Category Archives: Popping off about something random

The permeable membrane of the English language

Apparently it’s ok to tell people to shut up now. If someone says something even mildly amazing, you can yell, “Shut UP!” Stacey London does it on What Not To Wear. I understand that it means “No way!”, but I’m still uncomfortable with this particular usage. I’m trying to prevent my children from picking up too much slang or disrespectful speech, even with their friends, because children don’t know when it’s appropriate and not appropriate. With friends, appropriate. With adults, not so much (slang!). I find it counterproductive when adults are too jocular with kids because they blur the line between “adult” and “friend” and encourage the children to be impertinent. I think kids should know the difference and adults should help them. That’s why we use “auntie” and “uncle” when the children address close friends. It’s disrespectful for kids to address adults by their first names. We use this mostly-Asian solution, using family titles as terms of respect, as opposed to family relationships. Anyone else we use “Mr.” and “Mrs.”  I know it’s more common for kids to use adults’ first names, but I think that what our society needs is more formality, not less. “Shut up!” is so informal that I’m really not comfortable saying that to people. But it’s becoming more and more common and one day I’ll tell my Grandmother to “Shut up!” and then the lengthy explanation and apology. It’s all about the inflexion, but I don’t know if Grandma would get that subtlety.

I understand how difficult it is to prevent certain words and expressions from entering one’s permanent lexicon. I’m still saying “dude” and I’ve been trying for ten years to eradicate this one word from my vocabulary. Very frustrating. I’m still using English expressions from my year in England and exposure to English friends. “Taking the piss” really doesn’t have a North American equivalent, but it doesn’t sound good in North America. (My mother-in-law hates the word “piss.”) Thank goodness that you cannot, I think by law, use “blimey” if you are not actually English or I’d be trying to delete that from my vocabulary also. When you want to delete curse words from  your vocabulary it’s handy to have substitutes and “blimey” would be great if it were possible here in Canada. But I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s not.

My mother always spoke very correctly, so when I was growing up, so did I. I was teased by my cousins for being ladylike, which they found prissy, so to counter this impression I picked up whatever vulgarity was going. I still tend to speak very casually to new acquaintances because I want to seem “approachable” – apparently I give an impression of unapproachability. It’s not intentional; like Ringo Starr, “it’s just me face” and the fact that I don’t like big parties. When I get emotional enough to forget myself, such as when angrily critiquing the series The Tudors, the hyper-articulate, precise language comes out again. The adoption of lowbrow language, however, as a long-term strategy, has its pros and cons, to say the least. Mostly cons. It’s very difficult to stop swearing once you’ve started, like smoking or colouring one’s hair. Not to mention, I’m one of those people who get excited when someone says “excape” instead of “escape” or “nucular” instead of “nuclear”. Hypocritical, I know.

I picked up “dude” and “buddy” from one of my sister’s boyfriends. He was a rave promoter and his comfort zone was about as far from my comfort zone as you can get, although he is a very good person. Even though my sister was at school in Australia he’d come by to help me do things like assemble Ikea furniture and would periodically insist on taking me out clubbing. I’m the kind of person who likes to be in bed by nine with a cuppa, and I don’t really drink, so it was a definite novelty and I enjoyed these excursions. It was certainly diverting and educational and yes, there’s a bit of sarcasm there. For my part, I gave him reading lists, cooked him the occasional healthy meal with vegetables, and tried to encourage him to clean up his language, which was execrable. Instead, I picked up his! The least of it was “buddy.” “Buddy” is actually a rare Canadianism, from Newfoundland, so how it found its way to British Columbia I don’t know, but it’s quite useful, if vulgar. Instead of saying “that guy” you just say “buddy,” as in “Buddy over there just stole my parking spot!” However, it’s not particularly refined language and I’m trying to clean up my act so I’m deleting “buddy” from my vocabulary. I’ll miss buddy.

Another hard-to-erase vulgarity: when I lived in Malaysia, we had friends from all over the world, one of the best things about being an expat. One set of particularly good friends were from Kentucky and Tennessee, so of course we picked up “y’all” which I figure is basically equivalent to the French “vous”, which translates to the plural pronoun “you.” There is no English equivalent unless you’re a Southerner. It’s taken me about ten years to eradicate “y’all” from my vocabulary and I have to say, I miss it. When you are talking to a group of people in the northern 70% of North America, you have to make an extra indication as to whom you’re speaking. I moved to England directly after Malaysia, so of course I was saying “y’all” to the English, to their amused disgust, whilst I picked up words like “whilst” and “gobsmacked.” Say “gobsmacked” in a North American accent, deadpan, with a touch of irony. Funny, right?

