Basically, Not Ok

This happened in my neighborhood, which naturally made me think of one of the greatest posts in McSweeney’s history. And I’m torn between, ‘It’s too soon for sweater weather!’ and ‘Yes! Pumpkin everything!’ I’m, somewhat reluctantly, embracing the change of seasons. It’s time for soup and sweaters and pie and turkey and apple picking and cranberries and baking cookies to help heat the house (and to have cookies). It’s that crisp time of year when I try for the third time to read The Cider House Rules (last year I made it to page 240), because fall is the perfect time to read John Irving. I am a New Englander, so of course I love fall. And of course I think ‘leaf peepers’ are ridiculous.

But what are all these posts I’m seeing about what ‘basic bitches’ love about fall? And ‘basic bitches’ in general? From Buzzfeed to Jezebel to Clutch magazine. I love sweaters and jeans and boots an infinity scarves and the occasional pumpkin spice latte, so, that makes me a ‘basic bitch?’ Why are women still saying these things about ourselves?

I thought we’d sorted out this kind of language. Wasn’t there a time when women decided to value each other, or at least to stop being catty and detrimental to one another, and stop calling each other bitches? Wasn’t that a thing?

From what I gather, because I don’t listen to much hip-hop (shocking), ‘basic’ is an insult and, as I’ve read, the ‘basic bitch’ stands in contrast to the ‘boss bitch’ and ‘dope bitch.’ Ok. Except, ‘basic bitch’ essentially means white girl, or doing something attributed to a white girl, thus making you a ‘basic bitch.’

Ok ok ok. So, women are reclaiming the word ‘bitch,’ and white girls, specifically, are reclaiming the term ‘basic bitch’ (which is why it’s now ‘ruined’). This way, nothing is really an insult, and I can ironically embrace my ‘basic’-ness. As in, Ohmygod I’m being sooooooo basic right now while instagramming a selfie of myself drinking a pumpkin spice latte.

I’ve already addressed why instagram might be the heralding of the apocalypse. But ‘basic’-ness I’m going to stand by. Because, as I write this, I’m wearing slippers and drinking cocoa. Because I can. Because I like it. Except, I won’t actually label myself ‘basic’ as I do this, because I’m tired of this popular, not-actually-ironic, hipster strain of irony. It’s not ironic. It’s just what I’m doing. Because the weather is turning cold. If I point out how much I’m fitting into a white-girl-from-New-England stereotype, that makes it less of a stereotype? . . .Or something?

I’m not a linguist, so I can’t address the morphology of the word ‘bitch.’ But, as my mother taught me, it’s not a nice word. And reclaiming it doesn’t somehow make it a nice word. It’s being used instead of ‘assertive’ or ‘authoritative’ or ‘strong’ woman. It’s insulting. It’s used to put a woman in her place, to shame her for standing up and having a voice. I don’t want girls growing up to think it’s cute or edgy or ironic to call themselves ‘bitches.’ I know, it’s a phase that many of us go through. I just wish more of us grew out of it.

And, yes, fine, ‘They’re just words.’ Except they’re not, because words grow from intent and have meaning and carry history.

Now I feel old and cranky. I should go drink my cocoa on the porch, wrapped in a flannel blanket, and watch the leaves change to make myself feel better.


Dear James Franco

After reading some gratifyingly honestdisapproving, negative reviews of Franco’s adaptation of The Sound and the Fury, I feel like now is the time.

Dear James Franco,

Franco As I Lay Dying Franco Sound and the Fury

Stop ruining things I love.

Can we all please now stop taking James Franco seriously? He takes himself seriously enough for all of us.Jezebel totally gets how Franco is awful and self indulgent. Preach!

Franco’s book of poetry (because it’s not enough to be an film star/director/producer/theater actor/author), Directing Herbert White, was reviewed, at least, in both the NYT book review and the Boston Globe. More satisfying than the reviewers telling readers that Franco’s poetry is not profound but more like a student project (like many of his endeavors), was their acknowledgement that they would not be reviewing his book if he weren’t James Franco.

Franco review Franco review 2

I don’t believe that a generation of Franco fans will suddenly be inspired to browse the poetry section. They may be inspired to write bad poetry of their own, but I don’t think he’s increasing interest in or readership of the genre. Just as I don’t think his film adaptations are sending droves of fans to read Faulkner. Frankly, I don’t put that much stock in Franco, or his fans. 

