Monday, March 31, 2008

On those ginormous freaking Wakefield sisters

Okay, so any young woman who picked up more than one Sweet Valley High book in her day can probably tell you exactly, precisely what Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield looked like -- eyes the same blue as the ocean, wavy blonde hair, and "perfect" (always "perfect;" Francine Pascal had some less-than-creative ghostwriters) size-6 figures.

The hideous fat cows.

Thank God Random House is doing something about it. In honor of the re-release of the Sweet Valley High series, the book covers are getting a makeover (with a new cover model) and those lardass Wakefield sisters are getting some work done of their own.
To publicize the re-release of teen fiction series Sweet Valley High, Random House Children's Books sent a letter to journalists highlighting the changes made to the content of the 1980s paperbacks. New cover girl Leven Rambin (pictured) was not mentioned, but just to make sure preteen and teenaged girl readers are sufficiently insecure about their bodies, the publisher made the "perfect" clothing size a couple of notches more restrictive. It seems kids in the 80s lived by totally fat standards. Also, Sweet Valley High students now have their own anonymous blog, presumably to hatefully bully the fattest of their classmates.

A letter from Random House notes that those portly twins have slimmed down to a "perfect" size 4. They've also traded their red Fiat Spyder in for a red Jeep Wrangler, and Liz's job has moved from the student newspaper to the student Web site and her own gossip blog.

Because God forbid we should give our daughters inaccurate accounts of the unnatural physical standards to which they will be held. No reason for them to be spared the misery of poor body image just because they're reading out-of-date teen novels. Keep an eye out for Sweet Valley High books in which Jessica gets roofied and date-raped by Bruce Patman, Todd makes Elizabeth get breast implants (forcing Jessica to get them, too, so that they can continue their periodic twin-swapping routine), and Enid learns a very important lesson about self-respect after a drunken stint on Girls Gone Wild.

While we're rewriting history, someone should probably tell those tubby Babysitters Club chicks that it's time to hit the gym (except for Stacey, of course, who's had the advantage of diabetic skinniness since Book 3). And does Nancy Drew do Pilates? 'Cause she really might want to start. I'm not sayin' that Ned would have proposed already if it weren't for the excess junkage in her detective trunkage; I'm just sayin'.

Friday, March 28, 2008

On the good, the bad, the annoying as hell, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so I'm not the world's most positive person, but I try. While I'm not really a pessimist, I'm certainly not all about the sunshine and the rainbows. That's one reason I've purposely limited my "bad" section on Fridays to two items; it would be really, really easy to lose track of myself and spew out a page-long bitch list with all of the things that have gone wrong in the past week.

But sometimes, things just have to be said, and that's why this TGTBATFRT comes complete with a bonus list of pet peeves, because some things just have to be said.

1. "booty." Shudder. We're all adults here, and we can use any of the multitudinous euphemisms for "ass" that don't sound completely infantile. I once fell asleep in front of the TV and woke up to an infomercial for Yoga Booty Ballet; I thought I'd died in my sleep and was finally being punished for my sins. Exception: Mos Def.

2. "entitled." Double shudder. This one hits me right in the editor button. If you're talking about a book, magazine, or movie, you can safely go with "titled" and not sound like a complete nutscrub. Exception: Entitlement complexes.

3. "exspecially." It's not spelled that way, there's no reason to pronounce it that way. Period. Exceptions: None, fool.

4. "a myriad." This used to be behind "plethora" on the Peeve List but has jumped ahead since I've started hearing it used as a noun. "Myriad" is an adjective, people. It's a word that describes nouns. And if you're using it, you'd probably be better off using "various" anyway. Exceptions: None.

5. man's inhumanity to man. Exception: Cage fighting.

But on a more positive note,

What's good (for the week ending 3/28):

- the Egg McMuffin. The creator of said delicacy died Tuesday, and I think we should celebrate his life and his creation by indulging in greasy breakfast goodness today.
- having someone to hold your spare keys. Everyone needs at least one person in their lives who will, after two days without contact, enter their apartment without invitation just to make sure they haven't been eaten by wolves.
- Easter leftovers. Not quite as good as Thanksgiving leftovers, but still up there; sourdough rolls + ham + beet relish + potato salad = one hell of a leftover sandwich.
- Sally Hansen Diamond Strength No-Chip Nail Color in Chocolate Chiffon
- the calm before the storm

What's bad:

- the storm
- 4,000+ war dead. Seriously, are we done yet?

