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My Scientifically Selected Ideal Mate: Woman Seeking Woman

So, I took the Physical Attraction Test at Match.com again, this time as a woman seeking women. While I found most of the men thrown my way during this test just plain depressing, the chicks were hot! I don't think my taste in men is that much more exotic than my taste in women, but not one of the gents I looked at made me go all gooey, not even Mr. Ecto-Mesomorph, while all the ladies were at least marginally attractive, and many of them were knock-outs. Why no hot guys, Match.com? Are the guys hotter when you're a man seeking men than a woman seeking men? I hope so, because no self-respecting gay man of my acquaintance would give the time of day to the out-of-shape, poorly coiffed fellows I encountered taking this test.

My Favorite RackI was also a little surprised to discover that, while I was invited to judge general body types for both men and women, I also got to choose from a variety of breasts while looking at the ladies. There was no corresponding opportunity to judge a man's package during my trip through the test as a heterosexual female. What the hell?

March 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Better Dating Through Science

My typeI gather that this is already making the rounds, but heaven knows I luv a personality test. While the good people who manage the personals ads for The Onion helped me find a fiancé, Match.com has harnessed the awesome power of face-recognition technology to select my perfect mate. Allow me to introduce Mr. Ecto-Mesomorph, otherwise known as "Pretty Boy." Sure, I've always known that I've had a type—I like skinny hipster, mostly, preferably with glasses—but now I know my type with scientific certainty:

Some may call one of your types "Pretty Boys," but all you know is that they're gorgeous. The combination of classic good looks with small noses, beautiful eyes, and full lips is hard to resist. These guys tend to be clean shaven, have clear skin, and get good hair cuts. They're taking good care of themselves so they can be "pretty" just for you! (Well, you and the 1 in 3 women (33%) that are also after them!)

I also know that I have a sub-type:

A subgroup of men you picked can only be described as "Hunks." They have a clean-cut, "All-American" look. They're very handsome, without being either "pretty" or overly "rugged." Their face shape and jawline are typically very masculine and strong, while the "inner face" brings more delicate features like a small to medium nose, beautiful eyes, and full lips. It's a balance between the masculine and the feminine that make these guys so irresistible. In fact, these guys have been chased after all their lives, by 1 in 3 women (35%).

It's interesting to note that Ted, my fiancé, falls more into my sub-type than my primary type, except that he has a beard, which is neither "clean-cut" nor "All-American." Call him, instead, "Professor Hunk".

It's also interesting to note that I had trouble getting into this test, because whenever my instinct was to label a guy a total "turn-off", I would hesitate and think, "But maybe he's really nice. Maybe he's smart and funny and talented." I am such a girl, but apparently not the only one who encountered challenges on her way to an ideal mate. Ms. Lindsayism writes, "nearly all of the choices were unattractive because I didn't like their haircuts and I kept having to squint and imagine them with better hair and holding guitars."

March 26, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Letter I Just Sent to the Washington Post

In his piece about Cargo, Peter Carlson writes, that Lucky magazine was born of the idea that "Women are too dumb to read magazine articles. They just want to look at pictures of shoes and makeup and handbags and hairdos."

I subscribe to Lucky not because I'm too dumb to read magazine articles, but because most articles in women's magazines are too dumb to read. I appreciate being able to look at pictures of shoes and makeup and handbags without being told how to please a man in bed or decode guy-speak or lose that last 10 pounds.


March 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Straight from the Urinal's Mouth

As a woman of the world, I am not easily offended, nor am I often shocked. However, I do find the following—from designer Meike van Schijndel's response to the tiny uproar created by her Kisses urinal—outrageous:

'Kisses' is made as an art-piece with a wink to reality. The thought that this urinal only represents a man peeing in a womans mouth, never even occurred to me while making it. Lighten up, it just a cartoonish looking mouth, there are worst things in the world to get all worked up about.

We get loads of great responses to the Bathroom Mania! designs and 'Kisses' urinal of both men and women who think it's a great idea and can't wait to see one in real life. I think that says enough.

Luckily for all those women who feel offended, they will never run into a 'Kisses' urinal at a restroom. ;-)

Yes, Meike, there are worse things in the world to get all worked up about, but that is a rather facile response to the people who are worked up about your urinal, and I can tell you from experience that instructing someone who's already pissed off to "Lighten up" generally does nothing to expiate their frustration; rather, it tends to exacerbate it. And this artists' statement doesn't exactly clear things up for me. For example, I'm as postmodern as the next gal, but I find it hard to understand how a man peeing in a woman's mouth doesn't represent a man peeing in a woman's mouth.

