Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stroll through Paris

You all must try this. It is ravishing. Pretty Lady is getting all nostalgic, sniff.

(For those of you who do not read French, the directions are: 'click on the right arrow, to make Paris unfold before your eyes.')

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pretty Lady's Position on High Heels

Teetering and unstable, darlings, is always counterproductive. Even if it were not for an ancient injury, which makes high heels an exceedingly unwise option for Pretty Lady, she would largely eschew them by virtue of the fact that she lives in New York. If one lives in New York and has not the resources to take cabs everywhere one goes, even one block, the wearing of high heels is an indicator of either madness or masochism. Pretty Lady wears Furry Boots in winter, and Fetching Sandals or Funky Walkers in summer.

This does not mean that she does not enjoy the wondrously Dominant feeling of towering over the masses, on the rare occasions when she finds and dons a pair of heels which are both comfortable and appropriate to the occasion. Indeed, during one distressing bout with plantar fasciitis, a certain pair of high-heeled boots was instrumental to both her physical and emotional recovery from her hobbled state.

Thus, Pretty Lady is sorry to say that she must take her Nemesis to task once again, upon issues both trivial and grand, incisively as these issues are couched.

Look, claiming to love your high heels because they appeal to you in some comprehensively objective, lofty aesthetic sense, separated by a million brilliant intellectual miles from the culture of femininity that spawned’em, is a cop out....Women whose continued existence depends on capitulation to the feminine directive will get no argument from me. I often use “survival skill” as a synonym for femininity. The structure of patriarchy, which places anyone with a vagina in a continuum of femininity whether they like it or not, is such that the daily opportunities for self-deception and self-betrayal are mucho, relentless, and — with a frequency that depends on class, skin color, and proximity to domineering male godbags, drunks, and pervs — often unavoidable.
Pretty Lady says, hmph.

Once upon a time, when she was young and foolish, Pretty Lady met the Frenchman, in a café, for a trial coffee (as per the Rules.) Her initial impression of him was that he would do. (Lest this sound like an underwhelming recommendation, let it be known that Pretty Lady's impression of 99.8% of males she has encountered in this lifetime is that they Won't Do, for her at any rate. She is not judging these gentlemen in any way; she is simply persnickety.)

She almost fled, however, when he näively announced that he was looking for a 'feminine' woman.

If Pretty Lady had been just a wee bit younger, she would have leapt down his throat. "What do you mean by that?" she would have declared, aggressively. "Do you mean that you want a woman who is passive, agreeable, namby-pamby, and helpless? You think you're such hot shit? You want someone with no brain and no opinions, who will defer to your dominant masculinity in everything? Up yours, asshole!"

Thus might have spoken the Young Pretty Lady. And she would have missed out on a quite staggeringly enormous amount of fun.

Thankfully, the slightly older Pretty Lady decided to chalk his conversational faux pas up to cultural differences, and suspend judgment until she got to know him better. Also, he called later that week and invited her skiing, all expenses paid.

Gradually, as she chatted with the Frenchman on ski lifts, and in top-flight restaurants, and over bottles of exquisite claret in the penthouse overlooking downtown San Francisco, she came to understand what he meant by 'feminine.' He meant 'feminine.' Graceful, courteous, kind, nurturing, unflappable, engaging, adventurous, versatile, easygoing, expressive, charming, and lovely, in other words. The notion of passivity, stupidity or helpless dependency as attached to these characteristics had never even occurred to him.

In fact, as time went by, it became clear that although the Frenchman may have initially been attracted by Pretty Lady's prettiness (though even this is in doubt. He confessed, years later, that he couldn't make out the photograph terribly well on his monitor), what kept him around, and what nearly drove him to distraction when Pretty Lady decided, regretfully, that he wouldn't quite do after all, were her characteristics of (she blushes to admit) brilliance, creativity, initiative, confidence, independence, and leadership.

For example, when she performed a spontaneous solo thrash-belly-breakdance at a club in San Francisco, he chortlingly embraced her in a state of high excitement, declaring, "I was very proud to be your man this evening." When she cheerfully discussed art, politics, economics and religion at his friend's bungalow in Nice, he stated, "You outshone those other pathetic little women by an order of magnitude." When she picked up and moved to another country, in order to think things through, he threw a few tantrums, then decided that this was a splendid idea, and invited her motorcycling around the world.

It is most important to understand that if Pretty Lady had succumbed to psychological passivity, helplessness, or dependency at any point, this relationship would have been toast much sooner, and not in a good way. Pretty Lady's rock-solid internal confidence and self-esteem were what carried the day. Her proof of this was when the Frenchman came to her, hat in hand, bearing the physiological signs of extreme distress, and declared, "You know when you said that you are an extraordinary person, completely unique, and that if I don't love you exactly the way you are, then somebody else will? WELL, IT'S TRUE."

So there.

You see, my dearest most misguided Twisty, 'femininity' is neither a negative, nor a characteristic defined solely by its opposite. It is also only incidentally and superficially associated with aesthetics. True femininity is a positive force of grace and power which may well be inborn, but which must also be nurtured with all the powers of discipline and intellect at one's disposal, in order to make us capable of moving mountains and healing the world. Mere brute aggression quails and capitulates at the slightest whisper of mature feminine nature.

Also, indulging one's genuine aesthetic attractions for the shiny, the lacy and the hyperbolically flowery can be an almost indecent amount of fun. ;-)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How to be Endlessly Erotic

Thank you, darlings, for being so endlessly patient while Pretty Lady revelled silently in the atmosphere of Home. She feels Restored, after sitting for hours upon her favorite dam in the Trinity, occasionally dunking her feet, and watching the autumn leaves course through the sparkling torrent. She has inhaled the particular wild, dusty aromas of dead grass, random cactus and tangled oak leaves; she has contemplated the pink skies and thorny underbrush of her homeland; she has sat long and long with uncompromising western winds rippling through her hair, watching the distance shift from hazy rose to gray-blue to midnight indigo. She has allowed her aura to decompress, expand, and mingle with the laconic expanses and infinite skies of a land which she has never thought to miss or regret, but which flows within her blood as unthinkingly as oxygen. Hmmmmmm.

So, then, Pretty Lady has high hopes that this recharging of batteries will enable her to tackle forcefully the topic of How to Attain a State of Perpetual Mind-Body Orgasm, which we venal human creatures are so endlessly pursuing, either covertly or right out in the shameless open. She knows that her competition in this arena is fierce; moreover, she suspects that she will lose a great deal of her prospective audience right off the bat, when she bluntly declares that Pornography is Not It. Additionally, running one's dating life as though one were auditioning for a porn film won't do it either. Indeed, these things are some of the most potent blocks to living a life of rampant, joyous sensuality; Pretty Lady hopes that her proposed screed will assist, in some small way, toward thrusting the kinky magazines and exotic photographs back into the fleabag alleyways where they belong.

Pretty Lady is ever optimistic.

Now, before you get all exercised and turn away from Pretty Lady's naive rhapsodies in sophisticated disgust, let it be known that Pretty Lady has, in actual fact, seen Debbie Does Dallas. Or at least, she's seen part of it. It proved impossible to view the entire thing before Pretty Lady and her then-lover succumbed to the power of overt suggestion and lost interest in the flickering screen, in favor of the pursuit of more concrete endeavors. Later on, her lover remarked, "It looked like they were having fun." Even now, Pretty Lady has only to think of the phrase, "Roberta, we have a favor to ask of you," in order to get all flustered. Pretty Lady has always been an inexpensive date.

However, when this same adventurous lover took the step of acquiring some more recently-manufactured, sophisticated films via brown-paper mail-order, results were not nearly so scintillating. The stars of these latter artistic productions did not look as though they were having fun; they looked as though they were auditioning for some sort of banal, generic Fame, which made the camera a more significant object by far than either their lascivious actions or their partners. It reminded Pretty Lady of a video she once viewed, of Karen Finley performing: 'oh! It's time to get naked now. It's time to pour the chocolate frosting. It's time to stick the finger up the...' and so on. It was more a semantic gesture than an act imbued with erotic significance.

After viewing that film, Pretty Lady and her boyfriend wrapped themselves in flannel bathrobes, made some Ovaltine, played checkers and fell asleep. Which was fine, in its own pedestrian way.

