Tag Archives: feminine

EG: Watership Down and Modern Values

Oh boy, where to begin. I’ll admit that when I saw the news headline saying Watership Down was going to be adapted into a tv miniseries I was not terribly optimistic. The article that I read was pretty thin, mostly just listing a few cast members and saying who was funding it.

No alarm bells went off, but, my experience with adaptations, particularly of Watership Down itself (it already boasts two) told me not to get my hopes up.

I was not prepared to find out that my favorite novel was going to be desecrated in the name of modern values.

I’m only getting around to writing this now because it has literally taken this long for me to calm down. The press release wasn’t terribly long, but the information within it was incredibly offensive to me.

Most people who read it will be disappointed to find out they are toning down the violence. I’m not too bothered by that, the movie version added a main character death and quite a lot of excess blood. “Toning down” the violence will probably actually bring it more in line with the book.

I, on the other hand, am disappointed at their need to meddle with the female cast and characters. I say cast and characters because they are giving one male character a sex change in addition to giving the females a dose of “doe power”.

Excuse me while I gag.

Sorry, I’m going to try and keep it together and have this be a logical dissection rather than a ragefest.

I’m going to tackle the decision to turn Strawberry, a male character (buck) in the novel, into a female character (doe) first. Now, I am going to assume that the reporter got the name right and they don’t actually mean Blackberry, who was turned into a doe in the previous tv series (which went far afield of the book anyway). The problems with converting that character are different and much simpler. Which only makes their decision to pick Strawberry all that more confusing. I can only assume they picked him because he is one of the characters with an “effeminate” name.

Oh, spoiler warning to anyone who hasn’t read the book. I’m going to need to discuss in depth character stuff, so I can’t avoid talking about the plot and character development.

In the book, Strawberry is a member of the Warren of the Snares, aka Cowslip’s Warren. He lives a luxurious lifestyle built entirely around accepting death in exchange for safety and good food, this leads to himself and all his compatriots acting strangely because they have to abandon the very things that make them rabbits to live this lifestyle.

Our heroes end up shattering their facade when one of the strongest in the group is nearly killed and they refuse to just let him die. They leave of their own accord only to find Strawberry (who had shown them around the warren when they arrived) is chasing blindly after them.

He catches up to them and begs to join them, revealing himself to be grief stricken over the recent death of his doe. While we know she died in one of the snares, the implication is that she died a few days prior, but he had been going along to get along to help hold up the facade. The heroes leaving broke the hold the warren had over him, rendering him unable to cope with the loss of his mate and destroying his ability to pretend all is right in the world.

In short, he suffers a devastating loss that causes him to reject the fantasy he’s been living in and attaches himself to the group, because he knows he’s too weak to strike out solo.

Choosing to turn him of all characters into a doe, as opposed to say, simply fleshing out any of the preexisting does that don’t get much screentime, is rather baffling to me. If they had to convert a character, Bluebell would have been a much more sensible choice.

I can see them handling the change in one of two ways, playing it completely straight or turning Strawberry into a sassy doe who was never playing along to begin with. The funny part is, both of those is going to draw ire from the very people they’re hoping to appease.

If they play it straight, Strawberry is changed from a broken buck who begs stronger bucks to help him learn to live in the real world, to a broken doe who can’t cope with the loss of her mate and goes running to a bunch of rogue bucks to save her from her own emotional distress. Basically, Strawberry becomes feminists’ most hated trope in the name of feminism. Also, guys, next time a woman tells you you need to be more vulnerable, think of what they did to Strawberry, the most emotionally vulnerable male character in this book.

If they play it the second way, it’s going to annoy the fans of the book because the whole reason the society in the Warren of the Snares works is because everyone plays along 100%. Their entire mindset revolves around accepting death at regular intervals in exchange for easy food and pretending that this is a preferable way to live. If Strawberry isn’t playing along, then why is she still around? Why hasn’t she left or else been forced into one of the snares? The only way that could really work is if she’s being kept under the thumb of her mate or else she just keeps it to herself. The former would destroy everything that was notable about the original character (and make Strawberry a damsel in distress), while the latter would render her a doormat. I don’t think I need to point out how feminists are going to feel about these respective possibilities. Either way she still has to be rescued by the heroes, who are all male.

