Thought Catalog: For women who drink whisky

Why do I drink whisky? For one thing, it tastes good. Also, subverting gender norms is fun:

I grew up with two whisky-drinking parents, one of whom traveled a lot for work and took advantage of duty free liquor allowances when she did. Both of them like a good whisky, but the real spirits drinker in my family is my mother, a 5’2” (and shrinking) New York Jew who makes up in volume and opinions what she lacks in height. She has bangs and wears a lot of pearls. She’s no Don Draper, and she’s certainly no Ron Swanson. She’s not what comes to mind when you picture a drinker of scotch. But a drinker of scotch she is, and she taught me how to be one, too, starting soon after I hit the legal drinking age, which is 18 where I grew up. Those bottles of scotch she would tote back from the airport came in tin boxes, which we often repurposed as containers for my pencils, markers, and crayons. If this were a TV show, I’d be an alcoholic by now, and in flashbacks to my childhood, that particular morsel of information would be the prominently placed piece of visual foreshadowing that made my addiction inevitable. But I’m not an alcoholic, I’m just a young woman who had the world’s weirdest pencil cases growing up, and who really likes whisky (on the rocks, not neat, because unlike Chelsea Fagan, I am not cool as shit).

I drink it because I like the taste, obviously, though it was an acquired one, like beer and coffee. But I also love the feeling of subverting people’s expectations. I love the look of surprise on a man’s face when he discovers that I know and enjoy whisky. I like the “girly” drinks as well; the Chardonnay, the fruity cocktails, the blonde beers. I’m not interested in being one of the guys, or being a “cool girl” who disdains and eschews anything girly as a way to criticize other women. I like the drink, and I like what it represents. I like doing what young women aren’t “supposed” to do.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: February and March highlights

What It Means to Believe Dylan Farrow:

Here’s what it feels like every time we have the Woody Allen “But… His Genius!” conversation, or the “But… Innocent Until Proven Guilty!” conversation or the “But… She Could Be Lying!” conversation. Here’s what it feels like every time we have those conversations that implicitly (or explicitly!) excuse the people who have in all likelihood abused girls and women. It’s like being stabbed in the heart.

Every time we have these conversations, I think about my friend. I think about the girl she was and the woman she is, and my heart aches. I think about the hundreds of thousands of other kids, innumerable children, who have been abused in similar ways, who are enduring this conversation right now, without the comfort of one degree of separation that keeps me insulated from the worst of it. My blood boils.

Dear Cate Blanchett, Please Say No to the Oscar:

Come March 2nd, you will almost certainly be a two-time Oscar winner. You’re up against the likes of Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, and Sandra Bullock in the Best Actress stakes, but your performance in Woody Allen’s latest is, I hear, unsurpassed by almost anything that’s happened on a movie screen in years. I haven’t seen it because I don’t pay to see movies made by Woody Allen. Wherever possible, I try to avoid lining the pockets of people who, in all likelihood, have committed rape. I really wish you’d do the same.

What It’s Like to be The Ugly Friend:

I wanted to hug this girl and tell her that though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, there really are more important things in life than being skinny. I wanted to tell her that looking like a model will, in the long run, be largely worthless if you aren’t also kind, and thoughtful, and hardworking. I wanted to tell her that looking good — as others define it — in a bikini isn’t a talent, or a trade, and it isn’t a marker of your intelligence, or of anything other than what you look like in a bikini. I wanted to tell her that the skinny girls at the top of the food chain can be miserable too, because again, though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, looking “good” in a bikini isn’t the path to happiness.

No Makeup Selfies Are Brave… Kinda:

To get a sense of how integral we consider makeup to be to making a woman presentable, you only have to look at the masculine rejoinder to the no makeup selfie trend: cock in a sock, which is exactly what it sounds like. Unable to make a statement by taking off their makeup, since they aren’t expected to wear any (or indeed, socially permitted to wear any), men took off all their clothes, put tube socks over their penises, took photos of themselves, and posted them on the internet.

Thought Catalog: Who cares about whom Hermione Granger married?

Last week’s column at Thought Catalog was about J. K. Rowling’s regrets about pairing Hermione Granger with Ron Weasley, rather than with Harry Potter:

Rowling said in the interview that she hoped she wasn’t breaking too many hearts when she expressed her regret and bringing these two beloved characters together. My heart’s not broken, even though I do think that of all the romance threads in the novels, Ron’s and Hermione’s is the most realistic — the epilogue, as always, notwithstanding. I’m just not that interested in who Hermione marries. I don’t care if it’s Ron, or Harry, or Hagrid’s runty giant half-brother Grawp. Hermione, when asked what she was planning to do after she graduated from Hogwarts, said, “I’m hoping to do some good in the world.” In my head, she becomes Minister of Magic.

Here’s my case for Hermione for Minister (which is my way of inviting you to close this tab if extreme nerdiness is not your thing. It is about to get nerdy as hell in here, and I make zero apologies for that).

Assuming that there are very few lines of work for a witch or wizard to go into after they leave Hogwarts, and assuming that the best and the brightest go on to work at the Ministry, that’s where Hermione should be. She’s top of her class in everything, with the exception of Defense Against the Dark Arts, but given that she has destroyed a piece of Voldemort’s soul with her own two hands (that’s what the abovementioned basilisk fangs were for), I suspect the Ministry would give her a pass on her only-almost-perfect Defense grades.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: December highlights

Here are my best weekly columns from Thought Catalog in the last month of 2013:

Mascara, lipgloss, and other wastes of time.

Get ready, gentlemen, the cosmetics industry is coming for you.

Engagement rings, Facebook, and the public wedding proposal, about the question everyone asked when they found out I was going to Paris in December, and that my menschfriend was coming with me – is he going to pop the question in Paris?

He and I are 28 and 26 respectively. We’re at that age when questions are being popped. People expect it to happen; that’s just what couples our age do. And Paris is one of the more potent symbols of romance in Western culture. I can’t imagine how many couples from around the globe get engaged there every year. One of my best friends in the world got married this fall after proposing to his now-wife on Île de la Cité, just near Notre Dame. The romance of Paris is hard to resist — the buildings, the art, the French accents, the affordability of wine, which allows you to be slightly tipsy all the time if you so choose. Fortunately, I’m a professional feminist, so it’s my job in life to suck the fun and romance out of everything, and Paris is no exception. Strolling by twilight along the Seine? You don’t want to know how many corpses have been tossed into it in the last few centuries alone. Captivated by the cobblestone streets, the winding back alleys? Cool, picture them running red with blood during the Paris Commune or the Reign of Terror. Romantic, right?

I’m fascinated, though, by the assumption that this event is going to take place, indeed, that it must take place, not only because we’re at that age and have been together almost a year, but because we are going to this place, together. It will be more special, more of an event, if it happens there. It will make such a good story. With the lights and the romance and the cobblestones, it will be so much more spectacular — and a proposal should be spectacular.

That’s increasingly what we’re told, as proposals and engagements because an increasingly visible and public part of wedding culture in America. “How did he do it?” is the first question a newly-engaged woman is likely to be asked, after “Can I see the ring?” He did it in a restaurant full of people. He did it with the help of your favorite author. He did it with a musical number at Disneyland. And he had it all filmed and put on Youtube so the rest of the world could enjoy the spectacle, too. Then comes the “He asked…” photo on Facebook or Instagram — the shot of your hand with your new ring without the rest of your body or the rest of the couple in the frame. Then the engagement photoshoot. As heterosexual marriage rates continue to drop, our performance of the rituals leading up to marriage becomes more insistent. Faced with marriage’s apparent dwindling relevance, this show goes on, bigger and bolder, like the band playing a rousing rendition of “Here Comes the Bride” as the cruise liner sinks.

The Guardian: Racial profiling – in your home and in your name

I have a piece in The Guardian today, about why white people need to realize that racial profiling happens all around them – and in their name:

Most white people in New York live their daily lives without experiencing racial profiling, without even seeing it; until a few months ago, I had never seen a person stopped and frisked. But if you live in a doorman building and have friends who aren’t white, that profiling becomes more visible. Most importantly, living in such a building, you start to see what so many people of colour already know: racial profiling in its various forms is done to “protect” white people – to shield “us” from “them”. In a doorman building, what is implicit outside becomes obvious, and impossible to avoid: this racism is being done in my name.

The doormen who work downstairs are uniformly polite and obliging (to me, at least). But the pattern is clear: they let my white guests come and go as they please, even ones they’ve never seen before. They stop my African-American friends, even ones who have visited on multiple occasions.

In his seminal work on doormen, Columbia Professor of Social Sciences Peter Bearman found that doormen use “homophily principles” to decide which guests should be announced. In other words, doormen expect guests to look like their hosts, and if they do not, their presence in the building may be questioned, or at least verified with the host. Additionally, Bearman observes, because doormen are recruited from within ethnic networks in which African Americans are poorly represented, “doormen are much less likely to admit blacks or other minority group members without announcing them first.” In this sense, then, my black guests have double outsider status – and as they stand in my lobby waiting for permission to do what my white friends do freely, I suspect they know it.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: When you lose your accent, what else do you lose?

My piece for Thought Catalog this week is about accents, adapting, and identity:

Accents are, of course, so many things. A proxy for class status, wealth, education. A marker of immigrant status, for better or worse. A way to signal that you belong, and a way for other people to assume that you don’t. They’re a barrier to communication, or a way to entice people to listen to you more closely than they might to someone without an “exotic” or attractive lilt. People pay good money to learn to eliminate their accents, and performers pay better money to learn to imitate other ones. For most of my time in the US, I’ve thought of my accent as a source of pride. Now, though, the word that comes to mind when I think about my accent, or when I listen to recordings of myself, is “malleable.”

For every Australian who spots me as one of their own, there are many more Americans who fail to notice my accent. Earlier this week I was chatting to a group of women, and when I told them where I was from, they all expressed surprise. They hadn’t heard any trace of an accent — until I said, “I know, it comes and goes.”

“Oh, there it is!”

There it is. Goes. No. The Australian “O” sound is a very distinctive one: it contains at least four vowel sounds, and it’s almost impossible to transcribe here. And if my American friends’ efforts are anything to judge by, it’s almost impossible to imitate, even with extensive drunken practice. Once, when we hadn’t been dating very long, my current beau asked me if I wanted to go to the movies or cook dinner or some such thing I had no desire to do. I answered with a long, stretched out “No.” He stopped and stared, and asked, “How many vowels do you know?!” The Australian O is really something, and it’s the one element of my accent that hasn’t slipped at all in the years I’ve been living in the States.

You can read the whole thing here.

Thought Catalog: This is an article about vaginas, but not the fun kind

At Thought Catalog this week, I’m writing about transvaginal ultrasounds:

Transvaginal ultrasounds have been the law in Texas since late 2011, but the phrase, which rolls so trippingly off the tongue, didn’t really enter my vocabulary until other states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio — started trying to make the procedure mandatory for anyone seeking an abortion, in early 2012. Last year, 11 states introduced laws stating that any abortion must be preceded by an ultrasound, even if the doctor doesn’t deem that imaging medically necessary. Currently, almost a dozen states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — have ultrasound laws, and because many of those laws stipulate that the image must be of a certain level of clarity, the ultrasound cannot be abdominal. The only way to get the level of detail demanded by those laws is to do an internal examination.

Like a lot of pro-choice people, I was horrified by this new trend. I wrote about it, I opined about it on TV, I raged about it to my friends over wine (I’m super fun to get a drink with, you guys). Each time, I’d say the phrase “transvaginal ultrasound,” and I’d often preface it with the word “invasive.” Invasive transvaginal ultrasound. Invasive medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound.

I didn’t know the half of it.

You can read the whole thing here.