Saturday, November 24, 2007

I felt compelled yesterday, as if a hundred tiny voices were crying, "shop! shop! shop!"

When I walked through Westlake, maybe 15 live voices were calling out the same message, facetiously, bouncing around in a teeny mob of signs: "Buy more stuff now!!" "Shop!!" Predictably, the Buy Nothing Day self-righteousness parade had no effect on passers-by. They stuffed the streets, loaded with shopping bags and -- judging from the lines at Starbucks -- thoroughly caffinated.

I used to be a closet shopper, hiding lunch-break shopping bags in the trunk of my car, pretending I was above common consumerism by buying obscure, cheap brands rather than recognizable labels. But since I was never actually very good at keeping my habit hidden, and since I've shed the too-coolness of pretending to be a hipster or an artist or whatever, I've come to terms with my total enthusiasm for shopping. I love the people, I love the smells of the stores, I love trying on clothes and holding glittery earrings up to myself in a mirror.

And I felt Black Friday could only possibly be pleasant for shopping enthusiasts like myself. The crowds, the lines, the overblown advertising. But I worked my way through Nordstrom Rack with more ease than normal -- no wait at the ladies fitting room (it's not all about Christmas presents), and the normally-long register line moved much more quickly than normal. Same with Starbucks, where my soy latte order was prepared before I'd even paid, and cookies were prepackaged for easy handing-out.

And thus, in less than four hours, I was on my way home with presents for everyone on my little list (plus a couple on the way from Amazon). Back when I avoided the blatant materialism of Black Friday, I Christmas shopped throughout December. This drawn-out process left me stressed for nearly a month, and the longer it took more time I had to worry about getting just the perfect presents, not spending too much, not forgetting anything or anyone. But my presents were iffy, I bought too many little unnecessary things, and spent too much. I'm sure a bigger budget and greater maturity helps me now, but the mini-marathon of doing it most in one day helps too: I avoid overbuying, ideas for one person help me think of things for other people, I can keep money in check but limiting the stores I visit.

The only drawback was a bulky armful of heavy gifts to drag around -- along with the latte, it was impossible to eat my cookie. Loaded with shopping bags and thoroughly caffinated but hungry, it was time to go home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Post-pumpkin pie tonight, something provoked Brian's mom and me to talk briefly about women's feeling of vulnerability walking alone at night. She said she never worried walking across UW campus when she was in school (I'm guessing in the 70s?), but she feel uncomfortable now in well-lit downtown at night, worries about her adult daughter, nodded understandingly when I said I call my mom when I walk home after dark. I never worried when I was first in college either, but now jsut the darkness frightens me -- whether it's 11 pm or 6:30.

She also nodded when I said this struck me as a big gender difference -- I'd mentioned being home alone at night to Brian, but men don't understand this fear. Girls are raised to avoid every dark street, to travel in packs, to walk quickly and confidantly past strangers so as not to appear vulnerable -- but after years of these warnings, we can't help but feel vulnerable no matter how confidantly we walk, because we know our very identity makes us a target.

I would say it's unreasonable (and proably disempowering) to put fear in the hearts of half our population based just on gender, but I remember as a middle-schooler tallying my friends whose female vulnerability had been taken advantage of, and it was a significant percentage. Maybe I had unucky friends and family, or it was our neighborhood. But as Brian's mom said tonight, it's not just in the city, it's in small towns and everywhere. So maybe as a kid my friends were just willing to out themselves as victims.

I think this fear of some vague "it" that's everywhere is a primary part of my hesitance to have kids. To have a girl would mean raising another person to walk home in fear, and personally perpetuating the image of women as weak by frightening my daughter with terrifying images of her inherent vulnerablity rather than letting her be naive and even more vulnerable. It would mean worrying about her my entire life, no matter how old or strong or successful she became, worrying ten times harder than I've ever worried about myself. But to have a boy would mean being responsible for the other half of this fear dynamic, at the least knowing that no matter how well he turned out, women would fear him if they passed on a dark street. And that he'd probably never notice.

Obviously there's a lot more to life than this particular fear. But it's an intense feeling I can't ever remember not having (or, at my most naive, not knowing I should be feeling even while I walked across campus after midnight).

And then I wonder, without this fear, without the pressure of juggling kids and work and hair appointments and home-making, without an overwhelming culture of body image issues, what do men ever worry out about? Balding? No wonder they control the world.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I slept through aerobics this morning, but went to Northgate for new workout shoes and pants this afternoon. Very excited to peek through this giant DSW shoe store, but everything was not very thrilling.

30 minutes later at the slightly scummy-feeling Shoe Pavilion, I realized I'd probably never be thrilled by an athletic shoe. But my current bright green Pumas have lost their cushiness, (and when did bright green seem like the best color for my feet?), so I bought a pair of pink and white Asics. More cushy and much more pretty.

Then to Target to complete the ensemble: more workout pants = less frequent need for laundry. Surprisingly attractive for being too comfortable for public. Plus! Wrapping paper. I've only bought two presents and neither have arrived from Amazon, but if you wait too long you get stuck with the ugly snowcreatures and creepy Santas on your gifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I ran out of hairspray this morning. Definitely unfortunate for the moment, but it meant a reason to visit Aveda -- always an exciting errand, with the tea and the occasional hand massage, and staff that tells you your hair looks wonderful (and nod knowingly when you tell them it's done at an Aveda salon). Even more exciting when you have an envelope of free birthday offers to redeem.