Now to tackle the part that really angers me. The supposed need for Clover and Hyzenthlay to be “upgraded” and participate in “heroics”. Firstly, if you honestly think that heroic deeds are what make the characters in this book noteworthy, I have to question your reading comprehension. There are three main characters, Hazel, Bigwig, and Fiver. The only one who participates in what we typically consider heroics is Bigwig. He’s the muscle out of the trio. Part of what makes the book so interesting is the push and pull between Hazel, a non-fighter who has to take on a leadership role over rabbits stronger and smarter than he is, and Bigwig, a hugely strong rabbit with a temper and a need for direction.

Despite his lack of action scenes (he only really has one and this is later described by himself and others as a very stupid thing), no one doubts Hazel’s courage or bemoans his lack of character development. No one can deny that he rises to his challenges and grows immensely despite his lack of bloodied claws.

Yet people are saying that Hyzenthlay and Clover, who display similar courage and rise to their own challenges, need to participate in more heroics.

Let me explain why it makes me so angry that people think that. It makes me angry because what they are actually saying is that female characters that are truly strong, truly brave, and truly very important characters are worthless in their current form because they don’t have an action scene. They are saying that female characters who are strong in their femininity are worthless for the very fact that they are feminine.

They say that Clover, who decided she would rather brave the dangers of the outside world than continue living in the safety of her hutch, who copes with the loss of her mate while adjusting to a vastly different life, is weak and worthless because she isn’t a sassy action girl. Clover, who has the pride of being the first doe to bear a litter and bring life to a warren that would otherwise die off in a generation, isn’t a role model for young girls because she hasn’t abandoned what makes her female to run with the boys. Because her strength is implicit rather than explicit, they cannot comprehend the fact she is already an excellent character.

And Hyzenthlay, my beloved Hyzenthlay, who I long to be as strong as, is decreed to need a power-up in order to be an interesting character. If they could be bothered to actually read the book for comprehension, they would realize that the great escape from Efrafa would not have been possible without her. Bigwig was in completely over his head, loaded down with the strain of his task, unable to even believe that he could carry out his mission. Without Hyzenthlay’s support, he never would have been able to bear up under the weight of it all. She was his soft place to land when he was surrounded by hostility and danger, separated from his support network and facing a task that was beyond his abilities. And that doesn’t even include the work she did to gather sensible does to take part in the escape or the courage she displayed before Bigwig even arrived in Efrafa.

Her true shining moment comes later though, and this is why she will always have my deep and abiding admiration.

She has finally acquired the life she longs for. She is pregnant, she has literally built a home, she has helped establish a community filled with hope for the future. Then it happens, those she escaped from are coming to take her and the other does back, or kill them all trying.

She is one of the first to find out that the forces from her old warren are coming, yet she does her best to remain resolute. Unlike one of the bucks, she does not advocate abandoning the warren and fleeing. She listens to the other does, who whisper in fear about how the bucks will be killed and they will be forced to return to the oppressive warren they came from. She knows that death could very well be in her immediate future. She is afraid, terrified, just as they all are. And yet,

“Be quiet,” said Hyzenthlay. “The bucks aren’t talking like that and why should we? I’d rather be here, now, as we are, than never have left Efrafa.”

She would rather die in the home she built beside the bucks she has come to love than have continued living an unfulfilled life in near perfect safety. Despite the fact that everyone can tell she is afraid, her announcement helps to spur Hazel and Bigwig to search harder for a way to defeat the incoming forces. While her role on the road to victory is not as glorious as Bigwig’s, it is not unimportant. Just because she did not fight does not mean she wouldn’t have if it had come to that, but it didn’t come to that because the bucks that did fight took it up a notch so she wouldn’t have to. Her strength is the feminine strength of support and encouragement, of helping the males around her face the oncoming storm with courage.

