The Bush Generation Gap

Just returned from Sardinia, watching the grey skies outside my window in Famous Middle of Nowhere, Home not of the Brave, but Home of the Euro (for who knows how long), and pausing a moment to reflect on how post-holiday life has been rather “privates” centered. Our dog, a fuzzy 10 month old white Bichon left in the care of a family while we gobbled up the sun in Sardinia, has licked to his fast beating heart’s content at its privates till his testicles are an alarming raw bundle.  His “lipstick” now comes out in the brightest shades of carnation red at the mere sniff of one tiny morsel of cheese from two rooms away. We left an adorable fuzzy, fluffy, cuddly white Bichon with sparkly “hug me” button eyes and little rosy tongue panting eagerly out. We come home to find all that and a very straight, pointy and constant psychedelic red erection. A perfect Beate Uhse shop window doll.

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And then there’s the bush thing. My kid goes on a sleepover at a friend’s house. Comes back the next day announcing, “MOM, do you know that [name of friend’s mom] has no hair in her SNIPPA?!!!”

“Snippa” is a Swedish word to describe the female privates in a cute way, like the word “snopp” for the male privates that has been around much longer than “snippa”. Both words are a cute way to refer to the privates when talking to children – there’s even a video about it – instead of their clinically precise, but not very cute names, or charming but imprecise euphemisms that totally confuse children, like “Peepee” and “Pom-pom” or “Front Bottom” and “Little Man”.

I asked my daughter about how they came up with such a topic. She shrugs and mentions that they were building a large, bubblegum-colored Playmobil fairy castle on the floor, and “just came up with it”.  When I’d picked my daughter up, the girl’s mother, who’s about 15 years younger than me,  had taken me to her daughter’s room and showed me the result of an afternoon of pink real estate development : “They were so sweet and played so well, look what they built!” Bracing myself for what I already knew, I asked my daughter now if she told her friend about the condition of my privates, to which my daughter replied, “Of course!” As in, of course you SHARE information, duh. She tells me about her mom’s privates’ hair (“bald”), I share mine (“bushy”).

The next day I meet said mom at our kids’ school. We share the humor, and she tells me that her daughter ” was also in shock! She came to me and said, MOM: do you know that some women have HAIR down there?!!!!”And a few days later, I read in the book I am currently devouring a definition of “old porn”: early 1990s porn showing hair “top and bottom.”

That’s when I realized this: for people in their 30s or younger now, having bottom hair at all is about as obnoxious as the bushy armpits and hairy halos bursting out of bikinis barely covering the young, blonde and beefy German backpackers setting camp all over Southern Europe in the 1970s.

Moral of the story: I’m officially the older generation. Blame it on the bush.

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BURQA DEMOCRACY

Summer 2013 has been one of the hottest on record in many parts of the world. In Sweden, June temperatures reached record highs, leading over-heated tram conductors in Stockholm to an unusual but logical decision: to wear skirts. The policy of the company running the trains forbade men from wearing shorts to work, trousers were too hot, there was no policy on skirts for males, so there you go. Later in June, the policy changed to allow shorts, and a company spokesperson told a Swedish daily that the company expected the male staff to gradually move from skirts to wearing shorts that she believed to be “more comfortable and practical”.

On this note, I came to think upon a hot topic du jour, to ok or not burqas in offices, schools and public places (Western places, that is.) Logically, it could make a lot of sense for not only women, but for men to be encouraged to wear the garb on th e same principles that apply to women: modesty and decorum. Here goes an illustration of my case:

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Les Restes, vulgo “leftovers”

A miscellany of snacks-for-thought that I never got to turn into blog posts at the busy festive end of 2012:

 

Mankind’s Daddy 3000 Years from Now

Someone out there today will be the common ancestor of all mankind 3000 years from now; and a single immigrant breeding once into a population stands an 80% chance of becoming a common ancestor of that native  population.  Check the short why here, and the full explanation here.

