Happy almost birthday to us all, Dames Nation!
This newsletter is nearly three whole years old and though we’ve enjoyed sharing our origin story and showing you peeks behind the curtain at the Bossy Aerie on our previous birthdays, this year we’d like to turn the mic over to you dear readers & community members.
Have you found a new favorite (TV show, book, movie, accessory, musician) through the newsletter? Have you met other Dames Nationals in person? Has our writing had some kind of impact on you that you'd like us to know about?Let us know via this handy form! We’re folding this question in with a general reader survey, so we have a few more quick, non-required questions for you while you’re there - answer as many or as few as you like. We’ll share our favorite responses in the 3rd Anniversary Special Edition of the newsletter on Friday, October 6!
For both those of you who’ve been with us since the beginning and those who are new citizens of Dames Nation (and for everyone in-between), here’s a little trip down memory lane: Last year, we were renewing our commitment to fetch & fluff. Two years ago, we were Rollin’ With the Homies. Happy reading & thank you for being here. We hope you’ll stick around & bring a friend!
Dame Sophie’s (Honestly Kind of Bleak, Sorry, Friends) Linkfest
Us, to Texas this week.
The news out of Houston - the 4th-largest city in the US, with a metro area larger than my beloved New Jersey - is horrifying. Twelve years ago, I was at home, waiting to go into labor and writing a letter of howling despair to my in utero daughter, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Many New Orleanians took refuge in Houston, and are now living through the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I can’t imagine the strain of this repeat trauma on them, and it fills me with nearly impotent rage to think that we haven’t learned our infrastructure and climate-protecting lessons. What’s keeping my rage from boiling over entirely is being able to send some money to organizations helping evacuees and people who’ve lost their homes and possessions. If you’d like to do the same, here are some great, local organizations to donate to. Please also remember that over 1000 people have died in flooding in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal this summer, and their neighbors & survivors desperately need help, too. The weather-based crises we’re seeing are global in scope, and they’re only going to get worse, welcome to the permanent dystopia! A friend reminded me this week of the quote that underpins the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (healing the world), “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
I think Princess Diana’s death may have been the last major tragic news event I learned about from a newspaper - I was staying with friends in New York, and one went to buy the Times while we were making breakfast. It’s been 20 years, and I’m still really sad about it. Which isn’t a terribly novel observation; it seems like the whole Internet is still pretty sad. I wish she’d lived to see her sons grow up to be the men they are, that she’d met her grandchildren, that she’d been able to continue her humanitarian work, and either find a durable romantic love or live as a glamorous single lady for all the decades she deserved. Call Your Girlfriend included a heartfelt & emotionally raw segment about the People’s Princess this week & it’s definitely worth a listen. Aminatou mentioned that the connection between Black mothers and Diana, and Ashley Ford wrote beautifully about it, too. Sarah Lyall in the NY Times has a reminiscence of and reflection on how her death & its aftermath affected the monarchy and British public behavior. Per usj, Hilary Mantel has some incisive thoughts about how a hyper-famous, fabulously wealthy but also highly constricted person’s audience constructs their own reality of their famous beloved:
You can’t write or speak about the princess without explicating and embellishing her myth. She no longer exists as herself, only as what we made of her. Her story is archaic and transpersonal. “It is as if,” said the psychotherapist Warren Colman, “Diana broadcast on an archetypal frequency.”
If you want to pursue a deeper understanding of the late Diana Frances Spencer, two of my favorite books both about & not quite about her are Tina Brown’s The Diana Chronicles and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, an excellent biography of Diana’s great-great-great-great aunt. And of course, The Queen, starring Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen, is always worth a re-view, and is available on Amazon Prime Video.
It’ll be at least 7 years til my husband & I drop our daughter off at college, but I sure did do some quality pre-sobbing when I read Laurie Lindeen’s perfect pieceabout her experience driving her son Johnny across three states to commence his freshman year. (The unnamed, quiet ex-husband smoking in the backseat is Paul Westerberg, and reading this essay, I felt like I understood how these two narrators of melancholia fell for each other.) Two of my other favorite essays about the exquisite feelings this time of year dredges up for caregivers are John Dickerson’s reflection on picking his daughter up from summer camp and this excerpt from Rob Lowe’s memoir, about taking his younger son to college. I am always in the market for essays in this vein, so if you have favorites, please do @ me.
Dame Margaret's Poetry Corner and Petty Complaints About Petty Art
Live footage of Dame Margaret attempting to outrun her responsibilities and failing miserably.
