Leaving to spend more time with my baby-flavored doughnuts

Well, bah. This is hardly the sort of thing to devote a post to. It belongs in some second-tier WordPress tab labeled “Things Muttered by A Sarah In An Offhand Way While Looking At The Floor, Immediately Before She Offers Pastries In Her Compulsive Approval-Seeking Way.” Oh well. Here’s what I’ve realized, folks: I’m a happier and (therefore) better commenter than I am a blogger. Partly this is because I find it much easier to write responses to things other people have said than to find something to put down on a blank page. Partly (maybe relatedly) it’s because I have never, ever, ever felt especially comfortable in the spotlight as myself. As Dottie Otley in “Noises Off” or Sheila in “The Boys Next Door”? Yes. As myself, giving words to my own thoughts and trying to project my own voice to the back of the auditorium? Dear God, no. NO. Let me whisper secrets to a dear friend or pour my heart out in the therapist’s office or the confessional and I’m in my element… but please don’t make me give a speech or a sermon or presentation without providing me with a stiff drink and a three-hour nap immediately upon stepping down from the podium.

Were I so inclined I could probably deconstruct this, and probably find lots of bad reasons for my feeling this way. (Internalized sexism. Various disorders listed in the DSM. Insufficient bravado. And a heaping helping of Nice White Lady, wherein I am irrationally given to believing that my privately-imagined flaws, my moral failings, and my heroic efforts to be a Good Girl are really, really interesting and command the attention of a the rest of the whole dadgum disapproving world… as evidenced by, for example, this parenthetical aside which you are currently reading.) I know. And I do try to pay attention to those, and to keep challenging myself to act in ways I haven’t been scripted to act.

The confounding factor, though, is that my life has changed a lot in the last six months. Specifically, I started a new job — a job where I have to be the person at the front of the room, or the person in charge of the website for the online class. I have much less time to give to anything other than work and family needs… and when I do have spare time I want to spend it doing ANYTHING other than being before an audience or having a leadership role in a group. Unfortunately, my joining the SP masthead predated my new job by only a couple of months. The result being, of course, that as soon as I became one of the bloggers I pretty much clammed up.

Anyway, I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I was really honored to be asked, though, and… ah geez, is there ANYTHING that can go here that isn’t a cliche’? It was an honor. I learned a lot. Thank you, co-bloggers, for the opportunity, for making me a better writer and person, and best of all for your friendship. Worn-out expressions all, but all true. (And also, here’s a private aside to the Shapelings who aren’t one of the four SP bloggers: Snarky’s and SM and FJ and Kate will ABSOLUTELY TAKE THE PISS out of me if they hear me say this SO DON’T TELL THEM, but I can’t shake the feeling that I didn’t do right by you… that I should have moderated more and written more and been in better touch with the other bloggers over email. It’s possible this is actually true, and it’s also possible that this feeling is just me being compulsively fractious with myself again. I have no idea. If an apology is called for, though, believe me that it’s offered and heartfelt.)

Okay, so that’s that. On to more important topics! I’m excited because I just found a source for locally-milled whole wheat flour, and I’m having fun thinking about what to make with it. Has there yet been a whole-wheat baby-flavored doughnut? Can you make whole wheat doughnuts?

Friday Semi-Fluff: Letters to Santa


This Christmas, the Pennsylvania Medical Society is asking children to ease up on the milk and cookies for Santa Claus. That way, his ample waistline won’t be further widened by the 787.5 million calories he would otherwise consume in that state alone.

No, see, I get that large chunks of this are written with a knowing wink to the adults. I get that this is somebody’s/bodies’ unsuccessful attempt at whimsy with a moral. I get it. But I also live in a house with two young PBS watchers. So when I see this:

The poll is part of the society’s annual campaign to highlight a Christmas tradition as a way to teach a health lesson to those who don’t park reindeer on the roof.

…it strikes a familiar chord. Yes, God forbid we have a situation involving BOTH children AND food that doesn’t teach a dad-blame HEALTH LESSON. Because that strategy — teaching children to associate tasty bites of food with shaming, moralizing lectures — has clearly proven SO successful to human happiness that we can’t afford to suspend it even for one stinking second during a holiday celebration.

“The average person gains 1.4 pounds per year, one pound of which is often gained over the holidays because of overeating,” said Pennsylvania Medical Society President James Goodyear, MD. “There’s no better time than right now to adopt the Santa Snack Plan — to help Santa and yourself not only on Dec. 24, but also all year.”

