For the last few cycles, I’ve avoided America’s Next Top Model; I don’t know how or why, but I got sucked into watching this season. Over the past few weeks we’ve gotten to know contestant Alexandria Everett, who has managed to piss off all of her housemates.
On last week’s episode, things reached the boiling point when Alexandria won the challenge and ended up with a brand new Ford Focus. To say the other girls were disappointed would be an understatement, but the most vocal of the group was Brittani–who couldn’t help but bitch to the other contestants. Unfortunately, she was overheard by the client, and Nigel Barker who brought these shenanigans up at panel. During the confrontation and again, when the issue was brought up in front of the judges, Alexandria was amazing. She knew exactly how to play the “poor little me” role and get Tyra’s sympathy, while Brittani came off a little cray-cray.
I have to take Brittani’s side in the drama-fest, I’ve lived with
crazy passive aggressive people. The problem with people like Alexandria is, they can be these wonderful rays of sunshine with those that they believe to be important, or those that just blindly think they’re super. However, if you don’t fit into either group, they really don’t mind making your life miserable. They’re also seasoned performers who know how turn on the waterworks to get out of situations. Once during a confrontation with a roommate over something mundane, she tried to fake cry. Alexandria also employs this tactic.
But, Brittani is young. She hasn’t learned to pick her battles. Nor has she learned who to engage with and who ignore. There’s a saying I like to keep in mind when dealing with people like Alexandria, “the more you try to prove someone’s crazy, the crazier you look.” I know plenty of people who haven’t caught on to that idea, and there are times when I struggle with it. The thing to remember is, people reveal who they truly are. For a time they may have others fooled, but eventually other people will realize something isn’t right.
On Valentine’s Day we all tend to think about the loves in our lives; thanks to the commercialism of the holiday, they tend to be thoughts focusing on our romantic escapades. In previous years I’ve wondered about loves gone wrong, and on some occasions I was hoping for a new love to blossom. This year I broke with tradition, and thought about the warm fuzzy feelings I have for my friends.
For the past few months I’ve been thinking about who fits into my life, who’s a good friend, and who makes me want to be a better friend. I suppose this is a constant process because life is always changing, people are on their own metaphorical paths and sometimes they really don’t coincide with yours. Yeah, it’s frustrating to watch a once beautiful friendship fall apart for whatever reason it does. It’s even more maddening to be the only one who sees that things are no longer working, but I digress.
The reason I’ve been pondering who I want in my circle of friends, is because these are some of the most important relationships we will ever have with other human beings. However, they don’t get the same treatment that romantic relationships do. Do you know how hard it is to find a best friend? I’m talking about a true best friend who loves you even when you’re talking shit about the girl who was checking out the guy you’re into. The person you can call early in the morning because you upset about something, whether it be a relationship that failed or the fact that your story/poem got rejected. The friend that will actually listen to you vent, instead of making blanket statements because said friend likes to think they’re an enlightened individual; but really they just like the sound of their own voice. Write me a screenplay about that, Nora Ephron.
Then there’s trying to find a group of female friends who can coexist peacefully without some weird psychological shit going on. Oh, it happens, and I’ve witnessed it plenty of times, but finding the right chemistry and balance is a tricky task. Look at the friendship dynamics in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants versus Now and Then, or Sex and the City (the tv show, those movies never happened) v. Desperate Housewives. Finding friends who get along with each other, or who are capable of having a deep connection with you is not as easy as pie.
We also have to maintain friendships once we’ve made them. I understand that anything that requires direct contact with a person is a bit more difficult to do than written communication. There have been times I’ve had some serious “games” of phone-tag going on, or one of us had to cancel for whatever reason. However, replying to an email and Facebook message is a little easier to work out. Yes, at times we fail to reply to an email or snail mail(sorry!), but at the end of they day it’s the minimum effort letting people know how you’re doing and showing that you in fact care about them and want to know about their lives. Communicating is such a big part in an ever evolving friendship that it’s sort of ridiculous how we let it fall apart.
Look, I had a pretty traumatic experience with a friend not returning a phone call. My friend knew she was dying, but didn’t tell me. I called her to wish her a happy holidays/see how she was, she didn’t return my call and died a few weeks later. I found out she died via Facebook invite to her memorial service. Yes, I should probably let it go, but I’m still angry. I’m mad about the fact she didn’t give me the chance to say goodbye to her and that the last few times we hung out together she was on business calls the majority of the time. I suppose the latter taught me to be “there” with the person I’m hanging out with instead of checking my phone. I feel the whole experience opened my eyes to cherishing the friends that are in my life now.
