Thursday, January 8, 2015

Some quotes from "100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write"

I read this excellent book the other night, by playwright Sarah Ruhl. I love books like this that are divided into lots of thoughtful little chunks or essay-lets so they're easy to finish in one or two sittings (since you can always read one more, similar to how you can always add another paperclip to a glass of water, or keep getting Google results no matter how many zees you add to the end of "pot rulezzzz..."). It's a lot like the Misha Glouberman book I mentioned recently, but in the end I liked it better, as Glouberman's self-congratulating got a little tiresome at points and Ruhl doesn't do that.

Here are some interesting quotes I pulled from the book:

"I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life."

"The umbrella is real on stage, and the rain is a fiction. Even if there are drops of water produced by the stage manager, we know that it won't really rain on us, and therein lies the total pleasure of theater. A real thing that creates a world of illusory things."

"In ancient Greece, comedies used to be appetizers in the form of satyr plays performed before the main course---a tragedy. Now we don't have daylong festivals of both comedies and tragedies, so now do satyr plays need to be contained inside tragedies? (That is to say, the dark comedy?)"

"Be suspicious of an expert who tells you to cut a seemingly unnecessary moment out of your play. The soul of your play might reside there, quietly, inconspicuously, glorying in its unnecessariness, shining forth in its lack of necessity to be."

"So what is a bad-to-indifferent poet to do? Enroll immediately in playwriting school. Put the bad poetry in the mouths of outlandish characters. It might make the bad poetry funny instead of sad."

"Nakedness is always real on stage, just as eating on stage is real, and kissing on stage is real, and dogs on stage are real---and one can only bear reality in small doses."

"If you are acting in a play of mine, and I say this full of love for you, please, don't think one thing and then say another thing. Think the thing you are saying. Do not think of the language of the play as a cover or deception for your actual true hidden feelings that you've felt compelled to invent for yourself. Don't create a bridge between you and the impulse for the language; erase the boundary between the two. Think of subtext as to the left of the language and not underneath it. There is no deception or ulterior motive or 'cover' about the language. There are, instead, pools of silence and the unsayable to the left or to the right or even above the language. The unsayable in an ideal world hovers above the language rather than below."

"Being dead is the most airtight defense of one's own aesthetic."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Things to try in 2015

Let's not think of these as resolutions; let's think of them as strategies.

1. Go to the library more

I've been underusing the library for the past few years, mostly because there are so many books in our apartment. J is kind of a book collector, so we have a huge library, and new books are always coming in: we get review copies, friends who are writers send us books, and J goes to the library weekly. So there is always something around that I could (or feel I should) be reading. The problem is, they're mostly J's books, and I've discovered that if there aren't lots of books around that I'm specifically excited about reading right now, I won't read as much. So my new strategy is to go to the library more and have more books around that speak to me at this moment, even if some of them inevitably get returned unread. I also think the due date works as a kind of hack to get me to read faster, similar to the way a workshop deadline might get you to finish a poem.

2. Spread out my drinking

I read an interesting article this morning about the under-reported health benefits of alcohol, and this point in particular resonated with me:
Second, drinking 10 drinks Friday and Saturday nights does not convey the benefits of two or three drinks daily, even though your weekly totals would be the same: Frequent, heavy binge drinking is unhealthy. But then you knew that already, didn’t you? If you don’t distinguish binge drinking from daily moderate drinking, that would be due to Americans’ addiction-phobia, which causes them to interpret any daily drinking as addictive.
I do think I have ingrained cultural anxiety about "drinking every day," which is seen as a problem or a sign of a problem. So what happens is, I feel virtuous when I don't drink on weeknights, which in turn gives me a sense of permission to drink more on the weekends. But I really enjoy having a glass of wine while I cook dinner (which makes the whole process feel like more of a ritual treat than a chore), and a second glass while we eat. So my new plan is to give myself permission to do that every night if I want (or not, if I don't feel like it), and hopefully I'll then feel less compelled to overindulge on the weekends.

There are other things I should commit to doing (go on more walks so I get more ideas for poems and can finish my manuscript; buy fewer lipsticks) but I don't want to overcommit here and feel guilty later.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just a few more links, OK?

* The final installment of How Writers Read is up; you can read the full series here. Thanks to Hayden at the Believer for publishing the interviews, and thanks to Alice, Teju, Darcie, Jordan, Graham, Ruth, John, Ada, Leigh, and Laura for their fun and fascinating responses. I truly think it helped snap me out of my reading funk.

