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Laura Antoinette or, a Juicy alternative: Sarcasti-pants



Did you see this ad on the back of the Times Sunday Style section today?

The ad heralds the opening of the new Juicy Couture flagship store on 5th Avenue, which was apparently slated to open in July, when this ad campaign might have made more sense.

Perhaps the ad creators were aiming for a Sofia Coppola-esque “Marie Antoinette” feel, you know, Chuck Taylors shelved among the satin court shoes in Antoinette’s closet, and girls in towering powdered wigs bopping to The Cure?
marieantoinette.jpgWhat was most amazing about that movie, actually, weren’t the oh-my-gosh-isn’t-that-supposed-to-be-clever stylistic juxtapositions, but the fact that nothing happened: it was a movie utterly devoid of content, which, given the momentous events threading through Antoinette’s life, reflects the triumph of surface over substance.

But back to Juicy.  Let’s parse this slogan: instead of cake, we’re offered velour; instead of food, clothing; instead of sustenance, shopping.

Had Juicy’s store opened on schedule, their ad campaign might not have hit such a sour note, but coming as it does now, while Wall Street (along with Mom and Dad’s 401(k)) crumbles into New York Harbor, the ad smacks of the kind of disdain displayed by the titans of AIG, who racked up a $400,000 resort bill the day after the government “loaned” the company $85 billion dollars.

(Oh, don’t worry, we are assured by an AIG spokesperson, the trip was planned long before the bailout occurred. Apparently in the insurance business, trips like this are “as basic as salary as a means to reward performance.” Hmm. And did anyone want to think about the fact that a steady stream of resort rewards like this one might damage a company’s bottom line? Nah. Silly me to think such a thing.)

AIG’s huge slice of government cake is separate, of course, from that 700 billion dollar layer-cake being offered to Wall Street from a recipe concocted by those Versailles-worthy bakers, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, a cake now liberally (conservatively?) bedecked with pork-barrel roses. Perhaps one rose for each “no” vote on the first go-round?

Execs at Juicy Couture must be asking themselves whether crowds will flock into their huge new store, eager for velour tracksuits that cost $256. Or perhaps shoppers will economize and get just the $118 hoodie (which, for those of us who grew up in a different generation, means a hooded, zipfront jacket).

Somewhat ironically (I often think that the ad folks at the Times must have a deep sense of whimsy), the lead story in the Style section is about parents having to say “no” to their teen-age children, due to belt-tightening measures, even among the Sutton Place set. One mother quoted in the article wonders if her daughter’s selfishness was her fault, the result of “early lavishness” when her kids were young. Um, I dunno: if you give your kids everything they ask for, all the time, mightn’t they decide that they are entitled to everything they ask for, all the time? And that thus, when times get tough, their response might be, “I don’t care, I need my three hundred dollar tracksuit or I’ll just DIE.”

Nah. Silly me to think such a thing.

I missed the Juicy Couture boat, I confess. I never understood why you’d want to walk around with the word “juicy” on your ass, particularly if your ass were … well, let’s just say that most of the asses walking around out there aren’t really equipped for such an epithet. Most, in short, don’t look like this:

Thumbnail image for juicybutt2.jpgHad I even an ounce of sewing talent, I would invent a different kind of sweat pant, a juicy alternative, if you will. These sweatpants would be designed for the fuller-figure gal, the woman with the butt that, with every retreating step, sways out the statement, “I carried several children to term and all I got was this ass.”

I would call them Sarcasti-Pants and they would say things like “sardonic,” “ironic,” or – depending on your mood – “phlegmatic,” “sanguine,” “bilious,” “saturnine.”

I could special order a few dozen for Paulson, Bernanke, AIG execs (for their next resort outing, peut-etre), and Mr. I-used-to-run-Lehman-Fuld: tracksuits in a delicate puce velour, and across the ass would be emblazoned “oblivious.”

Now I know that Juicy Couture isn’t to blame for the financial meltdown or the hideous, corrosive gap between the extremely wealthy and all the rest of us – a gap that has widened into an abyss over the past eight years. It’s clear, though, that we are headed for non-Juicy times, desiccated times, even, and heads are gonna roll.

And that’s why this ad really pisses me off: so if you don’t have three hundred bucks to spend on a tracksuit, screw you?

Is this how the French rabble felt as they peered in the windows of Petit Trianon, Antoinette’s faux-shepherdess palace?

