Friday fluff: Like a fine wine

It’s my birthday next week. I’ll be turning 29, and though I have a tiny bit of angst at how “late” in the “late 20s” I am now, I must admit I’m seriously looking forward to being in my 30s. I know I’m supposed to fear losing my youthful beauty (*snort*) and all that, but really I just think it will be cool. Lord knows I don’t really feel like a grownup yet, but I certainly have had the responsibilities and stresses of a grownup (and I’ve got the gray hairs to prove it). 29 seems a bit of a silly age if you’re *not* doing a terrified countdown to 30, but I always have rather liked the march-of-time aspect of birthdays. Who wants to be the same age forever? I have found overall that I enjoy being an adult waaaaay more than I enjoyed being a kid, so I like (so far) that the numbers keep ticking upward.

When I turned 25, my grandmother, who was 90 at the time (and lived to be a feisty 92), called me to wish me happy birthday and told me firmly, “25 is the best age.” I was delighted that she said that, because a) I figured she was an expert on ages by then, and b) it felt like a blessing on the whole year. And you know what? I really liked being 25. I don’t know yet if it was the “best” age, but it was a good one for me.

All this is to bring me to some fluff: how old are you? When’s your birthday? (Hey baby, what’s your sign?) Do you have a “favorite” age so far? And do you have any advice for a 29-year-old?

Friday Fluff: Emmy Nominations

The Emmy nominations are out! As I said the other day, I don’t watch that much TV anymore, except for really awful reality TV I can watch online. (Because if you’re only going to allow one show back into your viewing schedule, clearly, Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods should be it.) But I did recently download the first season of the FX series Damages from iTunes, and I watched all 13 episodes as quickly as my life would allow. It’s really fucking good, and I’m bitter that there won’t be a new season until 2009. I’m happy, however, to see it got 7 nominations — I’m pulling for Glenn Close for Best Actress and Zeljko Ivanek for Best Supporting Actor, and I think Rose Byrne was robbed — because that means people might actually watch next season. Which they didn’t last season because, apparently, too many people who totally would have watched — hi, there! — didn’t know the show existed. Seriously, if you’re looking for something to watch this summer, and you like legal thrillers and strong female characters and charming sociopaths? Download it or get the DVDs. 

That’s about the extent of my interest in the Emmys this year, but I know the Lipp Sisters will be psyched about Mad Men‘s many nominations (I still need to sit myself down and watch that one from start to present), and I’m sure Shapelings will have loads of opinions to share. So what do you think, y’all? Who should win? Who should have been nominated? Who shouldn’t have? What TV shows should we all be watching? Or, if you don’t watch TV, feel free to tell us how that’s improved your life by leaps and bounds. (Turning off the TV really is damned good for your body image, I must say.) Hell, recommend good books. Whatever. Fluff away.

Pre-Friday Fluff: Spaghetti language

Several years ago, my brother J coined what has become an eminently useful phrase in my repertoire: spaghetti language. Spaghetti language is what you speak when you’re half-asleep and you think you’re having a real conversation but actually are spewing gibberish. (The phrase, naturally, was coined in spaghetti language: J was trying to have a conversation with his wife and me, but it wasn’t working, and finally in frustration he said, “I thought I was awake but I wasn’t awake and I was talking spaghetti language,” as though that cleared everything up.)

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the phrase because, as it happens, I am particularly fluent in spaghetti language. Mr Machine has recorded my best examples for posterity. Spaghetti language has a rhythm of its own, with conversational peaks and troughs and, weirdly enough, often with punchlines. So, for example, after one particularly long monologue, I told Mr Machine:

I’m gonna go get some, uh, fat cat power in my pants. You know how it goes, you know.

The wonderful thing about spaghetti language is that you can often have what sounds, syntactically, like actual conversations, and the surrealism will spin out ever more wildly. For this reason, Mr Machine and I do all in our power to keep spaghetti conversations going if one of us is in dreamland and the other is wide awake. We carried on the following conversation after I had fallen asleep on our couch one night a couple years ago:

SM: My name is made of balloons, and my couch is made of triangles.
[Mr M somehow manages to get me to the bathroom to brush my teeth.]
SM: If I were marshmallows, would I get to have a marshmallow face?
Mr M: But your couch is made of triangles.
SM: No it’s not. My head is made of marshmallows.

And, my greatest personal achievement in spaghetti language:

SM: What what what?
Mr M: Sorry to wake you.
SM: What’s going on?
Mr M: I’ve been up reading this book.
SM: What’s going on?
Mr M: I’m going outside for a cigarette.
SM: But what about my dreams of making an ultimate lemon machine?

After hearing about this exchange, my friend found us a picture of what he believes may be, in fact, the ultimate lemon machine.

As you can see, my extensive training in poetics has paid off; even in my sleep, I am a wordsmith of uncommon vision. Nonetheless, if there is a champion of spaghetti language in my household, it is unquestionably Mr Machine, due to one now legendary conversation early in our relationship, on a rare night when he fell asleep before I did:

Mr M: If we start eating each other’s arms now, we’ll get to the shoulder at the same time.
SM: But your arms are longer than mine!
Mr M: You’ll just have to eat faster.
SM: Won’t that hurt?
Mr M: [gleefully] Not me!

I cannot describe to you the malicious delight with which he uttered that last phrase. Relentlessly logical, even in sleep.

What’s your best conversation in spaghetti language? Entertain us in the comments!

Friday fluff: Summertime

It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere, and the living, as they say, is easy. Or at least, it’s been easy for me the last week because I’ve been on a little staycation since my classes/orals/grading frenzy ended; I have stuff to work on over the summer, but suddenly I live in a world of few deadlines and lots of new novels calling me from the shelves (Michael Chabon, I’m looking at you!).

In general, summer’s not my favorite season* — too sticky, too much sunburn — but there are certain things that I associate with summer that I just love. Some are genuinely only found during summer — swarms of fireflies at dusk, the sun still being out late in the evening, little farmer’s markets and summer festivals everywhere — but many are things I only do during the summer because of some deep associations I have with summer meaning freedom and fun (courtesy the 9-month US school year). So when July rolls around, even as I sweat and get burned pink, I look forward to those things: going out to the movies instead of renting DVDs, exploring the city, drinking mojitos, going to the zoo.

What are you itching to do this summer? What’s your favorite summer event in your city or town? Are you going on vacation? Is there anything you could do year-round but you only do in summer? Live it up in the comments.

*Except when I lived in Seattle, where summer is seriously Edenic. 70 degrees, blue skies, no rain — it’s my idea of perfection. Good thing, too, because after six months of gray skies you start to think the sun has been swallowed up on the other side of the earth.

Friday Fluff: Chatting up celebrities

I would like to wish a very happy blogiversary weekend to the wonderful Miss Conduct, who is not only a consummate advice columnist but also one of the brilliant minds behind the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (which Dan will be joining as soon as I can get his luxuriant hair and his rather awe-inspiring experiment into the same picture). If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ve see Miss Conduct’s comments and you know that this isn’t the first time I’ve plugged her blog, because basically I luff her. She’s an advice columnist with her head screwed on straight about fat! She’s an advice columnist, period! (I’m a bit of a connoisseur.) She’s funny! She’s a huge nerd about science! Her blog almost never allows comments, so I can avoid the “Web 2.0 can fucking suck it” white-hot rage I go into almost every time I read comments anywhere on the web besides the fatosphere! She likes Aunt Fattie! She dislikes Cary Tennis!

Anyway, in honor of Miss Conduct, I’d like to proffer a Friday Fluff that jumps off from one of her recent posts. She writes:

Meeting celebrities is an awkward thing and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a handle on it. I have figured out, at least, a working theory for why it’s awkward. See if this makes sense to you:1. To show polite respect for someone, you are supposed to let them talk about themselves rather than talking a great deal about yourself. This is a cultural norm.

2. However, there is also a cultural norm that knowledge is power, and that the more “important” person in an interaction should know more about the less important person than vice-versa. (E.g., your doctor knows more about you than you do about her; teachers know more about their students than their students know about them.) So you are also supposed to show respect by allowing people their privacy.

Now, when you meet a celebrity, by definition you know more about them than they do about you. So the #2 dynamic is unbalanced. But you can’t rectify that imbalance, because that would violate rule #1.

There’s more musing, but it would be rude to quote at more length; instead I suggest you go read it. Then come back here and tell me: Have you met any famous people? How did you approach talking to them? Did you talk about yourself? Did you establish yourself as a fan? Did you treat them like a normal person? What celebrities would you really like to meet, and what would you say to them if you met them?

Miss Conduct already quoted my answer to this question in the post:

I’ve found with the celebrities that I’ve met that I end up talking about the same things I talk to anyone else about — food, alcohol, family, politics. Probably in that order. After of course establishing that I am a fan. If I want to be sneaky and let them know that I am a fan because I have a more sophisticated understanding than all their other rube fans, I will sneak in something like “So how do you feel about fans who only like you because x, and not because y?”

I will also add that the only person I’ve actually tested that last part out on is Jonathan Coulton. (Turns out he appreciates the geek type fans who just like Code Monkey and the other novelty songs, but he feels that people have a fuller appreciation of what he’s trying to go for if they listen to the more serious songs as well, which is why he plays them at shows even when they’re not necessarily what people want to hear.) Truly, though, we mainly talked about drinking, New York, his kid, science… the kinds of things you talk to people about. I’ve applied the same theory to Jim Watson, Katha Pollitt, and… um… what other famous people have I met… Kate Harding. And Dava Sobel. I meet really, really nerdy famous people, okay?

I’d like to meet John Hodgman. I think we’d talk about how I know I can’t possibly say anything funny enough to make me worthy to talk to him, and how I am humbled by that. Not really though. I think we’d probably talk about pie.  And possibly Linnean taxonomy or something.  I feel the conversation would bestir itself in a nerdly direction.

Also, I know I think four people who have all met or at least corresponded with former members of The State, and I haven’t, and that’s not fair.  So I want to meet them too, and probably talk entirely in State quotes until they all look really uncomfortable.  (Especially if I’m quoting the excellent “Sleep with the State” sketch from Season 2.)

Also, I would like to meet Miss Conduct and her husband.  Seriously.

Friday fluff: Bounce

In honor of our new bouncy castle theme (and because we just can’t seem to stop posting this week!), please enjoy this bouncing banjo baby. I can’t figure out how to embed it with this newfangled Flickr video nonsense, so watch it here for now (link warning: music plays automatically). (If any WordPress users can help me figure it out, please let me know! The embed code on Flickr is not getting along with WP.)

Y’all, I’m not even fond of babies, but this video makes me giddy. What other bouncy things can we celebrate? Baby kangaroos? Pogo sticks? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Friday semi-fluff: Thoughts on tattoos

I have a tattoo appointment tonight, after putting it off for about two years. This is pretty much how I operate with ink; I get an idea in my head, I sit on it forever, and then I suddenly get a bug up my butt to get it done RIGHT RIGHT NOW. (“Right right now” in this case has taken over a week because I actually know who I want the artist to be and I’m working around his schedule.)

I realized recently, when thinking about how remiss I usually am in scrupulously researching tattoo artists, that tattoos for me have never been about art per se. In fact I’d go so far as to say that most people fall into one of two groups in terms of their relationship to ink: it’s about art, or it’s about marking. Art people’s tattoos may be heavily invested with meaning and symbolism, but aesthetics are the primary concern; a piece that’s not beautiful is an inferior piece, even if the meaning is the same. For marking people, like me, it’s the tattoo’s symbolic meaning that’s important — the ink is almost like a hobo sign, there to convey encoded information but not necessarily to be beautiful. An imperfect piece is acceptable in this case; it still serves the purpose. Like any “two kinds of people” theory this one breaks down almost instantly, as most people have elements of both. But I feel like it’s a productive or at least interesting way of thinking about it.

As a “marking” person, whose tattoos have primarily semiotic value, it’s appropriate that my new piece will be a word. I’m taking part in a living story that’s being published as tattoos, and I am insanely excited. And in a sense my word (“away,”) ties together all my other tattoos, which I realized recently are essentially all “back off” symbols, like a poisonous frog’s bright colors. One is an alchemical symbol for vitriol (on my writing hand, of course). Two have to do with Britomart, the chaste and therefore unapproachable heroine of Book 3 of Spenser’s Faerie Queene; one’s a portrait, and the other one comes from a passage describing her as “a vermeill rose / To which sharpe thornes and breres the way forestall.” (Yeah, it’s a fucking tramp stamp with a rose and thorns, but it’s the marking that’s important, the symbol, remember?) My ink is about keeping people at arm’s length, and possibly punishing them if they don’t get the message. The story of my word, the story of “away,” starts there — as part of a collection of warning signs.

It also starts as a musing about body image. I thought from the beginning that I would get my word on my ankle, but I wavered, because my ankles aren’t particularly “nice.” You know how a lot of fat girls have beautiful shapely lower legs? Yeah, I’m not one of them. I’ve got big thick shtetl ankles, like a lot of the women on both sides of my family, and I retain water like nobody’s business. If I believed in such things I would say that my ankles were ugly. But of course once I realized that I was thinking this way, it was over — I had to get the ink on my ankle, there was no other choice. I had to mark the parts of me I didn’t like, in order to bring them in as part of the whole. (Shaminey at No Breakable Thing has more thoughts on tattoos, women’s bodies, and adorning the parts of you that you find unacceptable — it’s well worth a read.)

Do you have tattoos? Why or why not? If you do, are you more about art or marking? How did you choose where to place them, and how did it affect or stem from your body image? Do your tattoos tell a story about you — maybe even one you didn’t notice for a long time, like mine? If you don’t have tattoos, do you want one? Where would you put it? What would you want?