* I contributed to the EAT | READ series over at Everyday Genius, which will be a weekly beat on the forthcoming Real Pants. (More about Real Pants here -- I'll be writing a style column there starting in January.)

* I made a list of some of my favorite literary tweets of the year for Electric Literature.

* Also, check out Okey-Panky, another new magazine that will be featuring some of my Judy poems early next year. It will be weekly and is part of the Electric Lit family.


Image via George on Flickr

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My year in reading and some links

Hi guys! Happy December! Can you believe the year's almost over? I'm still writing 1976 on all my checks....

Anyway, I wanted to share a few links with you. First, I contributed to Open Letters Monthly's annual "Year in Reading" feature, writing about two of my favorite books of the year (that is, books that I read this year; they weren't published in 2014; sorry, I'm a slow reader). I wrote about Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles (more on that here) and To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems by Graham Foust. Here's a quick excerpt:
It’s so good I don’t want to finish it, and I keep going back to the beginning and starting again, afraid I may have missed some nuance through a moment of inattention. For example, I read the first three sections of the long poem “Ten Notes to the Muse” without having fully absorbed the title; I had to go back to discover the meaning of the “you” in lines like “Comes upon and at me does your gone-tinged promise,” and “You look like no one else; you look like smoke; I look like me.” There’s so much to latch onto in this poem – so many hooks, sounds, images, ideas – I’d love it even if I didn’t understand it as an entry in the tradition of muse poetry. But the poet is also, of course, talking to himself, as he does more explicitly in the poem titled “To Graham Foust on the Morning of his Fortieth Birthday”: 
You and I are one another in the ways the closest whisper might be called a kiss, and here we are – kiss or no kiss, kiss or not – up close and vanished as per standardized desire.
That said I’m both camera and satellite, so let’s cut live now to where it’s night to catch crowds rushing out of various overpriced events converting their initial impressions into speech they can’t be bothered to commit to memory. 
In your sad and American manner, you get as choked up about the collective as you do over the individual. 
When it comes to songs, you’re up and down for them, whether anthem or unfathomable murmur. 
The tone is often wry and the sentences often knotty. At his best, Foust has the ability to bend simple language into something startlingly complex, like the twist that turns a strip of paper into a Mobius band: “I sing as if I’m eating what I’m singing from a knife.”
Honestly, I read very little poetry this year, mostly just the Foust and Culture of One by Alice Notley, both at a snail's pace because I love them so much I want to savor them. When I turned in my piece, I had forgotten that I also read Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy this year, or I would have included that as my favorite nonfiction read; it was beautiful and so intelligent. I am also really enjoying The Chairs Are Where the People Go by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti, a book of funny little philosophical essays on topics like compromise, talking to strangers, and how to be better at charades. A few other novels I read in 2014: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (very interesting short novel translated from Spanish; John reviewed it here), The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell, Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (loved it but I think I loved Good Morning, Midnight more), Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman (the longest novel I managed to read this year; very funny and reminded me a lot of Gabriel Roth's novel, The Unknowns, one of my faves from '13). Oh, and 10:04 by Ben Lerner of course (I reviewed it here).

Also, The Believer Logger has been publishing a three-part interview I did called "How Writers Read." I asked 10 writers in different genres (Alice Bolin, Teju Cole, Darcie Dennigan, Jordan Ellenberg, Graham Foust, Ruth Graham, J. Robert Lennon, Ada Limon, Leigh Stein, and Laura van den Berg) 13 questions about their reading habits. In Part 1 I asked the authors if they ever get "reader's block" (which I've been suffering from this year), what genres they read most, and where and when they read. In Part 2 I got the dirt on whether they read YA, genre fiction or other guilty pleasures plus whether they prefer shorter or longer books. Some samples:
3) Where and when do you usually read? In bed? On the train? 
TEJU COLE: Everywhere. How long does it take to pee? Twenty-five seconds? I like to have something in hand even while doing that. (Don’t look at me that way, it’s not such a tricky skill.) 
DARCIE DENNIGAN: At a coffee shop is best. That way, if I’m reading something good, something worth reading, it will be ok—I’ll be safe, there will be people around, my life won’t be totally changed because there’s the world going on right there and I can step back into it. 
5) Do you gravitate toward shorter books or longer books? 
LAURA VAN DEN BERG: Shorter. A lot of my favorite novels—The Lover, The Loser, The Naked Eye—are under 250 pages, if not shorter. There are many long novels I love, but sometimes I have a low threshold for doorstoppers. Especially if the book is really really long and historical and involves some sort of multi-generational family saga, all handled with great loyalty to the conventions of realism; in all likelihood I will never read such a book. I have a horror of boredom. That is entirely my own weird failing and I’m sure I’m missing a lot. I will have to console myself with yet another viewing of Demolition Man.
Finally, thank you to Entropy Mag for including The Self Unstable on its list of the best non-fiction of 2014, even though it technically came out in late 2013.

