Monday, March 2, 2015

Ain't No Thang but a Chicken Wing.

So Hollywood award season is finally over.  Does it not seem unfortunate to you, as it does to me, that this season kicks off right after the holidays?  It's got to be hard, as a celebrity, to enjoy your pumpkin pie and eggnog when you know Zach Posen is going to be shooting daggers at you if he can't zip up your dress when zero hour comes.

Awards season draws attention not only to great performances, but also to the fashion choices and appearance of the stars of the silver screen.  Perhaps, sadly, the latter more than the former for female stars, as the social movement #AskHerMore created by The Representation Project pointed out.  At least this year the ridiculousness of the "Mani Cam" was minimized as more celebs spent time answering thoughtful questions about their lives and work than marching their hands down a miniature red carpet like five year-olds with Barbie boots on their fingers.

I realize I sound as if I dislike the fashion component of these shows. Au contraire, mon frère.  I start pre-gaming the red carpet coverage right after lunchtime on Oscar Sunday.  My Oscar party this year required the attendees dress for the red carpet.  I am all in when it comes to red carpet fashion.  What I do not like is when fashion and these public situations body-shame women or promote unhealthy ideals in young (and old) women.

Most, or maybe all red carpet commentators, now that Joan Rivers has shuffled off the mortal coil, are aware enough that fat jokes and snide comments about weight don't fly with the audience anymore.  They have become enlightened.  But still, there lurks among the actresses about to be lauded for their craft, a certain tension, an insecurity.  "Pshaw, Mean Mommy! How do YOU know?"

I can tell by the way they stand.  You all know what I am talking about.

The Chicken Wing.

Ugh, that pose. Arm bent at almost a right angle, and hand on hip, elbow stuck out to the side. The bright, candy coating of false sassiness so often used to cover up a bitter center of body insecurity.

I hate it.

The idea, of course, is by keeping the arm away from the body, it appears slimmer.  Any bat-wing situation is mitigated with the upper arm being turned forward. We have all suffered the indignities of unflattering photos.  Well, those of us from the primordial days of (gasp!) film photography.  I can so clearly remember the feeling of ripping open the packet of sorority semi-formal photos at the drugstore photo counter, then asking in confusion, "Is that a thigh?  Wait, that's my ARM!"  The scent of developer mixing with self-loathing as I trudged back to the dorm.

It's not the action of trying to put one's body in the best possible position that bothers me.  What bothers me is the falseness.  The almost begging for approval from the camera this posture represents with its unnaturalness.  We all look frozen - beautiful like Barbie - limbs frozen at odd, impractical angles that really serve no purpose in real life.  I can count on my hand the number of times I might have naturally struck this pose in my life.  One hand on the hip is usually accompanied by the other and I'm most likely also yelling.

The pose I'd like to see sweep the red carpet next year is The Proud Necklace.* Proud Necklace requires you to stand up straight, throwing your shoulders back, arms slightly and naturally held away from the body, with your chest forward - as if showing off a necklace. Go ahead.  Try it.  I'll wait.

How did that make you feel?  Strong, right?  Proud.  Like you could kick someone's ass.

Now do the The Chicken Wing.  Your chest naturally collapses and your posture goes to shit.  You feel weak and like a sissy.  Oh, but you look skinny.  Shut up.  Stand up like a big girl and face the camera like you own it.

Look at these photo of J. Law.  Same dress, same night, totally different feeling.  She just looks uncomfortable and unsure in the top shot.  Well, she's never really all that comfortable with photogs anyway, but still.  In the bottom shot she looks strong.  You know, like Katniss.  Not Katniss's sassy sister.

 I have found one actress who almost completely eschews the Chicken Wing, and it's no surprise because she is funny and kicks ass and in my fantasy world she play me in the movie of my life.  Sandra Bullock.  Sandy is not fucking around on the red carpet.  She is a grown-ass woman and she knows how to pose like one.

You will be hard-pressed to find a Chicken Wind photo of Sandy.  In fact, I couldn't.  Yeah, she occasionally does the "holding-a-clutch-both-elbows-bent" or the "look-at-my-guns-while-I-hold-my-goddamn-Oscar-bitches", but those arm positions look normal because she's, you know, holding something, requiring her arms to bend.  Not just the weight of societal expectations.

Men don't put themselves through this vertical game of Twister every time they are photographed.  Ok, you have a point, not much of them is exposed.  But if they were, would they engage in this Tomfoolery?  The only stupid pose men have is that smug-crossed-arm-non-chalant thing and that's only for certain slimeballs on the cover of business magazines.  The nice guys just stand there.

Can't we women just stand there? Can't we all agree to this change?  Let's make this a grassroots movement.  Be proud.  Be strong.  Be yourself - floppy arms and all.  Better to be a confident looking version of your perfectly flawed self, than an insecure replica trying to be someone she's not. If we all stop striking this ridiculous pose at weddings and in Facebook pictures we could change the world.

