28 July 2011

Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

I don't think you could ask for a more thought-provoking book than Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I had heard an interview with Peggy Orenstein (the author) on the Diane Rehm show back in January, so it had been on my to-read list for a while. Technically, it was Eric who heard the interview and alerted me to it. He was so interested in the topic that I went and listened to the interview from the website. Since then we'd talked often about the book and the interview with other people, despite the fact that neither of us had read the book. When I saw it at the library on display, I snatched it up.

The premise is that the author found her pre-school aged daughter totally obsessed with princesses, and she began to investigate the princess phenomenon. As she did so she learned a lot about the what this girlie-girl trend is doing and promoting. With that said, she doesn't go on a rampage against all things girlie, nor does she necessarily despise all the Dinsey princesses. She is not a militaristic feminist. However, she does worry that the princess craze, and its inherent emphasis on beauty, can have a long-term negative impact on our girls.

She writes at length about the Disney girl-stars turned wild (Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and particularly Miley Cyrus). What is it that turned these girls from fairly innocuous icons for girls aged 6-10 into sex icons? Why did they appeal to their sexuality in order to distinguish their careers as no longer targeted only at little girls?

Along with that, she talks about the idea that "kids are getting older younger." That is, toys that used to be targeted at 8-12 year-olds are now targeted at 3-4 year olds (Barbie, for example). The problem, of course, is that the toys the older girls want when they are too cool for Barbies tend to be fairly sleazy and rather inappropriate for their age (Bratz dolls, and Miley Cyrus, for examples).

Her discussion on self-image was also really fascinating, and I could never do it justice. You'll just have to read it yourself.

In talking about how hard it is to find books with good messages and good female characters she finds that many pro-girl books are anti-boy. Ultimately the protagonist girls decide they didn't want a boy at all; they're better off alone. She writes:

To me, that is Thelma & Louise all over again. Step out of line, and you end up solo or, worse, sailing crazily over a cliff to your doom. I may want my girl to do and be whatever she dreams of as an adult, but I also hope she will find her Prince (or Princess) Charming and make me a grandma. I do not want her to be a fish without a bicycle; I want her to be a fish with another fish. Preferably, a fish who loves and respects her and also does the dishes, his share of the laundry, and half the child care. Yet the typical "feminist alternative" to the marry-the prince ending either protrays men as simpletons or implies that the roles traditionally ascribed to women are worthless. (p. 101)
What I really loved about this book was how she talked about having chats with her own daughter about why certain toys, books and movies were not things she would buy. Of course there were plenty of items in which she just took a hard line and said "no." There were some things that she bought figuring that her daughter would eventually grow out of that phase. But mostly, she did her best to ask questions about certain characters, themes and messages. After taking her daughter to see The Princess and the Frog her daughter had questions about Lotte, the white "princess" in the film. Orenstein describes:

[. . .] but Daisy's mix-up gave me the opening I needed to talk with her ("with" being the operative word) about the way the film had presented girls and women, to solicit her own ideas about it. That, in the end, is the best weapon we parents have, short of enrolling our daughters in one of those schools where kids knit all day [. . .]. We have only so much control over the images and products to which they are exposed, and even that will diminish over time. It is strategic, then - absolutely vital - to think through our own values and limits early, to consider what we approve or disapprove of and why. (p. 182)
I loved that. We can't force our values on our kids, but we can show them what matters to us and why. And force doesn't do a lot of good anyway - they eventually will have to decide for themselves what they value, and hopefully it will be the right things.

Peggy Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011).

26 July 2011

On Comparing

Why do we (women particularly) compare ourselves to others? I do not have the answer to that, but I've been wondering about it for quite some time.

As we prepared to move to our new house I found myself in a fairly frequent state of worry, particularly about how I would fit in with my new ward and new neighborhood. We moved to an area that is filled with people very similar to us. There are tons of young families and young couples. This resulted in me having a bit of social anxiety as I thought about the prospect of being surrounded by women who were better than me. After a few days of this I realized I just needed to knock it off.

