Archive | pop culture

The Color Purple

I read Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple when I was about fourteen, probably too young to understand its full complexity. All I understood was that the world conspired against Celie–and at fourteen, that’s sort of how the world felt to me, too.

With each re-reading of the novel, I saw more: the way that the form–an epistolary novel–drew on centuries of (white, European) literary tradition and challenged it at the same time; the fact that love between women challenged (and eventually dismantled) structures of male power; the joy and power that comes from finding work that matters, whether that work is singing jazz or making pants that fit women.

I’ve taught this novel a few times, and I love listening to students talk about what they discover in the novel, which still resonates, even now, more than thirty years after it was first published.

I was reminded about the novel’s power today, when I watched Jennifer Hudson and the cast of “The Color Purple” pay tribute to Prince, whose album “Purple Rain” came out two years after Walker’s novel.

I’m not alone–I’m one of millions, I suppose–when I say that Prince’s songs were the soundtrack of my youth. At the time, of course, I thought I was very, very adult, singing along to “I Would Die 4U,” or “Raspberry Beret…”  There was childlike joy in the music–the sheer ecstatic pleasure of making something–married to the very adult pleasures of the flesh.

His music floated out of dorm rooms and dance parties when I was at college in the early 1980s. College, for me, was a small women’s college outside of Boston, where The Color Purple was on lots of reading lists: all that female empowerment! On the weekends, the school held “mixers” — ghastly dances that drew men from surrounding colleges. Sometimes men from specific schools would be invited, sometimes men just showed up, but all of the men (okay, most) seemed certain that as inhabitants of a female-only world, we must be starving–nay, near unto death–for the lack of male company.  The standard conversation at a mixer often went something like “hey, how are you, my name is Jeff/Pete/Charlie/Biff…” and then after a few pleasantries, the question: “Is your roommate home?”  And that meant: would you please take me to your dorm room and let me see your little red love machine?

Much to the chagrin of Biff, Charlie, and Pete, we were frequently quite fine, thanks, without the pleasure of their company. Which is not to say that sometimes we didn’t make like darling Nikki and get ourselves a lil’bit of fun, but just as frequently–and often jump-started by Prince–my friends and I would dance towards each other, ignoring Biff’s entreaties. We danced, god did we dance; the boys couldn’t keep up and we didn’t want them to. Prince gave us permission to dance without worrying about what we looked like or who was watching; he gave us permission to move for the sweet pleasure of moving.

I haven’t remembered those dances in a long time. It took Prince’s death to remind me of the freedom we felt as we danced; the music made me feel like I could do anything.

Somewhere in The Color Purple, Celie writes “Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” Maybe that’s what Prince wanted to do in his music–be loved–but maybe, and more likely, I think he wanted us to remember to love each other–whenever, whomever, and however we wanted, in whatever fleshly and passionate fashion we could find.

Celie also tells us “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  We couldn’t not notice Prince–not just his purple, of course, but the marvel of the creativity that streamed out of him, an amazing gift that I, at least, thought might never end.

Goodnight, sweet Prince. Nothing compares 2U.

 

Continue Reading · on April 22, 2016 in aging, Feminism, pop culture, sex

parenting will make you nuts, but it’s not as bad as READING about parenting

…and when did “parenting” become a verb, anyway?  Time was, back in the day, a parent was a noun, and what you did was “raise” kids or “try not to drown” kids or “don’t lose the kids in the mall.”  But those were simpler times, I guess.

Probably–if you’re a parent–you have seen (but not yet had time to read because: parent) the spoof in The New Yorker that says “A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.”

And baby, ain’t that the truth?  The only thing possibly worse than people (other than, perhaps, your own mother) telling you how to raise your kids are books telling you how to “be” a woman: lean in, lean out, dress up, don’t dress…. do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about.

Feh. Who has time.

The New Yorker spoof, which is satiric and hysterical (adult blinders, anyone?) got posted on my Facebook by lots of people. What I loved, however, is that in its infinite and non-ironic wisdom, FB linked those posts with a whole list of “related articles,” all of which were about. . . parenting. Just in case you hadn’t gone completely ape-shit, FB wants to finish the job:

 

Screenshot 2014-03-25 08.22.23

Speaking of ape-shit, can anyone explain to me why FB had to go and futz with its layout? I hate it.  Yes, oh snarky reader, I know that facebook is optional and I could turn it off, but we both know that’s just crazy talk and posturing on your part. Without facebook, whatever would I do? Write? Read? Exercise? Clean my damn house?  Feh, again.

So. Resolved: parent is a noun, not a verb; my children will be more or less successful adults, as are their parents and most of the other people in the world; facebook will continue to be my maddening addiction (which I guess is the nature of addictions. See: “Scandal,” “House of Cards,” “Game of Thrones,” marriage).

Onward.

Continue Reading · on March 25, 2014 in Books, family, Kids, marriage, Parenting, pop culture, ranting

Birthday War Games

For a long time, when my kids were little, I refused to outsource the birthday party: I made a cake, invited the kids over, maybe used the “community space” in our building for games of some kind or another.  The year that Liam turned four, when Caleb was still less than three months old, I decided it would be a good idea to host Liam’s entire nursery-school class (about 17 kids) –and their parents — to our apartment. We’d do a craft, I figure, and eat pizza, and really how hard could it be?

I still have nightmares. And the craft-related glitter stayed in my rug for years afterwards. If my sister hadn’t been there to help, I would probably have locked myself in a closet with baby Caleb slung across my chest in his sling.

Eventually, though, as the kids got bigger, our apartment seemed smaller and smaller, until outsourcing became inevitable.  Plus, because Liam’s birthday is in November, one of those “let’s meet in the park and play” type birthdays won’t work – at least not in Manhattan.

The first year we lived in Abu Dhabi, Liam was able to have a beach party, which seemed remarkable at the time, but now, as is the way of things, has faded into just a fact of life.

Also our first year here, Liam was invited to a paintball party. You know, get a gun, fill it with plastic pellets and try to “kill” your opponents.

Despite being the kind of boy who never got enthralled by guns (no nerf, no pow-pow-pow with pointed finger; the kid doesn’t even much like super-heroes), Liam looooves paintball.

Every birthday he’d ask if he could have a paintball party, and every year we resisted and deflected and demurred.

But for turning thirteen, we relented. Not sure why—maybe because it’s a “big” birthday? Maybe because if we were Jewish or Zoroastrian or even Catholic, he would be having some kind of ritual ceremony to mark crossing the threshold into … adulthood? That seems a bit of a stretch. How ’bout crossing the threshold into the you-can-do-your-own-laundry-now hood? That seems worth celebrating, don’t you think?

And thus I found myself last weekend with a veritable herd of barely teen-aged boys at a big sporting complex that hosts paintball parties.

forsanthey look like such nice boys, don’t they?

Because really, what better way to cement your friendships than with elaborate paramilitary exercises?

Here’s hoping these battles were just games and not a metaphor for the next few years. Because as metaphors go, I’m not liking the looks of things:

masks

 

Continue Reading · on November 25, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, family, growing up, Kids, NaBloPoMo, Parenting, pop culture

in which I share a cup with Gwyneth Paltrow

I have a Very Big Birthday coming up in  two months.  REALLY BIG.

As if to celebrate that fact, my body has started to disintegrate. I have this twingey thing in my knee, and then there’s that little hitch in my hip, and my neck sounds like there are cornflakes in it. Plus I have a shoulder thing.  I don’t know if years of waitressing, back in the twentieth century, have finally exacted their toll, or if I hurt myself doing something stupid, like exercising, but my shoulder has been out of whack for almost a year.

I went to an orthopedist and we did the whole healing-by-technology thing: MRI, Xray, electro-stim.  The shoulder got better . . . but it didn’t get fixed.  But now, with that big birthday looming in front of me, I decided that dammit, I don’t want to take a crunchy stiff shoulder into my next half century, so I went to an acupuncturist.

I’ve never been to an acupuncturist before, not out of any sense of doubt but because I am a freaking coward and so why would I deliberately choose to have someone stick needles into my flesh?

I walked into the office and saw these on the little table:

cups

Well, I thought to myself, I’m here for the needles. Not the glass cup flambé.

Wrong. Before I could say “gwyneth paltrow,” the doctor had a wad of flaming cotton waving way too close to my hair, thank you very much. Like a magician, she waved the flame, then did a press, twist, and pop with about ten little glass jars, all along my shoulder and collarbone.  “Thousands of years old, this cupping practice,” she said. “Dries out humidity in the muscle. But don’t worry,” – press, twist, pop – “I’m not doing it for long enough to leave marks.”

"Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy"- New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals

Humidity in the muscles? Sounds dangerously close to the Elizabethean idea of each body being composed of four humors (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic), but I didn’t want to argue with someone holding fire so close to my head.

Then the needles came out. I expected needles in my right shoulder because that’s the shoulder with the problem.

Wrong again.

The needles were carefully stuck along my eyebrows, on both sides.

And as for those people who told me “don’t worry, the needles don’t hurt” … wrong again.

Ouch. And ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch.  One ouch per needle stuck along my eye socket. I could see the needles in my peripheral vision, waving slightly, like whiskers or oddly placed tentacles. It’s not a look I recommend.

Those needles went out and another set went in on my left knee and left calf, which are still really marked up from the horrible fall I took this summer.  The doctor tsk-tsked at my injuries. “You are very active,” she said. I think perhaps she meant that I should cease and desist from all forms of exercise, advice that I’d be glad to take except then my incipient insomnia would come roaring back, I’d stop sleeping, become even grumpier with my children than I already am, take up drinking in order to help myself sleep, give myself a headache, and the entire grumpy cycle would start again.  So I will have to keep exercising in order to prevent verbal child-abuse and alcoholism.

Here’s the thing: when a needle goes into my left calf? It sends stabbing pains up and down my leg.  “Yes, that’s an old injury you have,” said the doctor, noticing my white-knuckled clutch on the edge of the table. “It’s going to take a while for the pain to go away.”

Oh goody.

I wish I could say that after my session with needles and cups, which  sounds more like I went to a tarot reading than a doctor,  I went off to play three sets of tennis with no problem.

Not exactly.  The shoulder feels better but still makes a whole variety of odd noises as I move; clearly it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to challenge Nadal on the court (like, um, never).

In the meantime, though, I’m feeling quite goop-y in my use of alternative medicine and have a strange desire to re-name my children after pieces of fruit and old testament prophets.  I think maybe the needles along my eye socket went into my frontal lobe.

 

Continue Reading · on November 8, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, aging, exercise, health, NaBloPoMo, pop culture

in which I experience an epic parenting fail

So Liam has been walking around the last few days humming and singing “here comes the sun,” which I think of as one of the all-time great songs.

I say to him, “wow, I love that song; I didn’t know you liked The Beatles.”

He looks at me, horrified. “I don’t. It’s from “Glee,” with Demi Lovato.”

Me, equally horrified, “Demi Lovato? Singing The Beatles?”

Liam, speaking as if to someone who has had a lobotomy, “Not just Demi Lovato. Santana, too. A capella, so you can really hear the lyrics.”

Me, making a last-ditch effort, “But the Beatles version–”

Liam, firmly, “Mom. Demi Lovato is GREAT. And her version is SO MUCH BETTER than the old one.”

 

I am now a shell of my former self.  My brilliant wonderful son—talented in so many ways—disdains The Beatles in favor of Demi Lovato?  I know that teens and parents are supposed to disagree with each other’s musical taste, but…Demi Lovato?  Where have I gone wrong?

Fasten your seatbelts, people. It’s gonna be a bumpy adolescence.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Continue Reading · on November 6, 2013 in family, growing up, Kids, NaBloPoMo, Parenting, pop culture

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes