Thank U, Dames

FINALLY, after weeks of pretty expert teasing…

(The pom-pom flourish equivalent of a drum roll.)

...the official music video for Ariana Grande’s objectively perfect song “Thank U, Next” is OUT! As devout lovers of the song and newly-minted Mocha Grandes (which is a name for Ariana fans that Dame Margaret swears is real but also may have made up?), we have been waiting for the video eagerly, and, for the extremely apt Kris Jenner cameo alone, it was worth the wait. And, better still, this video highlights one of the loveliest things about Ariana’s star image: her comfort in FANNING OUT over things, and not just being fanned upon. From her famous love of Harry Potter to her delight in the musical Wicked, Ariana’s fandom tends to run deep, and it shows in the tiny loving details she incorporates into this video. It’s the sincerity of this love that saves the video from Iggy Azalea soullessness and associates it instead with classics like Snuggie Countdown — while this video is every bit as glossy as the former, you get the sense that Ari would infuse it with just as much care and joy even if she’d had only snuggies, her friends, and a dream to fuel it instead of an international pop career.

This is both (a) the happiest we have ever been to see Kris Jenner and (b) live footage of Your Dames listening to “Thank U, Next”

And of course, it prompts the inevitable question:

Taking as the organizing theme, “movies you watched too many times when our brains were young, soft, and impressionable,” Dame Margaret’s “Thank U, Next” films would be, in order from most to least known: First Wives Club (a fav she shares with Ari!), My Best Friend’s Wedding, Sliding Doors, and It Could Happen to You. Dame Sophie’s would be: The Princess Bride, Wayne’s World, Disney’s Robin Hood, and When Harry Met Sally. Share yours with us on Twitter!

Livetweet Anouncement: BELLE on Sunday, December 16th!

We certainly hope you think so!

Our next Dames Nation livetweet is Belle, a historical drama loosely based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of a West Indian slave and a British Naval Officer who was raised as an ambiguous part of an aristocratic British family. Director Amma Asante took this historical figure as the inspiration for a sweeping romantic drama and the results are deeply satisfying. The film is not available to stream for free at the moment, but is (a) of the class that any library of good standing is likely to possess and (b) only $4 to rent on a host of digital platforms. Hopefully you can obtain the film by one method or another and join us:

When: Sunday, December 16th at 7:30 PM EST

How: By renting or borrowing a copy of the movie.

Where: And following the hashtag #BelleDames on Twitter

We are extremely excited to share this one with you!

Ask Two Bossy Dames!

We will never claim not to judge anybody, but we certainly never judge you.

It’s that time again where We Your Dames play Mr. Rosso to your Lindsey Weir and answer some questions submitted to our Handy Dandy Google Form. Sit back and let us blow your mind!  

Dear Dames,
I'm 25 and I've never really dated anyone. I've gone out for drinks with guys from dating apps, but nothing became of any of these awkward meet-ups. I don't know how else to put myself out there, since I don't really have a large group of friends. Also, I don't have any male friends because I am much much more comfortable with other women. I am attracted to men, but I find them socially terrifying sometimes, and then I wonder if maybe I'm bisexual, but then I wonder if I'm just hoping I am because that would be "easier" for me. Am I attracted to women, or am I just more comfortable around them? I guess I want some advice on how to put myself out there better so I can figure my shit out. I don't want marriage or kids, I just want some fun and companionship and also to make out with somebody I like. How do I communicate that to the world, when I generally like to keep to myself?  


Some words that, perhaps, you might find yourself shouting in earnest someday.

Dear Julia,

Perhaps unsurprisingly, for a newsletter that caters so heavily to highly bookish, female-identified readers, you are not the first person who’s written to us seeking advice on how to begin dating later in life. We wrote a whole column about it a couple years ago and I, Dame Margaret, think our wisdom therein holds up very nicely. It does not, however, address quite exactly your dilemma, which seems to consist of (1) being very unused to interacting with men and (2) being a bit confused about your sexual orientation.

On the first count: given that what you seek from a romantic partnership is companionship, not the ability to reproduce without aid from IVF, finding a man whose company you enjoy is the only reason to go on dates. Given that you’re shy and unused to interacting with new people, that might be hard. Even for someone like myself, who’s almost comically outgoing, connecting strongly with someone on a date is hard, and rare. That’s not because of their gender, necessarily— it’s more because finding someone whom you both want to talk to and want to kiss is often very hard. What could make it easier for you, though, is letting go of your assumption that all men socialize very differently from all women. If something about the way a man is socializing terrifies you, then odds are— as the meme says— he’s not your man. I don’t know enough about the culture around you and how strongly people within it are pressured to adhere to gender stereotypes, but if it’s very strong, finding one person your like may mean sifting through a fair number of bros, and you’ll just have to be patient about that. But it also means being brave to initiate exchanges with men of the type you enjoy. Rather than just saying “I’m more comfortable with women” and not investigating that, think about the qualities that make you enjoy interacting with women socially and do your best to manifest them outwards.

