Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in 2010. I’m just preserving it for posterity purposes.
For many Americans, luxury is a word that conjures up a lot of pleasant images of high quality, exclusivity, and status. People buy luxury items not just for what they are, but for what they stand for. When you can afford to purchase an $800 pair of shorts or a $500 silk tie, you’re telling the world that you’ve made it. Trouble is, the vast majority of people worldwide can’t afford to buy luxury items, at least not without sacrifice or going into debt. Author Dana Thomas explores the world of luxury in her 2007 book, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.
I picked up this book on Amazon.com, partly because I really enjoy non-fiction books about current events and partly because I can confess to wanting a part of the “luxury dream” Dana Thomas writes about. Apparently, I’m no different than a lot of middle class Americans who want to feel a little luxurious, but can’t afford to buy a products that cost hundreds of dollars. So instead of purchasing a $1000 Chanel handbag, I might instead purchase a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. Instead of buying a $2000 Christian Dior garment, I might spring for a $25 tube of Dior lipstick. Unlike a lot of consumers, I wouldn’t consider purchasing a “knock-off” luxury product, though Thomas writes that plenty of people would happily buy a bag that just looks a lot like a Prada.
According to Thomas, it’s because of the globalization of products that used to be exclusively for the very rich, luxury is not as lustrous as it used to be. In Deluxe, she explores the history of famous brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, and Chanel. She takes a close look at the darker side of high fashion, exploring how products that used to be tailor made in Europe are now mass produced in China. She offers a glimpse at the crafty street hustlers who sell fake luxury goods in Santee Alley, part of the Los Angeles fashion district.
Thomas did extensive research for this book, traveling far and wide, and talking to a diverse group of people in the fashion industry. Of course she quotes a number of fashion designers and the business people who run the companies that produce luxury products. She interviewed the craftsmen who make exquisite crocodile bags for Hermes, explaining how Hermes bags are made and why they are still so special. She spoke to the curator of Hermes’ museum, Menehould de Bazelaire, a former teacher who once taught Greek and Latin at New York’s Lycee Francaise and returned to Paris to become an archivist. De Bazelaire now runs Hermes’ museum, an operation that is open by appointment and documents the brand’s long and illustrious history.
Thomas discusses how luxury stores and outlets have sprung up worldwide and explains why Hong Kong has nine Prada stores while New York only has one. There’s a discussion as to how the Internet has changed the luxury business and made luxury goods even more accessible to the average person. Thomas mentions how 9/11 took a huge toll on the luxury business and offers insight as to why it suffered so much after the attacks. She explains how the rap and hip hop culture unexpectedly and, in some people’s opinions, unfortunately, influenced the fashion world. Thomas even spoke to a man who began his career as a police officer and later got into the business of busting people who sell luxury knock-offs. The end result of all Thomas’s hard work is a very comprehensive look at the world of luxury and high fashion.
I enjoyed reading Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster more than I thought I would. Thomas obviously has a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject and her investment in this project comes through loud and clear. That being said, even though I might buy a bottle of Bulgari perfume and, back in my horsebackriding days, I once dreamt of owning a genuine Hermes saddle, I can tell that I’m not as invested in the dream as some people are.
According to Thomas, there are secretaries in Hong Kong who save up their paychecks to buy just one special handbag. There are women in Brazil who eagerly await catalogs from luxury designers and take pictures in to local merchants, telling them which product they want to buy when it’s available locally. There are women in the United States who hold “purse parties”, making a killing selling counterfeit versions of luxury goods to housewives. The practice is illegal, but apparently it’s become so common that even church organizations have been known to sponsor them as a way to raise money.
Aside from exploring today’s luxury market, Thomas offers a fascinating history of how brands like Hermes, Chanel, Prada, and Gucci came to be. I really enjoyed reading about how, through twists of fate and circumstance, ordinary people became the names behind extraordinary products. I also found it interesting to read how world events like the two World Wars and 9/11 have affected the fashion world. The only drawback I can come up with is that this book was published three years ago, so some of the information is dated. For instance, Thomas quotes the late Alexander McQueen as if he were still alive. He died in February of this year. This is not a big deal, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of fashion, economics, history, or even just likes to read about current events. It’s very unlikely that I would ever spend $1000 on a handbag… unless I could be sure it would be the last handbag I’d ever buy! But it’s fun to read about those who would spend that kind of money and how luxury designers are making sure that their once exclusive products are becoming more accessible to the masses. I guess, for that reason alone, it makes little sense to buy into luxury products. When it’s no longer exclusive, it’s no longer all that special.
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A few weeks ago, I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to buy a few box sets of favorite TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I bought The Bionic Woman, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life. I’ve actually only seen a few episodes of The Bionic Woman, since it aired when we lived in England, and I don’t remember it being aired in syndication much. I did used to watch One Day at a Time when I was a kid, but missed the earliest episodes because I was too young when the show started, and then it really jumped the shark. I was a BIG fan of The Facts of Life, which was a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes.
Most every kid my age loved Diff’rent Strokes, but I guess the powers that be decided that Charlotte Rae should have her own show. So they had her get a job at Eastland School, Kimberly Drummond’s boarding school in Peekskill, New York. Boom… suddenly, we had a successful sitcom revolving around the lives of girls who went to boarding school and wore frumpy uniforms all the time. The Facts of Life started off with a large cast of beautiful young girls with flowing hair… except for Molly Ringwald, of course, and Kim Fields, who played Tootie Ramsey, the token Black cast member. After the first season, the size of the cast was slimmed down, as the girls progressed through puberty and gained weight.
I loved the first few seasons of The Facts of Life. I liked it less when the girls were moved out of the school to work at Edna’s Edibles. Also, as is so common on shows about school, the students didn’t graduate on time. It seemed like they were Eastland students forever. And then Charlotte Rae left the show, and they brought in Mackenzie Astin, George Clooney, and Cloris Leachman. The last couple of seasons were practically unwatchable! I didn’t like it when the plot moved away from the school, though, because the school was so central to the show. Also, I think they made boarding school look like a lot more fun than it probably is in reality.
But there were a few really good years on that show, I’m in the thick of them right now. The writers took on a number of ambitious topics that were very important in the 1980s. Imagine my surprise this week, as I waded through the third and fourth seasons, realizing that subject matter that was timely in 1981 and 1982, is still timely and important today. In seasons 3 and 4, The Facts of Life tackled:
rape and sexual assault
mental retardation (this is what it was called on the show, rather than one of the more politically correct terms of today)
physical handicaps (again, how it was described on the show)
cross cultural issues
The list goes on, as I have only just started season 4, and there were a total of 9 seasons before NBC finally pulled the plug. But as I was wasting the late afternoon hours yesterday, watching the episode about book banning, it occurred to me that, in some ways, we haven’t really gotten anywhere in the last 40 years. The plot was about how a bunch of parents got upset that their daughters were able to check out books like Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which they felt didn’t promote the right message or values. I was suddenly reminded of the recent controversy surrounding the book, Maus, by Art Spiegelman, which has had the effect of causing a bunch of people to buy and read the book in protest. I read Maus a few weeks ago, passed it to Bill, who finished it last weekend, and just today, he took it to work to lend to one of his co-workers.
If I recall correctly, I believe I decided to read Slaughterhouse Five when I was in high school, in part because it was mentioned on The Facts of Life as a banned book. I knew I liked Vonnegut’s writing, having read his short story, “Harrison Bergeron”, in the 9th grade. Sure enough, I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five very much. Then later, I decided to read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, because it was a banned book. My love for reading continues today, although it’s not as easy as it used to be, as my eyes aren’t as young as they once were.
Ditto, the episode about abortion, which was about how the character Natalie, played by Mindy Cohn, made up a story about a girl at Eastland who had an abortion. The story had the whole school buzzing, and soon parents were calling, demanding to know who the girl was. Natalie was threatened with expulsion, until a girl told her that she’d had an abortion. Natalie could have told the headmaster the girl’s name and saved her job as editor of the school paper. But she came clean and admitted she’d made up the story, protecting the girl’s identity. As the credits were about to roll, the headmaster said that he was relieved to “know” that abortion wasn’t an issue at Eastland. Of course, the audience knows better. Forty years later, we’re still fighting over abortion.
