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February 10, 2004


Dear Friedrich --

For no reason in particular, I've been surfing through some young-gal TV shows, flipping through some young-gal magazines, and musing a bit about the young gals I run into in my media-centric neck of the woods. As you'd imagine, I've worked myself up into quite a "these kids these days" state. Curious, as ever, to hear your thoughts on the matter; curious, as ever, about everyone else's observations and speculations too.

Brief consumer alert here: I'm going to be indulging in wild over-generalizations. Plenty of exceptions are allowed for. If you're a 20-something woman and you read this posting and think, Hey, I'm not like that -- well, then, you're one of the exceptions. I'm not talking about you; I'm talking about all those other 20-something women. If you find yourself getting indignant anyway, take a deep breath and see if you can find it in you to pity an old man. Because if old coots can't be permitted to make over-generalizations about these kids these days, what's the fun of being old?

Anyway. I'm struck by how healthy, big, and world-beatingly confident 20-something gals are. You go, girls -- and they do seem to go go go. I find much of this great fun and a great relief. Boomer gals could (and can) be terribly touchy about being gals. They can carry on like tragediennes, they can act like martyrs and saints, and god knows they're overprone to politicizing whatever can be politicized. Many Xer gals (hey, tons of exceptions allowed for) can be grabby and full of resentment. Today's 20-something gals, by contrast, are rowdy, uninhibited and rambunctious.

I find them likable and companionable. I find it interesting to notice too how much less backbiting, hissy and feline they often are than women have traditionally been seen to be. The presence of an attractive gal doesn't make them snarl. They seem to like it when other gals look good; they seem to react as they do to so many things: "Whoa! That's hot!" They're hard to offend, they're refreshingly honest about the crazy things that turn them on, and they seldom take things amiss. And who's to argue with all that?

I also find them graceless. Their body language is as lunky as a teenage boy's; they're jocky, or schlumpy, or bored and twitchy. (One of the things I wrote about in these postings here and here was how young women these days move their hips in ways that I'd only ever seen lesbians move their hips.)

They seem to be entirely creatures of self-pleasure -- multimedia, nonlinear, pop-y, collage creatures, with everything about them out there on the surface if not actually leaping aggessively out at you. Women traditionally have been the keepers of the internal flames -- all mysterious folds and inwardness. These young women seem to have nothing internal about them; if it ain't on public display, then it doesn't exist -- that seems to be their attitude. I don't find that they make more sense (in masculine terms) than women ever have, but they also seem free of all the old layers of viciousness and charm about it; they're just the self-contradictory, ever-changing things they are, and far more prone to having a good horse-laugh about this than to getting tragic or political about it.

The above is nothing but observation. It's valid or it's not -- obviously I think it's valid, and I've compared notes with other people, guys and gals both, who have noticed many of the same things. The Wife, for instance, tells me that she finds it easier to be friends with women of this generation than with Boomer women, let alone Xer gals. They aren't angry; they don't feel prevented from doing things; the ones who are pretty or beautiful don't tend to make their beauty the entire point of everything they are. So I'm going to assume there's something to the above observations, and treat myself to some speculations and musings.

Let me begin with a half-baked theory. Things were once kept separate. There was the domestic world, an intuitive, warm place, lit from the inside. Women were keepers of that world. And there was the world of politics, war, business -- a harsh and unsparing one. Women were, depending on how you looked at it, protected from it or kept from it. (I'm of course happy to agree flat-out that, even under such conditions, women were being their usual imposing and impressive selves, and were in charge of an awful lot of life anyway.)

And here's something I take as a human given: that there are parts of life that you don't want exposed to brutality, ruthless competition and viciousness, and that there are values that transcend questions of economics, politics and efficiency.

Anyway: it seems clear that to a large extent cultures used to locate these softer, more personal values and qualities on or in their women. Upside: it's a simple, easy-to-comprehend arrangement. Another upside: it gave men a reason to fight for their women. Downside: it was an imposition on women, some of whom probably weren't crazy about their assigned roles. Another downside: it was a system that helped turn women into the underhanded, backbiting things they often were. In order to accomplish many things, women had no choice but to work covertly and behind the scenes, where today's young women can move on impulse and go for the gusto.

(Incidentally, this "different sets of values" thing is another reason why I find discussions about architecture and neighborhoods fascinating. What might work and be necessary in a public, political or business setting might be nothing at all like what you crave and value in your private life. Fun to sort these things out.)

All of this leaves me wondering about a couple of things:

1) What's going to happen to these young gals? What are their life-arcs going to be like? I wonder, for instance, about how much of their extraversion is genuine. I've never known a soul who felt gung-ho 24/7. Have you? Yet it seems to me that the only thing the young gals have been prepared for is to feel gung-ho. It seems to me that much of the go-go-go quality that many of these young gals have is a function of mood drugs, electronics, the proddings of pop culture, the you-can-do-anything, girl-centric education they've been given, and the way certain kinds of career paths have been strewn with girl-friendly rose petals.

These young gals are lit up like Christmas trees, and it's quite a spectacle. But what's going to become of them when the voltage starts to wane? Traditional upbringings have their disadvantages, but one thing they tend to foster is the creation of depth and internal resources. I wonder sometimes if, underneath all the Ren-and-Stimpy energy, the new young gals have had the chance to develop any internal resources. And if they haven't, what will they do when the time comes to call on them? It'll be awfully late in life to try to develop what used to be called "character." Will biology carry them through?

What they've been given is a masturbatory, self-pleasuring ethos. They've been raised as though all rules were inhibitions, and as though inhibitedness is the source of all frustration and misery. I'm semi-envious but also flabbergasted. What's wrong with this kind of upbringing? Well, nothing, so long as it doesn't end there. But these days there's hardly any acknowledgement to be found anywhere that much of life consists of moving on from self-pleasure into being able to mix it up with other people, let alone to open yourself -- and perhaps even to (scary thought) submit -- to the larger rhythms and mysteries of life.

I seem to remember from oh-so-long-ago that it was in my early 30s that the world started seeming a lot bigger and more unbudgeable than I'd imagined it was going to be. Is that about when it began to hit you too? Sickness, frustrations that couldn't be overcome, confusions that wouldn't go away, biological clocks that kept ticking ... How will the kids deal with these phenomena? They will, of course -- but how? I plan to observe with curiosity and sympathy. I'll be curious to see too how they contend with the frustrations that'll be distinct to them -- their larval-like, submissive men, for instance. When one of these gals needs her man to step up to the plate -- will he be able to? If he isn't, how will the gal react?

None of the traditional resources women have had seem to have been developed in the young gals; a trad upbringing, whatever its disadvantages, was to some extent preparation for life, its un-fun as well as its fun sides. The new upbringing, on the other hand, seems to be preparation for fun -- for fun careers, for being fun and all-conquering, and for fun experience after fun experience of kapow, zowiee and shazaam. It seems to make no allowance for fatigue, depression, confusion, frustration, or decay, let alone the quieter or more eccentric pleasures.

By the way, I'm working on a theory that exposure to traditional art is, among many other things, preparation for the many sides and experiences of life, where pop culture's all about going "Whoa! Cool!" Trad culture exercises the imagination and the emotions; it's (among many other things) rehearsal for life. Pop culture, and pop upbringings and pop educations, seem to be preparation for a life of being a big, happy, grabby consumer/careerist infant.