The easiest place to start with that? Just think of questions, a few, that you’d pretty much always be interested in hearing the answer to and some subjects that you never get tired of talking about with your friends. This is your conversational fun zone— if a person can function well there, then you know they’re a real prospect. Once you’ve figured out where your fun zone lies, work up the nerve to be the person who directs the conversation, steer it to these subjects, and see how your date fares. It will be stressful to lead the conversation at first, if you’re more used to hanging back, but as long as you take care to leave space for the other person to participate, you’ll find that most people are relieved to let someone else generate the subjects. The second thing I’d recommend is that, if the first date is merely awkward and not actively off-putting, try to commit to going on a second one. First dates are hard! The stakes can feel artificially high. Going on a second date gives you a chance to figure out what of that initial awkwardness is merely nerves, and what stems from a mismatch in personality between you and your date.

Now, for the second question: is there a possibility you’re bisexual? I have to say that, knowing nothing more about you than what’s conveyed in this letter, it seems pretty implausible that experiencing social anxiety around men would, all on its own, lead you to wonder whether you’re bisexual. But I do not live your life, so: if you look deeply into your heart and truly find no positive gravitation towards women and only an aversion to social interaction with men, then direct your attention to my prior advice exclusively. However! If instead what you find in your heart when you contemplate dating women is more of like… a warm, hazy question mark? As someone who lived that question mark life for 32 years and just finally tried dating women last year, I’m going to recommend heartily that you try dating women.

Here’s why: it sounds to me like you’re really new to dating still and don’t have a clear idea of what you’d like in a partner. So why rush to certainty about the gender your partner ought to be when any part of you is still wondering? I have joked, since realizing that I am what I like to call “actionably bisexual,” that heteronormative assumptions about sex are so strong and so pervasive that there’s pretty much nothing a woman can do with another woman that society would recognize as “definitively gay” until she’s eating someone’s pussy without an agreement to share the titillating details with any men afterward. Now, that’s an overstatement, but the truth at the heart of the joke is that there’s this exhaustive list of interactions— touching each other, complimenting each other, snuggling, gazing into one anothers’ eyes, etc— that we’re taught to view as “platonic” when they happen between two women, but “romantic” when they happen between people of differing genders. This means that friendships between women can be closer and more affectionate than those our homophobic society allows to exist between men. But it can also mean that— especially if you’re a woman who’s anxious about or inexperienced with romantic entanglements— you have the freedom to miscategorize all kinds of interest in and feelings about women as just friendly when maybe, if you were a little bolder, they could actually be more. That is certainly what I found out about my own feelings, and also something every other queer woman I know has gone through. So if the idea of kissing a girl seems fun, at all? I’d recommend, to paraphrase the immortal words of Kacey Musgraves, that you kiss lots of them. The worst thing that could happen is you learn that kissing girls is something you only like in theory, not in practice. And the best thing? Is that you end up with twice as big a pool of partners to pull from, and fewer social hurdles to clear before finding the one (or more) that makes you really happy.

SO! Go out there and have as much fun as you can, Julia. Figure out your conversational fun zones and steer interactions there. Look hard at the fuzzy question mark in your heart. We your Dames are rooting for you.    

XO/Dame Margaret

You had mentioned in an earlier newsletter that you can talk to people about colonoscopies and convince us that they are not a big deal. As a person with Crohn's disease, I am supposed to have them annually. I've had a handful already, enough that you'd think I'd be comfortable with them, but I actually dread them and find the prep especially to be a real ordeal, delivering me at the appointment exhausted and anxious.

So, my question is: do you have any practical tips to make them more okay? And / or, I'd be interested to hear your thinking behind any attitudes that help you have such a chill, positive approach. I know they're important!


The Crohn’sy One

Keeping in mind, always, Dr. Spaceman’s essential caveat…

My Dear Crohn’sy One,

I salute you for asking about this — you’re the only person who took me up on my invitation and maybe too-breezy assertion that colonoscopies are no big deal. So first of all, good for you for continuing to book and undergo your colonoscopies. Seriously. Keeping track of and following up on medical appointments and advice from healthcare providers is a commitment to your well-being, and just keeping it all rolling year in, year out is something very much worth acknowledging.