On Sunday, I am officiating my wonderful friend Leah’s wedding, and the responsibility-- combined with a month that's unusually dense with trips, freelance work, and worky work-- has me a bit dazed. Luckily, the comfort for this problem came from the very task in front of me! In pursuit of suitable readings for a secular ceremony, I turned to Twitter and asked people to share their favorite love poems and, honestly, the sifting through the deluge of replies has been such a balm. If you have a great deal of time, you can browse through the replies yourself (and it’s as soothing as taking a long bath or a full tissue massage for your brain) or you can just read a couple from this handful I deem favorites:
“So Much Happiness” by Naomi Shihab Nye
“I Did Think, Let’s Go About This Slowly” by Mary Oliver
“Modern Declaration” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
“Pathways” by Rainer Maria Rilke
“Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara
“Scaffolding” by Seamus Heaney
“The Orange” by Wendy Cope
“Litany Poem” by Billy Collins
And, finally, the poem this bride and groom settled on: "Poem to First Love"by Matthew Yeager
As everyone who subscribes to this newsletter is likely aware, Taylor Swift released a new single this week. We Your Dames are not fond of it AT ALL! Although I am amused that the song’s similarity to “I’m So Sexy” led to Right Said Fred receiving a writing credit, overall, my ear abhors the sound of "Look What You Made Me Do" and I find its lyrical content is at best bewildering (“I don’t like your kingdom keys”?????) and at worst petty in a way so thoroughly trite and aggressively uninspired that I cannot even celebrate Taylor’s willingness to express anger. Similarly, the accompanying video is simlutaneously aesthetically unappetizing and a particularly unwelcome combination of symbolically dense and ideologically vacant. As someone who really only came around to full-throated Taylor fandom in the wake of 1989, it’s very annoying in a specific petty, selfish way that, ironically, Taylor Swift could probably write a great song about. TAYLOR, I just learned to like you and now I have to accept that your best work is behind you? I FINALLY set aside my internalized misogyny and accepted you as a serious artist and THIS is what you do with my trust? Here is how I have been coping:
Reading both Lainey Gossip and Anne T. Donahue on how Taylor’s continued unwillingness to accept responsibility for her choices undermines what could otherwise be an interesting heel turn for her pop persona left me nodding my head so hard that it nearly fell off.
While Mark Harris’s searing meditation on how “Look What You Made Me Do” is out first piece of “pure Trump-era pop art” was so insightful that I was almost grateful to Taylor’s dreadful video for occasioning it.
I opted to revisit my favorite Taylor Swift album, Red, to remind myself why this single has the capacity to disappoint me at all. She’s written some pretty great songs, you guys. “All Too Well” is really moving!
Then I curated myself a list of people who make Swift-esque music, to further comfort myself. If you, like me, find yourself nostalgic for Red-era Swift, you owe it to yourself to try out both The Stand-In by Caitlin Rose (Taylorest song: “Everywhere I Go”) and Phox’s self-titled debut (Taylorest song:“Noble Heart,” which is exactly the kind of self-aware song I wish Taylor were mature enough to write).
Longing for Pop Star Taylor, but back when she wrote bangers instead of duds? If you haven’t tried Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion yet (which just HOW, when its perfection is ALL WE EVER TALK ABOUT), GET THEE TO SPOTIFY! And, while you’re there, how about you try on Kesha’s Rainbow and Stars’ In Our Bedroom After the War on for size?
And finally if you, like me, are already plotting Taylor’s next transformation, imagine with me the beauty of her going through a shoegaze Shangri-La’s phase and putting out an album full of feelings and fuzzy guitars album like Best Coast’s Crazy for You or Alvvays’s BRAND-NEW ALBUM Antisocialites? THINK OF THE EYELINER, Taylor! And imagine how the “authenticity” of some kicked-in amps could make your very familiar stories seem fresh again. I bet Ryan Adams would be thrilled to produce for you.
Our dear friendsthe Unfriendly Black Hotties(who will be guest-editing our fair newsletter again later this month!) put outa particularly strong episode of their podcastthis week wherein they introduced a new segment: “Know Thy Enemy,” in which they analyze key figures in the current presidential administration in light of said figures astrological signs. As both my actual sign (Taurus) and my cusp-but-I-secretly-thought-more-accurate sign (Gemini) were well and truly dragged, I was spurred into looking up my whole star chart so I could understand how I had only the best parts of each sign and no flaws at all. And I came out with asun-moon-rising signset that actually… explains me eerily well? Up to and including my contradictory flaws? So now I… guess I believe in astrology??????? If you want to join me on this journey, find out the hour and minute you came into the world andpop them in hereto get your star chart, then pop over tothis websiteto learn a little about what these different signs and positions all mean. As Rosa Lyster would say,astrology is fake, butmy Gemini Moon alignment does mean I instantly become enchanted by any new informational system and need to glean only superficial knowledge to feel as though I’ve utterly mastered it, so I WAS BORN THIS WAY.
And finally, if you-- like We Your Dames-- are too poor to vacation somewhere fabulous on this, the last week of summer, here is a prescription:
Buy Carcassonne, which is kind of like a competitive, collaborative puzzle building game, for your phone or tablet and then tweet at me so that I can beat you in it. OR download I Love Hue, where you try to rearrange shuffled color gradient grids in as few moves as possible, and find yourself utterly soothed and transported by either or both.
Watch The Wine Show on Hulu, a boozy cousin of The Great British Bakeoff, where two handsome British actors named Matthew (Goode and Rhys) move into a Tuscan villa, compete in miniature wine education challenges led by their in-house sommelier, Joe . Ideally, you should also, as I did, have a beautiful and ambitious friend Amy make you an eight course menu complete with wine pairings to consume while you marathon the show and livetweet the highly tipsy results. I guarantee that, even with the resulting hangover, you’ll come out of it feeling like this: