Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Psychopath, or Most Dreamy Man Alive?

Like any self-respecting bookworm and psuedo-Anglophile, I have read Pride and Prejudice. And, like any fan of Pride and Prejudice, I have seen (and basically memorized the entire script of) the incredible BBC miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

I was not a big fan of the 2005 film. This is primarily because I despise Keira Knightley. My mother, after seeing the 2005 film, commented that this version probably more adequately displays the moderate social class of the Bennett family. The 2005 film is also less bright and.... well, beautiful. 

A huge part of the beauty in the 1995 miniseries is Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Beyond being a talented actor, this man is seriously easy on the eyes. So easy on the eyes, in fact, that Helen Fielding's hit book Bridget Jones's Diary (a book I embarrassingly love and read every year on January 1st) features pages and pages devoted to drooling over Firth as Darcy. 

When I was much younger, I once wandered into my family's living room. My mother was sitting in "her seat" -- a rocking chair near the television. There was almost certainly a throw around her shoulders and a cat on her lap. This was the oddly picturesque setting of my childhood. Stepping into my childhood home occasionally gives visitors an uneasy feeling of displacement, because it's suddenly difficult to peg what decade it is or exactly what kind of people we are. Once I was talking to a boyfriend on the phone and said, "Oh, who's at the door? ....Oh, never mind. It's just the milkman." (Seriously, it was the milkman.) This caused my ex to fall over himself laughing, asking "Where do you live? In England in the 1920s?" Shortly after that, he broke up with me. 

This particular night, before I had been dumped by anyone, my mother was watching an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice -- either the BBC miniseries or an earlier adaptation. I couldn't easily follow along with the movie, so I half-watched and half read a book. The book could have been either a Sweet Valley High or a fantasy novel about a beautiful girl who could also cast spells, either of which would have made me feel fat.

Nearing the end of the movie, when Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth and she accepts, I found myself incredibly irritated and nonplussed.

"What?" I asked. "She's marrying him? Why is she looking so happy about it? Didn't she like, hate him?" 

"Well, she did," my mother said shortly, obviously annoyed that I was interrupting the climax of the movie. 

"What?" I repeated again, just in case my mother hadn't registered my confusion. "But.... I'm sorry, is this not the same guy who was super snobby and refused to dance with her?"

My mother sighed. "He gets better. If you had paid attention, you would know that," my mother responded, her eyes fixed intently on the flickering screen before us.

I silently asked my mother, "Really, Mom? Really? He changed THAT much?" while boring a hole in the back of her head with my self-righteous, indignant eyes. I imagined that my intense silence was deafening. In reality, my mother was blissfully unaware of me seething behind her, and she sighed contentedly while petting the cat.

As I grew up, I continued to read young adult novels that made me feel fat. I also began to read Jane Austen novels, which also made me feel fat. (Making me feel fat didn't take a lot in those days.)

After reading the book and watching the BBC miniseries countless times, I too began to understand Darcy as someone who Gets Better. Beyond that, I began to view him as the Most Romantic Man in the World. How I swooned for him. How I wished that someday someone above my social status -- someone who gets both milk and eggs delivered, for example -- would inappropriately fall in love with me, be a passive-aggressive dick about it, and then take me to live with him in a mansion filled with oil-portraits of himself.

Later in my life, I was eating dinner with my friend Michael. He was gently explaining to me that I should accept that other people come from families that seem "strange" to me, because my family seems f***ing insane to outsiders. 

"No it doesn't," I said, taking an enormous bite of a brie-and-walnut appetizer. He looked levelly at me. 

"You have large portraits, done in pastels, of both you and your little sister framed in your living room. And neither of you are smiling in them. You're just staring, like it's the damn olden days." 

"But those were done by a street artist in Quebec," I protested.

He stared at me. "You read the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes aloud to each other while curled up under mountains of blankets. I don't know why a living room needs so many blankets" -- I have to give him this. It is 90 degrees in Syracuse today, and I have two blankets in my living room. Four if you count the one I use as a futon-cover or the one I use as a tablecloth. And I live alone. The remaining blankets I put in storage, thinking to myself, "two is probably fine for the living room in June." -- "AND," Michael continued, gearing up for his big finish, "you guys quote Pride and Prejudice to each other all. the. time."