Like I say, I like these young gals, and I wish 'em well. Between you and me, I feel some compassion for 'em; they no longer have any excuse for failure. That can be tough, given how much of life consists, inevitably, of failure.

2.) What concerns the aesthete in me is this question: What becomes of poetry? What becomes of the sacred, now that women seem cleansed of it? (And putting aside for the moment the question of whether they cast it off or it was wrenched from them.) Perhaps women are better off free of it; perhaps we're all better off. But where now to look for the sacred? I feel like a foolish square saying this, but life does have a certain poetic quality; the traditional arts wouldn't exist if it weren't for that fact. Bit where now to find it?

I'm kinda free-associating here, but, hey: doesn't what's happened with tons of women entering into the non-domestic worlds seem to parallel what happens with digital computers? I'm not making any sense. Let me see if I can explain. As women have become more exposed to competition, efficiency, business, politics, they've become more matter-of-fact and less poetic creatures. Doesn't it seem that, as digital technology moves into a field, that the field always becomes more ... down to earth, more brusque and less special? Writing becomes less about qualities and tone and more about information and attitude. The digital movie image (and the digital movie) seems a flattened, unmysterious thing. Music becomes all about surface effects, however dazzling.

Depth goes out the window, and day to day life can start to seem a de-sacralized thing. The world seems both more full of opportunities and much flatter than it once was -- and I say this as someone who's not (well, not quite) as prone to losing myself in narcissistic rhapsodies as many people in the arty and media worlds are.

I'm mostly dazzled by the new gals, and I mostly rejoice in the new capabilities digi-tech delivers. Yet life does have its depths, and these depths can be places you want to acknowledge and sing songs about. But, in these efficiency-driven days, where do you go to find the poetry? Via which channels and techniques do you recognize it?



posted by Michael at February 10, 2004


As a 26-yr-old male, I can vouch for the accuracy of your observations. I don't think you'll be surprised that I'd go even further: the changes you've observed in the notion of femininity are, I think, just magnified versions of changes that are occurring throughout the culture -- and to men, too.

Inwardness, as you point out, traditionally has associations with the feminine. But aren't there also qualities of inwardness that are traditionally associated with the masculine? (Examples: quiet strength, quiet confidence, conviction, commitment, purpose) These things also seem to have gone out the window, replaced with a cowboyish version of masculinity as thoughtless bull-headedness and power. (The paragon of this version of masculinity, of course, is our current President.)

So I think your observations are correct -- but I think they're one manifestation of a larger shift in the culture, in which inwardness is seen as strange and weak, replaced with different manifestations of the exteriorized culture that you've ably described.

Posted by: Anonymous on February 10, 2004 02:53 PM

How will these girls react to life when they're in their 30s? Easy, they'll get bitter - but fast. So watch out!

Seriously though, I think your observations are on the money. And I think they'll struggle, and in the end come out fine. Like the rest of us mostly have.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on February 10, 2004 03:12 PM

"I wonder sometimes if, underneath all the hard-charging, Ren-and-Stimpy energy, the new young gals had the chance to develop any internal resources. If they haven't, what will they do when the time comes to call on them? It'll be awfully late in life to try to develop what used to be called "character." Will biology carry them through?"

Nope, it won't. It will be late to develop it, and they will need to...or prep yourself for the most dysfunctional, put-upon generation of children of these women you ever did see.

"I'm kinda free-associating here, but, hey: doesn't what's happened with tons of women entering into the non-domestic worlds seem to parallel what happens with digital computers? I'm not making any sense. Let me see if I can explain. As women have become more exposed to competition, efficiency, business, politics, they've become more matter-of-fact and less poetic creatures."

Hmmm. I never saw less "poetic" creatures in my life than my mother and aunts, when they were jumping up in terror 'cause they had forgotten the sliced tomotoes at Thanksgiving Dinner and their husband WANTS SLICED TOMATOES. I think you are romanticizing June Cleaver a bit here.

Posted by: annette on February 10, 2004 03:28 PM

"Their" husband? I thought you are from Italian descent...
There is nothing more feminine and poetic than cooking for your family and remembering everybody'd little whims.
I know in my grandpa's last days he often talked about what a cook my late grandma was -that was a declararion of love, in his terms.
But men like him will be obsolete, surely, when current 20+ will finally mate, so who cares?

Posted by: Tatyana on February 10, 2004 03:57 PM

I dont know about that, Tatyana. My husband taught my son very early to say things like "You make the best cookies in the whole wide world, Mommy." And I taught him to say similar things to any woman who is generous enough to cook him a meal. His friend's mothers comment to me on what a sweet boy I have.

Your post, Michael, struck a nerve after spending a week at Christmas with my 20ish something nieces. One is living the high life in LA working and playing all the time and had very little substance besides a vivacious style that I could see. She could talk about the movie scene and music and how many movie stars she'd seen in public. The other, her twin, is a young mother of a toddler who's husband is currently in the 101st Airborne in Iraq and she talked about things like paying bills, how tough it is to raise a kid on your own and what it's like to miss your husband. Aside from a complete lack of a clue on how to potty train a kid, which isnt all that hard, she seemed to have a sharper, more focused handle on "real" life than her sister.

Posted by: Deb on February 10, 2004 04:52 PM

"There is nothing more feminine and poetic than cooking for your family and remembering everybody'd little whims." I always think of the lyrics to a song "No Wonder". "No wonder, he loves it. If I were a man, I would too!"

And, no, there is nothing feminine and romantic about sheer terror from a woman when a man says, "Did you forget the tomatoes?"

Posted by: annette on February 10, 2004 05:13 PM

Than yours - and mine- are exceptions. (Warning to myself: genuine sweetness not to be confused with concious manipulating by making "puppy faces" in order to extract favors).
Of course, I am better off not standing at the stove all day long like my grandma, but we are talking about substance, not form, right? Creating warmth requires internal resource (thank you, Michael for this term) and not neccessarily cooking skills.

I have my own example of 20+ . At my previous job there were 2 newcomer girls fresh from college. One - let's say Dayna- assumed she knows everything better than experienced professionals since she graduated Ivy school (yes, yes!); when she failed an assignment (materials selection for conservative client office design - hers featured magenta worksurfaces and foil wallpaper) she was genuinely unable to understand the reasons for critique, since "The workplace should be fun!" was her motto, took it very personally and left for work in academia. The other - Michelle- with similar beliefs- choose different, if widespread, career approach- slept with one of the principles and was promoted to the group leader, but not for long - since she didn't know what the hell she's doing and screwed up big time with national account clent (which later cancelled the contract with my Co), she was layed off and I have no idea what happened to her then.
Any similar examples, anyone?

Posted by: Tatyana on February 10, 2004 05:32 PM

I was talking about kindness as feminine quality, not house slavery, which I'm totally against of - along with you, I gather.
It's like walking down the street in a strange city on vacation break, noticing particular Turkish dried figs and buying them for your sister on impulse, because you've suddenly recalled half-forgoten conversation with her 12 yrs ago. (I am talking about my sister here). A heartthrob.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 10, 2004 05:43 PM

"Doesn't it seem that, as digital technology moves into a field, that the field always becomes more ... down to earth, more brusque and less special? Writing becomes less about qualities and tone and more about information and attitude."

