Monday, August 20, 2007

Comics, magazines, and marinade

First of all, are the readers out in Texas and the Midwest all right? Just asking.

And I apologize to the beautiful and talented Dondon for the length of this post. :-)

9/11 Season begins with a commemorative motorcycle ride and the news that the old Deutsche Bank building, which should really have been taken down long ago, had a 7-alarm fire in it that claimed two of our firefighters this weekend. How awful that it happened *there*, so close to Ground Zero, but how good that not many people were around. I'm so grateful for our firefighters, I really am. I'm grateful for everyone who willingly puts their lives on the line for others with not nearly enough compensation. I guess we should be grateful for people who try to remember the fallen from 9/11, too, from firefighters to corporate vice presidents to janitors. But there's no forgetting for anyone who was in NYC or loved someone who lived there, not really. I want to tell them, go remind someone else and leave us out of it, and by the way, the scene is not a goddamned tourist attraction. At least we didn't get a hurricane like Jamaica and Haiti and we didn't get flooded out like Texas and the Midwest (again!). And the smoke's cleared and we can get back to work. Still.

On another note entirely, does anyone really think the T-shirt a lot of tweenage girls have been wearing, "Friends are Forever, Boys are Whatever," is cute? I don't. I guess it's like a pseudo-feminist version of "bros before hos," but I don't like that, either. One of the main reasons it gets to me is that my very best friend growing up, Milhouse, was a boy, and he's still one of several male friends whom I love. You don't have to denigrate another group in order to say you're going to stand by your friends and not let romance completely mess up your priorities. Then there is the fact that some little girls will grow up to like girls instead of or along with boys. All in all, a stupid slogan that I hope fades away quickly.

Now for the main course. You ever like something very much, but you're so thoroughly marinated in it you don't realize exactly how big a part of your life it is? Comic strips are like that for me, and I didn't really get that until last year. They were the first things I read, at age three, along with signs. I'd fight my daddy for them--I guess it never occurred to me that I could have them once he turned to the sports section. After Daddy passed, when I was seven, Mom would half-heartedly fight me for them because it just felt so weird to have them all to myself without a tussle. Then my brother learned to read, and we'd have a real fight.

Now I subscribe to the Washington Post mainly for their three pages of comics plus Doonesbury and Dilbert. The New York Times doesn't have comics. That's one of the things that sucks about the New York Times. I love-love Pearls Before Swine and am frequently clipping them out or saving them to my computer. I often allude to the storyline of the dim crocodiles who want to eat their neighbor, Zebra, saying "Hello, zeeba neighbah!" when I see zebras in the zoo or L'Ailee in zebra prints. (L'Ailee doesn't find this nearly as funny as I do. :-) I have several PBS, Get Fuzzy, and Dilbert collections, and some of their merchandise, as well as every Calvin and Hobbes book ever published. Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!, Lio, and The Piranha Club are growing on me. I must follow the twisty storylines in "For Better or For Worse," where characters age in real time. I care about Elizabeth finding the right guy and Jim recovering from his stroke! Oh, and I absolutely have to forward particularly good strips, usually PBS, Fuzzy, or Non Sequitur, on occasion.

There's another medium I don't think about, but am marinated in, and I just realized it after writing to defend the right to read it. It's glossy, big-budget magazines, the kind where you can't tell the difference between advertising and editorial copy after a while and you get silly advice like, "Call your boyfriend at work and whisper, 'My waxer got carried away today!'" (I will never forget this gem from Cosmopolitan. I asked every straight or bi male friend I had what he'd think, and every one interpreted this allegedly seductive tidbit to mean that he'd have to visit his girlfriend at the hospital and expect her to be out of commission for a while.)

I know all kinds of things are wrong with the glossies, but I like them anyway. They're fun, and I can turn my brain off with most of them. (The decorating magazines actually turn my brain *on*, because I'm constantly checking ideas out and trying to reinterpret them, but that's an exception.) I loved the teen magazines all throughout my adolescence, phasing them out and getting womens' magazines as I got older; I love womens' ones now. My very favorites are Glamour, Allure, and Marie Claire. Vogue can be interesting, and I'll read L'Ailee's issues. Harper's Bazaar is like reading about a tribe of impossibly rich and skinny aliens, and Cosmo is ridiculous, just cotton candy for the brain. I read those at the doctor's office.

I'm not all that interested in fashion, because I'm short and chubby and fashion doesn't seem all that interested in me. I mainly go for something bright and flowy that fits, and I don't particularly care whether I'm in style or not. (L'Ailee tries to make me upgrade, and I indulge her sometimes because it makes her so happy and she's always right, but she knows it won't last.) I do love makeup, jewelry, and perfume, though, and I am sometimes just ahead of the curve in those arenas, believe it or not. I love new recipes, and ideas for entertaining, and of course decorating. While the relationship advice is mostly irrelevant to my situation, I have a little bit of history with males and can laugh, commiserate, or nod knowingly.

And then there's the fact that one of them saved my life, a long time ago. I had shoved the incident really far back in my mind. I mentioned bits of it on forums, but never blogged about it. I'm a fairly bright and strong woman, you know, and I would never allow myself to be hurt in a relationship, except for the one time I was. I believe I ought to discuss it now, just to show why I would defend magazines that so many people find antifeminist, stupid, or useless.

When I was thirteen and in seventh grade, I fell hard for a boy in the neighboring high school who had recently transplanted from England. Oh, wow, was he hot. I have always loved dark hair and olive skin on guys, and his was teamed with striking blue eyes. He looked good in his tight jeans, and then there was that accent. We first met when we were both waiting on a ride. He was fifteen, and had to rely on his older sister, a senior in their school. I could *not* believe he was talking to me, and then he asked for my number! Oh, *schnap*! Soon he became my first boyfriend.

He was definitely a status symbol of a boy to date. All the girls in my grade wondered how I'd pulled him, and some of the boys did, too. Hell, I wondered myself. As I said, I'm short and chubby. I was one of those rare female class clowns and a "brain," albeit one who had recently been diagnosed as dyscalculiate. I had bad skin, didn't know from clothes, and wore glasses and overly bright lipstick on my full lips--what the hell was he looking at?

Well, homework help, for starters. And by help, I mean, "doing it for him." How pathetic is it when a seventh-grader is writing a tenth-grader's English essays? I knew it was sad and sorry, and I'd never enabled cheating before, but I figured that was the price of admission. He had another price, and was set on my paying it. He figured that being fat and not having much self-esteem, eventually I would. He kept telling me it wasn't like I was going to do any better than him, but he could do better than me. I don't think he quite understood what he was doing, being that he was only 15, but that didn't make it right. He could hide his full creepiness from authority figures, too, including my mom. Anyway, my mom disliked him just because he wore an earring and was half-Indian, so I wasn't going to tell her there were real problems that she needed to look at. I needed some advice, and I needed it badly.

I got it from Seventeen. I'd heard about battered wives, of course, but I thought that had nothing to do with me. I'd never marry a guy like that! But an article in Seventeen said that abuse isn't just something that old married women deal with. Teenagers can be in abusive relationships, too. One young woman they interviewed told what read like the story of my life. They talked about verbal abuse. They talked about girls being pressured to have sex. They talked about physical abuse, and how the verbal could lead to it. They warned that if a boy ever hits you, you need to get away and do it fast. Lastly, they said it's important not to set a bad precedent for yourself as a grown woman.

So I pondered whether I should break up with the creep. I stopped doing his homework. He slapped me for refusing. I remembered the Seventeen writer's advice. I told him, "It's over." And I meant it. Later, I would find out that four other girls in both of our very large schools had been intimate with him in some way during the course of our relationship. (No wonder he needed homework help! Poor thing was exhausted!) One of them was doing his math for him, too. We found out about each other at the library across the street from our schools, when I cried in the bathroom because I felt lonely and undesirable and she asked me what was wrong. The other three girls came along quickly. We would have our revenge on him. We spread an STD rumor about him, which, considering the way he lived, didn't seem that far away to me. He had no more dates until he moved a few months later.

The self-righteous pieces of jackass meat at the American Family Association, and the people who support them, don't want a girl or woman to be empowered. They think Seventeen is one of the many magazines that give females horrible advice. But their advice saved my life and turned my feet off of a very bad road at a very early age. The creep (and I don't know how he grew up) was wrong. I did do better, much better. The other two relationships with guys that I've had, the ones that lasted a while and meant something, had their low points. They were like cars-fun at first and depreciated at the end. But they were not abusive, which is a profoundly different thing. I had learned that another human being isn't to be used as a status symbol. I had learned to date people who I can respect. Eventually, I even learned how to choose my lipstick colors wisely! The glossies helped me there, too!

In the Assemblies of God church, I was told not to read secular teen or womens' magazines. The advice was bad, the horoscopes were bad, tight or short clothes on the models were bad, the music recommendations were bad…bad, bad, bad, bad, bad! One of my youth pastors (that position had lots of turnover, which apparently is normal) tried to make us burn those magazines. A lot of girls did it. I didn't.

"Alternatives," like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family's Brio, for teen girls, were sold in a bookstore that they had in the lobby of my ginormous church. I tried them. They were "alternatives" in the sense that a chip of carob is an alternative to a Hershey's bar. Even today, Brio's editors and writers strive to induce a lot of guilt in young women, and offer almost no fashion or beauty help besides. They tell teen girls how to proselytize, too, and to treat their non-Christian neighbors as projects rather than friends.

Another way the glossies saved my life is that they were a crack in the window-they allowed a bit of non-Assemblies of God air to keep circulating in my brain. It hurts me now to see just how thoroughly the conservative Evangelicals want to marinate their members, especially the teens, in their worldview. I've seen it with my younger cousins, most of whom have worked hard to let outside air penetrate their minds in their own way. Goddamn, those mental windows are getting double-draped and caulked shut! I really truly think that's the main fear that some have regarding girls and women-not opening legs, but opening *minds*. And yes, a mind can be opened by a glossy magazine.

Can you stand to read anything else? If so, I have some links:

It's a redneck Wiccan joke come to life!

Just in time for 9/11 season, Rudy Giuliani tried to use and abuse it to his advantage. However, he proved that he can't be trusted with America's foreign policy.

Meanwhile, poor Hillary Clinton's running for president and doesn't have a thing to wear.

Hellooooooooo, zeeba neighbah!!!! As if I haven't promoted them enough, I have to tell y'all about the awesome new Crockydile merchandise at the Pearls Before Swine store! Why not replace your niece's "Boys are whatever" T-shirt with something inspirational, like "Now me lay me down to sleep, mow da zeebas down like sheep, give dem to me nice and dead, me no happy til me fed"? ;-)

Obviously the people who shun glossy magazines and give their daughters Brio to read don't want their kids being corrupted by YouTube, either. So they have GodTube. Mark Morford, again of course, has an opinion or two about that.

A brief history of the Amber Room. The Amber Room was a real point of pride for Russians, called "the eighth wonder of the world." What happened to it, and how it came to be known as cursed.

From that same issue of Smithsonian magazine: What happens at the summer rental stays at the summer rental…unfortunately. Absolutely hilarious essay. "We understand that the [light] fixture needs to be replaced and that we need to pay for it, but we respectfully suggest that a sign notifying future tenants of the fixture's weight limit would be helpful."

Lastly, the Top 20 Proposed Product Renamings. I'd buy way more Boca products if they took up on their suggestion!


Eugene said...

Here's another comic strip you might enjoy: F Minus. The comics are my main reason for maintaining a newspaper subscription, too.

Barbara said...

Ya know I do try to eat organic and all but I simply can't do carob. Cadbury's - accept no substitutes! LOL

Lawd, please save us all from the born-agains.

cats said...

how funny... you and my brother both blogged about comics... and how awesome that a teen mag saved your life.

you never know where truly good advice might come from.

Jaded said...

I love me some Cosmo, Glamour, People, Soap Opera Digest, and a bunch of other things when I'm having a "me" day. I can just stay in bed, read magazines, watch tv and Mr. Jaded takes care of Jadette and serves me my meals and snacks in bed. I don't get them very often, but those days require magazines!! It's a must!

ConnieJane said...

I am totally addicted to "For Better or for Worse" as well! This one little comic is better than anything I've ever seen on TV. It looks like Elizabeth will finally hook up with Anthony.

The entire family would fit into our neighborhood just fine.

LeLo in NoPo said...

I just saw this and it totally screams YOU!

Sunshine4MySky said...

I'm sorry but I have to ask... Do you read Calvin and Hobbes? That's my favorite comic. I try to read everything you write and let it settle, but just as I do, you ramble, so mid way through your post I find myself laughing out loud. because I think of something I am so adamant about that i posted.