The Santa Snack Plan is a way to cut down Santa’s (and your) unhealthy eating, such as the strategy modeled by the small percentage of Pennsylvanians who said they would leave carrots, apple slices and celery sticks for St. Nick.

Yeah, ‘kay. Couple things. First, let’s note that it’s weird to call something the “Santa Snack Plan” when part of your whole pearls-clutching point is that the traditional and widely-favored Santa snacks are OMGBADFOODS! You might consider calling it the “Opposite of Santa Snacks Snack Plan” or the “We Can’t Stop Moralizing About Food Even One Evening A Year Snack Plan” or the “We’re Stuck At Home Having Snacks Because We’re So Obnoxious and Ungracious Nobody Will Have Us Over For Christmas Dinner For Fear of Being Lectured At Snack Plan.” Possibilities abound.

Second, uhhh, I’m pretty sure kids – especially any demographic that might, conceivably, Look To Santa As A Role Model For Their Own Eating Habits – are supposed to gain quite a bit more than 1.4 pounds a year. Whence the panic, O Pennsylvania Medical Society?

Third, I’m trying to figure out what the children’s thought processes are imagined to be, such that this particular health lesson is called for. Once a year, some kids in some parts of the world leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus. So the thinking is that kids love Santa, and Santa eats cookies, and therefore… kids will eat cookies cookies nothing but cookies until they puke and gain 1.4 pounds a year and get fat and become our national shame and drain health care dollars and die?

Right, well, is that before or after they go back in time, become Anatolian bishops, give lots of stuff to the poor, die, get canonized by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, have a feast day named for them, hang out for a few centuries, get coopted by Coca-Cola, move to the North Pole, hire elves, raise reindeer, and start making and delivering Wiis for all the children of the land? I mean, if Santa’s eating cookies is such an OVERWHELMINGLY TEMPTING EXAMPLE that children are POWERLESS TO RESIST HIM?

Or is the idea that parents leave the cookies out and then eat them, which is totally NOT OKAY because even in a season of celebration, the very worst thing you can be is a fat fat fatty fat cookie eater, a setter of bad examples for the children, who’s getting fatter by the year? A whole 1.4 pounds fatter!

They’re. Just. Cookies. Sheesh, people took notice when Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster felt the need to clarify that cookies are a “sometimes food.” But MOTHER OF PEARL, special once-a-year holiday things are the very SOMETIMESIEST of sometimes foods. But no. Sorry. Not even then, and not even for Santa.

(And say, incidentally, you know what makes yummy apple slices and refreshing carrot sticks* completely suck? When they’re given to you as a consolation prize along with a lecture about exercising unfailing control over what you eat, for the rest of your life, without taking a break, lest you eat the ohhh-soooo-tempting COOKIES that are not for YOU!)

So here’s your Friday Fluff assignment, Shapelings. Write an over-the-top joy-sucking, earnest, moralizing, Grinchy note to Santa to leave out with your lack of cookies. Here’s mine.

Dear Santa: Suck it. You’re fat. Here are some wafer thin ass-wipe flavored mints, letters from all your exes listing your flaws and failures in excruciating detail, and a self-improvement handbook. Also, some coupons for things you don’t like, and a box of tooth whitener. I hope you hate yourself enough, because the children of the world see you as a role model, you dirtbag. Please leave my stuff under the tree and get the hell out of my house. Love, A Sarah.

(Readers of other faiths or none should feel free to address their letters accordingly. Just make sure they suck all the joy out of an ordinarily joyful experience.)

*-Sorry, but I do not care for raw celery sticks, ever.

My Heart Aches – ACHES! – For Men Who Act Like Douchebags

Yaaaaaaaaaaaawn. This is almost, but not quite, so weary-eyeroll-inducing that it’s not worth the effort of typing it all out. (And the “almost” caveat is due entirely to my gleeful anticipation of the snarky Shapeling comments to follow.)

So first, Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams writes this about an ad campaign to designed to get British dudes to eat breakfast at Burger King.

Now, I know you’ll all be thunderstruck to discover that the campaign is a comic and creative kersplat. (Something about how you visit a website and then you get to see a woman in a shower wiggle at you with eggs on her boobs, and then you want breakfast sausages, I don’t know.) Equally unsurprisingly, Williams’ send-up of the ad is vastly more entertaining and clever than the campaign itself.