The Ten:

1. Diane Schuur, "Come Rain or Come Shine"
2. Vertical Horizon, "Give You Back"
3. Gioachino Rossini, "Domine Deus" from Petite messe solennelle
4. The Ocean Blue, "Ballerina Out of Control"
5. Miredys Peguero, "Dragonfly"
6. Bon Jovi, "It's My Life"
7. Annie Sellick, "Gravy Waltz"
8. Jump, Little Children, "B-13"
9. Steve Tyrell, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore"
10. The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"

What's good for you this week? That, your own pet peeves, and your Friday Random Ten all go in comments.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On smacking your girlfriend for Jesus

Okay, so I know a lot of you guys have been wondering, "But when is it okay to smack my girlfriend around? When is domestic violence acceptable? There have to be some circumstances under which it's appropriate for me to slap the bitch out of her, right?"

Lucky for you, Steelers chairman Dan Rooney has laid out some guidelines.
A day that started with the release of Steelers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson after he was charged with assaulting his former girlfriend Wednesday night, ended yesterday amid a series of statements by team chairman Dan Rooney to address what appeared to be a double standard in dealing with players involved in off-field domestic disuptes.

Wilson became the second player in 11 days to be charged in a domestic dispute with a woman. On March 8, Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison also was charged in an incident involving his girlfriend.

Harrison is still with the Steelers.

See, Wilson was charged with simple assault, harassment, and disorderly conduct when he clocked his ex-girlfriend in a bar. And that's not okay. Harrison was charged with simple assault and criminal mischief when he broke down his girlfriend's door, broke her cell phone in two when she tried to call 911, and slapped her with an open hand. Which is okay, if you have a good reason, which obviously he did.
"What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it," Rooney said of Harrison's initial intent with his son. "He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it."

See, if you have a good reason, it's okay to break down someone's door and beat them up. So if you ever feel the need to break down someone's door and smack them around and get away with it, make sure you have a good reason. Like getting someone baptized. That makes it all okay.

(H/T Feministing.)

On another sad milestone

Okay, so you know he's been thinking it.

Shorter Dick Cheney: 4,000 war dead were askin' for it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On where the crap I've been

Okay, so that question has been asked, albeit in a somewhat more polite manner. (Well, actually, not really. It was more like, "Post, already!" which isn't all that better on a politeness scale.) The answer to the question is, of course, "at work," and not the kind of work where I can slack off and write blog posts all day like I used to. Things have been significantly shaken up here of late, and that may result in light posting on my part. I don't intend to take another hiatus, but I can't guarantee the volume I was once able to produce. If you want to help ease my burden a bit, here's what you can do: Take one (1) person you know who's interested in and qualified for the role of marketing director at a small-to-medium university in Birmingham, Alabama. Point toward Birmingham, pull back, and release.

Seriously. The other day, I squeezed my stress ball so hard it bit me.

But there is happier news to be had. There is a new member of the Practically Harmless family, and she brings me much joy. And I think she's just as cute as a button. Have a look:

No, obviously, it's not a dog. Or a baby (God forbid). I'd love a dog, but my dog-negative apartment precludes that particular addition to my life (a situation that'll have to be remedied soon). But lacking a cuddly source of unconditional adoration, a piano is, for some, an adequate alternative. And this one's a doozie.

Meet Abbey. Abbey is a vintage Fender Rhodes Seventy-Three stage piano. She's not fully functional quite yet--she has a few sticky keys and a few staticky contacts--but she's lovely, and she's got that awesome sound that's unique to the Rhodes family. Shamefully, all I have in my musical repertoire at the moment is a Chopin prelude that I remember from my recital days, and that's... well, that's not what this piano was built for. But in terms of churning out a little bit of funk and/or blues, as I have every intention of doing in the near future, this is the crucial Step One.

So that's my newest addition, and I think it's a good one. Watch this space for updates on French skills, automotive maintenance, and vocal percussion. I think I might even be inspired to attempt pancakes on Saturday. I know, I'm a wildwoman.

On the good, the bad, and the Friday Random Ten

Okay, so I'm so slack about getting this stuff done (Fridays are a bizarrely busy day for me, and I feel it should be otherwise. There is no easing into the weekend for me; it's just charging along at blistering speeds and then slamming into a brick wall. Hello to the relaxation), and my slackitude never holds any consequences. I love that. I should do it more. I wonder what other areas of my life allow for consequence-free slackitude?


I'm not going to try to burden you with a TGTBATFRT-times-three, but I'll at least double up as my way of saying, "Sorry, I'm a slacker. Not much I can do about it. Except for, y'know, not slacking. Which I'm not going to do."

What's good (for the, crap, three-week period ending 3/21):

- The Talented Mr. Ripley. How have I not seen this excellent, disturbing Matt Damon movie already?
- the moment at which an overlong and boring meeting is finished
- Rojo
- chai
- having someone at home when you get there. I've got a friend crashing with me for a few days, and I'll tell you, it's kind of nice coming home at the end of a brutally tough day and having someone there to say, "Wow, you look stressed out. Why don't you sit down and tell me about it while I grab you a Pepsi?" I guess that's part of the appeal of having a dog, although those ring-tabs are tough to navigate for critters lacking opposable thumbs.
- this guy.
- going to an art exhibit and actually being able to make some kind of intelligent commentary on the art
- Brett Favre
- Leona Lewis. I wish I'd said something when I discovered her ages ago, because now that she's going to be huge in the US, no one will believe me that I was fan before it was cool.
- peanut butter

What's bad:

- Eliot Spitzer. As Doug so rightly points out, the whores come after work. Work first, then whores. Good that he resigned.
- Sister... you-know-what-ers*. If you're an idiot and want to out yourself for it, feel free, but don't go projecting on the rest of us who, arguably, aren't. If you're an idiot and you want to try and get in good with the boys' club by slagging off the entire rest of your gender, then... you-know-what* you.
- Kashi's sweet-and-sour chicken microwave dinners. Just yuck.
- the fifth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq. Are they better off because of it? Arguably. Would they be still better off if we had actually planned ahead instead of bombing the crap out of them and crossing our fingers in hopes that it would all work out? Probably. At the very least, there'd be more of 'em, and they'd probably be less ticked off at us. Whether or not our continued presence would help or hurt peace efforts in the region, I think it's safe to say that we've cocked this thing up from the very beginning, and the fact that so many of the folks in charge of it then are still running it now is a mystery to me.

The Ten Twenty:

1. Dave Brubeck, "Heigh-Ho"
2. Lauryn Hill, "When It Hurts So Bad"
3. Evanescence, "Lies"
4. Lauryn Hill, "Ex-Factor"
5. Ella Fitzgerald, "Mack the Knife"
6. Serge Gainsbourg, "Joanna"
7. Sade, "Pearls"
8. Marilyn Horne, "Pineapple Rag"
9. Jewel, "Intuition"
10. Michael Bublé, "La Vie en Rose"
11. Sarah Vaughan, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"
12. Nickel Creek, "Sweet Afton"
13. Howie Day, "Sorry So Sorry"
14. Cyndi Lauper, "I Drove All Night"
15. A Tribe Called Quest, "God Lives Through"
16. Elvis, "Are You Lonesome Tonight"
17. Arlington Priest, "Why Need Not Love"
18. Mos Def, "Close Edge"
19. Eminem, "Lose Yourself"
20. Kay Starr, "More Than You Know"

Unusually jazz-heavy. I'm always suspicious of the randomness of my shuffle feature; I think it gets into moods sometimes. Anyway, that's my ten-times-two; yours goes in comments. What's good for you this week two three weeks?

Incidentally, for anyone who happens to be traveling this weekend--Travel safe, have fun when you get there, don't forget to write. Best of luck with everything. Do not forget to keep in touch; I want to hear all the details.

*End of Lent in T minus two days

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On another milestone

Okay, so I'd be horribly remiss not to acknowledge Doug's third blogiversary over at Hey Jenny Slater. Be sure to drop by, if you haven't already, and blow a little sunshine up his tucchus on this hallowed occasion.

On a fond Favrewell

Okay, so I know I haven't posted lately--I've been up against deadlines like whoa at work--but I did want to observe one passing that pokes me in the heart just a little bit with a stiffened, jabby fingertip.

Enjoy your retirement, Brett Favre. You've earned it.

Now, don't go telling me that Favre is hardly the NFL superstar that he used to be, or that he might have become, or that he might have once been, or that he might have once been positioned to be, or that he could have at one point been positioned to have beecomen. A three-time AP MVP and two-time Super Bowl winner, he did slow down just a scootch in the end, probably because he'd been playing the game professionally for 17 years and was kind of tired. He still has a buttload of QB records to drag into sunny retirement with him.

I guess I'm just kind of boggling at the thought of a National Football League without Brett Favre in it. I was ten years old when he was drafted by the Falcons in 1991, and I know I hadn't yet discovered the addictive wonder that is football, so pretty much the entire time I've cared about the sport, he's been in it, kicking behinds and chewing bubble gum.

But what's always gotten to me is the way he's just a solid guy. Despite having a heck of a time of it at various points throughout his life, he's never (with the exception of his Vicodin rehab in '96) really gotten himself into Michael Vick-levels of trouble. And despite being the consummate badself, he's never really gotten himself into Terrell Owen-levels of ego and self-inflation. He does charity work and volunteer work and actually seems to enjoy it. He seems like a really nice guy, not even by the "I'd like to have a beer with him" standard but by the "I'd like to bring my kid over to play with his kid and we can stand by the barbecue grill and watch them throw the football around" standard.

So although I mourn, on behalf of all pro football fans, his loss to the sport, I can't even resent him his retirement. He said himself that he could continue playing if he wanted to, and he just plain didn't, and I respect that. If anyone's earned a nice retirement, it's him, and I hope he has a good time with it.

And if he'd like to spend it in the announcing booth, I've got to... encourage him not to. Let's just leave our memories the way they are, shall we?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On a woman who can speak for herself

Okay, so Jill over at Feministe was kind enough to burden us all with the knowldge that there exist in the world women like Charlotte Allen:
I can’t help it, but reading about such episodes of screaming, gushing and swooning makes me wonder whether women — I should say, “we women,” of course — aren’t the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial. Women “are only children of a larger growth,” wrote the 18th-century Earl of Chesterfield. Could he have been right?

But let's not risk an accusation of taking her out of context. There's a whole lengthy column in the Washington Post about how stupid women are, and she should know, 'cause she's a woman. Enjoy:
Here’s Agence France-Presse reporting on a rally for Sen. Barack Obama at the University of Maryland on Feb. 11: “He did not flinch when women screamed as he was in mid-sentence, and even broke off once to answer a female’s cry of ‘I love you, Obama!’ with a reassuring ‘I love you back.’ ” Women screamed? What was this, the Beatles tour of 1964? And when they weren’t screaming, the fair-sex Obama fans who dominated the rally of 16,000 were saying things like: “Every time I hear him speak, I become more hopeful.” Huh?

She means that every time she listens to a speech by Barack Obama, she looks forward to a future where he's president, because she believes he'll accomplish good things as president. It's okay, Peaches. Grownup writing is complicated sometimes.
“Women ‘Falling for Obama,’ ” the story’s headline read. Elsewhere around the country, women were falling for the presidential candidate literally. Connecticut radio talk show host Jim Vicevich has counted five separate instances in which women fainted at Obama rallies since last September. And I thought such fainting was supposed to be a relic of the sexist past, when patriarchs forced their wives and daughters to lace themselves into corsets that cut off their oxygen.

She does have a point there. Since the corset was done away with in favor of unhealthy dieting practices and a societal embracing of obesity, no one has ever gotten overheated, had low blood sugar, hyperventilated, forgotten to eat lunch, or gotten sick. Except, of course, for those dumb, hysterical women who get excited about Barack Obama.
I can’t help it, but reading about such episodes of screaming, gushing and swooning makes me wonder whether women — I should say, “we women,” of course — aren’t the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial. Women “are only children of a larger growth,” wrote the 18th-century Earl of Chesterfield. Could he have been right?

No, Peaches, he couldn't have. Not according to the findings of medical science, anyway. Screaming and gushing are expressions not of some innate stupidity or immaturity but excitement, and in these dismal days of politics, I'd think that excitement would be a good thing. Not to mention the fact that, hey, hello to the double standard; if they'd been shouting and pumping their fists in a sufficiently manly way, or even being moved to tears but having a penis, I'm sure they'd get a pass from Ms. Allen. But then, she can't speak for men anyway; she's not a man. She's a woman, giving her the authority to tell the world exactly how stupid we are.
And obviously men do dumb things, too, although my husband has perfectly good explanations for why he eats standing up at the stove (when I’m not around) or pulls down all the blinds so the house looks like a cave (also when I’m not around): It has to do with the aggressive male nature and an instinctive fear of danger from other aggressive men. When men do dumb things, though, they tend to be catastrophically dumb, such as blowing the paycheck on booze or much, much worse (think “postal”). Women’s foolishness is usually harmless. But it can be so . . . embarrassing.

Well, now I'm starting to buy her argument that women may, in fact, be stupid; she's certainly making the case for her own stupidity, anyway. Peaches, he doesn't eat standing up in the kitchen because he's instinctually guarding against aggression from other males. He does it because he's too lazy to put any amount of distance between his body and the fridge before he starts shoveling in the food. For the record, he doesn't eat his fried chicken cold because of his animal instincts to eat his food raw or because he wants to make KFC tartare; he just can't be arsed to heat it up. But well on you for being the supportive mug of a wife who'd believe it.

It's good for you to be embarrassed by female foolishness, though. Step 1 is to look in a mirror...
Take Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. By all measures, she has run one of the worst — and, yes, stupidest — presidential races in recent history, marred by every stereotypical flaw of the female sex. As far as I’m concerned, she has proved that she can’t debate — viz. her televised one-on-one against Obama last Tuesday, which consisted largely of complaining that she had to answer questions first and putting the audience to sleep with minutiae about her health-coverage mandate. She has whined (via her aides) like the teacher’s pet in grade school that the boys are ganging up on her when she’s bested by male rivals. She has wept on the campaign trail, even though everyone knows that tears are the last refuge of losers. And she is tellingly dependent on her husband.

A stupid campaign that... is working, apparently, judging by the primary returns from last night. And we won't go into the fact that football players and our very own president can succumb to similar displays of emotion without catching half of the crap that Clinton caught for hers. Nor will we go into the fact that John Edwards let Elizabeth do a lot of his fighting against detractors for him, even taking on Skelator Coulter, without anyone questioning his manliness or indicating that he might be "tellingly dependent" on her. Whatever, you're right, Hillary Clinton isn't manly enough to be a woman, or something.
What is it about us women?

What, this monolithic hivemind that is femininity? Dunno, can you be more specific?
Why do we always fall for the hysterical, the superficial and the gooily sentimental? Take a look at the New York Times bestseller list. At the top of the paperback nonfiction chart and pitched to an exclusively female readership is Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.” Here’s the book’s autobiographical plot: Gilbert gets bored with her perfectly okay husband, so she has an affair behind his back. Then, when that doesn’t pan out, she goes to Italy and gains 23 pounds forking pasta so she has to buy a whole new wardrobe, goes to India to meditate (that’s the snooze part), and finally, at an Indonesian beach, finds fulfillment by — get this — picking up a Latin lover!

Spoken like a true woman with a perfectly okay (but unexceptional) husband, a steady (but unfulfilling) job, and a social life that's more cats than anything else who wants deeply to chuck it all, move to Italy, eat herself fat on baked ziti, and screw some hot Latin dude on a southeast Asian beach but doesn't have the stones. I can identify. I have a friend who's currently preparing to move to Las Vegas to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a professional poker player. I tried to convince him how ridiculous it was until I realized how jealous I was that I didn't have the huevos to chuck it all and move to Vegas. Now I'm wishing him well and figuring out how I can gather the fortitude to follow my dreams. Even if they may involve Italian food, significant weight gain, and sand in the cooch.
This is the kind of literature that countless women soak up like biscotti in a latte cup: food, clothes, sex, “relationships” and gummy, feel-good “spirituality.” This female taste for first-person romantic nuttiness, spiced with a soupcon of soft-core porn, has made for centuries of bestsellers — including Samuel Richardson’s 1740 novel “Pamela,” in which a handsome young lord tries to seduce a virtuous serving maid for hundreds of pages and then proposes, as well as Erica Jong’s 1973 “Fear of Flying.”

Whereas novels by Tom Clancy (war pr0n), Stephen King (horror pr0n), and John Grisham (law pr0n) are innately valuable to an inexpressible degree because they... are... read by people who have pensises? Stop trying to trap me with your logic and go back to your romance novel, woman!
Then there’s the chick doctor television show “Grey’s Anatomy” (reportedly one of Hillary Clinton’s favorites). Want to be a surgeon? Here’s what your life will be like at the hospital, according to “Grey’s”: sex in the linen-supply room, catfights with your sister in front of the patients, sex in the on-call room, a “prom” in the recovery room so you can wear your strapless evening gown to work, and sex with the married attending physician in an office. Oh, and some surgery. When was the last time you were in a hospital and spotted two doctors going at it in an empty bed?