I even learned something about capital punishment in France, watching The Facts of Life. The character Geri, played by Geri Jewell, is the cousin of snobby rich girl, Blair Warner. She has cerebral palsy, and works as a comedienne. In one episode, she develops a romance with the school’s French teacher. He asks out Geri, and she says something along the lines of, “I don’t want to get my head chopped off.” She was referencing France’s famous guillotine, which was used to execute people. The French teacher says that France did away with the guillotine in favor of hanging.
I was surprised to hear that the guillotine hadn’t been abolished many years ago, so I decided to look up the device’s history, as well as the general history of capital punishment in France. I was very surprised to learn that the last time France used the guillotine was in 1977! I was five years old! The man who was executed was 27 years old and was originally from Tunisia. He was also missing part of a leg, due to a tractor accident in 1971. He was put to death in Marseilles in September 1977 for torturing and murdering a young woman, and forcing a couple of other women into prostitution. Oddly enough, I actually visited Tunisia in 1977. We lived in England at the time, and went to Tunisia to celebrate New Year’s.
In 1981, then French president Francois Mitterrand declared capital punishment illegal in France. It was formally abolished on February 19, 2007. But, up until 1981, the French constitution actually dictated that anyone who was executed in France would be killed by decapitation, or barring that, firing squad. Never having studied French myself, I don’t know much about its history, other than what I’ve seen personally, heard about in the news, or heard from friends. I have had the opportunity and great fortune to visit France many times, which is something I never thought would have happened in 1982. It seems like France was especially popular in America in the 80s! Back in those days, people didn’t travel as much as they do now… or did before COVID-19, anyway.
Even Russia and Ukraine were subjects of The Facts of Life back in the 80s. During the third season, Natalie’s Russian Jewish grandmother, Mona, came to visit her at school. Mona said she was from Ukraine, even though the name of the episode was “From Russia with Love”. In 1982, Ukraine was still part of the former Soviet Union, which, in those days, seemed like it would exist forever. Natalie found Mona overbearing and annoying, but once she and the other girls got to know her, they found out that she was a fascinating woman with many stories to tell. Watching that episode, especially given what is happening in Ukraine right now, and after having read Maus, was surprisingly poignant. Mona references being confronted by a rapey soldier in a corn field in Ukraine, as the Bolsheviks invaded during the Soviet-Ukranian War from 1917-1921.
Seventy years later, Ukraine decided to leave the Soviet Union, and there’s been trouble ever since. I have never been to Ukraine myself, but I have a friend whose wife is from there, and still has a lot of family there. I know that he and his wife and children are terrified for them. It seems that history is repeating itself. At the same time, I have known some fabulous Russian people, thanks to my time in Armenia, which is also a former Soviet Republic. In fact, that’s where I met my friend, who was working there after having served in the Peace Corps in Russia, back when Russia was briefly less menacing.
I remember that The Facts of Life was controversial to some people, especially during its most popular years. My former best friend’s mother would not let her watch the show. I seem to remember her mom was against the show because she happened to see the episode during the first season that referenced marijuana use. The show certainly didn’t promote the use of marijuana, but my ex friend’s mom was very conservative. She didn’t want her kid exposed to anything she was personally against. I seem to remember my ex friend was often doing things behind her mother’s back, and she was a lot more “experienced” in things than I was. My parents, by contrast, pretty much let me raise myself. We used to talk about how different our parents’ styles were, and we agreed that it would have been nice if there could have been a happy medium. My parents didn’t pay enough attention to me. Her parents, especially her mother, were too strict and intrusive. On the other hand, I don’t think her parents used corporal punishment as much as my dad did.
One thing I have noticed about The Facts of Life is that the characters could be very annoying, as well as very funny. My favorite character was probably Natalie, who was quick witted. I used to not like Jo (Nancy McKeon) much, because she alternated between being angry and snide, and being “vulnerable”. Now that I’m older, I appreciate that character more. I used to like Blair (Lisa Whelchel) more, although I still like Whelchel did a good job with her caricature of a spoiled princess. Tootie (Kim Fields) was pretty much always annoying to me, although she was pretty cute in the first season. During the show’s third and fourth seasons, Tootie did a lot of shrieking and whining. Some of the clothes were pretty hideous, too. Especially the knickers and gauchos… they brought back sad memories of childhood fashions.
