Dames Nation, we know some of you are going to read this opening and think “Ugh, Dame Margaret is talking about her personal hero John HodgmanAGAIN? REALLY?”
But unto you we say:
Because, look, you guys, this time Dame Sophie, who doesn’t even GO HERE (shocking, but true: I’m not particularly into John Hodgman), is going to chime in, too. It’s not our fault! We can’t possibly resist! The pilot he wrote for FX called ONLY CHILD was given a live reading, with a cast featuring Abe Chabon, and said recording was released on Maximum Fun’s new podcast,Dead Pilots Society. And it is just SO. FUCKING. GOOD.
The premise of the show is that John, reflecting on his adolescence as a weird only child in Brookline, MA, plays himself as a teenager, while all the other actors are cast age-appropriately. This shouldn’t work, but it does, perfectly. This episode is exquisite, with jokes that made both your dames laugh out loud (even on our second and third listen), and-- LIKE ALL JOHN HODGMAN’S BEST WORK-- sneakily moving and emotionally profound. You will, after listening to this show, feel a never-ceasing ache for its absence in your life much the way you might feel pangs in the space where your arm once was before your Tragic Boating Accident. It will be your Phantom Limb Favorite TV Show, as it is ours. But the lingering pain of its absence will not greater than the joy this one small part of it existing can bring you.
Go listen. Then come back and shout all your favorite lines at us. We’ll shout right back, with gusto.
Dame Margaret’s on Hillary Clinton’s Hardworking ImperfectionSo, as I already did on Twitter this afternoon, I am going to ask: can we talk for a minute about “effortless perfection”? When you google that term, this is your first hit:That’s kind of incredible — that a 13-year-old study about collegiate women so completely owns this phrase. But it’s because it’s so true to most women’s experience of the world. Take a second and either think to yourself, or talk to a woman about how they’re treated when they TRY. Examine how women’s flaws are resented, not in proportion to the impact those flaws have on others, but merely for existing at all.
My rationale for illustrating this piece with gifs of Anne Hathaway hosting the 2011 Academy Awards should be entirely self-explanatory.And then think about it in terms of Hillary Clinton, whose alternate campaign slogan could be “Hardworking Imperfection.” No one could ever accuse Hillary Clinton of not making an effort — quite the opposite. So much of the incoherent, gut-level distaste people have for her is tied directly to how hard she tries all the time, to how AMBITIOUS she is. She’s fake, she’s a liar, she’s a robot, she’s a flip-flopper, she’ll say anything as long as it’s politically expedient — in every one of these claims, there’s some truth. But in the vehemence with which they’re said, in the frequency with which they’re repeated, there is evidence of a visceral discomfort in seeing someone TRY so damn hard, and hide it so poorly. Especially a woman, whose goodness is supposed to be innate. TRYING in this way is disliked in politicians of all genders — just look at Jeb! and poor ole Mittens — but where it can make a male politician into a figure of fun, it renders Hillary loathsome.
Truly, my reasons for associating this image with the concept of "double standards" can be no mystery. Then there’s her imperfection. No one, not even people like me who have been in the tank for her since the primaries, ever calls her perfect. In fact, even with very smart, very liberal friends, friends who’ve rarely made me feel embarrassed for trying hard or being imperfect, the only way I could have a productive conversation about my eagerness to vote for Hillary Clinton was to open by acknowledging all of her shortcomings. Sure, she’s a Washington insider, sure she’s deceptive, sure she’s self-serving — but she’s more on my side than anyone else, I’d say. And wouldn’t it be NICE to have a conniving political manipulator on our side for once? Even when voting for John Kerry in 2004, a man who at that time shared most of Hillary’s pretty run-of-the-mill political shortcomings and none of her astounding accomplishments, I never had to couch my support in so much cynicism. I did not have to show my math to liberal peers before I ever hinted at a sum, to prove I was worthy of having an opinion. Flawed and uninspiring white men are routinely accepted as legitimate political aspirants — that phrase, after all, describes roughly 80% of all our presidents to date. With Hillary Clinton, however, the mere fact that she possesses flaws common to all career politicians, regardless of the degree to which she possesses them, regardless of said flaws’ concrete impact or lack thereof on her policies, is enough to make her at best “an evil” (even if only “the lesser of two”) and at worst below consideration for the office of president, even when her opponent is a giant toddler with tendencies that might generously be called fascist.
Even when she's pretending to be imperfect, she's also trying too hard.I don’t want to say there are no just reasons to struggle with Hillary Clinton’s legacy or candidacy. One thing I’m looking forward to — IF THE WORLD DOESN’T END ON TUESDAY, KNOCK ON WOOD — is the privilege of being ambivalent about her again. I’m a New England liberal elitist!!! Being dissatisfied with the general direction of our government and longing for the benevolent socialism of Nordic Europe is my Goddess-given right. I did not vote for her in the 2008 primaries and, although living through her last candidacy is what made me a vocal feminist, I still feel like that was the right choice. But that does not mean that all the negative feelings I had for her then and still struggle with now are strictly or exclusively fair. Living in a misogynist world means, inevitably, internalizing some misogyny, and I am no magic exception to that rule.
Like ALL red-blooded Americans, this gif DOES makes me cringe just as self-consciously.Internalized prejudice is rarely an isolated strand of thought. It’s not a weed you can learn to identify and then uproot entirely. It’s an inextricable part of your ecosystem — just like global warming, unchecked, leads to warmer oceans and more extreme weather patterns, the human tendency to prejudge, combined with un-examined imbibing of received wisdom, leads to more violent, unfair opinions. The oceans aren’t going anywhere, and hurricanes aren’t going anywhere — but if we focus our energy and elect someone who cares about our environment, we can hopefully prevent them from devastating our coastal cities. Similarly, humans will alwaysprejudge others, and received wisdom will continue to be dubious at best. But if you pay attention to yourself, you can see the way your internalized prejudice amplifies certain negative feelings, how it takes you from a mild dislike to an incoherent loathing, and you can focus and correct for it. If you see that your distaste for Hillary Clinton is amplified by a gendered demand for “effortless perfection,” just turn down the volume.
