Friday, March 23, 2007

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Some very enlightening comments on my last post. I meant to follow up on that post earlier, but I got blindsided this week. I was in a fantastic mood at the beginning of the week, because my assistant was finally returning (her replacement still cannot reliably transfer a phone call, page someone, or revise a Word document). I was peppering! all my emails! with exclamation points!!!

Then I got a call from my assistant.

Her OB put her on disability for another month at least.

For severe postpartum depression.

I feel like a gigantic asshole for not realizing this. She hadn’t told anyone, but the signs were there. It’s sobering to realize how blind I can be (and how much in denial). I’ll go visit her this weekend, and I sent her flowers. She’s getting treatment.

I’m panicking about how I’m going to make it through the next month, and terrified that she’ll never come back. I’m now trying to plow through the mountain of stuff that I had been putting off doing until she came back.

It will probably be a little while before I’m blogging much.

BUT: I’ve been seeing a lot of maggots on the running path now that the weather’s better, and that makes me happy. Keep it up, everyone, and don’t forget to keep it slow!

Anyone have any good running reports to share?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Roundheels or Prudes?

I have a lovely single friend who graciously allows me to enjoy vicariously her romantic exploits (and gave permission for me to discuss this topic here). She’s a hottie who is not afraid to (very safely) explore her wild side, and she’s ticked off a number of conquests that are on my fantasy list (e.g., bike messenger, guitarist in a rock and roll band, various other sullen slacker stereotypes). The other day she was recounting to me a romp with someone new, and remarked that this fellow was unusual in that he’d asked specific permission to proceed at every step along the primrose path. Although she certainly appreciated his courteousness, this had the effect of interrupting the momentum somewhat. It wasn’t as if he was asking to do anything freaky, she pointed out. It was more that he seemed to be expecting her to call a halt to the proceedings at any moment, and was surprised (though grateful) that she did not. And come to think of it, many of the men she’d enjoyed had displayed a similar “Wow! What a wonderful surprise!” reaction to her favors. Which made her start to wonder if she is unusual. Do most people call a halt before going All the Way? And if so, when? And for crying out loud, why?

I was of no help here, because I’ve encountered a similar “surprised but happy conquest” situation a number of times (including with TrophyHusband). I have never started making out with a guy without following the experience through to what I believe to be its natural conclusion. This is because I would never swap spit with someone I was not willing to swap other bodily fluids with (or pretend to—condoms always, everybody!). So we got to wondering, are we easy? Or are we overly picky? Do lots of people make out with someone they aren’t that into, or do lots of people hold back even when they’re hot for someone?

We went to the closest authority for more information: TrophyHusband. As a man who is very experienced in the ways of the swinging single world, we figured he’d have a reasonable sample size to be able to give an opinion. The question we posed to him was: “Did most of the women you made out with ask you to stop at some point?” (His sample being limited to women.)

His answer was a rueful “Oh yeah.” He was unable to put a number on it (years have past since those times, after all), but estimated that it was certainly the majority of the time. He said that where things were halted varied widely, though there was perhaps an above-the-waist/ below-the-waist trend. He had no answer to the why question; he said no one ever explained, they just said, “Okay, that’s enough!”

So, are my friend and I roundheels, or prudes? For those of you who don’t finish what you start, why? And what makes you decide when to stop?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Embrace Your Taste (and I Reserve the Right to Disagree)

In my last post, I singled out one of the paintings displayed on our cruise for ridicule, and this engendered some questions as to why, essentially, I was being mean about that particular work.

My mother is a painter and was an art teacher; she is also alarmingly frank. She is incapable of saying “How nice!” about a work of art that she thinks is bad. The first time she was at my mother-in-law’s house, my MIL grabbed her and said, “I want to know what you think of this print we bought!” and my then-fiance and I each made an audible gasp of horror. (Miraculously, my mother liked the piece.) When we were children, if my siblings or I drew a picture, we never expected my mother to say “Honey, that’s beautiful!” and hang it on the fridge; instead, we got a critique. This is not to say she never liked the things we drew. She let us know when she approved of something as well as when she didn’t, and why—though she still wouldn’t put anything on the fridge; she finds that practice abhorrent. (My husband recently put one of HB’s finger paintings up on our fridge, and I flinched. I let it stay—for now.)

So I was taught from a young age to look at things in a visually critical way, to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t, and to try and articulate why I felt the way I did. In other words, I was schooled in the development of taste. This is not to say that my mother ever insisted that there is one absolute standard for good art; I was always aware that there were pieces that a lot of people liked that she didn’t, and vice versa. (The argument over what should be anointed as Great Art and go into museums is beyond the scope of this entry.)