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Brand Ambassadorship Overload

The Ralph Lauren Polo branding intelligentsia reminds me of a toddler with a temper tantrum: pushing it as far as it can. How giant can we get the logo on the garments  till people will stop wearing our stuff? Judging by where I live – Moneytown, Middle of Germany – the sky is the limit. Affluent ‘hood housewives here don’t seem to ever get enough of dressing themselves like old leather suitcases covered with exotic travel labels.

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Everyone Must Eat Cake!

And now for a Fatty Tale of Democratic Cake: instead of being beheaded, Marie Antoinette becomes the Evita Peron of post Revolution France. Initially, she charms the peasantry by offering cheap cake to all – cake no longer a privilege of the wealthy few, but an affordable right of the masses. As her power rises in the shadow of her feeble son, the official ruler, Let Them Eat Cake is subtly but solidly repositioned as Make Them Eat Cake.  Once a critical mass of cake devotees is in place, a law is issued to enforce the rule, a Body Police is formed to catch healthy eaters a.k.a. slim peasants. Marie Antoinette can now rest assured, for a while: she, and those in her circle, will now have the exclusivity of “slim as beautiful”. Everyone else must eat cake.

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What Would Diana Vreeland Do?

Doyenne of fashion and style Diana Vreeland was first brought to my attention by a good friend early one evening in the early 1990s at the Time Café in New York City. We were six, let’s say eight, at the table, and Jeff said he didn’t think my allure was in beauty but in style; I looked like Diana Vreeland. I had just started a post-grad at the nearby Tisch School of the Arts on Broadway, never heard about Diana Vreeland and had no clue about the vastness of compliment that I’d just been paid. Like a psychotic penguin from Madagascar, I kept smiling yet seething with humiliation within, having just been publicly labelled as not-beautiful, and  retaliated later the same evening with a mean remark that hurt and puzzled my friend.

Nowadays I know that resembling Diana Vreeland is worth far more than being called beautiful. [Thanks Jeff.]  She had an uncanny feel for the next big thing, and kept saying marvelously accurate one liners such as,

“Pink is the navy blue of India.”   “Never fear being vulgar, just boring.”

“You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.”

So when new friends ask me what to wear for the Swedish pre-Christmas party that we host every year on the third Advent Sunday, I think of Ms. Vreeland’s advice:

“Too much good taste can be boring. A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika.”

Don’t fear pairing granny’s hand knitted Christmas sweater with a vintage Herve Leger bandage dress. Just remember wearing the sweater back to front: “It is so much more flattering that way”, as Diana said.

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Swedish Christmas cocktail party, a.k.a. Glöggfest, at my home, December 2008

Had Ms. Vreeland lived, she would have come up with a simultaneously wise and chic commentary on these day’s  “smart is the new green“. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d have said: “Darling, you got it the wrong way around. Like women’s sweaters: wearing them back to front looks does so much more for women than wearing them the way they were designed to.”

“Give ideas away. Under every idea there is a new idea waiting to be born.”
— Diana Vreeland (Paris 1903-NYC 1989)

Information on the 2011 “The Eye Has To Travel” documentary on Diana Vreeland, style advisor to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and style guru of the 20th century whom Vogue dared to fire, is hereYouTube clip miraculously uncensored by GEMA in Germany can be found here.

Who is REALLY behind every great man?

The iPad BBC News piece that caught my eye a few days ago amid the usual medley of ongoing war and financial fear news was about a phone call translator app about to be offered by NTT Docomo, Japan’s biggest mobile network, enabling people to talk to each other on the phone without knowing each other’s languages. The NTT Docomo promotional illustration shows a woman asking a man in Japanese to make a reservation; the man, who supposedly speaks no Japanese, hears the request in English with a slight delay.

Oh, the joys lying ahead for phone hacks, corporate lawyers and other serious pranksters worldwide! Reservations for a flight to Istanbul ending up as airfare bound to Kabul. Blame game lawsuit fist fests between airlines reservations and translator phone apps. Life as a  ‘toon experience, as in comics showing bland speech bubbles  with true thought bubbles above the talking head [hostess at a cocktail party greeting guest arriving on time, “you are so wonderfully punctual!”, and matching thought bubble, “these country bumpkins never know the right lateness etiquette…”]

And then there are the unintended babelized translations on account of software still too crude to know or co-opt the nuances, as shown years ago by the Babelizer software toy.  So I went to Bing Translator, which comes nearly at the top of the results list when you google “Babel Fish”, which is top of the list and used to be the online translation tool up to about 10 years ago, but now you click, click, click and nothing happens (the Wikipedia blurb on Babel Fish says it´ll redirect to Bing, but all I see is all Google action freezing.) I decided to bing-translate Jim Carrey‘s take on the famous quote “behind every great man there is a great woman”:

Behind every great man there is a woman rolling her eyes.

I got Bing to translate it from English to French, French to Hindi, Hindi to Japanese, Japanese to Russian and back to English – to check if the English at the end would be the same as I’d started with, and the languages in between English corresponding to nations where I could easily envision public men used to great amounts of private eye rolling by their wives (it was a toss between France and Italy, but 58 year old Hollande and his 11 year younger girlfriend felt more married than Berlusconi and whatever 18-year old the septuagenarian has his, huh, eyes on at the moment.) In the end, I got this:

The woman behind every great man is rolling his eyes.

– which is a whole novel take on the issue; it’s no longer the woman behind the man rolling her eyes, but she is making him roll his eyes. Examples of the former: Nancy Reagan (wife of Ronald), Laura Bush (wife of  “Dubya“). Examples of the latter: Marilyn Monroe (connected to JFK)  and Monica Lewinski (connected to Bill.)

You could say that the Bing translation job took the wives of perhaps not so great, but certainly spectacular, men in the eye of a vast global public; and replaced them by the mistresses of men in the eye of an even vaster global public reveling in the schadenfreude of their spectacular affairs.

Not the same thing at all.

Former USA President Donald Reagan and wife Nancy Reagan.

Former USA President Donald Reagan and wife Nancy Reagan.

Which kind of women  stand behind ALL great men? 

Apparently, all kinds, but this is really besides the point. The important question here is rather: Which kind of men stand in front of great women? Clearly, the lucky ones. Now imagine phone app translators routinely churning these more to-the-point translations for us!

Mirror-Mirror-on-the-Wall, Who is the Sexiest Man of All?

Ever knew or read about the beautiful girl that both the guys and the girls adored? I met one back in the 1980s when I did my first college degree. She was tall, blonde, sporty, fun-loving, stylish, sexy, smart, and kind. She was Miss Congeniality and Miss Universe rolled into one; a bit like Farrah Fawcett in the original Charlie´s Angels, minus the airplane take-off hairdo so in vogue in the 1980s, along with neon leotards and beefy shoulder pads designed to make the curviest woman look like a young Schwarzenegger in drag.

But at the end of the five-year degree, the boys in the course awarded Most Sexy Girl vote to someone else, a brunette with lips that made you think of cherries, a behind that made you think of apricots, long straight hair so silky you could think of drinking it, and velvety wide brown eyes as seen on anime and manga popularized 30 years later. All in all, she was very edible, which clearly didn’t go unnoticed by the boys, while our mostly brunette girl lot puzzled over their choice in frustration. Had they chosen our local Farrah Fawcett, that would have been alright by us – we were clearly out of her league – but this ordinary brunette – this attainable anyone  – this overgrown Heidi of the Alps?! It was obscenely outrageous, like sweet girl child actresses developing breasts!

Many years later, I came to muse over another overt sexist injustice prevailing even in the most gender-equalized parts of the world: why old men, even paunchy, rotund, old men with face folds and lower lips sagging south like a St. Bernard dog after a difficult Swiss mountain rescue – why they are still connected to their maleness. Whereas old women, even slim, elegant old women with a lifetime legacy of wrinkles, don’t even have hands, let alone vaginas: they got claws; mammalian no longer, but reptilian, knobby, ossified talons.

