Two broads make a right

Happy haunting, dames! HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HA!

Plus some news to brighten your witching hours:

[I]n the last few months, economists, consultants, and other business types have begun to track the rise of a new emerging market, one that may end up being the largest and most powerful of all: women. According to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group, women are now poised to drive the post-recession world economy, thanks to an estimated $5 trillion in new female-earned income that will be coming on line over the next five years. Worldwide, total income for men ($23.4 trillion) is still more than double that for women ($10.5 trillion), but the gap is poised to shrink significantly because the vast majority of new income growth over the next few years will go to women, due to a narrowing wage gap and rising female employment. That means women will be the ones driving the shopping—and, economists hope, the recovery. That growth represents the biggest emerging market in the history of the planet—more than twice the size of the two hottest developing markets, India and China, combined.


Colm Tóibín on John Cheever

In his early forties, after winning an O. Henry Award, Cheever went to see his mother. He reported the following exchange: ‘I read in the newspaper that you won a prize.’ ‘Yes, mother, I didn’t tell you about it because it wasn’t terribly important to me.’ ‘No, it wasn’t to me either.’ In the Wapshot novels, everybody loves Coverly’s older brother, Moses, but ‘everybody did not love Coverly.’ So, too, everyone loved Fred, John Cheever’s older brother, who was born in 1905, but everybody did not love John, who was born in 1912. By the time his mother was pregnant with him, indeed, the marriage was under so much strain that Cheever’s father invited an abortionist to dinner. As Blake Bailey writes in his biography: ‘It was a story that haunted Cheever the rest of his life … Not surprisingly, he saw fit to blame his mother for having the bad taste to tell him of the episode.’


You don't have to wonder very far to see how some people became writers, though you do have to wonder what they might have become had they not.

Phatic communication

I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It's good for society. And what they're doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness. They want to know what the people around them are thinking and doing and feeling, even when co-presence isn't viable. They want to share their state of mind and status so that others who care about them feel connected. It's a back-and-forth that makes sense if only we didn't look down at it from outer space. Of course it looks alien. Walk into any typical social encounter between people you don't know and it's bound to look a wee bit alien, especially if those people are demographically different than you.


Twitter and I have managed to work through our issues by maintaining rigorous control over who we follow, and thus far it's all to the good. But—far more important—I learned a new word today!

phatic adj. Of, relating to, or being speech used to share feelings or to establish a mood of sociability rather than to communicate information or ideas; e.g., hello or how are you?

(with thanks to suttonhoo for bringing this site to my attention)


Love, Loss, and What I Wore

Love, Loss, and What I Wore is adapted by Nora and Delia Ephron from a wee little picture book by Ilene Beckerman—for sale, perhaps, at your local Hallmark store, though it's far less sentimental than one might expect—interlaced with new material and at least one of Nora's previously published essays.

It's a tidy collection of clichés, to be sure, though what makes it clichéd is also what makes it universal: the horrors of the dressing room, the emptiness of a closet filled to bursting with nothing to wear, the neverending search for the perfect purse, the humiliation of bra fittings and prom dresses, the ubiquity of black, the war between heels and flats, the courage of boots, the judgment of mothers, the mercy of mothers, the unexpected arrival of one's period at the worst possible moment, what we wear to show off and what we wear to hide in. Breast cancer, childbirth, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, falling in love, getting married, getting divorced, the steady shape of best friends and the fierce loyalty of sisters. The clichés also bring the surprises into sharper relief, as with a pair of stories relayed simultaneously by two women that weave unexpectedly together at the end. Alternately merry and moving, it's a bravura celebration not of what we wore so much as who we were when we wore it, the experiences recognizable even if the clothes are not.

This is a reading, not a staged play, thus tailor made for both actress and audience asides (the mention of Eileen Fisher drew both), and delivered by a rotating group of five performers, in this case ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s: Lisa Joyce, Mary Birdsong, Jane Lynch (JANE LYNCH!), the redoubtable Tyne Daly, and the equally redoubtable Mary Louise Wilson. Surely it will be playing in your own neighborhood one day soon; see it with a woman you treasure.

Watching: Little Dorrit

Poor John Chivery: "How can you say you don't know it? Anyone with eyes could see it! These walls know it! You were so lofty, so far above the rest of us, you don't even notice it. All the time I was breaking my heart over her, she was breaking hers over you!" Lord oh lord.

What are you waiting for? This is why rainy days exist!

See also: Cranford, and get ye to some kleenex, STAT.

To house or not: what makes a grownup?

Here's my friend Kris, buying a house the year we turned 30 (maybe 29). And me visiting her in Madison and falling in love with that house, deciding in a single afternoon:

Here's a house.

Here's a grownup.

I want to be a grownup. I need a house.

The sophisticated turn of the thought process was only the first indication that adulthood was not close at hand. The second: actually quitting my job in Chicago weeks later and moving back to Madison in order to put my life on the same path that would one day get me that house, or a similar house, or any house. Not understanding that what I wanted wasn't the house in any real sense, or even the home; it was the solid ground of the choice she had made—the idea of having settled, even semi-permanently, on something permanent—and having laid down the cement required to gain it. (Yippee! Puns!) Most of my friends had made similar choices by that time, home, marriage, kids, while I floated along at almost-30 with nothing real to show for it, no forward >momentum, no lasting ties, no wedding ring, stretch marks, or mortgage.