What were your favorite reads of the year? 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Elisa Gabbert's salsa recipe

There is a brownie recipe known as "Katharine Hepburn's Brownies." This salsa is my version of Katharine Hepburn's brownies. I have made it for many people and am frequently told "This is my favorite salsa." It's not complicated or especially spicy or anything like that; it's just really good basic, Tex-Mex restaurant style salsa, perfect for eating with chips or beans and rice or breakfast tacos, etc. I make a batch almost every week. (An earlier version of this recipe was published on Carrie Murphy's food blog, but she appears to have taken that down.) So here we go. 

Elisa Gabbert's Salsa 
Half a small onion (roughly)
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno OR serrano OR Fresno chile, or a combination of the three
1 handful of cilantro, leaves and small stems
1 small can of fire-roasted tomatoes (plain or with green chiles)
1 handful of grape or cherry tomatoes (optional, but better with)
1 lime
Salt and sugar to taste 
In a food processor (or blender if that's all you have) chop the onion, garlic, chiles, and cilantro pretty finely, but not to a liquefied paste. Then add the tomatoes and pulse until it's all combined and looks like salsa. Transfer the mixture to a pot, add the juice of a lime (or just half a lime, if it's really juicy) and salt and sugar to taste -- start with about half a teaspoon of each. Simmer for 15-20 minutes to take the raw edge off the onion/garlic and bring the flavors together. Delicious warm, but keep the rest in the fridge. It lasts for up to two weeks if you don't finish it first. You can adjust the spiciness level by leaving the seeds/core in your chile or using more than one chile. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

5 Reasons to Finish Every Book You Start

1. You’re an idiot. You know nothing about books. You’ve only read comic books or Sweet Valley High up until now. You may think you don’t like real books, like Les Miserables, but if forced to finish one, you’ll realize the true value of literature! You’re not in a position to evaluate the worth of books yet; just finish them and ask questions later.

2. The main reason to read novels is for the plot. You may think you don’t like a book, but there could be a killer plot twist at the end that makes you see the value of the beginning of the novel in retrospect. Also you might miss something incredible. Don’t worry about the incredible stuff you might miss in books you haven’t started. If you haven’t started the book, it doesn’t count.

3. All books have inherent value. Don’t worry about the supposedly better books you could be reading instead (grass is always greener!); whatever book you have recently, arbitrarily started is, in the end, just as good as any other book.

4. Finishing novels teaches strength. You’ll prove to yourself that you can do it. If you don’t finish every novel you start, you have probably never finished a book and are probably also the type to eat all the marshmallows.

5. Whoever wrote the book finished it. It upsets the sense of symmetry in the universe if the writer finished it and the reader does not.

(Inspired by "Finish That Book!" in The Atlantic.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Simple brine for chicken and pork

A few weeks ago I went to a friend's house for dinner and she served grilled pork chops, something I would usually expect to be dry and bleh, but they were delicious. She said she had quick-brined them. So recently I've been experimenting with brining. And by "experimenting," I mean doing the most basic possible version of brining. Here's the basic recipe I concocted out of my brain:


1/4 cup brown sugar (ish)
1/4 cup kosher salt (ish)
4-6 cups of water (ish)

Mix all ingredients in a big bowl or Pyrex until dissolved (I just eyeballed them), then pour over meat of choice in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 4-8 hours. You could probably add herbs and stuff of your choice, if you had them; I added two bay leaves once but can't discern if it made any difference.

I did this once with a pork tenderloin which was on the "natural" side (i.e. not already injected with all kinds of saline solution) and once with two bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. In both cases, after removing from the brine, I patted the surface dry, then sprinkled with fresh-ground pepper and an herb mix I happened to have on hand (this stuff, if you're curious), then roasted in the oven until done. (For the chicken, I also topped the skin with a little butter.) In both cases, the meat was extremely juicy and very yummy.