This is tangential, of course, but: writing in the digital media remains very much about qualities and tone. This can be non-obvious because Google finds bad writing as well as good, but in any community that makes use of the accolade of respect--the blogosphere, most mailing lists, almost any group of serious computer experts (hackers, not crackers)--respect correlates strongly, though not exclusively, with the ability to use language well. One criterion of good language is indeed efficiency, but that's a return to the Classic Style, not a degradation. Another criterion of good language, to which hackers especially are attuned, is the ability to convey multiple levels of meaning, i.e. to write between the lines. An example is the mailing-list post that treats its interlocutor courteously while nonetheless conveying to those in the know the author's less-than-respectful personal opinion. This is one digital-media analogue of snobbery, which, as always, goes hand in hard with art. If you're inclined, spend some time browsing the Jargon File ( ), and reading the introductory remarks. I suppose it's possible that non-hackers don't perceive the aesthetic that's in play here, but if so that's a failing of non-hackers; there is definitely an aesthetic, and it is definitely in "play".

Posted by: Andy Blumson on February 10, 2004 05:58 PM

About young gals. I'm a 20something male, and the gi^H^H women I'm interested in are exactly the ones who have depth. There are a lot of them out there; they're under the pop-culture radar, so to speak, but that's just because the radar is calibrated wrong. The people who are actually taken in by the pop-cultural illusions are indeed going to be (in general) miserable when they grow up, but people without depth have always been miserable, and always will be; the looming crisis of the demographic under discussion is in that respect no different from the mid-life crisis of the Boomer who finally realizes that his corporate job and 2.3 kids have left him without a real sense of self. So the problem of identity you're seeing is indeed different than it used to be, but in the grand scheme of things it's normal, not aberrant.

About poetry and the sacred. Those are not and never have been younglings' concepts. Adolescent poetry is almost universally bad--mine sure was. It may be that for many younglings these days adolescence lasts longer than it used to, but that's just the continuation of the historical trend: when Romeo and Juliet were my age they'd been dead for ten years (to borrow Tom Lehrer). We still, eventually, grow up, and we will as long as the problem of scarcity ensures that we can't all have everything we want. And when we grow up, we will write poetry and embrace sacredness. Mere generations can't change the nature of life.

Posted by: Andy Blumson on February 10, 2004 06:19 PM

Excellent observation, and very brave of you to set it down. I am in my fifties, and have seen many changes in the traditional roles and wants and styles of women and men as the all important equality is sought.

There are good traits and not so good traits that are inherent physically evidenced differences in the male and female brain. While each is fully capable of performing the tasks geared towards the other, there are some things at which women shall always excel, and likewise men. Somehow, I tend to think there was a biological reason for this, and wonder if perhaps it has something to do with the survival of the species?

Equal opportunity--of course. But generations of men and women should not be forced to think alike because some sense of balance, I'm afraid, will be lost.

Posted by: susan on February 10, 2004 06:28 PM

As a mid-thirties male, one thing I've noticed is how many teenage or twenty-something girls seem to look to me to be a father-figure to dispense advice or approval. I'm not particularly handsome or rich, rather boring in fact, and I wouldn't try to take advantage of them, which is perhaps why they come to me. They all seem on the surface to be bright, bouncy,intelligent, live-for-the-moment girls, but underneath there's usually an absent, divorced or deceased father. My own widowed father has exactly the same thing with his housekeeper's daughters, who keep on dropping in for advice on boyfriends or jobs. It may just be vanity on my part in thinking that they value my wisdom, but it does seem that there's a lot of hidden insecurity.

Posted by: George on February 10, 2004 06:29 PM

Grace is definitely hard to come by. That is the exact word I would use to describe it too. Who knows what grace is anymore?
Shall 16 run an article, 653 ways to be "graceful" next month? And can something as crude as that teach it?

I was thinking about desacrilizing earlier... I actually just watched La Jetee last night, and was discussing it this morning. I won't bother retelling the entire arc of the conversation/thought... But I certainly feel like the degree of emotions I've been experiencing recently is magnified many times over not by "immediacy" but by distance. In discussing The Girl yesterday, I mentioned to a friend that I would actually prefer not to talk to her (which seems to be necessitated by current circumstances), and he simply couldn't understand why not.
Immediacy is beneficial, and wonderful to have, but I feel it needs to be regulated with distance/restraint or else everything becomes "desacrilized" as you say.

"And via which channels and techniques do you recognize (and bow down to and express) it?"

I feel like you're channeling me, or maybe I'm channeling you. In any case, we don't seem to have time for that any more.

I get the sense that "we" as a culture, meaning my generation and the generations after are going to navigate these things just fine though. I don't think you can really suppress the old things, it'll just come up again. Hopefully in healthier ways than it seems to have in the past.
Of course I might feel that way because I feel like I have my head screwed on right and I'm pretty optimistic as far as my own prospects go.

Posted by: . on February 10, 2004 06:44 PM

Annette, my mother would have smacked my father along side the head if he'd had the gall to snipe about something like forgetting the tomatoes. Her attitude was "if you dont like what I put on the table, get up and cook it yourself." Fortunately, she was a dynamite cook and a baker who could make you think of angels when you ate her cookies or pie. It's a quiet accomplishment some women and men seem to have missed along the way. Thankfully, I have her recipes. ;o)

Tatyana, I dont think my hubby intended to make the kid manipulative and as a gawky, spotted faced teenager often in dire need of shower, the puppy eyed adoring gaze is somehow diminished. He's down to a mumbled "good cookies, Mom" as he stuffs 2 of them in his mouth. However, the husband did instill in the son gratitude and appreciation for the small favors that someone else does for him. And that included putting food on the table, folding laundry or patching jeans.

Posted by: Deb on February 10, 2004 07:21 PM

I wonder if anyone has been following "The Apprentice"? The girls (no dammit, not women - these have not earned that designation) on this show seem to be prototypes of what is being discussed here. They are wearing tight clothes and shaking their asses in order to get ahead - and you can tell Trump's 40something right hand women is just pissed off at them (while Trump himself, of course, is lapping it up...)

Posted by: jimbo on February 10, 2004 07:43 PM

I, too, have my grandma's recipes and on a particularly happy, quiet and harmonious day can come a step closer to get the food to resemble her's and give my kid a sense of my childhood. But I could never become such caring, kind and warm person no matter how I'll try. [And, besides, I was making notes re: my own Spotty Face wonder only]

I don't think this generation of girls is something so fundamentally new, Michael, as you seems to think. After all, there was much bigger generational difference between end of 19th century women and their daughters, and when you think of the women of the 30's, what behaviour, professions and general life perspectives they made acceptable and how radically different it was in comparison with "femme fatales" mentality of the 1900's. I don't think, BTW, that 60's brought the same quality change in customs of society; if anything, more infantilism (is that a word?) and irresponsibility.

I am amazed at current 20+ too, their confidence, genuine optimism and no- nonsense attitude, although still think me and my girlfriends in our 20+ were not that different in that respect, but was raised differently and poetry and Old Masters definitely were more important (at least for me, I could read Al.Blok by heart and by hours - and what's more important, understood it better then), than career planning. And I know if my 20+ I would considered this tone today's girls have with boys as perverse, so much tomboish cheerleading and no real self-understanding.
Oh, they will learn, I'm sure. It's just will be more painful because their picture of the world order will be shattered. I could easily see how person could became depressed when normal people around her will be percieved as hypocrits and shauvinistic pigs.

But you might be right that now pendulum moved too far again - and I think I can sort of understand your particular kind of SIGH behind all of this...

Posted by: Tatyana on February 10, 2004 08:28 PM

Tatyana, maybe Michael's next post should be a cooking/baking one where we all post our favorite recipes. ;o)

Jimbo, when does a female young person move from being a girl to a woman. I'm curious, not sarcastic. I cant recall making the transition--some days I dont think I have. So what's the criteria? Obviously age, earning power and educational levels dont determine it. What does?

Posted by: Deb on February 10, 2004 08:54 PM

"Gals"? :)

Posted by: David Sucher on February 11, 2004 02:45 AM

Here's what Anonymous said:

Inwardness, as you point out, traditionally has associations with the feminine. But aren't there also qualities of inwardness that are traditionally associated with the masculine? (Examples: quiet strength, quiet confidence, conviction, commitment, purpose) These things also seem to have gone out the window, replaced with a cowboyish version of masculinity as thoughtless bull-headedness and power.

This is backwards. The proper dispensation of masculine qualities is:

COWBOY: quite strength, quiet confidence, conviction, commitment, purpose.

METROSEXUAL: callow, selfish, thoughtless, showy, whiny, petty.

Just wanted to clear that up.

Posted by: Bob Kotz on February 11, 2004 02:47 AM

Going to have to go with Bob on this. I've never gotten the impression that W is some kind of flamboyant, over-the-top, domineering person. You may or may not agree with various aspects of what he does, but he is definitely low-key.

Posted by: . on February 11, 2004 08:01 AM

Deb - I am not a girl, not yet a woman. Oh, wait, that's Ms. Spears. My mother plays cards with the girls because girls just wanna have fun. The men don't like it, but the little girls understand that it wasn't god who made honky tonk angels.

M. Blowhard, I could just go on and on.. but not on this long tough day. (All you honeys who makin' money, throw your hands up at me.) I need cool quiet and time to think. Shouldn't I have this?

Posted by: j.c. on February 11, 2004 11:33 AM

The whole girl/woman thing ... I dunno. What stage are we at? My parents' generation used "girls" and "ladies," mostly, as I recall. "Women"? That was almost a technical term, or a word spoken in hushed tones when sanitary products were being discussed. Then the (gag) '70s came along and suddenly every female over the age of 5 had to be referred to as a "woman," or else the offender's head would get bitten off.

What stage are we at now? The young women I was posting about don't seem remotely offended by the term "girls." Sometimes they're acting like women, sometimes like girls, and that's their prerogative -- as far as I can tell, that's their attitude. But the Boomer females seem almost as touchy about being called "women" as ever.

Personally, I found the political over-emphasis on the term "women" a minor inconvenience but still a pain. When a bunch of guys, er men, are acting rowdy, for instance, you might well say, Boys, boys, please a little calm here. Why be prevented from using "girls" in a similar way? The '70s were my dating decade, and it always seemed to me that "dating" went a whole lot better with "boys" and "girls" than with "men" and "women." "Women" dating "men" sounded like the kind of no-fun I was eager to avoid, especially on a date.

My lousy solution was to start using "gals" whenever I might be tempted to use "girls" instead of "women." But I'm cheered up by the way "girls" itself seems to be coming back into use.

How do y'all react to the term "girls" these days? And what stage do you think we're at where its use is concerned? Are there still gals -- er, women, er, females -- who take offence?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 11, 2004 12:24 PM

"Anyway it seems clear that to a large extent cultures used to locate these softer, more personal values and qualities on or in their women."

As Islam still does. A lot of the problems we are having with "Islam" these days is not a religious thing but a cultural one. (Remember that Islam is not just a religion but also a culture in a way that's pretty much impossible for a Westerner to understand).

Most Muslims look with horror at the position of women in western - and particularly US - society. The way they see it, in the West, not only can you break thru the glass ceiling (if ur a woman), you can also tramp the streets as a harlot.

In the US, a "wife" no longer really holds that position in the strict sense of the word. What a wife now is is a "partner" or "pal"....."one of
the boys"..that type of thing. You like mountain climbing? Guess what, wifey will be rite behind you. You like kayaking down treacherous moutain streams? No problem.....just give wifey a paddle...and so on.

For this reason, and a lot of others, I believe that American women as a group are among the most miserably unhappy creatures of the human race.....they always have a "hysterical" look about's really sad.

As Dr Laura has said: the one thing uppermost on a woman's mind is getting a husband.....even jewelry takes second place. Therefore, what you see today in young woman is a reflection of what men "want" no longer want their women bright and aggressive and intellectual and so therefore, you get the caricature of "easy living" they currently portray. Look a little closer in their eyes, tho, and I think you'll see the beginning of the hysteria that will ultimately dominate their lives.

I myself think its hilarious. That's why I don't have many friends. I tend to mock and jeer whenever something needs that reaction.....and there's a lot of that around these days......

A. Kievalar

Posted by: Alo Kievalar on February 11, 2004 12:36 PM

Deb---Oh, to have had your mother! (Your mother's recipes, too, it sounds like!).

MBlowhard---"Gals" is definitely out.

Alo---But "Dr. Laura" should be even more Out---as in Off the Planet. But-"men no longer want their women bright and aggressive and intellectual and so therefore, you get the caricature of "easy living" they currently portray." Notable exceptions aside, when was the nanosecond that American men ever really wanted that, and the feminist "rap" that they periodically come forth with when they want to get laid by someone that they think will like hearing it doesn't count. You see Mr. Blowhard's comments. But...there was a certain charm when women had to work through back channels...oh, where is the mystery? MBlowhard was,apparently, born in 1850.

Posted by: annette on February 11, 2004 02:08 PM

Well, "gals" isn't out among house-painters, under-employed musicians, carpenters, workers at high-end grocery stores, roofers, or engineering staff on Navy bases—all jobs I've had in the last 10 years. In these places, "man" and "woman" and their plurals are conspicuous by their absence in ordinary speech. (The one exception being when either is treated as an abstract class, as in "Women in the construction trades" or "What is it with men?") In all but the roofing jobs, I've worked directly or indirectly for women, and only at the grocery store were most of the women in their 20s or younger, so I don't think it's just male-dominated workplaces or changing times.

That certainly wasn't the case during my seven years of graduate school in English or at the software firms where I worked in the early 90s, where everyone, male and female, was extremely conscious of how they spoke to talk to or about women (there's that abstract class again). It sometimes felt like there were traps laid everywhere.