You see, darlings, Sex as Parts can only go So Far. When one amputates the Sexual from the Personal, the Emotional, the Mysterious, the Particular, the Spiritual and the Intellectual, one hasn't got much left to work with. One has, merely and literally, a Dangling End. This creates two unavoidable problems; first, one has to keep upping the erotic ante to maintain even a semblance of titillation, and one becomes increasingly stringent, in a narrow sense, and critical of one's partner's End. Which can lead to some extremely tacky conversations, not to mention a plummetting sense of self-worth, as one's own End approaches, inevitably, the ground.

The erotic is like a pinch of asafoetida, or perhaps truffle oil, if one is not so fond of Indian food. A very little goes a very long way, imbuing everything it touches with a musky depth; a great deal of it will totally annihilate the senses. Additionally, undiluted and impersonal Sex is quite literally dangerous; it leaves one physically and emotionally vulnerable, to such a degree that the only possible response to casual Sex with a relative stranger is to Shut Down. In men, this Shutting Down response is hard-wired and automatic; in women, Pretty Lady suspects, it is defensive and acquired. The more casually Sex is treated within our culture, the more we all develop Teflon temperaments.

This is why Pretty Lady maintains that it is erotically counterproductive to have sex on the first date. Even in the first month. In fact, Pretty Lady sometimes thinks that if the ultimate act were infinitely postponed, approached by incremental degrees in the manner of Zeno's Paradox, the forces of sublimated erotic tension would expand to such a degree that polluted wilds would be scoured clean, the national budget would be balanced, and Fermat's Last Theorem would be all locked up, by billions of minds in a constant state of high-wired sensitivity. But then, Pretty Lady is operating from a position of extreme femininity; it is a good thing that most boys would vociferously object to this situation, or the human race would die out in one, albeit infinitely productive, generation.

Think back, darlings, to the last time you were in love. If you ever have been. It does not matter if the object of your affections turned out to be a three-timing rat-fink bastard, as so often has been the case in Pretty Lady's experience; we are not concerned with that. We are only concerned with the effects of inchoate erotic affection upon one's immediate environment. Think back to how the world appeared; how every sunset was deep and intense and maudlin in a wholly cliché'd and embarrassing way, how one was prone to walk around the streets grinning like a fool, how one saved up the most trivial incidents of experience to bestow upon one's beloved, suddenly imbued with a radiance and specialness far beyond the gray banality of everyday life.

The world, when one is in love, is suddenly bursting with riotous poetry, profound significance, and tense, ecstatic sensuality. Is it not? So why waste one's time on anything else? Pretty Lady is here to tell you that it can always be that way.

Indeed it can, even if one has been single for so long that one cannot quite remember what actual intercourse felt like. It can be like this even if one has been married for decades; even if one's body is old and withered and never likely to appear in a porn film, even as comic relief. All it takes is a conscious decision to imbue one's everyday attention with the sort of reverence that is generally reserved for weddings, baptisms, funerals, and good erotic literature.

For example: Pretty Lady herself takes a shower nearly every day. A shower! Think of the possibilities! She begins slowly, thoughtfully, loosing her hair from its restrictive clasp, allowing it to cascade wantonly round her shoulders. Then she removes her shoes, those harsh, bulky things, and casts them to the corner. She reaches for the silver taps, arching her back like a cat stretching in the sun; she adjusts the temperature so that it is bitingly hot, just the slightest bit painful, peppery and invigorating. She exuberantly strips off her jeans, her soft, clingy cotton top, her foamy bra and her amusing little bikini bottom, exulting in de-elasticized freedom before bounding into the hammering spray.

Once there, she allows the sensuous jets to saturate her long, mermaid-like hair, falling dense and heavy over bare, silky skin. She basks in the steam and the spray for long, contented moments before reaching for the shampoo...

and we have yet to discuss the niceties of soap, razors, conditioner, towels, and the occasional sea-salt exfoliation treatment. Pretty Lady doesn't want you to get too worked up.

True eroticism, in Pretty Lady's view, is about an infinite, subtle opening up. In its most advanced stages, the mere sight of a bird coursing across the heavens, or a drop of rain tracing a whimsical path down the window, can contain an entire universe of wonder and delight. The catch is, that in order to inhabit such a subtly delightful universe, one must be Safe. One cannot be safely wide-open around rat-fink-bastards who treat the world in general, and you in particular, as so much Kleenex. In avoiding rat-fink-bastards, one must take care not to BE a rat-fink-bastard; this extends, quite logically, to the act of treating one's lovers with the sincere care and reverence of royalty, not with the casual indifference of a one-night-stand.

So if, after considered acquaintance, one cannot avoid feeling a certain contempt, loathing, boredom, indifference, or revulsion for one's companion--physical, intellectual, emotional or otherwise--skip the sex. It isn't worth it. Get a Haagen-Daas and go skipping in the rain instead.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Automated Vacation Message

Darlings, Pretty Lady is sorry she cannot respond to your lovely letters this week. She is lolling in the sun in the great state of Texas, surrounded by glorious extended family, all of whom are completely well-adjusted except, regrettably, her aunt's stick-in-the-mud husband, who refuses to speak to any of us, but sits on the back porch with the Dachsund, growling when anyone comes near (the husband, not the Dachsund) and turning up his nose at all refreshment except a spoonful of mashed potatoes and two Brussels sprouts. This has been going on for twenty years; it has officially been decided that next year, we buy him a Whataburger and let him eat on the back porch with the Dachsund. All of us will be happier.

Not that much increase of happiness is, indeed, possible. Pretty Lady hopes that all of her lovely friends are having as splendid a time as she.

Monday, November 20, 2006

So unfair

Once upon a time, Pretty Lady remarked idly to her then-boyfriend, the Angry Atheist, after viewing 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou' for the third time--or perhaps it was 'Intolerable Cruelty'--"If I were a man, I'd be George Clooney."

The Angry Atheist, not having spent an extended period of time in Northern California, and being highly unfamiliar and uncomfortable with flexible soul/gender paradigms, freaked.

Her oldest female friend, however, looked thoughtful and said, "I can totally see that."

You see, it's the self-reflexive irony, the dilettantism, the panache, no?

At any rate, Pretty Lady feels that it is self-reflexive irony at its bleakest, that just as she begins to mope round in the mornings, feeling just slightly Over The Hill, or at least that she is approaching the peak of it, that George Clooney, decades her senior, is featured upon the cover of People magazine as "The Sexiest Man Alive."

Pretty Lady is trying to get over it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Health. Care.

Darlings. Pretty Lady has a serious request to make of you.

She knows, in general, that all of you dears turn to her at the end of a weary day, for a little Light Relief. She endeavors not to tackle Serious Issues; in particular, she is highly allergic to issues that require, or seem to require, political solutions. Pretty Lady prefers to avoid politics. She is morally opposed to politics as a blanket rule, in fact--but that is a different story.

However, Pretty Lady is obliged to confess to you that she does, indeed, have her moments of Serious Thinking. She is sorry to shock you, but it's true. One of her pet hobbies is busying her pretty little brain upon the problem of Healthcare. That is, the Care of one's Health, and the concomitant systems that have arisen, and might arise, thereof.

And she is devastated to inform you that, bluntly, the 'Healthcare' system we are now laboring under, in her current home country of the U.S. of A., is not. Is not and does not. Period.

You see, what we have, currently, is a system based upon the concept of 'health insurance.' This, at face value, is a bunch of baloney. How in the world does one 'insure' health? Given that the biological facts of the situation are overwhelmingly, that is one hundred percent, stacked against us?

Because we are all, every one of us, one hundred percent mortal. Pretty Lady is sorry if she is the first to break this to you.

Thus, 'health insurance' companies are promising the impossible. For this imaginary service of protecting you against the utterly inevitable, they quite properly charge a hefty fee. Moreover, as soon as one show signs of incipient mortality, the 'health insurance' company, for reasons of excellent business, refuses to insure you any longer. 'Health insurance' companies, then, exist for the sole purposes of taking your money and giving nothing in return.

What, then, is going on in the minds of those hapless persons who are actually paying them?

The fond delusion nurtured by the 'insured,' in fact, is that they are paying for the privilege of receiving astronomically expensive 'health care' upon such occasion as they, most unfortunately, might happen to need it. In essence, they are betting that their health will require care to the tune of more money than they originally invest in the 'insurance.' In other words, they are expecting to get something for nothing.

First law of economics, physics, karma, and simple existence: You cannot get something for nothing.


This impossible situation is further confused, conflated, and screwed up by the fact that there are all sorts of attendant industries, bureaucracies, research institutes, professionals, and overtly fraudulent set-ups geared to extract the maximum Something for the minimum Nothing that they can possibly leverage from the screwed-up system. Nobody acts to Bring Down the system, of course, because so many people's very livelihoods depend upon it.

Not the livelihoods of the 'insured,' however; these are the ones which are maximally expendable. Because once the system has bled them financially dry, obviously there is no more use for them.

Ergo this engenders, daily, hourly, nightmare stories like that of Pretty Lady's beloved friend, k.

I hardly ever get the fever and chills any more. But I'm still sleeping around 18 hours a day, partly from allergies. The pain in the foot is still intense. The shin bone is tender, and the ankle too. But the foot itself, internally scarred from the abscess in 2004, is by far the most affected by pain.

If I walk just a few steps, the pain ramps up, and lasts for hours or days.

And I still don't have a working scooter, even for home use. All I can do is sit around with my feet elevated, letting the things I need done go undone, letting my life slowly fall apart around me.

Yesterday, for the very first time, a certain realization hit me full force: If I'd had a working scooter - instead of the defective one delivered in July and never replaced - the infection would probably not have happened. The incompetence of the equipment company and the HMO is the primary cause of this terrible new infection, more permanent damage and permanently increased pain, and almost the loss of my leg.

After the infection, with a working transportable scooter, I wouldn't have been stuck here for a month, unable to go anywhere or do anything. I would not have fainted at the pain doctor's office from the strain of walking 150 feet. I would not have felt the intense pain I do every time I walk from my office chair to the kitchen or bathroom or front door.

My written complaint to the Medicare HMO about the scooter issue was finally addressed, over a week after submission. The person calling me from the complaint department had no idea I was complaining about the durable medical equipment company as well, including allegations of fraud. Even though this was included in the complaint she was supposedly reading, right in front of her.
Although it is a deeply painful experience, more so for those who have known this lovely lady well enough and long enough to feel an abiding interest in her wellbeing, Pretty Lady nevertheless recommends that you go and read a great deal more of what k has to say about health, her HMO, Medicare, and all the rest of it. It is like a thriller and a horror movie and Kafka all rolled into one. You will never be bored.

You will then, as perhaps never before, be convinced that 'health insurance' as it is practiced in the great state of Florida, at the very least, has nothing at all to do with Health Care.

Now, there are two separate issues before Pretty Lady, as the situation now stands. One is the Personal. Pretty Lady happens to Care, Personally, a very great deal for her friend k. This is key. Because Pretty Lady Cares, Personally, for this limpid and inspiring soul, and wishes for her to remain on this planet for as long as possible, spreading her limpid influence, Pretty Lady is urging everyone who Cares for Pretty Lady to go over and offer her friend some support. If you happen to have excess financial resources, there is a convenient 'Donate' button for you to press. If, like Pretty Lady, your resources are constrained, Moral Support will do just fine. K, being rare and radiant, absorbs a great deal of healing from such things.

On the other hand--the hand of International Affairs, the hand of Politics and all Things Grand--what do you think Pretty Lady is going to say? Is she going to call, righteously, for universal Socialized Medicine? For a Compassionate Culture? For the People to forcefully rob the coffers of the rich, and scatter infinite health and wellbeing round the planet, so that everyone lives happily ever after?

The fact is, Pretty Lady doesn't know. She might, eventually. If that's the most judicious option.

But before she makes any such sweeping propositions, she feels compelled to point out a few things.
1) Health is most efficiently nurtured by those who Care most about it. The person to whom one's health matters most is, usually, oneself. Thus, one's Health is, first and foremost, best Cared for by the sussing out, assessing, allocating, and applying of all resources, financial and otherwise, FOR ONESELF. Not by a faceless institution that exists merely to rip one off and usher one silently and efficiently into the grave.

2) Health Care may include, but is not limited to, access to strange, myriad, wondrous, mysterious, and above all, expensive Drugs. In fact, in Pretty Lady's experience, the better one Cares for one's Health, the fewer of these dicey Drugs one is likely to need.

SO, framing "Healthcare" as a system primarily to support the existence of myriad drug companies may greatly assist the drug companies, but it is not necessarily synonymous with Health. And indeed, may be counterproductive to it.

3) Hoary but useful Cliché of the Day: An ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of Cure.

That is, unless one is SELLING the CURE.

Pretty Lady suspects that one very large reason that the "Healthcare System" is so stingy on Prevention is that it is so heavily interested in selling cures. That, and in covering its own butt; there is a reason that doctors these days compulsively order masses of expensive and, in most cases, useless diagnostic tests. They are not nearly so concerned about your financial well-being as their own, and medical malpractice lawsuits cost them money.

All of these truths may seem to be self-evident. The problem is, our current 'healthcare' system rarely seems to acknowledge them, in practice if not in word. Until these obvious truths are taken into account, all efforts at amending a 'healthcare' system are bound to be in vain. They will bankrupt even the rich, before putting a dent in the sufferings of the poor.

Because, darlings, the current 'health insurance' system is simply a spiralling financial sink, spreading misery and ruin among those it purportedly exists to help. One is, like Pretty Lady, almost better off without it. Until one is mowed down by cancer or a bus; then, it seems, it is those who Care who are dragged deep into the vortex, with no escape.

UPDATE: From Desert Cat:

Now the good news! I do believe I have convinced our girl to go out immediately and purchase for herself a scooter that will serve her present needs, while waiting for the insurance issue to be settled in whatever manner it eventually will. I promised her that I had a herd of horses I was holding in reserve to assist her financially with this very necessary step.

She is a bit overwhelmed at the thought, but grateful nonetheless.

Therefore, as the simplest and most straightforward way to make this happen, won't you please trek on over to her website and hit that "Make A Donation" button located on her left sidebar? This way she will be able to purchase the specific scooter that best meets her needs, rather than any of us trying to figure out which one would work best for her.

Her Walter is coming home Monday afternoon (choirs of angels sing!), and I think it would be absolutely fabulous if she had enough cash in her account to go out with him then and purchase the scooter she so badly needs.

Thank you all for your generosity, whatever amount you are able to contribute. And if you are broke, believe me, the moral support you offer her is also very much appreciated, maybe more than you know.

Thwack the button! Thwack the button!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Therapy hour

Pretty Lady has, however inadvertantly, struck a nerve with Crom:

Those gentlemen furtively clicking their sperm counts away are compensating for the fact that to try and get her in the mood is only slightly less difficult than neurosurgery or requires a layout of cash on useless jewelry that could pay for the mortgage, handily. The sad part is that many of these men really do love their wives despite the fact that what they would do daily the wife only wants once a week, maybe. Men are wired to want it more often than they do a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, hence the explosion of all the alternative forms of gratification.

The man with an eager wife is blessed indeed, for the number of women like this are rapidly approaching extinction levels.
Pretty Lady herself has, thankfully, never been married to a porn addict. Although this may seem to discount her from commenting knowledgeably upon the subject, it also invests her perspective with a certain degree of detachment; a lack of overt bias, if you will. Also, in the course of her wide travels and variegated relationships, she has been upon intimate (though not directly sexual) terms with a great number of committed couples, many of whom are in the habit of speaking candidly to her about their sex lives.

Therefore she would like to make a few observations.

1) It seems we are in a situation, here, where each gender is forcefully blaming the other gender, society, culture, feminism, anti-feminism, repression, openness, monogamy, polygamy, religion, atheism, and their parents for the crisis at hand. The only entity one is not inclined to blame, in any given situation, is oneself. This has always seemed to Pretty Lady to be a wilfully counter-productive attitude; see all archives.

2) In the course of her observations of the trials and tribulations of committed couples, Pretty Lady has come to one single empirical truth about intra-coupular dynamics; that it ALWAYS goes two ways. ALWAYS. All other details are subject to infinite variability. Thus, whenever there is a problem, it is both people's problem. That is implicit in the definition of the word 'couple.' Blaming one's spouse exclusively for an untenable situation, then, ensures that the situation will never, never, never be resolved, except in dissolution of the couple. Period.

3) The dynamics of each and every couple are different. This may seem to be so obvious as to be a tautology; however, when enthusiastic crusaders get swept up in a wave of political rhetoric, this obvious fact often seems to be abandoned on the seashore. Thus, mandating a solution that involves a sea-change in the attitude of an entire gender, particularly one that is not one's own, is not only silly, but would not resolve your own personal problem even if, by some miracle, it occurred.

So. What now?

WHEN there is a disagreement about Sex within a couple (and there are ALWAYS disagreements about sex within couples), these disagreements generally hinge upon two factors: 1) difference in sex drives and 2) difference in priorities. The stereotypical situation is that the lady has the lower sex drive, and thus the lower sex priority, but Pretty Lady is here to tell you that this is not always the case. Not by a long shot.

When embarking upon the necessary reconciliation of these differences, three factors are key. 1) Trust, 2) Commitment, and 3) Communication. Without a nearly unlimited supply of these three factors, the relationship is doomed.

Pretty Lady could write an entire saga on the subject of Trust alone; suffice it to say that trust is not something to be bestowed, either rapidly or indiscriminately. It must be earned. And one has no right to demand it of someone if one's actions are not generally trustworthy. That is to say: If you make a habit of lying to your spouse, manipulating this person, controlling them, draining their energy, acting in ways which are contrary to your spouse's best interests, or habitually abusing them in any way, even verbally or emotionally (those 'feminine' intangibles), your spouse has no reason to trust you.

And since mutual trust is the very essence of committed, mindblowing, off-the-charts, body-mind-soul sex, you have shot yourself in the foot at the starting gate.

Thus Trust, as well, generally accompanies Commitment. If you require the first but are constitutionally allergic to the second, please go to hell.

That baseline established, we move onto the third element in our Continued Great Sex Prescription Package; Communication.

Never, it seems, have so many people talked so much to achieve so little. They talk about themselves; their needs, wants, requirements, fantasies, pet moral philosophies, frustrations, and trivial daily incidents. They complain. They whine. They blog. What they do a great deal less of is listening. The times when they listen the least, when they actually seem to reach into their eardrums and hit the 'mute' button, is when a person close to them is telling them something about themselves that they do not wish to hear.

Pretty Lady is here to tell you that this is precisely the thing you NEED to hear. It will be painful. It will be humbling. It will require some thought, some honest soul-searching, and some adjustment on your part. But the results may very well be phenomenal.

And Pretty Lady must remind you, in case you have forgotten, during the course of reading this long, serious, less-than-sprightly post: It goes both ways. If you have been listening to your spouse, really truly, for a long time; if you have been taking this listening to heart, and loving this person, and adjusting for this person, and the time comes for you to communicate your needs, lovingly and responsibly, and this person absolutely refuses to listen, guess what? You do not have a spouse. You are a single person who is legally chained to a narcissist.

The best you can do for yourself, then, is to walk away. You do not have to file for divorce, instantly, when your spouse falls asleep during foreplay; what you can and must do, eventually, after you have put your best efforts into facilitating communication, is to make it clear that an unacceptable situation is unacceptable. You may take a long vacation. You may take another apartment. You may go on a meditation retreat.

If your spouse takes advantage of your vacation to jump into bed with the nearest hottie, THEN you file for divorce. But if the seriousness of your intention finally becomes clear, and your spouse actually starts to listen--well, then.

It has been known to happen.

Hooray Naomi

Lovely Naomi Wolf gets the porn issue, finally, correct:

If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it.

Other cultures know this. I am not advocating a return to the days of hiding female sexuality, but I am noting that the power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time. In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography. It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, “rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.

And feminists have misunderstood many of these prohibitions.

Pretty Lady thinks erotica is Just Splendid. She has a book by Anais Nin, and once every few years, she reads a story. Or two. Then she puts it back on the shelf. It is rather like a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label in that respect.

She has never been one to condemn gentlemen for looking at pornography, visiting the occasional strip club, or even the occasional lady of the evening. Gentlemen, as they say, will do that.

But doing this sort of thing more often than one buys a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, particularly if one is living on a conservative income, makes a man boring, flaccid, and ultimately useless. He degenerates into a zombie that goes 'click. click. click.' in the evenings, instead of practicing Tantric mysteries with his eager wife, under their tent of exotic hangings. Pretty Lady knows women who used to be married to men like this; one of them drove cross-country in her porn-zombie husband's prized Mercedes, left it in a ghetto with the doors unlocked, and took a photograph once an hour until he sent her the signed divorce papers. This Could Happen to You.

Boys, this is No Sort of Life. Not for us, not for you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Feminist fashion advice

Pretty Lady went to an Academic Conference yesterday evening! The thrill! She has not been on a college campus since...well, never you mind. Obviously she must be old and fuddy-duddy and Out Of Date, for she could not begin to parse the outfits that these up-and-coming young ladies were wearing.

That is, until she imagined the existence of some theoretical boxes in the attic, marked 'Office Temp Clothing: 1982-1987,' hearkened upon by a mob of creative but penurious youngsters. Then it all made sense.

Darlings. Pretty Lady recalls, does she ever, some of the more egregious ensembles she used to assemble, while larking about on campus. She once went through an entire day of classes with a teardrop painted on her cheek in blue eyeliner. She regularly donned tattered men's suit jackets, purchased from the Salvation Army, over antique beaded sweaters with holes in them, tattered jeans, and those strange black lace-up leather shoes that were All The Rage, way back when. She has worn pink Converse All-Star Hi-tops with pale blue long johns, purple plaid skirt, oversized black T-shirt, and a yellow hand-me-down sweater three sizes too big. Pretty Lady knows all about Looking Like a Fool in Public.

She must say, however, that even retro-ironic, bargain-basement, anti-fashion fashion statements have a few ironclad rules. And you young ladies are breaking them.

You may, of course, thumb your noses at Pretty Lady, quite properly. "What care we for your Patriarchal Aesthetic!" you shout. "We do not care to look Attractive. We are uninterested in your hidebound Rules of Proportion. We are Serious, yet Carefree. We do our own thing. Pretty Lady, by contrast, is bound hand and foot by the Dominant Paradigm, and does not appreciate our efforts to liberate her. How boring."

To which Pretty Lady replies: very well. These arguments have merit. Pretty Lady must respect them. However, when you wish to make a powerful impression in venues of import, do not come weeping to Pretty Lady when you are either Utterly Ignored, or Viciously Mocked, because you look like a dweeb or a clown. Pretty Lady herself believes in harnessing every tool at her disposal, when challenging patriarchies, and she does not herself feel that she can afford to cast aside her primary weapon of creative rebellion--her insouciant armor, her judiciously bohemian fashion sense. Ignore her at your peril. You will learn soon enough.

So, in case any of you are secretly intrigued, Pretty Lady will post these rules, and you may read them when all the other feminists are out rallying about something or other.

1) Balance your ironic tensions.

For every strong aesthetic statement, there must be an equally weighty element in opposition to it. One wears garden-party floral sundresses with combat boots. Tattered, holey jeans must be accompanied by excessively flashy costume jewelry. Street-thug wool stocking caps may only be worn over a mop of riotously curly hair.

If you persist in over-balancing your aesthetic, you run the risk of random viewers missing the irony entirely, and believing that you are, indeed, a slightly deranged escapee from a temp agency in Dallas. Thus you may never wear floral polyester dresses with opaque white stockings and pointy-toed flats, or periwinkle pull-over sweaters with striped Oxford shirts buttoned up to your chin.

And white sneakers are never, ever, ever appropriate, unless you are actually running.

2) Only one unnatural bulge per outfit.

One must be aware of one's silhouette at all times while dressing. A single cancerous lump interrupting the expected hourglass trajectory may be passed off as daring, dynamic and provocative. Two or three, and your figure ceases to register as human. To a young lady who is primarily concerned with avoiding street harassment, this may be seen as a distinct advantage; Pretty Lady reminds you, however, that when one is making the political point that Women Are People Too, it greatly assists one's cause to actually look like one.

Thus, lumpy leggings are splendid; lumpy leggings paired with flared miniskirt, high heels, bulky scarf, and excessively bulgy 80's-retro padded jacket, not so much.

3) Color, color, color.

You may get away with nearly any combination of colors, prints, and fabrics, as long as the manner in which they are assembled conform, metaphorically, to the above standards. But do not be a complete dweeb about it. Head-to-toe black with brown shoes is egregious. Head-to-toe fade-into-the-woodwork blue gives Pretty Lady hideous seventh-grade flashbacks. Head-to-toe red looks like you are trying too hard. Head-to-toe featureless drab with wool stocking cap and no hair looks like you are auditioning for the role of street person.

4) Moderation on the make-up.

A moment of aghast silence, please. Hell has, in fact, frozen over. Pretty Lady has turned into her own mother.

But heavens, it's true. Too much, and you look like a prostitute. Too little, coupled with Option D: Head-to-toe Drab, and you look like you would genuinely, truly prefer not to exist at all, and have only shown up in the flesh in order to confer about the best manner of escaping it.

You may proceed with the Public Flagellation, now.

Yoo hoo

Boysmom has a question for you plant-o-philes (you know who you are):

Since you all here seem to know much more about exotics than I do, I have a plant problem as well that I would appreciate some help with. I have a Tillsandia (actually, it's my husband's, but watering is my responsibility since I'm home with it) that seems to be dying of dehydration. In spite of being spritzed at least ten times a day. It hangs from a wire over the kitchen sink so I see and spray it often. Is there any other way to care for/water it? Would it live if I stuck it, say, half under water? Our air is incredibly dry--between natural dryness and forced air heat, and I'm sure that's what's doing it in.
Pretty Lady thought that dryness was what was doing her last orchid in, as well, until it expired completely and she discovered it was suffering from root rot. In her defense, she believes that its root system was already blackened mush before she bought it; there was a reason it was on the 'reduced' rack.

However, Tillsandias seem to be completely out of both hers and Google's range of knowledge. DC? K? Have at it, dears.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Upward mobility

The whatever-it-is has been suspended.

It has also been even more extensively pruned; horticulturists in Pretty Lady's social circle will be receiving half-rooted cuttings as stocking-stuffers this year. Roots were installed in a mix of half potting soil, half epiphyte bark, and fertilizer has been sharply curtailed. Either the monster plant will burst forth in a riot of frantic enflorescence, or suddenly expire.

Pretty Lady confesses that it makes her feel ever so slightly uneasy, having this bizarre life form dangling above her head as she goes about her cooking, but she can now see freely through the window onto the fire escape, where the miniature rose bush has still a few tremulous blossoms. She promises that this current obsession with domestic affairs will cease, shortly, and she will return to esoteric obfuscations as soon as she's back from the co-op.

Nanny nanny boo-boo

Pretty Lady has a walk-in closet. And she didn't pay $38,500 for it either.

Just because Pretty Lady is a New Yorker, at the present time, does not mean that she has succumbed to the total insanity of hard-core, ossified, unable-to-imagine-living-anywhere-else Manhattanites. She has not forgotten or dismissed the fact that the sum that these fools have dropped upon a 10 x 10 basement room with a dirt floor, is equivalent to the down payment on a farmhouse upstate, with acreage.

Pretty Lady has always had phenomenally good real-estate karma, Neanderthals and ghettos notwithstanding. She cannot take much credit for this, except for the fact that there are certain degrees of foolishness that she refuses to stoop to. She will put up with gritty and unfashionable surroundings, to a certain extent; she will sacrifice Cuteness for Affordability, and even grudgingly throw the occasional bicycle and car window into the kitty.

But she is not so addicted to City Living that she has lost all sense of proportion and practicality. Should the day come that Phil goes impractically co-op, and nothing in her vicinity can be had for less than the price of a small South American country, and her network of acquaintances and fans fails to come through with yet another Real Estate Miracle, she's off. Upstate, Maine, Mexico--even, heaven forfend, Texas.

First, however, she's hoping to hook up with a few dozen New Yorkers who believe that dropping $40K on a broom closet is a good investment, and sell them a few large rectangles of dirt-covered cloth.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Decorating coup

Pretty Lady has, at long last, figured out what to do with the stunning length of Indian cloth-of-gold, bestowed upon her as a birthday gift by her adored and well-travelled cuñado. It makes the perfect backdrop for Zora, the retired lady puppet from Java, atop the antique English wardrobe obtained in San Francisco, discreetly accessorized by the incense-burner from Dubai (acquired and bestowed by her naval brother, sojourning once upon a time, on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.)

The entire ensemble graces the corner of her living room, next the color-coordinated bookshelf, flanked by three original photographic prints from Jake, grounded by her prized, perforate ceramic lamp from Mexico.

Note the serendipitous symphony of blues, golds, and browns, the repeated motifs of feminine form and tower, the junk-shop bric-a-brac coziness of the aesthetic.

Pretty Lady frequently longs for an open, simple, elegant environment, flooded with light and Zen simplicity. Unfortunately, both her personality and available space tend more toward the cluttered, eclectic and baroque. She imagines that once she has earned her nest egg and invested it in a custom-built hacienda in a remote corner of Mexico, she will have at least one room set aside for beige-on-beige, stark restfulness of decór. Until then, she delights in uncovering the poetic resonances among her casually arranged collection of worldly junk.

Rocks and Hard Places

Rarely has Pretty Lady felt so deeply conflicted.

She confesses that she has fallen passionately in love with a Prose Style. A Prose Style, plus Panache, plus inimitable Wit. So rare. So infinitely, sadly, desperately uncommon.

She is, however, broken-hearted. The author of said Prose Style, most regrettably, is a champion Whiner. At the least, a self-confessed, proud Blamer, which comes to the same thing.

Oh, but the Prose is Music:

You may imagine the difficulty one has, what with blue funk engulfing one’s tear ducts, in reading Stallings’ ardent, doxological views on the odiously misogynist Weight Watchers, which approbations she intersperses with such plug-and-play new-age nonsense as “losing this bit of weight has actually made me get back in touch with my body and its needs and given me a better sense of understanding myself.”

Yet I press on, past even the women’s mag-ish, pathos-evoking lament about having had to “sacrifice” a beloved pair of pants to her new figure (a pity that God hadn’t the decency to intervene on the unfortunate pants’ behalf, the way he did for Abraham and Isaac; a woman shouldn’t have to sacrifice innocent legwear to prove her love for either herself or, as the case may be, her patriarchy).

One cannot shake the sense that Stallings, in this earnest memoir of self-discovery through physical diminishment, has exerted every effort to convince the reader that in her quest for a reduced physique she was as careful as a redheaded stepchild tiptoeing past an alcoholic stepdad not to stir up the rumblings of the radfem bitchlords. For example, she distances herself from the patriarchy-infested Weight Watchers imams by “refusing” the dreaded weekly weigh-ins, not wanting to “fixate on a number.” But on the other hand she blames feminist dogma in the first place for having produced in her such a terror of ‘thinking about food” that she had become quite incapable of making rational decisions about how much daily bread to shovel in.

Those of you who know Pretty Lady well, know that she holds very few persons Beyond The Pale. She will not ostracize a person based upon their political alignments, religious beliefs or lack thereof, odiferousness, unfortunate personality traits, marital status, gender identity, or even blind raging hatred, so long as said blind raging hatred is not directed aggressively and privately toward herself.

But, sadly, the one sort of person Pretty Lady simply will not tolerate (beyond Malicious Lying Gossips, of course) is Whiners. Pretty Lady's position on Whiners is well-known, oft-stated, and impossible for her to repudiate. If Pretty Lady were to embrace Whining, she would not be Pretty Lady. QED.

Equally, she is certain that this self-identified Blamer shall not back down from her own, most wickedly articulated perspective. Indeed, Pretty Lady should think infinitely less of her if she did.

