One Hour Until DC

We had the kids in the car and some munchkins on hand by 7:20. My daughter has already had about a dozen munchkins and has started on candy.

We have taken I-95 through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. We should be in Washington DC before 11.

My friend and traveling companion on my overseas journeys, M, has purchased a house in DC. We will be touring it and having lunch with him and some Indian friends. Yeah for homemade Indian food!

We have no real plans for the week. Gayle has made no reservations. Except for having to be in Savannah in Wednesday to be at Juliette Gordon Low’s house. We have reservations for that.

Initial thoughts on “I am not an easy man.”

The other night I finally took the time to watch the French comedy I am Not an Easy Man on Netflix.

I am writing now in a few stolen moments between my nail appointment and my father stopping by to deliver some wood to my daughter. These are my reflections three days later without notes.

The basic premise is this: a single guy with a rich sexual history with women suddenly wakes up in a world where females are the dominant and stronger sex.

My almost-fourteen-year-old daughter watched bits of the film with me and I think it made her look at gender roles and gender expectations in a new light.

Women wore suits. Women initiated sex. Women went topless and didn’t shave.

Men waxed. Men stayed home with the children. Men carried purses.

Breasts became the power symbol.

The script was funny, but seriously thought provoking. I hope to watch it again and provide a more thorough analysis.

Indochic— Target’s New Home Line celebrates colonization or as they call it, “French-Vietnamese fusion.”

My husband and I started brainstorming our weekly household needs and while he worked on meal planning and a grocery list, I opened the Target app on my phone to see if they had any amazing deals on things we needed. We all know a trip to Target is dangerous and needs to be carefully and cautiously plotted.

Otherwise, the money can disappear.

I immediately found myself drawn to this luscious teal blue chair.

I mean, I seriously see this chair as part of the renovations to our master bedroom here.

But then I read the description: “Indochic: Think French-Vietnamese fusion, full of elegant shapes and sophisticated jewel tones.”

Now, this is my version of when people cry sexism when parents put little girls in clothes that focus on cuteness or certain traits our society sees as feminine. Like the t-shirts that say “I’m too pretty to do homework” or something like that.

“Indochic” is the exploitation and the ignorant perpetuation of the stereotypes that allowed colonialism and the “civilizing mission” to destroy cultures. If you understand my outrage… Well, may the sun shine upon you. We are kindred spirits. If not, let me see if I can calm down and rationally explain the root of my indignation.

First, let me start with the term “Indochic.” It’s a play off of the term “Indochina,” a strongly European word describing the region between India and China. The term became prevalently used in the 19th century and eventually referred strictly to the French colony of what is now Vietnam.

The French called its colony in the region “Indochine” so already Target has managed to make a playful pun, and a French pun at that by combining the French term “chic” with the prefix “Indo.” It’s Indo-great! Indo-cool!

Now, let me rant about the idea of “French-Vietnamese fusion.” The mix of French and Asian style occurred when the French colonized this region. I am no expert on French colonization in Asia, so I can’t address this in depth. But let me offer a few ideas.

Any fusion between the French and the Vietnamese was not voluntary. So should we celebrate it?

Is a pun like “Indochic” okay because the reference dates to the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century? Is it a forgotten pain? Can it be compared to referring as certain styles as “urban” as opposed to African-American? Would people feel differently about this type of style if the ad featured an Asian woman and a French man?

What I also find interesting about the concept of Indochic, French-Vietnamese fusion connects to my interest in miscegenation. The French developed strict plans for breeding between the civilized French man and the indigenous woman. In French Indochina, French men in the colony were encouraged to make local women their concubines specifically to purify and civilize by producing children with Frenchness.

But remember, the women in these unions would come from poverty by French standards and would be servants or laundresses to their colonial master before they caught his eye. Young native women and older French men, the women unable to say no because of the power exchange.