The other thing I noticed whilst in England (see how hard it is to give up words?) was that the higher up the social ladder you are, the more freely you curse. Mind you, right at the bottom of that ladder the cursing is equally abundant. In the middle, where people are still striving for upwards class advancement, people are super-careful about their language, it’s like a hallmark of the lower- to middle-classes. I guess at the top and bottom you just don’t care. Although it has to be said that cursing is more common in England (they say words we really do not say and you know which words I’m talking about) and people don’t seem bothered by it the way we are here in North America.  (This is anecdotal observation, not statistical, so I could be wrong, but this is what I observed.) I should have stayed in England and applied to become an aristocrat (there’s a form) because I can’t seem to stop swearing. I generally blame this on my father, or the rave promoter, but maybe I can I blame it on reincarnation, like the people who travel back to their past lives via hypnotism and start speaking Polish, or 11th-century Greek. I travel back to my past life as a salty-tongued English countess via the pain of a stubbed toe or the trauma of bad drivers. I revert to my past self and out comes the f-word, usually in the present continuous tense with “bloody” on one side and “hell” on the other. It’s a powerful phrase, what can I say. Why that makes us feel better, I don’t know but I think there are studies showing this is true. Still, I’m working on it. I’m auditioning substitutes, methadone curses, like Steve Carell in Evan Almighty shouting, “Mmmmmotherfathersisterbrother!” when he bangs his thumb with a hammer. This is how words like “shoot” came into usage. “Darn” when you’re mad. “Double-darn” when you’re really mad! Are these pale substitutes effective? Do they alleviate pain and frustration? Sadly, no. There’s nothing like the real thing. Sugar, nicotine, butter, heroin, profanity. Take “shoot.” It forces the mouth to form a “u” shape, whereas the original keeps the teeth gritted as they should be when uttering a curse. You can’t say “shoot” through gritted teeth. Try it. Try saying “darn” without feeling like a cowpoke. “Double darn” and you’re Gomer Pyle (unless you manage to inject enough irony into it). Oh well. But like methadone these toothless curses serve a purpose, to wean people like me off the terrible words of power we cannot seem to stop uttering. And don’t get me started on the invocation of deities. Jesus doesn’t know where I left my keys but I call His name anyway when I can’t find them. Yelling “God!” when you’re frustrated probably just calls His attention to your bad behaviour. I’m not religious, but it’s funny how Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God comes to my lips when I’m exasperated.

Anecdote: I was driving with a child in the car and a driver nipped ahead of me, cutting me off, then proceeded to drive 40k in a 50k zone. Why do people do that? I started saying, “Gah I hate – ‘” then cut myself off because I could feel the f-word rising up and wanted to quell it. From behind me a little voice said, “It’s ok to say ‘hate’ when somebody’s driving bad, Mama.” I was surprised: “Oh, really? ‘Hate’ is ok?” Little voice: “Yes.” (or “Yeth.”) So I drove for a minute and then the little voice spoke again: “Also ‘asshole.’ That’s ok too.” Um, okay! Thanks for the licence! Because I was really hating that asshole for cutting me off and driving so slow and it was nice to know I could express myself accordingly. But I know, I know. We had to have a talk about that and I promised myself, again, that I would stop swearing.

Apart from the swearing thing, a lot of my usage comes from British influence, mostly books. Obviously. There are reasons, it’s not affectation like Madonna suddenly adopting an accent. I don’t call cigarettes “fags”, and I don’t say “reckon”, but when I say “cuppa” you know it’s tea because we don’t drink coffee around here. I don’t say anything that might confuse people, like “jumper” or “cooker” or “boot and bonnet.” There’s no gain in that. But I say “flat” because “apartment” is a longer word. I say “you’re meant to” instead of “you’re supposed to” because that’s shorter too. I love “not a bother on her” although I don’t know if that’s English or Irish. Being Canadian, we’re sort of straddling the line between American usage and British usage anyway, so I figure my usage goes under the radar. Also, many British expressions sound funny when you say them in an American accent but really deadpan or with inflected quotation marks. See above, gobsmacked.

Obviously globalization has had significant impact on the English language: “kawaii”, the Japanese word for “cute,” is in fairly common use here in Vancouver. When you hear people whose English is their second language speak, you can hear the slang that comes from all over the English-speaking world. Our Japanese chefs say “no worries” which I think they got from me – and I got it from living in Australia although I could have acquired it from watching Crocodile Dundee or hanging out with Aussie surfers, like everyone else. It sounds super-funny in a Japanese accent.

The flexibility of the English language allows me to adopt words that I find useful and convenient to my daily speech and that assist in my ability to express myself. Other languages have words that express concepts that are universal, yet have no English equivalents. The German “schadenfreude” – the pleasure one gets from the misfortune of others – is a classic! My favourites come from my frequent exposure to Japanese: “shoganai” means roughly, “it can’t be helped” or “what are you going to do?” in the face of adversity. It’s fatalistic, stoic, philosophical – so Japanese, but it’s a great expression, the equivalent of the French shrug, although the two have their differences in that the Japanese one is a kind of cheerful “oh well!” whereas the French one (in my experience) is a gloomy “Oui, we’re out of bread, so what.” “Gaman” is a concept based on perseverance, fighting, working hard. “Ganbatte!” means “Go for it!” “Otsukare” partners with “ganban” and means “Good work, you’ve been working hard!” Isn’t that nice? Another favourite is “genki” which means energetic, healthy, happy – a combination of all three and the possession of which helps with the ganban and the shoganai. Obviously I don’t use these words with those who are unfamiliar with them, but within our household and in our business, they are very useful. The girls are taking French Immersion and I’m pretty sure I’ll be adding French expressions to my vocabulary. Already we use  “Voila!” (here it is! but it sounds better in French and really facetious in an English context when said with a self-mocking expression); “c’est bon” which just means “good” but we use it because it sounds funny, especially when you pop the “bon”, and “n’importe quoi” (it doesn’t matter, it’s not important) which we use because it sounds better than “whatever”. Most Canadians use the French we have (severely limited for the most part) with more than a touch of facetiousness and sarcasm, because a) otherwise it’s soooo pretentious, and b) it’s the only way we can pull it off with our terrible accents.

For better (emphasis or humour) or worse (laziness), my personal lexicon embraces profanity, foreign language, foreign expressions, vulgar expressions, outdated language, and I still think of myself as fairly well-spoken, and I think that goes for most of us. We English-speakers can understand English words in many accents (unlike French and Japanese and some tonal languages where if you don’t get it exactly right they pretend not to know what you’re talking about), we incorporate idioms from everywhere, we constantly invent new slang – it’s an amazing freedom of speech. I’m so glad I speak English! I can get away with this attitude: if it says what I want to say more accurately, or more efficiently, and if my audience understands me, I’m using it. C’est bon!

But not “dude.” That’s going, along with the cursing. Wish me luck, y’all!

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I love my camera; thoughts on portraiture; oh, and Blueberry Scones

Looking like a dork but having great fun!

 

I am loving having a good camera! It’s been a real revelation – I thought I was incapable of taking good pictures but it turns out that with a good camera and some lenses just about anybody’s in business! It is not that hard; the camera does a lot for you. I am following some photographer’s blogs and found some good articles on Pinterest although I have to admit that a lot of the instructions totally whiz over my head. But I’m learning and really enjoying the process. My favourite thing is taking portraits. It’s funny; I’ve had quite a few professional photographs taken but I like very few of them. It drives me crazy to have no direction and then see the proofs and I look like an idiot or like Karla Homolka and about 500 lbs in every one of the pictures. I’ve been taking pictures of friends and we’ve discovered that if you take quite a few, let the subject have a look, then keep taking more, then look, that you eventually find out the best expressions, the best poses, to make your subject look awesome. I discovered that one friend gets tension lines around her nose and mouth if she’s standing, but her face is totally smooth and goddess-like if she’s sitting. Go figure! Thank god for digital photography because we take so many pictures with this learning process, but it’s worth it. So I am driven to take good pictures of people to prove that we are all beautiful, it’s all about lighting and angles and sitting vs. standing and not blinking all the time. Easy-peasy. Plus, with online editing sites like PicMonkey you can make regular people look like movie stars and nice-looking people look like gods.

Food, as it happens, is super-easy to photograph. All you need is a 50mm lens. Check out the Blueberry Scones:

Scones don’t blink.

