Tag Archives | women

Traveling While Female…

Hi there blogosphere….

I seem to have taken an inadvertent hiatus from blogging for a while … it’s the kind of thing like forgetting to write your grandmother: the longer you wait, the more it becomes A THING and the more it becomes A THING the harder it is to write.

So today, I am metaphorically writing my grandmother (may she rest in peace) and alerting you to my column in The National today.

In the column I’m wondering about how we female-type people travel alone without fear — or rather, how we manage our fears and anxieties while still exploring the world.  And by “explore the world” I mean everything from climbing Everest to going out to dinner alone in the neighborhood.   How can it be that after so many centuries, a woman alone still presents such a target/threat/opportunity/challenge to men–and why is it that so many men persist in believing that a woman alone is pining for his company?  See: fish, bicycle, necessity thereof.

Enjoy. And if you have your own travel tips (or horror stories) feel free to share them in the comments.

PS I love you, grandmother.

Continue Reading · on March 27, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Feminism, Gender, NYC, Politics, The National, Travel, UAE

On Turning Fifty

So I’ve been fifty for an entire week and so far things are going pretty well.

It didn’t look good there for a while, though, because I inducted myself into my fifth decade not only with a horrible cold but also with a violent stomach bug that had me barfing so hard and so long that I threw out my back.  All that vomit, without even a riotous party to precede it.  I followed the sneezing and coughing and barfing by peeling off a chunk of my thumb when I was peeling carrots for soup a few days ago. Left a lovely trail of blood across the cutting board but I’m pretty sure the scrap of thumb-flesh did not end up in the soup.

Fifty. I’m trying to buy into that whole “you’re only as old as you feel” thing and  “fifty is the new thirty,” but then you know what happens?  Some well-intentioned person says “You’re fifty?” which is meant as a compliment but the tone of the compliment sounds like sweetjesusfiftythat’sfreakingancient.  And that means that what’s really being said is “fifty means one foot in the crypt and for someone teetering on the edge, you don’t look half bad.”

Fifty. It’s not that old (and it’s getting younger all the damn time. Like, hourly).  I mean, there are lots of fantastic women who make fifty look good. Sandra Bullock turns fifty this summer, Michelle Obama just turned fifty, Madonna is fifty-four (sweetjesusthat’sfreakingancient).  I figure that  I’ve ridden buses driven by lunatics, I’m married to a handsome brown man, I’ve even danced to “Vogue,” so pretty much I’m going to age as fabulously as they are, right?

Fifty.  When the things you want down (weight, blood pressure, gray hair) go up, and the things you want up (back fat, boobs, good cholesterol levels) go down. It’s like a whipsaw in here as my body re-aligns itself to its new status as an AARP member (the card, I believe, is in the mail).

Of course, I have no intention of AARP-ing myself any time soon; like the plague victim in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” I have to say “I’m not dead yet…think I’ll go for a walk this afternoon…”  At fifty, I’ve still got an entire lifetime in front of me–it’s  just not quite as much “lifetime” as I had, say, fifteen years ago.

Here’s a thing that’s happened as I hit the far edge of late middle-age (or as that far edge hits me, whichever)–a kind of consolation prize, if you will, for the sagging skin and aching joints:  “fifty” gives you license to ignore the “shoulds.” Probably I should’ve learned to do that a long time ago (see what I did there?), but I didn’t, so now I have.  All those scripts that others want you to follow, all those conventional ideas about what a woman should do or shouldn’t do, all those commitments you’ve made because someone thought it would be a good thing for you to do?  Screw it. You’re fifty. Yes, you have a long time left on this earth, but not so much time that you should spend any of it doing anything other than what you think matters most.  You think Madonna is taking meetings she thinks are stupid? Nope. And you don’t need to wear a spike-encrusted bustier to follow her example (I hope).

So yeah. I’m fifty. And I can almost say that without wincing.

birthday candles

 image source



Continue Reading · on January 29, 2014 in aging, Feminism, growing up, me my own personal self, ranting

obligatory head-still-spinning post-blogher12 post: what I learned

Within the span of the last month I have been on safari in Kenya, a water park in Lafayette Indiana, a friend’s house in Easthampton NY, a small rental apartment in New York’s East Village, and BlogHer12 in midtown Manhattan. After careful consideration, I’d say that in terms of sheer stimulus overload, BlogHer12 wins, hands-down.

Throw whatever metaphor you want at BlogHer–prom, high-school lunchroom, convention, sideshow, circus–and you’ll find that almost any of them will work to explain at least some aspect of the conference, which pulled in more than 4000 writers/bloggers over the span of three days. That’s a whole lot of bandwidth. The blue BlogHer banner commands enough respect that President Obama addressed the crowd (Mitt was invited but apparently couldn’t fit it into his schedule. Something about having to attend a mandatory “how not to offend foreign heads of state” remedial seminar or something).

Why did I go to BlogHer? Well, I was curious, mostly; and I was going to be in New York that weekend anyway; and I figured that after four years of writing this blog, I should try to swim in the big kids’ pool.

What did I expect? Um…that I’d write a book proposal at the Pathfinders Session on Thursday, sell the proposal on Friday, be on the “Today” show on Monday, best-seller list on Tuesday.

Can you believe? It didn’t happen.

The stimulus overload, though? Yeah, that happened.

Was it Obama addressing the conference on live video feed? Katie Couric, Martha Stewart, Christie Turlington, Soledad O’Brien, Malaak Compton-Rock, talking about how women can change the world? Or the readers from Voices of the Year, who made me laugh, cry, and consider taking up embroidery because they were so intimidatingly good. And then, of course, there was swag that ranged from toys for kids (Hot Wheels) to toys for adults (did you know Trojan sells a whole line of “personal vibes?” Not sure I’d have the guts to ask the teenaged cashier at Walgreens to grab it off the shelf, but maybe you will.)

Oh and also? There were panels on every topic from video-blogging to podcasting, from writing about kids to writing erotica, but the professionalism of the panels varied as widely as the topics themselves, from wow that’s really exciting to did you plan your talk on a napkin at breakfast? (Ado at the Momalog has a great post here about the panels.)

I learned a few things in the midst of all this stimulus overload: I learned that there are bloggers who write, and writers who blog. It’s a bit like “vacation” and “family trip“: on the surface, these things might look the same, but each has a very different purpose.

I also learned that even though the BlogHer Sparklecorn party is justifiably famous, living on the north side of forty (as I do) makes it hard to sparkle your corn (even if you’re wearing your favorite gold clogs) in a room jammed with loud music, long bar lines, and twenty-somethings in tutus and glow-sticks.  Even unicorn cake couldn’t tempt me:

Here’s what else I learned: If a willowy blonde comes over and says something to you while you’re frantically trying to save seats for Obama’s opening speech, you shouldn’t be embarrassed about saying “I didn’t hear you.” Because if you just nod and smile and continue to scan the room for the fifteen different people you’re trying to find (in a room that holds hundreds), then later you’re going to feel like a complete ass. Because when you sparklecorn yourself out of the party and down to the more civilized hotel bar, a blonde in a fantastic dress will say “oh yes, we met,” and you’ll say “no we haven’t,” and she’ll say “yep, we have,” and then you’ll realize that the woman you ignored at Obama’s speech is none other than the marvelous Marinka, who had been on your list of people-I-hope-I-meet-but-probably-won’t-because-she’s-one-of-the-cool-kids.

What else did I learn at BlogHer?  I did learn something quite fantastic, and it wasn’t the advice I got about writing and publishing. Much of that advice I already knew, although it’s always good to be reminded.

What I learned at BlogHer came from the generous, funny, intelligent writers I met during my three days, with whom I had fantastic conversations about politics, families, writing and shoes; we took silly photographs and drank too much mediocre wine (and a few pink martinis, courtesy of the Mouthy Housewives and Aiming Low).  I’m talking to you Suniverse, and Empress, and Squashed (who read her piece so beautifully during the Voices of the Year celebration that she reduced the room to tears); and to you Mutterschwester, Book4MyDaughter, Millenial Monster, Outlaw Mama, Momalog, and Random Handprints.  I’m talking about bonding over the brilliance of Crowded House with Midlife Mixtape, being flattered beyond belief that Wendi Aarons had heard of my blog, and laughing until I cried at Arnebya’s hysterical Chipotle post.

These women and the many others I talked to taught me that the phrase “the blogging community” is not a metaphor. It is what my almost-eight year old would call a “true fact.”


Alexandra (aka The Empress) suggested I let people know that I respond to comments. My responses to your comments should pop up in your email box, but if that doesn’t work (yeah, I skipped the panel on tech-administration, yep, I did), please check back to continue the conversation. Thanks!










Continue Reading · on August 9, 2012 in Kids, NYC, pop culture, tech life, writing

a mall of contradictions

So I was at the mall.

I’m at the mall because “everything” is at the mall: grocery stores, bookstores (or at least stores that sell book-related products), the Walgreens-equivalent stores. These malls are vast echoey spaces designed to entertain: each mall has big toddler play areas; there are ice rinks, bowling alleys, fountains galore. In Dubai, there is a mall with a huge aquarium in it, and another designed around a series of canals, ala Venice.

The malls depress me, not only because I have to drive there but also because they are filled with chain stores, usually fair-conditioned to meat-locker levels, and because they celebrate consumerism as the pinnacle of civilization. (Now, granted, malls everywhere depress me, and for the same reasons; the Gulf doesn’t have the corner on garish displays of consumer culture. Mall of America anyone?)