In colonialism, native cultures lose their land and their resources to the more powerful nation. Their men lose the chance to earn their own living. People who had independent lives become dependent on a foreign system. Tradesmen become servants. Women become housekeepers and sex objects. Native traditions and languages bend, twist and often break or are forced broken by the more powerful, dominant presence.

So when we advertise a sophisticated, elegant French-Vietnamese fusion and give it a cutesy name, we are perpetuating the idea that the cultures on the peninsula between India and China did not have anything to contribute to the world before the French came along and subjugated them.

It’s not Indochic. It’s not cool. It’s contemporary Orientalism.

If anything it’s Asian-influenced French design. Influenced. Because fusion implies an intentional attempt to blend two strong styles.

An Open Letter to American Society

I am home today battling a hand-me-down cold from my daughter. It’s not a bad one so far, but I am doing everything in my power to keep the damage to a minimum. With flu season ravaging everyone out there, I will take my little cold.

I have a part-time job in retail, a job that pays the bills and allows me the flexibility to live my life with the quasi-freedom a writer’s life should have. It is not ideal, but few things are in today’s world. It’s an overpopulated, under-resourceful place, this world, or maybe we waste too much of what we have.

I have traveled enough to understand what “first world problems” really are. I have talked to enough people from cultures more or less the opposite of mine to see how selfish many people have become.

So, today, I write a brief letter to my fellow Americans. This letter is based on things I see everyday. Too often.

  1. Please stop giving babies iPhones and junk food. If your child isn’t old enough to walk or talk, he or she does not need an icee. And I know it’s not easy to drag an infant everywhere you have to go, but believe it or not, they are fairly easily entertained. Giving your baby an electronic device to watch movies or play games while you shop prevents your child from interacting with the world. That’s how they learn. I saw a mother recently apologize for the fact that her child was mesmerized by a toothpaste box. Good for that kid! Good for that mom! Let your child see things, touch things and meet people.
  2. Get off the phone. A lot of people are busy. We get it. But perhaps that also is a sign that you are misusing your life. And it’s not just people on their lunch hour. It’s the elderly who sometimes can’t hang up the phone to go through the check-out line. It’s just rude and it dehumanizes the person helping you. My daughter recently asked me how you could receive calls at a pay phone. I told her it had a number listed on it so if you really wanted to hang out and receive a call, you could. I also reminded her that this was also the time period where you had to answer the phone to find out who it was and before answering machines and voicemail, if you weren’t home or missed the call you would never know…
  3. Stop buying useless stuff. I think the only reason people buy half the things they own is because of an impulse that starts with “this is cute.” We buy too many clothes, too many knick knacks, so many things. Why?
  4. Live within your means. Be careful with your paycheck and try to save those credit cards for emergencies. Buy the car that fits your budget, not your lust. Not everyone needs the big house. Not every family needs more than one car. Consumers in debt are the playthings of big business.
  5. Eat better. You don’t “need” pizzas and burgers and soda. You don’t need fancy sugar-laden coffee drinks. You want them. You need water (lots of it), fruits and vegetables and healthy protein. I’ll spare the full lecture, but the better you treat your body, the better it will perform for you.
  6. Stop acting spoiled. Or entitled. Or privileged. Whatever word you prefer is fine. You want the random stuff and the fancy coffee drink because you feel you deserve it. And that’s fine. But when they run out of your favorite flavor ice cream, or things don’t work out the way you want, remember everyone usually is doing their best and it’s not the end of the world.
  7. Treat each other kindly. Be gentle. The more we share patience and kindness with our families and those we interact with, the more it will spread. I see too many people get nasty to the sweetest people honestly trying to be the best at their job, and when I see truly good souls fighting tears because someone (who probably has their own demons to fight with) decided to be mean, I don’t question why teens are seeing guns as solutions.
  8. Take care of the elderly. I live in a rare neighborhood. We lost our 90-year-old neighbor last week. Several neighbors helped care for her as she became more and more of a shut-in. The children would all visit. I would always help her carry her groceries or send my daughter to help when I saw the opportunity. That woman died very loved. And my daughter learned how to be a neighbor.
  9. Let your children grow up. Let your children solve their own problems. Have their own experiences. It’s hard to let go. I know. Start small. Let them do meal planning and cook dinner. We saw a team of teenagers working on a school project in a store. They were amazed at the cost of laundry soap and a tad befuddled. Remember, parents are training children to be adults.
  10. Appreciate other cultures. The more you value other cultures, the more you learn about yourself. I think Americans are particularly bad at this.

I’m stopping my list here. I just wanted to give you something to think about.

New Adventure: Reviewing Horror Movies with my Teen

It’s probably been a decade since I met William Prystauk at an after-party of sorts when Kaylie Jones came to the Lehigh Valley to promote her memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. My attendance at that book signing was itself a convergence of factors, primarily two: my attraction to Paris and my experiences with parents dealing with alcoholism.

The party in question was hosted by a former work colleague then involved in an MFA program as one of Ms. Jones’ students. She invited me to her home after the event and that’s where I met Bill, also in the same MFA program. And we discovered we had similar interests and were practically neighbors so somehow we ended up meeting for coffee.

At some point in the last week or two, Bill suggested my teen daughter write for his web site, Crash Palace Productions, http://crashpalaceproductions.com/, reviewing horror movies. Except, I pointed out, that my daughter doesn’t watch horror movies due to bad memories of The Walking Dead.

That request got me thinking and I proposed doing a joint review. Last night we watched Netflix’s I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. And this morning, I wrote and submitted the review.

My next hope is that my daughter will watch the 90s classic The Craft and examine whether it holds up with today’s generation. I might even consider that a project for today.

Journaling across generations

I started keeping a journal after a writing workshop at University of Pennsylvania that I attended as a high school student. I kept them faithfully for at least a decade, tapered off in my consistency after the birth of my daughter, experimented with forms (most recently adapting a bullet journal style) and renewed my habit in the last few years but still not with the same devotion I once did.

I used to fill a standard cheap journal in a month. Larger, fancier volumes took longer. I color coded a lot of my text. One color for fiction, one color for poetry and another for personal experience. That sort of thing.

The blank ones included sketches. Briefly, I used calligraphy pen and even briefer a fancy fountain pen.

My current fascination is Alphabooks, blank journals in the shape of alphabet letters. I found the A on clearance. My husband had recommended his mother buy me the N for Christmas as it is the second letter of my name, but I fooled them and mentioned if I had the chance I would continue the series with B and write alphabetically.

I also have an affinity for Sharpie pens. I bought a set in August 2016 and they are still going strong.

Eventually, my journals ended up in a box in the attic. Or, several boxes, more accurately.

My now 13-year-old daughter has always been captivated by the written word, always written in notebooks, constantly starting projects and ripping out pages (and never finishing). She has started working on her own stories, but journaling hasn’t held her interest.

 

But she keeps asking to read my journals. I cringe.

I tell her she needs to remember that journals have a lot of angst in them, a lot of unfiltered, unedited thoughts and that what I say in these journals might not always be… well… nice or even what I would say on a different day. And some of my tales might color her opinion of the people she knows, even her own family.

But she keeps asking.
I bought her a nice journal for Christmas. And a HUGE set of Flair pens. She has journaled for 15

days straight. She starts on her journaling journey as I wonder if mine has been worth it. Who wants to read that drivel? There are so many volumes are they worth sifting through? Do I say hateful things?

She asked again. She volunteered to get them from the attic. We sorted through the boxes and at some point I had labeled the cover of the journal with the major events of that time period. I selected a pile of about ten I said she could read.

She started with the journal that included when her father and I got married.

She’s read me excerpts: story ideas I’d forgotten about, adventures and misadventures,

my life as a vegetarian. My favorite thus far has been a poem about my nephew when he was about 3, and a page where he scribbled in my journal. Then my daughter found a journal where she was 2, and I let her scribble in my journal.

So I guess those journals are worth something.