"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gender Differences–Why Women Cry

April Vibber was alone in her room playing with her dolls when all of a sudden she started crying.  Not just a little choked up in the throat or a quivering lower lip, but a full- throated waterworks episode.  The weird part of it was that she had absolutely no idea why she was bawling like a baby.  She had been perfectly happy playing with Barbie and Ken, and all of a sudden Niagara Falls.  She went downstairs to ask her mother who blubbered all the time.

“We can’t help it”, her mother said. “We’re girls.  It’s something in our…” Here her mother hesitated, knowing that this was an important teaching moment.  She quickly rummaged around her kid kit for something appropriate on DNA, hardwiring, XXYY chromosomes, and genetic destiny, but it all was too complicated.  As usual her daughter had asked the right question to which there was no easy answer.

“God made men and women differently”, she went on. “Women blubber and men suck it up”.

“Yes, but Bobby Bilkins started howling yesterday when he scraped his knee”

Martha Vibber was ready to blurt, “Yes, but that’s because he’s such a baby”; but that would bias things from the get-go, so she said, “Scraping your knee really hurts”, she said instead, “and boys cry when they’re hurt just like girls. A hurt-cry is different from blubbering, which is what you did in your room”.

April’s mother had plenty of reasons to blubber.  Her husband was a wastrel; but "He’s ninety percent a wonderful man”, she told her best friend."

She thought of Hillary Clinton or a thousand other women in the limelight or right here in New Brighton who loved their husbands so much that they put up with a few indiscretions. Wasn’t that the way of the world? Every President since the Founding Fathers had sex on the side; and if we had judged Thomas Jefferson, FDR, Kennedy, or LBJ on the basis of their marital fidelity, where would the country be today?  And Martin Luther King, the greatest Lothario the country has ever known, a self-confident black man slipping between the sheets between civil rights speeches…Where would black people be without him?

The only difference between Martha Vibber and Hillary Clinton was that Hillary certainly didn’t blubber when she found out about Gennifer Flowers and all the rest of Bill’s trailer trash; and you can bet your bottom dollar that she didn’t open the waterworks when her husband’s sexual hijinks with Monica Lewinsky came to light.  She wanted to, Martha was sure, but she held the blubber in check because she wanted to be President.  To be Senator and Leader of the Free World, required to stare down the likes of Putin and the Ayatollah, she had to keep her feminine impulses in check. And maybe, thought Martha, Hillary has an extra Y chromosome.  “What a terrible thought”, she said out loud over a sink of dirty dishes.

What mattered most was her New Brighton cohorts.  Sally Reynolds, for example, who created a scene at the Country Club the other day, breaking down in tears when she saw her husband smile at the young Irish au pair walking with the Barkley twins; or Muffy Banyon who started crying uncontrollably during Father Brophy’s sermon on Sunday. “Generation of vipers”, the old, demented priest howled. “Can you smell the brimstone of hell? You will if you continue your evil ways.”

Father Brophy was a good one for sin, lechery, and lewdness, and he never disappointed; but Muffy took it all personally.  Being a religious person she not only thought that her wayward husband was a prick and moral reprobate, but that he was doomed to Hell; so when she heard the priest’s words about adultery and infidelity, she started blubbering.

The list of wronged women whom Martha Vibber knew was too long to enumerate.  Safe it to say that every other house on leafy Adams Road had a husband who played around and a sniffling, blubbering wife who put up with him. Women in New Brighton didn’t get out the pruning shears and go after their husbands, haul them into divorce court, or eviscerate them like her namesake, Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  They took it lying down.

Lest the feminist reader misunderstand and criticize Martha Vibber unfairly, she was only being realistic. She thought of that treacly aphorism on Cat Huffington’s refrigerator – “Give me the wisdom to change things I can, accept those I cannot…”; or something like that.  Martha was only accepting men’s wandering and women’s blubbering as givens; and women simply had to devise ways around both.  She was a fan of Shakespeare’s women who gave no quarter; and Goneril, Regan, Tamora, Dionyza, Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, and Beatrice were all her heroes.  Yes, they had their crying jags to be sure, but they stuck it to men every chance they could get.

So Martha understood that she had to choose her words carefully and not send the wrong message to her daughter, April.  She thought of all kinds of platitudes and nostrums – “Its natural to cry, but just as natural to fight”; or “Men suffer by keeping it all in” – but she hated to admit the best advice of them all, “Cry when it is to your advantage”.

Martha knew that her own blubbering when confronted with her husband’s sexual wanderlust was weakness, pure and simple. But men were emotional babies when the tears came at the right time.  Betty Parsons told her once that she cried after she and her husband made love. She put her arms around him, told him she loved him, and started to softly and sweetly cry. “That’s the best way to keep his cock where it belongs”, she told Martha rather crudely. “Men are suckers for that kind of sentimentality.”

April was smart enough to figure all this out for herself.  Even as she grew older she had no problem with ‘gender issues’.  She was a confident woman who accepted her irrational feminine emotionalism, felt no compunction about using ‘The Parsons Defense’ and could turn on the spigots of the waterworks whenever called for; but could be as tough, brutal, and aggressive as Genghis Khan when the going got rough.


pril knew that no matter how hard they tried – and they didn’t try all that hard, let’s face it – men could never figure women out. She knew that men were incredibly simple.  They noticed little, wanted answers not suggestions, followed their cocks instead of their brains, and had a puerile sense of entitlement and right.  It was not hard at all to figure men out, but men were flummoxed by April. She was feminine and alluring.  She could whimper and cry with the best of them, but could wield a cudgel like a man, and watch out when she did.  “Who is the real April Vibber?”, they wondered but could never decipher; and this was April’s real source of power over them.

April’s favorite Shakespearean character was Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee
And for thy maintenance; commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou li'st warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience--
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Feminists hate Kate and hate this passage most of all.  Yet more serious critics understand that the relationship between Kate and Petruchio was perhaps the best, most loving, and most equal in all of Shakespeare.  Kate needed a confident, virile, and decisive man to take her away from her abusive father and intolerable sister; and Petruchio needed a strong, vital, passionate woman like Kate to excite and challenge him.  Her soliloquy is only half the story.  Had Shakespeare given Petruchio the opportunity, he would have responded in kind.

April knew that, like Kate, she would find a man who understood her for her complexity not despite it.  He would not be afraid of her more ‘masculine’ traits and appreciative of and sensitive to her ‘feminine’ ones.

April loved her mother and her father, blamed neither one for their contributions to a painful marriage, and learned from the experience.  April, as one might expect, was never one for victimhood.  She was not a ‘survivor’ of a troubled and ‘abusive’ home.  She simply lived in a family no different from any other; and felt like Edward Albee that the family was ‘the crucible of maturity’.  George and Martha desperately need each other and without the ‘flaying to the marrow’ of their late-night bout, they might never have understood their fundamental and necessary attraction.

I always ask about April Vibber when I go back to New Brighton. “Oh, she’s living in New York”; or “I hear she’s working in LA”; or “Paris, wasn’t it?”. Sightings were always what best described April. Mythic to some, but to me she was simply one of the most intriguing and alluring women I have ever met.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Recipes–Curried Okra And Red Peppers

I am an okra-lover and fix it in a variety of ways, all of which I have posted on this blog; and two of my favorites have been: 1) browned in an iron skillet; and 2) in a gumbo.  Last night I experimented and the result was really good. The recipe is simple to make – requiring only curry powder, okra, red pepper, and onion, and it only takes 20 minutes to prepare and cook.

Curried Okra and Red Peppers

* 1/2 lg. red pepper, chopped into 1” pieces

* 3/4 lb. fresh okra, stems removed and cut into 2” pieces

* 1 medium onion, chopped

* 2 Tbsp. olive oil (approx.)

* 1 Tbsp. (approx.) Madras curry powder

- Sauté the onion and red peppers in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until they soften slightly

- Add the okra, stir well, add the curry powder, and mix well

- Cook over medium heat until the okra is semi-firm but not well cooked (this gives the slimy consistency most people do not like), about 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

- Adjust for curry powder, and add more if you like a stronger curry flavor.  Add salt to taste

- Finish cooking and SERVE

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Pope’s Couturier

“Why do women have to cover their head in church?”, LaMotte Felkins asked her mother.

“Because they’re Catholic”, her mother replied.

“And why do men have to cover their heads in temple?”

“Because they’re Jews, honey.  Because they’re Jews.”  LaMotte’s mother was tired of fielding questions from her daughter, but she had to admit that they always had a point. LaMotte was not easily satisfied and had the instincts of a badger and kept digging until she got the answer she was looking for.

“I know that”, she whined, “but that still doesn’t answer my question. What do hats have to do with anything?”.

Recently LaMotte had grilled her mother about women’s shoes – what’s the purpose of high heels? Why don’t men wear them? Where do flats and slippers fit in? – and Mrs. Felkins, as attentive to ‘teaching moments’ as any parent, but worn down by her daughter’s bullheaded drive, decided to answer as fully and correctly as she could but thought her daughter was old enough to have the burden of proof placed on her.  If Mrs. Felkins embellished slightly or imagined what could be the answer instead of what was, then it was up to her daughter to sort out fact from fiction.  A good teaching moment, she thought.

“God created Mary to be the mother of God, and with such a great responsibility, Mary had to be pure, chaste, virtuous, and modest….”  Heddy Felkins paused in her lesson, smiled at the famous Mexican religious send off: “Virgen María: Tú que concebiste sin pecar, déjanos pecar sin concebir”, and went on.

“Especially modest”, she said, “because God did not want to confuse her with other women he had created in the Old Testament like Jezebel who showed off her beauty to entice men; and if God had chosen her to be the mother of his son, Jesus, everyone would have wondered.

“So he made Mary cover up her head to look like a nun – like Sister Mary Joseph at St. Ignatius. There were no nuns in those days because the Catholic Church was just getting started, but it wasn’t long before all women wanted to dress like the Mother of God, so the idea of covering their heads caught on quickly.”

“OK”, said LaMotte; but so why can’t men wear hats in church?”

This was a harder question to answer. “God is a man and Jesus Christ was a man, so they both created men in their own image.  Have you ever seen Jesus or God wearing a hat? No.  There’s your answer.”
LaMotte was not completely satisfied – she never was – and starting banging on about how men had to wear hats in Jewish temples and women didn’t. “Was God a Jew?”, she asked.

Hedda didn’t want to open that can of worms, but thought she had a quick parry. “Well, God is not a Jew, but his son Jesus was a Jew until he converted; and to be sure that Catholics knew that theirs was the true religion, he made Jews wear hats.”

The logic in all this was a bit dodgy, she knew; but the roast was cooking in the oven, her husband was about to come through the door, and it was time to cloture the debate. “That’s just the way it is, Honey”, she concluded and went in the kitchen to baste the lamb.

This is all relevant not because LaMotte was particularly religious or interested in eschatology or moral reason.  Since childhood she had been interested in fashion and how it evolved over the years.  For some reason she was most fascinated with clerical fashion.  She thought the Pope in his finest regalia was the coolest thing on earth, and was surprised that this high fashion had remained so long cloistered in the Vatican.

If she were a man, she thought, she would dress like the Pope.  “Look at all that gold embroidery”, she exclaimed to her mother, “and his little red slippers.”  It turns out that Benedict had an eye for style and design, and loved the traditional red shoes of the great Popes of history which, unfortunately, had fallen out of fashion. He restored the use of the red papal shoes, which were provided by his personal cobbler, Adriano Stefanelli from Novara.  To add a flourish and personal touch to the shoes, in 2008 Benedict restored the use of the white damask silk Paschal mozzetta  which was previously worn with white silk slippers.

No one except Benedict and the gay priests in his holy entourage paid any attention to the red shoes or the white silk mozzetta, and LaMotte Felkins was one of the very few outside the Vatican to give the Pope kudos for fashion; and the older she got and the more sophisticated she became, the more she appreciated the very cool fashion sense of the Catholic Church.

The entire Vatican was tops in LaMotte’s book.  She loved the profuse elegance of the robes of the cardinals of the Inquisition, and imagined Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the Grand Inquisitor watching Spaniards being dismembered on the rack in his flowing red robes.

She appreciated the more modest and temperate dress of modern day cardinals and archbishops whose elegant simplicity exuded power and authority without vengeance or Biblical injunction.

“Notice the continuing red motif”, she wrote in her Brown PhD dissertation, “its quiet assertiveness, and reserved authority.  Note the clerical collar, absent in the paintings of The Grand Inquisitor, as a muted sign of Church authority and a Papal willingness to conjoin his bishops with parish priests. Black takes center stage, although set off by the discipline of the red cummerbund, and the elegant red Edwardian sleeve buttons exude the aristocracy of the Church.”

LaMotte became a noted authority in clerical fashion, and was ecumenical in her tastes.  She found Orthodoxy fascinating because it had held on to ancient rituals, traditions, and dress long since abandoned by its Roman counterpart.  The ‘mystery’ of the Mass, for example, the staple of Catholicism, had been neutered by the introduction of English, the intimacy of the priest facing the congregation and not the tabernacle, and the hand-holding of the congregation. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, had retained ancient rituals, encouraged the veneration of a virtual panoply of saints, and kept the iconostasis, clanking censers, and high chanting front and center.

The Greek Patriarch, she thought, could use some work.  His high ecclesiastical dress was somber, subdued, and exuded none of the majesty and supremacy of his Roman counterparts.

Lose the bling, she thought, and perhaps add color with some regimental stripes like those on the traditional robes of tutors at Kings College, Cambridge or at the investiture of Kingman Brewster as President of Yale.

There is really no ‘church’ in Hinduism, but there is fashion and style nonetheless.  Rather than focus on traditional robes or vestments, Indian holy men have evolved a particular and unique fashion sense focusing on accessorizing.

Image result for images hindu sadhus

 “Notice the sacrificial markings – the makeup – on these sadhus begging for alms at the ghats of the holy city of Varanasi.  The garlands of marigolds complement the color scheme of the forehead paint and the sacramental robes. There is a certain eclecticism to dress of Indian holy men, for they are at once part of the river of humanity, and part in astral projection to the outer realms of Being; but no sadhu is neglectful of his accessories – prayer beads, begging bowls, ceremonial garlands, all feature in the ensemble that shouts “Holy”.

LaMotte was impatient with Jews – too intellectual and philosophical; too much ‘People of the Book’ and not enough of ‘out there’, visible, and media-worthy style.  The rabbi in this picture, for example, could feel better about himself and not be so pessimistic if he spruced up his appearance.

Image result for images jewish rabbi

Buddhists who insist on saffron robes no matter what the century or weather, could definitely use a make-over.

Image result for images buddhists in saffron robes

She considered Roman togas simple and elegant, but was surprised that Romans did not change clothes to fit the occasion.  Here is a depiction of ritual sacrifice, and as can be seen, the outfits are as fitting for high religious ceremony as for sipping wine in the courtyard of a Carthaginian villa. 

Not surprisingly LaMotte Felkins left academia and went into fashion.  She found that ironic clerical fashion was all the rage in the gay Seventh Avenue crowd; and she signed up.

They absolutely loved classic women in hot abbey nun chic.

LaMotte could have become a feminist. Lord knows there was plenty of misogyny and glass ceiling in the Catholic Church. She could have become an ecumenical researcher, investigating the various and diverse religious truths expressed in contemporary religion; or she could have continued her postmodern exegesis of ‘Religion through Fashion’.  Instead she opted for scissors and mannequins and became one of New York’s fashion icons.  She made ‘Clerical Chic’ a household word which resonated in both San Francisco where ‘Bay to Breakers’ and Gay Pride Day parades featured her papal send offs and in New York where ‘pure style’ reigned, whether gay, straight, or in between.

“What have I wrought?”, asked Heddy Felkins, LaMotte’s mother, still a practicing Catholic, but at the same time quite proud of her daughter who was making headlines in the New York Times and Le Canard Enchaîné.

She was asked every year to design a super-campy outfit for the Pope and swish down Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick's Day; but a) gays were not allowed to march on St. Paddy’s Day; and b) she would be a woman impersonating a gay Pope when the more appropriate choice would be one of Brooklyn’s celebrated drag queens.

Image result for images drag queens

LaMotte became an international fashion czar and was the genius behind the hip clerical fashions of Milan, Paris, and New York. She had been privately told that Pope Francis, a modern Pope who wants to be ‘of the people’ had greatly admired her fashions and wondered if she would accept a Vatican commission to redo Catholic clerical garb. Not himself or his cardinals, mind you, just his minions.  His gold, white silk, and Venetian embroidery were just fine.

LaMotte Felkins retired recently and lives in a rambler in Silver Spring, Maryland of all places. “I’m tired of gay”, she said, and want a place where my grandchildren can play in the sandbox.”  We were all surprised; but then again, LaMotte Felkins was a genius.