Not Gonna Lie, Friends, This Is A Lot

A candlelight vigil in Parkland, Florida. Photo by Greg Lovett.

This week, a 19 year-old with a history of domestic violence - someone who can be drafted for military service, and who can cast a vote, but who can’t buy a beer here in the US of A - legally purchased an assault rifle and then killed 17 of his former classmates & teachers at the high school he’d been expelled from in Florida. He knew where to go, where people were hiding, because he’d participated in active shooter/intruder drills over the years, drills that exist because 18 years ago, two other teens in Colorado had murdered a bunch of their classmates, too. He was able to toss his weapon to the ground and make an initially successful escape by blending in with the crowd of his survivors running from the school. He’s been arrested and charged with 17 counts of murder, and may even get the death penalty (because: Florida), which is something we don’t celebrate and doesn’t feel remotely like justice.

Many of his survivors -- teenagers, children whose brains are still maturing -- have taken to social media to grieve and to speak with searing clarity about the effect all the now-routine “thoughts & prayers” talk has on them. They’re among the oldest of this nation’s first generation born into the post-Columbine time. They’ve 
always lived in a world where being shot to death as they strolled from chem lab to PE was a very concrete possibility. Think about what the need for that preparation, combined with the certain knowledge that their elected representatives aren’t doing anything to make that preparation unnecessary, does to a generation of developing minds.

Once again, we have to face some hideous truths about American society: on the whole, we are so wrong-headed about domestic violence (
which is a crime, not a private matter), and so uncaring about the murder of children when their bodies are stacked up against our precious, precious second amendment that we allow abusive men to graduate to becoming murderers, and we don’t do shit about it. Time’s up on that, too.

The news has left us sick at heart, and overwhelmed, and furious, but we are not letting it keep us down. As individuals, we’re calling our senators & representatives, and as your Dames, we’re donating half of our monthly Patreon donations for February to Everytown For Gun Safety. We hope you’ll join us in donating money, time, or both, if you can.

On with the show, friends. We'll do our best now to give you an oasis of our trademark substantive frivolity in which to unwind a little.

Reminder: Strictly Ballroom Live-Tweet on Sunday!

new steps new steps new steps

We are more ready than ever to escape to Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom with your excellent company this Sunday. We need to spend a little time in a world where the biggest obstacle is achieving authentic artistic expression in a field mired in rigid traditions, you know? GO COUPLE 100!!!! Here are the details again, and be sure to pack your fainting couches!

WHEN: 7:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 18th, 2018
HOW: Streaming on Netflix or by DVD-- whichever suits your fancy.
WHERE: On Twitter, with the hashtag #StrictlyDames
NOTE: Sadly, like a lot of the best independent and foreign movies from the 1990s, Strictly Ballroom was distributed by Harvey Weinstein’s production company, Miramax. We still think it's worth sharing, but we want you to be able to make an informed choice about joining us.

A Personal Announcement: We’re Moving to Substack!

Darling Dames Nationals, we’re so excited to share that we’re moving on up to a new and improved home for this newsletter: Substack. TinyLetter has been great to us, but as we inch ever-closer to their subscriber cap (already generously extended for us once before), we’ve had to think carefully about where we could move to keep Two Bossy Dames growing. We believe Substack (which you may have heard of already, thanks to Mallory and Nicole) is the right place for us.

Unlike TinyLetter, Substack puts no limit on the number of people who can subscribe to our newsletter for free. They can afford to do this because they ask their writers to charge a subscription fee, which is the primary reason we’re discussing this move with you. We were hesitant to move to a paid subscription model: we write Two Bossy Dames because we love it, and the thought of losing any of you by charging up front for our work is both scary and sad, even when many of you have already been voluntarily generous with us by supporting our Patreon. But we have thought it over carefully, and it’s the best way for us to keep doing the work we do here without burning out.

Once we make the switch, around half of our issues will still come to everyone who wants them, completely free of charge, without you taking any additional action at all. But to receive everything we write, it will cost either $5/month or $50/year, but! We're offering $5 off annual subscriptions to anyone who purchases one by May 31st. Because we really want you to come with us, and for keeps. It was so important for us to learn, when we started our Patreon, that some of you thought our work was worth paying for. Through Substack, we are hoping to learn that more of you see it that way, too.

Our final issue on TinyLetter -- guest written by Sarah Wendell & Amanda Diehl of the iconic romance website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books! -- will go out next week, on February 23rd. We’ll start publishing on Substack on March 2 and, at the beginning of April, we will wind down our Patreon campaign and switch to a paid model on Substack.

So, What’s Next For You?

You have options! Check ‘em out:

  • If you want to come along on this fantastic voyage with us, great! You don’t need to do anything - your access to free content will continue unabated.

  • Starting in April, if you want to receive every newsletter we write, you’ll pay just $5/month or $45/year (if you sign up by May 31st) and $50/year (if you sign up on June 1st or later).

  • We’re going to send our full subscriber list to Substack on Monday, February 27. If you’re not interested in our free issues and you don’t want your email address shared with another service, no problem! Go on ahead & unsubscribe by February 26.

  • We’re going to remind you about that February 26 stick-around-or-unsubscribe deadline twice next week - once in the newsletter and once in a special Extra, Extra, Read All About It! issue for folks who open the newsletter at a more leisurely pace

  • What about the archives, though?? We’re moving them over to Substack, too! All of our old issues will be available for free, and we think they’ll feature more attractive and stable formatting than we’ve been able to accomplish on TinyLetter.

  • Because Substack will be hosting the newsletter and taking subscription fees, we’re going to wind down our Patreon crowdfunding campaign in April, collecting our final pledges on April 1 (no fooling). If you’re waiting for rewards from us, you will get them by then! Bonus: our quarterly podcast (begun as a Patreon Reward) will continue, and be immediately available to all subscribers when each episode is released.

We believe this change will be good for us, and will be great for our output here at the newsletter. We hope most of you darlings agree, but thank you sincerely for being part of this project (going strong since 2014!) either way.

XO/Your Dames

Dame Margaret’s Got Absolutely No Idea How To Cutesily Title Her Links Section This Week!

A gif Dame Margaret could watch on an infinite loop.

  • I have to wait till Monday AT LEAST to go see Black Panther, and I can’t tell if these stunning pictures of viewers decked out in their finest Wakanda-inspired outfits are making me more or LESS impatient. But I also can think of few things since the glorious outfits the film’s leads wore to its L.A. premiere that have made me smile with more purity of heart, so how could I do anything BUT share them with you? Further: if you know anything about where to buy either of the lurex jumpsuits in picture 26, please holler said information at me immediately.

  • While on the subject of Black Excellence in Fashion, please join me in admiring this selection of photographs of Harlem “fashion icon” Lara Turner, whose extravagant outfits for Sunday services were so exquisite that a gallery in St. Louis is hosting a photography exhibit to celebrate them. THE PARASOL SKELETON HAT, I DIE!

  • Given that I have spent more than half of my life working in libraries, you would think that it would be hard for someone to point out something about the day-to-day experience of library work that I’d never thought of, but writer Katie MacBride did just that with her piece “#TimesUp on Harassing Your Public Librarian.” Despite dedicating a great deal of thought in recent months to my experiences of harassment on the job, I had earnestly never thought about how badly some patrons treat me as part of that picture, or considered it a possibly fixable problem that, for one example, I worry that wearing a name tag at work would make it easy to acquire a stalker. It’s like there’s been an elephant sitting on my chest for 16 years and I only just noticed it. So, obviously, I needed to share the piece, and hope that it starts some productive conversations about how we can better support and protect our library staff.

  • If you are my age or a little younger, then your teen years were defined by pop stars who danced like Jezebels but talked like Marys (Virgin, not Magdalene). It turns out, a lot of that had to do with the exploitation of abstinence-only sex education government funds-- which is just one of the many … fun (???) facts gleaned from Hazel Cills’s excellent deep dive on this weird moment of pop history,  “The Rise and Fall of the Pop Star Purity Ring.”

  • While on the subject of celebrities, gossip, and sex, I have good news for a select few of you, and an excellent recommendation for the vast majority of you. The good news of limited impact is that the newest installment in Lucy Parker’s extremely charming London Celebrities romance series is currently available to request on NetGalley! So, if you’re a librarian, book seller, or book reviewer who loves this series as much as I do, go request an advanced copy! OR, if you’re part of the vast majority of people who don’t recommend books for a living/have not yet fallen in love with Parker, please do yourself a favor and track down Parker’s first two books: Act Like It and Pretty Face, both of which are extremely compelling love stories about well-developed and intelligent characters set in the fascinating world of London’s West End. I can imagine few better ways to relax on Valentine’s (Observed) Weekend than by devouring this pair of delights. Pro-tip: They are also great as audiobooks.

