Tag Archives: friends

So Many Things!

It has been quite a while, my dear Internet friends. I’d apologize for the absence but I’m having way too much fun at my new job to want to apologize for it. The Matilda Effect is still ongoing and I’m truly hoping it lasts forever.

That said, I’ve missed sharing my new stuff with you! So… A few things that have happened since we last spoke (… wrote? read? communicated via pixels?). From newest to oldest:

Show up. Just do it. I wrote about the simple but often un- or under-appreciated value of showing up, especially when it’s cold, you’re busy, and Netflix is calling. This was partly inspired by Wait But Why and Eric Liu’s phenomenal book A Chinaman’s Chance (really just one chapter of it, but seriously, read the whole thing):

The_Importance_Of_Showing_Up___Role_Reboot

On Ego and Exercise. After running my first (and probably only) half-marathon, I wrote about why I exercise and the intersection of ego and self-care.

The_Real_Reason_I_Ran_A_Half_Marathon___Role_Reboot

On slutty slutty Halloween. Every October (this now seems woefully out of date), there are endless think pieces about why girls dress so scantily. I’m so bored of this conversation, so… I wrote another think piece.

The_Halloween_Industry_Isn_t_Sexist__We_Are___Role_Reboot

On the pay gap and “trusting the system.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got into trouble by suggesting that women should just work hard and wait around to be recognized and failed to acknowledge systemic and cultural reasons for the pay gap. Oh yeah, this was at a conference for women in tech…

On_The_Microsoft_CEO_Who_Told_Women_Not_To_Ask_For_A_Raise___Role_Reboot

 

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Why You Should Watch That Show with the Terrible Name

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Tonight is the return of Cougar Town and it will be glorious. How much have you missed Dime-Eyes, Jelly, Jules, Trav, and the Robert “Bobby” Cobb? Penny can? Army Boyfriend Wade? Tom! Big Carl! The nice guy and the “other one!” Baby Stan! God, so many good friends that I just want to snuggle up with forever and ever.

Wait, you mean you weren’t watching Cougar Town? Seriously? Yes, I know it has a stupid name that even its own writers hate, and yes, I know the first seven episodes are terrible, horrible, no-good flailing attempts at comedy. I grant you all that, but will you pretty please just tune in already?

Cougar Town is one of the most delightful examples in my absolute favorite television genre, Mixed Groups Sitting and Talking, zanier than Friends, less gimmicky than HIMYM, slightly more stable than Happy Endings, and more generationally diverse than New Girl. And it is absolutely drenched in wine.

If that’s not enough for you, Cougar Town passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, and it even scores highly on my own overwrought, overly complicated rubric for determining whether a show is feminist or not. Behold:

1. Marriage and Babies? The main character, Jules, is 41 when the show starts. While her attempts at romance are plot point, they are not the plot point. Even for the younger character (Lauri), her trajectory is about figuring out what she wants in life (she starts a new business at the end of season 3), and less about some desperate or overwhelming urge to partner.

2. Women like sex too? Check! My favorite scene is when Lauri (late 20s) and Ellie (early 40s) try to find a sexual partner they’ve shared. Jules’ teenage son, Travis, matches up their respective lists to find a winner. “There are a LOT of names on these lists,” he says, and the two women high five.

3. Body beautiful? As important to me as this component of feminist-y media is, it’s such a rare find that I’m considering removing it from the list altogether. I guess I just have to acquiesce to the fact that 95% of bodies on television are going to be thin, blonde, and mostly white. On the other hand, on CT, you do get Andy (short, bald, pudgy, hairy), and yet all the women fit a very narrow version of beauty. That doesn’t seem quite fair….

4. Platonic Boy Girl Friendships? Cougar Town always wins big when it relies on the less frequent cross-gender friend pairs. There are some great moments between Ellie and Bobby and even better ones between Andy and Lauri. Plus, Lauri and Grayson sleep together and then manage to maintain a sweet, supportive friendship that isn’t tainted by their past shenanigans.

5. Girls that don’t talk about boys. Ellie, Jules and Lauri do spend a lot of time talking about boys (tennis pros, Abercrombie models, Zac Efron, and more), but they also talk about Lauri’s relationship with her mom, how Jules and Ellie’s parenting styles have differed, relationships with therapists, their aging bodies (but like… come on, have you seen Courtney Cox?), and Ellie’s claustrophobia as a stay-at-home mom.

6. People want different things? This metric is about recognizing that men aren’t just after sex and women aren’t just after love and Cougar Town nails it. People are complicated. Jules writes Grayson off as a player who left his wife to date younger women, and comes to find out she left him because he wanted children and she didn’t. The original (flawed) premise of CT was the very exploration of a woman pursuing sex for the sake of it. It didn’t work, but the conversations that continued are really, really good.

7. Some women are bitches, some men are douches ≠ Battle of the Sexes: Sometimes people behave badly, but their behavior isn’t tied to men being dicks and women being bitches. Ellie is the closest to a caricature of a bitch, but over the last few seasons her role in the group has gotten more and more delightfully complicated.

8. Feminism isn’t a dirty word. Not sure that Cougar Town ever explicitly brings up the F word (correct me if I’m wrong!) but I would argue that the show addresses a lot of the big third wave questions (slut-shaming, double-standards, pressure to partner, body-snarking, SAHM vs. working mom) with wit and with a progressive-ish attitude.

9. Male Gaze? CT is obsessed with bodies, to be sure: Grayson’s waxed chest, Lauri’s boobs, Travis’ insecurity about his physique, the very opening sequence of the series (Jules pinching her underarms), but the camera isn’t sexist. It doesn’t linger on women’s bodies, it doesn’t pan up and down, it doesn’t encapsulate the male gaze.

This is all beside the point (I mean, not really, but kind of…). Cougar Town is fucking hilarious. It’s one of those shows that rewards your for your loyalty by echoing past gags, trusting you to remember the inside jokes, and having characters evolve in ways that only make sense–but they do make perfect sense!–if you’ve been following along. So start with season 1, but know that the first seven will be kind of janky, and just stick with it. I promise it’s worth it in the end.

Related Post: Does The Good Wife out-feminist Parks and Rec?

Related Post: Why 2012 was a good TV year for the ladies. 

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Monday Scraps 89

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1. SNOW: This epic John Branch story is a freaking commitment (took me about an hour to read, I think), but one that’s well worth it. With amazing graphics and video, he recounts the avalanche at Tunnel Creek.

2. THIEVERY: Super fun profile of “supernatural” pickpocket Apollo Robbins by Adam Green for the New Yorker.

3. FASHION: Girls is coming back! Yippee! Get excited by reading about how Jessa, Marnie, Shoshanna and Hannah are dressed and styled.

4. MONSTERS: As part of a promotional campaign for the new Monsters Inc. prequel, check out the parody website “Monsters University.”

5. MATT + BEN: Who doesn’t love a good oral history of a much beloved cultural landmark? (Side note: The Friends oral history in Vanity Fair was excellent.) For Boston magazine, Ben, Matt, Stellan, Robin and more recount how Good Will Hunting got made.

6. EDUCATION: I dare you to not get weepy at this NYT video of a very special physics teacher.

Related Post: Sunday 88: Boobs, doubt, the Rockaways, Moloch

Related Post: Sunday 87: Deb Perelman, Amy Hempel, Pinterest for cops

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Mixed Groups Sitting and Talking

The horrifying fact that Friends is old enough for Nick @ Night does have the upside of inspiring a Friends renaissance in my apartment, compelling us to eagerly tune in every night at 10pm. Good for my laugh lines, bad for my sleep habits.

And man, does that show stand the test of time.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an interesting article on the history of cross-gender friendships. Back in the day, such friendships were scandalous and only undertaken by those not concerned with propriety and reputation. Now that I think about it, even my parents, born in the fifties,  don’t seem to have many substantial cross-gender friendships. If they do, they are usually part of “couple friends” or were developed later in life. Mom, Dad, am I wrong?

But people in my generation, at least in my circle, seem to derive a lot of value from these platonic relationships. I can’t imagine my college experience (or post-college) without male friends, both straight and gay.

Though much of the Friends fandom focuses on the Ross/Rachel and Monica/Chandler romances, the core of the show is a group of mixed-gender friends who sit around and talk all day. They talk about work, families, kara-tay, and Phoebe’s adolescence on the street, but mostly, like any mixed group, they talk about relationships.

When I think about my favorite sitcoms in the last few years, they all boil down to mixed groups sitting and talking. How I Met Your Mother is a tad schmaltzy, Happy Endings leans too heavily on the spaz-comedy, Cougar Town might as well be called Stand Around and Drink Wine, and New Girl adds the co-habitation slapstick, but they all fit the same profile. Even Modern Family and Up All Night, family-oriented as they are, operate on the premise that adult men and women can hang out and chat and have fun.

On the flip side, shows I dislike (2 Broke Girls, Whitney, Two and a Half Men) are still pretending that there’s a gender battle raging, with winners and losers and eye-rolling “oh you know how women/men are” jokes.

Related Post: The Good Wife addresses the big questions of third wave feminism.

Related Post: Meryl on Ellen.

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Race for the Cure?

This is a picture of me and two friends at the 2010 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure:

We look pretty badass, no? I was so proud to finish that race (1:06!). It’s the longest one I’ve ever completed and it represented the culmination of my journey from never-runner to sometimes-runner. I was proud to raise money and to demonstrate with my actions and efforts a commitment to health for myself and for women across the country.

Sigh. You’re probably familiar with the hullaballoo over Susan G. Komen’s grantmaking process changes that seemed remarkably well-targeted to negatively affect Planned Parenthood (a recipient of $600,000+ in grant money for breast cancer screenings). I had no beef with Komen, besides the annoying pink ribbons plastered over everything. There’s much that has been written about the sexualization of breast cancer fundraising (“Saving Second Base”), but I still believed that Komen’s fundamental goal was a good one. Not so sure about that anymore.

This year, I have a new plan, and you are all more than welcome to get on board. Come September, I will be running a 10K alongside thousands of other racers. I will not be a registered runner, however, and my t-shirt will announce that I stand with Planned Parenthood. Stay tuned, I’ll be asking y’all for donations.

Related Post: How Amy Poehler finally got me to pony up my Planned Parenthood donations.

Related Post: Kate from Smart Girls, Stupid Things on the attempted defunding of PP.

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Schmaltzy Title, Bangin’ Essay

Don’t let the self-help title fool you, this The Rumpus essay by Emily Rapp is no schmaltzy ode to girls’ night and chick flicks. “Transformation and Transcendance: The Power of Female Friendship” is a slow-building, artfully arranged emotional symphony. Scratch that, it’s a roundhouse kick to your gut. A slow-building, artfully arranged roundhouse… yes, that sounds right.

It’s about girlfriends, yes, but it’s not about cosmos or cupcakes or Manolos. It’s about love. It’s about the moments in Sex and the City that resonate because of the underlying truths they dramatize: Charlotte’s fertility struggles, Samantha’s cancer diagnosis, Miranda’s mother’s death. You gather friends because they add laughter and joy and glitter and all things wonderful to your life, but it’s only when shit hits the fan, as it inevitably will, that you realize what a fucking solid rock all that glitter is heaped upon.

Did you see 50/50? A laugh/cry ratio that high is hard to pull off, but I really think they nailed it. At its heart, it was a movie about what happens when disaster strikes in that awkward period between fleeing the nest and building a new one. Your parents are thousands of miles away, you don’t have a spouse yet, you’ve only got your friends.

It’s the “only” in that sentence that I’m thinking about, and that Emily Rapp wrote about so eloquently. Too frequently we attribute to the spouse-less some sort of weird social failure, “Awww, look at you without your husband, you only have friends! How sad!” What a terrible attitude! Building the kinds of relationships that last a lifetime, like the Wrinklies in the Rumpus piece, or the Rogan/Gordon-Levitt bromance of 50/50, is amazing and inspiring and should be a thing we all hope to have. Those relationships are not the fall-back, not the consolation prize, not the thing to settle for if the partner game doesn’t work out.

Related Post: I wrote a response to Kate Bolick’s Atlantic piece about singledom.

Related Post: I’m preemptively angsting about friends leaving Chicago.

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Filed under Family, Hollywood, Really Good Writing by Other People

Platinum

Big thanks to the provider of this boa, which has left a pink and fluffy trail around Chicago

On Saturday, I celebrated what my roommate described as my platinum birthday. 24 on 2/4. These are the people for whom I am as grateful as any 24-year-old can be:

  • My mom. On 2/4/88, I was just a passenger, she did all the work.
  • My dad, who watched as my mom’s organs were lifted out of her one after another to clear a path for me, the emergency C-section. “You know that scene at the end of Braveheart? Yeah…. it was like that.”
  • My brother, who suggested we finish our Words with Friends game after midnight, because “no one should be a loser on their birthday.”
  • You awesome, amazing, brilliant, beautiful, coolest fucking friends in the world who a) shopped for edible glitter, b) baked a surprise cake, c) sent various Scrabble themed gifts, d) filled my fridge with booze, and e) brought your single, straight, male friends just in case I wanted to get laid. You guys rock so hard.

Cheesy birthday post? Check. Deal with it, as I was instructed to repeat all evening, “I’m the birthday girl!”

Related Post: The most self-aggrandizing post yet.

Related Post: Got a card from my grandma. She’s 83 and she remembers!

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