Since then I have really come into a comfortable phase. I'm not the most beautiful person. I'm not a fantastic writer. I'm not particularly fashionable. I'm not the most generous person. I'm not a great decorator. I'm not especially gregarious. I'm not a dynamic public speaker or teacher. I'm not into yoga or pilates or dance or running or Zumba. I'm not very good at baking. I'm not Molly Mormon.

And that's okay.

And it's okay that I'm better at some things than other people. It doesn't make me better than them - it just makes me better at that particular thing.

As I've thought about all this, I've really tried to decide when, if ever, it is okay to compare myself to others. Ultimately, this is my conclusion: If you compare yourself and you feel either inferior or superior, then stop. If you compare yourself and feel inspired, go for it.

Feelings of guilt, in my opinion, have a very short amount of time in which they are productive. Once that time is passed they are only good at creating more negative feelings. Guilt is not in itself a terrible thing. When we've done something wrong (particularly if we've wronged others), we should feel guilt. However, if that guilt doesn't lead us to improve the situation (making restitution with the one we've wronged or changing our actions so that the action which caused the guilt do not return), then the guilt is only harmful.

I'm not saying that we should be complacent in our lives. We shouldn't. It's important to set goals, to achieve and accomplish things, and most importantly to improve our characters. But berating ourselves for not measuring up to some arbitrary standard or belittling ourselves because we aren't the best at everything doesn't actually make us better.

25 July 2011

Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I have not enjoyed a book so much since Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I read in February 2010. This one just had me smirking, smiling and reading passages aloud to Eric nearly the whole way through.

You've probably seen the movie, so I don't feel the need to elaborate too much on the plot. By its own description, it is a "tale of love and high adventure." It's also incredibly clever and witty.

Having seen the movie many times I anticipated that I would consider the book to be superior. It almost always happens that way; you rarely hear the phrase, "Oh, the movie was so much better." In this case, I don't know that I prefer one over the other. The adaptation to film was perfect. The scenes that were altered from the book's original story were done in a manner that was better suited to film. Yet they still stayed quite close to the original book.

There were numerous portions of the book that were basically put straight into the movie, particularly with the dialogue, and I loved those portions because I could really hear the voices and accents and intonations in my head.

I also love that the book provides great background on all the protagonists - Buttercup, Westley, Inigo and Fezzik. I particularly loved learning more about Inigo and Fezzik, who are easily my favorite characters.

My favorite part, though, is the fact that the book (though the image I found for the cover doesn't show it) is generally subtitled: Based on the Classic by S. Morgenstern. Goldman acts as though he's adapting a work written by another, when in fact the whole book is entirely his. (Morgenstern is a pseudonym.) Because of this the book is full of his own italicized comments and personal stories, and they are as funny as can be.

22 July 2011

The First Ever L. Family Rubber Duck Race

This is my father-in-law. He is a super fun guy. He works at BYU and on a walk one day noticed some BYU students having a rubber duck race in the stream that runs along the southwest hill of BYU campus. He decided this was something the L. family needed to do. So he and Eric spent a lot of time planning the purchasing of ducks. There were monster ducks, professional ducks (a doctor, a pilot, etc.), international ducks (Japanese, Scottish, German and Spanish), fairy tale ducks, animal ducks (horse, tiger, etc.), military ducks, and a few other sets of ducks. All in all they ordered 36 rubber ducks from some website.

We drew names as a family, putting the kids' names in one cup and the adults' names in another, to see who would pick first. (To be fair, we let the two two-year-olds have first dibs in order to decrease the chance of complete melt-downs if they didn't get the ducks they wanted.) Each kid picked a duck, then each adult picked a duck. Then we did it again. We then headed up to BYU to start the races.

We originally planned on doing one long race, but we decided early on that several short races would be better, and it was. Although the ducks started in a nice little clump, they very quickly strung themselves out. The ones at the back had no chance of winning. By doing several shorter races we were able to allow several people to win.

As you can see, the ducks really spread out along the way. Some ducks were consistently decent (Ike's fireman duck did well pretty much every race), and some ducks consistently got bogged down and stuck (most notably, Grandpa's grandpa-themed duck).