But, instead of praising her for the great female character she is and the strength she has, they instead want to turn her into a pale imitation of Bigwig. Who, I might point out, gets bloodied beyond recognition in his battle with Woundwort. I wonder if the makers of the miniseries are prepared to have her brutalized in the same fashion? If they are not courageous enough to bring this book to the screen without making it palatable to the type of people it was meant to criticize, I highly doubt they will be courageous enough to do that. Especially since they have already stated their intention to tone down the more “brutal images”.

It is such a sad and pathetic thing. They’re so hung up on male strength that they can’t even recognize a strong female character when she bites their hand. Because she doesn’t fit their (oddly masculine centric) definition of heroics and power she is seen as weak and pitiable.

In their attempt to pander to women, they reveal what they really think about them. Not very complimentary, is it?

I won’t be watching the miniseries. I don’t want to be insulted or see one of my favorite female characters be ruined. Besides, if the makers can’t understand the book well enough to realize Hyzenthlay and Clover are already solid characters, then I don’t want to see their interpretations of the book’s meatier aspects.

And I definitely don’t want to see what they will do to Hazel.


MS: Glasses

It’s time I did a fashion post again, and what better topic for me to tackle than glasses? Being a bespectacled gal myself, I am often annoyed by the sentiment that glasses make a girl look ugly or unfeminine simply because she wears them.

The fact of the matter is that is far from true. Our perception that women with glasses are ugly ducklings who will transform as soon as they ditch the glasses is mostly created by the media. We see it in movies like the Sabrina remake or the first Princess Diaries movie. We see the male version of this in the Superman franchise. But let’s stop to think about this for a minute, what do those glasses all have in common? Big, thick, dark rims and giant, face-distorting lenses. It’s not the glasses, it is the style of glasses.

Different styles of glasses communicate different things, which again, we mostly get from media. The media gets it from various unconscious associations between shapes and dispositions.

First, my cardinal rule about glasses: Glasses should not distort, disguise, or distract, but should enhance your face.

Second, if you are hoping I will justify women wearing hipster glasses, leave now because I will disappoint you.

With that, we shall now talk about rims.

Particular rims styles carry some specific associations. Obviously ones that were popular in certain times periods will evoke that time period.


Only wear these to theme parties. Source: Grease

But what do thick rims, the ones typically shown in these movies evoke? These women are shown as nerdy, unfeminine, clumsy, childish, and potentially as workaholics. Why? Well, think about it, these days the main reason a woman has thick rims on her glasses is because she might break them or is not aware of what looks good on her face. Thick rims disguise and distract from a woman’s face. Especially if they are a bright, garish color. Thick rims add too much weight to the face and can interfere with expressiveness. Note how in the picture above, the girl wearing glasses looks angrier than she is probably meant to, because the rims block her eyebrows and replace them. Thick rims add a lot of harshness to the face, you can’t not notice them. They distract from the wearer’s actual features by painting big windowsills around the person’s eyes, dividing them from the rest of the face. The thicker and more attention grabbing your rims are, the less people will remember your actual face.

Thicker rims can create a sense of childlike curiosity, but this only really works if the lenses also make the wearer’s eyes look larger. However, with that childlike look will come the inevitable assumption that the wearer is clumsy. This is because thick rims help keep glasses from getting broken, which a child is more likely to accidentally do.

Thinner rims are far more suited to the female face, because they contribute a daintier feel and don’t interfere so much with expressions. They direct an onlooker towards the wearer’s eyes without boxing the eyes in. Thinner rims act more like eyeliner, especially when paired with the right color and lens shape,

Lens shape is another important aspect to consider when one selects a pair of glasses.

At one end of the spectrum we have round glasses.


John Lennon in his famous hippie glasses.

Round glasses are closely associated with John Lennon and Harry Potter fans, or Modern architects if they have really thick rims. The circular shape is strongly associated with hippies and pseudo-intellectuals (Ones that are especially large are associated with hapless maids). They will make you seem easygoing and self important all at once. They will also draw attention to (but not exaggerate) any bags you have under your eyes, and may suggest you got them from smoking too much of something. Those with rounder faces may want to avoid them, since they will reinforce the roundness of one’s features. All that said, rounder glasses do add a gentler, more well meaning look, being more feminine of a shape overall.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have square glasses. Okay, rectangular, I don’t think legitimately square glasses have ever been worn by anyone.

