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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

Why Do We Die?

tantrumWhy must we die?!? Okay, I get it that living forever isn’t such a fabulous idea— but why such pitifully short lives? I mean, I’m just getting going! This morning I heard a radio program on “smart urbanization” that I found totally stimulating; I’d love to look into this and be part of creating future living situations that work. I have lots of ideas that mesh with the experts’, at least from what I heard. This happens a lot: I hear something new and interesting and feel a strong urge to get involved. But do I have time to develop a career in smart urbanization or any other field? Doubtful. Even if I live another 20 years (also doubtful, especially if I keep puffing on toxic tobacco sticks), I’d have to give up or at least cut back on writing, not to mention doing all my favorite essentials like puttering around the house, doing crossword puzzles, and watching rented movies.

Even if I didn’t want to try out some new kind of work or even play, dammit! I’m just beginning to learn how to do the one thing on which I’ve maintained a steady focus. I’m only just learning how to write halfway decent fiction, to create characters who sound and act believable, and to invent situations for them that might interest readers. My non-fiction too keeps improving, but I didn’t have quite as far to go in that department. I had, still have, an enormous amount to learn in the genre I prize above all others, i.e., novel writing, but it is happening, and at a quicker pace than when I was young and distracted. What they say about improving with age is absolutely true—but we benefit from our growing wisdom for such a brief period, I question its value. Besides which, nobody wants you when you’re old and gray, as the song goes, even in the field of literature, where the powers-that-be want youngsters they can trot out in front of the cameras. And don’t get me started on the new forms of publication and how I can promote my ebooks by branding myself. That shit makes me want to throw up.

I did not intend to go off on a personal rave about my own career or lack of same, but all roads seem to lead to regret. My intention was to rant in general against this stupid idiotic pathetic system called Life. Who created or  invented it? You people who believe in a Creator, don’t you think he or she is pathetically incompetent? Talk about lousy planning! Nothing about our brief lives makes sense. We’re born, we get a few carefree years to play and learn one or two things—that is if we’re lucky enough to have a decent set of parents who don’t beat or otherwise abuse us, and we’re not born with some illness or disability, nor into abject poverty or war; then we struggle through whatever educational system is available, again if we’re lucky; and meanwhile we’re utterly confused, trying to figure out how to navigate such minefields as romantic love, sex, friendship, and something meaningful to do with our time; we work like dogs trying to go forward but too frequently we’re like Alice and the Queen, running as fast as we can just to stay in place–and this is, again, the best case scenario. Then we start to lose things like beauty and hearing and friends, and soon we go feeble and sick—even if we’re lucky enough to have only minor ailments, they’re a pain in the ass; and then poof, it’s all over.  A real idiot, that Creator. Or evolution. Or whatever or whoever.  I gave up trying to figure that part out a long time ago. Now I just want to know: WHY? WHY DIE? AND WHY SO SOON?

 

career-path

 

The Five Year Engagement

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Went to see The Five Year Engagement  Sunday with my son, and was glad I opted for a movie over dinner in a restaurant with the mother mobs.

I always forget, and hereby vow to remember, how great it is to see comedies in a movie theater, for several reasons. Most important, at other kinds of movies—dramas, documentaries, even simple love stories—I inevitably fall asleep. This comes of not sleeping well at night, so the minute I let my exhausted body sit still for more than two minutes, it collapses into a blissful state of REM. But at funny movies the audience keeps me awake with laughter. And if the movie is really funny, my own laughter keeps me going.

Film comedy has improved in the past decade, maybe more.  They used to be much stupider, aimed, like everything else, at kids; but moviemakers seem to have discovered you can be funny and still have a double digit age and a triple digit IQ. Other than Woody Allen, the most genuinely funny film I’ve seen as a grownup was The Wedding Crashers, so maybe the improvement started then. On the other hand, maybe I’m not as smart as I think or pretend to be—I’m the only person on the planet who thought Ishtar, made in the mid-70’s, was a scream.

The Five Year Engagement was done by the producers of Bridesmaids, which right away is a great reference. Engagement turns on one simple plot point. A madly-in-love couple get engaged with the best of intentions, begin planning their wedding, but get sidetracked, as the title implies, when she’s accepted into an academic program at the University of Michigan. Did I mention they live in San Francisco? And that he’s an up-and-coming chef in this gourmet city?

Thinking it’s no big deal, that they’re so in love they can handle anything (uh-huh) they put off their commitment date for what they expect will be  two years. Then life takes unexpected turns and things get more complicated.  The relationship starts to crumble before it can even begin.

The film is rated R, but don’t get excited…the sex is minimal. To compensate, most of it was shot in San Francisco. I have only one criticism: if they wanted Van Morrison songs for the soundtrack, why not Van himself and not covers?

I went into the theater stressed out from my daily life without even knowing I was; by the time the film ended I was as relaxed as after 3 days in Costa Rica, my mind having been transported, and laughter having shook the tension from my body. It’s fine to watch heavy dramas and intellectual fare at home, the bed nearby  and only 3 bucks wasted–or a chance to do a re-run at breakfast. But for ten bucks forced into an upright position, I’ll take laughter every time.

For all Writers and Wanna-Be’s

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Susie Bright in Tiara, 2007. Cropped and enhan...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but Susie Bright has written two make-believe letters that all writers will love and all wanna-be writers should learn from. Read them.

SF Mime: A Perfect Day

A few small things in this world never disappoint me: M&Ms; West Side Story, no matter how many times I see it; the Alvin Ailey dancers; the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Today I got to see the latter at Yerba Buena Gardens. I’ve been to see the Troupe in North Beach’s Washington Square Park, Mosswood in Oakland, Live Oak in Berkeley, and Delores Park, and I must say, Yerba Buena wins my golden seal of approval: spacious, no street noise, shady trees, and they even supplied chairs — after I’d schlepped mine across the bay on BART.

The Death of the Worker, this year’s show, is typical Mime fare, so if you like what they do, you’ll like it. Oppressed workers are cruelly laid off,  but  they form a collective when the owners take off, and socialism rules. The seven or eight songs in this year’s play stood out for me as high quality, and I wondered if the group sells soundtracks (check out their site).

I’m a big fan of these guys, and I go to see them every year. They do high quality, meaningful theater all over the Bay Area, and charge nothing. They pass the bucket at the end — I’d guess that if everyone feels as good as I do by that time, they give generously. The Troupe survives primarily on grants.There’s not a better cultural deal in town, so check out the schedule for the rest of the summer and get thee to a city park!

This might be my last post for awhile. I just started a writing gig that’s going to suck up most of my writing energy. ( I seem to have only so many words to spend per day, so when I’m working on a big project, I’m unable to write anything else other than email, if that.)

Dozens of current topics, like the so-called mosque at so-called Ground Zero, are bursting to be addressed, but I’ll just have to squelch my need to write about them. There’s plenty of posts to read on this blog and my two others, though, so do a little exploring. The only stuff that’s really obsolete are the posts about baseball from seasons past. Speaking of which — I hope I can at least steal some blogging time when the Yankees hit the World Series! Go Yanks!