Why do I detest this painting? Yes, it has some good qualities. It is fairly proficient technically; aside from the hands, the figures are well rendered. The sole of the woman’s left foot is particularly nicely done. Yet when I rounded the corner on our cruise and was confronted with this piece, I recoiled (and sent my husband back to take pictures of it). Why? There are a number of reasons I can articulate, though many I probably cannot.
  • The coloring is monotonous and not pleasing.
  • The overall composition is ungainly. The eye is not led around the figures but rather gets an impression of a triangular clump of body parts. The phrase “beast with two backs” comes to mind.
  • The positioning of the figures is awkward; it seems forced. It is obvious that this was not done from live models, as it would not be possible for the models to maintain that pose for much longer than it would take to make a snapshot, and indeed it looks as if this was drawn from a photo rather than life. There are reasons to draw something rather than photograph it; for one thing, the artist gets an opportunity to walk around the models and get a real sense of where things are in space and how gravity acts, and to use this to inform the piece in a way that a photo cannot. I could imagine a painting of two nudes in an awkward position that I would appreciate—if it was obvious that the painting was meant to display the awkwardness of human coupling.
  • There is a coyness to the hiding of all the naughty bits that is irritating—reminiscent of the opening scene in Austin Powers, which is funny but not beautiful.
  • But the thing that really gets me about this piece, I think, is the obvious idealization of the figures. What is the purpose of this piece? If it’s to display the beauty of the human form, I’d like to see a real human form. If it’s to titillate, it should be sexier. This piece is like soft-core porn: offensive to some, yet not getting anyone off—the worst of both worlds.
Of course this is all subjective. Most simply, I find gazing at this picture viscerally unpleasant. Other people must not, or it wouldn’t be hanging there (though I am willing to bet that a lot of people wouldn’t like it).

The bigger question is, is it okay to mock a work of art? I say, of course it is. Someone went to the trouble to create it for public display and someone else went to the trouble of selecting it and hanging it in the hopes that yet another person would buy it. This means that it is being offered up for judgment. That’s the point.

And is it okay to criticize another’s taste? Well, yes, sometimes. If my mother had disliked the piece my mother-in-law showed her, I don’t think she should have said, “Ew, that sucks,” as that would be criticizing my MIL’s taste to no purpose and therefore impolite. But if my MIL had asked my mother’s artistic opinion on a piece my MIL was thinking of buying, then telling her she didn’t like it would be honest and right.

It doesn’t seem any different from, say, music. I’m sure you know and love people who enjoy music you can’t stand, and you’re willing to tell them that, yet you do not love them any less for it. I, for instance, cannot abide jazz, though it does not make me respect someone less for enjoying it. Some people are embarrassed by their own taste in music, which I don’t get. If you like something, you like it. Same with art. Embrace your own taste.

So, if you happen to enjoy this piece of art, I don’t think you should be ashamed of that fact. But I also think you should know that if you go on this cruise and buy it, there are a significant number of people who will recoil when they see it on the wall of your boudoir.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Supposedly Fun Thing

Even before I read David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, I was never tempted by the thought of going on a cruise. But this was before I found out that it was one of the few vacations that includes free daycare (with the exception of the grandparent “vacation,” but the easy grandparents were unavailable, and the exhausting ones, well, we did that last year).

Free daycare is great—if your child consents to participate. It can even be great if your child does not consent, provided that the daycare workers do not page you fifteen minutes into your idyll telling you that no, he has not “settled down,” and please come get him NOW, before he contaminates all the happy toddlers.

So, a cruise with a two and half year old stuck to one’s leg is probably different from a childfree cruise. But the ships still seem kind of hideous, I’ll bet. I don’t think my dislike of the artwork would have been any less keen, for instance. I would also wager that having the main shore stop cancelled due to high winds would not have been any less annoying. Perhaps more so: I know for a fact that the couple who had planned to be wed on shore—and had waiting guests and attendants who had traveled by air—were more upset about missing their own wedding than we were about getting on an actual, not perceptibly moving beach.

But there were some good moments. Sitting on the balcony reading the first novel I’ve finished in months while TrophyHusband was in the pool with HellBoy (who had a fabulous time, once he was sprung from the horrors of ship daycare); running on the track some thirteen stories above the blue ocean, uphill as the ship tilted one way, then downhill as it lurched back; sitting at the bar sipping a drink while HB stood transfixed by the string quartet for a full half hour. And I actually didn’t think much about work at all.

But I just found out that my assistant is getting an extra two weeks of maternity leave. I keep reminding myself that her baby probably needs her more than I do, but it doesn’t feel like he possibly could.

And yes, I am a bit compulsive about sun exposure, why do you ask?