  • And finally! Ben Klings series of Rejected Harry Potter Valentines, Year 1 and Year 2, made me laugh so hard and so long that I have nearly acquired 1/12th of a visible ab. Click through and heartily guffaw with me. A sample to whet your appetite: 

Yes, I laughed at this, for I am not made of stone.
Dame Sophie’s Erudite & Navel-Gazing Something-or-Other I admire the enthusiasm, but how is everyone not sneezing their fool heads off??Partly as a New Year, Not New But Incrementally Improving Me thing, and partly as a Dealing With The Crushing Sadness of Losing a Beloved Family Friend thing, I’ve been listening to and reading a lot of Jolie Kerr’s Ask A Clean Person (that’s a link to her Esquire archives. You can also find her work at Deadspin & Jezebel and the NY Times). As a direct result, I am now doing things like making my bed daily and doing my laundry differently (a white vinegar rinse + tennis balls knotted into old white socks in the dryer = no need for dryer sheets! WHAT SORCERY/surface science is this?!), and, you know, it feels good. It’s nice to look at my fridge door and see a surface I’m not afraid to touch.The truth is, I’m a lifelong slob -- like, I am clean as a person, but my tolerance for the mess around me is high -- and I also have an interest in homekeeping as a life practice. It’s a keen interest, but is usually keen intellectually, not practically. Let's put it this way: historically, my interest hasn't been keen enough to prompt me to do much more than read about it, as in the case of Jolie’s columns or of occasionally consulting Cheryl Mendelson’s modern classic of home economics, Home Comforts, currently enjoying a renaissance with at least one BuzzFeed staffer. (I was tickled to see Stacy-Marie Ishmael refer to it in her newsletter recently, too.)But now,I find myself deep in the throes of a psychological standoff between my keen understanding that the clutter, mess, and general untidiness of my home are both largely the result of my routine decisions to do things like buy more books and then as a follow up, do things I enjoy more than cleaning & tidying,  and also the knowledge that this state of affairs is held against me by people who’ve bought into the idea that spatial untidiness reflects a disordered mind. There’s also the not-insignificant number of people who think that it reflects poorly on me specifically because I’m a woman, and am supposed to be -- as determined by a shadowy, nameless “they” (oh, I can’t play coy with you! We know who “they” are! They’re our old nemesis, the patriarchy!) -- you know, good at this stuff. Me being me, there’s a little interior imp within me who loves nothing more than to thumb her nose at this convention, while simultaneously thinking “hmm, I bet it would feel really nice to take this rug outside & beat it with the broom and then vacuum it & put it back”. I contain often-unresolved multitudes.The thing is, as everyone from Heloise to Fly Lady to Jolie Kerr to your grandma can tell you, keeping house is a set of skills that have to be developed over time. They’re real work and have real value, and yet somehow we’re supposed to keep them invisible? While we’re also having full social lives, and pursuing careers, and in some cases raising a family? Oh, and if you like to have a well-appointed home, just make sure you don’t have too many appointments, because as the brilliant Kate Washington points out, abundance in the home is also highly suspect, and often a problem both personally and structurally, across societies, bodies politic, and the global economy.So here I am, aspirationally tidy and actually slobby, always here for a brisk piece on recommended montly housekeeping undertakings or a checklist of small daily tasks, and flanked by the fruits of my tsundoku-indulging ways on my bedside table. I’m going to have to continue to live with all these ambiguities, teasing them out and prodding myself to make useful meaning out of them. All the while, a hamper of clean sheets is sitting a few feet to my right, blessedly free from static and the blood stains they went into the washer with, but really, really wrinkled.  A bit of sparkly twirling while a mop does the work? Yes, please.
Whew, after all that tidiness talk, I’m spent, but my wellspring of great links continues to overflow. Here’s a quick wrap-up:For my bookworms, feast your eyes upon this year’s list of Amelia Bloomer Project titles -- books for tiny little babies, young & independent readers, and teens, all of which center & affirm the experiences of female-identified people! You can also get fired up over this year’s winners of famous book awards (Newbery! Printz! Caledecott!) & awards that deserve more shine (Batchelder! Arbuthnot! Gesundheit!). And while you’re at it, now’s a great time to embrace the idea that there’s room in literature for everyone to be quirky, not just cute indie rock-loving white characters. I just want to take a moment to highlight a perfect example mentioned in that article: The Way You Make Me Feel, the forthcoming novel by past TBD guest editor Maurene Goo. It’s about an unlikely friendship between a cooler-than-thou Korean-Brazilian prankster and a seemingly uptight Black ballerina, thrown together when they both go a teensy bit overboard at their Junior Prom. Clara & Rose are prickly, smart, funny, and soulful, and I think you’re going to fall in love with them. Mark your calendars for May 8th, friends!!  And now, a thing I don’t normally do: share some pieces I have only skimmed, because what I’ve read so far is wonderful & deserving of your thoughtfullest thoughts & attention. This is a trio of pieces about Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits: one on using ambivalent feelings to sit with art that defies your expectations before forming an opinion of it (solid advice for any art-lover, really), and two from the New Yorker, each contextualizing the portraits.