Category Archives: Observations

Reflections on #ThemToo

I recently learned of sexual misconduct allegations against someone who used to be a good friend.

Although I am unfamiliar with all the sordid specifics or accuracy of these allegations, they don’t align with this individual’s character as I knew it.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t true, but they just don’t jibe with my own experience.

As I was attempting to wrap my head around this, I started thinking about other victims we don’t hear about: an accused person’s friends and family. They may or may not have been aware of a problem.  They may or may not have been complicit.  But surely they must be experiencing some fallout themselves — perhaps from friends, family, colleagues or neighbors who want to distance themselves from someone connected to scandal.

That’s a pretty lonely place to be.

My point is, it’s always more complicated than the headlines suggest.  And maybe, amongst all our collective outrage, we might spare a little compassion for #themtoo.

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Is Every Day Cosplay?

One of my favorite aspects of blogging is how many new things I learn from my fellow bloggers: history, book recommendations, recipes, philosophy, etc.

This week, I was introduced to the term, “cosplay”, which has been in use for over a decade but had not blipped across my radar. For anyone else unfamiliar with this word, it’s an amalgam of costume + play, and is defined as the practice of dressing up as a fictional character from a comic book, movie, book, TV show or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime. For some, their alter egos may emerge only at conventions; others dress up whenever the mood strikes, which may include sometimes dressing as men and sometimes as women.

Reading about this, I wondered: Don’t all of us, to some degree or another, “dress up” for our forays into the wider world?  We sheathe ourselves in the armor of a well-fitting suit, feel braver, and do daily battle in the role of “successful businessman” or “boss”.  We wear designer clothes and appear richer than we might really be.  Some of us are drawn to clothes from our youth, such as bohemian styles that telegraph: Yes, I may work in a corporate job but I’m basically funky.

My own natural inclination is a “uniform” of jeans and a silk shirt or cashmere sweater.  I gravitate towards scarves and accessories that make me feel pulled together at even the most casual gathering. Put me in a dress or skirt and I’ll never feel 100% like “me”.  And at heart I’ll always be a New Yorker, so black is my favorite color. The occasional bright or pastel I wear probably has some element of role-play attached to it.

I’ve now lived in Texas nearly ten years — who’d-a-thunk-it?!– but I would definitely be cosplaying if I pulled on cowboy boots, even if I looked like everyone around me.

How about you? Does your outside match your authentic self? Does it vary? Please share!

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Realistic Fantasies

It’s a subtle change.

One minute, our dream partner is rich/brilliant/gorgeous/could make a porn star blush. A few decades later, and our idea of what’s hot has undergone a seismic shift.

Must be nature’s way of ensuring we don’t all throw ourselves under a bus after age 40.

SEXY THEN                                      SEXY NOW

A full head of hair                           Any hair

All night sex                                     All night sleep

Hot car                                              Hot chauffeur

Six-pack abs                                     Puts six pack in recycling bin

Good listener                                   Selective hearing

Valuable possessions                     Values

Nice smile                                        Has most of his original teeth

Great in bed                                    Makes the bed

Smart                                                Wise

Erotic talk                                        Knows when to shut up

Heavy breathing                            Still breathing

 

Here’s to the imperfectly perfect people we love! xx, Alisa

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Who Was Mrs. Grundy?

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Have you ever heard a person described as a “Mrs. Grundy” (a humorless arbiter of strict conventionality) and wondered about its origins? I did.

Turning to Wikipedia, I discovered that Mrs. Grundy was a fictional English character whose unwavering adherence to rigid respectability came to represent other people’s judgement of everyday behavior. She’s first mentioned (though she never appears onstage) in Thomas Morton’s 1798 play Speed the Plough, in which one character, Dame Ashfield, continually worries about what her neighbour Mrs. Grundy will say of each development.

By the 19th century, this figure of speech was commonplace, and the tendency to be overly fearful of what others might think was sometimes referred to as Grundyism.

[Excerpted from Wikipedia]:

The Play

In the first scene of the play, Dame Ashfield’s mention of Mrs. Grundy provokes a scathing response from her husband.

Ashfield. Well, Dame, welcome whoam. What news does thee bring vrom market?
Dame. What news, husband? What I always told you; that Farmer Grundy’s wheat brought five shillings a quarter more than ours did.
Ash. All the better vor he.
Dame. Ah! the sun seems to shine on purpose for him.
Ash. Come, come, missus, as thee hast not the grace to thank God for prosperous times, dan’t thee grumble when they be unkindly a bit.
Dame. And I assure you, Dame Grundy’s butter was quite the crack of the market.
Ash. Be quiet, woolye? Aleways ding, dinging Dame Grundy into my ears — what will Mrs Grundy zay? What will Mrs Grundy think — Canst thee be quiet, let ur alone, and behave thyzel pratty?

A real Mrs. Grundy?

During the reign of William IV (1830–1837) a Mrs. Sarah Hannah Grundy was employed as Deputy Housekeeper at Hampton Court Palace one of Henry VIII of England‘s most famous residences, a position that would have required her to keep a sharp eye out for various infractions.

Ernest Law, chief historian of Hampton Court, noted that a “Mrs Grundy” did really exist.

“That lady was, as a fact, embodied in the housekeeper of that name at Hampton Court Palace in the late ‘forties and early ‘fifties of [the 19th] century. Her fame is perpetuated in a dark space — one of the mystery chambers of the palace — the door of which is rarely opened, and which is still known as ‘Mrs Grundy’s Gallery.’

Here she impounded any picture or sculpture which she considered unfit for exhibition in the State rooms; and here she kept them under lock and key in defiance of the authority and protests of the Queen’s surveyor of pictures. The story goes that on one occasion the First Commissioner of Works, on a visit of inspection, sent for Mrs Grundy. In answer to the First Commissioner’s request, she declined to open the door for him. It was not until the early 1900s that a leaden statue of Venus, which had been sent from Windsor, and was stored in Mrs Grundy’s Gallery, was brought forth to adorn Henry VIII’s pond garden. “What would Mrs Grundy say?” 

However, a book published in 1836 shows that the expression was already in common use before the arrival of the Hampton Court housekeeper. In The Backwoods of Canada Being Letters From The Wife Of An Emigrant Officer, Illustrative Of The Domestic Economy Of British America, by Catharine Parr Traill, the author writes: “Now, we bush-settlers are more independent: we do what we like; we dress as we find most suitable and most convenient; we are totally without the fear of any Mr. or Mrs. Grundy; and having shaken off the trammels of Grundyism, we laugh at the absurdity of those who voluntarily forge afresh and hug their chains.”

The Victorians

The Victorian era ushered in a new morality comprised of decency, serious-mindedness, propriety and community discipline, as well as hypocrisy and self-deception. In the 1841 novel Phineas Quiddy, author John Poole wrote, “Many people take the entire world to be one huge Mrs. Grundy, and, upon every act and circumstance of their lives, please, or torment themselves, according to the nature of it, by thinking of what that huge Mrs. Grundy, the World, will say about it”.  In 1869, John Stuart Mill referred to Mrs. Grundy in The Subjection of Women, noting that “Whoever has a wife and children has given hostages to Mrs. Grundy”.

Will future lexicographers describe behavior that is embarrassing, belligerent, ignorant and vulgar with the expression, “Trumpism”?

 

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July to all in the US! This really, though, should be an international holiday.

Let’s declare July 4th to be Independence Day Worldwide. With independence from:

  • Bullying
  • Bigotry
  • Pettiness
  • Negativity
  • Intolerance
  • Humorlessness
  • Bad pizza
  • Bad hair days
  • Bad skin
  • Our exes
  • Know-It-Alls
  • Money worries
  • Indifference
  • Climate change denial
  • Holocaust denial
  • Bad grammar
  • Lack of imagination
  • Fear
  • Garden pests
  • Overpriced anything
  • Lousy service

I could go on and on…. what would you add?

Happy #IDW!

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Good News Monday: There’s (A Bit) Less Secondhand Smoke In The Air

Belated good news, released late last fall: fewer Americans are lighting up these days. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking was down to 14%, versus more than 40% back in the mid-60’s.

Even the French have cut back.  2017 saw a drop of one million smokers, and there’s been a decline among teenage smokers as well.

I’m breathing easier just knowing this. Still, it’s hard to imagine that anyone still smokes these days, given the well-documented health risks. What’s happening in your country?

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