How easy is that?

Blueberry Scones

  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 T. unsalted butter, very cold, in pieces
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk (or milk soured with 1 T. vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries (it’s debatable which are easier to work with; fresh don’t bleed into your dough, frozen don’t get crushed when you knead, even ever so lightly)
  • 1 T. milk plus coarse sugar for sprinkling

Oven: 450F

1 half-sheet pan lined with parchment or a Silpat

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and lemon rind. Cut in the butter (I give it a quick whiz in the food processor then dump it out into a mixing bowl) until it’s crumbly. Pour in the buttermilk  and give a quick stir or two, then add the blueberries and carefully stir until it’s all combined. There will be quite a bit of dry mixture but don’t worry; it will come together. Tip it out onto a floured countertop and sort of squeeze it together, gathering up the dry bits and very gently kneading until it holds together. Shape into a round about 1 1/2 inches thick and cut into 8 wedges, or divide into two and make two rounds, cutting into 6 wedges each for mini-scones. Gently move to the parchment/Silpat-lined baking tray. Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with some coarse sugar (regular sugar is also fine). Bake about 12-15 minutes depending on whether you made mini or regular scones. When they’re done they should have a nice browned look. Let cool just a few minutes before serving because they are awesome warm with a bit of butter or some jam, or honey, or agave syrup.

You can also skip the sprinkling of sugar and instead, let cool, then drizzle with a thin icing made of icing sugar and lemon juice for an even prettier look that doesn’t require any condiment whatsoever.

You can also put an egg or egg yolk (I had some left from the pavlova) into the bottom of the measuring cup before you add your buttermilk for extra richness and tenderness.

 

 

 

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Pavlova and Potluck Party Etiquette

We all love Pavlova here. Pavlova is not the name of a Russian dog, it is not Anna Karenina’s perfume, it is not a flower from Gorky Park. It is a dessert from New Zealand (they call it a “pav”) that involves meringue baked to a marshmallowy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside gorgeousness and topped with whipped cream and strawberries. Other fruit can be used, but it should be juicy and a bit acidic. Kiwi fruit, raspberries, passionfruit, da! Apples, bananas, apricots, nyet! Blackberries, mmmmm. It is remarkably easy to make and even easier to suck down.

Pavlova

  • 6 egg whites at room temperature (I put them in a bowl of warm water while I arrange everything else)
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. cold water
  • 2 t. white vinegar
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 6 t. cornstarch

Start by finding the serving dish(es) you want to use. This recipe makes two round 8-10 inch pavlovas. I’m often bringing this dessert to dinner parties so I use my carrying server. Cut parchment to fit two half-sheet aluminum pans and use the dish as a template so that you can pencil an outline of the border of your pavlova so it’s not too big. It will expand when it bakes, so be conservative. Place the pencil-side of the parchment paper down on the pans. Preheat the oven to 300F.

Whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the water and whip some more. Add the sugar very slowly, in a very narrow constant stream while you whip (KitchenAid mixers are good for this), scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Then add the vinegar, vanilla and cornstarch.

Divide the pavlova mixture between your two pans. I make a round and then scoop out the middle a bit so the cream and fruit has somewhere to go.

Pavlova before baking

Bake for 45 minutes, then turn the oven off and let cool 4-5 hours or overnight.

Pavlova after baking

To serve, scoop on whipped cream (each pavlova will require 2 c. of cream, whipped, and many many sliced strawberries macerated in sugar (or agave syrup, yum)! About 2-3 lbs berries per pavlova because people always want more to scoop on top.

Madame Pavlova all dressed up and ready to go!

I have in the past used the whole half-sheet pan to make a big rectangular pavlova that I’ve just served straight from the parchment paper for a crowd. It works.

A note on bringing food to potlucks: If you want to make your hostess’ blood pressure shoot up, by all means, arrive with bags of groceries instead of a finished dish. Hostesses love this. It’s right up there with arriving with a big bunch of flowers in paper so that the hostess has to drop everything to find a vase and cut and arrange flowers just when she’s got 14 dishes to finish and guests arriving at the rate of 2 per minute. It’s really relaxing to arrange flowers in the middle of all that. Go ahead and assemble your dish there in your hostess’ kitchen. She has nothing better to do than find you a cutting board, a knife, a mixing bowl, and a serving bowl and spoon. She’s more than happy to alter the temperature of her oven for your dish, even if it burns the expensive roast and casserole she’s already got cooking inside. Fridge space? No problem. She’ll put her salad and dessert out on the back porch to make room for your stuff. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have cider vinegar, so you better bring your own. Seriously? Make the dish, entire, in your own kitchen. Use your own serving dishes and spoons because your hostess may not have extra to spare. If your dish needs time in the oven or fridge space, inquire well ahead of time if that will be possible because maybe it won’t be.

Just my experience. I learned from my mom – we always brought everything ready to go. If we brought a cake, we brought a knife and cake server as well as ice cream and a scoop. You can never assume that your hostess will have ingredients or tools that you need. My mom also taught me to label my serving dishes for big dinners with yellow sticky notes – the big platter has a note that says “turkey”, the large bowl with lid is labeled “mashed potatoes” and so on (of course we heated serving dishes with boiling water before we added the food). That way every serving dish has an allotted food item and you don’t run out. Also, your guest who wanted to bring something but neglected to bring a serving dish can’t steal one of yours, forcing you to serve cranberry sauce from a cereal bowl.

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Fashion check: Canadian Olympic Athletes strut totally boring outfits at the Opening Ceremonies

Sad. Like a bunch of middle-aged golfers or the sort of tourists that locals mock. You know the kind, dressed for comfort and possibly inclement weather, but certainly not with an eye to fashion or looking even remotely stylish. The khakis! The nylon windbreakers! It’s causing me actual pain. What’s wrong with a nice sharp blazer? Some kind of skinny jean for the girls? They don’t have to be dressed athletically every minute, do they? Just my opinion.

Khakis and windbreakers. Typical Canadians heading out to the gardening centre.

For a more informed take (like about the actual sports part of the Olympics) and for the site where I got this photo, click here.

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Life&Style Magazine: “Queen Humiliates Kate” – say what?

There’s a Life&Style magazine around here (July 16, 2012) with the weirdest cover – apparently the Queen “humiliated” Kate by making her curtsey to William’s cousins, Fergie’s daughters. Do Americans not understand the concept of royal hierarchy? They are born royalty; she married in (plus she’s a commoner, hello? not that there’s anything wrong with that!). There is an order of precedence and the Queen didn’t invent it. I don’t think the Queen would stoop to thwart anyone, no matter how uppity she might privately think they’re getting, and it seems to me (not that I pay a lot of attention) that Kate is minding herself just fine. It’s not like she’s all, “I have to curtsey to these bitches?”  No, Kate gets it. Hence no need to be put in her place, and the Queen doesn’t do that anyway. Not her style, darling. Plus I definitely get the feeling that the Palace Minions are in charge of that kind of thing and that the Queen doesn’t even notice who curtseys to whom as long as everyone curtseys to her. (I actually think Kate’s got a lot of leeway as the Queen is so scarred by the hijinks of Diana and Fergie that Kate could armpit-fart the national anthem in her underwear – sorry, knickers – and the Queen would be all, Whatever. Fergie set that bar LOW, god love her.)

Have we not figured out by now that the Queen is, above all, proper? She is all about duty and doing the right thing. Her entire raison d’etre rests upon convention and tradition and she’s holding up her end amazingly well. We don’t think she enjoys visiting endless hospitals and openings of new parks and whatnot, do we? That’s her job. And she didn’t get to choose it, either. Have you noticed she doesn’t even smile that much anymore? She’s tired! But she soldiers on. She may be one of the last monarchs who is truly fulfilling her role. She’s not going all eat-pray-love because she “doesn’t know how to be a royal”. Because she understands it’s not all about her. She understands that all that incredible privilege and status comes with a price. And she is paying that price, every day, in the most gracious way possible. May she live for ever.

I’m not even going to talk about Diana because she is at this point, essentially a saint. So you cannot be critical of the People’s Princess.

