DID YOU KNOW that, for many of you, this is our Anniversary?
This morning, Dame Sophie brought to my attention that it's been almost exactly one year since #Damesfav Barrie Hardymon mentioned us on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and literal thousands of you flocked to join our newsletter overnight.
So we just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for trying us out, thanks for sticking around, and thanks for recommending us to your friends. We love you a lot, Dames Nation.
Ask Two Bossy Dames!
Once a month, your Dames take a break of their busy schedule of being generally bossy to be specifically bossy to just one of you, at great length. Here is our Ask Two Bossy Dames for February!
Dearest Darlingest Dames,
I work in a medium-large office chockablock full of cool, interesting, stylish ladies. Some of their coolness, interestingness, and stylishness is plain in their everyday office demeanors, but other parts of it I only know about because we follow each other on social media. In fact, there are awesome ladies in other departments who I interact with regularly on social media but haven't spent any actual quality time with IRL. Yet I see them in and around the office on the regular. As a relatively shy gal, social media often seems like a boon, but it's pretty weird now to feel like I "know" these people I work with (and many of the other mostly-strangers I interact with on the internet) even though the most I can usually manage in the hallway or on the train is a smile and a wave. Do you have advice for bridging the weird gaps between online and offline interactions, whether job-specific or not? Thank you in advance for your Damesly wisdom. (In Dames We Trust.)
21st-Century Digital Girl
Dame Margaret here, taking the lead on this question because, as someone who’s been both the Anxious Friendship Initiator and the Desired Friend Object, I have basically done doctoral-level research on the best ways to transition digital friendships into meatspace friendships. And NOW you and Dames Nation get to benefit from my accumulated knowledge!
The first thing of note about your situation is that 90% of your work is already done. First, your social media relationships with these women are mutual, and active. They follow you back, and you all interact regularly. Odds are, in that case, that everyone is just waiting for one person to be brave enough to bridge the Digital Divide so that you can all begin acting in the real world the same way you already act online-- like friends. Second, these women live in your city, and work in your office! So you’re close by one another, making hanging out easy, and you share a ton of common reference points.
Start small-- start with a DM. Have you ever shared a private message with one of these women? That’s a great, low-key way to start to build intimacy. The next time you have a chat with one of them on public social media, see if there’s an aspect of whatever you’re discussing that’s more personal that you can address with a private message. My favorite gambit? Admit a goofy crush on someone they might also know, or ask which department of your shared workspace they think is the cutest. Half of my friendships with co-workers have come out of work-event debates about which MIT Library has the best-looking patrons (Current Consensus: Rotch Library, which houses materials for the Urban Studies, Art, and Architecture programs).
Once you’ve developed a DMship, friend escalate with a kind gesture.The most obvious one here, since you all work together, is offering to pick up coffee for them. Just a simple tweet “Hey-- I’m grabbing coffee. Can I get any of you something?” If they say yes, yay! You have bridged the in-person gap in one fell swoop! If they say no, don’t worry! Just acknowledging online that the real world exists, and in that real world, you’re nearby each other will make it easier to say hi the next time you spot them on the train, or in the corridor.
Don’t be afraid to admit your anxiety. The next time you see them in real life, if you can’t work up the nerve to do more than wave, that’s okay. But, once you’ve built up a DMship, this is exactly the kind of thing you can address there. “I feel so weird seeing you in real life! I never know what to do!” One of two outcomes is likely here: Either they, too, have been having a hard time figuring it out, and they will be happy to admit it, OR they will think it’s endearing that you’ve admitted it about yourself, and feel closer with you as a result of the confidence you’ve shown by admitting vulnerability. Either one counts as a win.
Pay attention to what they share about themselves, and don’t be afraid to indicate that you’ve absorbed it. This one is tricky, because indicating that you’ve passively gleaned information about someone that wasn’t shared specifically with you is so often coded as “creepy.” Maybe because of the hours we all spent on Facebook when it first came out, desperately trying to find out more about the cute person in our 9:40 Shakespeare seminar? As a result, admitting that you know your officemate owns a labradoodle because you’ve seen the dog on her Instagram might make you feel as though you’re sad or weird. But with outward facing social media profiles like Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, becoming known to the people who follow you is the whole point. Each update is a little plea saying “Know me! Like me!” And when someone responds saying “Hey, I know that thing you said about yourself! I remember it! I like it!”, it feels great. So, if you’ve seen a picture of them at a Metric concert, don’t be afraid to tweet at them when their new single comes out. They will be happy you noticed.
When a good opportunity presents itself, invite them to hang out.Personally, I think this is easier when the first hangout is arranged around an activity-- “Hey, are you going to the Metric show?” or “That author we both like is doing a signing-- want to come with me?” That lets the circumstance do a little of the heavy-lifting and gives you something to talk about while you’re still learning to talk with each other about each other. It’s like training wheels for your social interaction.
Finally: If somehow, it goes awry, or your friendships stay stalled in internet space, try not to take it personally. It is tempting, when you encounter rejection, to assume that it’s personal. But, it’s critical to, as My Personal Hero Judge John Hodgman says in his Principles of Friendship (from Episode 181 of his podcast, Amicus Grief), “Be alert to the times when you are not thinking about anyone but yourself at all and then remember that we're all like this, we're all mostly thinking about ourselves, so if someone lets you down, let them off the hook.” It’s impossible to ever know what’s gone on inside someone else’s head unless they let you in. But it’s pretty safe to assume that the vast majority of what’s going on in there has literally nothing to do with you. So, try to speculate about it only as long as you must to create a psychologically plausible explanation of their behavior that isn’t centered on your personal dreadfulness, focus on accepting that version as gospel, and move on to greener pastures. Just remember Hulahoop’s Law: Any admiration society worthy of your membership will eventually become a mutual admiration society. All you need is world enough, and time.