So I grabbed my Air Spray, sipped my tiny cup of tea, and perused the smoothing products. (Do I need my hair smoother? Maybe I need it less smooth?) When the SA asked, "Are you earning points with us?" in a very "are you in the supersecret fancy girls' club?" voice, I handed her my birthdaytime papers. She was easily twice as excited as me, and trotted me over to a little kiosk of brown laboratoryesque bottles.

I sat. She sales-pitched. I closed my eyes. She waved 12 bottles of scent under my nose, one by one. I approved the woodsy, sweet, floral, and minty, rejected the strangely buttery ones, and something that conjured a mental image of a dirty bearskin rug. She cycled through the favorites again. I ranked them. Finally, when my nose was on the verge of giving in, I'd narrowed it down to one -- after so much sniffing, I had no idea which was the lucky winner, and I didn't think it was anything I'd normally pick off a shelf. My new friend dripped the chosen oil into a bottle of some other Aveda mystery liquid, then handed the fragrance over for free (along with my far-from-free hairspray).

Beauty blogs peaked my interest in scents a few months ago. I sniffed my way through Macy's and Sephora, but I had trouble finding anything I had to have on my skin. J'adore Dior is lovely with no staying power or real excitement, Shalimar was highly recommended but I think I'm over it's exotic appeal for now. (A Macy's SA tried to sell me on some other Guerlain, and I spent an entire afternoon downtown hoping the nauseating drydown scent wouldn't stick to my coat.) Contrary to every review I've read, I actually like SJP's Covet -- but it's a little too delicious, to chocolately edible, to wear around all the time.

As I suspected, this mystery Aveda fragrance was very different from anything else I own or have tried. Initially, it smells decidedly Aveda -- not like a particular shampoo or lotion, but like the stores and salons themselves. Bottling the indulgent sense of going to the salon is pretty appealing. Then, it's not perfumey, not flowery or fruity, not manufactured. It smells like it belongs on skin, like it came from something warm and organic.

And, though I was hesitant, and have no idea whether this particular scent is best for me, I'm happy I picked it from one of many clinical-looking brown bottles -- rather than a line of sparkley designer names at Sephora. My eyes-closed process-of-elimination selection felt random at the time, but it's not hardly as arbitrary as buying a scent because I like the handbags from the same designer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

So I'm trying to find a movie to see tonight, and I'm lost in a maze of horrible cinema. The two films I was interested in, Elizabeth and Love in the Time of Cholera, have both been poorly received. Other gems now playing include these enticing details: classic literature adapted liberally to include a made-up character for Angelina Jolie to wear spandex as; Justin Timberlake (who can't act enough to fake an entertaining interview) as a bible-quoting war veteran; a documentary about corn; and the deliciously emo-sounding Wristcutters: A Love Story.

So I thought maybe we could rent some recent release, and Blockbuster recomends "Ice Spiders: The cast of the hit primetime drama Melrose Place reunite for his Sci-Fi Channel original film concerning a remote ski lodge that is overrun by enormous mutant spiders."

So much money and freedom of speech, and so many beautiful people, in this country, and we can't come up with one decent movie for a Friday night?

On the plus side, I think there will be Indian food.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

a few of many New York photos

World Trade Center site and shiny replacement tower.


Statue of Liberty, surprisingly small from the Staten Island ferry.

Central Park bear.

Brian insisted we spend an afternoon in H&M :)

Fancy pants public library.

Mimosas for weekday brunch in Bedford.

$5 Improv at Upright Citizen's Brigade theater.

Monet's waterlillies get their own audience at MoMA. Starry Night wasn't even visible beyond the crowd. But amazing Picassos were unattended, and a room of Mondrian almost empty.

Freezing on top of the Empire State Building at night.

Markets in Chinatown.

Josh Ritter show. Two tickets: $40. Two drinks: $25.

Brooklyn's Life Cafe, sister bar to the Life from Rent -- equally good for breakfast and Long Islands.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New York Tourist Checklist

Central Park (some of it)
New York Marathon
Hip Brooklyn neighborhood (Bedford/Williamsburg)
Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island from a distance
WTC site
Time Square
Empire State building
Many subways
The Guggenheim
Rockefeller Plaza ice skating

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's 4:18 am at home, but in Brooklyn it's sunny and warmish. Our flight was smooth, our shuttle ride mostly harmless. There's a lot of garbage on the streets, a lot of pidgeons, and Kelsey and Graham's apartment is weird but inviting -- suspicious neighbors, lots of windows.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I am trapped in the longest night ever. Laundry pile upon laundry pile, Sex and the City upon Sex and the City. My bags are expertly packed -- a week's worth of miniaturely folded clothes in a carry-on roughly the size of my purse. I've have my FAA-regulation plastic baggie of mini moisturizers, etc, two alarms set, the fridge cleared of moldables, the iPod charged.

Usually I run through my few hours of night more quickly than imaginable, no time for ironing or toe-nail polishing. Now tonight I've nothing left but to go to sleep and wake up and go to New York, but I'm not sleepy and the night is not moving along quickly enough with me awake.

When will it end?!?

Thursday, November 1, 2007