Unlike Mall of America, though, the malls here offer a fashion parade of abaya style. I am fascinated by abayas, which is the word used here for the long black robe worn by Muslim women. The scarf covering the face is the niqab; the scarf that covers the hair and neck is the shayla, or, sometimes, the hijaab (but, confusingly, hijaab is also the word used to mean “modest,” and is thus sometimes the word used in a blanket fashion – yes, there’s a pun there somewhere – to mean “covering”).

Abayas in their plainest form are simply long black robes that sweep the floor.  Some women take hijaab to the utmost, adding black gloves and a full face veil, so that they are completely covered. I call this look the full beekeeper.  But – and this is where it gets complicated – I see women with abayas that look like a bedazzler has run amok.  Abayas with Swarovski crystals along the shoulders and down the back, like some kind of sparkly Hells’ Angels design; abayas with Louis Vuitton trim; abayas with spangled head scarves and peacock embroidery along the hemlines – abayas, in short, that are anything but “modest.”

I can imagine that for some women, a decorated abaya is a way to both follow “the rules,” and yet also assert personality – and status, because a custom abaya can cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

Abayas seem to me an embodiment of the complexity involved in being a modern woman in conservative Muslim country, and in the malls, easily half the women are wearing abayas – frequently abayas that I think of as “performance abayas:” abayas that are meant to be seen.

Here are three women wearing fairly subtle abayas:

Relatively modest.

There is another level of complexity, though, and it involves what’s under the abaya. The malls are full of shoe stores, and the shoe stores are full of women in abayas (some modest, some blazing with bling) – shoe love, it seems, is a universal female trait that crosses all national and ethnic boundaries.  I took pictures in three different stores of the shoes on display:

and these:

or perhaps these (note matching handbag):

I swear, if a hooker went to the prom, these would be her shoes.  Hijaab these definitely ain’t.

Wearing any kind of uniform forces secret, or semi-secret expressions of self to emerge. I just find it odd that hot pink, rhinestone studded platforms would be anyone’s form of expression, other than maybe Gwen Stefani or Madonna. But if we judge by good old-fashioned capitalism, these stores are stocking what their customers are buying…so someone is trip-trapping along in sparkly gold platform sling-backs under her modest black robe.

And I’m thinking that maybe I’ve already been here for too long because you know what? I think those pastel patent leather platform sandals are kind of cute, in a Japanese school-girl anime sort of way.  Just the thing for a day at the mall.


What’s that you say? You don’t want to go to the mall, you just want to get away from it all? Here are a few suggestions from none other than The Bloggess, Scary Mommy, The Momalog, WanderMom…and me! (And hell yes, being on a list with these writers sort of made my week…maybe my month!) Click here for the article from Travel and Leisure Online, a great source for travel ideas all over the world.


And if you are at the mall and you’re waiting for your kids to stop staring at the games in Electro-Land, then you should be spending your time reading yeahwrite – some of the best writing on the interwebs.  Read around, click around, then come back on Wednesday and spread some voting love. I’m using this great silver badge this week because it goes with the shoes. You know you want a pair. Just think what the other parents will think at the Saturday morning Little League games when you stroll up in your 10 inch sparkly platforms.


Continue Reading · on April 23, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Feminism, pop culture, shopping, UAE, What’s It Like?

it’s not politics, just a day at the beach

It’s been a cold winter here and a cold spring. Even now, in the middle of March, it’s only 73F and usually, by now, the temperature hovers in the low 80s.  Weather, here, seems to mean two things: wind and sand.  Sometimes the sand hangs so thickly in the air it looks like fog…and then you realize that everything is coated with a thin film of grit: hair, clothes, shoes, skin, eyelids.

The other day, though, the wind stopped blowing and the sand settled down, so we went to the Corniche for ice cream and a walk along the beach.  Everyone else in the city had the same idea, which meant the beach become an easy illustration of all the different types of people who call this city home.

Everyone has to be warned about how to dress:

But people define “appropriate” in all kinds of different ways:

Ah the banana hammock. I contemplated showing this man the sign about “appropriate,” but I’m not sure he’d see things my way. Gotta love that European unselfconsciousness, right?

Others, however, prefer a more modest masculine bathing ensemble:

After the picture was taken, these guys took turns dunking one another; there was much splashing and sputtering, although from the looks of it, none of them knew how to swim.

A more sedate group chose to watch from the beach:

Yes, they are wearing actual bikinis. Right there, on the public beach.  No one ogled them, no one scolded them, no stones were thrown.  Down at the water’s edge, meanwhile, these women were also enjoying the day:

So were they:

I don’t want to get all sentimental and over-dramatic–it was just an afternoon at the beach, after all–but spending time with all these different people, all sharing the same narrow patch of sand, I found myself feeling weirdly optimistic about the fate of the world.  I mean, what would happen if we all decided to just…get along?


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Continue Reading · on March 13, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, Politics, UAE, urban nature, What’s It Like?

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