I could go all blah blah blah offensive blah blah blah objectification of women blah blah blah nice nod to your voyeur pervs here, and in fact I will, but first, a reminder. We are all for sexy and witty and clever here. This, however, is not that. This is softcore to peddle hash browns…

Here’s what really sticks in our craw like soggy onion rings, though: A Burger King spokesman told Advertising Age yesterday, “Our research showed that breakfast is a male-centric audience for Burger King; it doesn’t resonate as well with women — we are targeting the people who are buying breakfast.” In other words, sod off, wenches. You are mere bits shakers in the King’s eyes, here to dance and sing with fried eggs on your boobs because we tell you to….We’re busy reaching out to the fan base who can associate our products with their morning spank routine.

Reading that was fun, right? “Sticks in our craw like soggy onion rings”? “Sod off, wenches”!? Yes! Delightful! And correct! And, probably, all that needs to be said on the matter.

Except here comes Dan Mitchell from Big Money, rolling in on the Mansplain Express.* See, he likes Williams’ Salon piece too. Likes it so much, in fact, that now he’s going to instruct the rest of us in what it really means. Which, it turns out, is not all that close to what Williams actually, um, said. Citing the Salon piece approvingly, he says:

Exactly right. The problem here isn’t really sexism, but stupidity…. [T]he campaign is at least equally offensive to men, and perhaps more so. It assumes, as usual, that men are idiots, that they’ll somehow be drawn to greasy, horrid breakfast foods by some vacuous wet girl dancing in a bathing suit on the Web.

If some buffoon is sitting in front of a computer, pants down around his ankles, directing a woman in a shower to do his bidding, which of the two parties should feel more humiliated and exploited? At least the woman, presumably, is being paid.

Oh God. Dan Mitchell, the internet tells me you are some kind of official smart person, an expert on economics. Here’s an econ word problem for you. Let’s say that a whole bunch of people are taught to behave foolishly and ignorantly toward you, Dan Mitchell. They learn this in school. They get mentored in it by others. They are instructed in it in their houses of worship. Everywhere people go, they see messages that amount to, “Hey, everyone! Whenever Dan Mitchell comes around or is the subject of conversation, let’s behave like immature, entitled, condescending, snickering, arrogant, leering assholes.”

And some people REALLY take the message to heart, and some people don’t, and some people are ambivalent, and some people don’t see what the big deal is or deny that such messages exist. Okay? Still with me?

Do you think, within that scenario, you could find — indeed, might like and/or need to find — a way to turn that to your economic advantage? (Even if that means that some stranger might pompously call you… oh, ‘vacuous’ say?) Me too.

Do you think that your doing so would mean that you’re responsible for turning some people into immature, entitled, condescending, snickering, arrogant, leering assholes? Me neither.

In this scenario, is it worth noting TO WHOM people are being taught to behave like jackasses? Or is it only pertinent THAT they’re being taught to behave jackasses, and are thus clearly oppressed by some jackassery-making machine? No, you go ahead and think hard about that one. We’ll wait.

I’d add more layers and more complexity, but I’m not convinced you’re ready for them. If you’re nice, the readers of Shapely Prose might bother to school you in the comments. I don’t know, though — their time doesn’t come cheap, and it’s possible that many of them are too busy earning millions a year not being oppressed.

*-Typing “Mansplain Express” caused me to envision a douchebags-on-roller-skates Andrew Lloyd Weber extravaganza. This is possibly the best idea I’ve ever had in my life.

I Can Be Reasoned With

I’ve been thinking about Stupak, and compromises, and patriarchal religious groups inserting themselves into the legislative process. I’d like to propose an alternative compromise to Stupak and the others currently in the legislative mix. No, it’s not perfect; but I think it speaks to the perceived needs of some of the anti-choice power brokers in the debate. Plus, it’s short! Only two stipulations with two corollaries. (And no, I have no idea what format bills usually follow. This is a blog post. Work with me.) Ready? I propose:

1. No abortions of pretend children.

Because you know who is really easy to love? Pretend children! They can be anyone you want them to be! That pretend boy can be the son you never had – who, manning up enough to stifle his tears, says at your funeral: “Everything important in life I learned from my father!” That pretend girl can be the daughter you might have taken to the daddy-daughter dance, where she would have worn a clean white frilly frock and looked up at you adoringly, pleading, “Twirl me again, Daddy. Please?”

I think we can all agree that pretend children – those who have no concrete existence whatsoever, but who, as hypotheticals, obligingly receive adult projections about childhood – should not be aborted. Heck, a pretend child is always safe, affordable, desired, and convenient. A pretend child shows up on your terms. And when you’re tired of a pretend child, he or she is whisked off to become someone else’s problem. Awesome! Who but a tar-hearted monster could want to get rid of a pretend child before she even has a chance to twirl in her pretty frock?