Beyond that, Schijndel's expression of surprise that anyone could be offended by her work—a sentiment echoed by Virgin—is either bizarrely naive or utterly disingenuous, and I find the level of discourse evinced by the urinal's defenders to be infantile. The first assumption is that it's impossible for a woman to belittle women or offend another woman, which is, of course, preposterous. It's also reductive and ridiculous to suggest that only women are disturbed by the denigration of women. Finally, the suggestion that it's all right to depreciate women as long as they never find out about it is irritating in the extreme—and the winky emoticon really doesn't make me feel better about it.

March 24, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What I Want to Know Is, Where's the Coordinating Bidet?

Kisses! The new Sexy Urinal by Bathroom ManiaMon Mar 22, 7:57 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Virgin Atlantic Airways on Friday scrapped plans to install bright-red urinals shaped like women's open lips at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, saying it had received complaints they were offensive.

"Virgin Atlantic was very sorry to hear of people's concerns about the design of the 'Kisses' urinals to be fitted into our clubhouse at JFK Airport. We can assure everyone who complained to us that no offense was ever intended," Virgin spokesman John Riordan said in a statement.

Riordan said the British company received several dozen complaints from people and groups including the National Organization for Women after its plans for the urinals had been made public. NOW had posted a message on its Web site urging members to complain to Virgin chief Richard Branson.

"I don't know many men who think it's cool to pee in a woman's mouth, even a porcelain one," said NOW President Kim Gandy on the group's Web site.


March 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Free Martha

Ted, my fiancé, and I weren't planning to register anywhere for wedding gifts. I find the whole business slightly tacky, and we're both grown-ups. We've each been living on our own long enough to accumulate toasters, dishes, pots, and pans, and neither one of us has any interest in fine china or silver or crystal. But married friends told us, repeatedly, that it would be folly to not register, and then we found the I Do Foundation. We both felt a little better about asking for nice bakeware and good knives and a two-person hammock knowing that, with every gift purchased, a little money would be kicked back to charity.

I really, really want this.
Anyway, Martha Stewart's Catalog for Living was one of the merchants where we registered for gifts. A few days ago, however, I got a message from the I Do Foundation saying that the company was no longer one of their partners. This was a major disappointment to me, as I really, really wanted that Kitchen Aid mixer in Martha's green. Obviously, I can blame Stewart's recent brush with federal prosecutors and its cultural fallout for this upsetting turn of events. I've been kind of pissed off about the way the media have handled the Stewart case all along, but now it's personal.

In his March 22 New Yorker article, Jeffrey Toobin offers a concise summary of the actions that might land Stewart in jail. Contrary to popular belief, she wasn't convicted of insider-trading: she was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and making false statements. Her crime was, essentially, lying to the government to cover up actions that were not criminal. The stocks she sold when ImClone was on the verge of disaster were a tiny part of her holdings, and the money she made on the sale was minimal. It was an entirely personal transaction. Her actions had no direct impact on the financial health of her company—a corporation that remains, for the time being, awash in cash. She didn't defraud her investors or her employees. Nevertheless, the media's sensational coverage of her case makes it look like corporate malfeasance of Enron proportions.

During her trial we learned that a company bookkeeper was responsible for balancing Stewart's checkbook and paying her bills. So what? When my friend Griffin was an "editorial assistant", one of his jobs was walking his boss's dogs—and "walking" is, of course, a euphemism for standing there, trying to look nonchalant, while the dogs take a shit and then cleaning up after them. The bookkeeper's job was to maintain the ledgers of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. For a CEO to expect this to include her personal finances, too, might seem imperious, but it's hardly unusual, and it's not nearly as egregious as suggesting that dog-walking is part of the job description for an entry-level position in publishing. And Stewart reimbursed her company for the bookkeeper's time. I don't think the editor Griffin worked for was carefully tracking the minutes he spent scooping poop off the sidewalks of Manhattan so that she could pay for his services out of her own pocket.

While the Toobin article is informative, the Us Weekly cover story of the same date—"The Fall of Miss Perfect", the giant yellow letters scream—is instructive in a a different way. It focuses almost entirely on her personal life, telling us what she's had for dinner over the past few weeks and that, according to Westport, Connecticut, resident Paula Conway, Stewart "looked terrible" on a recent trip to the movies. Anticipating that Stewart will do some time, the authors consulted a few famous ex-cons for their advice on surving life in the big house. Thus we get this bit of wisdom from Tommy Lee: "Jail is no fun."

