Weekend reading a la me.
Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, read this: My year as an abortion doula. (NYMag.com)
“Let’s face it, fashion bloggers were never out to make fashion critics obsolete, and the fact that fashion writers seemed to think so betrayed a lack of perception and surfeit of self-importance on their part. The true incarnation of the fashion blogger was a post-modern revision of the socialite." Danielle Meder on the end of the fashion blog. (Final Fashion)
For Playboy, feminism is just part of being a gentleman. (Think Progress)
"The #allwhitecast is our workplace. The #allwhitecast is the Central line to Tottenham Court. The #allwhitecast is the queue for the Sainsburys self-checkout. Sly in its ubiquity, we almost don’t see it coming. Until we do." (Interrupt)
"Honestly? I find her the most fascinating, most interesting person, ever.” Monica Tan meets with Kim Kardashian fans at a mall appearance in Sydney. (The Guardian)
#Realtalk. What I learned from my first year as a lesbian. (Oh, Sarah-Rose.)
"Just the idea that this person would look at me and my interests and say, ‘You know what? In this hypothetical world, maybe we could have sex.’—that was really liberating. That was really, really intensely, powerfully liberating." I find most trend pieces about Tinder boring and overstated. But this one is excellent. (Playboy)
“Ultimately the men who are yelling at us about our asses in the street are not the men reading impassioned essays on Salon or Buzzfeed or Cosmo about how wrong it is.” Chelsea Fagan on the uncomfortable privilege of being catcalled. (Chelsea Fagan’s blog)
But that’s the wonderful thing about foreign travel, suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most basic sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross the street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.
I have spent a significant amount time getting rid of clothes these last few weeks, and a small amount of time acquiring them. In my mind, when I imagine my wardrobe and the place it should occupy in my life, I now think largely in terms of proportions. I want a certain amount of this, a certain amount of that, and no waste. When I looked over the amount of money I’d spent on clothes over the past few months — clothes I barely wear! clothes that don’t even really fit me or look good! — I felt immensely disappointed in myself. And when I went through my closet and dresser with a cold, meticulous eye, I realized that I could count on my hands (and some of my toes) all of the everyday items that were truly worth keeping. I knew that if I wanted to embrace the #NeutralLife (as demonstrated in these pictures), and to have the kind of clean, refined wardrobe that would make me feel like that better version of myself, I would need to be severe in my actions.
I wrote here recently about the very select things I have recently purchased in an effort to have a closet full of versatile, neutral, wearable outfits. And since then, I have made exactly one more sartorial purchase. (I spent four hours around Union Square looking for the perfect pair of black jeans at a good price, and found an amazing pair at Burlington Coat Factory for a cool 19.99 — a perfect lesson in taking your time and not settling on the first thing you see, particularly when you set out with one specific item in mind.) But more important than the things I’m adding are the things I’m taking away. My interest in doing this closet overhaul — aside from finally giving me the kind of wardrobe that makes me feel like an Adult Woman whose personality shines through more than her awkward, overly feminine outfits — was simplifying my life. I want to make few purchases, and have them count. I want to always know what I have in my wardrobe, and therefore be able to plan efficiently. I want to wait for sales, and make the most of them. And to do that, one must eliminate excess and waste.
There are two major difficulties with getting rid of most of your clothes. One, it’s natural, when we’ve invested in something financially, to operate under the delusion that one day we will make use of them — even if we’ve never really used them before. We will keep things in the backs of our closets for years on end, even if they don’t fit or have never flattered us, simply because we don’t want to admit defeat. And taking that large chunk of your wardrobe, the things that you will never wear and honestly never should have purchased, is a bit of a blow to the ego. It feels sad, and you can’t help but think of all the money down the drain. And two, we get irrationally attached to things that don’t really mean that much to us, clothing-wise, because we might appreciate them aesthetically. But something being pretty is quite different from something being pretty on us, and having nostalgia for an old shirt that never looked good on you is ridiculous. There is someone else out there for whom that objectively lovely, but personally unflattering, shirt will be a perfect fit. And for these two categories of clothes, I highly recommend taking them to a consignment/thrift/vintage store and getting some money or credit for them. (If you have the patience, eBay is also an option, but that is time-consuming and depends on the niceness of the clothes in question.) But if you’re really ready to give up all the stuff you’re not going to wear, there should be a significant amount of stuff fit for selling.
I had to do my own closet-cleaning in several stages, each round getting more and more ruthless. At first I only wanted to release the things that were so comically inappropriate for me they would have been ridiculous to keep. But once I made it to the final round, I realized I had a bunch of stuff that, theoretically, I could be wearing, but which just don’t look all that good on me. They’re things that don’t make me feel great when I’m wearing them, and honestly, it’s much better to have a few select items that all feel wonderful than a closet bursting with things that make you pull at your hems all day. Once I got through that last round, I was left with a very minimal rotation of clothes — jeans in a few colors, some basic skirts, a few dresses, and versatile tops. And despite the significant decrease in quantity, I find it much easier every morning to select an outfit. I know that nearly everything I could put on will feel nice, and go together (one of the great benefits of choosing almost exclusively neutral colors). It takes so much of the frustration out of looking through your things.
Ultimately, the most important element of saving money (and your own sanity) when it comes to your wardrobe, is to think of it as one cohesive thing. When you stop just purchasing things as you see them because you like them individually (except for rare treats), and start purchasing things as pieces to fit in a grander puzzle, you can plan out your spending and make sure that nothing you buy will be wasteful. You won’t have a closet full of disjointed, uncoordinated items, but rather a palette from which to choose your colors every morning. When you actually plan out (on a piece of paper, like I did) the elements that you need to have for your particular lifestyle, and spend a thoughtful amount of time choosing each one (hunting for deals, finding the best fit, etc), everything improves immediately.
I decided, starting this month, that I wanted to give myself 100 dollars per month (barring special occasions) to buy new clothes, which for a long time will mean adding a certain amount of key items to my closet as time goes on. If I plan it out well, I can buy a few high-quality items within that budget each month (Nordstrom Rack, Burlington Coat Factory, thrift stores, and online clearance sales are your friend). If there is something I absolutely MUST have that exceeds my budget, I have to wait at least a day on it. (This month, I’ve been obsessing over two rings in a little jewelry shop by my house that come to about 70 bucks. I could get them if I want to, but I don’t know if they’re worth it to me yet. I want to wait and see how I feel about them at the end of the month before I make the purchase.) Because ultimately, purchasing my clothes without thought or planning has been what has put me in the awful position of having an overstuffed, unsatisfying closet, and no sense of control over how it got that way.
And honestly, taking it slow feels so, so much better.
- People from New Jersey on any reality show: I'm from Jersey
In the short walk between my apartment and my office, there are three construction sites, all for luxury condos (with maybe a ground floor of coffee shops and clothing stores). Every morning, unless I decide to take an extremely long and needlessly complex alternate route, I walk through small clusters and long stretches of men, usually about 20-30 total. Without exception, they catcall me, with varying degrees of vulgarity. Some are relatively polite, wishing me a good day and smiling, and I try to respond in kind. Others are overtly sexual, commenting on my body or my outfit or how I decided to wear lipstick today. Those, I generally ignore. But I still flash them an awkward smile because, as all women know, overtly rejecting them leads to uncertainty and hostility, and since I must pass them every day, I’m not interested in making enemies.
These men are of varying races and ages, but they are all working class (or below the poverty line). Through a charming, uncomplicated lens, you could let “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel play in your head and imagine the mechanics fawning (in perfect song-and-dance) over the girl in the nice dress and shiny heels. But the reality is that I am a (relatively) well-off, 25-year-old white woman living in the most ostentatiously gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, passing by a group of working men on my way to my clean, spacious, comfortable office to sit in front of my enormous Mac and write articles about privilege.
Sarah Nicole Prickett tweeted yesterday about a deeply uncomfortable project featured on Cosmopolitan, in which the (white, college-educated) photographer took pictures of her catcallers. From behind her lens, she captured men who are visibly lower class, and most often latino or black (with a heavy sprinkling of some of the more working-class ethnicities in New York: Italian, Polish, etc). The message, despite her intention to show the people behind the catcalling, is clear: These men exist on an entirely different societal plane than this woman, and will likely never experience the access or social power that she does, simply by being able to document these experiences with her expensive camera and have it featured in women’s magazines.
Nick Mullen and I talked a while ago about this article on Buzzfeed, a very similar concept in which another (white, college-educated) woman interviewed her catcallers on the street. Nick pointed out to me that Buzzfeed (and other outlets) decided to feature the story when she finally found a white man in a business suit to interview — and if you watch the video, he truly does make the perfect villain — but that the rest of her YouTube page was mostly her chastising mentally ill, homeless, and poor men. It’s painful to watch, a weird, schoolmarm-y dressing down of these men, much the way you would talk to a troll on Twitter. Except that these men were very real, and clearly experiencing many unrelated problems that would continue long after she put down her camera and got her pageviews.
The uncomfortable truth about catcalling is that it’s almost exclusively a class-related phenomenon. While there will always be the occasional middle-to-upper-middle class, educated man who decides to catcall (usually while drunk), the men who are going to be hissing and calling at you on your walk to work are likely to be working class or below. This is probably due to a variety of factors — their lack of education, the expectations of their peers, their frustration with the complicated role poor men play in society, their general sense of impotence with regards to having any place in the greater societal power structure — but it is undeniably tied to class. (And thus, depending on where you are in the country, heavily skewed racially one way or another.)
There is a certain ineffectiveness to the online crusading against catcalling, in a way that feels almost performative. Because ultimately the men who are yelling at us about our asses in the street are not the men reading impassioned essays on Salon or Buzzfeed or Cosmo about how wrong it is. They are men who are in many ways excluded from the cultural conversations about nuanced gender roles and equality, overwhelmingly by their class and access to education. When I walk by the men in the morning, I feel a flash of discomfort — and occasionally a fear that it could transform into something more dangerous, even at 9:30 AM on a busy sidewalk — but it melts away as I live out my day of comfort, access, and (relative) power. They will spend the rest of their day working on a blisteringly hot and often dangerous construction site, and then likely take a long, tiring commute home to an outer borough to live out a life I will never understand or relate to.
The hugely complex social conversations that should follow (about why the countries with the best gender equality also have the best socioeconomic equality across the entire population), are ones I am not qualified to participate in. But I know that there is always something deeply strange and almost guilty about deriding catcallers from my position of privilege, on my internet platform almost exclusively populated by college-educated, middle-class-or-above young readers. I know that there is something wrong with the whole conversation, and that framing myself as the concrete and unquestionable victim is unfair. Because these men are victims, too, if not at my own hand. And someone — someone much further up the line, long before they are yelling at strange women in the street — should be advocating for them.