Phanatical Philadelphia, Phantom Toolbooths, & Praise of Dandies

ames Nation. Are you wondering WHY the Philly Phanatic is dancing today?

EASY! It’s because he’s SO EXCITED that Dame Margaret is coming to The Philadelphia Podcast Festival to do a LIVE SHOW with her podcast, Appointment Television, on Saturday August 20th!

She and her wonderful co-hosts Andrew & Kathryn will be going on at 4 PM at Tattooed Mom, one of Philadelphia’s coolest bars, and then Andrew’s other podcast, Overdue, will also have a live show, at the same bar, at 6 PM! If these names seem familiar, it may be because all three people involved in the above shows have guest-edited issues of Two Bossy Dames-- Kathryn just recently, as one half of our Two Bossy PHDs, and Andrew and Craig, in April, as our Overdudes!

If you want to get a sense of the podcasts, you’re in luck! Because Kathryn and I just joined Andrew on Overdue for a discussion of the classic children’s book, 
The Phantom Tollbooth. Did we agree with Tom Haverford that:

You’ll have to listen and find out!!

And, while you’re at it, you might dip into the archives for a little Dame Sophie excellence. You can hear her discuss The Americans with us on Appointment Television
Speedboat by Renata Adler with the Overdudes on Overdue, andThe Flowers in the Attic with Dame Margaret!

All in all: IF YOU’RE ANYWHERE NEAR PHILLY ON 8/20, COME SAY HI! It’s going to be a GREAT time!

Dame Margaret in Praise of Dandies, and Other Sundry Links

You surely know where this is going.

This Monday, The Wall Street Journal published a piece about a Cold War being fought in suburban homes across our fine country, a pitched battle between women who loathe cargo shorts and their husbands, who cling to them with a terrified and senseless urgency. In addition to being rich with comic potential, this piece apparently made some men verrrrrrrrrry grumpy.

Isn't it cute how the captions felt the need to specify "male WSJ reader," as if the gender of these correspondents could ever be in question?

While I am on record as finding their dismay ridiculous, I have to own, discussing the piece brought up some STRONG EMOTIONS for me as well. They relate to a particular awakening I had, a story which goes as follows: In college, I was talking with a well-meaning male friend I liked then, and still like now, who was an ace practitioner of what I’ve lovingly named “found object dressing”-- wherein one combines (1) a top one plainly acquired for free (at a fun run, summer job, or from various and sundry t-shirt cannons), (2) pants surely purchased for one in bulk by one’s mother, (3) enormous white athletic sneakers (also likely purchased by same), and (4) then one winks and makes finger guns at oneself in the mirror, while mouthing “Tell me about it, stud” to one’s own reflection. I guess. To this friend I said, WHY, when all men need to distinguish themselves as well-dressed is three things-- a button-down shirt, pants that fit, and shoes that are not the aesthetic equivalent of a 404 Error Not Found message-- do so FEW take advantage and give themselves a comically big one-up in the heterosexual dating pool? He, budding economist that he was, cited “the fireworks principle,” which the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics explains thusly:

If an entrepreneur stages a fireworks show, people can watch the show from their windows or backyards...Even if the fireworks show is worth ten dollars to each person, no one will pay ten dollars to the entrepreneur. Each person will seek to ‘free-ride’ by allowing others to pay for the show, and then watch for free from his or her backyard.

In my friend’s eyes, because women could not exclude “free-riders” like himself from passively benefiting from their attractiveness and general finery, there was no incentive for men to exert themselves when it came to dressing. In hoping for an equivalent effort to be made, women were those chump entrepreneurs, asking for their work to be valued even while they gave it away for free. AS YOU MIGHT GUESS, this PIECE OF INSIGHT made QUITE AN IMPACT ON ME.

I did not actually shove my friend BUT I WAS TEMPTED.

It’s a perspective that basically boils down to “WELL, since the Patriarchy is oppressing you ALREADY, I may as well just lay back and enjoy the free show.” Because, UNLIKE FIREWORKS, which are paid for by COMMON TAXES, the burden of being pretty all the time is not one shared equally amongst a whole township. It’s one each woman carries alone, often to her financial and emotional detriment! I’d like to say that, from that day forth, I never let a man whose clothing did not communicate VISIBLE EFFORT AND THOUGHT touch the hem of my (usually stylish) garments, but look. I’m a mostly straight woman. My romantic life to date is just one long series of grim compromises. BUT. It has made me really, really appreciative of men who make an effort, even when the end result is goofy at best




This photo set is, officially, the most I have ever, or will ever, like Jared Leto.


It may seem like a DRAMATIC OVERSTATEMENT, but I think dandyism, properly applied, is one way tiny way men can set aside or endanger a little of their privileged status. Putting effort into your appearance is showing an awareness that you exist as an object, not merely a subject. Your body is not a remote fortress from which you can gaze out on vistas undisturbed, but a building in a common city-- you look out and others are free to look back in kind. As long as dressing to delight someone’s eye is considered at best feminine or at worst “gay,” doing so when society does not demand it of you is a gently radical act, and one I find really appealing.

Just because Christian is gay does not mean he cannot be your style icon!

So, straight men (mostly white, mostly middle-class), wear your cargo shorts, if you must. Not every garment needs to be stylish, or flattering. If you really want to engulf your haunches in the sartorial embodiment of the phrase “no homo,” please, be my guest.* Despite that scathing description, truly: if I already like you as an individual, I almost certainly won’t like you any less because of your allegiance to dumb paramilitary pants. But I do expect you to recognize, when you wear them, that dressing in reference chiefly to heteronormative conformity and personal comfort, with no regard for how frumpy it makes you appear, without ever fearing social or professional repercussions, is a privilege that very few people have. Your freedom from superficial concerns like “stylishness” is not evidence of your refined and logical mind, or your keen independence of spirit. It’s just another piece of evidence that, as John Scalzi once put it, you’re playing life on the lowest possible difficulty setting. When you wear them, even if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re communicating nothing, you’re actually saying-- loud and clear-- “I am privileged enough that I don’t have to care.” And while you can perform caring in LOTS of other great and meaningful ways, don’t devalue the mere act of showing it by saying “Hey, look at me! Aren’t I handsome?” It doesn’t take a lot, and it really does make the world more fun and colorful.

*This is a great moment to note that the semiotics of cargo shorts-- and nearly ALL garments that read “boring dad”-- are complex, and therefore have a totally different impact when mixed with either female-presenting or gender non-conforming bodies. FASHION, like most things in our advanced capitalist society, is complicated!    

And now! To our regularly scheduled program of LINKS!Speaking of ways one can show caring for women while still dressing like atotal dad, did you guys read President Obama’s exclusive essay for Glamour on feminism and the world he wants to leave his daughters? It does not break any new ground, but to hear feminism that earnest and unambiguous from our sitting president? YUP, it’s pretty great!! You know what else is great? This letter Joe Biden sent his staff explicitly informing them that, if they ever missed a meaningful family event to be at work, he would be disappointed in them. And you know what’s BEST OF ALL??? You got it: Joe n’ Barry’s friendship bracelets, and the Best Broship it represents. Let us, Your Dames, go on record officially supporting #DamespalElizabeth’s proposal that these perfect darlings be appointed Best Friends-in-Chief.  In further Great Links sent our way by #Damespals-- this time aforementioned former guest editor, Kathryn-- this New York Times story about the post-show lives of puppies cast in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is utterly perfect. I mean, except for the fact that I do not currently own Puppy No. 12, Babs, who “seems to have an actor’s self-regard,” reportedly staring at herself “in any mirror, water, glass windows,” in a manner her owners attribute to her “having been a star.” Same, Babs. Same.In the meantime, our editorial fascination with corpse flowers has not yet diminished. SIX OF THEM ARE JUST ABOUT TO BLOOM! While this seems like a possible ILL-OMEN, Atlas Obscura has a bunch of other reasonable explanations for why it might be occurring (the organizational tags for that piece--#WeekendNews #NaturesVengenace #plants #mysteries-- are just… the greatest. And The Paris Review has a report on visiting the one currently blooming in The Bronx!And finally, while Ivanka’s dad is no joke, this satirical piece imagining how he might review The Great Gatsby is extraordinarily funny. A favorite paragraph: “The book begins, actually, before the title page. With a dedication, ‘ONCE AGAIN TO ZELDA’. That was his wife. Zelda. Odd name, right? Odd girl. Why he had to dedicate it to her more than once I’ll never understand. You’d think you dedicate a book once, it stays dedicated, but no, he had to dedicate it to her again. Although just so you know, I have no problem with him dedicating to a woman. I love women. Women love me. I’m great for women, okay?”

Dame Sophie’s Idiosyncratic Grab Bag

It’s like...a weird buffet where you end up with alleged chicken satay skewers, diced melon, some interesting-looking marinated beets, and a slice of fudge cake on your tray. You’re not quite sure how that assemblage of foods happened, but it turns out to be a pretty decent meal?

  • Killing Me Softly is a Choose Your Own Adventure-style game about microaggressions and their long-term effects on physical & mental health, especially for people living on anything other than the easiest Game of Life setting (as noted above by Dame M, that's people who are white, male, straight, cis & not dealing with chronic illness). If you’ve ever been in a conversation with a friend or family member who disputed the existence or validity of microaggressions, this game is a powerful, simple way to build empathy & remove blinders. 

  • This week, I learned that Jacqueline Susann (with help from her husband & manager Irv Mansfield) pretty much invented what we think of as modern bestseller marketing strategies! Longtime #Damesfav Marjorie Ingall’s Return to the Valley of the Dolls is full of reporting gems such as  “They reportedlyfound out which bookstores’ sales figures made up the New York Times best-seller list’s tallies so they could focus their energies on those stores. Mansfield dispatched friends who were traveling to a city with one of those stores in it to go and buy up every copy of his wife’s books. Susann kept a file with facts about individual booksellers in it, so she could charm them by seeming to remember them.” If you haven’t read Valley of the Dolls, make some time this summer to remedy that situation. It is a perfect vacation read and is out in a snazzy 50th anniversary edition featuring hot-pink edges. Mazels from beyond the grave, Miss Susann!

  • As I write this, I am practically vibrating with giddy anticipation for tonight’s Olympics Opening Ceremonies. I have not sorted out my viewing schedule, but my heart is READY for all the tumbling, vaulting, and carefully calculated for maximum point advantage double layouts I can stuff into my eyeballs over the next two weeks, thanks in part to this comprehensive retrospective of gymnastics hair through the ages.

  • What if America was really a 240 season-long TV show that had given rise to zillions of fanfictional properties like The West WingScandal, and House of Cards: Robin Wright Penn's Hair Edition? I mean, it kind of IS, right? Well, what if this year’s presidential election cycle were its final season? I know I’ve written several times here (possibly last week, even?) about my enjoyment of the podcast Overinvested, but this week, hosts Morgan & Gavia have outdone themselves. They maintain their high-wire conceit -- remarking on the specificity & deep oddness of Ted Cruz’s character, noting that the SCOTUS episodes can be a bit much if you’re not a serious fan of fictional American jurisprudence, referring to the conventions as Sweeps Weeks -- all the way through the episode in a way that seems effortless, but which must have been a backwards-in-heels tapdance. It’s funny & chilling by turns, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

  • How can I say no to a mini This Week in Hamilton when such perfection presents itself? Not possible!

    • Hamilton, now starring Elephant & Piggie is perhaps the most delightful thing on The Internet this week. If you’re not yet familiar with these modern icons of children’s literature, you’re in for a treat.

    • My longtime Internet Ladyfriend Allison Lowe Huff has written an election-themed parody/homage (homody? parage? Do we just stick with “the X/Y”?) to “Your Obedient Servant” that is almost too perfect to be believed, and that will have you in stitches, I guarantee. Al tells me that if she can work out the details, she’ll record a version with a friend & I cannot wait to hear this masterpiece done right. We will alert you all if & when this blessed event comes to pass!

Our thanks to author Minh Le, clever, charming & generous, for sharing these gifs with us (and all of you!)