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The Hair on the Hill

I wrote this piece for the East Bay Express back in 1995. Though it might be a bit dated in some ways, I think it’s still relevant when thinking of Hillary Clinton past and present, now that she’s running for Prez herself.

link.hillary.clintonLike many women, the real reason I voted for Bill Clinton was Hillary. Unlike most women who did so, however, I did not vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton because she would present to the world an image of a smart, independent American woman; nor did I vote for her because of the feminist influence she’d wield in the White House. I shamelessly confess that the reason I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton was her hair.

That’s right–that bad hair of hers, trailing haphazardly behind a simple black headband, was a source of comfort and validation to me. Hillary’s uneven strands were refreshingly honest after Nancy Reagan’s inanimate bubble. Oh, sure, we had Barbara Bush’s silver wind-tossed curls for a few years, but let’s face it, I couldn’t relate. As a fortysomething woman, I could better identify with Hillary’s badly colored barely styled mop. I imagined that, like me, Hillary had probably spent years searching in vain for a flattering hairstyle, and had finally abandoned the effort: she’d stopped trying to force her hair (and by extension herself?) into shapes that hair was never meant to assume.

I too had finally relinquished the dream of ever having a real “do.” The last in a long line of coveted hairstyles had been Candace Bergen’s: my elusive goal in mid-life was to look, hair-wise, like Murphy Brown. When I presented this proposal to my hairdresser, who has endured more abuse from me than anyone in this lifetime should have to put up with from anyone, she pointed out that Bergen is continuously shadowed on the set by someone wielding a comb and a can of hairspray.

As a more feasible plan, she suggested a bob. In utter despair and frustration I agreed to let her cut it: for the first time in over a decade I would take the plunge, or rather the reverse, and let my hair end well above the shoulder line. After the deed was done and I looked in the mirror, I let out a blood-curdling shriek that put my completely demoralized hairdresser out of commission for a week.

With a few snips of her deadly shears I’d gained 20 pounds. My chin hung lower, my neck bulged eerily, my eyes had narrowed. Though everyone in my life insisted that I looked “sophisticated,” for the next six months I was inconsolable.

My tresses grew back to their normal state of unmanageability right around the time of the ’92 campaign. My spirits soared when I got a load of Hillary in her black headband: her mess gave me permission to keep mine. Most significantly, she seemed nonchalant about unsophisticated hair. It didn’t prevent her from wearing tailored suits or even drawing attention to the situation by donning a chapeau. Liberated at last, I stopped getting trims. I threw out all my ponytail holders and those plastic combs that I’d never really learned how to use. I bought a plain black headband and let it flow.hillaryclinton

And then my role model betrayed me by getting cut and poufed. My life has not been the same.

It’s easy to guess how this disaster came about: some suave political handler told Hillary that growing up meant shaping it up. He (I’m sure it was a he) probably told her that in these times of fervid debate around health care, the nation’s First Lady ought to have healthy looking hair. But whose standards determine health when it comes to hair? After all, she had to have used a ton of hairspray–decidedly unhealthy– to maintain that bulbous sculpture she sported the night of the big health care speech.

Since then, Hillary’s hair has undergone dozens of permutations. Some of them are really just a variety of the headband bit; others more complex. I concede that she frequently appears more “with it,” now: she looks a lot less like an insouciant hippie undisturbed by extramarital affairs, and more like a public policy maker. But with no more bad hair days, Hill just isn’t someone I could comfortably sit down with to commiserate, not only about our hair, but also about our men, our kids, our jobs. Whereas before she looked like someone I’d go to for advice, now she looks like someone I’d have to pay for it.

So I’m not sure how I’ll vote in ’96. After all, a lot can happen to a woman’s hair during a Presidential campaign. She could decide to get a perm, another solution I periodically consider. She might even let it grow out.

Or she might win my vote by including treatment for the hair impaired if national health reform ever becomes a reality.

Hillary Present

Hillary Present

Moi, Present

Moi, Present


Democratic Convention Part II: The Party With Heart

Part II: In Praise Of Democrats

Before I say one more word about the Democratic convention, anyone who missed Bill Clinton’s speech last night should run right over to You Tube and watch it now. It is well worth the 49 minutes—this guy can talk, remember?—and he reminds you that there’s still hope in the realm of electoral politics. More on Bill later.


Show Don’t Tell is the first—possibly the only—rule of creative writing. You don’t introduce your main character with, “Jane was prone to daydreaming out in nature.” Rather, you say something like, “Jane ambled down the lilac-lined driveway on her way to pick up the mail as she’d been asked to do, when a cluster of just-bloomed orange tiger lilies beckoned her. She stood admiring them so long that she forgot to do the errand and went back empty-handed.”

This writing metaphor came to me because, at their convention, Messrs. Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans told us, in a mountain of phony verbiage, what caring concerned people they are, while the  Democrats showed their care and concern via a long line of speakers whose lives have been improved by President Obama’s policies. Who knew?

Lily Ledbetter told of the injustice that was never made right for her, but won’t be inflicted on our daughters and granddaughters because President Obama signed her namesake, The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as his first piece of legislation. Ledbetter was one in the parade of strong, righteous women who addressed the convention. There was Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League-Pro-Choice America (NARAL); Sandra Fluke, whom Rush Limbaugh called a slut for demanding insurance-covered contraception; and Stacey Lihn, whose baby daughter needed three heart surgeries within the first few years of her life, the cost of which would have maxed out her insured care, until Obama’s health bill made such caps illegal. Said Lihn:

“Like so many moms with sick children, I shed tears and I could breathe easier knowing we have that net below us to catch us if we fall… Zoe’s third open-heart surgery will happen either next year or the year after. If Mitt Romneybecomes president and Obamacare is repealed, there’s a good chance she’ll hit her lifetime cap.”

Stacey Lihn, husband Caleb, and Zoe

There was also a visitation from Sister Simone, a Catholic nun who called Republicanism “Politics masquerading as values.”  This I take exception to: organized religion doesn’t have the exclusive franchise on values. Politics are about who has power and who does not; who has money and who does not; who will eat and who will not. If that’s not defining values, I don’t know what is.

The issues of contraception and birth control were front and center, more than they’ve ever been before, a hard-hitting response to the crap Republicans have been throwing around since the primaries. I give the Dems a lot of credit; in fact, I’m ecstatic  that they seem to have grown a pair. (You know what I’m saying…didn’t you just love Clinton’s similar allusion to “brass?” )

One thing that bothers me, though, about the contraception/abortion debate is the absence of any comparison to policy on Viagra and similar drugs. They’re covered by insurance to “treat” “erectile dysfunction” (gimme a break!) without a single iota of controversial discussion.  You don’t hear men being grilled about their “ED”, they’re simply believed when they say they have it. Men aren’t treated like children who can’t make their own decisions. Nobody even dares to point out that fewer erections are a normal part of aging. Nobody accuses men of wanting others to pay for their pleasure. I’ve heard absolutely zero controversy about these drugs that’ve been flagrantly misused for recreational sex since Day One of their appearance in pharmacies. I even knew a guy who stocked up on them just to sell them at a profit, and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. I’m not saying I’m against Viagra use; but it does make me furious how different men’s and women’s sexuality gets treated. It’s the double standard for geezers!  I know…this should probably be a separate blog. I just had to say something…okay, moving right along:

The Party With Heart

The ultimate tear jerk material, or so I thought, came on Tuesday night with a video tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy. Naturally, there was not a dry eye in the house—or, I’ll bet, in the homes of people like me who watched those gut-wrenching memories and remembered a time when we had a more functional government.

At one point the Kennedy footage evoked simultaneous tears and laughter, in a segment of the debate between Teddy and Mitt Romney in their opposing campaigns for Senate. Kennedy: “I’m pro-choice, he’s multiple choice.” He ended a recitation of Romney’s ever-spinning opinion changes with “If we give him two more weeks he may vote for me!”

Google Image

Did I say “ultimate” tear jerk material? Sorry, Teddy, I mean no disrespect to your memory, but Bill Clinton topped you this time, on Wednesday. I can hardly begin to convey the genuine emotions, sharp intelligence and wit, exquisite logic, and the pure inspiration coming from Bill Clinton. Going through the Republican charges against Obama, Clinton spelled out a rebuttal to each, piece by piece. He laid out what they’d said, then insisted we all “Look at what’s really happening,” and he told the truth concerning the budget, the deficit, education, health care, just about every issue that matters. He predicted what a Romney administration would mean to different groups of people, including children with disabilities like autism and Downs Syndrome, and he ended with a firm, utterly believable insistence that “We can’t let it happen!” He brought the audience to their feet, tugging on their hearts until he managed to rekindle the spirit of hope. Bill Clinton has been called The Comeback Kid. He’s the kid who’s got the brass to say “America always comes back,” in a way that makes you believe it’s possible.

At the end of Clinton’s speech Barack Obama came onto the stage and they embraced, a visual linkage of one administration to the other. Clinton’s old rallying song, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” played, then switched to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” the  perfect song for Obama and his struggle against the obstructionist Republicans. Obama’s a great speaker, but I’m not sure he’ll top Clinton with his acceptance speech tonight. I’ll tell you what, though: Democrats and Independents, and maybe even a few Republicans, will be rooting for him.

Clinton, Obama embrace

A few media blurbs on Clinton’s speech:

Bill Clinton came in and beat up the other side.”–Christopher Hayes

“Extraordinary.”–Andrea Mitchell. 

“As a Democrat it doesn’t get any better than this.”—Ed Schultz

Part III: Media Coverage (Coming Soon)

More Stating the Obvious

Sounds like President Obama and Hillary Clinton stormed into a meeting in Copenhagen and bullied everyone into signing a bill. What they pushed through isn’t so impressive. Here’s the bottom line:

The agreement apparently grew out of a document that was being edited by high-ranking officials from some two dozen countries throughout the day. But many specifics that were included in earlier versions were excised in the document left on the table when Mr. Obama made his announcement, and many parties considered it at best a work in progress. The agreement contains several enumerated points asserting a general commitment to the idea that “climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time” and asserts that “deep cuts” in global emissions were required.

War Is Peace/Peace Is War

Did you catch President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech? If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought he was competing in a Best Orwellian Satire contest. After his Afghanistan announcement, I’d been hoping he’d have the decency to turn down the prize, or that the Nobel committee would take it back. But no…as he went on about just wars and soldiers standing strong to keep the peace, I had this sudden flash: when he decided to send more troops into Afghanistan, he might have had a brief twinge of conscience about the prize, but dismissed it with the comforting thought, I’ll just talk my way out of it. This is a man accustomed to talking his way out of trouble.

I used to listen with open ears to Barack Obama, soaking up his poetic rhetoric, hanging on to words of wisdom here and there. During this speech, I realized that I can no longer turn to this man for wisdom or guidance. It was a sad moment.

When Obama first came on the scene I was extremely wary. It took a long time to convince me that he meant what he said, that his gorgeous speeches had substance behind them. I eventually began to trust, but as a die-hard feminist I wanted a woman President, and I backed Hillary until she lost the nomination. As the election drew near, I got swept up in the wave of hope, and even went down to Democratic HQ a few days before the election to work the phones. I live in Oakland, and that hopeful wave was high enough to carry me a long, long way.

Now it’s crashed. What was it Jesse used to holler? Keep Hope Alive! Even more than young lives  are going to be lost in the cruel craggy landscape of Afghanistan.

Discovered Website

I have no idea what “Widdershins” means*(see below), but wanted to bring your attention to a newly discovered website by that name. Political posts with a radical feminist perspective. Expresses regrets that Hilary isn’t our Prez, and they’re more than cynical about Obama. I’ve put it into the place on my menu bar formerly reserved for the Huffington Post, which I eventually found to be somewhat shallow. Widdershins: if anyone knows what it means, let me know, and be sure to check it out.

A couple of Widdershins?

According to Wikipedia, Widdershins act “in a direction opposite to the usual”, and… contrary to the apparent course of the sun sixteenth century. It is cognate with the German language widersinnig, i.e., “against” + “sense”. The term “widdershins” was especially common in Lowland Scots, and was known in Scottish Gaelic as tuathal, or “left-hand-wise”. It uses the same root as tuath meaning “countryside”, originally “tribal-land”, “folk”, “people.”