Dude, I work for one of the largest health systems in the southeast. You have no idea. General Hospital pales in comparison.
Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true. Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men’s 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women. The only good news was that women tended to take fewer driving risks than men, so their crashes were only a third as likely to be fatal. Those statistics were reinforced by a study released by the University of London in January showing that women and gay men perform more poorly than heterosexual men at tasks involving navigation and spatial awareness, both crucial to good driving.

Women are bad drivers? Really, Charlotte Allen? This is our argument? That women are worse drivers by half an accident every million miles? Really? I'm looking forward to your next two columns, "Asian people are really smart" and "Black people hate dogs and can't swim." They'll be page-turners, I'm sure.

Besides, who'd you rather drive with: the person less likely to get into an accident, or the one less likely to kill you in an accident? I'll be waiting in the car.
The theory that women are the dumber sex — or at least the sex that gets into more car accidents — is amply supported by neurological and standardized-testing evidence. Men’s and women’s brains not only look different, but men’s brains are bigger than women’s (even adjusting for men’s generally bigger body size). The important difference is in the parietal cortex, which is associated with space perception. Visuospatial skills, the capacity to rotate three-dimensional objects in the mind, at which men tend to excel over women, are in turn related to a capacity for abstract thinking and reasoning, the grounding for mathematics, science and philosophy. While the two sexes seem to have the same IQ on average (although even here, at least one recent study gives males a slight edge), there are proportionally more men than women at the extremes of very, very smart and very, very stupid.

Of course, as a foolish female, she can't be expected to know that intelligence is linked less to brain size than to the wrinkliness of the surface of the brain, and that women tend to have wrinklier and more gray matter-rich brains than men. Or to recognize that, with more men at both extremes of the IQ range, the greater number of statistical geniuses is balanced out by a greater number of absolute numbskulls.
I am perfectly willing to admit that I myself am a classic case of female mental deficiencies. I can’t add 2 and 2 (well, I can, but then what?). I don’t even know how many pairs of shoes I own. I have coasted through life and academia on the basis of an excellent memory and superior verbal skills, two areas where, researchers agree, women consistently outpace men.

If that is, in fact, the case, which, judging from this column, I'm willing to question, what's the problem? If you're able to function perfectly well using the skills at your disposal, what does it matter that your skills aren't the same as some other people's? I can't play the violin like my friend Gabriela or do a Chewbacca scream like my friend Ben, but I don't go around talking like everyone who can't do one of those things is inherently inferior to anyone who can. You do what you're good at and what you enjoy doing, and you leave others to do the stuff that you're not good at and they are. That's why we live in a society: so we don't all have to be good at everything.

Why would you need to walk around knowing exactly how many pairs of shoes you have anyway?
So I don’t understand why more women don’t relax, enjoy the innate abilities most of us possess (as well as the ones fewer of us possess) and revel in the things most important to life at which nearly all of us excel: tenderness toward children and men and the weak and the ability to make a house a home. (Even I, who inherited my interior-decorating skills from my Bronx Irish paternal grandmother, whose idea of upgrading the living-room sofa was to throw a blanket over it, can make a house a home.) Then we could shriek and swoon and gossip and read chick lit to our hearts’ content and not mind the fact that way down deep, we are . . . kind of dim.

I'll tell my friend Derek that my capacity for tenderness toward children and men make me an ideal homemaker. He'll probably faint from the shock, and that'd be entertaining, because he's a big guy and would make a big thud when he fell over. I'm pretty darn good at making a house a home, though, even if I've yet to master the art of pancakes.

Here's my advice for Char: Take your advice. Take those skills you're good at, the caring for men and children and the weak, and the housekeeping, and do those things. Interior decorating doesn't seem to be your thing, so maybe don't do so much of that. Hire someone, maybe; find someone who is good at it. Here are other skills that don't really seem to be your forte: generalizing personal traits out to entire populations, trying to get in good with the guys by stabbing your fellow women in the back, and interpreting scientific studies. And none of that is because you're a woman; those are just talents that you don't have and that you might want to leave to people who are good at them.

In other words, woman, get back in the kitchen.