My mind is sort of blown. I've brined turkeys on Thanksgiving before, but that's so involved (mostly due to the size of the bird) it never occurred to me to try brining just any old night. But it's kind of a "game changer." Must be the cheapest, easiest way to get good results from white meat.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Anthologies, readings and contests, oh my

Time to share some new stuff with you!

I have three poems in the new anthology just out from Black Ocean, Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics, edited by Andrew Ridker. More details:
Drones, phone taps, NSA leaks, internet tracking—the headlines confirm it—we are living in a state of constant surveillance, and the idea of “the private sphere" is no longer what it used to be. Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics responds to this timely and crucial issue through the voices of over fifty contemporary poets, including Robert Pinsky, Jorie Graham, John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Nikki Giovanni, and D.A. Powell. Nature, ethics, technology, sex, the internet—no voyeuristic stone goes unturned in this expansive exploration of the individual, information, and how we are watched.
I also have a poem in The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume, co-edited by Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby. The editors sent each poet a vial of perfume and asked us to write a poem in response. (My poem was inspired by By Kilian Rose Oud.)

For the Denver contingent: I am reading at Leon gallery on Saturday, September 27, along with Joshua Ware and Vanessa Villareal. Leon is located at 1112 E 17th Street in Denver CO, 80218. The reading will begin at 7:00 PM.

And finally, I am serving as the poetry judge for the 1st annual Sundog Lit contest series. More details:
With Issue 8 of Sundog Lit (our first print issue), we will be publishing the winners of the 1st annual Sundog Lit Contest Series, with winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. All entries will be accepted through Submittable between October 1st, 2014, and January 1st, 2015. The winner in each category will receive $100 and two copies of Issue 8. Runners-up will be considered for publication in Issue 8.
That's my news! What's up with you?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My answers to the Women in Clothes survey

Last year, I responded to an open call for submissions to Women in Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, and described by the editors as "not a how-to style guide, but an intimate look at the choices women make when they get dressed and an inquiry into the idea of personal style." The book is now out, and I was bummed to learn none of my responses ended up in the book. So below, for your reading pleasure or displeasure, is my full completed survey.

1. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

When I was in first grade, my mother was doing my hair, and I was standing in front of her in her bathroom, both of us facing the mirror. My hair was damp and combed back off my face – she was probably about to braid it – and I told her I thought it looked cool. I asked if I could wear it that way. So she put gel in it to preserve the slicked-back “wet look” all day. As soon as I got to school, I regretted this decision. I don’t think anyone made fun of me or even noticed, but I felt very self-conscious about it. Perhaps because of the mirror’s prominence in the memory, I happen to remember what I was wearing that day too, though not very clearly – I’m sure I was wearing a button-front shirt and pants, because the hairstyle combined with the outfit made me feel tomboyish, unfeminine. (I still despise the feeling of being stuck out in the world with regret over my fashion choices.)

2. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it and what happened to it and why do you want it back?

There are so many of these. I can clearly remember many outfits I wore in high school (I once made a detailed list of these outfits for my blog). I would love to have that black butterfly dress from Delia’s – I felt beautiful wearing that – and my dad’s swim trunks that I wore as shorts until they fell apart. I got a pair of moccasins when I was 15 or so that were entirely perfect, incredibly soft and with minimal detail, and I wore them with everything. The soles cracked and they were too cheap to resole. If not for wear and tear they could have been my life shoes. (Many other shoes I have owned have fallen apart before I was tired of them – the black boots with the perfect wedge heel, the pink button flats, the studded, tan leather thongs…) It’s hard to pick a single item – and I don’t know what I’d do with it if I had it. Perhaps a beaded necklace I “made” by taking apart a strand of turquoise and stone beads and threading two souvenir pennies – the kind you get pressed in a machine – into the center. The pennies were from my brother, who got them at the top of the Empire State Building on a band trip to NYC.

3. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice? What sort do you tend to admire? If not admire, what is the feeling that a compelling woman on the street gives you?

I do notice women, more so than men. I especially notice younger women, because they seem quite aware of how they look, they either want to be looked at or know they will be anyway, and respond to that. I’m always checking women out. With younger women, I especially admire those whose style is different and more radical than mine – outlandish hair, tattoos and body piercings, overt costuming. With older women, I admire chicness – confidence, comfort and ease, striking details.

4. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?

There was a compliment from a guy in high school – I was wearing thrifted jeans and the aforementioned moccasins – I’m not sure of the wording, but the upshot was basically that my outfit had an I-don’t-care effortlessness that he called “so cool.” I remember this because while I thought that attitude/style was cool, I didn’t realize anyone else agreed.

Later, as a freshman in college, I remember a (male) friend expressing surprise that I was a virgin, saying, “I always thought you had to have sex before you could be sexy.” I think this is the first time anyone called me sexy.

5. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, or about care for your clothing, or about dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Did they tell you things directly or did you pick things up?

The thing my mother taught me indirectly/implicitly was that quality is important, but you can get quality without venturing into showy, designer-logo territory. She was naturally thrifty, but didn’t like cheap stuff. I ended up inheriting these standards.

6. What is your process getting dressed in the morning?

These days, I rarely get dressed in the morning … I work from home, and I don’t get dressed until I plan to go out. If I know I’ll be going out later, I think intermittently about what I plan to wear throughout the day. Key considerations, in order of importance, include: weather, formality of event, company (anyone I want to impress?), recent purchases and/or obsessions, mood, confidence level. If there’s something I really want to wear (be it a shirt or a piece of jewelry) I’ll start with that and build around it.

7. Did you ever buy a piece of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on, to your surprise? What was the item and what happened?

In high school I once bought a simple gray twill kilt at the Gap. At the time, I had wanted a kilt (that whole schoolgirl trend was going strong), but preferably a plaid one with buckles, etc. This was a compromise. However, it remained in my wardrobe rotation for a good decade. In fact it’s still in my closet, though I never wear it anymore.

8. Did you ever buy an item of clothing or jewellery, certain that it would be meaningful to you, but it wasn’t at all? What was it and what happened?

Once I begged my mother to make me a bright blue corduroy jumper. She spent some time on it and then I only wore it once. I still feel bad about this.

I purchased a black velvet tuxedo vest about two years ago in a thrift store, envisioning it as an all-purpose “third piece” layer. While I often imagine wearing it with various things, it reminds unworn in my closet.

9. When you look at yourself before going out, what voice do you hear in your head and what is it saying? What is it looking at and evaluating?

My primary concern (see first question!) is always whether I’ll regret what I’ve chosen. So questions I ask myself might include: Will I feel over- or underdressed? Will I feel attractive? Will I feel fat? Will I be comfortable? Will this work if it rains or if I have to walk longer than I think? Will my nipples show? Etc. Generally I know myself and my wardrobe well enough to feel confident about my outfit the first time around, but on occasion I do end up changing a couple of times as a safeguard against regret.

10. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

I am generally against buying the same thing in multiple colors, because a) you always end up liking one of them more, and b) you’re not fooling anyone, you can’t just wear them back to back. But I have done this with some basics like t-shirts and jeans if I felt they were truly perfect, and I have often wanted to re-buy shoes only to find they are of course not available anymore. One specific item that is always in my closet (I keep buying different styles/brands) is a black turtleneck. I just think I look good in a black turtleneck.

11. How and when do you shop for clothes? How does money fit into all this?

I buy new clothes far more often than I need to, probably once or twice a month, when I happen to be out and about and pass a store that interests me, and of course sometimes I go out with Intent to Shop. Because I work from home, I have a lot more wardrobe options than I really need, and in the past couple of years, I have often found things in my closet that I completely forgot I bought. But I love the buzz of having new things! On the other hand, I usually buy things on sale, and I don’t shop online very much, so it could be much worse. As far as money goes: I rarely strictly need new clothes, but I don’t feel guilty about this indulgence, because I have the expendable income, it brings me pleasure, and there are many things I don’t spend much money on (cable, vacations, gadgets, etc.).

12. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair-wise, to feel sexy or alluring?

Clothing-wise: I show some skin (arms, collarbone, clavicle, back, legs, not all at once, obvs), or wear very fitted dark jeans with heels, lots of jewelry. The kind of cliché sexy look doesn’t work on me, because I’m skinny with no cleavage, so “sexy” for me is usually pretty subtle. Makeup-wise: I amp up the eye makeup – I’m blond/blue-eyed so my features are naturally fair. (Side note: I love wearing bright lipstick but think of it as more fun than sexy.) Hair-wise: Long and wavy feels sexy, up in a slightly messy bun more fancy/alluring.