There are, however, women able to retain a femininity that neither wrinkles or menopause could dislodge; women like Iman, or Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, or Diana Vreeland, or Christiane Amanpour, or Coco Chanel, or Aung San Suu Kyi, or Frida Kahlo, or Laurie Anderson. Or those perennially popular über-icons of style, like Audrey Hepburn, the one and only quintessential gamine ; or Grace Kelly, the original little girl princess dream come true and tragic; or Lisa Fonssagrives, the first supermodel before supermodels were invented [who I tend to mix up with Dovima of the famous beastly picture] and the highest paid model in the late 1950s, when she earned $60 an hour, which compares to Evangelista‘s $10.000 a day benchmark four decades later.

Off the tip of my keyboard, I effortlessly piled over twenty names on the list of ageless femininity. Then I got stuck with ageless masculinity. Men typically cited as icons of style or sexiness or both – Clooney, Pitt, Kennedy, DiCaprio, and so on – they invariably feel so… one-dimensional. As if their agent or personal coach or secretary of state had told them – this is the one thing you look good as, so do try to focus on it, and it alone. Pitt is pretty. Clooney is crafty. DiCaprio is frat-house daring. Kennedy was, well, luckier than Clinton about what you can do for your country. [Envision Miss Lewinski in the middle of an NFL stadium choc-a-bloc with celebs and the security detail, wearing something expensively designed for invisibility with blindingly sparkly accents, and singing Happy Birthday Mr. President to Bill and Hillary.] And Mathew McConaughey – well, he does a great rendition of a male Mona Lisa, circa 500 years later  [imaginary agent’s voice: “now, sonny, you go to the Lew-vre and observe what that Moan-a-Lissa does with her mouth.”]

Matter of fact is, off the top of my head I can only come up with one male name:  PETER BEARD. “Peter who?” People I tell this to invariably ask.  Peter Beard:  all-American dream boy, sun-bleached Long Island childhood, Ivy League college, wildlife photographer,and  Karen Blixen‘s platonic passion in the outskirts of Nairobi, if you believe the Hollywood rendition of the baroness’s book Out of AfricaOnce described as “half Tarzan, half Byron” by Bob Colacello, diary writer for pop art pioneer Andy Warhol, Peter Beard´s Africa earned him a place in the  world-class photography hall of fame alongside names like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

Just like our local Farrah Fawcett all those years ago, Peter Beard is in a class of his own. But unlike the testosterone-surging Catholic boys back in college picking the proverbial peach, my Mr. Most Sexy vote goes to an unattainable, adventurous man who aged well, probably because of fear of old age, recklessly roamed the African wilderness, produced truckloads of world renowned art, was inspired by a Nordic vixen in the sub-Saharan bush, mingled with cultural elite, was bone crushed by an angry cow-elephant, and serially charmed women that paparazzi live to shoot. How Peter Beard´s life is not as wide open on Wikipedia as a butterflied lobster char-grilled at a Cuban paladar, is a baffling mystery.

[A Study of Peter Beard (film) by Lars Bruun]
[Vanity Fair on Peter Beard: “African Dreamerby Leslie Bennetts]
[Supermodel Veruschka in Africa with Peter Beard, a film, in French]

If we are such rare comic dust, why bother changing partners?

There are moments when I believe that the reason why I endure life with my husband is our cosmic insignificance in  a starry night sky. Not that this kind of sky abounds in contemporary civilized latitudes, though isolated star-gazing apt spots still remain on, say, the Julier pass on the way to St. Moritz, or the Tramuntana range in Mallorca, where you can contemplate the civilized sky as it appeared  30 or 40 years ago unless a full moon is raining on your parade.

Perhaps cosmic significance, not insignificance, is a better way of putting it.  If we are such tiny, brief,  lively dust in the  dead quiet of the universe, why waste time with the pain of such trite trivia as changing partners? Any non-malicious, decently healthy person will do, really. If that is exactly what you are stuck with,  shouldn’t you be thanking your lucky star? And if this is proving too Madre Teresa for mere mortals, isn’t it time to take a hike to one of those starry sky places with cowbells or sheep bells for nightlife entertainment?

[A sobering base from where to contemplate the Julier pass night sky: La Veduta, a parallel universe away from nearby bubbly St. Moritz.]

[An equally mystical epiphany in far more comfortable surroundings: Albellons Parc Natural in the Tramuntana range, Island of Mallorca, Spain.]