Carl from Pixar's Up.

Carl from Pixar’s Up.

Undeniably masculine and very harsh, unless paired with very thin rims or no rims at all, rectangular glasses will not look good on a feminine face. If the wearer has no squareish features, the glasses will clash and stand out too much. If the wearer does have squarish features, such as Carl up there, they will reinforce them, making the wearer look more masculine. Rectangular glasses are usually associated with stricter, more authoritarian intellectuals. They add an air of humorlessness and exactness. This shape is not for the fainthearted, a permanent, cheerful smile is needed to offset the shape.

In the middle is the much easier to wear, squarish oval.

The most common glasses shape.

The one of most common glasses shapes.

This shape looks good on most faces, and manages to cultivate the best aspects of rectangular glasses without so much of the stigma. It still evokes the intelligence and a certain measure of the strictness, but leaves behind the majority of the humorlessness. However, a good smile will still be needed to accompany these, because they still do evoke the slightest hint of annoyance. In anime these are often worn by the studious sidekick of an ever so slightly annoying hero. The annoyance normally coming from the hero not listening to their intelligent suggestions. These glasses will enhance the eyes better than rectangular glasses, being closer to the actual eye shape. They add a little respectability and sophistication to the face and are good for women who look a bit younger than they are.

Towards the more circular side, we have the highly wearable and feminine oval.

An extremely common glasses shape, and for good reason.

An extremely common glasses shape, and for good reason.

A much kinder and gentler shape, these are my personal suggestion for most women (the shape, not the brand). Oval glasses are highly successful due to the fact that they closely mimic the shape of the eye and the eye socket. It makes the glasses seem extremely natural on the face. They add the intelligent look that glasses generally have, and add a friendliness due to the bottom half of the rim being shaped similarly to a smile. The top half of the rims imitate the curve of the resting eyebrow, bringing in that easy-going aspect of the round glasses. Overall they are cheerful and feminine, keep the rims thin and you probably have a winner.

There are also aviator glasses, but unless you have bifocals or trifocals and therefore need them, I would not suggest them. All they do is exaggerate the bags under your eyes and make you look old.

Determining what size your glasses should be is easy. Keep them close to the size of your eye socket and try to avoid having them extend too far beyond the edges of your face.

Color is more difficult and highly subjective. A more neutral, metallic color tends to be the best bet. However, if you wear a particular accent color a lot I would suggest trying to match that.

Chiriko from Anohana. Source: Meganekko Daily.

Tsurumi Chiriko from Anohana.
Source: Meganekko Daily.

This character’s red glasses work because they go with her tie and shoes, otherwise they would be a bit too bright. Bright colors can suggest an outgoing and vivacious personality, or can make it seem like you are trying too hard. Neutral colors are more reserved and serious. Colors of course have their own symbolism, which you need to pay at least a little attention to. Primarily you should consider whether the the color looks good on you personally.

That is my guide for selecting glasses that will look good. If anyone has suggestions I’d be glad to hear them, and if you have questions I’ll be glad to answer them.

Not all men like a woman with glasses, but if anime has taught me anything, it is that there is a subset of men who like glasses very much.

Hasebe from Servant x Service.

Hasebe from Servant x Service.

EG: Watership Down, an Anti-feminist Novel

I first read Watership Down by Richard Adams as a sixth grader, the book was a gift from a houseguest. I loved it immediately and since then it has been my favorite book. Once, several years later I looked up the Wikipedia page (and the Sparknotes, which notably has errors) and found that there was an accusation that the book was anti-feminist in nature. Being young and not knowing what feminism was really about, I became incensed. That was ridiculous, the does (female rabbits) are valuable characters and the only human girl is intelligent and kind. There was nothing inherently anti-woman about it. The article referenced a segment where the author explained that the bucks (male rabbits) did not see the females of their kind in the same light as human men see human women, that they had no real understanding or use for romance and could view the does as breeding stock. Not that this keeps them from being very devoted to their mate of choice, including grieving their deaths. So basically the author sets it up that their relationships are more straight forward with less froofy, stupid romance.