Still, it came to seem the natural way to speak, so much so that when I was spit out by that world I was astonished at the way people outside talked to each other. And damn it was a relief to rejoin the professional world and find all that automatic guilt just gone. The only place it ever comes up these days is at poetry readings and human resource briefings, and everyone knows it's ok to ignore both.

Posted by: Mike Snider on February 11, 2004 03:58 PM

Alo Kievalar - what, quite, is unwifely about going mountain climbing or kayaking with your husband?

I know that traditional Islamic cultures have rather different views about how women's sexuality should be displayed, and the proper division of public and private space - but regarding it as somehow wrong for a married couple to do things together strikes me as really weird.

As for cooking - as a girl in my mid-twenties, I feel entitled to comment that my friends my age still very much appreciate good cooking. And don't over-sentimentalise previous generations - my grandma was a terrible cook, and my gran a pretty basic one - while my mum taught herself to be a great cook (and then married Dad, who, probably due to grandma, doesn't notice cooking at all, despite this waste they've been happily married for some 30 years now), and my memories of childhood include Mum teaching various siblings and siblings-in-law how to cook, as they approached the novel situation of having kids of their own.

As for starting jobs - lets see, two weeks after starting my first real job as a forecaster I wound up staying at work until 9 at night, proving to myself that the model I had inherited was useless. This left me having to produce a forecast without any model at all. I don't know how this rates, it could be regarded as a desire for truth, and good quality above all else, or sawing off the branch you are sitting on, but at least I was taking the job seriously.

And, a friend of mine, also in her early-twenties started work as an accountant, and was so conscientious that after about a year she was seriously stressed because all these clients were calling up and demanding that she be employed on their projects.

Us 20-something vary in our work habits, capabilities and everything else. Unlike other generations, of course, who were all cut from the same mould.

Posted by: Tracy on February 11, 2004 06:29 PM

* Mike's comment reminds me of the media world where I work. The above-ground people? All careful, self-policing, serious: definitely "men" and "women." The grunts? Much more humorous, flirty, bantering: guys, gals, men, women, honey, girl, boys, fellas ... I nearly gasped with relief when I started spending more time with them than with the stars.

* Muslims and western women ... Back in the '70s, when I was doing my backpacking-in-Europe thing, it was a common tale you'd run into. There were hostels and dorm-like places for kids to stay in cheaply. And, this being the '70s, unisex was a big deal. But still the guys and gals were pretty respectful. All except for Islamic guys (or rather, some Islamic guys), who were known for bringing folding chairs into the girls' shower rooms and watching them take showers. When the girls --- sorry, women (it was the '70s) -- would complain, they guys would pretty much dare them to kick them out. Given that there was no rule basis to do so, they couldn't be kicked out.

* I rememer too a visit to Morocco, and picking up readings from the local guys. They looked at Euro and American girls with utter rage (and presumably lust). While the Moroccan women were all covered up, the Euro/American women were in jeans, shorts, tops, etc, with hair loose and faces uncovered. And it seemed perfectly clear to me that what enraged the local guys so much wasn't just that, in their terms, the Euro/American women were being disrespectful. It was that, in local terms, sex with them had already begun. The rage came from the fact that the Euro/American women didn't think so. It was the first time I started wondering about the question "When does sex start?" With the first kiss? With actual penetration? It was so startling, because it seemed to me that these guys were convinced not just that the women were sending signals but that sex with a woman in such a state was already underway. So I started thinking, Gee, this idea that "sex" starts only at such-and-such a moment genuinely seems to be, at least to some extent, culture-dependent.

Tracy -- Hang on for a few more decades. You'll notice generational characteristics, and you'll probably find yourself talking to friends your own age about these kids these days. I don't know anyone my age who doesn't notice certain general tendencies among age-groups. Might be one of those things that comes with age. On the other hand, I seem to recall a lot of Xers and Yers complaining a lot about something called "Boomers," whatever they are.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 11, 2004 07:04 PM

j.c.--passionate kisses, which I think was the point of the song.

Michael-- I dont much care what you call me. At my age, any guy who wants to get flirty and call me a gal, young lady, or honeybun is welcome to it, as long as he realizes he may get slapped along side the head if he goes beyond the spirit of fun and comraderie. It just doesnt seem all that important anymore, ya know? Gray hair and wrinkles give you some perspective.

Tracy, I really dont oversentimentalize my mother's and my grandmother's generation. They had things like the Depression, polio, WWII, Korea and all sorts of other nasty things to live thru. There is comfort in keeping a home running smoothly no matter what's going on outside of it, but they also didnt have much choice in the matter. I think your generation is going to be luckier than mine in some respects. You will have more choices than either I or my mother had. She couldnt work because it just wasnt done. I had no choice because by the time I got around to getting out of college, getting a job and being independent financially was the ONLY goal allowed. Home and family were sideshows to the real event of making money. There has to be a balance somewhere. You go girl!

Posted by: Deb on February 11, 2004 10:03 PM

Deb-- "Gray hair and wrinkles give you some perspective" Don't I know it. And what game is fun if someone doesn't follow the rules? The weird thing for a while was that no one seemed to know what the rules were—no, that's not right. There was a time, not so long ago, when a lot of people, especially but not exclusively on the left , thought the rules were purely based on power, without any grounding in human nature, and that therefore whatever rules they thought to be just could be imposed on everyone. That goes for free love hippies and Dworkin-style feminists. The case of family-values conservatives is a little more complicated, since they do believe there is a human nature, but they don't believe there's any need to think about what that nature is, since the Bible/Torah/Koran/Sutras/Vedas/pick-your-revelation are all we ever need to know.

Posted by: Michael Snider on February 11, 2004 10:30 PM

Deb - my Gran had to get a job for a time, if her and Grandad were to keep the farm and feed the kids. Similar situations for a couple of my great-grandmas (of course Gran was a bit unusual in that she kept teaching, and only "retired" to get into re-working the education system). Whenever someone talks about the new experience of married women going off to work, I remember that generally poor women had to work for money.

What I was referring to in sentimentalising was the "mother at home, surviving up delicious means" - some mothers were not good cooks. And there were suicides and unplanned & unwanted pregancies and people going mad with sending them to an asylum a completely shameful option, and trying to raise kids with a husband who drank all he earned and trying to raise kids with a husband who didn't earn much in the first place, and men still shellshocked from WWI, and no legal protection if your husband beat or raped you. Women were not that protected from the harsh and unsparing side of life in general, either that or my gran and great-aunts had very unusual experiences.

Michael - I have a history of, when it comes to people, not being able to see the wood for the trees. I once was forced to admit that my father and his brother had the same hair and eye colour, the same skin colour (& tendency to go nut brown on looking at the sun out a window), the same features, were the same height and build, and had the same habit of smiling all the time, but I still maintain that apart from all that they look completely different, and how could *anyone* think they look alike?

And as for only expecting a life of fun - well, after 13 years of being bored to tears at school, the real world is bursting with fun.

Posted by: Tracy on February 12, 2004 12:02 AM

Tracy -- Let's hear if for getting out of school!

As far as women working goes ... I was pretty flabbergasted by much of '70s feminism. Many of the women in the town where I grew up worked, my mom included. So "women working"? I took it for granted that if they wanted to or needed to they would. And none of us were poor -- we were middle-class, if shading towards lower rather than upper. Seemed normal to me. These days my high-achieving sister probably makes (and deserves to make) 8 times what I do. Doesn't bug me in the slightest -- I'm proud of her.