13a. (for adults) What sorts of thing do you do, clothing or make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional? How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?

My “dos” for work: Always wear makeup (otherwise I feel sloppy/unfinished) and avoid frizzy/messy hair. Always wear a bra (not required outside work). Jewelry helps. Add a jacket or cardigan over a tank top.

My “don’ts” for work: No shorts or baggy/frayed jeans. Nothing too revealing.

My jobs have always been pretty casual/loose on the dress code front so I don’t really have the opportunity to rebel.

14. Do you consider yourself photogenic? When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

Can I say I’m photogenic some of the time? I’m a lot more photogenic when I know someone is about to take my picture, if you know what I mean.

I’m always comparing photographs to my mental image, what I see in the mirror. So sometimes, obviously, I think the photo looks a lot worse. Sometimes it seems about the same. Now and then I think the photo is prettier.

As long as they’re not terribly unflattering, I enjoy seeing myself in candid pictures, especially in the background, because it’s a glimpse of what I look like to other people, to strangers.

15. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? What was it? Why did it happen then, do you think?

There have been a few of these. As far as fashion goes, I think I was about 25 when I realized it’s almost always worth the effort to try to look good (as in, better than just barely presentable), because it makes me feel more confident while out in the world, and I don’t end up comparing myself unfavorably to other women. Around the same time, I had an epiphany: all fashion is basically a costume. If I like something, but it’s objectively a little silly or ridiculous, who cares? If you look at fashion as costuming, you can do no wrong as long as you’re having fun. I think it happened then because I had gone through a big breakup and was starting a new job, and these felt like opportunities to start over, fashion-wise. [More on fashion as costuming here. Not that the outfit described in the intro includes the gray kilt mentioned in #7.]

Also, I only very recently figured out how, as a blonde, to wear eyeliner. (You have to rub it right into the base of the eyelashes!)

Also, I only recently, in the last couple of years, started wearing lipstick on a regular basis. My life is the better for it; lipstick is fun.

16. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from strangers, friends or family?

There’s a certain way of rolling up the sleeves on a dress shirt that I stole from J.Crew catalogs.

17. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched or disappointed you? Or did you ever give someone a present of clothing or jewelry that they seemed especially touched or disappointed by?

Right after we got married (in a private ceremony with no wedding or rings), my husband’s grandmother sent me an old ring of hers that she used to wear all the time but had gotten too big for her. She didn’t intend it to be a wedding ring – it’s quite casual, a wide, domed silver band, and fits on my pointer finger. But it’s exactly my style, as it happens, and now I’m wearing it all the time. She’s an unconventional lady, like me, and I was touched by the gesture.

18. Do you ever wish you had a different body? What would it look like? Could be male or female, tall or short, curvy or skinny, etc.

I like my body, but there are little things I wouldn’t mind being different – an inch or two taller, a little sleeker here and there. The only time I really wish I had bigger breasts (I’m an A cup, though I was a small B when I was on birth control pills) is when I put on a swim suit.

19. What do you consider very beautiful or very ugly?

Beautiful: Curly hair, as in true ringlets. Very soft, smooth, evenly toned skin. Muscles. Strong jaws. Often, small asymmetries: a crooked tooth or small scar, etc. Distinctions. A widow’s peak. A mole. I love graying hair and eye wrinkles.

Ugly: I don’t like this word, but I often find signs of neglect/disrepair/bad health unattractive – split ends, yellowing nails or teeth, acne, sun-damaged skin, lack of muscle tone, etc.

20. Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? Or is there something else in life that you feel very sure about in this way (music, art, friends, home decor)? Where did your discernment comes from – is it instinctual or learned?

Yes, I know what I like in fashion! What’s still hard, though, is only buying what you love; sometimes one buys something mediocre (at Target, say) just for the small thrill of a purchase. I believe 90%+ of taste is learned.


a) How does makeup fit into all this for you?
Makeup and fashion occupy the same space for me: They’re a variable I can manipulate to change how people perceive me, and for the most part that’s a fun game for me. Of course, as a woman, there are certain expectations surrounding my clothing and makeup that at times can feel oppressive – but I actively avoid jobs and settings where that can become a real issue. I don’t dress up or wear makeup around the house (alone or with my husband) – it’s just part of how I engage in the public world.

