ever happened. I knew when I posted it that I’d be inviting this kind of digging. So now, we have proof! “Smart cookie,” in a vacuum, is not a blatantly sexist phrase. Not in the way that “women are inferior” is.

But then again, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Here’s what’s different now: younger me would probably have thought, “Huh, I guess the facts show that I’m wrong about ‘smart cookie’ and need to just chill out.” Cranky Ann, however, knows that two adjacent things can be true at once. It can be true that the origin of the phrase has nothing to do with sexism, and also true that hearing it yesterday made me uncomfortable, so it is worth investigating why. “The facts” (such as they are), do not overturn or replace my experience. They illuminate it: they tell us that etymology is not the problem here. But that doesn’t mean there is no problem here. The phrase itself is not the problem -> but I was still troubled, and got the impression that many of my peers felt the same way -> so something else must be going on.

A key turning point occurred when the second man mentioned that they didn’t think the phrase was patronizing, but they did think it was dated/archaic, and were puzzled by its being used at all. “I would be surprised to hear anyone say ‘smart cookie,'” he said. This was a lightbulb moment for me. Because I feel like I hear it All. The. Time. And I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that the 20+ women who acknowledged the post have heard it as well.

This helped me make sense of the etymology/history issue. OK, yes, granted: the roots of “smart cookie” are not female oriented. But the (highly limited and unscientific) anecdotal evidence suggests that men in the workplace don’t hear this phrase (though “some men” must, because they are largely the ones saying it…), and women do. Is this the “Ashley” of epithets? (That is to say, a masculine or gender neutral label that has now shifted irrevocably to feminine?)

What I hear when I hear this phrase–and finally here it is, I’m honing in on what bugs me–is a qualifier. It’s a special justification signaling approval and special status of the “smart cookie.” Though it’s disguised as a compliment, I hear it being used to explain, justify, or approve someone’s success or presence at the table when apparently their name, position, experience, or the simple fact of their presence is insufficient to convince everyone else. And it’s not, as far as I can tell, applied to men in the same way.

It is hard for me to imagine someone saying, “I’ve asked Bill to join us, he’s a smart cookie.” or “Harold will be leading this project–he’s a smart cookie.” No: it’s “Harold will be leading this project because he is the Director of Leading Projects.” Or just “Harold will be leading this project.” And that is enough. But I have heard myself and my colleagues introduced this way countless times. As with almost every language question, it’s less about these specific two words than it is about the context, of course. But this is (as has been noted) a kind of strange, slightly uncommon phrase that today, I *only* hear used in circumstances like this, where it is basically code for “don’t worry, she’s all right.” Of course, there *are* instances where a very junior person is being brought into a higher level conversation, and a boss or colleague is sort of paving the way. But the more senior the person to whom the label is applied, the more strange and troubling it feels to me.

Said of an absent female peer’s promotion, it suggests not “Well done!” or “Good move!” or “Wow, they’re lucky to get her,” or even, “I want that job,” but something more like “I approve because according to me, she is smart and therefore deserving.” Hm. Who asked you, anyway?

And that, my friends, is how the cookie crumbles.

How Life is Now Part II

Not that I was exactly succinct in my last reflection, but I keep thinking of other big and small things that are true of my life now. The beautiful thing is, this is my blog, so I can put them all here! Lucky you.

  • My nails are WRECKED. I have no idea why. When the Fustible was a newborn I figured it was because it was winter and I was washing my my hands so much. Now, it’s the mildest winter ever and (I confess) I don’t wash my hands as obsessively as when she was only a few weeks old. But still, my nails still just peel and shred and chip and shatter, more than they ever did before. Is it stress/lack of sleep? Malnutrition? Carelessness and distraction when doing stuff like grating cheese and prying outlet covers out of the wall? All of the above.
  • Nothing else that I used to stress about seems that important anymore. This is not some self-righteous philosophical thing, like, “Nothing compares to the majesty and importance of forming a human mind!” On the contrary: my expectations for overall success have been lowered so much that no day seems that bad on balance. Oh, I’ll still get frustrated or overwhelmed or tired or angry. I don’t mean that I’m now unflappable. Hardly. Indeed, I am probably more flappable because, as noted elsewhere, these days I don’t have lots of patience to spare for fools. But whereas previously someone’s snippy email would ruin my day, now, I’ll get pissed off, rant a little bit, and then at the end of day, shrug and walk out happily because no one died and now I get to go pick up the babe. I’m not really intimidated by anyone because no matter what happens, they probably won’t head butt me in the chin, pull my hair, and sob piteously as though the world is ending (though this may happen in other departments). Passive aggressive, weirdly competitive dudes interrupting each other and acting like I’m to blame for…something? I’m not scared. Today we got the baby to daycare, dropped one car off for an oil change, got to work on time, rolled from meeting to meeting right up til 5:15, hauled a load of tablecloths belonging to work home to launder (DEFINITELY not part of our job descriptions…), picked up the car where we learned that our rear brakes are essentially out and need to be replaced immediately for a mere $400, got the baby, walked the dog, and met friends out for dinner. And dinner took FOREVER–an hour waiting for a table and another hour to get our food. 18 months ago, my takeaway would have been “What an annoying and exhausting end to an annoying and exhausting day!” Today, I was like, we KILLED this day! I can’t believe we survived! We rule! Best day ever!”
  • I weigh more than I ever have in my life and I just don’t really care. When the Fustible was born I was already at a lifetime max weight. And then I put on 10 pounds in like two weeks. I was such a fool–I had all these plans, that since I had *not* just given birth, I was going to get SO MUCH EXERCISE bouncing the baby at home all day instead of sitting at my desk. Lol. On the contrary, I never exercised again and I ate only frozen pizza for months. And also I turned 30 and now it apparently takes more than skipping a couple of cookies to lose weight. Weirdly? I don’t mind how my body looks now. I even kind of like it. In most pictures now I look exponentially happier now than I did in 2012 when I was 25 pounds lighter. And I don’t spend hours every day tracking food intake and calories. So be it. The main downside is that probably 2/3 of my wardrobe is now off limits. If I lost 10 pounds I’d get a lot of clothes “back” and it would bring me down from the boundaries of the unhealthy weight zone. When I do buy new things, I get things that fit properly, but I’m surely not going to replace everything (or if I do, it will take another 10 years). Look, I do know that claiming to be happy with my body shape is no excuse for not exercising: I need to exercise, not necessarily or only to lose weight but because it helps regulate my moods, and because I need to be strong and flexible and fit to chase the baby around and not throw out my neck or back or knee every time I pick her up. (“Lift with your legs” was clearly not invented by anyone who ever lived in a house of baby gates, cribs, playpens, etc.). And also, not just for her but for me, because I should take good care of myself. I know, I know, I know. And that’s all I’ll say on this for now.
  • My cycles are shorter. No, not those cycles. What I mean is, the ups and downs and round and rounds of life are compressed. For example, anyone in a very long term relationship will know that your relationship is not always the same. Sometimes for a few weeks or months it will be just like when you first fell in love–fun and happy and sexy and easy. Then you’ll go through weeks and months where you’re brittle and tense and arguing and just nothing seems to fit right and you wonder what happened to your life. And other times you’re more like roommates or even neighbors, just acquaintances moving through each other’s space. And then you’re in love again. Now? Instead of over weeks or months, we go through all of these phases almost every single day. Sometimes multiple times. Likewise, I used to think of days as morning, afternoon, and evening. Now each of those has at least three or four sub-sections (pre-breakfast, post-breakfast-pre-nap, nap, post-nap, pre-lunch, etc.), and each of *those* might contain time for work, play, rest, food, cleaning, reading, and cat-chasing. Round and round and round we go. Do something. Correct. Iterate. Parenting is basically living life according to the agile development model.
  • My hair is the longest it’s ever been, ever. Like, by a lot. I barely wash it (I was always skeptical of those women who said they didn’t have time to wash their hair but, nope) and I barely brush it. This seems to be the best possible way to treat my hair. It’s never looked so good–wavy and golden and shiny and voluminous. Hey, maybe all the cells from my nails are going into my hair instead for some reason? I guess I should probably cut it someday but, eh. Why?  I can always go pixie again and I’ll probably go to my grave that way, but these are probably my last years of mermaid hair.
  • It pays to diversify your diaper situation. We do mostly cloth diapers when we can and when it makes sense to. But there are times when it doesn’t. The best thing about having both on hand is that you’re pretty much never out. I am the kind of person who will always be out of gas when I need to get to the airport, out of milk when all I want is cereal, out of flour when I want to bake, etc. I’m not great at planning ahead for supplies. I definitely would have died on the Oregon Trail. So: I would *definitely* have been That Mom at Meijer frantically buying diapers at 11 p.m. Every week. Practically my favorite thing about cloth diapers is that they are literally always in your house. We buy one large box of disposables probably every 3 months to swap or supplement as needed. And between the two? Never. Out. Of. Diapers. Thank God!
  • Speaking of diapers, diapers are the only thing that lasts. Bumbo seats, pacifiers, walkers, Sophie the Giraffe, sleep sacks, infant bathtubs–all these things that you stock up on, and then they’re just over, done, in the blink of an eye. But not diapers. Diapers are forever. We are probably not even halfway done with diapers. Sigh.
  • I thought when we stopped buying formula we would suddenly have a lot more disposable income but it was cruel lie.