Corollary to 1: Actual human fetuses are not the same things as pretend children. (Hell, actual children are not the same thing as pretend children, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post.) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Democrats For Life, etc.: do you see the difference? Actual fetuses are particular and concrete, do not exist in ways unthreatening to the woman in whose body they live, do not lend themselves to easy moral absolutes, and do not yet at this point want to twirl with you at any daddy-daughter dance. Whatever else we end up talking about, can we PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE FREAKING begin by agreeing on this, please? Do you need me to explain it again? No? FANTIDDLYASTIC. THANKS. COMMON GROUND IS A BEAUTIFUL THING.

2. The Best Caregivers for Pretend Children are Pretend Mothers

It’s not easy being nothing more than a projection of someone else’s wishes, and pretend children have got to be taught how to do it, from… their pretend mothers!

Pretend mothers bond with their pretend children in ways you and I cannot understand, but can only observe with rapt piety. Is that pretend baby boy hungry or thirsty or tired? Ask his pretend mother; she will know. (Well, I mean, not know-know, obviously. It’s not as though she has a unique set of circumstances requiring constant prudent judgment, let alone set of specific skills that are a credit to her. I just mean that she will know, in the same mystical and precious way that the apple tree “knows” when it’s spring or a lamp “knows” how to give light. Things do what they’re designed by someone else to do, you get me?)

She’s hard to spot – the pretend mother, I mean – because she takes up so little space. Or perhaps I should say she takes up just enough space to remind us that good mothers don’t take up too much space. Occasionally we’ll catch a glimpse of her, yielding and compliant; suffering even the worst indignities with a shrug, a good attitude, and heroic self-sacrifice for which she never asks for credit. “Little old me?” she asks, smiling demurely and looking at the floor, revealing the lines around her eyes that have come from years of smiling beatifically. “Oh, heavens. It was nothing.”

And in fact it was nothing because – being pretend – she doesn’t actually need social support, or an income, or to be assigned work that bears some relation to her unique interests and skills, or recognition for that work, or the ability to exercise any control over her own circumstances. She doesn’t even really exist! You gotta love that about her!


Corollary to 2: Actual human women are not and never will be pretend mothers. Pretend mothers don’t exist. Actual human women are actual humans, whether or not they have children. Religious anti-choice conservatives, are you prepared to say otherwise and see what that gets you in terms of political capital? No? GREAT. FINE. AWESOME. I ASSUME THAT WE AGREE. THANK YOU.

I think we are making real progress.

Friday Fluff: Longfellow Edition

Listen, my children. You already know
Of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and so
I won’t rehash how, “in Seventy-five…”
For hardly a U.S. child alive
Has escaped being quizzed on the day and year.

But in school or in scouts or in all your youth,
Or in history texts, do you recall learning
Who rode twice as far as Revere – ‘struth! –
To warn her dad’s troops of Danbury’s burning?
For she of a different gender be
From old one-if-by-land-and-two-if-by-sea.
And this “female Revere” business needs be quibbled with.
So by Shapelings all, at their most ribald, with
Regrets to Longfellow: you’re about to get Sybilled with!

alibelle kicked off an interesting conversation here about female historical figures (such as Sybil Ludington, the subject of my verse attempt above) whose contributions are downplayed — or at best allowed to confer on them the status of being “The female [Big Famous Man]” — while male historical figures have their contributions memorized by generations of school children. As I expect every sincere commenter here realizes, this dynamic plays out across all axes of oppression.

No, that’s not the Fluff part. The Fluff part is where we take all the poems and songs we had to memorize in elementary school — the dippier, the better — and recast them to draw attention to historical figures who were removed from the main story and relegated to cutesy sidebars in history textbooks; and/or taught only in “special” units covering rare exotic breeds of humanity like… Women! or, People Who Aren’t White! If they were remembered at all.

(Also fair game: crafts. Anyone other white Shapelings find themselves wearing a construction paper feather headdress in November of third grade?)

Subvert away!

‘Nuther Quick Hit: Nate Silver Temporarily Suspends Mathematical Rigor

During the presidential campaign I checked http://www.fivethirtyeight.com, like, several times a day. As one whose gifts lie not with the maths* I really appreciated his analysis, and the mounting sense of excitement I got that Indiana might go blue.

Yet even Nate Silver suspends his just-the-numbers-ma’am approach when it comes to obesity. Here he suggests that it’s “certainly true of Americans is that they don’t elect very many fat governors.”