I want to be a grownup, too.

Ugh. Reader! Need I tell you? I was miserable. I had no business trying to lead her life. No business packing up all my worldly possessions to try to make the choices she had made, or imagining they would have the same effect for me—or even that those same choices mattered to me in any fundamental way. They didn't, as a matter of fact. And I paid the price for that assumption by moving those possessions 200 miles north and then—after six months of confusion and boredom—repacking and removing them 200 miles south to start all over again.

Nearly ten years have passed since then and people keep saying to me, aren't you lucky! You get to live in New York City, you get to fly to London for the weekend, spend a week in Paris, work at home, go to the theater whenever you want to, eat Fritos with bacon for dinner if you like!

That's not luck; those are choices. Those are trials and errors and successes and consequences, as are your spouse and your children and your neighborhood, the socks you pulled on this morning and the make and model of the car you trusted to get you where you needed to be. This way go, that way stay; for you one and for me the other, and in the end, each of us is right. Anything could happen, but only one thing will. Understanding and accepting that? That's being a grownup.

P.S. I do not eat Fritos.

(Further reading, tangentially: The Mommy Problem and The Referendum.)

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

— Mary Oliver

London wraps

We stumbled our way through London, SarahB and I, exhausted but eager, generally plan-less but ready for luck. (Actually we had no choice, our chief rallier having fallen ill at the last minute. Woe!) We were forced to be nimble, if you will, and made the best of it by stumbling. The city that received us was ready to help, by the grace of taxi drivers, shopkeepers, concierges, ticket salesmen, and waiters. Eternally patient men. I suppose they've seen worse than us.

Stumbling opens the city before you, lays you at its mercy, drops you at doorways and odd corners and—at least once—onto a train heading in the opposite direction of your desire (Moorgate, to be precise). It renders you vulnerable—one wrong turn turns into three and then six and by the time you recover your wits you are already on the wrong side of the map. You may need to part ways with your pride on this, but it's true: you have to step into the map.

Stumbling leaves wide room for surprise. It's what makes you audience to a parade of mounted sentries passing through Hyde Park as you search for a bathroom (of course) five hours after arriving, barely awake but still standing thanks to an ice-cold lemonade and the clip of an autumn breeze. Hark! say your ears before you turn your head, are those horses I hear? Horses far off, horses drawing close, the racketing counterpoint of hooves on cement, fresh on the heels of a rollerblader. (What do they sound like through headphones? The rollerblader's not telling.)

Stumbling says, Here are your limits. Dear god, HERE ARE YOUR LIMITS, and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a scarf. But mostly it says, Why not? It leads you through bright garden squares and book-lined streets, into public houses large and small and even something nicknamed "The Show after the Show," where you dine before the show on pâté and salad as a guitar-and-accordion ensemble bears its mark upon your evening. (I wouldn't discount the accordion as an instrument of joy, though it sounds better at the other end of the table.)

Stumbling means sometimes you should check the facts beforehand, so you'll know whether or not Elizabeth I (via Westminster Abbey) is entertaining on Sundays. (Tragically not. But she was always a little weird about religion.) Likewise the Leicester Square discount ticket booth, where you flip your proverbial coin and take your proverbial chances (in this case, An Inspector Calls, which came out one pro and one con, noir-ish allegory understandably not to everyone's liking). Also, you're liable to eat more sausage & mash than is good for you, and are all the gladder for it. And nothing stands between you and the Strongbow.

Finally—do I need to say this?—stumbling requires good instincts (i.e., we're not dum-dums, and SarahB is no London neophyte). A vibe is a vibe and a big city can be mighty big, and this one felt substantially bigger than the one we had left. Nerve-making, is the true sense of it, and in the way of the best adventures—as foretold, as sought out, as stumbled upon—utterly rich and rewarding.

+ flickr flickr flickr

Come send your love to London River

The evenfall, so slow on hills, hath shot
Far down into the valley’s cold extreme,
Untimely midnight; spire and roof and stream
Like fleeing specters, shudder and are not.
The Hampstead hollies, from their sylvan plot
Yet cloudless, lean to watch as in a dream,
From chaos climb with many a sudden gleam,
London, one moment fallen and forgot.

Her booths begin to flare; and gases bright
Prick door and window; all her streets obscure
Sparkle and swarm with nothing true nor sure,
Full as a marsh of mist and winking light;
Heaven thickens over, Heaven that cannot cure
Her tear by day, her fevered smile by night.

— Louise Imogen Guiney, "The Lights of London"

Passport check: LONDON

London Westminster: The Sun Won't Set


Remember that episode of Friends when they go to London for Ross's wedding to that awful Emily, and Joey spends the whole trip shouting "London, baby!" in Chandler's ear like a buffoon? (Of course you do.) Well, I am that buffoon. And you might want to toss some words of pity and prayer in SarahB's direction* because today we leave for LONDON, BABY!

* She is extra lucky, since I will also be practicing my French. LONDON BEBE! Quelle horror.