Of course Us spares some column inches to parse Stewart's courthouse wardrobe, comparing it unfavorably to the more contrite ensembles of such celebrity defendants as Winona Ryder, Pamela Anderson, and Anna Nicole Smith. The authors note that, throughout the trial, Stewart carried a $6,000 bag, and they tsk-tsked the chinchilla-fur scarf we all saw again and again on cable news channels. I would like to point out that she wore the fur muffler on the day the verdict would be announced; thys, the jury had already made up its mind. I kind of admired the extravagance. It seemed like a long-suppressed but much-needed bit of self-expression, a sort of sartorial "fuck you" to the whole sorry proceedings. And, as for the Hermès, what percentage of the population recognizes a Birkin bag when they see it?

I'm not suggesting that Martha Stewart isn't kind of crazy, nor am I defending the culture of corporate assholery that seemed to reach its mad and horrifying crescendo in the '90s, when CEOs became gods among men. I don't think it's acceptable to berate and belittle ones colleagues, as Stewart clearly did—hell, she yelled at her own mother when the old lady was making on appearance on her show—nor is it anything other than psychotic to believe that the whims and desires of one individual should define a huge company. However, it's worth noting that, in this case, the corporation is, to a large extent, an extension of Stewart's whims and desires—her taste and style transformed into media products and bed linens and cake-decorating supplies. Michael Eisner might be synonomous with Disney, but nobody vacations at Eisnerland.

It's also worth noting that behavior that is apparently unacceptable in a female executive is tolerated—admired, even—in male executives. The Us Weekly article bothered to note that Stewart "hasn't spent as much time cultivating her relationships as developing her businesses." Don't we take that for granted in successful men? Business professionals are not generally known as family-oriented, people-pleasing nice guys, and the higher up the corporate ladder a man goes, the less we expect him to be a big sweetie. The fact is, a CEO who doesn't scare his employees at least a little is hardly worthy of the title. While the cubicle-dwellers might grumble among themselves, they generally accept that business is a cut-throat, fiercely competitive, testosterone-fueled world. They don't have utopian daydreams of a more congenial, co-operative working environment; rather, they fantasize about a future in which they're powerful enough to terrorize some underlings themselves. Unlike her male counterparts, though, Stewart doesn't get to be a demanding, aggressive, ambitious, results-driven visionary; instead, she's just a bitch.

The rewards of working for an impossible boss are not generally emotional ones. People put up with scary bosses for much the same reason we allow artists to be rude and scientists to be unkempt: genius makes its own rules, and, in her sphere, Stewart was—is—a genius. She turned a little catering company into a hugely lucrative and influential empire. She completely transformed magazine design, and, in doing so, popular aesthetics in general. She made patrician tastes available to the hoi polloi—how many K-Mart shoppers knew the significance of "thread count" before the advent of Martha Stewart Everyday? You can argue about whether her impact on American culture has been good or evil, but you cannot dismiss it as insubstantial, and I, for one, am going to be a little bit sad and a lot irritated if the Martha Stewart empire falls apart and its emperor goes to jail while Kenneth Lay still walks the streets. And I am, in closing, still kind of pissed that I won't be getting that mixer.

March 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Little Redecorating

As you have most certainly noticed, I've done a little redecorating around here. One glorious day last week, I opened my inbox to discover a delightful new masthead designed my friend Eric Gordon. I am so in luv with this masthead. I could gaze at its seafoam green, scallop-edged sweetness all day.

Aren't they just the cutest?Some of you know him already, but I would like to introduce Eric to those who don't. I've known him since high school—go bulldogs!—and he remains one of the swellest, nicest people I know. He likes robots and Lego astronauts. He knows a lot about fonts and Star Wars. Just a few days ago, he cracked me up with a reference to Swatch Guards. He's engaged to Kelly, a foxy gal with a sassy attitude whose gorgeously laidback style provides a pleasant counterpoint to Eric's somewhat more anxious personality (he has what we call "the hot brain").

Eric is a superlative designer. That much is obvious from the new masthead, but it's just as evident in everything he does. And, not only did he do me the incredible kindness of creating a masthead for my wee blog, but also provided me with the code I needed to add to my stylesheets to use it, and he gave me step-by-step instructions on updating the code—with helpful screenshots, no less. For all these reasons and more, I say, "Hurray for Eric!"

March 21, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What to Read: Hotel World by Ali Smith

I just got a copy of The Whole Story: And Other Stories by Ali Smith. I've been reading these charming, occasionally breath-taking tales when I'm between novels. Smith is a lovely writer, and she wears her art lightly: She's so good that you might not notice just how good she is.

Hotel WorldI was introduced to Smith when I read her novel Hotel World a few years ago. It's a wondrous, delightful book. The first chapter is exhilarating, one of the most original, most gorgeous bits of writing I have ever read. Smith's feat is all the more amazing when you consider that she begins her book with the first-person narrative of a young woman's death. The absolute opposite of morbid, this scene is a giddy hymn to existence.

Directly and obliquely, the characters in this novel describe madness, illness, despair, and extinction, and they're all brought together by the death that sets the story in motion. Despite this—or is it because of this?—Hotel World is magnificently, shockingly life-affirming.

Death is a difficult subject for an artist—not because it's so hard to write about, but because it's so easy. We distance ourselves from its reality not just with ritual and bureaucracy, but also with cliché and schmaltz. Smith's novel confronts death with imagination—beyond the fantasy of the opening aria, the dead girl's corpse has its own lingering interred identity—but she doesn't lie.

I interviewed Smith when Hotel World was first released in the US, after it had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the UK. It was a thoroughly satisfying conversation, brilliant and clever but utterly heartfelt. It was the kind of conversation that makes me fall in love a little.

Interview with Ali Smith

The opening pages of your book are astonishing. Sara, your dead girl, is so gleeful. Her words are like a children's story, filled with nonsensical images—savoring a mouthful of dust, for example—and sometimes bursting into gamboling free verse. How did you decide to turn a character's fatal accident and lingering half-life into a giddy celebration?

Ali Smith: I think the push behind this book is deeply celebratory—of life, its speed, how brilliant and wonderful it is, and a reminder that we have to live it to its and our best, to be our most alive. One of its epigraphs, "remember you must live," is an inversion of the classic memento mori motif. In Hotel World, the impetus, and the reminder, is to celebrate, to live well—that life is short, fast, over too quickly, and that it's so easy to forget how brilliant the sheer unfair drudge of living is. That's why it starts with the playful and liberated, but all-the-time-dissipating, energy of the going soul.

The disembodied ghost is, of course, a familiar entity, but I don't think I've ever read a story in which the body retains a separate personality of its own. What prompted this invention?

AS: Hmm. Good question. I know I was very consciously aware that this would be a book questioning the bindings between the spirit and the material, which is why it's so thematically concerned with social status and class and who has material power and who hasn't. That's how the book first formed—as a social parable about the hierarchical ladder of haves and have-nots. I think it followed from there that the basic place to fracture the physical and the spiritual is the moment of death or the opposition between—open door between—body and soul. One without the other is useless. Without spirit, the body wants nothing to do with anything, just wants to sleep in its box like an present that won't be opened; without body, the spirit is utterly frustrated—it can't feel the ground, can't enjoy the littlest commonplace thrilling sensation anymore.

Sara's shade loses words—and, finally, her name—as she drifts out of the world. Lise and Else have linguistic troubles, too. Sara's body, though, seems to have both vocabulary and memory intact. What's the relationship between language and being in Hotel World?

AS: Language is our means of expressing both potential and communication, and also our means of defining ourselves, pinning ourselves and others down, boxing ourselves and others more closely in. The book, I hope, demands that we fling the boxes open, that we challenge—or even just come to understand—our own means of communicating, even on the most basic level.

The dead girl is perfected, finished. She doesn't have to worry about potential anymore. Her ghost mourns lost language, like it mourns lost color, knowing the brilliant richness that is ebbing away. Else, the homeless girl, from being homeless and lost and ignored, feels that she has no power over anything, that even the words she says are more reduced, less audible or comprehensible than other people's. Lise—ill and caught up in the structures of employment, benefit, and rather bad art that have turned her into a sickly shade of herself—is reduced to corporate jingles and crazy job-speak. Penny, the journalist, is expert at light, linguistic mendacity—something she uses to protect herself at all times. All the people in the novel except for the dead girl are in flux, in potential space, and all are damming themselves—sometimes for safety, sometimes because there's no option—into a less potential space. Language is being: We are the words we use.

Interview conducted February 2002 by Jessica Jernigan. © 2002 Borders, Inc. All rights reserved.

March 18, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I'm Lucy

Lucy doesn't suffer fools gladly.Work: god, it's the worst. Seriously. I'm still trying to catch up from the two vacation days I took when Sarah Hand came to town (more on that later). While I return to my labors, please enjoy another quiz. I'm Lucy, by the way, which should come as a suprise to no one.

March 16, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Either this guy is heterosexual...

Lee is playing it straight.…or he is the author of the greatest Freudian slip of all time. On the last episode of "Playing It Straight," he actually uttered the words, "We're all just spinning our wheels, trying to top each other." [emphasis added]

March 14, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack