Oral Hygiene Queen

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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Bride Wore Botox

And so did the bridesmaids. Holy shit, y'all! Did you see this truly horrifying story in the New York Times today? Last summer I experienced my one and only bridesmaid experience in an honest-to-god traditional white wedding, and being a bridesmaid was, at times, quite trying. But I guess I had no idea how much worse it could have been.

I'm not a fan of big white weddings for a host of reasons that I won't go into now, but there are relatively reasonable big white weddings and then there are crazy, out-of-control big white weddings. Unreasonable expectations of bridesmaids is one way to tell the latter from the former. While I personally would advise anyone who sought my wedding-planning advice (and, sadly, no one yet has) to just skip the matching dresses thing and let their friends and family wear clothes of their own choosing, if a "bride" (in the parlance of our times) can't live without a string of her closest female loved ones lined up in identical dresses, then she should at least exercise restraint. For example, she should not ask them to spend inordinate amounts of money on their dresses, unless she plans to foot the bill. She should also stop at the matching dresses, not going so far as to ask her attendants to wear identical hairstyles, jewelry, and/or bras. (And, yes, I have friends who have been asked to do all three.)

But I'm clearly living in a wonderland of naive and outmoded thinking. Now there are actually women out there, "brides," who are asking their closest female loved ones to undergo cosmetic surgery and in various other ways submit their flesh and skin to the machinations of "aestheticians" (a title that is, as I write, making Oscar Wilde spin in his grave.)

When my dear sister-in-law got married last summer, she gave me and all her other bridesmaids the chance to participate in a "pamper party" with facials, mani-pedis, and whatnot. She arranged for a hair stylist and make-up artist to be available to help us with our hair and faces, if we so chose. This all seemed a bit much to me, but, she did not require these things, thankfully, and she did not set up botox parties, group boob jobs, collective tooth whitening, or spray-on tanning sessions to turn us all the same shade of orange-brown. And, for this, the New York Times tells me, I should be very thankful.

If this exact article had been written on April 1st, I would have read it as a hilarious send-up of Bridezilla culture and a critique of the cult of feminine-beauty-at-all-costs, rolled into one. But this is no joke. There are actually women out there, in our very own land, telling their friends and family that they need to go under the knife or the needle in order to be presentable to appear on their wedding altar and in their photo album.

And, as the Times tells it, this is A-OK with many women:

For Karen Hohenstein, who held her party at [unnamed Spa] in Chicago, convincing her friends was as smooth as a Botoxed forehead. “It wasn’t me saying, ‘Hey, we all could use a little something,’ ” she said. “It was, ‘I want to do this,’ and a couple of people said, ‘I do, too.’ ”

There are, however, a few crazy dames who, for some unimaginable reason, balk at having cosmetic surgery in preparation for a stint as a bridesmaid:

But for every accommodating pal, there’s another who feels going under the knife is beyond the duty of bridesmaid. Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead.

Well, thank God for push-up bras! Jesus H. Christ. If any friend of mine asked me to get my tits done in honor of her nuptial day, I would not only say no, I'd refuse to take any part in her wedding and cut off all contact with this maniac. What the fuck!

The Times, on the other hand, is downright chipper about these interesting new developments in the multi-billion dollar wedding industry (This is, after all, the "Fashion and Style" section), going so far as to offer advice to anyone who might want to take a running jump at this festering bandwagon:

Just as timing matters when it comes to securing a hall, it’s best that brides-to-be don’t delay scheduling appointments, aestheticians and doctors say. “You wouldn’t get a cut and color the week before,” said Dr. Jessica Wu, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills who advises coming in three to six months before the big day.

Ms. Meyer of [another unnamed spa] suggests that a bride contact her the minute the question is popped. “Brides really appreciate the fact that we put everything in a regimented schedule for them,” she said. Since February 2007, she has staged more than 30 bridesmaid parties and has 18 planned so far this year. “If you have to do eight treatments, six weeks apart, that could take up to a year,” she said.

The Times does admit, though, that these batshit crazy pre-wedding rituals can cause some tension between brides and their buddies:

A bride’s request that you whiten your grayish teeth can strain a relationship. Samantha Goldberg, a wedding planner in Chester, N.J., recalled a bride who asked her attendants to get professionally spray-tanned for a Hawaiian-theme reception.

Alas, two women were claustrophobic and couldn’t bear standing in a tanning capsule. “They asked the bride if they could use regular tanning cream from a salon,” Ms. Goldberg said. The bride refused; she wanted everyone to be the same shade. The women ultimately declined to be bridesmaids. “Friendships of 20-plus years gone over a spray tan?” Ms. Goldberg said. “Sad!”

No, actually, it's probably for the best. When you have a friend who has been driven insane by a combination of her wholesale acceptance of the sickest standards of feminine beauty currently in circulation and her monomaniacal devotion to a wedding ideal that features friends and family in matching, medically-perfected bodies, it's better to find out sooner rather than later so you can run as fast as you can in the other direction from the evil pod person who has taken over your friend's body.

I can just imagine this bride looking through the photo album years after her wedding. "It's too bad Kathy and Cindy couldn't have been there. But damnit! they just weren't willing to paint themselves the right shade of brownish-orange!"

Oh, well, sometimes big life events like marriage show you what's really important. And what could be more important than having a friend with the right shade of skin, a pornstar-worthy rack, ivory white teeth, and a face smoothed by strategic paralysis induced by a reaction to botox, also known as botulinum toxin? And let's remember that botulinum toxin, the bacterial neurotoxin that causes botulism, is one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances in the world and the most toxic protein in existence.

Kinda makes you feel a little bit sentimental, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Heart Kimya

For some reason, I often have a rocky start with people I end up loving deeply. When I met my Old Man, he seemed arrogant to me and I seemed a bit disdainful to him. It turned out later he was just socially awkward with strangers and I had a temporary bug up my ass about guys who played guitar. I was fifteen the first time I met my best friend KGU at rehearsal for the play Fiddler on the Roof, and she just rubbed me the wrong way. She seemed over-dramatic and a bit haughty. It turned out later that while she was over-dramatic (like the rest of us in the room that day, duh), she was not actually haughty, just striving for more than she was finding in our little Wisconsin hometown. As we became friends, I discovered that we were very much alike in many ways, and this was probably the main reason why she bugged me at first. When I met my beloved Feral Mom, I liked her fine but I got kind of a weird vibe from her. I later discovered that we were dating the same guy at the time, and he'd informed her of my existence without telling me about her. Needless to say, we surmounted this hurdle to become fast friends, bandmates, and eventually godmothers to each others' kids.

Last fall, my Old Man introduced me to a new friend of his, Kimya Dawson. He brought home her CD My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess and, listening to it on his own, immediately liked it. He thought I'd like it, too, so he put it on one night as he was cooking dinner and I was playing some board game with O. and wrangling Roo. The CD immediately began to grate on me. The guitar playing was primitive, every song sounded the same, Kimya's trembly voice irritated me, and the one line of lyrics I caught - "the cum on your face is really just mayonnaise" - made me writhe in six different ways. When dinner was done and we sat down to eat, I found it hard to concentrate on the conversation with the noise of this new CD in the background, and I finally just got up and turned it off.

It's unusual for one of us to really like music that the other hates. Part of what brought us together is the almost total compatibility of our respective eclectic tastes in music - for example, the fact that we are both equally passionate in our fondness for the Beastie Boys and Joni Mitchell. So Kimya Dawson became a source of humorous tension between us. She'd come up in conversation and my Old Man would say "Oh, E. hates Kimya Dawson," and I'd say "No, I just don't think her music is good as background music to anything. It seems like the kind of music where you really have to listen to the lyrics closely to appreciate it." And I mostly believed this; Because my man had assured me that her songs were witty and rich, I trusted that if I listened closely, I'd find a lot to like about Kimya Dawson. But having had the hell annoyed out of me the first time I heard her music, I wasn't in a big rush to take time out of my busy-ass life to sit down and give her a close listen. Even seeing Juno over Christmas break, where Dawson's songs are used to excellent effect and I really got to hear some of her clever, inventive, and sweet lyrics didn't make me rush home and put on headphones for her. I had other music demanding my attention, and it just wasn't the time for me and Kimya.

Then summer came, and I started spending more time out on walks with Roo in the stroller and the iPod hooked to my head. We'd gotten a more recent Kimya record, Remember that I Love You, and I chose that as my first concentrated Kimya Dawson listening experience. I was very quickly won over. Kimya is one of those songwriters whose lyrics not only make you like her songs, they make you like her. They are indeed witty and inventive, with lots of great plays on words and acrobatically surprising rhyme choices. But they're also so honest and unpretentious, so emotionally warm and whimsically wise, that they make me feel good and make me just like people more. Kimya sings a lot about people she loves, her family and friends, about stuff she loves about the world, and about the importance of believing in yourself and doing what you need and want most to do in the world. That makes her music sound cheesy, but miraculously, it's not at all. She manages to sing about her favorite kids and her mom's terminal illness and why her friends are important to her and how and why she overcame her own self-doubt to become the person she was meant to be, all without a moment of wince. I'm not quite sure how she pulls it off. Partly it's because she's just a great poet. Her lyrics are deceptively simple and unsheened, but underneath their playfulness, whimsy, and unguarded honesty, they're dense, rhythmically relentless, and full of images that are unexpected yet completely apt. She's also funny and strange, two of my favorite qualities in friends and lyricists.

So I love Kimya Dawson. As I've come to love her, she's come to occupy a similar place in my musical heart as my other favorite completely inimitable singer-songwriter, Jonathan Richman. Jonathan is totally different from Kimya in many ways, but their music shares a certain worldly innocence that borders on childlike (but childlike the way an incredibly smart, observant, and slightly jaded kid is childlike). I love Jonathan Richman's music, and I love the Jonathan that comes through in Jonathan Richman's music. If he's a terrible person in real life, I don't want to know. And if I love you and you hate his music, please just don't tell me.

I'm not quite to that point yet with Kimya Dawson, but if we buy a couple more of her records, I might soon be. And now that I think about it, I have some vague recollection of my Old Man's initial Kimya recommendation including an observation along the lines of "she reminds me of Jonathan in some ways." Hmm.

I still don't think Kimya Dawson makes good background music in any way. If she comes on the iPod shuffle in the car, I want to either skip the song or stop and just listen (usually the latter, especially if the song happens to be "Underground," The Beer," "I Like Giants," or "Caving In"). But next time my Old Man recommends some music to me, I'll make a point of sitting down and giving it an attentive listen. He hasn't led me astray yet.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Chez In-Laws '08

Here we are on the East Coast for our sixth-annual July with the in-laws on the Jersey Shore. A whole month spent with my Old Man's family always has its pluses and minuses (and for an explication of the many pluses and several minuses, and a basic explanation of just why we spend a whole month every summer under my Old Man's ancestral roof, see a relevant post from the summer of '06). This July, however, I'm appreciating the visit more than usual.

The main reason for this, I think, is that there are no wedding-related activities or events planned for this summer. Let me repeat that, just because it sounds so sweet: there are no wedding-related activities or events planned for this summer. No bridal showers. No bachelorette parties. One of my sisters-in-law was married last summer and the other the fall before that, so the past two summers have been dominated by preparations for these two big, white weddings. No fan of big, white weddings (mine was a small, merlot-colored wedding), I found all this wedding frenzy trying, to put it mildly (despite being quite a good sport about all of it, up to and including being a big, pregnant bridesmaid last summer). So, no weddings. Glory be. I am reveling in the mellowness and the relative lack of small talk, make-up, and perpetual smiling.

The other thing I'm appreciating this summer is, simply, the opportunity to relax. Having a kid and a baby is one thing, but having a kid, a baby, and a house and yard is just a bit too much. When I'm home, I can't sit down. In the month after school let out, I realized that I was much more exhausted at the end of a day of "vacation" (read: round-the-clock parenting, yard work, house projects, and errands) than I had been after a day of teaching and an afternoon/evening of parenting. When I'm at work, I get to sit down. And during the school year, my yard is not exploding with weeds and tasks to be done.

Here at my in-laws' place, however, there are no tasks dogging me. Aside from parenting my children - when I can wrest them away from their grandparents and aunt - and occasionally helping out a bit in the kitchen, I'm pretty much free. I actually find that I'm mildly, pleasantly bored at times. I'm reading a lot, playing guitar, sleeping in most mornings. ("You go back to bed, Mama," is how my mother-in-law usually greets me as she takes Roo off my hands on mornings when it's my turn to get up with the baby.) This is actually a vacation.

So, here's to vacation. I'll let you know if we have any interesting excursions to the local nude beach.