b) What’s the situation with your hair? I think I have pretty good hair. I can easily straighten it or wear it wavy, depending on my mood. I don’t like to spend money on my hair, for some reason (not the same with makeup or clothes) so I get my hair cut infrequently and never dye it. I enjoy dramatic changes, so I often grow it long and then cut it into a short bob, then let it grow out again.

c) Do you care about lingerie? Not really, probably because of the aforementioned A cups. I insist upon wearing thongs, but not because I think they’re sexy (at all) – it’s because I can’t stand feeling my underwear rub against my clothes, and thongs minimize that, are the closest I can comfortably get to not wearing underwear at all.

d) Please describe your body. I’m medium height, just tall enough to look decently tall in heels. I have a small frame (usually a size 4), not terribly curvy but not boyish either, because my waist is definitely smaller than my hips. I think I have pretty good legs, and a great ass! I would describe myself as being on the muscular side.

e) Please describe your thought process and emotions. Highly logical and cerebral, but I cry easily, go figure.

g) What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable? If I gain even a couple of pounds and my clothes feel tight, I get irritable. So I always make sure to wear clothes that don’t feel overly tight. Usually, my outfit doesn’t feel “finished” unless I am wearing at least one piece of jewelry. Shoes are important; finding a pair of shoes that goes with lots of different outfits is a godsend, especially for packing. I always like for something to look slightly undone (what the Italians call sprezzatura) – a bit of cuff sticking out, hair slightly mussed, etc. I also always put on perfume.

f) What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment? I recently got back from a gallery opening and dinner with friends, but I’ve already changed out of my clothes into lounge/sleep wear: a very thin, soft baseball tee (white with red 3/4 sleeves) and plaid boxer shorts. I’m still wearing makeup: tinted moisturizer, blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara. I had lipstick on but it came off when I ate a burger. I’m wearing a necklace that I have on all the time lately (through sleep, showers, etc.): a tiny gold ring with a cursive E inscription, one of my first pieces of jewelry, on a gold chain. My hair is down (it’s on the long side now) and has a touch of the bedhead, as I showered last night.


Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in El Paso, TX and currently live in Denver, CO.

b) Say anything you like about your cultural/ethnic/economic background. I’m white/European, my parents were upper middle class, nothing to see here.

c) What kind of work do you do? I work as a writer and content marketing manager at a software company. I do other, mostly non-paid kinds of writing on the side (poetry, criticism, etc.).

d) Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?
I am married with no kids.

e) Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context. I found the womeninclothes website through a Chloe Caldwell tweet. I love fashion and beauty on a pure, consumerist basis but I also love thinking about them on a more examined theoretical level. So it’s right up my alley. I’d love to read it whether or not I’m not included in the book, perhaps with an eye toward reviewing.


If you are sending a picture of your mother from before she was a mom, please write a paragraph or two about what you see when you look at that picture. What do you imagine her life was like then? Her emotions/feelings? How does this photo, and her style in this photo, make you feel? 

You can’t see much of my mother’s clothing in this photo, which is perhaps what strikes me about it – there was, as far as I can tell from pictures and oral history, a very small window in which she styled herself as “sexy.” I’ve never seen my mom wear anything revealing in my lifetime. So this photo from the 70s, showing her bare back and arms, is quite poignant to me. She was younger then than I am now, and she would have been more vulnerable, and yet stronger too. But at the same time, she is completely recognizable, she looks just like herself, exactly as she looks now, only filtered through time. She looks so young and yet it’s so difficult for me to see her as anything but my mom, my protector. It strikes me that her style (the simple glasses, the short, clean hair) have hardly changed at all. I hope the same could be said of me, when someone looks back at my photos in 30 years. (I can’t help imagining a daughter doing this, though I have no plans to have one.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Live-tweet Point Break with us. It has to be this way

Sommer (@vagtalk) and I have finally planned another movie live-tweet! And it's happening on Sunday, 9/21, at 6 pm Pacific, 9 pm Eastern. If you want to play, go rent or buy Point Break (honestly one of the most ridiculously rewatchable movies of all time; I recently watched it twice in one day), synchronize watches and tweet along with us using hashtag #keanu. (Here's the Facebook invite if you're of that persuasion.)

By the way, so far all the movies we have live-tweeted (2001, The Shining, Dirty Dancing, and now Point Break) have involved either Stanley Kubrick or Patrick Swayze. This was not intentional. The heart wants what it wants.

See you on September 21st! Endless Summer!