However, now that I know more about feminism and having read the novel at least a dozen times, I can see it is in fact anti-feminist. Not because of that passage though. It’s because it embraces the idea of gender roles and that women are happier when fulfilling their traditional roles of homemaker and mother. Let’s take a look at a few passages.

“Long ago
The yellowhammer sang, high on the thorn.
He sang near a litter that the doe brought out to play,
He sang in the wind and the kittens played below.
Their time slipped by all under the elder bloom.
But the bird flew away and now my heart is dark
And time will never play in the fields again.

Long ago
The orange beetles clung to the rye-grass stems
The windy grass was waving. A buck and doe
Ran through the meadow. They scratched a hole in the bank,
They did what they pleased all under the hazel leaves.
But the beetles died in the frost and my heart is dark;
And I shall never choose a mate again.

The frost is falling, the frost falls into my body.
My nostrils, my ears are torpid under the frost.
The swift will come in the spring, crying “News! News!
Does, dig holes and flow with milk for your litters.”
I shall not hear. The embryos return
Into my dulled body. Across my sleep
There runs a wire to imprison the wind.
I shall never feel the wind blowing again.” (Adams, pg 321-322)

This is a poem spoken by one of the does, Hyzenthlay, who is an intelligent doe who recognizes the issues of the totalitarian, overcrowded warren she is in. But let’s ignore the narrative for a moment and look at the poem as it applies to life in the modern Anglosphere.

The first stanza conjures the image of a mother with her children playing outside. Not something anyone sees much anymore. These days it is unusual to see children playing outside at all. Why is that? Well, first there is an obsession with helicopter parenting, so parents aren’t about to let their children do anything without supervision. Add to this the fact that both parents tend to be at work and you have a bunch of kids who are trapped in school and daycare because their parents aren’t home to supervise them. Mothers are not home to raise their own children, they are not there to read to, play with, and love on their children. This leads to a certain amount of frustration. You don’t have to look far to find polls that show that mothers would rather work less and care for their children more.

The second stanza conjures the image of a happy couple that is beginning their life together, doing as they please, but also approaching the relationship in a dedicated manner. It’s certainly still possible to do that, but at the same time it is unusual. You don’t have to be an expert on relationships to know that the divorce rate is high and the never married group is growing quickly. More and more children are being born out of wedlock because their mothers are simply choosing not to get married, citing “no good men” as their reasoning. Women who want to marry get cautioned by their parents and peers that they need a career “just in case he leaves”. Essentially no one operates under the assumption that marriages will last…or should. After all, people have divorce parties these days.

The final stanza can be looked at from a two perspectives. It could speak the truth about the damage done to women who choose to have abortions. It could also speak to those trapped in the late marriage and abstinence conundrum. These are the two options that most women face these days. While the former is more feminist than the latter, they both have the mark of feminism on them. Both are damaging to a woman’s psyche, in quite similar ways. Delaying or outright destroying children is unnatural, and if a woman makes the mistake of delaying too long only to find herself permanently childless, the heartache is incredible. I’ve seen it in women I know, that grief and the attempt to accept that they will never have a child of their own. It’s bad enough to watch. I can’t imagine what it is like to experience. One way or the other, the final stanza speaks to the truth that most women long for children of their own, that being a mother is what her heart cries out for.

Let’s look at another passage.

“Biwig realized that he had stumbled, quite unexpectedly, upon what he needed most of all: a strong sensible friend who would think on her own account and help bear his burden.” (Adams, pg 330)

The “her” being spoken of here is Hyzenthlay again. Bigwig has been given a seemingly impossible task of liberating some does, until he decides to approach the task by bringing a doe in to help him with the plan. In this small phrase we see the incredible importance of the wife in a man’s life. She gives him a place to come and rest, a confidant who will listen to him and help him. She gives him a concrete reason to do what he is doing and when he calms her fears, he calms his own. This single sentence embraces the idea that a man and a woman can do more together than apart.

Another small, subtle piece:

“”But you’re Efrafan. Do you think like that, too?”