I'll be foolhardy here for a moment and add that the nightmare version of women's lives prior to '70s feminism never rang true to me. I grew up knowing many, many relatively happy women, as well as a fair number of men who weren't thrilled to be going off to lousy jobs every day. Many of these women and men worked together to make good lives for themselves and their kids, and admired and appreciated what each other contributed to the effort.

The whole idea of domineering men who loved being out in the world holding guns to the heads of unwilling women and forcing them to be domestic and submissive -- I dunno, I really never saw much of that. To be honest, I never saw any of that. What I saw was a lot of women and men teaming up to help each other make it through life, and generally making a pretty generous job of it.

And -- this is a real sin to mention, I suppose -- I did see a lot of women who seemed quite content to be raising the kids and tending the house rather than going off to a shitty job, the only kind of job anyone in my town knew of. (Jobs ranged from tolerable to lousy, but they were all basically shitty.) The unfulfilled "mad housewives" of feminist legend weren't to be found in my neck of the woods. Not a one that I was aware of.

Did a few sex-related legal things (from the point of view of the people I knew) need to be cleared out and straightened up? Sure. My mom, for instance, might have gotten a rung or two further up the ladder than she did. My sister might have found her biz niche earlier, rather than being steered into lit and home ec. But no one thought that a drastic, topsy-turvy overhaul of basic sex roles and societal arrangements was needed.

One of the semi-unspoken secrets about '70s feminism was that it was largely the creation of upper-middle-class women. They were often women who had help around the house, and hence had the time and luxury to sit around imagining how great they could be if only ... They were often women who didn't think in terms of "jobs to pay the bills" (as the women in my neighborhood did) but who were able instead to think in terms of "going out and fulfiling myself by having a career" -- something that was virtually inconceivable to the people I knew.

The contrast between the girls I grew up with (middleclass and smalltown) and the girls I found myself around later in life (upper middleclass and rich) was astounding. The girls I grew up with were generally relaxed, pragmatic, earthy, skeptical of politics, and fond of boys. The Ivy, academic, arty and media types I've found myself among since were often frustrated, angry, quick to politicize almost anything, and immensely resentful of males. Yet they were the "privileged" ones, and were also of course far more prone to be true-believing feminists.

As I type, I'm remembering this inadvertently hilarious article by some young woman for Salon some years back. She was under the impression that, prior to the 1970s, women didn't enjoy sex.

Sorry: I'm free-associating here rather than responding to anyone...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 12, 2004 01:12 AM


I guess I’m free-associating, too. Your comments got me to thinking.

“Muslims and western women ... Back in the '70s, when I was doing my backpacking-in-Europe thing, it was a common tale you'd run into.”


“I remember too a visit to Morocco, and picking up readings from the local guys. They looked at Euro and American girls with utter rage (and presumably lust)…. So I started thinking, Gee, this idea that "sex" starts only at such-and-such a moment genuinely seems to be, at least to some extent, culture-dependent.”

I experienced the same folding-chair-in-the-shower-room phenomenon when I stayed at a hostel in Paris during the same time period. More recently, I experienced a tortured interaction with one of my Middle Eastern exchange students (male), whom I was supervising in a research project. The concept of a woman as his superior was anathema to him, and his method of dealing with me was astonishing and amusing to behold.

It was necessary to meet periodically to gauge his progress on said project. Whenever I contacted him about scheduling a meeting, he would say “No – I tell YOU when we meet.” It galled him to realize that I always had the upper hand in such transactions, especially when he realized that he had no choice but to meet with me and subject his research to my scrutiny. He would never remain seated in my office, either. During our meetings, he would pace and jab his index finger at me as he made a (usually defensive) point. I felt pity for him, actually, as our cultural dance unfolded.

When he returned home, he would send me reams of email, most of which was – by my standards, anyway – highly inappropriate. Insta-Kiss cards and over-the-top flowery notes were his favorites. Apparently, those tortured meetings were foreplay in his mind. Good that I always kept my office door open.

I’m expecting a Valentine card any day now. And his research skills were crap, by the way.

Posted by: Maureen on February 12, 2004 09:15 AM


I have similar tales of my own. Of course, the circumstances were different, but general direction's the same.
There are numerous stories I've heard in my first school in Russia (engineering 5-yrs college) about girls who would get married in Russia to the foreign students of Middle-Eastern descent [who were regarded pretty high on a marriage ladder on 2 reasons: 1) they were foreign and 2) they were all "princes"].
After living more or less normal family life with their husbands during college years upon moving to their new country of residence majority of those college-educated doctors, engineers and architecs sold their dear wives to the brothels; they simply were considered whores from the beginning.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 12, 2004 11:41 AM

Ok, I get to free associate too while we're at it.

What has always struck me is how the definition of work has changed for women. My grandmother strictly kept the Sabbath and didnt allow work on Sunday's in her household. That meant no mowing the lawn, no dishes, no cooking, etc. When we visited once and I pulled out my knitting she about had a bird since that was work. Knitting was functional and therefore defined as work to her. She spent the rest of her week raising enough food in the garden to feed her family, preserving it, cooking it, keeping the house clean, washing clothes and then mending them, taking care of the cow and sheep they kept for meat and wool and milk, chopping the wood for the woodstove and then taking the ashes out after keeping the fire going at all times etc etc etc. Everyone valued what she did as legitimate work. It was necessary. I think for a time in the late 30's and early 40's she took in laundry to get cash and I know she sold eggs and butter all the time to folks in town. And she did all this while living with chronic depression.

My mom was very similiar--we were lower middle class and she gardened for food and made our clothes except for my fathers and used a wringer washer because they couldnt afford a new one. She made bread because it was cheaper. I learned to darn my own socks early on. All of that was considered legitimate work by everyone I knew. She got a job when I was 8 to raise more cash and "worked" outside the house. I was the only kid in my class with a "working" mom. That was in the 60's. But my father and all the men I knew growing up respected the work that was involved in keeping everybody fed and clothed. When she had to get a job it was just part of that ethic. My mother did all this while living with a chronic lung disease that left her with half of one lung and two thirds of another by the time she was 30.

Somehow, I think we've lost some respect for home that used to be there. We're so entranced by all the cool toys that working can buy us that we've lost the simple pleasure of a good meal at the end of the day or the smell of sheets dried on the line. Thankfully, I found a life partner that feels the same way I do. I can work at a job and feel good about the money I bring in just like my husband does, but I also have a place of respect in our household for the work I do there. And no feminist ninny is ever going to convince me we are less because of the choices I or my mother or my daughter make or dont make.

Free associating, as I said.

Posted by: Deb on February 12, 2004 12:26 PM

You go, girls (Tatyana and Deb). More free association …

I’m thinking more about the cultural meaning of it all. I’m going to be traveling for most of this spring, sometimes doing work and mostly enjoying the world. I’m commencing in London, and moving across the continent to Central Europe eventually. The trip began as a bit of work (academic lectures), but is rapidly morphing into a past bf tour. (So shoot me.) And therein lies the fascination. For example, Mr. Paris is quite accepting of this aspect of my travel, while Mr. Warsaw feels that he should accompany me as a protector. Mr. NY wants to join me for a time to learn about the more European, “womanly” aspects of my nature. Each man views me – and what I represent – through the prism of his own cultural definition of "woman." I think I like that. Is it feminist? Maybe. Maybe not.

