Friday, March 30, 2007

Quote in passing

Pretty Lady finds that today is one of those Frantically Busy days, where the tasks at hand are pouring down upon her head in an ever-increasing stream of urgency, so she cannot take the time to meander contemplatively, as is her wont. However, she would like to leave you with this:

...Such material difficulties were formidable; but much worse were the immaterial. The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear were in her case not indifference but hostility. The world did not say as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What's the good of your writing?...Moreover it is all very well for you to say that genius should disregard such opinions; that genius should be above caring what is said of it. Unfortunately, it is precisely the men or women of genius who mind most what is said of them. Remember Keats. Remember the words he had cut on his tombstone. Think of Tennyson; think--but I need hardly multiply the instances of the undeniable, if very unfortunate, fact that it is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said of him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.

--Virginia Woolf, 'A Room of One's Own'

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On Sensitivity

Pretty Lady can tell that most of you are rolling your eyes already. First she posts a guest column about Equal Pay for Equal Work, and now this. "The Other Shoe has Dropped," she can hear you thinking. "Pretty Lady is, and has been all along, a Closet Socialist, just lurking in wait to entrap us, and now, here we are. Sensitivity, indeed. Hmph."

And indeed, Pretty Lady could go on to bore you with many long stories about her stint in Northern California, where Sensitivity Blackmail is a standard and accepted part of the cultural landscape. One cannot pick up a six-pack of sushi there without trampling on someone's Childhood Issue, which must be addressed at great length and drama before anybody gets dinner. And Pretty Lady can attest that if someone deprives her of dinner to whine about their vague and amorphous problems, heads will eventually roll.

So that when, once upon a time, in her capacity as Chief Skimmer of all incoming library material, she happened upon a document entitled The Highly Sensitive Person, Pretty Lady veritably snorted. "Sensitive, ugh. 'Namby-pamby blackmailing whiner,' is more like it. I am certainly Not Sensitive. This piece of new-age self-help crap has nothing to do with me."

But she took the quiz anyway, having nothing better to do, and scored in the 99th percentile.

Suddenly, many things made sense. You see, Pretty Lady had always assumed that everybody experienced the same extreme discomfort, bordering upon physical pain, at the onslaught of punk rock music, Harleys, backfiring trucks, fluorescent lights, high winds, screaming, the smell of a close friend who has given up bathing for Lent, and the incessant inane giggling of brainless, nubile females. She took it for granted that whenever someone in the room was upset about something, everyone else was so concerned about it that they could not concentrate until the problem was addressed. She thought that the reason people drink so much in night clubs is to somewhat anaesthetize the agonizing misery induced by loud music, pointless chatter, lighting designs that split the difference between murky and garish, and the odor of stale cigarette smoke blended with beery floors, with the slightest undertone of vomit. Forthwith, she assumed that just about everyone in the world was very, very brave and stoic. So she was stoic too.

Yes, it was an enormous revelation to her that most people don't even notice all of that. For Pretty Lady, learning to like the accoutrements of routine adolescent social life was akin to developing a taste for wasabi, or the late works of James Joyce. It required discipline, commitment and a willingness to suffer. Pretty Lady, for love of her fellow man, was quite ready to do so, and would never even think of whining about it, much less of asking anyone to extinguish his Camel Filterless. She grew to revel in it, and to this day the aromas of Pall Mall and unwashed male bring back some sun-drenched memories.

But she did, after some thought, finally give herself permission to Go Home Early, upon occasion.

You see, in Pretty Lady's view, acknowledging one's sensitivity is not about Weakness, nor about Control. It is simply about Resource Management. Because sensitive persons are not simply the Darwinian rejects of the herd, fit only as wolf feed; we are Specialists. In the full, disciplined power of our specialization, we have the ability to put our finger right where it hurts and gently coax the pain away.

But in order to become fully empowered specialists in misery-eradication for the larger human race, we must learn to care for and appreciate ourselves, exactly as we are. This does not mean Banning Things; our purpose is not to control the outer world. It is to create oases of peace and quiet understanding, where we occasionally invite the world in to heal itself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Rebuttal

Bobert? Oh, Bobert? k has something to say to you. To refresh your memory:


The sad part is that while we as a nation were working on solving workplace inequities, wages nosedived when millions of women entered the workplace quite willing to work for less. And I'm not trying to stir up a political firestorm either, it's just a fact.

Basic supply and demand... millions more willing workers at every skill level in every occupation flooding the market suppressed wages, and they've stayed suppressed.

And I hear you, too, bobert.

I understand your sense of loss, at least as well as someone like me can. The world you'd envisioned, the one that seemed promised to you, didn't come through for you.

But to me?

That lost world was intrinsically unfair to women, and to many others.

An employer willing to discriminate against women, blacks, and others is certainly ready and willing to treat white males unfairly as well. I have never ignored that fact.

Once you know them to discriminate, you have seen their true character. Even if you're a member of the only group they seem willing to employ, their character is clear; and you should understand immediately that you may not have a fair future with them.

That *two parent/one working* family many envisioned was one where the man worked outside the home, and the woman inside. Not necessarily by choice. That was never a goal I worked toward, myself.

My own goal, from my earliest memories, was to be a free and self-supporting person. That meant taking personal responsibility for my financial life, too. When women are forced by law and/or custom to depend upon someone else for their income, for their food and medicine and the roof over their head, for their children, they are not free.

They are not allowed to take true personal responsibility for their own lives. So, to add insult to injury, they are scorned as being not quite responsible people. Not quite mature and grown up.

That goal you describe as something mutually sought sounds a bit like this: Woman marries man, bears and raises his kids; man brings home bacon. Woman worked like a dog - but not for money. Therefore, she wasn't entitled to Social Security benefits when she became disabled or old; neither was she usually allowed benefits under any of the welfare programs now in place. Those were reserved for the *working* people: men.

You may not have gotten paid fairly for your work, given your background. How would you feel if you weren't even allowed to get that kind of background in the first place?

See, women did enter the military and college, but it was extremely difficult, and rare. The veteran preference, plus that 2-year college degree you got, were essentially unavailable to even well-qualified women.

I was born in 1958. My first job, 15 years later - where I had to lie about my age to get a job - was $1.25 per hour.

Four years later, I worked for the US Post Office. It was considered a decent blue-collar job. Something a man could raise a family on.

I was the first woman working my shift at that post office. Ever. My presence was deeply resented; I was told more than once, with bitter venom, that I was stealing food from a good man by taking that job. Oh, stealing the food right out of his children's mouths, I was.

It was hard to get that PO job, even though I scored extremely high on my entrance exam. See, there were a lot of military vets coming home looking for civilian work. They got a 10-point preference on the test. Affirmative Action for Veterans.

What what happened with me at the post office was this: women were now granted a point preference too. Since I scored so high to begin with, this didn't actually affect me, but the men working there assumed it did.

I bore the brunt of their anger and hatred for some time. It was really vicious, but I won't bore you with the grisly details. However: At 5' 2" and 105 pounds, I unloaded the semi-trucks, etc. at about twice the production rate of the men. After the first several months, most of my (still 100% male) coworkers felt much differently about me. By the time I quit, I'd become a sort of mascot, a welcomed and even loved co-worker. The few holdouts who still spat on the ground in front of me, etc., did it rarely, any more.

It's not that employers threw open their doors to hire women because they suddenly realized we'd be cheaper to employ than men. We had to get the right to work by filing nasty lawsuits. Ones that, I think, most of us would have greatly preferred to do without. And I really do think those lawsuits that said we should get paid the same as men when we do the same job, should be prima facie evidence that we didn't actually choose to work for less money. We took it because it was a choice between unfair employment or no employment at all.

Starvation, especially if you have dependants, is not Taking Personal Responsibility. Not at all.

To have you or your kids do without essentials because women can't work, or get paid much less for the same job, then to be told we are irresponsible for that very act of working, is not just.

To be blamed for ruining the economic lives of everyone around us for doing so isn't just, either.

I truly do sympathize with you for your sense of loss. That ideal of a one working parent golden age is lamented by many. However: I also believe that what was lost was a position of superiority that was unearned, unmerited, and undeserved. In other words, the loss of something that didn't belong to those people in the first place.

So while I feel for you and others as individuals, I feel no sympathy for that group of society as a whole. I never stole food out of their mouths. They did steal it out of mine.