Pretty Lady, with hanging head, wearily points out to this gorgeously misguided creature the logical fallacies inherent in her position; she trots out the age-old Kathy Acker rebuttal, that defining oneself in opposition to an entity puts one, still, squarely within that system's frame of reference, and thus subsumed by it. She takes no joy in this pointing-out. She merely does so, in all intellectual honesty.

Pretty Lady and her love must, then, forever be parted. Begotten by Despair, upon Impossibility. Pretty Lady is off to drink herself into oblivion; she is even out of limes, and must make do with lemon in her tequila. Oh, cruel irony.

Do you hear?

Your EQ is 133

50 or less: Thanks for answering honestly. Now get yourself a shrink, quick!
51-70: When it comes to understanding human emotions, you'd have better luck understanding Chinese.
71-90: You've got more emotional intelligence than the average frat boy. Barely.
91-110: You're average. It's easy to predict how you'll react to things. But anyone could have guessed that.
111-130: You usually have it going on emotionally, but roadblocks tend to land you on your butt.
131-150: You are remarkable when it comes to relating with others. Only the biggest losers get under your skin.
150+: Two possibilities - you've either out "Dr. Phil-ed" Dr. Phil... or you're a dirty liar.

SO do not bother

Recently viewed: 'Firewall,' with Harrison Ford, on second-hand DVD, regrettably purchased from the Blockbuster 2-for-1 rack.

Verdict: See above.

When will screenwriters start obeying the maxim, 'show, don't tell'? It is simply not enough to give a bunch of pretty humans some bland, trite lines to chant, and some dire circumstances wherein they may look prettily distressed, in order to imbue the viewer with a consuming interest in their fates. It is not interesting enough to give us a creepy, dead-eyed Paul Betthany putting these pretty people at mortal peril, simply to have a chunk of change transferred into his Cayman Islands bank account. Paul Betthany should, at the very least, be a committed anarcho-terrorist who plans to use the hundred million dollars to blow up schoolhouses in South Africa, or poison the water supply on Capitol Hill, or amputate the index fingers of masturbatory British schoolgirls. Paul Betthany is simply too creepy to be a run-of-the-mill get-rich-quick schemer.

Paul Betthany, in fact, physiognomically resembles Pretty Lady's ex-boyfriend, the Angry Atheist. Creepy, creepy, creepy.

Additional lament: Pretty Lady purchased this DVD in order to have something to complete her 2-for-1 purchase of the unforgettable, un-pass-uppable 'Stay;' she selected this one, sight unseen, with the view toward using it as a stocking-stuffer for a hard-to-buy-for male relative. But she would never consider unloading this third-rate yawn-fest on her discriminating male relatives. This must go straight to the doorstep, where perhaps a panhandler may be able to exchange it for the price of a slice of pizza. If he's lucky.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sheer ridiculousness

It has come to Pretty Lady's attention that Interfering Persons wish, interferingly, to BAN, that is, to make ILLEGAL, a certain video game that, to Pretty Lady's highly inexperienced eye, looks like a great deal of good clean fun.

Like Holden Caulfield, Jimmy Hopkins, the game's blank-faced teenage antihero, is a mess of internal impulses. He's a bad kid. Your job, unexpectedly, is to help him do good. In a typical early mission, for instance, Algernon, one of the neediest nerds at school, has been set upon by a gaggle of bullies. Rotund, whiny and afflicted with an overactive bladder, Algernon is the archetypal outcast. You've got to escort Algie to the bathroom before he wets himself, fending off all the bullies who want to harm him along the way. If you get the fat kid safely to the john, you'll gain some respect among the nerds and your standing in school will climb.

Does this sound like a task one might find in a game that critics have taken to calling a "Columbine simulator"? "Bully" was released to the public on Oct. 17, but it's been the subject of raging debate for more than a year now. The debate illustrates the precarious political and cultural position that the video game industry finds itself in. A bipartisan gang of politicians (from Hillary Clinton on the left to Sam Brownback on the right), school officials, child-rearing experts, and family-values types blame games for inducing all manner of delinquent, antisocial and dangerous behavior in children. It's an old claim, and there remains scant scientific proof for it -- but that seems to matter little in the fight over "Bully."

Pretty Lady is disgusted.

She can attest, from personal experience, that the thing MOST likely to cause disaffected, alienated, nerdy high-school students to suddenly Snap and pull a Columbine on their unsuspecting peers, would be to take away their last shred of deeply satisfying escapist fantasy. Have these self-righteous, interfering, Mommy-knows-best Senators never read 'Harriet the Spy'? Do they not recall the precise moment when Harriet, beleaguered, ostracized, beset with betrayal and abandonment on every side, crosses the line and becomes Mean? When she trips Pinky Whitehead, chops off Laura's hair, throws a pencil at Beth Ellen and tells Rachel her father doesn't love her? When she, in short, starts behaving like a sociopath with Nothing Left To Lose?

It was when they took away her notebook.

Yes, friends, this was the heinous atrocity that pushed Harriet over the edge. She withstood every trauma that went before--the departure of her eccentric governess, the exposure of her innermost secrets to the hoi polloi, the subsequent hostility of her peers--through all this, she remained stoic, stalwart, hermetic. But when the Evil Authority removed her Notebook, her self-created universe, her confidante, the repository of her vast creative spirit, they removed Harriet's soul. And Harriet turned upon this cruel indifferent world with righteous vengeance.

Pretty Lady herself, though not nearly so brilliant as Harriet, utilized a similar mechanism to navigate the shoals of a hostile pubescent universe. She camped out in the library, reading Penrod. Also the complete works of--well, come to think, she started at 'Aiken' and proceeded through "McKinley" and wound up with "Tarkington." Some of it was classic, some of it was crap, all of it was preferable to the ocean of blandness and indifference where she was marooned. Even now, in times of extreme stress, she heads for the nearest library, finds a secluded corner, and does not emerge for four hours or so.

But just because she read, obsessively, of dragonslayers, and wizards, and orphans, and vagabonds, and reprobates, and heartless flirts, does not mean that she went forth into the world to slay dragons, create orphans, seduce thousands, and vanquish the oppressor. No, she may have gone forth with a dreamy, knowing smirk upon her lips; she may have gazed thoughtfully upon her vapid cohorts and Imagined Things, but she kept those imaginings strictly to herself. She was not pushed to the wall, like Harriet; she was allowed to drift through her days, safely anaesthetized with her fictive drug of choice. And a good thing, too.

Pretty Lady suspects that this entire video-game-banning hooplah is a giant Red Herring for something else; she suspects that these nefarious politicians are trying hard to Prove Something. What they are trying to prove is anybody's guess; what is certain is that these persons have no recollection of ever being children. They seem to regard young people as dangerously suggestible beasts that must be herded together, isolated, restrained, beaten and suppressed for their own good, until they grow up into Responsible Citizens. They must never be allowed to let off steam, or indulge their imaginations; evidently these politicians do not credit the youth of today with enough intelligence to distinguish between fact and fantasy.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Testing, in some alarm

Has Pretty Lady vanished entirely from YOUR browser, too?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Wonders of Capitalism

You must pardon Pretty Lady for being rhapsodic and strange, this evening. It was roughly seventy-five degrees and sunny in New York City today. I might remind you that today is the ninth of November. The Christmas cactus is putting out buds.

So Pretty Lady went for a long, pointless stroll, just because she could.

Pretty Lady gets along well, these days, with duennas of high-end clothing stores. She is not certain why this should be so; she is, regrettably, not in the economic bracket of those who become regular patronesses of high-end clothing stores. Nevertheless, she falls into easy, cheerful conversation as she tries on clothes she has not the resources to buy, nor the occasions to flaunt, and comments upon masterful tailoring, innovative use of fabric, and daringness of styling.

Hint: ai ai gasa on 5th avenue. The dress with the black-and-white photograph all over it, the reflector-tag detailing, and the petticoat. They'll tell you what size.

As she was strolling down Union, she happened upon perhaps the most beautiful bar in the world.

Roaring fireplace, you note. Tall bookshelves. Comfy velvet armchairs. Wood floors, tin ceilings, inviting little lamps. Some sort of throw-the-ball game in the back that was Not Pool. Fleur-de-lis wallpaper.

If you will believe it, for a moment Pretty Lady was not sure she would be allowed in. It seemed to her nothing short of incredible that for the price of a happy-hour draft beer, she would be allowed to nestle in an armchair, next to a roaring fireplace, and dawdle over a book and journal for however long she pleased.

But such proved to be the case. Indeed, capitalism has its comforts and small joys.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Etiquette of Eating

Not 'which fork do I use?' Start on the outside and work your way in. Trés simple. Hmph.

No, Pretty Lady's measured decision to embark upon a Rant about Rude Eaters stems from something far more insidious, and regrettably prevalent in her social circles--that is, Self-Righteous, Controlling Pickiness, masked as either Ethical Concerns or Allergies. Pretty Lady has decided that it is high time to grind such offensive pretension into the asphalt, under her stoutest set of heels. She is not kidding. You are all forewarned.

You see, Pretty Lady has observed that the so-called New Age Movement, really a movement of Magical Wishful Thinking under a superficial cloak of poorly-digested mysticism, has given rise to a side-branch of Sanctified Food Victims. The locus of this cult appears to be somewhere in the vicinity of Northern California, but at last report the virus appeared to have spread as far as Sedona, Austin, Pittsburgh, and even into the heart of New York City Proper, if the dinner-party she attended last February is any indication.

This must at all costs be stopped, or we will all be eating our dinners of sawdust and lentils, topped off with twelve Dunkin Donuts, in the isolation of our coat closets, afraid to dine with other humans at all, and Society as we know it shall grind to a halt.

For eating, my darlings, is not merely an act to fortify the grosser incarnations of Spirit. It is, equally, a central form of social communion. And communion requires commonality. Not blackmail.

Please understand, Pretty Lady is not thereby advocating torture, murder, heart disease, unmitigated suffering, cancer, or incipient obesity. She does not intend to force-feed anybody poison. She merely wishes to remind her readers of a few basic principles, which, in the course of their relentless pursuit of Immortality, Enlightenment, and Preternatural Slimness, they appear to have forgotten.

1) A serious 'food allergy' is life-threatening. A serious 'food sensitivity' is not.

Pretty Lady has a much-beloved brother who has suffered from a peanut allergy since infancy. If Pretty Lady's little brother consumes peanut butter amounting to one-quarter-teaspoon, he will presently find himself on an operating table, his physical incarnation inflated to the size of the Goodyear Blimp, with a needle full of adrenalin being plunged into his aorta. That is if he is lucky. This has actually happened.

This, friends, is what you had better mean when Pretty Lady takes a loaf of fresh-baked raisin brioche out of the oven, offers it with a pot of Darjeeling and a pat of European butter, and you reply, "I'm terribly sorry, but I'm allergic to wheat." Not, "I kind of get a subtle funny feeling sometimes, when I eat wheat, maybe." Not "I'm a vegan because the way the dairy industry treats its cows is unconscionable." Not "I've decided not to eat today because I'm pushing the limits of my physical endurance in order to expand my creativity."

Pretty Lady hereby intolerantly declares these latter statements to be Rude. Rude, rude, rude. They do not create Unity and Enlightenment; they create an Offended Hostess. Not to mention a roly-poly hostess, forced to eat a whole loaf of raisin brioche all by herself.

2) It is impossible to both be a vegan/vegetarian and to travel worldwide without either starving to death, or creating an International Incident. Pick one.

Pretty Lady never ceases to be shocked by the number of peace-loving, multicultural, open-minded adventurers who wander blithely into foreign lands and aggressively turn up their noses at the costly delicacies offered them by the inhabitants, who wish only to honor their guests and form lasting bonds of friendship. What are these people thinking? Were they born in barns?

She has observed that persons of her acquaintance who have visited France either think of the French as delightful, or as dreadfully snobbish and rude. Upon further questioning, she believes that this division comes about at the moment a visitor to France is offered a bit of exquisite local cheese. The visitor who accepts it, inhales it, swallows it (mold, maggots and all) and asks for more, will be roundly welcomed and celebrated forevermore. The visitor who reacts as if they have just been offered moldy, maggotty, rotting unpasteurized milk will be scorned and despised.

So if you don't like it, stay home.

3) Any 'scientific theory' which contradicts the test of several million years of hunting, gathering, natural selection, rich, subtle cuisine development, and traditional mythology is not 'scientific.' It is 'quackery.'

Pretty Lady recently had a very dear friend tell her, with a straight face, that table salt was toxic. "It contains Chlorine! And Sodium! Horrors!" declared the friend.

Her friend grew up in a sheltered suburb, as did Pretty Lady. But even Pretty Lady has read those fairy tales about a land without salt, where the citizens became sick unto death until the king was forced to admit to his ostracized daughter that salt was an important thing, after all. She has read about farmers putting salt licks down for the cows. She has read about electrolyte balance, and cell membranes. These things are all just as much in print as the treatises about the toxicity of salt; they're spelled more conventionally, too.

Pretty Lady respectfully submits that any 'healthy diet' which omits or radically alters an enormous chunk of the food spectrum, as included in the world's great cuisines, is based upon incomplete and dangerous 'scientific evidence.' Excess is the path to Ruin; this excess can just as well include an excess of avoidance as of gluttony. Avoidance of all fat, salt, carbohydrates, protein, and sugar strikes her as a good way to starve to death. As well as never to get invited back to dinner parties.

4) Nobody cares about your Issues, particularly when they're hungry.

Once upon a time, while living in Northern California, Pretty Lady was presented with a letter of introduction by a Friend of a Friend. This girl seemed charming, earnest, and spiritual, and Pretty Lady welcomed her into her circle with open arms. The two of them went to aerobics class together, to saunas, and for sushi.

The friend of the friend seemed really to appreciate her sushi; she exulted in every bite, with closed eyes. Pretty Lady found this habit to be delightfully mindful and appreciative.

Gradually, however, this person proved to be a Bulimic in Epicure's Clothing. She became needy; she became controlling; she became passive-aggressive. It got so that she started inviting herself to dinner. After doing so, she would regretfully veto every one of six or seven home-cooked options for the content thereof; she would do the same for the list of available restaurants. When, at great length, an acceptable restaurant was decided upon, she would hold up the service staff for ten minutes, attempting to order something that was not on the menu. When, at last, food was provided, she took two bites, declared 'There's too much oil," flung it down, and proceeded to have an Emotional Crisis.

In Northern California, regrettably, the vast majority of persons tolerate this sort of behavior. If anyone happens to declare, intolerantly, "You are being rude; I am hungry; stop making this All About You," this person is likely to be rounded upon and excoriated for Insensitivity. If there is any sort of underlying Emotional Issue involved, infinite patience and suffering on the part of the assembled company appears to be de rigueur.

Pretty Lady moved away from Northern California. Now, to her deep terror, the disease of social hijacking regarding one's personal food fetishes appears to be spreading. Please, darlings, stop the spread of this vicious trend without mercy. The foundations of Civilization may be at stake.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Morphing of Media

Pretty Lady turned on her television just now, out of some mild curiosity as to election results. This is quite an unaccustomed maneuver for Pretty Lady--but imagine her surprise when she discovered that some of the channels were different! Actually new channels! She is not sure what happened to the old ones, or even what the old ones were like, particularly, but she is certain that she never heard of these before.

After fifteen minutes of waiting for some mention of elections, however, she grew both impatient and nauseated. These new channels evidently appear to have been designed for half-witted teenagers with supercharged hormones; the gist of them appeared to be very pretty people saying banal, portentious things to one another, between long, pregnant pauses.

In Pretty Lady's youth, this sort of thing was limited to daytime television geared toward housewives on Valium. Truly, society is In Decline.

Archetype Visitation

Recently re-viewed: "Breakfast at Tiffany's", free screening at local coffee shop, after yoga class.

Previous viewing: At age 13 or thereabouts.

Disturbing Thoughts: At thirteen, Pretty Lady longed to be glamorous Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," like every normal thirteen-year-old girl. With the happy ending, of course. The ending seemed quite credible, at thirteen.

Now, Pretty Lady realizes that she is Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," except that the only part of the movie which seems ludicrously unrealistic is the ending. The gay parties, the rats and super-rats, the penurious next-door neighbors, the perfidious millionaire swains--these are all so normal as to be quite passé.

The romantic declaration of permanent devotion to an obviously irremediably damaged girl in the rain, however--piffle!

This movie is not a Comedy, darlings. It is dank, dangerous, treacherous Tragedy. Keep your impressionable thirteen-year-old daughters away from it at all costs.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Secret Life of Brats

It has come to Pretty Lady's shocked attention that her very own Brat, that innocent-seeming little libertine, has been carrying on a Clandestine Flirtation, right under Pretty Lady's nose.

Sunday evening, you see, another Building Meeting was called, due to the recent antics of Phil the Neanderthal. Pretty Lady volunteered her services as hostess; her apartment was declared 'cozy' by the assembled company, which always warms the cockles of her compulsive nesting instinct.

Each of the building tenants have had a different story entirely, from Phil and his Soul Twin, the Aggressive Attorney; none of these stories bears a passing resemblance to the physical facts of the situation. For example, Pretty Lady had a chat with the Aggressive Attorney on Friday afternoon, wherein the A.A. assured her up, down and sideways that the lock on the front door was the sort that can be adjusted to remain unlocked during the day. Which is Not So. Many other unsupported statements of this nature were flung in Pretty Lady's direction, "we're taking care of it" being the major mendacious fantasy.

So it was decided that we all give Phil & Co. one more week to make good on their statements, during which time we make use of the Log in the Doorjamb; then we issue a formal statement of Intent to Fix It Ourselves, and Deduct the Expense. Pretty Lady has NOT volunteered to be the bearer of this ultimatum, though she will print it up.

However. Toward the end of this cozy little session, the girl from Two Floors Down caught sight of the Brat, peering down from the ceiling. "That looks just like the cat that looks in our window," she said.

The full story came out; how the cat belonging to the girl from Two Floors Down waits by the fire escape window as the sun goes down. How she waits for hours on end. How, eventually, on some rare evenings, a Masked Stranger appears, and regards her. How the imprisoned princess, coy and abashed, retreats from the window, then looks back, fascinated. How this has been going on for quite some time.

Well. Pretty Lady leaves the fire escape window open in warm weather, but She Never. Romance springs eternal.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good advice

Lethal Foliage

The Cereus is Out Of Control. Believe it or not, this is after pruning. Two other cuttings are also well on their way to taking over the bathroom and the refrigerator, respectively.

Pretty Lady can see the writing on the wall. First the Mama Cereus will outgrow the largest pot obtainable at Home Depot. Then it will outgrow the largest, sunniest window. Pretty Lady will be forced to seek a larger apartment; the price of a larger apartment will bankrupt her, and she and the Cereus will be homeless. She will sit with her Cereus in Central Park, panhandling for fertilizer. Sometime in the winter of 2008, the both of them will be found, stiff and lifeless, by the frozen duckpond.

And in all that time, the Cereus will never, never, never blossom.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

No escape

Badger on the suicide of an interrogator:

The way you make a torturer is by trapping them, mentally, emotionally, morally. Torturers live in a terrible prison. There would have been no way out for Alyssa, the torturer, and no one to listen if with her last spark of humanity she was able to disobey orders and speak out. She would likely have had to continue torturing or witnessing torture, before she was able to get herself into a position of safety to blow that whistle. You can see here quite clearly that death is easier than speaking, or escaping...

I'm sorry she died and I'm trying to respect whatever goodness was in her.

We are all in her same prison - I really have come to believe it.

Pretty Lady Has No Opinion

Pretty Lady is a firm believer in not deciding upon matters which are outside her ken. She is not, and never has been, a soldier, military leader, military historian, or participant in active combat. (Ghetto streets do not particularly qualify; in any case, when pushed to it, she has acquitted herself poorly.) Truth be told, she does not even know how to fire a gun; she leaves such things to her much-trusted little brother.

But when deciding upon action to take in a circumstance of dire import, she believes in Listening to the Experts; these experts include those who are most closely involved in, and affected by, the circumstances at hand. This is why she is bringing to your attention a recent Salon article about the War in Iraq, and a little New Yorker piece which explores the same theme.

The Salon article examines a growing protest movement within the active-duty military stationed in Iraq, which is formally and courteously registering some extreme reservations about continued purpose there:

"Joining the Marine Corps was one of the best decisions I've ever
made," Madden told me over dinner in Washington, about a 45-minute
drive from his post at Quantico, Va. But he harshly criticized what he
considers to be a botched strategy -- along with the shifting rationale
for the war, its high human toll and the poor prognosis for success. He
said there is "an implied trust" between soldier and government that
the military will not be ordered into a dubious, costly adventure.
"When it becomes blatantly evident that you are being exploited then it
is justified for those in the military to dissent," Madden said. "This
war is not right."
The New Yorker piece focuses upon a meeting of top military minds who openly and honestly discuss the situation, and possible options for coping; unfortunately, these top military minds do not include the White house.

The President’s Iraq war is lost. Plan A—a unified and democratic
Iraq that will be a model in the region—is no longer achievable. The
civil war for which the Administration will not consider new responses
is already at hand. Because no one in power can admit any of this, the
United States is in the position of trying to hold still while the
ground shifts violently underfoot. The resistance to thinking about
Plans B, C, and D means not only that this country remains stuck while
Americans and Iraqis die but that its ability to affect events six or
twelve months away is rapidly diminishing.

In the Brookings war game, the mock National Security Council, functioning the way the National Security Council should, responded to the deterioration in Iraq by making certain decisions, and then responded to the consequences of those decisions. By the end of the day, American policy had shifted from the President’s “democracy agenda” to a focus on stabilizing Baghdad and bringing the warring parties to the conference table, to an effort to stem the flow of refugees, to a policy of countering Iranian domination of Iraq. By that point, the American forces were out of Baghdad and positioned along Iraq’s borders and in Kurdistan. It was the revenge of Realpolitik. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs reminded the committee that the new policy meant greatly increased casualties among Iraqis and “a terrible loss for U.S. prestige, credibility, and legitimacy.” But, in an atmosphere of critical thinking and open debate, the officials had to accept it.

Pretty Lady has never been particularly an Activist. Standing in the streets and screaming simplistic, self-righteous phrases has ever seemed to her to be a singularly ineffective means of promoting communication, goodwill, and responsible decision-making in political matters. What impresses her about these movements is the judicious courtesy with which they are put forward, as well as the credentials of those involved.

She invites your thoughts.

Fashion photos

Oh, all right, Scott. Top:


It is all about the swoosh. Swoosh, swoosh.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Contemplating the virtues of hit men

Those of Pretty Lady's readers who have been long-term friends will recall that it is nearly four months, now, since she and the other tenants in her building notified Phil the Neanderthal about the junkie-in-the-foyer problem. At the time it was suggested that this problem could be alleviated by the installation of a lock on the front door, with the concomittant moving of the doorbell to the outside of the front door, so that friends, clients, deliverymen, police officers, and Hector the Block President could notify us of their presence downstairs.

It took four months, a threat to evict Pretty Lady, the refusal to renew her lease, and the discovery of the body of one of the junkies in a ditch, two blocks away, together with full-fledged police investigation, for Phil to get around to installing the lock. He has not installed a doorbell, however, and has today announced his intention of never installing this doorbell, ever.

Which means that if Pretty Lady's clients arrive sans cell phone, they cannot enter, cannot obtain her services, and cannot pay her fees. If she forgets to un-double-park her car, Hector cannot inform her, and she receives a $150 ticket. If someone sends her a package, she will never receive it. If her friends happen to drop by, she will continue lone and ignorant of their presence. If the building catches on fire beneath her, nobody will be able to inform her of the problem until it is Too Late.

Pretty Lady is being very careful not to make any Sudden Moves, at the moment. Particularly she is avoiding dialling her landlord's phone number, or dropping by his office to pay the rent and engage in conversation, which, given her landlord's temperament, is certain to turn very ugly, very quickly. She finds herself fantasizing about Phil just happening to get run over by a bus. Or falling in the Gowanus Canal. Or running afoul of a drug dealer. Or forgetting to pay off the Mafia. Or getting cornered in a dark alley by adolescents wielding baseball bats. Or all of the above.