One selfie at a time.

*Trademark - my trainer Kevin

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June Blues

The school year is finally over!  We survived starting middle school, changes in friends, repeating kindergarten, over-volunteering - all of it with our sanity (mostly) intact.  And while I am thrilled to be at the start of my favorite season, I realized this joy I am feeling is also tinged with a little sadness.

I think it's alway been this way since my kids were in school.  I used to think it was just the stress of the end-of-the-year nonsense that caused this slightly negative undercurrent come June.  Things like making cupcakes for the end of year parties (no nuts! no dyes!) and buying teacher gifts (is a Starbucks gift card OK for the custodian who let me in the school after hours that one time?) can drive you mad when all you want to do is crack out the beach umbrella and head to the shore already.

Then it dawned on me. I am actually grieving a little bit at the end of every school year.  I am mourning the people my kids were this year.  The people they are now will be distinct individuals in my memory and they will be gone.  Never again will they be a kindergartener, a 4th grader and a 6th grader. When they are grown and one of them says, "Remember that time in kindergarten?", my mind will conjure the chubby-cheeks and dimpled fingers and miss that child as if he or she were not standing right in front of me.

The end of the school year marks the passage of time way more than birthdays ever could. Moving up ceremonies, and mini-graduations with their construction paper mortar boards and "Pomp and Circumstance" bleated out on plastic recorders, bulging backpacks containing the contents of emptied desks, the tattered evidence of a year's learning providing us with crayon and pencil evidence of our children's growth - all of these things are mile markers on our kids' road to adulthood.  And the trip is going too fast.  Maybe that's why I throw myself into summer with wild abandon each year.  Having been reminded on this last day that time is quick and sneaky, I try to wrestle it to the ground and make it stay still for eight weeks.

So welcome, Summer.  If the end of the school year is the end of an era, let this season be a celebration of what was, what is yet to come and of RIGHT NOW.

Stop the clocks, let the days roll with their own momentum.

Pause.  Be.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sending a "Thank You" out into the universe...

Motherhood often feels like a never-ending college course – you are constantly learning, always working, and occasionally pulling all-nighters.  One major difference? The lack of grades.  You may get a decent mark on a pop quiz, such as handling an impromptu “where do babies come from?” discussion in the van on the way home from karate, but the final grade, the big question, “did I raise good, happy, successful people?” goes unanswered for many, many years.  It can be hard to stay the course, wondering if the choices you are making are doing any good at all.

This past week though , I received some encouragement to keep fighting the good fight from a woman I barely knew, and whose life was cut tragically short on January 31st.

Anne Heyman was a lawyer, philanthropist, humanitarian and mother of three.  Among her many charitable works, Anne conceptualized and helped found the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, a village that houses and educates hundreds of orphans from the Rwandan genocide of the 90s.  This was my first encounter with Anne (her husband was CEO of the firm H worked for in 2007), and his wonderful, socially-minded company became the village's corporate partner.  Family members were encouraged to get involved, and having a newborn and two toddlers at home, the best I could do was gather items needed for the children of the village.  I wonder if Anne got a laugh, thinking about the woman who actually accepted the challenge of fundraising for, then buying and transporting to midtown Manhattan, two pallets of maxi-pads to be shipped to Africa.  By the way, that was a SUPER fun Costco trip which did not result in any odd stares at all.

Of course, I was impressed by Anne and all she had done for the world at large, but it wasn't until after her passing, when H was sitting at the dinner table recounting the events of her funeral, that I was able learn what she had done for the smaller world of her family.

H described the funeral service, including all the emotional speeches given by friends and family, but it was the words of her children that stuck with him most. Anne's daughter talked about all the things her mother had done with her and her brothers - trips taken and museums visited.  All the memories they had created.  Anne's son joked about how she made them share a bedroom, despite having an extra one available in the house, to be sure they all stayed close growing up.  H looked up at me, barely able to speak. "It was like our kids talking about you."

There they were, two of my biggest mothering aspirations - to give my kids happy, lasting memories of their childhood while showing them the world, and to create a close-knit, loving sibling unit to support them when H and I were gone.  Anne had accomplished them both, and had done it beautifully.  Hearing this story, was like hearing an urgent whisper from the universe telling me, "You're doing it right, keep going!"

I am writing this to thank Anne, even though I didn't know her, and to help her light shine a little farther into the world.  It is women like her who inspire me to be a better person and a better mother and I hope some of you, in the trenches with me, also take heart from Anne's example.  The good we do lives on after us, even if we can't see that good currently because we are arguing over why the XBox needs to be turned off right now and, yes, everyone has to come play Chutes and Ladders because it's Family Game Night and it's your brother's turn to pick.

Thank you, Anne, for giving me the encouragement I need to keep fighting for the family I want to create.  Whenever I think I maybe all of this is too hard,  I will think of you and your children and know what I'm doing is right.

Thank you for being my mothering guardian angel.