Ah, I’m going to anyway. I loved Diana too, but mostly because she did all that goofy stuff when she was younger. She was a member of the aristocracy but I think that the level of privilege she enjoyed growing up gave her a bit of a bulletproof attitude towards life. I used to live in England and let me tell you, nobody curses like the upper class. They are bulletproof and can get away with anything because of the poshness. It’s the working class that are all worried about manners and being genteel. So they’re all rigid and tense about it and chew you out if you forget to shake hands at the end of a round of golf. The upper classes are different – their manners are real, ingrained yet totally unobtrusive and are geared towards making everyone feel comfortable, as opposed to taking mean joy in pointing out other people’s errors. And they use the f-word a lot. A LOT. So Diana grew up totally entitled, everything she did was awesome – but when she fell under scrutiny and was also held to a higher standard (set by her mother-in-law) she had a wee bit of trouble. It’s ok to be all careless and upper-class and entitled if the world isn’t watching and judging, but marry into the royal family? Big leagues. I think Kate will do better as she isn’t posh except in the moneyed sense and if she ran with the posh crowd you can be sure they kept her down. Remember all that nonsense about her mother telling the Queen, “Nice to meet you.” Oh, Jesus wept! “Nice to meet you!” The horror. Quelle faux pas, n’est pas? I mean, seriously? I had that from English people too, when I lived in Malaysia so I feel for Mrs. Middleton. To this day, I say “How do you do?” because I don’t know if it’s nice to meet you yet, do I? Needless to say, it’s not the posh people who drummed this into me but the striving crowd terrified to set a foot wrong. They corrected me endlessly even though I explained to them that I was Canadian and therefore exempt from all their stupid rules and if I wanted to be all English I would signal it to them with a genteelly crooked little finger when I had my tea.

The tragedy of Diana is that by the time she finally understood the demands of public life, and the role she could potentially play on the world stage, her life was cut short, and that she truly didn’t grow as a person until she left the royal family and found her vocation as a campaigner for human rights and against land mines. She found a way to turn her celebrity to good use and her warm-heartedness and ability to empathize with the unfortunate endeared her to the world, including me. I don’t care what she was doing with Dodi; she was a private citizen (sort of) at that point and entitled to date whatever dipshit took her fancy. I know the English are totally racist about this; the outrage when Al-Fayed puts up Diana and Dodi’s pictures together in the windows of Harrods during the month of the anniversary of their deaths, linking them eternally (or as long as he’s in charge of the window-dressing, anyway) is rather funny. Although it’s not pure racism; there’s a lot of snobbery there too. If he’d been a Middle Eastern prince or similar sultan-type person  it would have been better but he was just the playboy son of (gasp) a merchant! “Just a jumped-up souk dealer!” (actual quote) Ouch. It’s so ironic in a country where people are jumping like a madman all the time to get ahead so they can pretend to be posh. Why do they want to be posh, anyway? So they can say the f-word, that’s why!

Whoa, tangent. Let’s get back to princesses and royalty.

Sometimes I think Americans don’t understand the whole deal with royalty. It just doesn’t go with the whole America-Freedom thing. Take their interpretations vis-a-vis the Disney princesses. The latest one is Merida in Brave (love that movie! love Pixar!). She’s a princess, and it’s her duty to marry well in order to avoid war. The whole movie is about her fight for the freedom to choose a life for herself – an American ideal – and the arguments used to try to make her fall into line are not compelling. I can’t remember what they were, but the one that matters, the trump card, is the concept of duty, and it’s never implemented! If I were her mom, I’d be pointing out that, as a princess, she’s free to run around, she has her own horse, she gets so much free time to practice archery that she’s a crack shot, and does she think that this is just her right because she’s awesome and has killer hair? I would point out to her that she could be working in the fields, or milking cows, just to survive like everyone else, but she’s not doing that. Instead, she gets all this privilege, but in return for this she’s expected to marry well. That’s it! Of course the prospective bridegrooms would make anyone jump on a horse and head for the hills, but that’s beside the point. How many princesses in history have made happy love matches? Not too many.  Think of all the gruesome examples of “royalty” that as a princess, you could be joined to for eternity. Off the top of my head, Charles II of Spain (extensively disabled in just about every way, the gnarly Hapsburg jaw being the least of it), for an example. At least he was impotent! Why do we think Elizabeth I refused to marry? Because she had a pretty good idea of all the horror shows out there with crowns on! No, thank you! The point is, your subjects are toiling away providing you with riches and they don’t ask much, just some stability so they can keep on toiling in peace, and if your end of the bargain is to marry some chinless wonder, then you shut up and do it (except for Liz I who is in a category of her own). That’s the catch! I realize that this stipulation is no longer applicable – obviously – but there are other duties associated with being royalty and the point is you have to suck it up. Plus, if your life is too ridiculously sweet, and depends on the sweat of others, and if you’re clearly indifferent to the suffering of those others whom you’re meant to look after, then the people storm the Bastille. Nobody’s storming the Bastille whilst Elizabeth II is on the throne.