I stared at him. "That's not WEIRD," I said, baffled. "Asking what your high-school aged child got on a test is weird. I mean, how do these parents even know when their kids HAD a test? Besides, Pride and Prejudice is amazing."

"No it's not," he said immediately. "It's terrible. Mr Darcy is an emotionally abusive psychopath who lures Elizabeth in with his money."

I was aghast. I had never heard such an indictment on Mr. Darcy before! Sure, I had similar sentiments before when catching the tail end of Pride and Prejudice with my mom -- but I was young and feeling fat all the time. Surely I didn't know anything. 

But now... every time I think about Pride and Prejudice...

I can't help but wonder.... is Fitzwilliam Darcy a psychopath? Is my secret desire to end up with someone who initially refuses to dance with me because I'm too ugly somehow problematic? Heaven forbid. . . . 

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to stretch out cheap flats -- and why you should be less of a pushover than me

I have weird feet. My shoe size ranges between a 9 - 9.5. My feet are very narrow with very high arches, which means that it can be difficult to find flats. Regular width flats will often just slide off my feet when I walk, even if they are the correct length.

I've also found that most inexpensive flats stretch out a good deal after wearing them in. Because my feet are already so narrow, this can cause a flat that once fit to just be too big. I started buying a shoe size down when buying flats to combat this.

I like doing this, because it enables me to still buy inexpensive shoes and (usually) get them to fit very well after some stretching. I'm opposed to spending a lot of money on flats because I go through them quickly -- even more expensive (and presumably better made) shoes never have a long life with me.

Here are my tips for intentionally buying shoes that are a bit too small with the hopes of stretching them out:

- Never spend a lot of money on the shoes. My rule for cheap flats is only under $20, with under $15 being preferable. If you're going to drop more than $20, you should buy shoes that fit from the outset.

- Some shoes are stretchier than others. If it feels like it won't stretch, it might not.

- Do not attempt to stretch out shoes if you just had a pedicure and you want to keep it looking great for awhile. Toes get a bit squashed in this process.

- Do not buy shoes that are too small and think that you will stretch them out at a dance. I recently did this, with the shoes pictured above. It was a really stupid move. I was incredibly uncomfortable halfway through the dance. Also remember that dancing in uncomfortable shoes is more painful than walking in uncomfortable shoes.

- Do not wear the still-too-small shoes to see a friend for lunch. I did this the other day, (the same damn black flats!) and it was another mistake. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get some good stretchin' time in, because it was slightly raining out (see the end of the post for how walking around in the rain helps), and because I would only have to walk to and from his car.

A wrench was thrown in my plans after lunch when my friend expressed desire to continue hanging out after we had finished eating. I recognized this for the rare opportunity it was, and I sure as hell was not going to squander it.

My friend is a bowtied gentleman who seemingly hates hanging out with people. Getting him out of his apartment to hang out with me is like pulling multiple teeth. Particularly if the teeth in question are going, "Maria, I don't want to leave this mouth and go to a really fun gay bar with you and some of your friends, I don't drink and I think I'll just watch television." And then you, yanking out the teeth are all like, "Come onnnn, teeth! Just get a seltzer with lime in a lowball glass and everyone will think you're drinking." And then the teeth are like, "You're misinterpreting why I don't want to go to the bar."

So as soon as there was the opportunity to hang out with this friend (with the bonus of being able to procrastinate, my favorite hobby) I leaped at it! And I sagely thought to myself, "I cannot ask him to take me home first to change shoes. The risk of him changing his mind while driving me there and just dropping me off so he to return to his busy schedule of misanthropy is too great."

We ended up at the mall. At first it was fine, and I had hopes that it wouldn't be a problem. But eventually, my feet hurt. A lot. So then I was compelled to buy some new flats, at Payless, for $20.** (Luckily these flats fit - and I think they're cute to boot!) Immediately after exiting the Payless I forced my friend to hold all my shopping bags and my purse and used his shoulder to steady myself while flopping around and changing shoes. "Maria, you're like falling apart. What is the matter with you? [Pause. At this point I am still hobbling around, using his shoulder to stabilize while I put on the other shoe.] Stop touching me."