And of course I’m going to write about this, albeit pseudonymously. To answer Michael, the aesthete in me recognizes the immense potential for poetry inherent in this situation.

Free association over now …

Posted by: Maureen on February 12, 2004 02:26 PM





Although I'm as American as apple pie, I have spent most of my life overseas....therefore my prespective is a little different than most of my compatriots of whatever age or sex (I mean, gender).

What on earth is a single American girl (under 30 or so) doing in a place like Morocco???? It's one thing to go to Geneva or Paris or some such as kind of a "finishing up" part of one's general education. But to go to Morocco or live in 25 cent hostels in Europe which are known for their low standards is another thing.

It always amazes me to hear about a group of American young people going to places like Guatemala, Macchu Picchu or some such and then the females in that group end up getting raped. There's always some such story making the ignorant can people be?

[What amazes me is not that the visitors get raped....what amazes me is that the visitors and their parents and their sponsoring agencies are amazed that this has happened]

I urge you to check out the US State Dept.'s "Country Description" section. Just to take an example, look what they have to say about PERU. The URL is:

Skip the "nice" things they say at the top....instead, go to to subtitle:'s a quote from that section in case you don't want to check this out in full:

".....Violent crime, including carjacking, assault, and armed robbery, is common in Lima. Resistance to violent crime often provokes greater violence, while victims who do not resist usually do not suffer serious physical harm. "Express kidnappings," in which criminals kidnap victims and seek to obtain funds from their bank accounts via automatic teller machines, occur frequently. Thieves often smash car windows at traffic lights to grab jewelry, purses, backpacks, or other visible items from a car......"

If you read the whole thing, it should cause the hair on your spine to raise.....and this is PERU....a supposedly friendly and sleepy backwater in our own Americas.

As far as "doing things with your husband".....that also amazes me. Don't women know that men like to do a lot of things by themselves? Like fishing and such? Then they wonder why there is so much divorce in the US. To me, it's very clear. ALWAYS being around the husband....insisting on being around them.....leads to one thing......the husband gets sick and tired of always seeing the same face always there ready to "help". O pleez......The husband simply feels like he's "being watched.."...and you know what?.....he IS.

Posted by: Alo Kievalar on February 12, 2004 03:06 PM

Alo Kievalar, of course it makes sense to learn as much as possible about places one intends to visit and to take appropriate safety measures. But you make it sound as if most Western women who travel to the third world should expect to be raped—and it nearly sounds as if you think that's what they deserve.

That's a bizarre view of the world, to put it kindly, but not as bizarre as the ideas you seem to have about appropriate relations between couples. Let me ask you—what if it's two men in love, and they both like hunting? What if the wife grew up in the country and loves to hunt and fish and the husband, who grew up in the city, wants to learn? What if, as is usually the case, both partners have jobs that require them to be apart most of the day and kids in school to be chauffered around at night and weekend trips together are all the time they have alone? And that last comment—assuming you're not just trolling—I pity you, and pity more anyone who ends up in a relationship with you.

Posted by: Mike Snider on February 12, 2004 04:57 PM

(and please correct me if I'm wrong)
I can see Mr.Kievalar in the role of that man in Annette's comment, who's wife is scared to death because she forgot to serve the tomatoes...

Posted by: Tatyana on February 12, 2004 05:19 PM

This is quite an interesting thread of commentary. I must admit to living a relatively sheltered existence where I am not knowingly interacting with 20+ females very much. (One never knows truly whom one is meeting on the Internet.) But this discussion is much broader than that. So, my own lowly opinions...

First, people are people throughout the ages. While culture, or lack thereof, has its effects, it doesn’t change being human. The generation under discussion will have, in aggregate, the same life lessons and experience classes as all humans have for generations. They will learn and grow from their experiences. Some will even develop character. Several people here have mentioned President Bush (43). Here was a man who was a good-time Charley, hard-drinkin’, rich kid thirty years ago. Somewhere along the way, he learned some hard lessons and got a big dose of character. On the other hand, a man junior to him by about a month, William J. Clinton, never learned those particular lessons and never built character. It was not a function of their age or generation. This generation will be no different. Some will form character; some won’t. A larger portion of this generation might find that character harder to come by than past generations, but that’s just speculation.

A second point: We are not one single culture anymore, and neither are the 20+ generation. Western civilization has shattered like a looking glass thrown to the ground. We have dozens of subcultures in America and the West, each with its slightly skewed and flawed perspective. Individuals may interact with or even be a part of several of these cultures. These 20+ kids are probably a lot less monolithic than were the kids of the mid-century baby boom. (For those who know little of labor economics and demography, "baby booms" happen about every 40 years.) They haven’t all grown up paying attention to the same pop culture. There are variants and offshoots. They didn't have just the choice of ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS, with maybe one local station thrown into the mix. They grew up with hundreds of channels on cable and satellite. There wasn’t just Rock music. There were a hundred sub-genres and crossovers between Rock, Classical, Folk, Pop, and Cod only knows what else. They didn't have to be part of a mass culture, they swam among the shards.

Third, writing has not lost its art or soul from becoming pixelated by the digital infusion. It is not less about qualities and tone and more about information and attitudes. What you are seeing is more the Democratization of writing. A hundred years ago, relatively few people wrote for a living, nor did the majority's opinions tend to make it into print. There were several reasons. One reason is that the culture couldn’t afford it. More people had to be employed in producing food and other things necessary for survival rather than for the growth and nourishment of the soul. The culture could only afford "the best" writers of the time. Nowadays, a fellow who would have been on the end of a shovel or a hoe two hundred years ago or working a machine in a factory fifty years ago is now wielding computers and other dangerous weapons of the digital age. We are inundated in the written word. Be things well said, mundanely expressed, or illiterately babbled, anyone can have his blog. With this greater volume, it is hard to sort through to find the rich writing that was distilled out of the ages, even if those ages were the 1980’s. This is also true of music and the other arts. Our culture is splintered, but rich enough to support artists of every level for every one of a thousand civilizational shards.

Another factor in looking back through various arts through the ages is that we usually only see the survivors. For every Ludwig van Beethoven, there were ten Ludwig van Nobodys. If you look back at the 1970’s writing with nostalgia, it is because you’ve forgotten the amount of dreck and schlock that was published, and you weren’t unfortunate enough to be one of the editors who had to review the stuff that didn’t get published. Today, for a nominal amount of money, I can publish a book and have it show up in all of the big online bookstores. "Look, Ma! I’m a published author!" The fact that these authors have only sold three books doesn’t matter. You see their work, and it’s about information and attitude. And then you lament, "What happened to the good stuff?" It is there, sir, there’s just much more hay in the stack than there are needles. Wait twenty years and you’ll be lamenting about how much better the written word was back in ’04.

I fear that I must second Mr. Kievalar’s point about wives always being with their husbands. My wife and I have certain things we do separately. On Saturday’s she volunteers at a local establishment. On days when they don’t need her there, it drives me nuts. It’s good to have separate time.

One of the responses above mentioned the idea that we are losing respect for home. It is much more than that. We have lost respect for anything durable. We used to wear shoes that could be resoled, re-heeled, and such many times. There’s nothing like a good pair of wingtips. But today? Wear athletic shoes until they blowout on the bottoms, then toss them. Many of us live with the disposability of things everyday. An electronic device goes bad? Toss it and buy a new one. It’s cheaper than fixing the old one. Besides, the new one has so many more new features.

This disposability and lack of respect for durability also applies to discipline. It doesn’t matter that hundreds or thousands of generations of children were brought up with expectations and discipline. Let’s take everything we knew and toss it aside for what some nanny with a Ph.D. thinks when he’s never had children. In art, techniques and disciplines that were developed and refined for hundreds of years were thrown aside by iconoclasts who had nothing to replace those disciplines with. Thus we make undisciplined art. If I wish to take an object I find, put it sticking up from a vat of excrement, and call that art, I can. Many young writers have thrown aside the older disciplines of writing, and the critics, finding something, "Different, original, etc." laud it to Heaven and above when in reality, it’s the excrement into which I’ve stuck my found object. Then academics get into the act, making up new terms or distorting common words into jargon to find new ways to praise and teach the schlock without losing their self-respect. "It has moment! This writer expresses in a strong voice." So did my father in his younger days, but back then you wouldn’t have heard his expressions on prime-time TV. Over the last hundred years, it has become hip in the arts to break the rules, to be an iconoclast. There are no rules left unbroken, especially the rule to make something good and creative. The disciplines of art framed creativity. They enhanced the creative process by giving a structure to work within. Without those disciplines, without those structures, there is not creativity, but only destruction.

Which brings us to poetry. An art that neglects structure and discipline these days. Mr. M. Blowhard’s contention that the change in women who are in the 20+ bracket will take away the poetry of life, is wrong. First, the young men of this generation are different, too, and they will find the poetry that lurks in their generation of women. Women of Shakespeare’s time were sonnets, with structured form and lives, but with a twist of mystery, a pivot of thought. Women of the 1960’s were avant garde free verse with nothing to hem them in, with the rules and roles all broken. So, what shall these young ladies be? Will they be formed or formless? Structured in thought or amorphous masses unclenchable? Time has yet to tell, but the poetry of these young people will speak loudly as they get older. And the poetry will remain. The mystery will remain...buried in the shadow of exuberance, lurking beneath the go-go-go energy. They are female, after all.

Posted by: Charley on February 12, 2004 06:25 PM

Mr. Keivalar

Generally you marry someone because you LIKE them. Good marriages, from my experience, are based on friendship. That generally means you like to spend time with each other. Spending time with your spouse is not watching them, it's sharing an experience with them. There is a valid place in all friendships for space. I wouldnt go along with my husband when he's out cutting wood with his bowl turner friends; he doesnt go with me to my fiber outings. But generally, I like spending time with him. I miss him when he is gone and look forward to his return. He worries about me when I am late getting home. And it is a partnership, for goodness sake, or it doesnt work.

I'm with Mike. You have my pity. You dont know what you are missing.

Posted by: Deb on February 12, 2004 06:44 PM

To all of the commentors: Thank you, thank you for a refreshing, intelligent, conversational community and to our bloghost, Michael. Kudos for a well thought-out post, that encourages explorations of feelings and opinions. This is blogging at its best.

Oh, and my opinon? I have four daughters between the current ages of 19 to 27. They are each different, but all raised to be self-respecting, brave and independent. But also to revere their special roles as women.

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on February 12, 2004 10:56 PM

TO MIKE SNIDER: I thank you for your pity but it is missplaced. Anyway, that's neither here nor is your contention that I have a "bizarre" way of looking at things. No I don't...I have a very realistic way of looking at things. My point was (re rape):

If you're female and you stay at European hostels where one is required to bathe "in public", you are asking for it. I mean, you may as well walk down nude on 5th Av NYC. What exactly is a female doing this type of thing trying to prove? You may find it hard to believe but American women in general are looked upon as whores in most parts of the world. This isn't a fantasy of mine......I've been told this over and over again by foreigners...French, Arabs, Japanese, Latinos etc. You expose 95% of your skin while "visiting" the Louvre, I can assure you that
you will be the object of untoward interest. And you know what? I'm convinced that the majority of American women who thusly expose themselves in public do it deliberately. As I said in my first message (according to Dr. Laura), the uppermost thing on a woman's mind is to get a matter what lengths they have to go to. Sorry, I know you find this idea disgusting but that's the way it is.

I won't tackle your mention of "two men in love". That's such a preposterous "relationship" that it's not worth analyzing. The fact is, men in general, but gay men in particular, are instinctively predatory animals. It is our culture's refusal to accept this basic fact that leads to so many problems and misinterpretations. Most foreign cultures are very well aware of this attribute of the male....that is precisely why the "cover" their women up.

TO CHARLEY: Your message was far too long for any went on and on in generalities about.....everything....and nothing....."people are people throughout the ages"...o pleez. "We are not a single culture anymore". O yes we are.......and it's getting more "single" by the day. Good luck.

TO DEB: Your premises are ok....but your conclusions are the same ol' tired things. Going "hunting" is not an "experience"'s something men do and they don't want a woman around with them when that's going on.

As I said before, I don't have many friends (maybe I *DO* need pity), but that's because I make it clear what I want and most people can't stand that.

Invite me to a party? The first thing I ask is: do I have to take my shoes off at the front door? or Do I have to share my meal with the family "pet" (usually a dog)? Is this a "family" gathering where I have to put up with "children" who interrupt without end and whose focus is "the children"? Then don't invite me. I'll walk out.
If I invite you to the local tavern, COME BY YOURSELF....don't bring the wife along.....I won't tolerate it.

I'm glad so many people pity me......that's why I go around gauffawing all the time when I see the unbelievable messes people make of their lives......because they're working from fraudulent premises, while all the time yelling at me hysterically "YOU DON"T KNOW WHAT YOUR MISSING!!!".....hahahaha....o yes I do.

Posted by: Alo Kieavalar on February 13, 2004 08:25 AM

I think everyone has a different definition of what character is. Is it merely pretending things don't matter or is it standing up against those who would make our fellow citizens second class? Is it facing up to a ruined economy(Mcjobs exculded), a country at war, and a country torn apart by those who don't remember how bad the good old days really were? Is it working hard, even though just a college degree won't get you anywhere anymore? Is it going through a devastating attack on your nation's soil and the attendant uncertainity and worry? This is what my generation of people who are 20ish have to face up to. They have no jobs after college, or jobs that are shit and pay $5 an hour(I apperciate those who fought and died so we could have a minium wage) . Thier brothers and sisters are off in a desert, with the possibilty of being carbombed. We lived in fear of sudden death after 9/11. The folks up in Washington don't want to accept our gay brothers and sisters or even people of color, even! Things aren't all honky dory in any time period, but it's easy to forget...

Posted by: Shannon on February 13, 2004 09:59 AM

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