IS IT TACKY TO APPLAUD MYSELF? OOPS GUESS I DON'T CARE.If you liked this piece, and want to share it, we have also published it on our Medium page. So, LINK WITH ABANDON, Dames Nation!Dame Sophie’s Perfect ImperfectionsSo true, Darius. Maybe never more than this week?First up, will those Dames Nationals who are nearly or fully caught up with Atlantadrop me a line or come yell with me about it on Twitter? I have two episodes left to watch and a burning need to discuss the show - specifically, elements such as the perfect throwaway visual joke of In The Club and Darius’ collection of enamel pins from the Black Justin Bieber episode - with you. This interview with staff writer Stefani Robinson is wonderful (true confession: I liked it better than Donald Glover’s appearance on Fresh Air this week, in which both he and my beloved Terry Gross came off as if they’d gotten off on the not-quite right foot and never quite righted the ship of their conversation), as is the news that Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Alfred/Paper Boi is really into enamel pins.~*Warning: this next bit is going to be about the election and some political stuff. If you need to NOT read it in order to protect your well-being, let me invite you to skip down to the next bit, where I get judgey about Christopher Kimball!*~Honestly, I’ve started writing this section three times, starting with an anecdote about trick-or-treating this week, when I saw a Latinx family notice a sign for Ivanka’s Dad in a yard, saw their faces fall, and then saw them walk straight past that house and onto the next one. Then I tried noodling around with some ideas about American demographics and how I happily assume that being a mash-up American is going to be the norm from here on out. I also tried out some thoughts about American regionalism (if you’re looking for a great primer on what makes people from different regions of this country tick, Colin Woodard’s American Nations is my go-to starting point). None of these lines of thought really led me to where I wanted to go, which is: fellow White people, stop. Please. Now. The rest of us need you to get on board the pluralism train. Listen to how you sound on the current episode of This American Life, saying things like, “I’m not trying to be racist” or “This is not a race thing.” No, stop. You ARE being racist, and you ARE making it a race thing. Don’t ask women and people of color - a combination of groups which are now in the demographic majority of this country - to be have empathy & patience while you grapple with a tiny taste of the routine injustice and violations we and they have endured for generations. Selections from this piece in the very aptly named Dame Magazine have been on a loop in my mind all week. I encourage everyone to read all of it, but this quote keeps ringing a bell for me:Beyond privilege and embodying “the greatness of America,” the assumption is that White men are smart, hard working, moral, and righteous fuels the idea that if the White men are not living the American Dream the system must be broken. For everyone else, failure is a sign of individual failure, cultural failure, and communal shortcomings but if White men ain’t winning, the game is rigged.Yeah, no. Four more days, US voting friends. We can do this, and together, we will.
~*Election Content Over! Proceed On For Messy Cooks Who Live For Drama!*~
So, America’s Test Kitchen is suing former host and Editor-in-Chief of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country Christopher Kimball for conspiring to “literally and conceptually rip off” their flagship magazines. When you have broken faith with the patient Jack Bishop, a man who has met your put-on Yankee crankiness with good humor and indulgence for the last 30 years, you need to examine your life choices. And if you won’t examine them on your own, maybe this bracing 39-page lawsuit will prompt proper reflection. Readers may recall from a previous issue that I was a little worried about Kimball this summer when he was exhorting people to sign up to receive a free copy of the charter issue of Milk Street - as I wrote then, this pitch sounds like he was trying to convince not only potential readers but also himself of the viability of the new magazine. This was not the taciturn nouveau Vermonter I know and love-hate, it was an outpouring of an almost Hamiltonian level of verbosity. I received my copy of the charter issue this week and while I’m enjoying it and will probably cook quite a few recipes out of it, this whole situation has left me with a (sorry/not sorry) nasty taste in my mouth. The pettiness of this totally unnecessary slap at the iconic no-fail pie crust recipe developed for Cook’s Illustrated (secret ingredient: vodka) is very funny, totally absurd (how is a gel made from a microwaved combination of cornstarch & water any less weird than vodka as a secret ingredient?), and professionally awful.Not a great look! It's not called SHADE STREET KITCHEN, Christopher.My verdict: Team Jack (and obviously & forever, Team Bridget). (Though she has not commented publicly, to my knowledge.) (Which speaks very well of her, frankly.)
And finally, This Week In Hamilton makes a periodic return to murder all our emotions with the release of two tracks from the forthcoming Hamilton Mixtape. I think overall, I prefer the original versions of both songs in preview release right now, but to be fair, can there ever be an improvement on the original “Quiet Uptown”? My attachment to the originals notwithstanding, Kelly Clarkson does a beautiful job with the vocal (tears rating: Wept Into My Cereal This Morning), and I’m really looking forward to hearing the full album. Chance the Rapper & Francis and the Lights on “Dear Theodosia (Reprise)”! Lin worked a sweet reference to Ashanti & Ja Rule’s many early-oughts duets into “Helpless” and now they are going to bring it all full circle by performing that song together! Every time I re-read the full track listing, I am delighted anew. In the midst of all these musical machinations, Lin continues to bless us all with his daily bookending tweets, which support and exhort. They are a balm for all our souls, and a true gift.
I believe this 1000000%