Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Don’t Tell Gloria Steinem

In Baby Howie, Peanut on May 19, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Those of you who knew Baby Howie when he was growing up may remember his frighteningly accurate, Rain Man-esque knack for car trivia.  As a small child he memorized the make, model and license plate of every family in our church, schools and neighbourhood.  If you ever wanted to know who was at a party before you walked in, you just asked a 3-year-old BH to identify the automobiles parked up and down the street.  His love of cars may have expanded and grown up, but it has never waned in intensity.  I don’t get this at all, but I was heretofore able to let him wallow in his own internal motor-vehicle-love nest to his heart’s content since it didn’t affect me.  Now, however … it’s personal.  There are signs that he may have passed this bizarre quality onto his niece.

The Peanut has recently been making comments (in her 20-month-old, chipmunk voice) that have stopped us in our tracks.  For example, our friend Y has a black Cadillac.  One day at church, in a parking lot filled with hundreds if not over a thousand cars, Peanut pointed to one and said loudly, “Y’s car!”  I looked, and at first had no idea what she was talking about.  Y would have no reason to be there, and I didn’t see his car.  But I soon realized that she was actually pointing at another Cadillac.  It wasn’t even the same colour as Y’s, and didn’t look much like his car at all to my untrained eye, yet she was insistently pointing at that specific car over and over again.

Another time, she pointed at a silver Jeep and said, “Baby Howie’s car!”  (She doesn’t actually call her uncle Baby Howie, but you get the picture.)  This was slightly less impressive, because that car really did look exactly the same as BH’s – same colour, model, and, uh, that’s all I know about what distinguishes cars from each other.  But then she said, “And Aunty’s car!”  Aunty (who is her little friend A’s mom) also has a Jeep, but it doesn’t look anything like BH’s or the car Peanut was pointing at.  For me, someone who has trouble telling a Hummer from a Prius, this was mystifying.

I know, I know, it’s really annoying when people babble about their kids as if they’re mini-geniuses because they manage to walk upright.  I’m not saying that here.  What I actually find interesting about the possibility that Peanut may grow up to have a thing for cars is that it has revealed to me my inner sexist.  I’m astounded!  I mean, I’m all for equality of the sexes and all that, but … I’m still shocked!  It’s not like I don’t know there are plenty of women out there who love cars.  But somehow, just because I’m a girl and I’ve never cared about them, I assumed that my daughter would be the same way.  And whether this turns out to be just a short-lived phase, or she grows up to be some sort of automobile expert, doesn’t matter to us — it’s just intriguing and amusing right now.

BH, however, is nothing short of thrilled with this development.  He has started putting together a strict vehicular curriculum for the Peanut (forget Sesame Street) that consists largely of carefully selected episodes of Top Gear.

I’m telling you right now, if we end up with a female Petrolhead, she is still going to wear pigtails.  I’m not budging on that one.


And Troth Was Pledged (Or Something Like That)

In Celebrity Obsessions on May 2, 2011 at 3:43 am

Just like that, the Royal Wedding Weekend Extravaganza is over.

OK, OK, OK, I realize that the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was ludicrously expensive at a time when a worldwide recession drags on and on.  I understand that the British monarchy system is outdated, serves no real purpose, and perpetuates classism.  I’m aware that previous weddings in this somewhat inbred family have been celebrated with just as much pomp and circumstance only to blow up in horrifically Technicolour fashion years later.  I get all this, and I might even agree with all this, but you know what?  I DON’T CARE.  I still devoured every little detail of Friday’s wedding and enjoyed every little minute of it.

I’ve been interested in the royals since I was a kid, mainly because we had several coffee table books about Princess Diana’s fashion evolution and public life.   I remember poring over those photo collections more times than I can count.  Though even at the age of 8 or 9 I could tell that the adulation heaped upon her was seriously out of control (“The Princess donned a stunning crimson blouse softly lined with butter yellow and authoritative black, drawing gasps of admiration from the gathered crowd” would be how these books might describe a plaid shirt), it still served to make me feel like in some way I knew her.  In the later chapters of these books, the toddler Prince William started being treated as some sort of fashion icon as well (“The young Prince wowed the masses in a sky-blue one-piece overall ensemble that accentuated his majestic features, created by the House of OshKosh B’Gosh”).  I mean, it was totally ridiculous.  But it still made me care about them.

Then time passed, Charles and Diana imploded, and Diana died.  I got up in the middle of the night to watch her funeral in my college dorm with floormates who were sisters from Britain and the only other people in my 12-floor American building who cared.  Like many people, I felt terrible for Princes William and Harry, but then they used up my sympathy by growing into apparent party animals with a penchant for hitting on women in clubs.  And don’t even get me started on the injustice of Camilla Parker-Bowles being present at the princes’ graduations and coronations and what-have-you when their mother isn’t.


There is just something about a grand wedding, and the hope that this time, this time, it might be real and it might last, that brings out the giddy in most of us.  There’s so much bad news in the world today that we all needed a break, just a few hours to concentrate on something fluffy and purely joyful.  And never mind the inherent sexism in the idea that all women sit around dreaming about snagging a prince: you cannot deny that it is FREAKING COOL that Kate Middleton was once basically a regular person but just walked out of Westminster Abbey a princess.  (Or a duchess, or whatever.  I don’t get these British titles.)

Who knows if their love is real and if their marriage will last.  I have to admit that when watching them take their vows, it felt sad knowing that William’s parents said the exact same words 30 years ago and then proceeded to cheat on each other and generally create a spectacle of themselves.  But the fact is, we have sort of known Prince William all his life.  And on his wedding day, we saw him and his brother as grown military men walk down the same aisle they traveled 14 years ago when they poignantly followed behind their mother’s coffin.  Those are some reasons why Friday was meaningful to me and so many others.

But when it comes down to it, the fundamental reason why I loved watching William and Kate’s wedding was because of the amazing thought that literally half the people on this planet were, for a few minutes, joyfully supporting a young couple embarking upon a marriage.  The cheers you could hear in the Abbey from the streets outside when they were pronounced husband and wife gave me chills.  Marriage is such a maligned and misrepresented institution that is still so beautiful.  And for a little while, it felt like all of us were behind one.  We were all in it together, and I was touched.

Of course, there were other moments, too.  One of the most famous photos from the entire event succinctly illustrates why it is impossible not to love little kids.  This could not have turned out better if it was planned:

Apparently, there’s already an app with which you can cut and paste the little scowling bridesmaid into various situations where you think she would be appropriate.  A law firm ad?  A bar graph of your stock portfolio’s dwindling returns?  The possibilities are endless!  You rock, Grace van Cutsem!  And God bless you, Will and Kate!  (For heaven’s sake, please behave yourselves from here on out, will you?  Good luck!)