But mostly, I’ve just noticed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I really have been surprised by how forty years after The Facts of Life was a hit show, we’re still talking about, and arguing about, the same things. But nowadays, we have many more than than three networks on TV, and audiences are more sophisticated. A show like The Facts of Life probably wouldn’t last today, even though the writers tackled some courageous plots back in the day. Maybe it would be a good thing for today’s youngsters to watch that show. Maybe they’ll learn its lessons better than we did. But really, the best seasons were the earliest ones… as is the case for most long running shows.
Well, I guess it’s time to wrap up this post and get on with my Friday. Last night, Bill made a “stuffed meatloaf”, which is a dish I cooked for him when we were dating. It was one of the many tricks I had up my sleeve that helped me win his heart. It came out of a great cookbook called Virginia Hospitality, which was a gift given to me when I graduated college in 1994. It was put out by the Junior League of Hampton Roads, and since I was born in Hampton, it really is a relic from my hometown.
My husband’s younger daughter is pregnant, and when Bill told her he was making a stuffed meatloaf, she said that sounded so delicious. She had questions about it. So I sent her a copy of the cookbook, which also has a great recipe for cheese souffles. Below is a link for those who are curious about it. It’s definitely my favorite way to make meatloaf. I’m glad Bill learned how to make it, too. I hope she enjoys the book. It’s a gift that is uniquely from her long, lost stepmother. She really doesn’t know me at all, but maybe a cookbook from my origins will be a place to start getting acquainted.
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A few days ago, I noticed articles about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attending the 2021 Salute to Freedom Gala in New York City. Meghan wore a bright red Carolina Herrera gown and slightly darker red Giuseppe Zanotti slingback heels. She also wore a poppy, which is customary among British people to commemorate Remembrance Day. The poppy was kind of obscured by the dress, which was the same color as the flower. Prince Harry wore a tuxedo, with four medals pinned to his jacket, and a poppy on his lapel.
I don’t know much about what this event was about, other than to recognize veterans. I’m not sure what the dress code was supposed to be, although I have been to a several military balls in my day. I’ve seen the kinds of dresses that are typically worn to them. Was this like a military ball or was it just a formal occasion? I can’t really tell, although based on the photos in the link, it looks like it was a fundraising dinner with speakers and probably a receiving line.
I will say, however, that personally, I’m not a fan of Meghan’s red dress. I mean, that color red does look good on her, and it’s a beautiful dress on its own. I even like the neckline, though not necessarily on Meghan Markle. I just think the dress was inappropriate, given the occasion. As Tom Cruise (yuck) might say, “she wasn’t wearing the dress; it was wearing her.” I read that Tom Cruise once said that to Katie Holmes when they were married, and she would choose dresses for the events they attended. In any case, I’m no fan of Cruise’s, but I think that comment makes sense in this situation.
I realize I’m kind of a hypocrite. I say this, even though I’ve certainly worn a few unflattering dresses in my day. The difference is, I don’t have access to stylists, nor do I have Meghan’s money, or even a figure even remotely like hers. I’m also not someone who is of interest to the paparazzi. Indeed, the vast majority of military spouses in the United States don’t have what Meghan has. Many of them were probably orbiting the intense red glow cast by Meghan’s red dress. She probably stood out like a beacon or maybe a traffic flare. I’m not sure that glowing like a beacon was appropriate on this occasion.
I would expect to see a gown like that at a show biz event, not a military event. If this was a “show biz” event, rather than a military event, then maybe I stand corrected. Even if it was a show biz engagement, I just don’t think that dress was the best choice for Meghan. Other people have commented on the way the dress fit, and that it looked like maybe it wasn’t the right size. I don’t know about the sizing, but the dress did seem to overwhelm her, except at the back, where she spilled over a little bit.