CERTAINLY true. Well, okay. Please bring on the mathematical certitude then!

Running through pictures of the 50 sitting governors, I come up with only about 10 (20%) who are distinctly overweight, and only 3 (6%) — Haley Barbour, Bill Richardson, and Sonny Perdue — who are clearly obese. This compares with percentages on the order of 65 percent and 30 percent for the U.S. adult population.

Ah. So we’re using the rigorous look-at-the-pictures-and-see-if-someone’s-fat-fat-fatty-fat-as-determined-by-male-onlooker method for the governors, and then assuming that will track with the BMI’s, errm, fanciful standards for “overweight” and “obese.”

And what follows is a lot of stuff that you’ve all heard before [edited to add: and, actually, some nearly-there guesses about what it means that “fat” is now a political vulnerability. -AS]. Including Nate Silver demurring that “my classifications are probably a bit conservative given that overweight is the new normal in America.”

(Er, no, dear. It’s really not. “Normal” is the new “overweight.” You know when I first suspected, though, that you would not already be squared away on that point? When this post appeared at 538; and no, it wasn’t written by YOU, but rather by Sean Quinn, BUT STILL. IT IS YOUR BLOG. That’s when I first got wise to the fact that I was likely eavesdropping on a doodily doodily dood conversation, and not so much participating in a smart-people-talking-politics conversation. I mean, really? “Just for kicks!” Hee hee! “Just for kicks, here’s a leering photo at a woman, y’know, working in American politics.” So that’s now TWO kinda douchey things, fellas, that I know of. And I haven’t read your blog since the election, really. Might I gently suggest that you all suck on some male privilege mints before speaking further?)

Anyway, all that is just to say: on that “Signs of the Obesapocalypse” you have hanging on your fridge, please add “Governor-Electorate Corpulence Disproportion” right under “Declining Mitten Sales” and “Barbie Cankles.”

* – Side note: I actually enjoyed math until I had a math teacher in eighth grade who would say things, in class, like: “Oh, all these mistakes in the textbook? Are because there were so many women on the editorial board!” Or, “Hey! Let’s make a list of all the things that women are good at! Let me get a very very tiny piece of paper…” Now, would I have been a brilliant mathematician had it not been for him? Who knows; probably not. But that was it for me and math. Eighth fucking grade. Awesome, dude. “Children! Children! Future! Future!” [/jazz hands]

Friday Fluff: Cheaper Than A Palatial Spa

Hey! Y’all! [lowers voice to a conspiratorial whisper] Guess what I’m doing RIGHT NOW. [chuckles furtively]

Dude, I’m staying up half the night with my two awake kids, one of whom is VOMITING BILE! Because a nasty, nasty stomach virus has been making the rounds in our house. (I lost six pounds in three days LIKE MAGIC! My husband is STILL shaky and dehydrated! Ahh, life’s rich pageant… love you, just LOVE you.)

Meanwhile, you all — to say nothing of FJ and SM specifically, who’ve heroically handled the vast majority of the moderating on these monster threads — have been dealing with nasty bile-spewing of a different sort. And I’m guessing we all (and by that I mean you, if you’re a sincere regular reader or lurker who’s been fighting the good fight) need three weeks paid time off at a magnificent resort, retreat center or spa.

Since that’s not in our budget this year, I’m asking you, please please please, to turn this thread into something that I hope will be nearly as restorative. I’d like us collectively to cover all of the following before the thread dies.

-Children guilelessly using profanity to humorous effect
-Frolicking otters
-Videos that make one want to cheer or dance around the room
-Charming sniglets
-Charming piglets
-Alarming 1980’s workout outfits
-Excruciatingly psychologically correct letters written to humorously-inappropriate recipients thereof. (For example: “Dear Broken Toaster — I don’t mean to minimize your experience, but I wonder whether you and I might have different needs…”
-links to palatial retreat centers and other gobsmackingly beautiful settings where we may spend our Shapeling retreat/start our Shapeling commune once we get a very rich benefactor.
-Comfort food recipes
-Phony and funny but plausible-sounding dissertation titles
-Deliberately bad poetry

(And yes, you may add your own requests to this list, so long as they are all SUPER FLUFFY, like, Snuggle-fabric-softener-bear funny; and not things like “I’d like to hear someone go on at length about how sad they feel to think that men aren’t automatically, as a class, given 100 percent of the trust and goodwill of women, as a class.”)

Sound good? Good. Because I hear retching in the next room. Thanks in advance. Gaaaaaah.