“I’m a doe,” said Hyzenthlay.” (Adams, pg 390)

Men and women are different. They think differently, they act differently, they need different things. All summed up in one matter of fact statement from Hyzenthlay. I’m starting to think I should do a write up on Hyzenthlay as a feminine role model.

One final, longer passage:

“The warren was thriving at last and Hazel could sit basking on the bank and count their blessings. Above and under ground, the rabbits fell naturally into a quiet, undisturbed rhythm of feeding, digging and sleeping. Several fresh runs and burrows were made. The does, who had never dug in their lives before, enjoyed the work. Both Hyzenthlay and Thethuthinnang told Hazel that they had no idea how much of their frustration and unhappiness in Efrafa had been due simply to not being allowed to dig. Even Clover and Haystack found that they could manage pretty well and boasted that they would bear the warren’s first litters in burrows that they had dug themselves… The contentment of the does spread to everyone else,” (Adams, pg 395-396)

Before analyzing I will quickly note that earlier in the book it is established that does are the ones that dig the tunnels of warrens and bucks don’t much care for the task. Not that this needs much analysis, it’s written rather plainly as it is. The warren thrives because the bucks and does are living in interdependency as they were meant to. The does are happy because they can carry out their natural roles. Homemaking and being mothers are marks of pride. The scene painted here is the very thing that feminists have selfishly set out to destroy. So yes, Watership Down is in fact, an anti-feminist novel and I’m proud to call it my favorite.

All quotes are taken from the 2001 Perennial Classics edition of the book.

MS: Notes on Nylons

Since writing my initial post on hosiery I realize that I’ve left out some more specific details about nylons that may be helpful to others.  I come across a lot of product reviews of nylons that indicate that most younger women could use a few tips in their actual use and care.

Tip #1: Consider them to be disposable. There’s a reason that you can buy nylons in basic colors at chain grocery stores. I’ve heard that at best you can expect about 6 months worth of total wear out of any pair of nylons. So when you pay more for a nice pair, understand that you’re paying for a fancy color or design and the higher price won’t guarantee better quality overall.

Tip #2: If you’re going to wash them, there are two things you can do before washing them the first time that may strengthen the fibers. I’ve never done either of these things, so I can’t vouch for whether they work. One suggestion is to soak them in warm salt water, the other is to put them in the freezer. I hear the salt water one more often, so I’d give that one a try.

Tip #3: Actually hand wash them and hang them to dry, don’t put them in the washer or dryer. Just a few drops of detergent or shampoo should do the trick. Some people suggest using conditioner as well. Using fabric softener or vinegar can help preserve the flexibility of the fibers.

Tip #4: Make sure your nails and fingers are free of stuff that will snag your nylons as you put them on. Hangnails, overly rough skin, sharp corners on your nails, chipped nail polish, etc. Put on gloves if necessary to avoid snagging.

Tip #5: Shave your legs before putting them on. It makes them a lot more comfortable.

How to put them on:

Step 1: Sit down. You don’t want to be hopping around on one leg trying to put these on.

Step 2: Take the first leg and gather it up, your thumbs inside the leg and your fingers on the outside. You want to be able to put your toes straight in without wiggling through the leg.

Step 3: Put your toes in while holding your leg close to your body. Slowly move your leg outward, releasing the nylon as you go until you pull it up over your knee. Then stop.

Step 4: Repeat step 2 and 3 with the other leg.

Step 5: Stand up. If they are thigh highs, adjust them to the height you want. If they are full pantyhose, gently pull them the rest of the way up, gently pinching the fabric between your thumb and side of your pointer finger. Never pull with your nails and never pull sharply.

What to do about runs:

Dab both ends of the run with clear nail polish. (This is the standard advice).

Spray the run with hairspray, let dry, repeat. Some  suggest spraying the nylons down with hairspray after putting them on in general.

Dab with anything sticky that will dry clear.

I have no personal experience with any of these on account of never having gotten runs in any of my nylons. So let me know how these work if you try them.

That’s about as much advice as I can give on nylons at this point. Here’s a relevant song to finish off the post:

Sources: http://www.thesimplehomemaker.com/3-tips-on-how-to-stop-a-run-in-nylon-stockings


MS: A Woman’s Hands

Not that long ago, a woman I know suddenly commented on how small my hands and fingers are. She told me that every time I spoke she was mesmerized by their delicacy. She then commented on her own hands and how she had “Farmer’s hands” with large knuckles and rough edges. Of course, I know my hands well and am very aware of how worn my skin is and how strong my grip is. My hands are only delicate in appearance.

A  recent visit to a jeweler to look for wedding bands, naturally brought up the topic of my tiny fingers a second (and third) time. The jeweler’s wife saw my hands and knew in an instant that they wouldn’t have any rings that fit me. I told her that the size for my ring finger was a 3.25 to which she (playfully) responded with “That’s disgusting”. After that she showed me a ring that she personally liked, but knew did not fit her. Because as an older woman, her knuckles had gotten wide and she no longer had any hope of wearing the lovely piece. I was touched by her kindness in showing me a personal favorite of hers. After the jeweler resized it to a 3.5 and we found it was still too large, he commented that such small fingers were highly unusual. They gave me the piece he had to remove, so that when my fingers do finally widen I can get it resized larger.

All this reminded me of a quote in a book I read as a child about a female character I deeply admire.

“She made and kept a little heaven in that poor cottage on the high hillside – for her husband and son to home to out of the low and rather dreary earth in which they worked…True, her hands were hard and chapped and large, but it was with work for them; and therefore, in the sight of angels, her hands were so much more beautiful.”

The book is the Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. The character in question is Joan Peterson, she doesn’t appear much in this book, playing only a small part. However, the quote struck me and made me remember her many years later. So, what I would say to any woman whose hands are no longer soft and delicate. If your hands are large, achy, and maybe even a little rough due to many years of work serving your family, then you have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of. Caring for your family is a worthy, beautiful thing. More beautiful than delicate hands.


P.S. This young lady would appreciate it if those who know how to cook better than she does would send her your chili recipes! NSR really, really misses his chili and I need to rectify that. Please send them to Sillymagoosa@gmail.com

MS: A Tip for Quiet Girls

I want to caution anyone reading this advice that I never got asked out using this trick, but I got a lot of fun conversations using this. I call it either “the Surprise” or more endearingly but somewhat less accurately, “the Quirk”.  I’m not sure how useful this will be, but I got to thinking about it because of this post by Donal and this post on Girls Being Girls.

The basic premise of the Surprise is that it is something that allows another person to easily strike up a conversation with you. I call it the Surprise because it helps if it is just a little unusual and makes the other person curious. I discovered this before I was dating age and basically rediscovered it in college.

There are three varieties of the Surprise that I’ve discovered. The Accessory, the Item, and the Behavior. For examples I’ll tell you my story about each one of these.

The Accessory:

This is the one that I discovered very early on and completely by accident. As a child I was obsessed with dragons, so one Christmas, R (my father figure) got me a rather large, wooden dragon pendant. I wore it every chance I got, even if I had to wear it in a way that nearly strangled me. I was quite small (I’m still quite small) and the pendant was rather large, so naturally it got noticed by people. The most distinct memory I have about it opening a conversation was when my mother and I were at a restaurant waiting to pick up an order. A very tattooed man who was also waiting simply had to talk to me about my beautiful pendant and relate it to the huge dragon tattoo that he was slowly getting. I didn’t say much, being a shy child, but the door was still opened and I met someone I never would have spoken to. This wasn’t flirting (at least I hope it wasn’t), but in another situation this same pendant could have given an interested young man a legitimate opener that was related specifically to me. So he doesn’t have to open with something generic and potentially annoying.

Admittedly the Accessory works best if a) it was a gift or b) it has some sort of special meaning to you, that way you can keep the conversation going once the person opens and you don’t seem vain.

The Item:

I live in a part of the country where, if you were born there, you’re not supposed to use an umbrella. An umbrella is the mark of a tourist. However, as an artist and a student I had stuff I needed to keep dry and my trenchcoat wasn’t going to keep my bag dry. So I bought an umbrella. An umbrella with a sword handle. So, not only do I not get called a tourist, I get a lot of comments on how awesome my umbrella is. The added bonus is that when I think it will rain later and I want to carry it, I’d stuff the umbrella in my bag and leave the handle sticking out. This meant I got a lot of people asking me if I was really carrying a sword. One guy even said, “Please tell me that’s real!”. It works nicely in combination with my feminine outfits, because it’s unexpected.

Works best if it is something you actually need and therefore don’t have to make excuses to use it. Also don’t make a big show of using it, for you it should be totally normal, it’s other people who are supposed to be pleasantly surprised and intrigued.

The Behavior:

That’s a very ambiguous name, but I couldn’t come up with a better term. I used to read in between classes and did whenever I had to wait outside classrooms. However, whenever I got to wait between classes and had a flat surface in front of me I would do origami instead. I stopped reading between classes because unless I was reading a short story I couldn’t make much progress and I was frequently interrupted by others. Mostly asking me the aggravating question of “What are you reading?”, which annoyed me quite a lot because they ought to be able to read the title off the cover, but I digress. Also, I wanted to fold the origami anyway for other reasons. So that’s what I started doing. Naturally, this is somewhat unusual (okay, very), so it garnered a lot of questions from people. Why was I doing it? Did it take me long to learn? Was I trying to fold x number of them? Will you teach me? etc. I even learned the party trick of folding my origami of choice with one hand. It also came in handy on occasion. The point here of course is that it got people to notice and talk to me, without having to be loud, brash, or anything other than what I am.

This one is probably the hardest to apply, because it needs to be something that you want to do, would do anyway, and isn’t annoying or expensive.

There are things that apply to all three of these categories. The most important being that the Surprise has to relate to you, it has to tell other people something about you, something real. Don’t go out and learn to fold origami because that’s what I do, go out and learn what you want to learn. If that’s origami, fine, just make sure it’s what you want to do. Don’t go out and buy a big gaudy piece of jewelry to get attention. Think long and hard about your interests and try and figure out what other people always find interesting or surprising about you. Figure out how to show that to other people without saying a word. Make others curious about you. Is it a sure fire way to get men to ask you out? No. It just gets people to talk to you, which opens the door for friendships and romantic relationships. It just another thing that can make you easier to approach.

And don’t forget to smile. That’s the best way to pleasantly surprise someone.

MS: Slips

I’m not sure precisely when I discovered the usefulness of slips, but luckily for me it happened before I started trying to wear skirts and dresses full time. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a few episodes when I wore tights and a full length skirt and was rewarded with being hobbled by said skirt. Being resourceful and pragmatic like I am, I sought some advice and found out about slips.

Now, I’m not lucky enough to own a full slip, so I’ll just direct you over to a wonderful post by BB and carry on telling you about what I do know, half slips and pettipants.

Like last time, some quick picture reference:

Half slip: Basically an underskirt, generally made from an antistatic material. Comes in many lengths, may have lace trim or a slit. Normally comes in white, beige, and black.

Illusion’s Classic 32″ Half-slip

Pettipants: Also called Culottes or Bloomers. Serves the same function as a half slip, but is split down the middle. Normally comes in two lengths, knee length or mid-thigh.

Illusion’s Classic Soft Cotton Pettipants

All forms of slips serve many functions. They keep you modest in sheer dresses by hiding your precise form and by keeping underwear from showing.  They help prevent static cling and snagging on other fabrics. It gives you an extra layer of warmth in winter. It gives you something other than just your underwear to stand in if you should need to hastily wash a stain out of your dress or skirt in a public bathroom.  Also for you married ladies they can count as lingerie.

Truth be told there isn’t a lot more to say about these than that. They go over your tights or underwear and under your skirt. Nothing more complicated than that.  Go grab a couple at a second hand shop or shell out a little more for some new ones. They’re not as common anymore and some dresses and skirts have them built in, but they’re nice to have. Especially when that built in slip isn’t doing it’s job.

I’d also talk about petticoats in this post, but presently I know nothing about those. Maybe someday.