Archive for May, 2008

First I was out of town. Then I was out of sorts. As a result of these conditions I was out of words for several days. It goes that way sometimes.

Today I heard a delightful conversation on NPR regarding the opening of Sex and the City, the movie.  A blogger at the Chicago Tribune has taken it upon himself to stand in solidarity with his gender and resist the pressure men may be getting from the significant women in their lives. He offers a “get out of seeing the sex and the city movie” coupon here, invoking the manhood of William Wallace, Rocky Balboa, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, and several other manly characters in his quest to resist. It’s cute.

Personally I’m not a sex in the city kind of gal. Neither bows the size of Texas on a dress, nor $700 Jimmy Choo stilettos make it onto my feminine radar. So it’s a bit hard to relate.

I’m curious though, about you. How about it? Sex and the City, anyone?

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10 simple but not easy ways to attain true beauty:

1. Stop enabling the commercial beauty machine. Toss your fashion mags, cancel your botox injections, give the money you were saving for that boob job to the poor.

2. Retire the committee. Buy ’em a gold watch, a condo in Sun City, and send them on their way. They’ve helped enough.

3. Let the light of your true self shine. Jen Lemen says “your soul is the most artful thing you create.”

4. Cultivate joy in the present. There’s nothing more beautiful than a face beaming with joy. No wrinkles, prominent noses, double chins, zits, blotches, squinty eyes, or outright deformities can dim the brilliance of pure unadulterated joy.

5. Get all your fashion advice from Amelia – wear what makes you feel beautiful.

6. Gather kindred spirits to support you in your transformation.

7. Find some new mirrors, and say to the old, “you don’t know the score. I’m a knock-out.” The eyes of those who love you are the best mirrors of all.

8. Do your passion. Don’t hold back. Half-assed is so very unattractive.

9. Get off the treadmill. Slow down. Sip. Chew slowly. Hang out and waste time. Smell the roses. Loosen up for once. Let the tension seep out of your body. Relax.

10. Shake what your mama gave you. Dance is the most basic expression of your state of being. If you can’t dance, you’re not letting your true self shine. Come on, get up offa that thing, and dance till you feel better.

Yep. That’ll do it.

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I’ve not seen the movie Shallow Hal. After seeing the trailer I calculated the cost-to-benefit ratio of having my  values validated while forcing myself to endure a thousand and one fat gags from the likes of Jason Alexander and Jack Black. The math didn’t work for me, so I skipped it. The story, I hear, is all about fixing the eye of the beholder.

(Or is it making fun of fat people? Or maybe how funny it might be to watch Gwynneth Paltrow act like a fat person… I don’t know…okay, I’m a little bitter)

Here’s a You Tuber’s version of a the lessons of Shallow Hal:

When it comes to personal beauty, we too often lose our way.

We reduce beauty down to its visual elements: hair, teeth, skin, boobs, legs, butt.

We objectify beauty, separating it from the soul, leaving us with mere image.

We rank and compare beauty, as if there could be a MOST beautiful anything.

We infuse beauty with power and then use it as currency.

We’ve sold beauty to the highest bidder.

Just because the price is high, doesn’t make it any less cheap.

We need a new way of seeing.

Human beauty is a gestalt – a magic combination of spirit, soul, and body. Beauty is a presence, an essense, a scent of the divine in the flesh. Mirrors can’t capture beauty.

One day as I stood before the mirror, frowning, my husband pulled me away and said, you’ll never see what I see in that mirror. A mirror can never reflect what happens when your spirit shows. When you’re being yourself, your beauty comes out and radiates something beautiful. You need a better set of mirrors.

I need a better pair of glasses.

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I’m still pondering beauty – observing it, listening to it resonate in my soul. I’m wondering what constitutes beauty, and am fascinated by what seems to be the sheer necessity of beauty in our lives. As well, I’m stunned by the power feminine beauty in particular.

The difficulty comes for some of us when this power is paired with beauty. None of us begrudges beauty that is unattached to persons. We appreciate it, treasure it, spend money to obtain it, and enjoy it – for the most part. In fact, beauty in nature, art, fabric, movement, the beauty of an idea, or an elegant solution to a problem, a poem – all of these things we can enjoy without complication.

But when it comes to the beauty of the female form, we’re scarcely aware of being under a spell. KT Tunstall says it most profoundly in her song, Suddenly I see:

Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she’s a beautiful girl
She’s a beautiful girl
She fills up every corner like she’s born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you’re trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on her word

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

And she’s taller than most
And she’s looking at me
I can see her eyes looking from a page in a magazine
Oh she makes me feel like I could be a tower
A big strong tower
She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see

Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see (Suddenly I see)
Why the hell it means so much to me

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“I’m Beautiful”

“That’s it, baby! When you got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!”

“This is the Divine Miss M
and I’m here to share with you some rare
and stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I smiply believe with all my heart:”

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, so beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

“Go away, little girl,” they used to say.
“Hey, you’re too fat, baby, you can’t play.”
“Hold on, miss thing, what you trying to do?
You know you’re too wack to be in our school.”

Too wack, too smart, too fast, too fine,
too loud, too tough, too too divine.
I said you don’t belong. You don’t belong.
Too loud, too big, too much to bear,
too bold, too brash, too prone to swear.
I heard that song for much too long.

Ain’t this my sun? Ain’t this my moon?
Ain’t this my world to be who I choose?
Ain’t this my song? Ain’t this my movie?
Ain’t this my world? I know I can do it.

I’m not too short, I’m not too tall,
I’m not too big, I’m not too small.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
I’m not too white, I’m not too black,
I’m not too this, I’m not too that.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

It’s time to call it what it is. Don’t play the naming game.
Become what you were born to be and be it unashamed.
“Go away, little boy,” I can hear them say,
“Everybody on the block says they think you’re gay.
Hold on, my friend, do you think we’re blind?
Take a look at yourself. You’re not our kind.”

Too black, too white, too short, too tall,
too big, too green, too red, too small.
I said you don’t belong. You don’t belong.
Too black, too white, too short, too tall,
too blue, too green, too red, too small.
I heard that song for much to long.

Ain’t this my sun? Ain’t this my moon?
Ain’t this my world to be who I choose?
Ain’t this my song? Ain’t this my movie?
Ain’t this my world? I know I can do it.

People always ask me,
“Miss M, how did you get so far
on so little?” Shut up!
Well, I woke up one morning,
flossed my teeth and decided,
“Damn, I’m fierce!” You look good!
You can be just like me! A goddess? Yeah!
Don’t just pussy foot around and sit on your assets.
Unleash your ferocity upon an unsuspecting world.
Rise up and repeat after me: “I’m beautiful!”

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful!
Can you say that?
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful!
I don’t hear you!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful!

That’s it, baby, when you got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!

Ain’t this my sun? My sun! Ain’t this my moon? My moon!
Ain’t this my world to be who I choose?
Ain’t this our song? Ain’t this our song?
Ain’t this our movie? Ain’t this our movie?
Ain’t this our world to be who we choose?

I’m not too short, I’m not too tall,
I’m not too big, I’m not too small.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
I’m not too white, I’m not too black,
I’m not too this, I’m not too that.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
I’m beautiful, dammit!

[ http://www.azlyrics.com ]

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(Just a little treat from You Tube and Flight of the Conchords)

Loveliness Sometimes Doesn’t Sell:

How Patty, Laura, Pam, Susie, Becky and I Became Batgirls for the American Legion Post 22 Baseball Team of 1973.

It was a little like revenge of the nerds.

Becky and Pam went to that other high school across town, but they could be forgiven because Patty and Pam were friends. Pam’s dad somehow knew Mr. Dave Ploof, the coach who built the Post 22 team into something special. Under his leadership, South Dakota farm and ranch boys went on to be professional baseball players for decades to come.

Mr. Ploof – we called him Mr. Ploof – had an idea for boosting attendance at his games. How about having some lovely ladies serve as batgirls for the team? They could mingle with the crowd, rub up the balls (Spaldings only, of course) and snatch up far-flung bats during the game. Batgirls would put Post 22 in the news and stir up some buzz for the sport.

Pam, ever the opportunist, immediately recruited her friend Patty, who in turn twisted the arms of the rest of us and we were in. In our uniforms of white pants, red tank tops, blue jackets and baseball caps, we were a sight to behold. I wish I had the photos to share with you, but think Charlie’s Angels.

Sort of. Put some clothes on Jacqueline Smith, add 3 more girls, and you’d get the picture.

Seriously, we were hot – in a wholesome kind of way – the best-selling combination of all time.

Looking back, I think the first mistake we all made was ignoring the strict social caste system of our respective high schools. Who knew the kind of power that unspoken social structure could wield? Sometimes I think it still rules the world. None of us were cheerleaders, none from the top tier of the uber-popular alpha girls. We were all lovely people, seriously. But we were in the band/choir/drama/debate stratum. No doubt healthier, but definitely not upper crust. The boys on the team knew it. Deep down we knew it, but we thought maybe we could overcome, somehow break through that glass ceiling. I suspect that each of us secretly hoped it was our ticket up into that rarefied atmosphere. Sadly, thankfully, it was not to be.

All in all, though, it was a fun summer. My love of baseball was born that year. We had fun-filled evenings out in the Black Hills air. We made fun of the players, we cheered them on. We flirted with geezers in the stands, and we got our hands dirty. We never seemed to be able to properly rub up a baseball though. We got complaints.

The second mistake was to take us on the road. After hours of debate with the board, they decided they would take us to North Dakota for the weekend, a series of about 6 games in Minot. Minot, holy cow. But we were excited. Double headers in 100 degree heat in the middle of North Dakota – hardly glamorous, right? But nothing could dampen our enthusiasm. We were part of the team!

Meanwhile, at the hotel, the boys finally started to notice us. But not in a hey baby you’re cute how about we go for a coke sort of way. More in a juvenile 6th-grade I like you so I’ll punch you kind of way. Pranks ensued, involving shaving cream (who knew they shaved?), running and screaming, throwing water, etc. The clincher, though, must have come when one of us – gosh, I don’t remember who – hung out the window screaming RAPE! – into the downtown Minot late night air. How did we know they didn’t know we were kidding?

When that knock at the door came, and we asked “who’s there?” while holding 3 glasses of water ready to fling them into the faces of the boys on the other side, luckily we paused and considered maybe they were telling the truth when they said “THE POLICE.”

Mr. Ploof himself stood alongside 3 Minot police officers, looking very disappointed.


They never yelled at us. I don’t remember being shamed, or fired, or dragged into scandal. Everyone was very appropriate. But that was the end of the batgirl program.

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Friday night Ted and I had dinner at Earl’s in downtown Denver, before we took in 3 Mo’ Divas at the Stage Theater, in celebration of our 32nd anniversary.

Earl’s is a popular place with good food and plenty of atmosphere. Noisy, but noise seems to be one of the requirements of a successful restaurant, don’t ask me why. At Earl’s, I noticed, all the servers were women, and most of them were wearing the same uniform: a swingy little black dress with spaghetti straps and no small amount of visible cleavage. They were all in the vicinity of 21, all very beautiful, all tottering around in strappy sandals with spiked heels, looking like high school girls primping in the bathroom at the homecoming dance.

The vibe of the place was not what I’m used to, but then, I’m not used to eating in trendy downtown restaurants. We were demographically segregated, seated in the back of the second floor where it was quieter. I was grateful for this consideration. On the other hand as I looked around, we were definitely in the geezer zone.

Our server was not only pretty, she was very nice. I got the feeling that when she smiled at us and complimented us on our menu selections, we were supposed to be pleased with ourselves. Proud that we’d scored a smile and a cheer from such a lovely person.

No doubt this blessing of loveliness is an important part of Earl’s business plan. Earl knows the precise dollar value of the loveliness he offers, the thin line between loveliness and sleaze. Earl’s was way on the side of wholesome, despite the abundance of skin showing. No piercings, no tattoos, no frizz in the hair, no sneer, no smoking, no pissed-off looks. Keep it lovely, girls.

It creeped us out. Both of us.

It reminds me of a story I’ll have to tell you tomorrow, about the summer I spent as a bat girl for a local baseball team.

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I’ve spent the better part of four days observing the phenomenon of beauty, wondering whether to start a thoughtful series on the subject. Then I turn to Karen over at Cheerio Road and she’s already there with an encouraging word and a couple of great videos to share. It must be a sign, I think. So here goes.

I’ve become a rabid fan of Stephen White, writer of some pretty great psychological/crime fiction. His main character is a psychologist in private practice in Boulder. This is a treat because I get to peek at the therapeutic challenges of another practitioner, as well as follow his adventures in one of my favorite places in the world, the People’s Republic of Boulder. I’ve now read my library’s entire collection of Stephen White, which is sadly short of what’s required.

It’s Stephen White that got me started thinking about beauty, while reading his 2004 bestseller, Blinded. Here’s how one of his characters describes another character named Gibbs Storey, in several passages:

Gibbs Storey was gorgeous, okay? I mean make-me-nervous, shift-my-weight, avert-my-eyes kind of gorgeous. The girls-guys-like-me-don’t-even-get-to-talk-to kind of gorgeous.

Not pretty.

Gibbs was movie-star stuff.

If she hadn’t been so pretty, or maybe if I had just been constitutionally more adept at being around someone so pretty, I might not have blurted out what I blurted out next. But she was, and I wasn’t.

then later:

What I didn’t say was, “My God, woman, your options are limitless. I know twenty men who would bow down and lick clean the ground you walk on.”

I took a moment to look away from her and give myself a pep talk. I told myself that I could look her in the eye and not be weakened by her beauty. That my resolve wouldn’t dissolve in her loveliness.

When I looked back up at her, I was pretty sure that I’d been wrong.

White weaves the theme of female beauty throughout this novel in a way that rubs the sore spot on the psyche of many an unresolved high school wannabe. It made me cranky, I admit.

The sheer power of a certain kind of feminine beauty, as described here, is stunning to me. What can it mean, I wonder? Beyond the obvious factors: our sex-infused culture, the media, inadequately socialized boys, improperly socialized girls?

What does it mean? What does it represent?

I’ll be wondering this all week. Stay tuned.

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I reread my last post this morning, trying to recapture the gratitude and awe I felt about being – I think the word was defective. I just can’t quite muster it up today. Today I’m feeling very frustrated with myself for being defective – read fat – again.

I contemplated my frustration this morning during my walk. Walking is a great aid to contemplation, I’ve discovered. I began to string some beads together in my mind:

The truly magical moments of finding beauty in the midst of pain, tragedy, or utter brokenness.

The relief of finally admitting the powerlessness of a major screw-up, or the consequences of an addiction.

The tantalizing aroma of humility I detect when I’m in the presence of someone who has suffered well and now carries him/herself with a hint of greatness.

The occasional freedom I experience from the tyranny of worrying what other people think.

I began to think how tempting it is, even in the midst of these powerful lessons, to long to be bright and shiny at last. Finally to be accepted into the ranks of those who have it all – beauty, power, brains, wealth, and some sort of fame. When I stop to look I discover this temptation at the root of all my angst.

Temptation makes me think about religion and how religion should be a set of principles and practices that supports the good of living humbly, finding eternal value in simple realities. Religion makes me think of some of the goofy things that Jesus evidently said when he walked the earth. Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the ones who are pure in heart. Stuff like that. How he tried to tell us, but how we screwed it up. It makes me really believe in original sin, the human condition, or whatever you may call it – the primal drive to be cool, enough, to be esteemed, to have it all, no matter what.

I want this to be my religion, my spiritual practice: to pray for the courage to value humility. To pray for eyes to see the beauty of defectiveness. To ask for the strength to be content when all around me people are striving to be shiny – and succeeding. To beg for the maturity to love myself and those around me as the amazing creatures we are. To have the strength to choose accordingly when the time comes, and to have the courage to face up to, and accept, my propensity to fall into temptation.

I wish there were a religion for that. Unfortunately they all seem cluttered up with other things.

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Chapter 8: Reunited

I’m not a girl anymore, that’s for sure. So soon old, so late smart, they say with a shrug. I’m tempted to feel regret, and yet mostly I feel grateful to be at this point in the struggle. My body, my oldest friend, my most faithful companion, has stayed true, has told the truth to the world, even as I ignored her. I can’t tell you how incredible that feels to me. And now I can find a new way to live – together with my body at last, happily ever after.

This will require a new set of skills, as well as a shift in attention. The committee will be relieved of its managerial duties, and I will need to learn to listen in a new way. After 47 years of warfare, I will learn to listen to the wisdom of my body somehow, and I will learn to trust her with all the courage I can muster.

Even as I’ve been doing this I’ve been aware of a stubborn determination to cling to the old paradigm. Maybe now I can lose weight, I think. Maybe now I’ll shrink down to size. Perhaps at last, as reward for gaining wisdom, I’ll slim down.

Perhaps I will. Maybe I won’t. That’s up to my body. My job is to listen and obey. To trust and to love. To value the wonderful gift of being…how can I put it?…of being defective, I guess. Of being flawed in the eyes of the they’s and the them’s, the keepers of the rules of illusion. The story makers. The liars.

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