As to the specifics of dreading the preparation, I hear you. It’s tough on your body. For those who’ve never had a colonoscopy, you have to confine yourself to a diet of clear liquids — nothing red, purple, or orange — for 24 hours before the procedure. (I drink a ton of chicken broth and eat a looooot of green & blue Jell-o.) The night before the procedure, you take a very powerful purgative that deposits you on the toilet for a couple of hours, to flush out all of the liquids you’ve been drinking all day. My prep this time around involved a second round of the purgative the morning of my procedure, and this was the least-bad version of the prep I’ve ever had. You get pretty well wrung out, is the bottom line.

I think yours is a question about boundaries. More specifically, it could be about how identifying and being very clear about your boundaries can help you help your healthcare team. I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your difficulties with the prep and how it makes you arrive exhausted & anxious. Maybe the first person to talk to is your primary care physician or nurse practitioner, and then your gastroenterologist. If the preparation has become a problem for you, they should be aware of that and be strategizing with you to select a preparation method that is less taxing, even if the improvement is minor.

Making a procedural change may be something they don’t relish, but it’s worth stepping back to remember that your healthcare providers are on your team. I think you’ll enhance your chances of success by framing the conversation that way. One data point that may be helpful: my gastroenterologist’s practice has 4 or 5 prep options to select from. Mine prescribed the one that he thought would be easiest for me to tolerate (and that my insurance would cover); yours should do the same. They want you to have this procedure, so they shouldn’t push back, but if they do, you can (and should) push right back in turn about how the way you’ve been doing things isn’t working for you, and that you really want to be a responsible patient, so you need some help from them to accomplish that goal.

This year, for the first time ever, I turned up to my appointment exactly as you describe — exhausted and anxious — and I’m not too proud to say I got the teensiest bit snappish with the intake nurse, who was asking me a zillion questions while the nurse anaesthetist was trying to find a vein for my sedatives and hydration solution. Guess what, I was pretty dehydrated thanks to having expelled many liters of fluid out of my tush earlier that very morning, a consequence of which was that it was hard to find a vein! Once she did find a vein, everything went smoothly, and on balance I’m glad I said, “hey, I’m exhausted & anxious here, and I want to help you help me, so let me deal with one thing at a time and we’ll all get where we want to go.”

Best of luck to you, and again: thank you for taking care of yourself. Living with chronic illness can be hard and annoying and demoralizing, and the fact that you’re pursuing ways to do it that work better for you is a big deal.


Dame S

Dame Margaret’s Cultural Odd and Ends

Probably Dame Margaret’s #1 Most Quoted Movie Line.

  • As someone who’s said the above line to her college best friend more time than she can count, I feel legally bound and obligated to share this great new York Times essay on why that one line demonstrates so perfectly Nora Ephron’s facility with dialogue.

  • And because I’ve never seen the virtue of doing anything in moderation, I’m going to also share this hilarious New Yorker essay the aforementioned Nora wrote about her relationship with cookbooks throughout the years. If it’s been awhile since you read one of Ephron’s pieces of nonfiction, be prepared to get flattened anew by the sheer charm of her prose.

  • Speaking of sheer charm, I cannot recommend this Pitchfork interview with Mariah Carey highly enough. I was ashamed to realize that, despite loving her music since I was 10, I knew astonishingly little about her process as a songwriter and the level of involvement she has always had in producing her music. Because the interview focusing on her work as a musician instead of her life as a celebrity, I learned a dizzying amount, and have a newfound appreciation for her pop genius.

  • Another thing I have a newfound appreciation for: SOFT BOIS, like the two painfully endearing 11-year-old ballet dancers presently performing as the Prince in the New York Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, profiled here in The New York Times. I am honestly amazed that I made it through the whole thing without dying of feelings, or developing an elaborate plan to adopt one or both of the boys. 

  • And finally, I found this medium-length read from Vox on period-tracking apps and their deeply problematic design absolutely fascinating. As a low-key user experience nerd, thinking about how the design of a product speaks to the goals and priorities of its designers is incredibly interesting to me and, in the case of these apps, also undeniably worrying.