The moral of the story.... only wear the still-too-tight shoes out when you know exactly where you'll be going for the whole day. Or do, if you need a reason to justify buying another new pair of flats. (An alternative moral of the story is, of course, that you should probably not be as much of a pushover with introverted friends as I am.)

**Eagle-eyed readers will now note that I have purchased two pairs of shoes, adding up to $35, one pair of which does not fit. Why not just spend more money on a good pair of shoes that fits and you wouldn't have to hobble around? To which I respond: Shut up.

Anyway... back to the task at hand:

Gather some socks and a hair dryer. Wet the socks. Put them on. It's gross. I know. Put on the shoes.

Blow dry the shoe with your foot clad in the wet sock still in it. Hold the hair dryer very close to areas that pinch more -- on me, right around the big toe and pinky toe. I would guess that's the same area of concern for almost everyone. You should smell the material of the shoe heating up and stretching. It's a weird smell.

While drying the shoes, change your foot position fairly regularly. Scrunch your feet down so they are more crammed into the ball and toe-area of the shoe. Then rock back and forth from heel to toe. If it hurts or pinches more, lean into that area and add heat.

Once you've had enough of that (I never blow dry for very long - it's cumbersome and uncomfortable) tip toe around your house.

After walking around on tiptoes for a bit, I usually sit on my couch and watch television or putter around online. I sit with one leg crossed over the other and rock the foot on the ground from ball to heel, switching legs occasionally.

If necessary, repeat another day.

Another good way to stretch out shoes is to walk around in the rain. When returning inside from the rain leave the shoes on for a while.

Give your toes a break after a while of this! It is hard on them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My weekend - some poker, some liquor

I hope all of you are having a good weekend and are settling down to watch a lot of Arrested Development.

Last night, I played poker with some friends and drank some of the following liquors: Hot Sex, a chocolate vodka concoction and a pinot noir called Fat Bastard. I brought the wine, my other friend brought the chocolate liquor. We were in a "vaguely inappropriate names for alcohol" kind of mood, it seems.

The chocolate vodka liquor was literally called hot sex. I'm sure Hot Sex people they called it that just so people would buy it after jokingly saying "Of course I like hot sex!" I'm also pretty sure that's why my friends bought it (also because of the chocolate) so good job, marketers!

Although I liked the liquor all right, it definitely did not live up to its namesake.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Painstakingly organizing all of the paper in my apartment

Graduate school has a lot of effects on a person's life and well-being. One of these effects is accumulating enough paper and documents to drown a small pony. I'm not sure how one would go about drowning a small pony in print-outs of JSTOR articles and photocopied pages of books on spatial theory, but I guess filling a swimming pool with these documents and then dropping the pony in would be a good place to start.

The other day, I needed a particular sheet of loose-leaf that had some particular notes on them. A friend needed the information that was on this particular sheet of paper.

Throughout the entire school year, I am pretty disorganized. Well, sort of. I'm the kind of disorganized person that can almost always find what I need to find - this being a bonus of very rarely throwing anything away. I am disorganized in that it will take me a long time to find things I need, because there's no rhyme or reason to my storage habits.

 I try to use separate folders and separate spiral notebooks for each seminar. This practice is, as I understand, completely normal and widespread among basically all students. I also understand that most students do not consider it a difficult task. The height of organization is not to have a "Spatial Theories" folder separate from a "Spinoza" folder.

It's too much for me, though. By the end of the semester it's just too hard for me to have multiple folders and spirals. I end up using one battered notebook where I dutifully record everything from seminar notes to lovesick diary entries. The one-spiral approach makes my backpack lighter, but it leads to disorganization. (It also leads the fear that someone will accidentally learn my deepest darkest secrets, like who I want to go to the senior prom with, but I like to live life on the edge.)