Can I talk more about Disney princesses? Take Ariel. She’s a real star. My kids love her but she endangers her entire community with her selfishness! She has to marry some guy she’s only just clapped eyes on (and is it just me or is Eric a bit of a doofus? Classic royal.) and she’s willing to become a completely different species in order to do it. This is not like she’s Jewish but she has to convert to Catholicism because Eric’s mom has threatened to kill herself if her son doesn’t get married in the Catholic Church. (Imagine going the other way: swapping legs for a tail. At least with legs you can still swim in water; with a tail you can only drag your dumb didn’t-read-the-fine-print ass around on land. So I guess it wasn’t totally stupid.) Anyway! It’s a major change and the price is her voice, so she can’t even explain herself. I notice that there’s no Mom there and there rarely is in a Disney princess story, Brave excepted. Because Mom would be like, “Explain yourself young lady! Don’t wave your hands at me! TALK TO ME!” That’s because the dads don’t really pay attention so the girls get up to shenanigans and nearly cause apocalypse and Dad notices right at the end just when everything is about to go to shit with a giant fat creepy lady octopus making gumbo with the ocean. So let’s review: King Triton first mismanages his daughter by being oblivious and then making a big display with explosions and everything (bit of overkill) instead of being fully present in his daughter’s life. So then, because she’s never been yelled at before and can’t believe Daddy raised his voice to her (such a Millennial!) she runs away and finds a sympathetic if creepy older woman who inveigles Gullible Girl into taking this ridiculously irrevocable step. Ariel just met her! She doesn’t check out references or anything. So lazy, again, Millennial. If her mom was around, this wouldn’t have happened! It’s weird that she’s got all these older sisters (Gen Xers!) and they have no clue either? What? She’s not close enough to even one of them to ask for a little advice? An older sister might have had something to say. “You’re going to get rid of your tail and get legs? It’s not like a tattoo, you know! If things don’t work out, then what? Will you wear a scuba tank the rest of your life?” Needless to say, at the end of all the mayhem she caused and other people had to fix, Ariel is rewarded for being such a selfish wagamama and Daddy gets her a new sparkly dress to boot. This is why I’m really strict with my daughters.

The rest of them…Belle’s fairly on the ball, but she’s not a princess until she marries the Beast at the end so she doesn’t count. Good example of a commoner marrying into a royal family, though! No family to speak of, however, it’s just him. Which I bet anyone who’s married into a royal family has wished for at some point or another. Just kidding! Pocahontas is a good princess – she’s concerned about her people and she helps with the work too, picking corn and squash and not just going kayaking and cliff-jumping and then doing some shrooms and talking to the trees. Mulan too, sacrifices herself for her father although it’s important to note that she’s sort of feeling like there’s nothing else for her, like when your life goes to shit so you join the military, it’s just convenient that it dovetails with the duty/sacrifice thing. Best of both worlds! The older Disney princesses, though. Who got hit with the squeaky stick? Snow White! Plus she’s sooooo dumb. Shallow end of the gene pool, I’d say. Oh those inbred royals. Sleeping Beauty – she grows up in a tiny cabin with three fairies (not the interior-designing kind) and never figures it out? Hello! Cinderella – ever heard of a lawyer? There are no family friends who are like, This is odd. Did you see the way she was dressed? And why was she doing all the fetching? She’s not a princess until she marries, like Belle, but unlike Belle, she’s none too bright. Cinderella falls in love with the first guy she dances with  – it could have been anyone! If it’s not a mouse, she’ll marry it if it will get her out from under Mean Stepmother’s thumb. And you know she will be all forgiving of her dysfunctional stepfamily when she marries the Prince. She is such a sap! I prefer the original fairy tale where the mean stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the slipper and to no avail as they’re ratted out by magic birds. Who then peck their eyes out. Yeah!

The best thing about this Life&Style cover is this: the big picture is of Kate looking awesome as usual, and there’s a little picture of Beatrice and Eugenie wearing somewhat matching outfits in two shades of purple, with funny hats, looking….remarkably like the mean stepsisters in Cinderella! Coincidence?

Check out the Mean Stepsisters in the bubble!

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