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Somewhere That’s Green*

I read a story today about lockers not “Hurt” ones, but fully decked out Better Home & Garden, ready for their close-up, middle school lockers.  Need I mention (that according to the article anyway) they all belong to girls?  It took a moment or two for me to discern why this story irritated me.  I love small spaces.  I excel at space engineering, and fancy myself aesthetically inclined.  As a (relatively) grown woman, I am still not immune to the charms of a dollhouse.  In fact, the only reason I probably don’t have one is that I am not (yet) a recluse, and fear discovery.

Clearly the concept of interior decorating in miniature, is not what caused my ire.  How about the gender disparity then?  Why a story solely about “tween” girls and their decorating habits.  I mean if there ever was a career or avocation that was gender-blind, surely it’s interior design; for every Dorothy Draper there is a Phillipe Stark.  Should the reader of today’s article then intuit that the author and all parties mentioned deem the activity overtly feminine?  What other reason could there be for only discussing girls?  Unless someone can offer me an alternate explanation, I’m going with that.  So yes, I’m offended from a gender disparity viewpoint.

But in truth, that was only part of it.  I would have been happy to swoop my feminist cape in dramatic fashion and storm out of the argument.  But the author waved the crimson flag, and that flag was the locker chandelier.  That’s right ladies and gentlemen, for just $24.95 you too can own a motion detecting, battery operated LOCKER chandelier!!  But wait, you also can purchase carpeting, wallpaper, and (coming soon!) miniature recycling bins.  Okay, I made up the part about the recycling bins.  I think.  Now presumably, besides not being able to drive oneself to the mall, the average 11 year old does not possess an income that would support this “second home.”  And that, dear reader, is when I got most prickly.  It is implied (in the article) that mothers (my kingdom for one decorating inclined father!) are making these purchases for their daughters.  This troubles me in several ways.  I don’t think the average locker can fit a helicopter!  If a child’s first locker is not by definition, their own space, I don’t know what is.  It’s bad enough that parents support entire retail markets devoted to child/tween/teen bedroom decor.  Seriously, whatever happened to painting old furniture and hanging posters, or beads!  Are children only allowed to be creative in the confines of an expensive enrichment program?

So while I am irked with the perpetuating of the girl=appearances equation, I am equally irked by the snuffing of organic life of a child.  We all had lockers (I still have a scar on my pinkie to prove it) and we all made them our own.  Photos, mirrors, whiteboards, candy (was that just me?) extra lip smackers, created unique interiors.  This article suggests that (besides looking like a Boca Raton condo) what today’s (girl’s) lockers have in common, is their commonality.  They are decorated by mass market expensive products, purchased and approved by parents.  If you’re a parent, worried that your cherub will slide down the popularity ladder if they go one more moment without 10 square inches of green shag carpet, let me suggest the following: take your child to a crafts store.  Have them make their own wall paper, curtains, what have you.  Light fixture?  Well, I suppose flares are impractical, but surely there are more creative solutions than a $24.95 chandelier.

I think it’s safe to say that this article hit the trifecta or irritants for me: reinforcing the importance of appearances for girls, parents insinuating themselves into the (potentially) creative life of their children, and perpetuating the mass market retailing to children.  Not bad for one article!

* I cook like Betty Crocker
And I look like Donna Reed
There’s plastic on the furniture
To keep it neat and clean
In the Pine-Sol scented air
Somewhere that’s green

– Little Shop of Horrors, Howard Ashman

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Childhood

 

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Will Someone Care?

There is a beautiful piece in today’s paper about, amongst other things. isolated geriatric gay men.   The generation that is now elderly, came of age in the late 1930s and 1940s.  Historically, not the best of times to be “out.”  It stands to reason that when one must keep their personal life in the dark, their personal life may not grow and thrive.  Certainly there are heart warming stories about men and women who defied convention during these times.  (Juxtaposed to the very sad piece about gay men dying alone was the grin inducing piece about a gay couple who met in 1944 and lived together for 60 years.)

I don’t think these two stories being about men is a coincidence.  I will venture that fewer gay women live a life of solitude, or if in partnership; notice.  An upside to our society’s gender bias is (remarkably) fewer gender lifestyle restrictions for women.  Women have lived together for centuries.  Boston Marriage, anyone?  Two women setting up housekeeping is not only not a “threat” to their community, but considered quaint.  Women who cross-dress (think: Annie Hall) are seen as creative or fashion forward.  I’m not so sure anyone would think that of a man in a dress (of course, they’ve probably never seen Eddie Izzard.)  Adding to society’s gender inequity is plain old biology.  Love it or hate it, there is a difference between girls and boys.  Chromosomal testing results aside, I am the first to say it is difficult to discern what is biological and what is sociological.  Let’s just decide not to be entirely definitive on the origin, but agree that women experience the world more socially than men.  GENERALLY.  Very very generally.  Women tend to have more friends and intimates and stronger social networks.  Women tend to process the world through relationships.  Again, generally.

The duality of a) the community accepting women cohabiting and b) women tending to have strong social supports contribute to gay women presumably being at less of a risk of aging/dying alone.  The author of the geriatric piece, Dr. Eskildsen, urges us to not to assume heterosexuality when working with patients.  I happen to think “not assuming heterosexuality” is just a good rule to live by, period.  However, I might shy away from sexual orientation emphasis when it comes to issues of isolation.

Aside from the obvious gender chasm (versus sexual orientation chasm) that I’ve described above.  Many people either choose, or through happenstance, live a very solitary life.  Some people even flat out prefer to be alone.  It would seem to me that the goal should be to avoid projecting our own desires onto someone else.  Tending to a person (geriatric patient or otherwise) according to what the individual craves is the most humane.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Cultural Critique

 

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