Friday Fatshion: Summer Dresses

So, Ozlem from Igigi wrote the other day to ask if I might mention a couple of their new summer dresses, and because she gives me discounts for these things, I shall oblige.

I kid! Sort of. I like the discounts and I genuinely dig these dresses. (For the record, I actually don’t like a lot of their dresses that other people have gone nuts over, so I wouldn’t do this for just any dress.)

First up, we have one for the tall girls: the Sunset Over Maui Maxi Dress. (Which really makes me want a Moons Over My Hammy micromini. Ha! I slay myself.)

It’s one of the standard Igigi shapes, which is flattering to a ton of people (reader Karen looked smokin’ in a dress like this at LeeLee’s Valise), and I freakin’ love the print. In fact, I really, really wish they’d make a shorter dress in this print (and maybe make it slightly more boob-accommodating, since my experience with this cut is that it’s an almost-but-not-quite over The Rack of Doom).

Instead, I’ll have to settle for this print, which is also adorable. (But has no orange!) Fellow shorties, I give you the Malibu Dress:


(I also want this, this, and this, for the record — I’m loving Igigi this season — but I’m pretty gaga for that print.)

Shapelings, what are you wearing (or hoping to wear) to weddings and garden parties this summer? (And have any of you actually been invited to a garden party? I’ve always wanted to go to one, but I don’t know the kind of people who throw them.) I know we did the whole “What item of clothing are you lusting after?” thing last week, but this is different: it’s themed! I am totally not just regurgitating that one because I’m too lazy to look for fluff! Weddings and (possibly imaginary) garden parties, y’all! Hit it

Friday Fluff: Fat skirts

I want to draw everyone’s attention to this post by our advice columnist ally, the spectacular Miss Conduct, at whose dinner parties I would dearly love to be a fly on the wall. (I had an advice-columnist crush on Miss Conduct even before I found out that her husband publishes my beloved Annals of Improbable Research.) Miss Conduct enjoins her readers to make sure that their “fat clothes” are as pretty as their “thin clothes”:

Ladies, get yourselves some pretty fat skirts, or fat pants. We all have weight fluctuations, due to our monthly cycles, or work or family busy-ness that makes it hard to exercise and easy to rely on takeout, or stress that drives us to the comforting arms of potato chips or chocolate, or travel adventures that make calorie-counting absurdly inappropriate. Don’t punish those times when you’re over your set point with hideous clothes that you think will “motivate” you to starve on broccoli and fake diet drinks until you’re back to where you want to be. It won’t work. Self-denigration is a stunningly inefficient route to motivation.

I disagree with Miss C.’s assertion in the post that “I need to lose 10 pounds” is an adequate shorthand for “I need to do the things that will, if I do them, make me happier and more energetic and oh, by the way, lead to me losing 10 pounds” — ideally, perhaps, but in a diet-happy culture that equates fat with health, I believe it’s dangerous to get sloppy about our terminology. When you say “I need to lose 10 pounds,” you may truly mean “I need to pick up my healthiest habits again,” but plenty of people say “I need to get healthy” meaning “I need to, at any cost, lose 10 pounds.” It behooves us to be precise if we’re going to break that dangerous association.

But I certainly agree with her that we should clothe ourselves as beautifully as possible at every weight.  I’m dealing with this issue from the flip side right now — I had some great clothes when I was above my set range that no longer fit now that I’m off Lexapro and back to my regular size. Now I’m left with old clothes that are ratty, and less-old clothes that are too big (and sometimes ratty). This finally reached crisis level when my skirt fell off while I was walking the other day — no joke! — and I’ve been buying clothes from like crazy, but it’s a rather lonely and only intermittently successful endeavor, nothing like going shopping with a bunch of fatties. So in the interest of pretty fat skirts, for Shapelings of all sizes, let’s have a virtual shopping trip! Show us your favorite piece of clothing (skirt or otherwise) in a plus size that’s available for sale online right now. If you can, introduce us to a new store. If you can’t, this is a good time to check out centralized shopping sites like Beauty Plus Power and This Lush Life, or look over the store reviews on Then come back here and show us what you’re craving!

My personal obsession, just to get you started, is actually a skirt. I’ve been itching to buy this amazing skirt from Fashion Overdose for literally months — how great would that look with my knee-high platform boots? I’ve been convincing myself it costs too much, but I think I’m actually gonna do it, unless of course you guys fall just as deeply in love as I am, and buy it out before I get a chance.

Bonus item: I bought this swimsuit at Lee Lee’s last week, and I wish I hadn’t just looked it up because it turns out I paid more for it than I would have online, but it is a hell of a swimsuit.