And I feel a powerful sense of gladness at the sight of young women today, going into the workplace with the firm - not quite accurate, but firm - belief that by working just as hard as a man they can get just as good a job, and get paid the same amount that the man does.

Even though those same young women have absolutely no idea what women like me went through to get them there.

I hope you have daughters or granddaughters or nieces, so that you can be happy for them, instead of sorry at losing what was not really so right after all.


Cause for Modest Celebration

Pretty Lady must share with all of you a personal Milestone. She just ran all the way to the park, and back.

She realizes that in the grand scheme of things, this is an extremely minor accomplishment. Trivial, even. Embarrassing to brag about.

But when a person has spent years, literally, hobbling up and down stairs, husbanding her strength, dragging an inflamed left malleolar tendon--nay, a self-inflaming left malleolar tendon, for this tendon re-inflames itself literally in Pretty Lady's sleep--a person starts to think that she may never run up to the park and back again. More than one chiropractor has told her that running up to the park and back is strictly and permanently verboten.

But today, darlings, it is seventy degrees out, and a friendly glow envelops the brick walls on every side, and after three years of yoga, and acupuncture, and chiropractic, and the rare massage, every cell in Pretty Lady's much-abused frame was screaming to run to the park and back, and so she did. And things were creaky, and rusty, and slow. But she ran to the park, and back, and is here to tell about it.

SO beside the point

Fussy, fussy:

Attention all hired political hucksters and hatchet men, dirty tricksters and campaign saboteurs. The Federal Election Commission has a message for you: Go forth online. Do your dirty works. Opportunity awaits.

Consider as a model the explosion last week of a YouTube video attacking Hillary Clinton as "Big Brother" from George Orwell's novel "1984." The 73-second spot, which was posted anonymously at no cost, has already been viewed 2.7 million times, scored coverage in every major newspaper and achieved frequent play on the cable news networks. In the world of political advertising, that kind of exposure is worth millions of dollars.

Pretty Lady says, hmph.

There is a difference, in her opinion, between Untrammelled Creative Commentary and Paid Advertising. Mr. de Vellis' hilarious little video did not receive attention because someone paid him to do it; it received attention because it resonated deep in the human psyche, as brilliant art is wont to do. Fussy people tend to forget this, if they were ever willing to admit it in the first place. Plus, what the article conspicuously fails to note is that the piece would have lost every bit of its impact if dear Mr. Obama were so discourteous as to have commissioned it himself. Pretty Lady's pet politician is, of course, above such things.

As far as Pretty Lady is concerned, as long as a creative artist is not actively spreading lies and disinformation, his obligations to Society have been adequately fufilled, and he may be permitted to create at will. If his creation happens to strike a note which reverberates through and through the space-time continuum, without the consent of the ruling Powers that Be, so much the better. It certainly happens rarely enough.

(Pretty Lady's person opinion on the Hillary Clinton issue is that she stopped paying attention to Hillary the day she read that first, pandering, patronizing little newspaper column on How To Bake Cookies and be a Good Wife and Mother. It was not that Pretty Lady is against these things; it is that Hillary was not even bothering to be subtle in her manipulation tactics. Pretty Lady felt exactly the same way about the rival for her First Love, who strode into the café one morning whining, "Rayyyyyy, we're going on a daaaaaate this weekend. I wanna make Scott jeaaaaaalous." If anybody is so foolish as to fall for that, he deserves what he gets.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cintra Wilson is a Goddess

...If you preferred peace, honor, dignity and truth to colicky, niggling, girlish fussing, you might recognize the precious gift before you: Daddy is generously offering each of you your very own pet sardine.

This sardine is marinated, and oiled, and it can be loved and trained just like a pony. People throughout history have wept with gratitude when given their very own sardine.

The American people will cry if you do not accept the incredibly generous gift of this precious pony-sardine, because they want one so badly. In truth, the most intelligent people in the world prefer a sardine to a live pony -- because they are educated enough to know the truth.

What you are failing to understand, because you haven't had the benefits of this education, is that a sardine is far better than a pony, but exactly like a pony. It is, in fact, a kind of super-pony, with long, combable hair, and wings. And it flies.

Pretty Lady isn't quite certain what dear Cintra was talking about, there, because she skipped the headlines this morning and got a massage instead, but she just loves flying ponies with long hair, so she very much enjoyed the story.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The best I can do

in the face of our history is remind myself that it has not always been the pragmatist, the voice of reason, or the force of compromise, that has created the conditions for liberty. The hard, cold facts remind me that it was unbending idealists like William Lloyd Garrison who first sounded the clarion call for justice; that it was slaves and former slaves, men like Denmark Vesey and Frederick Douglass and women like Harriet Tubman, who recognized power would concede nothing without a fight. It was the wild-eyed prophecies of John Brown, his willingness to spill blood and not just words on behalf of his visions, that helped force the issue of a nation half slave and half free. I'm reminded that deliberation and the constitutional order may sometimes be the luxury of the powerful, and that it has sometimes been the cranks, the zealots, the prophets, the agitators, and the unreasonable--in other words, the absolutists--that have fought for a new order. Knowing this, I can't summarily dismiss those possessed of a similar certainty today--the antiabortion activist who pickets my town hall meeting, or the animal rights activist who raids a laboratory--no matter how deeply I disagree with their views. I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty--for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute.

--Sen. Barack Obama, 'The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,' p. 97.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

On the Taking Out of Garbage

Dear Bobert, apropos of goodness knows what, poses perhaps a rhetorical question:

But its the streets in the background that always grabs my attention. They're always a filthy and garbage-filled dungheap.

So where are the adults? The ones who should get of their "po' us" asses and clean the place up? What the hell is wrong with those people that they don't even try to keep their enviornment cleaner?
This, dear Bobert, is why everyone should live in a Third World country for at least six months. It gives a person Insight. It gives a person Insight into matters that should be obvious, particularly to engineers, but which aren't, so much, until you have lived through Total Cultural Immersion in a strange place.

You see, dear Bobert, Pretty Lady has lived in dirty Third World countries, and she has lived in ghettos, which come nearly to the same thing. And a very consistent problem that Pretty Lady had in these places (and even in New York City, come to think) was in getting rid of her garbage. Oh, her personal habits were ever the cleanest; she bagged up the sweepings, and the packaging, and the organic composty bits and the recycleables like nobody's business. Then she tied them tightly and parked them outside the front door.

Where, instead of disappearing, as they were wont to do in the clean suburban neighborhood where Pretty Lady grew up, they multiplied.

Pretty Lady was stymied, as to what to do or think about this situation, for quite some time. Because when Pretty Lady was a little girl, her mother explained that the reason we pay taxes is so that the government picks up our garbage. Thus when she moved to San Francisco, she simply could not get it through her head that despite the extremely high tax rates, the government was shirking its responsibilities. They had actually passed a law that taxpaying citizens must sign a contract with a private corporation for garbage removal; the ultimate indignity was that recycling was extra. The government actually expected Pretty Lady to pay Sunset Scavenger to make a profit on recycling her bottles.

(Then she got a letter from Sunset Scavenger, asking her to pay to put a padlock on her garbage can, because the homeless people were stealing their recyclables. Thus providing a necessary service for free, that Sunset Scavenger had a government contract to force her to pay for. Thus demonstrating the extent of economic delusion that legislation-happy communities can induce in their citizens.)

So for many months, Pretty Lady passively resisted this government intrusion in her life by engaging in guerrilla garbage disposal. She carried sacks of garbage around with her late at night, seeking an un-padlocked dumpster. She left them in murky corners, or thrust them in other people's garbage cans. Once, when she moved to a new place, the garbage collectors continued collecting for a good eight months before they noticed that the previous tenant's garbage contract hadn't been renewed.

When she moved to Mexico, however, the karmic tide was turned. People kept leaving bags of garbage on Pretty Lady's stoop; they would even let their donkeys take a dump in her callejón, where the feces would fester until the next torrential rainstorm rinsed it away. After a few months she figured out that there was a communal dumpster about half a kilometer away, and if she wanted a clean stoop, the only option was to haul it there by hand. Recycling? Ha! Pretty Lady grew accustomed to gritting her teeth at the sound of a bag of perfectly good bottles hitting the bottom of the barrel. Politically correct habits die hard.

All this to point out the obvious fact that garbage collection and disposal is one of those things which requires a certain amount of collaborative action on the part of a community to accomplish. If the community is unable to get its collective ass in gear, the garbage festers. Individual action counts for very little.

This is, of course, no excuse. Of course the adults should get off their debased posteriors and figure out a solution. However, such things as Systemic Governmental Corruption tend to make potential community organizers a bit cynical about the results of such activity; moreover, community organization is generally a time-consuming, unpaid and thankless task. Persons who are living in desperate poverty frequently lack the superfluous resources to spend in this way.

This is why anyone who wishes to make a significant difference in the way the world is run must start with the children. If you explain to a child, "good governments pick up the garbage; bad governments let it fester in the street, or force people to pay extra for what should be free," this child has a baseline Level of Indignation when he reaches adulthood. He looks around him, thinks "This is Not Right!" and begins to change things.

But when you allow a child to believe that things are this way, they have always been this way, and he is powerless to do anything about it, well, you have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Home ec

Awww, Pretty Lady thinks y'all are so cute, bringing up contentious topics, paying attention to each other, hashing out theories and conceding one another's points. She just wishes she could have all of you over for a nice cozy dinner party. She thinks, at this point, that most of you are properly housebroken. As her friend k notes:

I love to cook. But I absolutely DETESTED Home Ec. Most of it revolved around teaching us to be servile and submissive to some future husband, rather than truly running a household. Running a household is a very important skill for every one of us.
Well, but of course! Pretty Lady has never understood why the concept of Keeping House is equated, in so many people's minds, with the concept of Thankless, Unending Drudgery. It seems to her that plowing, as a general rule, is much more suited to this description, and she is eternally grateful to her female forbears for suggesting that the gentlemen take it on. Along with hunting, chopping wood, digging ditches, building barns, and fighting hostile invaders.

No, compared with such onerous tasks, it is a positive delight to be allowed to stay home and experiment with recipes. Moreover, when a person is creatively Stuck for one reason or another, there is nothing more calming than putting things in neat, homogenous piles, whether they be books or paint rags, running around with a vacuum and a couple of sponges, and filling the essential oil burner with a combination of ylang-ylang, lavender, and vetiver. It Clears the Mind and Soul.

(BTW, it is a very good thing that vetiver oil is so dense that it takes about forty seconds for a single drop to detach itself from the bottle. One drop of vetiver oil will provide clarity and grounding in your home for the next four days, minimum. It is important to balance it with something lighter and sweeter, such as rose or ylang-ylang, and to make sure you like it before buying a bottle. It is not so easily undone.)

No, Pretty Lady finds this sort of activity infinitely preferable to Living in Squalor, which appears to be the choice of persons who refuse to be spiritually debased by the act of Doing Housework.

However, she finds it tragic that most humans did not appear to have been raised by anyone resembling Pretty Lady's Mommy. It profoundly shocked her, the day she realized that most of her friends had no idea that you cannot cook broccoli for one-tenth of the amount of time you can cook a tomato--let alone any specialized knowledge about proofing yeast, kneading, or how to get stains off the teapot. In fact, these poor ignorant souls didn't even know how to make tea.

So the fact that Pretty Lady's Best Friend has given her, as a most generous gift, the book Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is like bringing coals to Newcastle, to put it mildly. Pretty Lady is using it for occasional reference, only, since it basically sets out the information that Pretty Lady had assumed was common knowledge, passed on from one Mommy to the next. A word to the wise.

A common misconception that Pretty Lady notes, in housework-averse individuals, is that this sort of thing takes up all of one's time, if one gets involved with it at all. This is a load of nonsense. It takes infinitely more time to resolve the distress, inconvenience and, sometimes, debilitating injuries and illness that arise from living in chaos and squalor than it does to do something about it. We pick up piles of laundry, shoes and half-finished manuscripts, not because we are anal retentive, but because tripping on these things every time we turn around slows us down immensely. We cook healthy meals because restaurants and cancer care are expensive, and thus require a large number of man-hours to pay for. We take out the garbage and do our laundry because nobody wants to hire a person who smells.

Any notion that a person cannot be Creatively Fulfilled if he or she lifts a finger to take out the garbage is four-year-old reasoning, and Pretty Lady wishes to hear no more about it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rules suspended

Pretty Lady formally announces that today is Free-For-All day on her blog. Please suspend any former requests of hers to behave with open-minded civility, and insult one another as freely and creatively as you like. Feel free to wax sarcastic about the imbecility of your neighbors; engage in long-winded rants about media bias, bigotry, fascism, narrow-mindedness, ignorance, naivete and rank stupidity in any area you like. Get it all out of your systems.

Go on. Go ahead. What are you waiting for?

Oh! A topic. Let us see...let us pick something controversial and inflammatory...hmmm...okay. How about, "Homosexuality is not immoral"? Pretty Lady saw something about Hillary Clinton making this bold and controversial statement, recently.

Pretty Lady's view is that a State of Being cannot be immoral, because it simply Is. And if we are to predicate Existence upon a benign Creator, then Existence cannot be immoral, because the fact of Existence must conform to the laws set down by the force which allowed it to Exist in the first place.

No, by Pretty Lady's reckoning, only actions can be immoral. And although it is possible to argue that a homosexual action might be immoral, according to Laws set down by the Creator, Pretty Lady finds it difficult to determine how, or why, a Presidential Candidate would have a reason for concerning herself with this. Because as long as an action does not directly threaten the well-being of a community, in the sense that there are Victims of Homosexual Activity clamoring to have their grievances redressed, what of it? All of us commit immoral actions at one time or another. Policing this sort of thing is, hopefully, beyond the scope of the Federal Government. At least it is at the moment.

So there you go, darlings! Have at it!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Although it has, horribly, a Screw Top (Pretty Lady was Not Paying Attention, in the wine shop) this bottle of Fish Eye 2004 Shiraz is Not Half Bad.

Which is why Pretty Lady is giving you, free of charge, her cherished, superevolved recipe for Pasta Marinara.

1 can organic tomato puree
1/2 can filtered water
5 large cloves garlic, pressed
grated rind or juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T dried basil, or 1 handful fresh basil, chopped
1 T oregano
3 dried red chili peppers
dash fennel seed
5 fresh scallions, chopped
3-5 fresh plum tomatoes, chopped
3 T extra-virgin olive oil

Mix in large stew pot and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Add some or all:

Italian sausage, in chunks
Mushrooms, sauteed
Eggplant--salted, sweated, brushed with olive oil and grilled over a flame (this can be done over a naked gas burner. Turn on the exhaust fan to avoid setting off fire alarm.)
Artichoke hearts
Black olives

At the end of cooking, add 1/2 glass red wine. Serve over linguini; parmesan or romano cheese optional.

This recipe, Pretty Lady will have you know, has evolved over literally decades of epicurean poverty, and is now, possibly, at its peak of perfection. Treat it respectfully.

Sad news

Pretty Lady's friend from California called this weekend. "I have some sad news for you," she declared.

Pretty Lady nearly went into a panic. "Who died?" she asked, bracing herself.

"I have just been cleaning out my National Geographics," replied the friend. "And I have discovered that there are no single men on the East Coast."

Well, Pretty Lady's keen intuition had figured that out already. Her friend, and National Geographic, merely provided the statistics.

You see, the situation is very simple. Gentlemen, being pragmatic, pursue Good Jobs. Ladies, being frivolous, pursue Quality of Life. The result is that all the single ladies are living east of the Mississippi, and all the gentlemen are west of it.

Thus we have cozy Eastern Seaboard cities full of single ladies--strolling in the parks, attending concerts, visiting museums, hanging in cafés, and trolling the sale racks at designer boutiques. On Sundays, we go to brunch and compare stories about our nonexistent love lives. It is all very congenial.

Meanwhile, every single man in the United States is apparently working some technical job in Texas, Colorado, California, or Seattle. He sits in a cubicle for eight to fourteen hours, drives to his bland suburban ranch house in an SUV, and parks in front of the television of an evening, with a six-pack and a sandwich. We assume that he is content with this state of affairs; certainly he does not strongly feel the dearth of museums, concert halls, or brunch.

The side effect of this state of affairs is that single men who DO live in the Big City have a wholly inflated view of their own worth. They seem to regard the females as so many interchangeable parts; they do not engage in anything so tedious and demanding as Focused Courtship, or even Planned Dates. They wander out, whine, make propositions, and wander off again. Pretty Lady will have nothing to do with such degenerates.

At the same time, Pretty Lady is morally, pragmatically and personally opposed to Playing the Odds in the mating game. Uprooting her life, changing states in the desperate hopes of nabbing a suitable partner is Not Her Style. If it is madness to consider doing this for the sake of an extant, but neurotic and uncommitted (how typical!) lover, how much more so would it be to do so on the basis of a mere Statistic? Perish the thought!

So Pretty Lady formally announces that from this day forward, the City is her Temple. She will live the monastic life of the Pure Artist. She will banish unclean thoughts from her mind; she will contemplate only Higher Things. It is her Destiny; this much is clear. She is content.

On Defense

Pretty Lady was all agog to defend her dear friend Chris against charges of loving company in his misery, this morning. She was about to leap precipitately into the fray, and declare that she knows ALL ABOUT keeping company with misery-lovers, and Chris is not it. He's mopey, but not particularly sadistic.

However, she was called to the carpet by virtue of her chosen spiritual text, the Course in Miracles. This strange and counterintuitive document has a strange and counterintuitive thing to say, on the subject of Defense:

If I defend myself, I am attacked.

...You operate from the belief you must protect yourself from what is happening because it must contain what threatens you. A sense of threat is an acknowledgment of an inherent weakness; a belief that there is danger which has power to call on you to make appropriate defense. The world is based on this insane belief. And all its structures, all its thoughts and doubts, its penalties and heavy armaments, its legal definitions and its codes, its ethics and its leaders and its gods, all serve but to preserve its sense of threat. For no one walks the world in armature but must have terror striking at his heart.

This is one of those things that so baffles Pretty Lady's friends, when she goes off upon one of her eccentric maunderings about the illusory nature of Time, and such. Surely, they say, Pretty Lady has got it backwards, and her chosen text is a mass of psychotic bunk. What happens, they explain patiently, is that one is attacked, first; then one defends. Quite properly.

For a lady with such a high IQ, they think, Pretty Lady can be awfully dense, on occasion.

Pretty Lady used to think this was true, once upon a time. Then she invited another lady to live with her, who was all Sweetness and Light and Occupational Therapy. This roommate was more harmless than a ladybug, and cute as a button. She liked to vacuum, and hum tunelessly while doing so, and make soup. What a perfect roommate, Pretty Lady thought.

Then she began to notice, over time, that in the course of friendly, idle conversation, this Perfect Roommate had a tendency to flinch. She would flinch, and then apologize, as though Pretty Lady were about to explode in a violent rage, for some crime she had mysteriously committed.

Pretty Lady was mildly perplexed by this. She hastened to reassure this lovely girl; she petted and soothed and explained that her intentions were wholly benign. The girl kept flinching.

Over time, affairs in Pretty Lady's household became Tense and Strained. No matter what Pretty Lady did, her roommate continued to cower; the more Pretty Lady reassured, the more she grew wide-eyed and fearful. Occasionally she would muster her courage, and grow assertive; Pretty Lady supported this assertion, although she still had no idea what the girl was so worried about.

Finally, matters came to a crisis. The roommate, in abject terror, came cowering assertively to Pretty Lady and begged her not to evict her yet, not before finals! Anything but that!

Pretty Lady, all at once, saw that Danger loomed. The Danger was that this girl would, by sheer force of willpower and expectation, get Pretty Lady to follow along with her Script, the one that said that Pretty Lady was an abusive, cruel, unreasonable bitch, and knock her across the room and through the window before Pretty Lady was aware of her own actions.

So, in clarity and desperation, Pretty Lady evicted her. Before finals.

Pretty Lady does not expect any of her friends to take this odd little anecdote as being conclusive of anything, let alone the validity of her pet esoteric text. But it lends one To Think, and that is one of Pretty Lady's favorite addictions. And what she thinks, quite often in these days, is that when we choose to see an attack, we will proceed to make this attack an unequivocal reality, as soon as we throw up that armor.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Report on St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl

Note to managerial and door staff of the Living Room Lounge, on 23rd St. and 5th Ave., Brooklyn:

It is excrutiatingly bad manners, as well as execrable business tactics, to compete with one's own customers for the use of the pool table, particularly when one is so drunk that one cannot remember whether one is sinking stripes, or solids. It only adds insult to injury when a member of the managerial staff orders the customer to 'rack up,' then disappears for many many minutes, only to return with the injured remark, 'it was my break, you know.' The final atrocity is when the managerial staff is monopolizing the pool table at the same time as the darling adorable bartender is so harried, working a large crowd without backup, that he is inadvertantly shortchanging friendly ladies at the bar.

You might be interested to know that this is the point when darling adorable bartenders, who shall remain nameless, start giving away free drinks in restitution.

Also, it is simply wrong to serve Guiness in plastic cups. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Note to the DJ at the Kitchenbar, on 6th Ave. and 20th:

There would have been twice as many people rocking out to your awesome tunes if you had reduced the volume by half. Just because the tunes are awesome, does not mean that your clientele do not enjoy one another's conversation, as well.

Note to the bluegrass band, at that place next door to the Kitchenbar:

Well played, my dears. A little more vim in your vocals would not come amiss, however.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Virtues of Paranoid Schizophrenia

Pretty Lady has been wont to note that lately, she has been hearing voices, or rather one voice in particular, conversing outside her kitchen window. She is, thankfully, not the only person to notice; one of her clients found this manifestation rather disturbing, since her apartment is on the fourth floor. But sound, in the City, does tricky things when confronted with verticalities of masonry on all sides, and Pretty Lady finds that sound, like heat, rises.

Upon looking out her kitchen window, Pretty Lady observes that the next-door neighbor has been standing in the backyard, in the snow, since very early morning, having a conversation at the top of his lungs with an entity which is not visible to Pretty Lady. She is pleased to report that the neighbor and his invisible friend appear to be getting along rather well, today; the conversation seems amiable, even jocular, and is only moderately punctuated with obscenities. This is a mercy, since according to other next-door neighbors, this man suffers from a heavy-duty case of Tourette's syndrome, and his non-stop monologues are generally of a more hostile nature.

Mental illness is indeed a sad, sad thing. On the other hand, this neighbor never seems to get cold, and he is never lonely.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Question of Motive

Pretty Lady was about to give all of you a tongue-lashing--yes, truly, she was. She is shocked. As much as it pains her to do so, she will quote, without attribution, a few of the comments which so distressed her:

you particularly have chosen a faith which says I'm going to Hell. You could've chosen a faith which doesn't give a crap about unbelievers...I think that's impolite.

The thing that truly bothers you is that merest microscopic fraction of a chance that we are right, and that you are wrong.

You've got to be putting me on. Either that or you're quite the narcissist.

There was more, much more, but Pretty Lady hopes by now that you have got the gist of it.

Since when, darlings, have all of you become such experts upon the motives of others?

For it strikes Pretty Lady that grown men are capable of having an intellectual disagreement without becoming pejorative about it. Further, it strikes her that what most often causes offense is primarily not the intellectual disagreement itself, but the high-handed presumption and unparalleled condescension of attributing a specific motive to another person's belief or action. It is when overwrought and extreme accusations of motivation go hurling around like javelins that all hope of rational communication must be given up.

Pretty Lady has one thing to say to all of you, and that is:

'You don't have to put other people down in order to build yourself up. I know that you're just acting that way because you're insecure, and you don't need to be.'

Do you hate her, now?

If you don't, you are a better person by far than Pretty Lady, who peremptorily terminated a long-term friendship upon finding herself on the receiving end of just these words. For in Pretty Lady's personal view, at that particular time, the truth of the matter was: 1) she hadn't been putting anyone down; 2) she hadn't been building herself up; 3) she wasn't insecure; and 4) she knew damn well that she didn't need to be, because she wasn't. Thus, in two masterful sentences, her suddenly-former friend had managed to slander and patronize her so thoroughly that Pretty Lady had no interest in hearing from her again. Ever.

It is exceptionally dangerous, friends, to believe that we can see into the hearts and minds of others, more clearly than they can see into their own. It is even more exceptionally tactless to let on that we believe we can. The habit of thinking we know someone better than they know themselves can lead to a wholesale dismissal of anything that person may have to say on a subject, even, 'Excuse me, but your pants are on fire.'

So stop it. Back up about six paces, and take several deep breaths. Then please draw your attention to the fact that Pretty Lady has already postulated a paradigm of Hell that neither puts the Bible to the lie, when taken in a metaphorical context, nor attributes the existence of such a Hell to any ingrained malice on the part of a theoretical and loving Creator. Now apply your quite-considerable intellects to the task of refuting this proposition.

And if you adhere to a linear literalism in your refutations, Pretty Lady will smack you.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Nature of Hell

Since we are on the topic, and since today is Pretty Lady's ad hoc Day Off (unless the phone should happen to ring, which, strangely, it never seems to do on Thursdays), Pretty Lady has decided to explain What She Means by Hell. In the spirit of serious debate, she has even come up with some Biblical support for her assertions, by the efficient means of hanging out in her spare time with a Bible-thumper or two, who obligingly gave her the quote.

However, to please the Humanist contingent, she will not start with Biblical rhetoric; instead she will hark back to the hectic days of her Freshman year, when she and a group of hyperintellectual companions went, on a lark, to see Sartre's 'No Exit.'

(For those one or two of you who were thankfully spared a sophomoric infatuation with Jean-Paul & Co., let me summarize the plot: Three people find themselves in Hell. Hell is a room with three people in it. These three people are an Intellectual, an Adultress, and a Lesbian. ((The reasons for these people being committed to Hell are taken as read.)) They all proceed to attempt to seduce, impress, and scorn the others, with circular degrees of success and failure. In short, they are all trying to prove their own validity at the expense of the others.

They all fail at this; once the Intellectual seduces the Adultress, he despises her, and only wishes for validation from the Lesbian. The Lesbian despises the Intellectual, and only wishes for validation from the Adultress, who despises her forthwith; the Adultress wishes for validation from the Intellectual, who despises her, having seduced her.

Thus the French.)

At any rate, once Pretty Lady and her hyperintellectual friends had left the theatre, Pretty Lady's Greenwich Village friend laughed, with knowing cynicism, and declared, "Hell is other people." Proving by this casual comment that intellectuals are, all too often, petty narcissists who utterly fail to grasp the point.

Indeed, Pretty Lady is not entirely sure that J.P. himself grasped the point which he so elegantly illustrated; posthumous publication of his much-vaunted correspondence with S. de B.V. has proven that these two superior minds spent the vast majority of their private lives in despising everyone around them. Ipso facto, creating a lovely little Hell of their very own, on this very earth which, they purported to believe, was the only thing allotted to them.

For the point, as Pretty Lady understands it, is that Hell is NOT Other People; it is the natural consequence of treating other people as though they were the mining grounds for the aggrandizement of Self. This process does not ever work as intended. Other people have this pesky habit of failing to submit to cannibalistic agendas; they continually exhibit symptoms of having Minds of their Own. So troublesome of them.

However, if a person instead chooses to accept for all time the notion that the validity of Self is bestowed by a loving Creator, and that all others are equally valid and complete, all this mutual scrabbling and cannibalism simply ceases. There is no reason for it. One's Self stands revealed as a manifestation of the Divine, and all one's brothers equally so. Thus there is nothing to do but dance around and celebrate.

As a case study of what happens when one applies the principles of Sartre on a large scale, Pretty Lady would now like to present the example of Lagos, Nigeria. Astute readers will recall that the primary export of this African 'megacity' is the 419 scam, which is too familiar by now to anyone with an email account, to require explanation. Pretty Lady was saddened, but not surprised, to learn that the entire city is run upon 419 principles. Very little honest, paid employment is available; this does not stop 600,000 eager individuals from streaming in from the countryside every year, in the hopes of Making it Big. It is one vast, filthy, sprawling slum, whose inhabitants steal, cheat, lie, manipulate and control one another in the vague hopes of attaining the supreme role of Lord High Kleptocrat.

For this, indeed, is the template that all denizens of Hell Lagos are following. In the 1980's, the corrupt Nigerian government first gained control of All Industry; then the government sold All Industry, and absconded with the proceeds. It is no wonder that their only lasting cultural Myth is of millions of dollars' worth of ill-gotten gains, sitting in a bank somewhere, waiting for someone to come and claim it.

What most struck Pretty Lady about this tragic history is that, although life in Lagos is one of unremitting misery, nobody ever leaves. When the author asked them why, the answer seemed to be, 'because then we'd have to admit to the folks back in the village that we weren't such big-shots after all.' In other words, Pride.

All this is a very long-winded explanation of why Pretty Lady cannot understand why people are so all-fired worried that God will send them to Hell. Darlings, here we are. As soon as we forget to love God, accept Grace, and scratch for some personal validation at the expense of our gorgeous Neighbor, here we are. God has nothing to do with it. God is merely sitting there, loving us, and patiently explaining that we are doing this to ourselves. He has many methods of explanation; He may exhort, command, threaten, suggest, illustrate, plead, nudge, whisper, coax, tease, cajole, wheedle, sing, poeticize, and dictate long books of instructions in different languages. But he cannot force us, because he cannot force a piece of Himself to be anything other than what it is.

Which brings Pretty Lady, at last, to that Biblical quote she promised you.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
If we are divided against one another, darlings, we cannot stand. If we wish to see our brother in Hell, there we go with him. If we love and forgive him, we are loved and forgiven.

Any questions?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why Pretty Lady is not a Secular Humanist

It's just so exhausting, darlings.

Truly, this statement pretty much sums up Pretty Lady's reason for not embracing the kind, gentle, nebulous philosophy of Secular Humanism. It is simply too stressful. Pretty Lady is neurotic enough, without having the entire burden of the Categorical Imperative thrust upon her every move. As she has discussed elsewhere, it is impossible, in this physical realm, to truly understand and assess the ultimate consequences of one's own actions, let alone the consequences of other people's actions when performed according to the principle which you yourself have Universally Willed by espousing it....pardon the pause, here...Pretty Lady got too tangled up in her own sentence to finish it. She could not remember where she was going.

Indeed, darlings, where are we going? Do we know? Do we have any control whatsoever over where we are going, or when, or how, or is Control merely an illusion? For although we may have control over our intentions, our intentions may be forever the best, still we have no way of knowing what circumstances, foreseeable or otherwise, may arise to thwart them. None of us, simply, is omniscient.

This may seem a tautology; many Secular Humanists of her acquaintance may tell Pretty Lady to relax and chill out, already. But she has been told, privately, by one or two recovering Secular Humanists, that, deep down, relaxation is impossible for a truly good-hearted, conscientious individual who believes that the Fate of the World, or at least of her alcoholic family, is in her hands. Thus are co-dependent persons born and made.

Moreover, empirical evidence tends to suggest that persons who are relaxed, trusting and non-neurotic tend to live longer, healthier lives. (Pretty Lady knows these things because she once worked in a library, where she read or skimmed every book on Spirituality and Healing that entered the building; thus her sources have tended to blur, over time, into one vague but relatively consistent Source.) This may be neither here nor there, but Pretty Lady has an inchoate theory brewing that Things Which Lead to Health and Thriving are closer to ultimate Truth than Things Which Lead to Misery and Suffering. She's still in the experimental stages of this, so her theory is subject to modification at any time, and should in no way be construed as a Categorical Imperative of any kind.

Indeed, holding a certain Trust in one's mind, that 'whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should' allows a person to speculate widely, and test theories such as this one, without any overwhelming onus attached to the possibility of Getting It Wrong. Moreover, since Pretty Lady might well be wrong about anything she thinks, she has no pressing reason to impose her views upon others--unlike those people who have decided that People are in Charge, Here, and must make things turn out okay.

It is possible that Pretty Lady's career choice may have something to do with her deep need not to be the One In Charge. Pretty Lady's life is, frankly, a dicey one. She perambulates around the planet on little more than Faith, Intuition, and a quite astonishingly wonderful Family. Persons with a steady income, a spouse, or other reliable means of support may have the luxury of declining to believe in God; Pretty Lady lacks these reserves. If she truly believed that she was in control of her own fate, she would still be a submissive and miserable Government Employee.

At the same time, Pretty Lady is not particularly worried about Hell. One look at conditions in this physical reality is enough to convince her that we are there already, and she has nothing to lose by following time-tested instructions that promise an end to all this. She grants that things could possibly be worse, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that she has very little to lose by attempting the experiment.

So. Pretty Lady leaves it up to her dear readers to decide whether her attitude is Blasphemous, Utilitarian, Idiotic, or Completely Insane; she has no attachment to your opinions, one way or another, so she is very much looking forward to hearing them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why Pretty Lady Talks with Morons

Pretty Lady cannot help but notice that there has been a bit of Contentious Conversation on her blog, of late. She has been a bit snarly, herself; it seems as though Pretty Lady has a few buttons of whitherso she did not know existed, until someone came along and obligingly pressed them. So we learn, and so we grow. And so Pretty Lady has no right to Call People Out for their rudeness to one another, having disgracefully Lost Her Temper with an innocent, or mostly innocent, gentleman.

She is calling them out anyway.

For it strikes Pretty Lady that Manners are the last bastion of Civilization. All other tenets of such can and have been called into question; there is no common consensus as to Religion, Politics, Mores or Culture. There is none, and there shall be none; these differences are, in Pretty Lady's experienced observations, irreconcilable.

Nevertheless we may ALL grit our teeth and shake hands, except for those unfortunate African persons who have lost their hands to bandits, but Pretty Lady doesn't like to think about that. She stopped reading the New York Times for five years after they posted those pictures.

So, darlings, be grateful that you have hands, and shake them. And be aware that in Pretty Lady's worldview, there is almost No Such Thing as a Moron.

There may be people who disagree with her. There may be people who espouse strange and extremist world views. There may be people whose capacity for comprehending Socratic irony is nil. (There may be an awful lot of those, indeed.) There may be persons who develop Irrational Personal Vendettas against Pretty Lady, even. The depths of depravity to which human nature may sink knows no bottom.

But Pretty Lady, by and large, gives everyone a chance. She gives them several chances, in fact. Sometimes she stops giving them chances for a decade or so, then gives them another one. Something imprinted deep in Pretty Lady's psyche believes that each of these people is a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, and they have a right to be here. (This was imprinted on Pretty Little Girl while she was having her hair dried, in fact. The poem was framed on Mommy's dressing table. It is now framed in Pretty Lady's bathroom, next to the hair-dryer. Such predictable little robots are we.)

You see, darlings, we are all humans, but before that we are robots. We are creatures imprinted with reality-tunnels of our progenitors' devising. And since we all come of different progenitors, we all inhabit different realities. There is no shame in this; it is how we are.

Thus, a large portion of Human Opinion is not voluntary. It is programmed. And when two persons with different programming meet and discourse, each of them decides that the other one is a moron. That decision was programmed, too.

When persons with the same programming meet and agree, even more terrible things may happen. These groups of lockstep robots reinforce each other, and become dangerous. They may decide, for example, that a certain Third World Dictator possesses the capacity to blow up the world, and act accordingly, despite an overwhelming lack of concrete evidence to support their decision. For when all the Intelligent robots around you believe something, you believe it too. Thus are disasters made.

So, in Pretty Lady's view, the only way to prevent planetary annihilation by warring groups of robots is Manners. Manners are the simple act of suspending judgment and treating people as equals, whatever your opinion of them may happen to be. Manners allow a bit of breathing space, in order to assess one's programming before dropping the hammer. They do not require any form of ideological consensus, except upon Form itself; this neutral abstraction has the least chance of offending anyone's programming, no matter how arcane or bizarre that Form may appear to be.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Enlightenment! -or- August Explains the Male Mind to a Benighted Pretty Lady

August elaborates upon the Missing Logical Link:

You mentioned a proposition.
You mentioned saying something extraordinary.

Now there has to be an assumption somewhere between the two, and I figure that assumption is in a male brain.

That particular male has likely perceived the extraordinary as the competitive, and is hoping such competitiveness will translate into some friendly competition in the bedroom.

As for myself, my assumptions in similar situations are simple: loyalty and competition work in opposition to each other. I simply disengage. I have learned enough lessons the hard way.
Ah. So that's it.

Let us set aside all the sardonic commentary--indeed the floods of rhetorical self-indulgence, illustrated with many florid anecdotes, that sprang to Pretty Lady's fevered brain after she was finally able to wrap her hopelessly feminine mind around the above logical sequence. Let us consider this as read. Let us, merely, ask this theoretical male a theoretical question.

Are you familiar with the concept of a team? As in those sports thingies? Group of persons working together toward a Common Goal, such as to win the Super Bowl, or something else equally random and trivial?

Pretty Lady pauses, for the man to bring this undoubtedly familiar concept to mind, and hold it there.

Now. Think hard. Suppose you were a coach, auditioning players for a team. Would you require these potential players to prove their competence, by handling the ball or puck or stick or whatever, with finesse, logic and aplomb? Or would you require them to prove their loyalty, by fumbling around and dropping it all over the place, so as not to infringe upon the other players' inherent superiority?


Now, I ask you, theoretical man, to stretch a paradigm. Imagine, that in the mind of Woman, relationships are roughly equivalent to teams. This putative Woman regards a relationship as an entity in which two individuals work together to achieve a set of Common Goals, such as building a home, raising children, establishing a system of mutual nurturance, companionship and spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth.

Now, imagine that this hapless Woman, with this goal in mind, proceeds to audition for a place on this Relationship Team by proving her competence. Her method includes displaying perspicacity, humor, kindness, flexibility, wit, resourcefulness, and a basic ability to hold up her end of the stick, in both practical and aesthetic contexts.

And the Man promptly responds by thinking, "Who does this Woman think she is, being all clever and competent like that? I'll take that bitch down a peg. She's begging for it." So he treats this potential team member as a Woman--that is, as an exotic sort of prostitute--grinds her into the dirt, abandons her, and goes off in search of a ball-dropper to put under contract.

Are you, theoretical Man, perhaps getting a hint of the sort of frustrations and miscommunications that can arise, due to this mutual conflict of assumed paradigms, yet?

While you are chewing on this idea, Pretty Lady will pose some alternatives to the notion that an intelligent woman, making a humorous, perceptive, or witty remark, is attempting to emasculate a man by Competing with him. The possibility exists that her motive in making such a remark might be:
1) To express what's on her mind, in the hopes of kindling an answering spark of resonance in his.

2) To defuse a tense situation with humor.

3) To introduce an alternate perspective for mutual consideration.

4) To pre-empt being patronized, which can be mildly annoying, when a gentleman assumes that no sweet little blue-eyed blonde lady could possibly be able to process ideas or information beyond the first-grade level.

(Incidentally, a lady who engages in such patronage pre-emption may also be endeavoring to spare the man the humiliation that inevitably occurs, when she is finally forced to confess to having a Ph.D. in engineering.)

5) To engage his attention in a flirtatious way, for the purposes of mutual enjoyment.

6) To let her Freak Flag fly high, in the hopes of attracting someone who likes that sort of thing.

7) Just to express the sheer joy of being alive.
Now, it is certainly possible that the lady is a ball-busting bitch who wishes to see all men castrated and ground down under her dominating and vindictive heel. Such bitches are occasionally born. However, it is Pretty Lady's private suspicion that such bitches are also made, after a well-meaning lady has been given the competitive-whore treatment a couple of dozen times.

In closing, Pretty Lady would like to re-iterate the statement that loyalty has nothing, nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with competence. Loyalty is an aspect of character, which in all humans is divorced from other characteristics such as wit, intelligence, creativity and the like. You may not assess a woman's character in the course of a brief conversation, however witty or bovine this conversation may be. You can only assess it by interacting with her over a period of time, and observing her actions.

Of course, if you drive her away by vulgarly insulting her with a lewd proposition, the first time she dares to say something clever, your storehouse of Erroneous Assumptions will remain wholly intact. And you will, incidentally, end up with a very dull wife.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Competitive Female

Pretty Lady must apologize for having become Hot Under her Collar for a moment. Ordinarily she likes to maintain a Balanced Perspective, in order to open her soul to the infinite truth and forgiveness of the Holy Spirit. This, she has found, is the way to remain happy, healthy and keep her complexion in tiptop condition. The cosmetic benefits of allowing the Holy Spirit to rule one's mental landscape cannot be underestimated.

But occasionally someone presses a Sore Button in Pretty Lady's serene psyche, and she goes ballistic. Such a one, unfortunately, was this:

Are you being extraordinary, or are you being competitive?
Men want to marry women who display the characteristic of loyalty.
Pretty Lady must say it again. Hmph.

It has been Pretty Lady's sad experience that men, in general, are largely oblivious to the flagrant signs of unhealthy, vile, underhanded, backstabbing Competitiveness in Females. Men are simple souls. Show them a winning smile, a winsome pout, and utter a few bland clichés about Home and Family, and they believe a woman to be everything she touts herself as, and more. This same winning, winsome woman may utter Malicious Lies, Cutting Remarks, and Wholesale Betrayals of Confidence freely before this same man, and he will not even notice. He will merely think she is perspicacious and clever; he may even honor her malice with the label of 'loyalty.' Loyalty toward himself, of course; obviously she is merely protecting him from the designing hussies who surround him on every side.

It never appears to occur to him that a mind which sees malice under every rock may be seeking what it wishes to find; moreover, that it sees the thing it is steeped in.

Pretty Lady, when very young, was taught this maxim by her mother: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." With a few regrettable and notorious lapses, she has endeavored to live up to this precept during her entire adult life. More than this, she tries mightily to look for the best in people, and to understand where the worst might be coming from. This habit of hers has led her to make some egregious errors in the selection of her intimate friends. Preoccupied with her industrious treasure-seeking, she has been dismissive of, or honestly blind to, aggressive destructiveness of character in others.

That is, until the full force of her self-deception hits her right between the eyes; then she is wont to reconsider.

Far from being Competitive herself, Pretty Lady has always believed that vulgar scrabbling between females for the attention of a man ought to be avoided at all costs. If a man is so distractible that he cannot be bothered to remember that he originally asked Pretty Lady on a date, when another woman invites herself along and clings to him like glue, chattering engagingly, Pretty Lady will not remind him. She politely and ironically excuses herself and catches up on her sleep. When a man decides to be a big cocky jerk and invite her to lunch as the tall half of a set, she does not attempt to command his attention with seductive gestures; she thanks the two of them, grapes and all, and heads to the studio. Pretty Lady has neither the time nor the inclination for such egoistic games. Either a man perceives her obvious singularity of character, or he does not.

Pretty Lady takes the concept of Loyalty very seriously indeed. If her friend is interested in, dating, or married to a man, he is Off Limits in Pretty Lady's universe, until five years after the divorce. In fact, if a man is previously attached at all, even to her worst enemy, he is equally Off Limits, even if his wife is flinging him at Pretty Lady's head.

Thus, although she generally maintains a tight-lipped reticence on the subject, Pretty Lady's deeper opinion on women who regard the intimate relationships of their close friends as fishing grounds for their own purposes, is that these women are poison. No matter how many times they disingenuously declare, "It just sort of happened, and I feel terrible about it."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Harmonic Resonance

Gracious. It seems that whenever Pretty Lady uses words such as 'sordid' in a post title, no matter how whimsically intended, some of her friends are inclined to take her seriously, and do their best to live up to the low expectations established therein. Pretty Lady now commands these dear friends of hers to Cease and Desist with insulting one another, and equally with taking offense when tongue-in-cheek insults are offered.

(Although, good heavens, if Pretty Lady found herself married to a man who expressed a categorical unwillingness to purchase a cardboard box full of Necessary Supplies on her behalf when she was Down With The Flu, for example, her first act upon rising from her bloodstained sickbed would be to file for divorce. Ahem.)

However, all these topics, today, are Moot. We shall Move On. We shall Move On to Entertaining Stories about Seduction; goody, goody!

For our dear friend Crom has embarked upon a Series wherein he proposes to unmask the Five Major Scams used upon unsuspecting ladies by men with dishonorable intentions. And Pretty Lady, for one, is All Agog.

You have to have enough on the ball to get the new girl to someplace where you are kissing, petting etc. and there is enough privacy to actually do the deed. This could be her house, your flat, a friend's bedroom - wherever you could actually have sex with little fear of interruption. If you cannot get here, stop reading and work on your conversational skills.

At some point during this epic makeout session it is likely that the girl will put the brakes on the action, because she does not want you to think she is a slut and will fall into bed with every silver-tongued raconteur that spins a witty yarn. It is your job to detect the beginnings of this subtle refusal, and right when she is about to say "Hold on, stop. Let's talk about this for a second" instead YOU stop, and pull away, but not too far.

You should appear embarrassed, and somewhat flustered when you tell the girl that she is a cool person, and that you definitely like her but you don't want to take things here that fast and that you really want to get to know her better before you take this next step of getting physical. It is critical that this be done convincingly.

If she believes you, she will now believe that you respect her, and are interested in her rather just getting laid. With a minor amount of encouraging, she will do the rest of the work to get you into the sack as she now actually likes and wants you. You can put your hands behind your head and enjoy the ride.

Why he started with Scam Number Two is anybody's guess. But while we are on the topic, Pretty Lady has a General Question for all and sundry, on her own personal behalf, and that is--

Why does it appear that men, by and large, seem to think that they can get away with more lame, half-assed, two-timing, bizarre, and wholly dishonorable behavior when the woman in question is rather more extraordinary than average? Or is this simply an illusory thing, and the fact that Pretty Lady has been subjected to a large amount of such behavior is merely par for the course?

For it veritably seems that just as soon as Pretty Lady displays any sign of Whimsical Creativity, Intellectual Cognizance, or Worldly Sophistication, that is the same moment she is bombarded with articulate proposals for an extended menage-a-trois, 'discreet' affairs, peremptory insistence on 'open relationships,' failure to pick up the check, whining, leaning, passive-aggression, two-timing, and pretending to be a crazy person in public.

Whereas none of the doe-eyed innocents of her acquaintance ever seem to get this sort of thing. They are never IM'd by a stranger with the words, "Spit or swallow?" Never once do they receive a sudden, explicit proposition from a 45-year-old Caucasian man and his 23-year-old bisexual Asian sweetheart. They appear ignorant of the mechanics of BDSM, never having had them explained and demanded at intricate length by a Very Old Friend who has established trust over a period of eight or nine years. Their old married friends remain old friends, and are not off in the corner sulking because Pretty Lady turned down their offer of a threesome.

It has gotten so that Pretty Lady is wondering where on her face the words "Professional Third Wheel" are tattooed, and how in the world she can get them lasered off.

Because it would seem, to her ignorant mind, that an extraordinary person ought to inspire extraordinary things in others, and not merely catalyze a fallout of crass and contemptible behavior. To her mind, if a man finds a woman challenging, he ought to rise to meet that challenge, and not compensate by screwing around on the side. Much less should he assume that Pretty Lady, having so much to offer the world, requires less in the way of attention, commitment and maintenance than the average Good Woman. Competent, caring, informed and self-actualized though she is, she still considers herself just as human as the rest of us, and just as deserving of decent treatment from others.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

This is beyond stupid

Those of you who know Pretty Lady, know that one of her pet hobbies is the contemplation of the evolution of moral reasoning among primates, specifically the variety homo sapiens. Having learned from her dear friend Ken Wilber that a test had been developed to establish a person's standards of moral reasoning, or otherwise, she went searching for it.

Unfortunately she got sidetracked by the one at Harvard, and took it.

And she is here to tell you that if this sort of thing is as far as Harvard has gotten in examining the issue, we are in deeper trouble than she thought.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Harvard appears to think that people only make serious ethical decisions when faced with a five-to-one death-to-murder ratio. Furthermore, Harvard allows no room for MacGyver-like solutions to pressing problems, which would obviate the need to throw the guy through the window to save the burning children.

"Means justifying ends," my foot. Harvard appears to believe that the means of setting up highly improbable and manipulative scenarios justifies the ends of proving that people will throw the guy through the window to save the burning children, or not. When friends, the world just isn't like that. The flaw in the test is the flaw in reality, as we perceive it; ends are never guaranteed. Therefore the means are all we've got to work with.

Hmph. Hmph. Hmph. Pretty Lady is going back to look for that Kohlberg test. Hopefully it will be a bit more sophisticated.

UPDATE: This pseudo-Kohlberg OK Cupid test is nearly as bad. Not only did it force leading answers, but it told Pretty Lady that she was a "Law and Order" moral type, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Evidently it took the average between her total-anarchy answers and her transcendent-value answers. HMPH.

Pretty Lady needs to go make a pot of tea.

Sordid details of life

From the website Tampontification:

Women's shelters in the U.S. go through thousands of tampons and pads monthly, and, while agencies generally assist with everyday necessities such as toilet paper, diapers, and clothing, this most basic need is often overlooked. You and I may take our monthly trips down the feminine care aisle for granted, but, for women in shelters, a box of tampons is five dollars they can't spare. Here's some good news: you can help us contribute to rectifying this situation by making a virtual donation! For each virtual donation, Seventh Generation will send a pack of organic cotton tampons or chlorine-free pads to a shelter in your state.
Pretty Lady has often felt that the price of feminine hygiene products was an inordinant tax on being female. She has never taken the price of a box of tampons for granted, and was unreservedly thrilled when the bothersome things finally went off-patent, and generic versions became available. Should any of you be feeling philanthropic this morning...well, it is a splendid idea.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Real Estate

Available: Snug Victorian cottages. Quiet neighborhood; excellent views. Built to last. Grounds maintenance included.

No pets, food, bicycles, or music. Trespassers will be arrested.

In the belfry, a rogue gang of parrots are forever chattering raucously.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Extreme sloth

Pretty Lady cannot be bothered to be witty and clever this evening. She is Loving Herself, and Believing in herself, and Waiting for Good Things to Come. Incidentally, she is stealing her column from Salon magazine:

For these believers, self-knowledge is much less important than self-"love." But the question they never seem to ask themselves is: If you wouldn't tell another person you loved her before you got to know her, why would you do that to yourself? Skipping the getting-to-know-you part has given us what we deserve: the Oprah culture. It's a culture where superstition is "spirituality," illiteracy is "authenticity," and schoolmarm moralism is "character." It's a culture where people apologize by saying, "I'm sorry you took offense at what I said," and forgive by saying, "I'm not angry at you anymore, I'm grateful to you for teaching me not to trust shitheads like you." And that's the part that should bother us most: the diminishing, even implicit mocking, of genuine goodness, and of authentic spiritual concerns and practices. Engagement, curiosity and active awe are in short supply these days, and it's sickening to see them devalued and misrepresented.
These people may speak for themselves; Pretty Lady has, in fact, met a great many people who told her they loved her before they got to know her. They looked her wetly in the eyes and declared their shameless, undying adoration for her theoretical existence, and then considered that their worldly task regarding Pretty Lady was done.

Pretty Lady had something to say about this, but oooo! Shiny!


Pretty Lady wishes to raise an Issue for Contemplation. She has no agenda; she would genuinely like to know your thoughts.

Her dear and lovely friend Badger has posted this list, on Women and Conversation.

Part of what many women experience online in highly male-dominated environments is:

- the discounting of the substance of what they're saying
- the demand that women be always calm and care-taking, while guys have permission to get angry
- the demand that women never be wrong, while guys can be wrong and correct themselves, be corrected, or change their minds
- never-ending commentary about looks, sexual banter and references to sexual tension, sexual commoditization, remarks on one's girl-ness
- the assumption that what guys consider is important is The Important Thing and what women consider important is trivial and can be dismissed
- always having your credentials and knowledge and background questioned; having to prove yourself over and over; basic competence, much less expertise, constantly doubted; condescension
- the struggle women have against internalizing all of the above.
Pretty Lady says, hmmm.

1) She has rarely had difficulty with the substance of her words being discounted, except when the individual being addressed was so subsumed in a Hormonal Fog that he was incapable of taking any information in; this, she considers, is merely an unfortunate biological accident. She does not believe in penalizing men for their biological instability and innate irrationality, in general. She thinks it's rather cute.

2) To her knowledge, Pretty Lady has never had anyone demand that she be calm and care-taking; neither has she ever bestowed or received permission for Having A Feeling. It just sort of seems to happen. Some of the more fatuous and self-satisfied of her male acquaintances have had the tendency to confess to Having Feelings, as though to an quixotic sort of weakness, but again, she regards this as a risible frailty on their part, having very little to do with her.

3) If someone demands that Pretty Lady never be wrong, this person obviously requires a robot for a consort, and not Pretty Lady. Pretty Lady believes that it is incumbent upon all gracious persons, when proven wrong, to Concede and Reconsider. If a person does not do so, this is called Intellectually Dishonest Narcissism, and Pretty Lady strikes these people from her address book.

4) Men cannot help being shallow. Poor fellows.

5) Men cannot help being Trivial and Boring, what with their constant detours into completely unimportant things like sports statistics.

6) Very tedious, indeed. This is why it is so lovely and relaxing to maintain long-term connections; it is such a delight to reminisce about those days of dumpster-diving for furniture.

7) Or indeed, with expecting oneself to maintain a certain standard of competence and intellectual honesty, while at the same time forgiving oneself for the occasional Egregious Lapse.

These are merely Idle Speculations, of a Sunday morning before brunch, of course. Pretty Lady is largely interested in knowing what her readers think. Hrm?


Pretty Lady is Bemused. Some lovely person just tagged her. She can hardly believe it! Pretty Lady was never very good at sports. Now she has been veritably Put On the Spot, because evidently she must now tag some other people, and--the secret is out--Pretty Lady is shy.

Yes, it is true. Pretty Lady is embarrassed to tag people--well, they might scream 'icky poo!' and run away! But somehow she must screw up her courage, and not let the lovely person down. So here goes:

The participation rules are simple:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

And woe is Pretty Lady, because the first person on her list has already received the tag! What to do? Expand one's social circle, evidently.

Pretty Lady is a bit slow to do this. When she makes new friends, she likes to figure them out thoroughly before making too many more; one would not wish to spread oneself Too Thin. Rather than being a block-buster keg-party sort of lady (anymore), she is fond of throwing small, intimate dinner parties. She would definitely invite someone like k to her dinner party; someone graceful and contemplative and witty and wry.

And Pretty Lady is exceptionally fond of talented people; people who are talented and deranged. Just because her parties are small, does not mean that they are boring. Not at all. There is a reason Pretty Lady doesn't get her couch re-covered. No sense in fixing all those rips and stains when she'll just acquire more.

Of course, she keeps the comfy chair clean for clients, and fastidious people. She would not like to be remiss as a hostess.

All in all, Pretty Lady feels that she has muffed this whole 'thinking blogger' thing. Of course her friends think! That is not the reason she likes them; she likes them because they are them.

So she promises she will not be offended if they disdain to accept the tag. She loves them anyway.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Evils of Feng-shui

Since this appears to be the week where Pretty Lady is allowing her Darker Side to show, hairy eyebrows and all, she might as well go the whole hog and confess her innermost sins. Pretty Lady, darlings, is NOT the wholesomely economic housekeeper that she has led you to believe. She is Frivolous and Wasteful, and should any poor sot be foolish enough to marry her, she will surely bankrupt him.

Yes, tragically, it is true. Pretty Lady is consitutionally incapable of buying an ugly Kleenex box.

This addiction to attractive tissue-dispensers at all costs has persisted for years, and has cost Pretty Lady a pretty penny. She is unable to calculate the precise rate of financial drainage, actually, because her mania extends to an utter disinterest in even checking the prices of ugly tissue. It simply does not matter if Kleenex goes on sale for ninety-nine cents per box of 250; she will continue paying $2.59 for an impractical 85-count ovalesque frivolity, no matter how desperate her financial circumstances.

You see, back at an impressionable age, Pretty Lady skimmed a book on feng-shui. Most of the business about compass-points and such was wholly uninteresting to her, she having little luxury to consider such things, but one phrase in particular rather stood out. "Have nothing in your home which you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Pretty Lady took things one better, and cast out everything which was not both useful and beautiful, as far as practicably possible. And Kleenex, in Pretty Lady's line of work, is not a dispensable item. One never knows when one's client will suddenly sneeze, or experience a Toxic Drainage of some sort; one simply must have a goodly supply of disposable serviettes ready to hand. Since Pretty Lady's office is also her living room, this guarantees that, like it or not, the Kleenex remains a consistent, minor point of aesthetic focus.

And Pretty Lady confesses that it gives her a profound soul-satisfaction to glance at the top of the microwave, or the corner of the desk, and glimpse, not some horrendous kitschy cardboard box with some floral banality printed across the side, but something with Art and Taste to it, which harmonizes, more or less, with her eclectic decor.

Of such tiny things are the makings of Disaster born.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

By request

My eyes--I don't mind them
For I am behind them
It's the people in front...