We (or maybe it’s just me), need to embrace the friendships we have, see the potential in the new ones and appreciate the ones that are no longer active in our lives. We need to say, “thank you for being a friend.” There are so many memories I keep close to me: the diet coke pow-wows, coffee and lunch dates, crazy train rides through France, stealing cake, re-enacting ANTM, dancing like a fool and not caring, the poetry meetings, wandering through bookstores, tarot readings, car tag and teasing our hair. Thank you for everything, my friends! I love you.
Once on Boy Meets World, both Shawn and Corey went undercover as teen girls to find out what it was really like to be female. They had to deal with boys not understanding boundaries, only paying attention to them because they were attractive (Ok, this was mostly Shawn) and at the end of the day (like in any good 90’s sitcom) they learned a valuable lesson.
I only wish the poet Vagabond Andy, had undergone a similar experience before he penned his “masterpiece” for the Times, “The Trouble With Women: Forget the Fairytales.” This poem came to my attention via a former coworker who posted both this piece and a follow-up article on Jezebel.Com.
Like most women I’ve shared the poem with, she was outraged. Here’s a piece of work that thinks it’s being witty by taking a diverse group of people and boiling it down to one simple image. He assumes that we all want to be rescued by a prince, but only after a day of shopping and getting our hair done. It’s out the realm of possibility that we’re capable of taking care of ourselves, or that some of us aren’t interested in marriage, or being a size 0. According to Andy, what we want at the end of the day is to look hot for a guy who kinda sounds like a tool.
From what I gather the poem wants to be taken in similar vein to that of P!NK’s “Stupid Girls.” The difference is P!NK knows that while the current pop-culture is favoring plastic, dumb-downed girl—there’s also those who don’t fit the mold. She acts as the voice for those who don’t “want to be a stupid girl.” She understands that it’s the patriarchy and media who set these standards that some women buy into. I’m also going to go out on a limb here, and say P!NK is basing “Stupid Girls” off of her actual experiences as a woman, while Andy is just the casual observer.
The problem with Andy sitting on the side lines is he doesn’t seem to get those crucial points. He assumes that women are creating their own problems–they’re the one’s who came up with the idea of being a size 0 with double D’s; it has nothing to do with the male fantasy that’s being pimped out by a patriarchal society. This is why he has no problem reducing all females down to the image of a Paris-Kardashian-WAG-celebutante. He is also silly enough to believe that’s what all women want to be. He misses the subtleties that each woman carries, most likely because he’s bought into the male fantasy. It’s entirely possible that the only girls he pays attention to are caught up in his image of what being a woman means. Maybe they ignore him, hence his frustration. Either way it seems his interactions with a variety of women is limited.
My friend Sara made an excellent point stating, “his somewhat sickening message is cloaked in rhyme, making it appear pleasing and acceptable when in fact his subject is heartbreaking and sexist. In this way, it mirrors the media and the society that are culprits in manufacturing the condition the protagonist finds herself in. Media/society puts forth these slick images of a happier, thinner, sexier, more buxom youthful “you” in such a way that we are lured by its gloss when, underneath it all lurks a darker, more sinister meaning.” This is why the poem is so dangerous, those who don’t read closely are likely to be hypnotized by his end rhyme and pop-culture references.
I’m curious to know how many buy into Andy’s way of thinking. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good amount of men were nodding in agreement as they read this. But how many women jumped on the band-wagon? How many find this to be an excellent piece of poetry, representing the way things are today? How many of them don’t know to be offended?
The Trouble With Women: Forget the Fairytales
The trouble with women, hmm, let’s see,
Perhaps with some help from poetry?
“It’s a girl!” shouts the midwife, as she joins our world,
Long before her hair is dyed or curled,
Barbie and Ken, her first celebrity friends.
Can’t wait to see how this transcends:
From the day that she is born,
What wedding dress will she adorn?
Supposedly, the happiest day of her life,
Will be the day she becomes a wife.
Her diet starts the moment she wakes.
Of Prince Charming fairy tales and Diet Coke breaks,
Her head full of fantasies, of meeting “The One”,
A life of perfection and buckets of sun.
High expectations, from an early age,
Tall, dark and handsome, plus a good wage.
Funny too, and amazing in bed,
Completely faithful and ready to wed.
From Disney to Hollywood, selling the dreams,
Everybody lives “happily ever after”, it seems.
Hugh Grant movies, and a million love songs,
Johnny Depp in this season’s long johns,
James Bond adventure, Travolta grooves,
Brad Pitt body, Clooney’s moves,
Brosnan charm, Russell Brand wit,
She should have it all, “because she’s worth it”.
