Snuggle up, buttercups!

We Still <3 Hygge The Most! Thanks, Denmark!

We want to go to there.

Longtime readers will remember our introduction to the Danish concept of hygge from last year. Guess what, we are still totally into what The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Danes describes as “the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.” Coziness of spirit and surroundings, especially when practiced in the company of lovely people, is our adaptive strategy jam! Join us, won’t you?

We slung some great Hyyge Life recommendations your way last year and are back with more! We’d love to hear your suggestions & strategies, too - hit reply or tell the world on Twitter!

  • First off, an actual TV show in Denmark is a competition reality program called The Great Knit-Off. Of course! Episode 9 of Season 1 is available on YouTube with English subtitles!

  • We aren’t taking credit for all the hygge coverage we’ve seen in the last year (ok, we kind of are), but some fun trend pieces include The Secret to Danish Happiness and Danish parents know: happy families practice "hygge". What else do Danish parents know that we don’t? Probably lots, those gorgeous, well-adjusted jerks.

  • We continue to endorse the practice of Candletime, a holiday invented by Magda Pecsenye to help stave off SAD and prevent Christmas from encroaching on Thanksgiving. Think of it a secular pre-Advent. Celebrating is so easy and soul-nourishing, and there’s no way to do it wrong, which is deeply freeing, especially during the Thanksgiving-Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa-Solstice-New Year’s Eve season.

We’ll close out with some #HyggeAsFuck recommendations from each of us:

You’re right, Robin Hood, we just need to get through #Gloomvember!

  • Dame S’s Movie: Why did we challenge ourselves to choose only one? This is not The Highlander! Gah! I eliminated many very worthy possibilities due to their lack of Netflixability: Wonder BoysThe Best Man HolidayThe Holiday. Ok, fine, I’m going with Disney’s Robin Hood, which features class warfare, Plantagenets, catchy songs, romance between foxy foxes, a splendid heist, and classic animation. It’s easy to watch with kids and pleasing to watch as an adult who compulsively hits pause to look up historical references. You can also use it as the basis for a low-key costume party, complete with a drinking game or King John Is A Big Baby BINGO, if that floats your boat.

  • Dame M’s Movie: Hahaha, I’m cheating here and naming a miniseries-- sorry/not sorry, though, because Cranford is HYGGE AS FUCK, y’all. It’s not available streaming anywhere (infinite row of sobbing emoji), but this is the kind of DVD that I think all libraries are required to own, and it’s old enough that you can probably find a copy on the shelves pretty easily. Or buy it, you won’t regret it, it's infinitely rewatchable. It’s 6-hours long, which-- based on the viewing habits of this Dame and her mother-- is exactly long enough to put on “an episode” around 7 and end up staying up till 1 AM to watch the whole thing. And what could be more hyggelig than an unplanned binge watch? Just exactly nothing, is what. (P.S. Dame Judi Dench stars in this, in case you needed more persuading.)

  • Dame S’s Album: Ugh, this is so hard! Music is my life! I decided to fall back on an album I wore out with my friends in college, Squeeze’s Singles -- 45s & Under. This is a bit of a cheat, since it’s not a proper album, but tell that to the girls who spent all of 1997 delicately balancing their GPAs with boozy nights playing spades til 2 am singing along on endless repeat at the top of their lungs. Peak hygge is time spent with your favorite people, doing your favorite things, making what will be your favorite memories.

  • Dame M’s Album: Dame Sophie is right, picking just one thing is almost impossible. ESPECIALLY just one album. But I proposed this limitation so I have to abide by it. Ergo, I’m picking Gonna Take a Miracle by Laura Nyro and LaBelle -- it’s a collection of wonderful songs 1960s girl group songs covered in the style of a 1970s singer-songwriter (with powerhouse supporting vocals from LaBelle). It gives you the comforting joy of a good sing-a-long, but in slightly muted shades that commune with the seasonal gloom rather than brashly contrasting with it, thereby rendering it warm and friendly instead of oppressive.

  • Dame S’s Book: Good food is a big part of having hyggelig times for me, and Nigella Bites, by Nigella Lawson, is full of a lot of my gloomy weather standbys. The recipes are easy and delicious, and even the more involved recipes don’t countenance any wasted effort.   

  • Dame M’s Book: WHY IS THIS THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE? Okay. Okay. I’m just going to name one of my favorite ghost stories-- Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle. WHY is this book hygge? #1 Ghosts make you shiver, which only makes snuggling under blankets all the more sweet. #2 Love story!!! #3 Cats! INCLUDING A GHOST CAT! #4 Old English Manor House, best read about while living in your glorious modern home with highly effective central heating. Plus, although this doesn’t directly relate, please come and marvel with me about how well Beagle writes authentic-sounding first person narration from the perspective of a teenage girl, which I think is quite a remarkable feat.

Ask Two Bossy Dames

In the absence of any good gifs of the final scene from the original Stepford Wives,
one of Kelly Reemtsen's stunning paintings will have to suffice.

Dear Dames,

You two seem like effortlessly effervescent fonts of authenticity.  But I bet you too have good days and bad.  

Something I am currently struggling with is finding a balance between being authentic (without being rude and selfish) and meeting expectations (without being a drama queen martyr).  I feel like I ping pong between these extremes, which leaves myself and others feeling dissatisfied.  Any advice on how to balance things out at bit?  Thanks.

Oh boy, honey. Do your Dames ever get where you’re coming from on this problem. As much as we would like to pretend, a la Beyoncé, that we woke up like this, our flawlessly authentic effervescence is definitely a constructed reality, one that we work hard to maintain every day. But, also a la Beyoncé, the mere fact that our identity is consciously constructed does not mean that it’s false-- just like models know the angles from which their faces photograph best, your Dames know how to set our best qualities off to great effect, angling ourselves out to the world so that they shine clear, bright, and true. Crucially, though, accomplishing the magic trick of accentuating the positive does not mean eliminating the negative. It means making peace with the negative, accepting it, loving it as part of your whole self. You can’t know your good angles without accepting your bad.

It seems, right now, that you’re caught in the dilemma of MODERN WOMANHOOD: You can meet others’ expectations (periodically collapsing into resentment, because others’ expectations for women aren’t always realistic) or you can be your authentic self, and risk being labelled “rude or selfish”-- because a “real” woman would just be effortlessly perfect, so how dare you say no.  The secret to escaping this dilemma is to accept that saying “no,” in and of itself, is never rude. As much as the world has taught women our natural job is to be the universal helpmeet, we are, in fact, sovereign beings, with our own distinct wants and needs. “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s always an acceptable one to say.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but knowing you always have the right to say no makes it easier to say yes, and really mean it. People’s needs aren’t usually calculated according to your resources. Someone needs a ride when they need a ride! They can’t know that your car is in the shop when they ask. So their half of the bargain of asking is that they have to know it’s a real question, they have to be able to accept your no graciously, if it’s what comes. But your half of the bargain, just as important but much less understood, is to make sure your yes is honest. Come to know your emotional machinery as well as you know that of your car’s and come to accept its limitations as just as concrete. You wouldn’t try to drive someone home when your car’s out of gas, and you can’t shore up someone else’s well-being when you’re drowning.

Women aren’t encouraged to think of themselves this way -- concretely limited, yet still deserving. We aren’t allowed to just feel good or worthy on our own -- we’re only supposed to see our goodness and worth reflected back to us in the eyes of those we help. So when someone comes to you with a need, it’s so hard to admit you can’t meet it, and so scary. If you don’t get their gratitude, how do you get that minute of feeling good? If they fail on their half of the bargain, and can’t meet your “no” with good grace, how do you reject their label of “selfish” or “rude”? How do you let yourself off the hook when someone says your authentic self isn’t enough?

This is how: by reminding yourself that your good will is not an infinitely renewable resource. That you’re the only one who knows how much you have at a given moment, and how much a given task will cost you. And that anyone who’s worthy of receiving kindness from you would only ever want kindness that’s sustainable. They don’t want you to grind up bits of yourself, they don’t want you to use yourself up til there’s nothing left. So, they’re trusting you to be generous the best way you can, and they’re trusting you to know your limits.

Know them, respect them, own them. Usually a limit in one place corresponds to a surfeit in another; Dame M. is a monster who’s incapable of arriving anywhere on time, for example. But it also means that she’s really effortlessly generous about other people’s lateness and any other kind of Social Clerical Error. You will never cancel a plan with someone more painlessly than the plan you cancel with her. Odds are, you’re built the same way, too. You have a valley of shame here, but a mountain of strength next door, one that you’ve developed to help shelter the people who count on you from the ways you’re not perfect. Accept the whole landscape, not one part of it needs to be excised. But if you’re honest about it, you can help guide the people who matter through the best path. That’s what being a good adult means: forget perfect. We’re all swamps here. Just remember the path around the sinkholes, put up proper signage, and you’re in the clear. Anyone who says otherwise can go hang.

With time & practice, you’ll be this effortless & unapologetic.

This Week in Hamilton

To quote the late, great MCA: keep it goin’, keep it goin’, keep it goin’ full STEAM! (Yep, that’s the plan, Hamil-pals! For new readers, we post these round-ups at the end of each issue.) Ready, bros?

A tribute to the greatest Oh, SNAP Vine of all time, by Pati Cmak

  • Can we talk about the sad dearth of sufficiently excellent Hamiltoniana on Etsy? Crafters! The people’s wallets are open! Where are the replica flags “depicting a laurel-wreathed Hamilton bearing the Constitutions while an allegorical figure representing Fame blows a trumpet in the air”? Whither miniature versions of the “frigate, twenty-seven feet long, baptized The Federal Ship Hamilton”? (<--- descriptions from the NYC parade celebrating the ratification of the Constitution in Chernow’s #HamBio, p. 269)

  • Dame S’s favorite #Ham4Ham shows are the ones where Lin-Manuel is so overcome with the power of the music that he busts out his dorkiest dance moves. This week, his “A Whole New World” duet with Lea Salonga furnishes all his (and our) feels-flails.

  • Javier Muñoz plays Alexander Hamilton when LMM is off, but this thoroughly charming & insightful interview shows he’s much more than an understudy.

  • Aaron Burr: proto-feminist? This exhibit of corset portraits of the women he loved suggests yeah, maybe! (h/t Damespal Ann)

  • Hamilton & Burr descendants are glorious canoeing besties!

  • “One of the play’s many achievements is its blend of an inclusive present with a historical past that is rooted in fact.” This is a really solid reflection on the historical adjustments Miranda made to make the story of Hamilton work.

  • Yet further confirmation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ability to freestyle about anything.

  • Real Talk: most of us who love Hamilton aren’t going to get to see it live(Dame S. is reluctantly holding out for a tour stop in Philly, or a movie theater-style live broadcast). That’s what makes #Ham4Ham shows and the superior quality of the Original Broadway Cast Recording so important.

  • Would you like to expire due to overexposure to charm and love? By all means, let’s show you the way back to 2010! Here’s the NYT’s Vows column on Vanessa Nadal and Lin Miranda, with a side of the surprise performance of “To Life” that LMM and their families arranged for her during the reception.

  • And finally: Dame S. has ZERO regrets about raising the baked goods pun-stakes.