Time to stop indulging him and treating him like he’s special because he’s a famous actor/public personality.

First it was As I Lay Dying, now it’s The Sound and the Fury. I get it. I’m glad you like a book.

Franco’s pretentiousness and presumption make me too angry to write about Faulkner intelligently. Of course you cast yourself as Darl, and of course you cast yourself as Benjy (when in reality you’re probably more of a Quentin – Oooh! Buzzfeed: Hit me up: ‘Literary Quiz: Are you more of a Quentin or a Jason?’ ‘Which As I Lay Dying character are you?’) I love both of those books, and I can’t help but feel that he’s ruined them. I’m just holding my breath now waiting for him to go after Absalom! Absalom! and cast himself as Quentin. (Please, God, no.) 

I have not and will not see Franco’s interpretations (unless someone paid me to do so. . .and even then. . .), but I cannot imagine he’s captured any of what makes Faulkner’s work so remarkable. Faulkner’s brilliance is in his construction of prose, the fluidity of his writing, yes, his stream-of-consciousness style. Benjy is fascinating because of what goes on inside his head, not because of his inability to communicate or your capacity to look lovingly at a flower. Also, Faulkner worked as a screenwriter; if he wanted to write his novels as screenplays, I believe he would have.

Why can’t you just do what the rest of us do? Feel passionate about a book, study it, maybe write a paper about it, and use it to chat up some romantic interest. Then leave it be. Reread it for your own pleasure and nothing else.

I feel passionate about The Bell Jar, but you don’t see me trying to make a movie about it. . . .I only wrote a short one act play based on the book when I was in high school which put everyone to sleep. . .

Maybe I Don’t Want to be That Happy

Some people think I’m a pessimist. I prefer to consider myself a realist. A low expectations kind of gal. That way it’s a nice surprise when things turn out better than I expected. Although, by that logic, I’m often expecting the worse and bumming people out.

I’ve stopped doing #100happydays on Instagram (didn’t take long, I know), for a few reasons.

First, Instagram might be the heralding of the apocalypse. Even as a Twitter and Facebook user, I have never felt so self-centered as I do using Instagram. I am now the worst. Halting my morning walk to take a photo of a field or a ‘so New England’ rock wall, taking random pictures of my cat or my ice cream. It’s obnoxious. Plus, I feel stupid doing it. And I only post one or two photos a day (we can’t all be Kim Kardashian). I’m mostly happy about small things that don’t make for good photos. After a few days, no one wants to see pictures of my cat or the back yard or my food anymore.

Second, I’ve never really been one for pictures. Typically freshman girls show up to college with several of those cute quilted photo boards bursting with pictures from graduation and proms and Our Last Summer Together! I don’t have photo albums or scrapbooks of field trips or vacations. Maybe I should make more of an effort. Maybe posting a picture a day would be good for me, some kind of progress. Unfortunately, I unintentionally forgot to post for two days and thought I should call it quits. I wasn’t really that committed to it anyway. It was a thing I thought I should do on the path to making positive changes in my life and living my BEST LIFE EVER! I want to be happy, not prove that I am, or force myself to be, or make others believe that I am. It’s the falsehood of social media, promoting self-centered behavior, jealously, depression, competition, unhappiness with a forced facade of happiness. Yes, it’s good to find the beauty in every day, I agree. And I probably should do something each day to remind myself of that. But my daily reminders or affirmations don’t have any business being on social media. Sunday dinners with my family make me happy, but they’re for me and my family, not for Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr or Snapchat or YouTube or DEAR GOD AREN’T WE SICK OF OURSELVES YET? . . .I should talk; I have a blog. . .

Third, I don’t even think I want to be happy for 100 days in a row. That’s madness, or a sign of mental illness, or you’re just a better person than I am. Frankly, that much happiness is boring. Yes, It’s probably nice to float along the surface and feel so even-keeled. I, on the other hand, enjoy a good melancholy or sad nostalgia or outrage – no, I revel in outrage. It’s great! Even fear – or, not fear, but the huge relief that coms afterward when you realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. Which you can’t have without the initial fear.

If it weren’t for the pessimists we wouldn’t appreciate the optimists. And there wouldn’t be such a huge market for self-help and self-improvement books and self-proclaimed gurus of healthy, happy living. I like to think the world needs my dark little thundercloud.