While we walked along, the kids cheered for their ducks, and we did our best to keep the ducks from getting stuck in jetties, waterfalls and small whirlpools. Some of the kids were more enthusiastic than the others. One of my nieces named her duck by her very own name and was repeatedly heard shouting, "Come on S--! You can do it S--!" Other kids did not understand that "stuck" meant your duck could not possibly ever in a million years get out of their spot. They thought "stuck" was when your duck slowed down and was being passed by other ducks. Nonetheless, nobody was so competitive as to ruin the day with sticking to the rules so specifically.

The stream is the perfect speed for a nice stroll. Nobody had to run to keep up with their ducks or to catch a duck that had taken off too abruptly. Much of the walk is shaded, which was nice, although some of it is in the sun. I think next time we ought to do the race either in the morning or the evening because it was fairly hot, and everyone was quite thirsty by the end.

All in all, it was a very fun event - for everyone, except maybe the two babies who didn't care at all.

06 July 2011

Seven Months

I actually feel like Ike's development from the six-month mark to this one has not been as significant as other month-to-month changes I've seen. He is still a delightfully happy baby. At a wedding reception the other night one of Eric's aunts said she had never seen him cry. (I told her to just wait until the family reunion coming up.) He loves to stare at people and makes for some great entertainment for the folks behind us at church.

He is crazy about his exersaucer, which until his lay-off I'd kept at work. Now he plays in it at home, and his love for that thing hasn't waned in the least bit.

He sits up a bit on his own now, and that's nice. He usually will only sit up if I set him up; he's not remotely interested in getting to the sitting position on his own. He's perfectly content to roll around on the floor playing what whatever he can find.

Since taking him to the sitter's twice a week he has really started to babble - I think watching the sitter's kid encouraged him to do that.

When Eric gets home from work, Ike just kicks and wiggles with all sorts of excitement. Of course, he does the same thing when he sees the light in the stairwell, so who's to say that Ike really likes his dad all that much? (He does.)

He is a great little sleeper and a great nurser. He still likes to eat solid foods well enough but sometimes he insists on nursing instead. Since that is faster, cleaner and less work for me I pretty much always let him nurse when he rejects the solids. Since I started feeding him solids he really understands now when everyone around him is eating, and he always wants to take part. Pretty much any time I feed him he makes a sour face initially and then opens his mouth asking for more. It's adorable.

I thought he would be crawling by this point based on how much rolling and moving about he does on the floor. A month ago he acted like he was going to crawl at any second, but he didn't make a lot of progress in that front this month. I'm perfectly fine with that. Crawling babies are much more destructive than rolling ones.

05 July 2011

Bad Witness

Last week, this happened:That's not our car, but that is our driveway. The car is our neighbor's, and the fire started spontaneously. Somehow as the fire started the car began rolling slowly forward and continued until the front tire exploded. Nobody was injured, but the car was totaled (obviously). We only knew about the fire because the boom from the tire explosion was so loud Eric had me pause the movie we were watching to find out what was going on. Then he shouted at me to get the camera.

But this post isn't really about the car on fire. It's about what a terrible witness I would be. Here's the thing, as we went outside, we saw many other neighbors gathering on the sidewalk to watch the spectacle. At that point, we didn't know whose car it was. Since it was right next to our house, people assumed it was ours, but we told them it wasn't. People then asked if it belonged to the Cook* family who live immediately to the north of us. I told people that I didn't think it was theirs. In fact I said, "Well, the Cooks have a similar car, but theirs is a two-door, and that one's a four-door, so I don't know whose that is."

You're thinking, "Hey, Sherry, don't sweat it. The Cooks park their car in the garage every day, and you spend most your time in your house anyway. You aren't expected to know the make and model of all your neighbors' cars." Only, the thing is, the Cooks DON'T park that car in the garage every day. They park it in the street along the curb. I work from home three days a week. The office faces the street. Therefore, I had stared at the car countless times while spending time in the office. And I still didn't recognize it as the neighbor's car when it was on fire.

And that is why I would make a terrible eye-witness.

*Name has been changed.