Grazia, Now and her other mags,
Breast implants, Louis Vuitton bags,
Diamonds galore, a girl’s best friend,
What kind of message does this send?
She embarks on her quest to find her hero,
But first she needs to visit size zero,
Slim-fast plans and self-help books,
A mortgage of cosmetics to help her looks.
“I’m not as slim … I’m not as pretty”,
Comparing herself makes her feel shitty,
But she doesn’t stop, likes her fantasy,
Yep, she loves to live vicariously,
She’s naked in bed, tears in her eyes,
Her naked man beside her, sighs.
“What’s wrong?” he asks. “That was insane!”
“I know, but compared to THAT my life is plain.”
“The trouble with women?” Well since you inquire
You may be relieved to hear it’s not dire,
My answer is she does too much gazing,
If she ditched her fantasy, her reality would be amazing.
During the holiday season I re-watched the first and second seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Back in the day I was a huge Buffy fan. Actually I was a fan of any woman who could kick ass and save the world. Recently I was discussing Buffy with an acquaintance, when she complained about the lack of heroines on television today. I pointed out that Ziva David from NCIS was a powerful woman. She argued that Ziva often acts “like one of the guys,” and therefore wasn’t a good example of a modern-day shero.
Unfortunately the conversation ended soon after, so I couldn’t really explore her statement. I started wondering if our heroines need to be “girly” in order to be role models. Is being “one of the guys” some how admitting that femininity is weak? Can a heroine be extremely feminine, have mostly masculine qualities, or is she easier to relate to if she has a mixture of the two?
I look back at Buffy, who throughout the show epitomized the idea of a girly girl. Joss Whendon admits that he based the character of Buffy on the idea of the hyper-feminine girl in the horror film who ends up being killed by the monster/serial killer. He decided he wanted to turn that idea around, have the girl fight back, and even defeat the big bad.
When we meet Buffy, she’s not exactly the girl we would pick as our crime fighter(if only the title hadn’t given her away). She’s not a dominant force like Xena traipsing through Greece in a leather ensemble with a metal breast-plate, and a multitude of weapons. Nor is she Wonder Woman, transforming from unassuming girl with a day job into costumed female capable of heroic feats. No, Buffy enjoys cheer-leading, she’s stylish, she cares about breaking a nail and she’s boy crazy. To bring the point home, in the first season finale she killed the Master in her prom dress (and heels).
At the time of Buffy‘s début, it was refreshing to see someone with her characteristics fighting the forces of evil. However, there were multiple times when Buffy represented negative qualities associated with being female. Take her romantic relationships, whenever she started seeing someone new, she was willing to sacrifice her friends (to a dangerous extent) in order to have a boyfriend. In the second season after her vampire boyfriend loses his soul and goes on killing spree, she wants to restore his soul primarily so she can get her boyfriend back. This pattern is later repeated in her relationships with Riley and Spike. She’s occasionally called on it, but never really hones in on the actual problem. Buffy takes the criticism as her friends being jealous they can’t spend time with her, instead of what it really is; she makes bad choices so she can keep her “steady.” In fact it’s rare (after the 1st season)to see Buffy happy when she doesn’t have a boyfriend. I understand this makes Buffy a flawed character(and therefore accessible) but she never really learns, or grows as a person in that respect. So while it’s great that she can defend herself from a gang of vamps, her sense of self leaves a lot to be desired.
Ziva has also made bad decisions when her love life became entangled with her work. Take the fiasco with Michael, she repeatedly ignored Tony’s concern that Michael wasn’t who he appeared to be (which apparently was a rogue Mossad Officer). However, Ziva had to come to terms with her big mistake.
I suppose in some respect I can understand how my acquaintance found Ziva to be less feminine than other heroines; she is rarely openly emotional (but I don’t know many women who would want to be in the workplace), and isn’t easily shocked by DiNozzo’s pervy comments/behavior (which usually ends with her making fun of him). Granted I don’t think this makes her any less of a woman, instead it acts as a reflection how woman have evolved socially throughout the decade. Just because she and Tony bond over Maxim, doesn’t mean she can’t have “girl talk” with Abby. When it comes to her fighting ability and being able to handle dangerous situations, these characteristics do not come into play. So does it make her less of heroine because she prefers trousers over dresses? I seriously doubt it.
At the end of the day, there are still plenty of independent women being represented on television. There’s one gem I suggest you look up, Castle‘s Kate Beckett. She’s pretty much everything you could want in a shero; she’s smart, funny, observant, compassionate, capable of taking care of herself (and others), she makes mistakes, and learns from them. As for the superficial side of things…she’s one hot–stylish mofo.