And thus through a somewhat complicated geometry, I think this makes Laura Bush into our Marie Antoinette. Do you think Laura wears Juicy?


**I’m traveling this week and am treating you all to some ghosts of blog-posts past. Wouldn’t it be great if the economic situation happening when I wrote this post had resolved itself by now?

Continue Reading · on August 19, 2013 in Feminism, NYC, Politics, shopping

The Gift of the Snail

We’ve spent the last six weeks or so in the U.S. visiting friends and family, including a trip to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts.  My kids go to a British school, so this trip was my attempt to offer them a dollop of U.S. history, which for some reason their school doesn’t offer.  Sore losers, if you ask me.

We stayed at a great cheap hotel right on the water and at low tide, the beach curved along the bay for what seemed like miles. You could see why the Pilgrims must have breathed a sigh of relief after their hell-trip across the Atlantic: the waters of the bay are calm, the beach is broad, the trees are green.  Pretty much the antithesis of the open ocean.

I walked on the pilgrim’s beach the morning we were there and saw that the sand was crisscrossed with small trails, separate from the wavy rivulets created by the tide.


Snails. Tiny snails, not much bigger than my thumb, going from the rocks at the beach’s edge to…well, I’m not sure where they were going. The open ocean? Some imagined rock in the distance? Or were they just out for their morning constitutional, like I was?

Maybe these snails were the pilgrims of the tide-pools, millimetering their way forward against immense hardship? Probably not in pursuit of creating a religious colony with a large profit margin, but then again, who knows what governs the soul of snails?

I looked at the snails for a bit and kept walking, and then a few hundred meters on I found a snail shell, empty, unbroken, and whisper-smooth.

The next morning, walking on a different beach, I found another snail shell.  And the next day another.

We were at a variety of beaches during our time in the States, and I found an unbroken snail shell almost every other day.

It’s as if Someone is trying to tell me Something.

I’ve been frustrated this summer—one writing project abandoned, another stalled in its earliest stages, another percolating in my brain but refusing to coalesce; I’ve spent way to many hours flipping through half-finished manuscripts without finding much worthy of development.  And while our trip to the States, was wonderful in almost every way (except for my spectacular wipe-out on an NYC sidewalk), it was not particularly conducive to getting any work done.

So. Snails.

Snails are all about patience and perseverance, right? Not to mention that they carry their houses on their backs and thus are comfortable wherever they find themselves—not a bad lesson for someone embarking on her third year as an expat.

Plus, you know, I’m ticking down the months to the big five-oh, so I could do worse than to adopt a snail as my totemic animal: their shells get better, smoother and shinier, as they get older.  True, I’d always fancied myself more of a cheetah gal, but let’s face it: I am never gonna be built for speed.

Okay, true, snails often become seagull escargot, and I suppose snails never know the pleasures of good champagne, but I’m going for the Big Metaphor here, so please don’t disabuse me if you know other, less than positive snail facts.

That’s the gift of the snail: I’m going take metaphors where I can find them; I’m going to see the beauty in the slow-and-steady; I’m going keep moving, avoiding crabs and gulls, until I find open water and a niche of my own.



*We’re going to be traveling next week – a last hurrah of the summer before we all put our school shoes back on – so in the week that I’m away, I’m going to be dazzling you all with some posts-from-the-past. Enjoy – and enjoy your last weeks of August, too. Probably, you know, to keep you company in these last days of summer, you should have a good book to read. What’s that you say? You don’t have a good book? Why LET ME SUGGEST THE BOOK I’M IN! Click on over right here and buy yourself a copy or ten.

Continue Reading · on August 16, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, Books, expat, Kids, NYC, Travel, writing

The Moral of the Skinned Knee

I’m borrowing the title of this post from The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, that great book about the importance of letting your kids feel some of the bumps in life instead of coddling and protecting them every inch of the way.  Judging from this article about the can-you-top-this attitude towards “care packages” sent to camp, parents seem not to be getting the message, however: smuggling candy to your kid by taking out half a box of kleenex, filling it with candy, and then hot-glue-gunning the box back together? Shoving M&Ms into hollowed out tennis balls, or tampon tubes?  Really, America? really?

Anyway. Here’s what I learned today:  you shouldn’t leave late for yoga class and half-trot to the CitiBikes stand in hopes of grabbing a bike and getting to yoga on time if you’re on an uneven New York City sidewalk and you happen to be wearing your favorite sparkly FitFlops.

Because you will somehow stumble on the loose cement and you will go sprawling on the sidewalk like … like … like a middle-aged lady falling.

And you will lie face-down on the sidewalk for a split-second and think to yourself, before everything starts to hurt, “oh crap is this going to hurt.” And then it does begin to hurt and you realize that you’ve pulled not just one layer of skin off but several layers of skin, in several different places, and you will hurl a long litany of bad words into the quiet air of an early Sunday morning.

You will wonder for a moment if you can still make it to yoga, and then you will realize that there is a wee trickle of blood going down your shin, so probably not the best thing for a yoga class, and you will hobble back to your apartment.

You will not get to yoga but you will sit on the couch with your bloody knees and read about over-indulged children at summer camp.  You will wish that someone would bring you a tennis ball full of M&Ms, or at very least a cookie, but no one does. You realize that not only do your legs hurt but also that you are going to have the mother of all scabs on your legs.

There are several morals here, the first of which could be: don’t exercise. The second might be: only run in closed-toe shoes.  The third might be: always have a stash of M&Ms on hand, because sometimes a skinned knee needs more than band-aids. It needs chocolate. Or maybe a drink. I wonder how the care-package crazies would smuggle alcohol into their little darlings’ camps? Vodka in orange slices?  And god forbid any of these children end up in prison: mom will be right there smuggling contraband in by whatever means necessary.



 you should see the other knee…and my right elbow…and the palms of my hands. 

I am way too old for these sorts of booboos. 

Continue Reading · on July 22, 2013 in exercise, Kids, NYC, Parenting

Day 1: Pitching

To pitch implies that someone will catch, don’t you think? So to pitch, from the very get-go, is itself a hopeful act.

And yet of course–as thousands of Hollywood wannabes could tell you–the hope of “pitch” almost always ends in despair, with the “not for us at the moment,” or “mmmm…we were thinking of going more with a JosswhedonjjabramsNOTYOU type” …

Or the plain “nope, hated it, don’t turn in your waitressing apron just yet, toots.”

To write a pitch for a piece of writing–to take alllll those words and boil them down to some kind of nugget–a nugget that someone will want to catch? Brutally hard.  You try it. Distill something you wrote into a sentence. Or take the sentence and boil it into three words.

I’ve embarked on the yeahwrite 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: at the end of July, this blog will be bionic, I swear, leaping tall buildings, ripping phone books in half with its bare hands; it’s going to be a lean, mean, blogging machine.

But first I need a pitch.

The tagline for this blog is “perpetually ambivalent New Yorker…now living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.”  I’m going to drop the UAE because let’s face it, no one really knows what the hell those letters stand for anyway, and everyone already thinks that Abu Dhabi is Dubai, so whatever.  I can’t drop “ambivalent” because that pretty much structures my entire psyche and while, yes okay, maybe I should work on that, July is about blogwork, not selfwork. So hands off my ambivalence.

But then we get to the whole “yeah, but what the hell is a mannahattamamma, anyway?”  No one wants to hear the story of finding the name for this blog, which involves long detours into Walt Whitman’s poetry (the opening lines from his beautiful poem “Mannahatta” were originally on the masthead of the blog), so that’s out. (Yes, originally I wanted Manhattanmamma, but someone had already bought the domain name, dammit.)

Okay, so I have sort of a tagline (perpetually ambivalent New Yorker … now living in Abu Dhabi) but I need that nugget-y bit.  Gist, pith, boiled-down essence,whatever you want to call it.

How about this:

Just after Arab Spring, a Manhattan mom left New York with her two young sons, her husband, several soccer balls, and eight thousand lego pieces in order to work as a literature professor in Abu Dhabi, on the edge of the Arabian Gulf.  As a New Yorker, Mannahattamamma chronicled the complications and comedy that emerged as she and her husband negotiated jobs, children, and New York’s public schools. In Abu Dhabi, Mannahattamamma still writes about family, politics,culture, and education, but her observations are filtered through the frequently absurdist lens of expat life in in a desert city where gold-plated cars and camels are equally common sights. Lawrence of Arabia it ain’t…but even so, life here still sometimes borders on epic.

That’s about 110 words. Might not be grabby enough, or funny enough. Might not be…enough enough.

What do you think? Comments in comments please? Be nice but be tough. And if your eyes have glazed over somewhere in the second paragraph…let me know (when you wake up).


 man at a festival a few months ago

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Continue Reading · on July 2, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, NYC, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

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