Dame Sophie’s Cultural Tidbits

You’re welcome/I’m sorry

Hello, it is I, your friend whose favorite thing in pop culture is when it seems like a man is about to cry. Song, book, movie, TV, if a fellow is deep in his feelings, I am into it. Right now, right there on Netflix, no man is more constantly on the verge of tears than the fictional David Budd, Metropolitan Police Sergeant and Personal Protection Officer for the fictional British Home Secretary, Julia Montague, in the BBC miniseries Bodyguard. It’s a twisty, red herring-strewn political thriller that is both extremely bingeable and deeply flawed, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it for the last two weeks.

DamesPal Kathryn VanArendonk wrote a spot-on and detailed critique of the things the show gets wrong (warning: here be spoilers galore) but before you get into its flaws — which are all the more vexing because they did not have to be this way, and the show would have been even more interesting and compelling if they’d made, you know, different narrative choices that didn’t undermine a couple of the core foundational premises of the show — I recommend taking a trip through the many (ok, also spoilery) times David Budd says “ma’am” in Bodyguard. As Kathryn points out, he is, by turns pleased, infuriated, disappointed, longing, and a host of other subtle little sub-feelings. A+ close-up acting there by Richard Madden. The entire cast is that good, and frequently even better. Keeley Hawes is remarkable as Julia, of course, but I want to give a special shout-out to Gina McKee, who is striking and memorable in every role, as a high-up national security administrator whose motivations are always just the wrong side of legibility.

My absolute favorite thing about the show is when it tips its hat to Bright Star, the romantic drama about John Keats and Fanny Brawne, by recreating this gorgeous and perfect scene depicting its lovers separated by a wall. There’s a whole lot of longing-suffused moments and lingering glances and respectful, if profoundly irked, “ma’am”-ing and so on, so what I’m saying, I guess, is that Bodyguard is actually a 19th century-style doomed romance that is also about the relentlessly encroaching Islamophobic surveillance state, and you know what? It would have been a more interesting and lasting piece of art if it had focused more on the former within the context of the latter, particularly regarding the realpolitik and sexual politics of David & Julia’s relationship. Some of the questions I wish the show had given itself more space to address: how long can someone who’s so mission-and-duty-driven set aside his feelings when called upon to protect someone who is directly responsible for his PTSD? Can a Home Secretary whose beloved openly loathes her policies long remain Home Secretary? Can he long remain her beloved? In the long run, would David’s life experiences cause Julia to change her beliefs and political alliances? Most crucially & inevitably: why are men allowed to be in charge of television shows anymore, when they so consistently do it wrong?

ANYWAY. On the strength of his badass backwards-driving and constant verge-of-tears performance, and of his lovely Glaswegian burr, it now seems likely that Richard Madden will take over for Daniel Craig in the James Bond franchise. At least, that’s one of the central assumptions of this British GQ profile, which also reveals what a deeply scarred and anxious person Madden is, due to having been rather mercilessly bullied and fat-shamed in high school. I hope that he’ll spend some of his Bodyguard (and maybe Bond) ducats on getting into therapy and then team up with Prince Harry to do a campaign for fully funding mental health treatment via the NHS.

Pivoting directly to something completely different, this month’s episode of Hit Parade is all about the history and long-term chart consequences of Britney Spears’ partnership with Swedish super-producer Max Martin. The timing of this episode couldn’t be more serendipitous, as it comes the same week as Rachel Syme’s fascinating piece about how Britney’s perfume empire (valued at $1 billion!) has far outpaced her music career as her primary source of income. The combination of Britney’s earnest, sophisticated investment in successful scent creation and her insights about how the video for her first collaboration with Martin, “...Baby One More Time” should look makes me once again think Britney is very, very overdue for a serious, book-length re-evaluation of her as an artist and businesswoman. Spears, who is now 37, is still living under the terms of a legal conservatorship that prevents her from making even basic decisions about her vast fortune, and while she seems very healthy and well-adjusted, I hope she’ll also have full legal & financial agency restored to her soon.      

And finally, just because, here are trailers of all the movies I want to see this Oscar-bait season so far, with a tiny bit about why:

  • The Favourite: Olivia Colman, Olivia Colman, Olivia Colman

  • If Beale Street Could Talk: Barry Jenkins could make a movie about the phone book and I’d watch it. Happily, he’s made a beautiful love story, again. Can’t wait to sob my face off.

  • Roma: I know nothing about this movie other than what I’ve seen in the trailer, but that’s enough for me. Look at how gorgeous it is! Relationships! Sweep of history! Etc.!

  • Mary Poppins Returns: It sure will be a jolly holiday with Mary! And Lin! And all the knitwear & musical numbers!

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse: With great multi-verse diversity comes great jokes. SPIDER-HAM is coming, people, prepare your abs for hilarity!

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