Hallmark Movie Season Drinking Game

This is the magical time of year that Hallmark starts churning out seasonally inspired romantic schmaltz for nominally evangelical, Christian-cultured, true-blue American white women.

Hallmark movies are coming out at a speed that’s only rivaled by cheap romance literature. Which is probably no coincidence since these movies are the exact same thing, just on your TV and with actors you may or may not recognize from something or other or a previous Hallmark movie.

If you think I’m being over the top dramatic, I checked (authoritative) wikipedia for how many Hallmark movies are coming out this year. It’s 47 in total. Which is just less than one movie a week. EXCEPT you must realize, this does NOT count Hallmark MYSTERY specific movies. There are 27 “mystery” movies. These can be holiday movies as well, but are more about the mystery. Most of the grand total 74 films (seriously??) are catering to our unique obsession with holiday inspired love stories (how is that a real thing??).

Since I am 100% in their target demographic range, I don’t mind admitting that I watch these little sugared droplets of mediocre-poor storytelling with rabid enthusiasm. What I love about them:

  • I can feel crappy about how poorly I’ve decorated my house by comparison/pick up new better than pinterest ideas for decorating my obvious dirt hovel.
  • I can pine away hoping for two attractive men in my own small town who are devastatingly in love with me. Despite my off-putting temper, cold manner, and general shrewish demeanor. I’m sure if I had a chance I could lure them in with an earlier, younger, “better” version of myself, or homemade snacks and Christmas made crap.
  • Sure, one of those guys would be a total douchebag, more interested in business and work than a whole full life with a family and kids, but I’d figure out that when I start banter arguing with guy number 2, aka my TRUE Christmas present.
  • I can pretend holiday parties are occasions for formal wear instead of the “I was cold and stayed in my sweats but put on real shoes you should be happy, here’s your damn appetizer of chips and salsa” that they actually are.
  • I can be grateful I decorated my tree alone and not with someone who took that time to remind me “this is the spirit of Christmas”.
  • I can imagine that finding the perfect gifts for all my loved ones is possible. Maybe by divine intervention, or magical intervention, or just some well-placed clues in strategic conversations with the necessary parties. Why don’t more people telegraph the perfect gift for them in my budget range??
  • I can briefly live in a world where Christmas season is not “get the stomach virus and vomit everywhere” season but instead the “those kids’ have red cheeks from outdoor excitement and not a fever” season.
  • Also, the writing is horrific. And it makes me feel better about myself.
  • Also, I make excellent jokes to myself. So hilarious.

Romance and Christmas are tied right together in the Hallmark world. It’s kind of the hallmark of their movies (see what I did?) No one ever wants to talk about how maybe nostalgia and Christmas schmaltz shouldn’t be what you build your new together life around. But it’s what we all want, obviously. We want Christmas to unite unlikely couples. We want Christmas to be so magical that it transforms the whole year into a total love-fest between former childhood chums. We want to be able to say the worst possible lines ever written and have it be the right thing to say to our loved ones.

Hallmark delivers all that and so much more. So in that spirit, here’s a way to utilize some spirits for your Hallmark viewing:

  • If our hero has a dog, take a shot
  • If our heroine has a kid, take a shot (one shot per child)
    • If our heroine has custody of someone else’s kid(s) take more shots.
  • If there’s an angsty conversation at a coffee shop, take a shot
  • If there’s a montage of holiday scenery, shot
  • If our hero chases our heroine, two shots (you’ll need them)
  • If there’s a totally arbitrary reason to have a gala in which everyone gets dressed up fancy, drink.
    • If our lovers share an angsty dance, drink.
  • If our heroine’s best friend is quirky, drink
  • If our hero’s best friend is his dog, drink
  • If the parents are way too involved in the relationship, tip that bottle back.
  • If our hero or heroine gets advice from an enlightened older person, keep drinking.
  • Bonus drink if they’re someone random, but frequently spotted throughout the movie.
  • Drink if someone explains the meaning of Christmas and gets it totally wrong.
  • Drink if our hero is a busy businessman
  • Drink if our heroine is in some kind of “decorator” or “interior designer” occupation
  • If you’re lucky enough to be watching the Mark Ruffalo one from many many many years ago, stop drinking immediately and savor that unique opportunity.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, friends!

We Need to Talk About Anne-with-an-E

I wouldn’t call it “hate-watching.” Not exactly. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be “hope-watching.” One hopes that someone else will really get your favorite characters, and that the translation from book to script to production to actor will be like the most perfect game of telephone you’ve ever played.

While really, you’re probably expecting us to be talking about the really big news of the Gilmore Girls and their infamous Last Four Words, PBS made a move to compete by kicking off the holiday season with a film-length remake of Anne of Green Gables.

I’m not going to dwell on the surface mistakes like the carefully placed freckles and spectacularly frenetic shade of red hair forced on Ella Ballentine’s Anne, Marilla’s drastic eyeliner, the face-full-of-manure farm joke that occurs in the first scene, and how Diana Barry’s hair is FAR from raven black. And don’t even get me started on the instances of “oh my gosh!” and “yeah, ok.”

Of course, the definitive Anne, produced during the 1980’s and starring the most perfect Anne ever seen on film, Megan Follows, is hard to beat (side note–who must she have wronged to deserve that imdb profile photo??). Follows’ portrayal is hard act to compete with, as is Richard Farnsworth’s portrayal of sweet, shy Uncle Matthew, and Colleen Dewhurst’s stoic Marilla, although actors Sara Botsford as Marilla and Martin Sheen as Matthew turn in respectable performances. I found Sheen’s character hilarious to watch, though. He’s so irrepressibly charismatic, at odds with the painfully-shy character of the book’s Matthew.

Two mistakes are common when the movies adapt from novels; one is diverging so strongly from the original story that it becomes unrecognizable, and the other extreme is simply stringing together dialogue out of the book so faithfully that the film is composed mainly of words–it tells you the story instead of showing it. While the first is annoying, and the second is presumably more faithful to the book, it still fails to reveal the heart of a character, focusing instead on surface appeals to drive the plot.

The character of Anne Shirley in the books written by L.M. Montgomery is an unstoppable force, driven by an unending thirst for beauty and love. While the new production focuses on her dramatic tendencies, passionate emotional outbursts, and fanciful imaginings, and no one could accuse it of glossing over her abused first years by way of a few on-the-nose flashback memories filmed in black and white, what it misses is her authenticity. It’s a horribly difficult nuance for a young actress to portray, and that’s what made the older Megan Follows so wonderful at it. In the new film Anne seems as overly precocious as her perfectly-glossed lipstick and perfectly-spaced eyeliner dots…I mean freckles.

Plenty of small details are included that show the filmmakers are fond of the characters. Marilla uses a magnifying glass to inspect a small seam while she is sewing, referencing her weak eyes, and scenes from Prince Edward Island are nicely fitted in; sunrise over the tide flats, oysters being shucked on a wooden stump, the pastoral scenes of farm life, the change of seasons along the avenue of trees.

But Anne as written by L. M. Montgomery  was far from a pastoral, old-timey cliché. Anne Shirley was a spark, something of a revolutionary, a change-maker, a poet, a believer and a dreamer. She defied the odds dealt to her by life and persevered.  She was not spun-sugar daydreaming. The enduring character of her indomitable optimism, her fits of rage, her deep sense of sorrow and grief, her ability to feel everything so keenly and yet survive lends depth and direction to her dramatic episodes. Montgomery’s life was difficult, and she reflected in Anne her ideal response to the darkness of life, the ability to rise above circumstances through education, idealism, and a wild pursuit of beauty and truth. We need to talk about Anne, and Emily of New Moon, and Pat of Silver Bush. We need to not forget them and their ways of wrestling with bitterness and sorrow, and somehow finding the sweetness and joy in it all anyway. Perhaps the 2017 miniseries in the works from Netflix will get it right. We can always hope.

What about you? Did you watch Gilmore Girls or Anne of Green Gables?

 

Single Person Holiday Traditions

Single person prep for the holidays tends to be about dusting off last year’s armor and seeing if it still fits. Finding new defensive weapons in your arsenal, and digging out a foxhole to hunker down through the worst of the “celebrations” in safety.

But. A friend of mine had a revelation she shared with me. Something earth-shattering from her standard “hold your breath, close your eyes, wait for it to pass” holiday stance. She realized that she didn’t have to say yes to everything, she didn’t have to spend time where she didn’t want to, and she could even make her own traditions.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Imagine getting a say in what you do with your time instead of feeling drug along in a slew of couple-centric, child-centric outings where you are the unpaid, full-time photographer.

Don’t get me wrong, holidays should bring out our charitable, generous, joyful sides. But for so many single people it’s a personal time of anguish and covering over those unpleasant emotions with false advertising — truly echoing the commercial spirit of the season.

I can’t tell you how make your holidays more fun and exciting. But I can tell you what I do with mine:

  • Christmas Decorating Disaster: I don’t have a professional decorating technique, but I love Christmas lights. And I love the ceremony of unpacking the same ornaments year after year and putting them on the tree. I also love Christmas cocktails, and animated Christmas movies. And on my decorating day, I combine all three into an extravaganza. As you may have guessed, by the end of the day I’m the one who’s a disaster.
  • Boozy Baking Day: I’m not 100% sure how this got started, but each year I gather some friends together to drink warm seasonal spiked beverages from a crock-pot, and make my mom’s spritz cookies with icing. The best part is that once the crock-pot is empty is usually when we get to the icing. Best looking cookies you ever saw.
  • Christmas Movie Marathon: Christmas movies are fantastic, and few things get me into the season faster than plopping down with friends to watch one or two or three. Hopefully spaced out over several days. My must see list includes:
    • White Christmas
    • We’re No Angels
    • It’s a Wonderful Life
    • Muppets’ Christmas Carol
    • Home Alone
    • Die Hard
  • Treat Yo’ Self: I buy myself a Christmas present. It’s true. I even wrap it up and put it under my tree. Doesn’t have to be big and it probably shouldn’t be expensive, just something I picked out myself.
  • Stocking Shopping: One of the things I miss most about being a kid is having a stocking, and the fun little stocking stuffer presents. Tiny little fun items that somehow were so exciting to unwrap. So this year I took a page from a friend’s book and went  stocking shopping for myself in early November. By the time Christmas comes around I’ll have forgotten what I bought, extra Christmas surprise!

There’s no guarantee what the holiday season has in store for you, and for those of you who are struggling already, my heart goes out to you. The holidays should be a time for comfort and good tidings, not dread.

I encourage you to look to the right sources for seasonal inspiration and Christmas spirit, and don’t be disheartened if you discover your own family may be lacking; they might resent the same pressures you’re experiencing. But hey, give them the above list and let their imaginations run wild for next year.

It’s always up to you to enjoy your life every season of the year. Don’t let you down at Christmas.

Thanksgiving Wish

We’re on the cusp of another Thanksgiving. It’s that special time of the year — my favorite holiday on the calendar (excepting my own birthday, which is, objectively the best) –where I spend 5+ hours in traffic from Seattle to Portland avoiding car accidents, inclement weather, fellow terrible drivers, and road construction stretching miles.

Every year I go down to visit my family for Thanksgiving and every single year I self-medicate for the journey with oddles of junk food and candy. How can you be upset in traffic when you’re eating jelly beans?

Let me tell you something: it’s possible.

It’s not only possible, it’s guaranteed that no matter what else happens on Thanksgiving weekend, if my Aunt G. forgets the deviled eggs, or my Aunt N. and I never make it to a movie, if my cousins don’t spend a portion of the day engaged in clearly inane sports talk, if we never get around to turkey or don’t go Black Friday shopping at 5 a.m. for socks, I will most definitely and assuredly experience road rage that borders on tears from sheer total frustration.

Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

I see it coming every single year but it keeps happening. That’s the definition of insanity isn’t it?

I’ve tried to head off this road rage with alternate transportation. Taking the train is so romantic, isn’t it? Well it would be until you’re packed in like sardines with college freshmen on their first break from school. They think they know everything and isn’t school impossibly hard? You should see the paper they’re working on. And did you know about…

Not to mention, I’ve never once had a successful train trip down to Portland because inevitably there are mudslides and we have to bus it from Edmonds to Seattle. Bus rage might be more enjoyable as a group, but it’s still very personal for me.

So. It’s time for a new plan. It’s time to either arrive in Portland, or alternatively back home north of Seattle, stress-free and non-murderous. No doubt my mother, who is praying for my safe travels (not frustration free, just safe), would tell me to use that time to think of all the things I’m thankful for.

But in these situations I’m afraid I take after my father (is road rage inherited?) “I’m thankful for my car. I’m thankful that idiot in front of me also has a car so that he can ruin as many lives as humanly possible. And I’m thankful that no one knows the speed limit because it means we will all arrive at our destinations safe FIVE HOURS LATER THAN EXPECTED.”

Sarcasm is fun, but not in traffic.

No, this year I’m going to try not to rush. I have this absurd, wild aspiration to make it down to Portland in under two hours. Again, a gift from my father. Must arrive early. Must arrive yesterday if at all possible. But I’ve been in the car with drivers who don’t get road rage and I think I’ve learned the secret to their success.

They don’t mind going the speed limit. They don’t even mind if sometimes they go under the speed limit. It’s so incredible I don’t even know how to explain it. They seem to enjoy the drive!

I’ve always claimed to love driving, but admittedly there’s shockingly little proof. But what if I did take it easy? What if I didn’t panic that I’d let down Thanksgiving by arriving late? What if I enjoyed the drive and maybe stopped for coffee breaks and to stretch my legs and to eat a sandwich instead of funneling an entire can of Pringles furiously into my mouth?

This year I’m going to try something new. I’m going to enjoy the moment I live in and not the moments I don’t know about yet. It’s entirely possible I’ll spend huge amounts of moments in my car this coming weekend, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them. I guess I will be spending my Thanksgiving giving thanks a lot.

And more than likely deeply in prayer because I am most assuredly going to forget — several dozen times — that my goal is to enjoy the drive.

But dammit, I can do this.

If you’re traveling this weekend, or just experiencing rage because it’s a holiday, I’m sending up a prayer for you, too.

Stay safe, stay thankful, and be a blessing to your loved ones — and fellow travelers.

Online Dating: The Adventure Begins and Ends

I didn’t meet Jr. Eastwood online. Shockingly.

But I did meet Andrew from Oregon. I’m not sure how other dating websites work, but eharmony has a ropes course toward romantic fulfillment.You go through challenges of “intimacy” and as you get to know someone you go to the “next level” (squee). “Next level” means essentially more “in-depth” questions.

I do think this works for the large number of people who use it, I mean, obviously, people get married after meeting on eharmony. But for me it was simply a quick and not complete vetting process to determine if Andrew was a serial killer. There were a couple suspicious indicators that he was out to murder me.

He was REALLY excited to meet me. Even when I put him off he would not be deterred. Each conversation ended with “coming to Portland soon?” Come on, right? That’s super weird! People wanting to meet people? More like people wanting to MEAT people.

We also had way too many common interests. I’m always suspicious of people who like the same things as me. I assume it’s a sneaky way of trying to relate to me. You can’t force the “we were meant for each other” thing on me. I’m way to smart for that.

Plus, it leaves no room for me making fun of him for his interests. Which is also my chief way of flirting. And also just my chief form of speech.

It was all too suspiciously easy. A couple of clicks, a few short sentences and suddenly the door is wide open for a relationship? No, I don’t think so.

That’s usually how you know someone’s out to get you, they make it easy for you…too easy.

Plus, I didn’t really do the eharmony thing on my own. I had a gaggle of over-excitable friends coaching me on my responses. Hi, Andrew. I’d like you to meet the me you’ve been talking to. It’s actually four of us. Two of whom are already married. That’s not going to be weird, right? Of course, four people might have put him off from murdering me.

But in all seriousness, I’m sure Andrew from Oregon was actually a really lovely guy. I’m also sure that online dating isn’t for me because my end goal isn’t marriage. It’s just to get people to stop asking me to try online dating. Because the site is geared toward marriage, that’s the assumption about your interest in joining. “Research” wasn’t an option.

If my life were a dramatic movie with a voiceover, I’d be telling you how there is no “research” option in life, it’s all do or do not. But to be honest, my life isn’t a drama. It’s a poorly planned comedy. I had to try online dating, just for the laughs.

Girls will be Girls

I’ve heard the phrase “boys will be boys” said so often in the past that it’s one of those phrases that almost loses all meaning. I was jealous as a kid because it meant boys got to be mischievous troublemakers and it was looked on with pride. It wasn’t a path I thought girls could really pursue, so I envied them. And then came the 2016 election.

“Boys will be boys” is such a great permissible phrase. It means, if I gather correctly, that whatever current action is currently upsetting, frustrating, confounding you, should be acceptable and understood because it’s just the nature of the beast.

For example: Boys will be boys if they give each other wedgies, or go play in mud puddles, if they bring a frog into the house as a “present” for Mom. It basically meant, accept irresponsible behavior from kids, because kids act irresponsibly.

Except a quick google search assures me the equivalent phrase for girls isn’t a thing. I get hits to articles on Hilary Clinton, and a link to this gem: Girls Will Be Girls. It’s a movie about three women struggling to make it in Hollywood. All three central female characters are played in drag by men.

Truth is, girls don’t hear the permissible phrase “girls will be girls” when they’re children. There is no permissible phrase for a girl acting up. When a girl acts in an untoward way she won’t hear “girls will be girls”, she’ll be told she’s not being “ladylike”. Imagine that, expecting a little girl to act like a mature lady. Even as she ages she’s not going to hear anything accepting her more unsavory qualities. If they are commented on she’s more likely to hear, “stop being such a bitch”.

I’ve heard that girls just naturally mature faster than boys. But I’m not sure I buy this any longer. If I am expected to believe that men are more rational, more reasonable, more level-headed and sensible than women, but are also allowed an extended adolescence, I’m wondering when exactly, and how quickly, that maturation comes to pass.

We’ve agreed puberty is too soon, I think. What with the hormones flying around and female shoulders being too irresistible to boys to be seen in classrooms. I’ve heard college is too soon as well because players will be players and athletes will be athletes. But then again, apparently 50+ years of age is an acceptable time for “boys to be boys”, so I’m not exactly sure when I should be trusting men to be the intelligent, rational grounded influence that I so desperately obviously need as a woman.

But I’m not just talking about boys being adorable little troublemakers either. “Boys will be boys” past the age of 10 no longer means he’ll do mischievous, playful, sometimes financially draining things; “boys will be boys” after childhood means he’ll do sexist, misogynistic, financially draining, emotionally damaging, personhood-altering things.

“Boys will be boys” is almost entirely dependent on “girls being mature women”, “girls being nuns”, “girls being devoid of sexuality-beings”. I’m not sitting here asking that I be allowed to be a girl a little while longer, I’m sitting here saying if I could learn to mature to make sure boys didn’t devolve to beasts, surely it’s not too much to ask that boys learn how to be men before the sexual assault charges start piling up.

Surely it’s not too much to expect that adult men behave in ways toward women and all people that reflect mature adulthood, and surely it’s not too much to ask that we stop condoning outrageous, offensive behavior with the permissible “boys will be boys” brush off.

Surely it’s fair to expect the same maturity from men that we do from women.

For Love of the Cubs

I’m not a sports person. I don’t play them, I don’t watch them, I don’t understand what the big deal is. Except for one sport and one team.

When you grow up the daughter of a Cubs’ fan, in a long line of Cubs’ fans, you are a Cubs’ fan. My great-grandmother memorized and recited Cubs’ player stats to my Dad. His enthusiasm for the team led him to ditch school and bum enough money to catch a ride on the “L” downtown to the game where he’d get a hot dog and peanuts and hang out for an afternoon. He raised me on stories of Ernie Banks. And when I got old enough, he’d take me and my sister out of school for Cubs games too.

Sanctioned school skipping is a guaranteed way to become a fan for life. But if that wasn’t enough, I’ll never forget the first time I saw Wrigley Field. You come out of the tunnels, up on to the field and there it is all laid out before you, and I’d never seen anything more beautiful in my life. I loved the spring days we’d spend there. Shivering in the nosebleed section, peeling peanuts with icicle fingers. I love the sunny afternoons in the bleachers, sweating in the sun and watching for fly balls.

I haven’t been a good fan over the years, haven’t stuck with the sport enough to know what’s going on. I shared my dad’s paranoia that the more invested you got the more you doomed them to failure. I loved them from afar.

But there is something to being a Cubs’ fan in a line of Cubs’ fans that sinks in to your life, even day to day.

“Next year.”

Cubs’ fans have hope like you can’t explain. Some years the disappointment almost chokes them when they say it. But they believe “next year” just might be the year. I’ve heard my Dad call them “bums” and every other old-timey insult under the sun, but even though they’ve lost all of his 60+ years on earth, there is a glint in his eye, and an excited tapping of his foot when he says “next year.”

Despite over a hundred years of losing, Cubs’ fans have hope. It’s not romantic, it’s not cynical, it’s just hope. It’s a simple, clean expression of their love. These fans are patient, they are long-suffering, they are eternally hopeful, and impossibly loyal.

I’ve never been embarrassed about being a Cubs’ fan, or being related to a fanatical Cubs’ fan. It’s a badge of honor believing in the unbelievable and hoping for the impossible. I’ve always been proud that my Dad rooted for the ultimate underdogs. I’ve been proud of that legacy he gave me.

And for once in my life the Cubs winning the World Series on November 3, 2016 is the one and only time I can truly understand what the big deal is.

This was the “next year”.

How Clint Eastwood’s Son Convinced Me to Join eHarmony

Awhile ago now, I did something I planned on never doing. And it’s your fault. Well, yours and Clint Eastwood’s son.

I don’t have a personal relationship with the younger Eastwood, or, well, any relationship with him. But some time back I was on the internet, as the kids are these days, and I saw a photo of him. Or several. Really it just all blended into one attractive manphoto.

The point being, an encounter with ridiculous prettiness got me thinking. Surely, SURELY all the man pretty isn’t just in Clint Eastwood’s son. Surely there are other men out there that are equally attractive. Surely online dating would give me a bigger net to look at prettier fish.

Surely.

I don’t know. It was the middle of the afternoon and I was bored.

I wonder (side note) how many people have joined eharmony not because of some grand desire to find their spouse, but because there was nothing good on TV and whether eharmony could start catering to my particular brand of inspiration so I can be matched with similarly lazy and “meh” guys.

At any rate, Clint Eastwood’s son is my excuse for caving into the peer pressure of online dating.

Don’t roll your eyes, peer pressure is a real thing! If you’re single and not proactively working to change this then there is someone telling you that you’re doing it wrong. After all, there’s nothing bad about being single as long as you don’t want to be single. Right?

Bottom line, I was tired of being harangued for months on end. “You gotta try online dating!” “You’re not putting yourself out there!” “You might find someone amazing online!” “Think of the great stories you’ll find by trying online dating!” “You’ll have material for your blog!”

It never occurred to any of these well meaning friends that I wasn’t actively looking or actively interested.  But If I get enough people telling me to do something, even if I don’t want to do it, I’ll probably end up doing it, especially in the interest of getting a great story out of it.

Peer pressure doesn’t end in high school, kids.

Plus it all seemed harmless enough. Sign up, check out people, do some research into online dating for the blog. No one’s asking me to get married to one of them.

But at the end of the day the reason I signed up was because Clint Eastwood’s son is pretty and I was afraid I might run out of things to talk about on my blog.

That’s right, I’m blaming you for me signing up for eharmony. You and Clint Eastwood’s son.

I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

Burning Bras: An Exploratory

My bra broke at work last week. The underwire for one of the cups just became two pieces, making me uncomfortably aware of how much bras squish boobs into specific shapes. Mostly because before I realized it was broken I was doing the squishing and maneuvering and getting frustrated. It’s no wonder the cup snapped as well.

But it’s got me thinking about this whole bra thing. Women have a love/hate relationship with bras. They can do amazing things for your breasts, but at what cost?

I assume the root purpose of a bra is to keep the boobs in place, contain them, keep them on lock down, so they don’t go wildly bouncing around at inappropriate moments. Bras are insurance that I don’t accidentally become an unpaid floor show.

And yet. Apparently they serve many more purposes. Otherwise we wouldn’t have water bras, push-up bras, bras that can hold wine, bras with memory foam (memory foam!), and bras that defy all kinds of gravity on your behalf. It’s that fine line for women between sex object and functioning human. Or sexy human. Or objective human. Or something.

Side note, it is almost impossible to buy a utilitarian, comfortable bra that is also pretty. It’s just not a thing. You either have to be pretty and uncomfortable, or comfortable and blah.

Come on, world.

Feminism has long been linked with women burning bras which although false, feels true given the resentment women have toward the contraption. Remember seeing those cone bras of the past? Like that was a natural shape for a woman.

One of the bras I bought (online) to replace the one that broke was so difficult to get into and out of that I almost needed a second pair of hands. Like choking, trying to get a bra off is one of those times where you’re aware of how helpless you are when you live alone.

There’s also the bras that make you feel somehow fat when you try them on. As if an improperly fit bra means your boobs are too fat. Please. But it’s there, isn’t it? It’s when the cup doesn’t fit right, or when the band of the sports bra rolls up on you. Suddenly you’re this monstrosity who doesn’t deserve a properly fitting bra because you’re too big for this world.

The amount of loathing you can feel toward an object increases when it seems that object is judging you by breaking, trapping you, or making you feel worse about yourself. If women ever have burned bras it’s not because they’re making a stand against the patriarchal oppression of the system, it’s because historically, bras suck.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: the best bras are the front closure ones. These feel like you’re slinging on a detective’s gun shoulder holster when you get ready. For about ten seconds it’s like you can confront the world.

Outside of that? Bras are mostly a lot like life. Kind of uncomfortable, kind of ill-fitting, and kind of hard to get working in the morning when you’re half asleep.

Saps and Cynics

That guy is either the dumbest, stupidest, most imbecilic idiot in the world, or else he’s the grandest thing alive. I can’t make him out.

— Babe from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is the most recent Frank Capra movie I’ve had the pleasure to view. And despite stiff competition, it’s now my favorite.

For anyone unfamiliar with the story (this does include those who have seen Adam Sandler’s Deeds), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is the story of a simple, small-town man who inherits millions and moves to a big city where he is quickly swarmed by greedy vultures eager to take advantage of his backwoods ways. This includes a scheming, quick-witted, jaded reporter, unfortunately named “Babe”, (Jean Arthur) who finds herself won over by his kind, open, earnest perspective.

What happens when Longfellow Deeds realizes he’s just out to be had? Will Deeds be just another victim of the greedy? Or is it possible he can turn the entire system on its head, changing hearts and minds in the process?

I’m sure that for a lot of people it qualifies as Norman Rockwell schmaltz. And indeed, I could accuse Mr. Capra of a lot of sentimental drivel, but to do so would be undercutting the story and the performers.

I didn’t root for Longfellow Deeds because the camera shot his profile well, but because of the way he turned a snob on his head. I rooted for him because he’s curious and joyous and compassionate.

I didn’t fall in love with Deeds because the music swelled when he spoke, I fell in love with him when he slid down the banister in his mansion and tickled his finger along the instep of the statue at the bottom. I very much fell in love with Gary Cooper.

I didn’t cry when Babe read Deed’s poem because the poem was exceptional, but because Jean Arthur was exceptional.

Perhaps I’m a sap and always have been, but what Capra gets right over and over and over again, is that the saps who seem like easy prey to the world are the strongest of champions in the world. It’s the truest of paradoxes, the weak things of this world overcoming the strong, the humble Davids overcoming the world’s Goliaths.

Which is not to say we should forget the cynics. No, Capra found a use for them and so do I. We need cynics. We need those people of critical intellect who devote huge portions of time to ferreting out those who are fake, vile, who are hypocrisy themselves. It’s these cynics who live in the soot and darkness of public spheres who serve the purpose of refining the rough diamonds.

In two of Capra’s movies it’s Jean Arthur who does the dirty work of putting the diamond under a bit of pressure. She’s so used to the double talk and the false advertising that she doesn’t see a gem when she’s in front of one.

But look what she does when she steps back and sees the thing for what it is, after all her abuses (intended or accidental) begin to reveal the quality of what is underneath rather than crushing it. It’s the cynics who must rally the troops, marshal the masses, encourage (how preposterous!) the reluctant, and fight for the saps.

It’s a brilliant and unbeatable combination. Saps and cynics, unlikely friends as they should be, manage to bring out the good in each other. For it’s these two unlikely heroes who both expect the best from the world, and will fight most passionately to make it so.