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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


Still The Prez



Personal Politics

The Personal is Political we always said, and I believe it. Life experience has shown me that the reverse is also true, that The Political is Personal. By this I mean that politics affects our lives, and in deeply profound ways. When I talk about politics I’m not talking about who got elected last Tuesday, but about the distribution of power and wealth – the two being synonymous in our culture.  The degree to which we each have power shapes our life’s circumstances in almost every conceivable area. For nobody is this more true than it is for those with little or none.

One reason it’s so hard to get people to look clearly at the way things work is that nobody wants to identify themselves as powerless – it’s a creepy feeling; who’d want to confess to it? I don’t like saying so, believe me, but in order to talk about personal politics I must. During the course of my lifetime I’ve experienced a steady diminishment of power – after childhood, that is, when we have absolutely none (other than what we can manipulate with tantrums and other devious methods). As an adult I’ve gone from being young, sexy/pretty, and upper-middle-class to being old and poor (also un-pretty and un-sexy as an elder according to social standards). Having taken this backwards journey — we used to call it “downward mobility,”  I know a thing or two about power, or lack of same. Armed with this perspective, I’ve been thinking I want to do more political analysis, as I did back in the days of feminism. Not that I haven’t done any of it since, but the fact that my blog was rejected from inclusion in a list of women political bloggers tells you something.

The state of politics today is what’s compelling me to focus more attention on it. We’ve moved so far right that Barack Obama, the ultimate capitalist advocate, is labeled socialist. We almost put a gal into the House of Reps whose platform includes ending masturbation. Okay, that’s a joke, sort of;  but it’s undisputed fact that everything’s moved rightward.

Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, was on Talk of the Nation the other day, blaming liberals for the current state of affairs. A proud lifelong liberal himself, he says that liberals have basically dropped out, that there aren’t any great liberal groups and institutions around anymore to keep our capitalist democracy in balance. Hedges sees the liberal class as a necessary element of our democracy, one that should be respected for having brought us the five-day work week and minimum wage, among other humanizing practices, but instead it’s become a dirty word. Hedges believes that if things continue going in the same direction we’re facing a barbaric future; barbarism is his exact word, and he doesn’t toss it around lightly. If we don’t address “the ecological emergency,” (another great phrase) which is tied to the economic emergency, if we keep on exploiting people and the planet to exhaustion, he warns, we’re facing willful suicide.

What he’s saying makes sense to me. Recently I read Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and am now reading Oryx and Crake, a sort of prequel. Atwood describes a dystopia in which the failure to address the ecological emergency, plus scientific experimentation gone amok, lead directly to utter barbarism. My worldview has been immersed in Atwood’s since I began reading these books, and everywhere I see the seeds of her envisioned future. It’s scary as hell, but I can’t shake it: Atwood’s world is materializing before my eyes. That more than half the Republicans in power do not “believe in” the ecological emergency fills me with despair.

I see global climate change in every incident, from mudslides to forest fires to the BP oil spill, and I see it moving faster all the time. Change seems to be increasing exponentially: instead of just one change happening and then another, each change affects the whole organism, so that many changes occur, one on top of the other. I used to think the apocolypse wasn’t going to come in my lifetime, but I’m not so sure anymore, given that it’s already happening. For some in particular – those evacuating low-lying islands as the warming ocean rises and erodes their homeland; those driven off their lands by floods or erupting volcanoes – the worst is happening right now. For those with very little power, like me, survival becomes more and more difficult as resources become more and more scarce. Meanwhile, the people with more power, and certainly those with all the power, aren’t yet being affected.

I try not to debate people about politics, because I tend to get overly emotional, and sometimes even cry, as I dissolve into incoherence. That’s because this stuff is personal to me. When someone declares that only losers need government help, they are saying I’m a loser. I take that very personally.

One example illustrates everything I’m talking about: Hurricane Katrina was an emblematic event that revealed everything about what’s happening to our country. The people who got through nearly unscathed left New Orleans before the hurricane by turning the ignition key in their dependable cars. Those who had no way of leaving either perished or went through hell, and many still have not recovered. We all saw the crowds in the SuperDome, saw the color of the people’s skin, the conditions of their lives writ large upon their tired faces, in their broken and missing teeth. These were powerless people. Many of them survived but lost their homes, were “relocated,” and still have not been able to get where they want to be: back home. I understand the pain of being unable to go home: I long for New York and would go back if I could, but I don’t have the resources – and it takes a shitload of resources. I well remember how easy it was to move around 40 or 50 years ago. As things have gone increasingly dog-eat-dog it takes more and more money and power to move around, to make changes, to shape and control the circumstances of our lives. It’s all about power. It’s all about politics. The personal is still political – and the political is very, very personal.

Martha Coakley, Red Sox Nation, and Teddy’s Seat

Personally I think the Senate should adopt baseball’s time-honored ritual and retire the seats of former members of great fame, accomplishment and/or longevity. Ted Kennedy’s seat would simply remain in the Senate, empty, as a symbolic reminder of what’s been lost. Of course, the great state of Massachussets shouldn’t be deprived of its rightful two senators: they can still elect someone to do the job. But at least a Republican would not be literally sitting in the Liberal Lion’s chair.

Come to think of it, maybe Massachussets deserves to lose representation, considering their stupidity. The pundits and politicoes have been wasting time all week, turning this thing over and about, examining what happened from every angle, when the truth is, these voters are just plain stupid.  Most of the pundits seem to think they were expressing a desire for change. What change could they expect from Scott Brown, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who’s been up front in his intention to join his brethren in their holy crusade–to make sure that no changes occur in this country, at least not on the Democrats’ watch, and certainly not under the leadership of an African-American.

If Martha Coakley made one big blunder we might point to as relevant, it was dragging Red Sox Nation into the campaign. It’s a known fact that Red Sox fans are the dumbest fans in sports, bar none (I submit the photos here as evidence). The scene at Fenway Park almost always resembles a reunion of morons, with their drunken, painted faces and bellies, their sloppy, silly behavior, and their lame,  immature taunts to the visiting team. Yes, there’s some  stupidity in every team’s fans (the Angels and Braves are close runners-up), but IMHO Red Sox fans are the worst.

Thus, when Martha Coakley denigrated their Holy God, arch conservative Curt Schilling, he of the catsup-soaked sock, by claiming he’s secretly a Yankee fan, she stupidly sealed her fate. A huge portion of the Massachussets electorate lives and dies by the Red Sox. Absolutely nothing is rattling in their brains other than the rise and fall of their team’s statistics.  When Ms. Coakley enraged these fans, they had to vote for Scott Brown:   never in a million years would they let her remark go unpunished.

One thing that puzzles me is, if Massachussetts voters are okay with a Republican representing them, why did they vote for Ted Kennedy—for all the Kennedys—for so many years? Maybe it’s because they regard the Kennedys as their personal connection to royalty. Principles and political views–the act of thinking–apparently never enters the equation.

Schilling, who has himself speculated about running for public office (shudder), was ‘dissing Coakley long before she made her accusation. Horrified by her remark, he intensified his blogging campaign against her. “I’ve been called a lot of things,” he said in response, “but never, and I mean never, could anyone ever make the mistake of calling me a Yankee fan.”

And if you think Curt Schilling has even half a brain in his head, just read a few of his posts. A great thinker he is not. Bearing in mind that an awful lot of Massachussets residents hang onto his every word, read his blog. Then you’ll have an inkling of why the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s seat.

Click for another interesting take on the election.

Schilling as a Senator? {Shudder}

Curt Schilling a Senator? I shudder to think of it. See  my post on Schilling from awhile back–it reveals something about the man.