Faced with the task of finding this particular piece of paper, I devoted a whole day to finally getting around to organize all of the paper in my apartment. And I do mean all of it. I had just been dumping stacks of paper unceremoniously in the drawers of my desk, on top of my desk, in the chest I keep all my knitting and cross-stitch projects. . . . Like I said, not a lot of rhyme or reason to the system.

Piling things into categories (by seminar class) and stapling articles together that I had left stupidly unstapled took hours. Hours.

 This is me about halfway there. I sat on the floor and also watched "Call the midwife" while doing this, making the experience bearable.

As you can see, non-paper stuff was often mixed in the stacks of paper. In the above picture, you can see pencils, a book full of games to play with small Jews to teach them Hebrew, an iPod case I've never used, and a birthday and hanukkah card. This is part of the reason it took so damn long.

Things I wrote throughout the year (including lesson plans I designed to teach tiny Jews Hebrew), documents that I'll likely use as reference materials (documents relating specifically to Jewish thought, mostly), and documents still left to read were hole-punched and placed in these binders. (Actually that's not true. A large stack of papers are currently placed in the white binder, but not hole-punched. I was too tired to hole punch them. I'm looking forward to the day when I energetically pull out the white binder to look for something and then have all of the documents inside spill to the floor! Knowing me, I'll probably be so disgusted with myself, that I'll just leave them there and sulkily go back to watching Call the Midwife.)

To solve the problem of storing the vast majority of the documents -- printed out articles or book chapters -- I took a little stroll to my kitchen, AKA Box Central!

I rarely throw away boxes. I instead gently place them in a small cranny between my refrigerator and a wall.

As you can see, currently opening up my fridge requires a great degree of dexterity, tenacity, and stealth. You can also see I enjoyed some Tam Tams this past Passover.

I carefully selected some perfectly aged boxes to store all the documents I deemed "worthy" enough to save. 

Eagle-eyed readers will be able to make out that the top box is full of documents from a class I was a Teaching Assistant for, Faith and Reason in Islam. The box underneath has documents from Feminist Theory, a class I audited on Religion in Contemporary China, and a Spatial Theory class. The classes are separated by dilapidated folders.

When I inevitably found assumed-lost syllabi in the piles of paper-detritus, I triumphantly put the syllabus at the top of the pile of course documents. I thought that was very clever of me. It's like the title page for the mountains of documents.

I then put these boxes in my closet.

I suspect they will age there gracefully for a few years, at which point I will end up recycling the boxes in one magnificent swoop. The odds of me ever saying to myself "Hmmm.... this reminds me of an article I read for a class I audited about China! I should dig through my closet to find it instead of searching online for a new copy!" are pretty slim.

But I can't bear to recycle ALL of the documents I acquire throughout the semester... it seems cruel and unusual. I've toiled over these documents, carrying them from the department printer to my home! Many of these documents I even read thoroughly!

So this is what I will do. Store them in boxes in the back of my closet.

And then I will walk over my filthy floor, at least feeling somewhat organized.

Oh, and for those of you who wondered if I found the one piece of paper that spurred on this organizing frenzy? Nope. I must have thrown it out, which is pretty surprising. But oh well. Life's like that, sometimes.

(If anyone has any suggestions on how to determine which documents to save and which to dispose of, clearly I could use it.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Several Goals for the Summer

I have several goals for the summer.

1. Get back on the blogging train. Because if something happens to me, and I don't mention it over social media outlets, it's like it never really happened.

2. Do yoga three times per week.

3. Walk, skip, jog, or hop twice per week.

4. Look at myself in the mirror and think "Damn! I look good!"

5. Repeat #4 only with a swimsuit on.

6. Clean glasses five times per week. This might not seem like a goal, but instead just a normal thing that normal people do. However, if you've ever met me, you know my glasses are normally filthy. I just forget to clean them. My eyes adjust to the specks of dust and sunscreen once they're on. Then I clean them and I'm shocked and how bright and clean the world around me looks.

7. Remember to take my anti-depressant every day.

8. Learn German.

9. Practice modern Hebrew.

10. Write six times per week. Blogging counts, writing in my pink and orange diary counts. Pinning things on pinterest does NOT count.