So go forth, 21st Century Digital Girl, and befriend your coworkers with wild abandon! We look forward to liking all the selfies you’ll take with them in future <3
XOXO/ Your Dames.
p.s. Have a question like this one for us? Submit it via our Google form and, if you’re lucky, we might answer it right here in this very newsletter!
Dame Margaret’s Links (Abbreviated Edition)
The subtext Dame M. ascribes to every single perfect self-effacing thing Garner says in her interview, especially the Jen and Brad line!
JENNIFER GARNER HAS DONE HER FIRST BIG INTERVIEW SINCE NANNYGATE! I can’t wait to read what Anne Helen Petersen has to say about it.
This Tuesday, I got to interview Neko Case, who just happens to be one of my personal heroes. IT WAS PRETTY GREAT and the resulting piece in The Metro isn’t half bad either, IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF. She hasn’t yet offered to adopt me so that I can live out my days on her idyllic Vermont farm as God intended, but I figure it’s only a matter of time.
The Judge John Hodgman episode mentioned above, Amicus Grief, is not new, but it’s one of my very favorites, and it’s worth listening to in its entirety. It’s about a woman struggling to navigate the gulf between the intimacy people would like to have with her and the intimacy that they’ve actually earned. And the Principles of Friendship related by the Judge in his ruling are some of the most wise I have ever encountered:
Try to be around people who make you genuinely feel happy and not anxious or weird or sad or whatever
Gently disengage from people who make you feel bad and don't care at all about how you feel and don't care about those people anymore
Do more favors than you ask for
Remember, it always hurts to ask
Let people know when you are genuinely thinking nice things about them
But be alert to the more frequent times when you are not thinking about anyone but yourself at all and then remember that we're all like this, we're all mostly thinking about ourselves, so if someone lets you down, let them off the hook. You're letting plenty of people down all the time in small and big ways and it's just how it goes being an individual human being
Don't sit on the same side of the booth at a restaurant, even if you're lovers
Don't leave a lot of voicemails
Please don't write long emails
And be nice-- that's all you need to do.
Link Buffet: In Which Dame Sophie Hollers About Some of Her Favorite Things
Dame S in her most glamorous avian finery. It IS Oscars weekend, after all.
I am a chicken, a fraidy-cat, a big blubbery baby. I do not like scary movies. So why am I hell-bent on seeing “The Witch”? I’m a sucker for the 17th century! The film looks highly specific to its time and place, and it turns out that director Robert Eggers researched the hell out of the period to get the details, mood, and dialogue just right. I’m planning to catch a very early matinee soon, in hopes of freaking myself out, getting my Early Americanist on, and eventually sleeping again someday.
There’s a plotline in Season 1 of The Americans (recently announced as Appointment Television's next TV Book Club project, if you've been looking for an excuse to watch!) that made me wonder what life might be like for Black people in Russia. This extraordinary photo essay captures some of those experiences; unsurprisingly, it’s a very mixed bag. (h/t the unwitting godmother of this very newsletter, Bim Adewunmi)
WHY do so many women flip out when we find a dress or skirt with functionally-sized pockets? Because we’re not supposed to have hips, duhhhhhh!
This week in I Want To Go To There, a round-up of still-majestic midcentury movie theaters in Havana. That swoopy chrome signage, though!
Dear New Yorker, you need to say no when your film critic hears a single teen’s remark, and then fashions a tone deaf, ageist, sexist, ahistorical, ignorant & context-free thinkpiece out of it. Turning your rapidly diminishing cultural hegemony into an exercise in generational hand-wringing is just not a good look for white men in late middle age! And I say this as a very fond longtime reader! Also, maybe it’s time to review your overly precious punctuation style book? Here in 2016, we say “teenager”, not “teen-ager”. That hyphen embodies your entire problem. With love & vexation, Dame Sophie
This Week In Hamilton
We’re going to have to stop saying LMM & Co are having a bit of a week, since basically every week yields new plaudits & celebrations of their excellence. You can just assume that they’re super-great all the time.
For example, on Monday, Lin received a call saying “Tony Kushner is trying to reach you.” Why? Because Hamilton won the Kennedy Prize for Historical Drama. Have you noticed that Lin has been tweeting the most delightful and genuinely encouraging mini-motivational speeches lately? He’s also been sharing some writing tips worthy of The Artist’s Way. We are feeling duly bucked-up and very nearly ready to take on the world.
Do you have a friend or relative who sniffs about how Hamilton can’t possibly be as good as Shakespeare or frets about “the kids these days” because the language of popular entertainment isn’t as sophisticated as it was in Ye Olden Times? Put their minds at rest while enjoying maximum justified smugness with this piece on the intricacies of the musical’s linguistic and rhetorical structure.
Tis the season for peep dioramas! We think Hamil-peep, created for the Washington Post’s annual contest, is both the tip of the iceberg and a high-water mark. Brava to creators Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields & Joanna Church! In movie casting news, Lin may be co-starring in a Disney sequel to Mary Poppins? Step in time!
This interview features a perfect, crisp shut-down of the use of “minority” to refer to the cast of Hamilton. As Lin points out, that term is going to be way out of date in just a few years, when people of color make up the majority of our population. Speaking of which, it’s really too bad about all those lost ticket salesdefinitely caused by the fact that Hamilton is not a drama starring white people.
Do you listen to Another Round with Heben & Tracy? It’s a weekly examination of race, gender, culture, politics, health and more, and it is seriously, ferociously, often hilariously excellent. Tracy has been especially public about her wish to interview LMM (response of the Hamilfandom: SO SAY WE ALL), and now it’s happened and Dame S is desperately hoping this episode will drop next week because the thought of waiting more than a few days to hear this conversation is nigh on unbearable.