Many people liked the dress. A lot of other people, myself included, found it to be garish and rather tasteless, given the apparent purpose behind the event. Were they remembering fallen British military heroes, as one is supposed to do on Remembrance Day? Or were they honoring veterans who are still living, as one does on Veteran’s Day (Memorial Day is for our fallen American troops)? Either way, it seems to me the focus should have been on the veterans, not a big, red, designer dress.
That being said… I’m not here to say Meghan can’t or shouldn’t wear whatever she wants to wear. She’s free to make whatever fashion statements she wants. She’s an American, and she lives in America now, with her royal British husband, who has spent his whole life being taught about protocol. However, if the event was supposed to honor veterans, it seems to me that Meghan’s dress, with its tremendously low cut neckline, extremely bright color, massive train, and high slit up the front, was a bit unbecoming, too revealing, and overly showy, particularly for a event meant to honor veterans. Just my opinion.
Some people are wondering why Harry was asked to hand out medals in the first place. Personally, I don’t mind that Harry was at the event. He is a veteran, even if he served the United Kingdom, rather than the United States. A lot of us Americans would have been Brits if our ancestors hadn’t moved to America, like Harry has. But I can see that a lot of veterans and their families are wondering why an American veteran couldn’t have done what Harry was doing.
I find it interesting that Meghan and Harry have repeatedly complained about intrusive press, even to the point of moving out of England, and yet they constantly seem to do things that put them in the news. Meghan’s dress was definitely an eyebrow raiser, and of course people are going to talk about it, including the press. The dress got a lot of reactions, which seem to be very mixed. Some people thought it was stunning. Others thought it was a stunning disaster.
Maybe my comments seem harsh to some readers, although I’m definitely not as harsh as Jesus Enrique Rosas, the Body Language Guy, is. Check out this video…
The Body Language Guy, Jesus Enrique Rosas, did another recent video about Meghan’s fashion choices and body language. In this video, he refers to the “marshmallow on Meghan’s head.” I have to admit, that comment cracked me up a bit.
Anyway… it’s Monday, and Bill is out of town. He went to Poland for the week. I am sitting here, the day before our 19th wedding anniversary, staring at Meghan’s red dress, wishing she’d chosen something else to wear. And I say this as someone who has a large collection of knit nightgowns, which I wear most of the time, unless we’re going out somewhere. Even then, half the time I don’t wear makeup. But at least I don’t attract attention to myself… except for when I open my mouth and say something completely shocking. My days of wearing shocking clothes are mostly over now.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Facebook fashion game, Covet, has a challenge involving Meghan and her red scare gown. I’m trying to stay neutral about Meghan Markle, but I have to admit, the more I see of her, the less I like her. She makes my “high conflict person/narcissist” alarms go off. But I’m trying to reserve judgment for a bit longer… because I do think that anyone marrying a British royal will have a tough time of it. I just don’t think she tells the truth, and she seems to come off as a bit clingy. Ever since I heard her claim that she didn’t know much about Prince Harry, I’ve thought she was full of shit. I don’t believe that claim for a second.
But fortunately, it’s not my marriage, nor is it my business… it’s just an observation as a veteran’s wife, and someone who’s married to a guy who was married to a “high conflict person/narcissist”. Fortunately, everyone still has a right to have their own opinions.
Here’s a repost of an article I wrote March 28, 2017. I’m sharing it again, because I think it’s an interesting topic, particularly if you have any experience with the United States military or fake friends.
I’m writing again today because I finally remembered a topic I wanted to write about last night. All of this uproar about leggings, yoga pants, and camel toes made me remember a simpler time back in the day… I’m talking about dress codes on military installations.
Actually, dress codes in the commissary are supposedly still a “thing”. When you shop on a military installation, you’re supposed to look presentable. That means no spandex, no hats indoors, and no curlers in your hair, although I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone wearing curlers in private, let alone at a military grocery store. I used to wear them sometimes when I was a kid. I’d sleep in them so I’d have curly hair the next day. But my days of wearing curlers are long over now.
I never got in trouble for not dressing appropriately at the commissary. In fact, I don’t think a lot of today’s servicemembers even know that the policy used to be strictly enforced. I do remember maybe fifteen years ago having brunch at a Coast Guard station with my parents. Next to the entrance of the dining room, there was a big sign outlining what was and wasn’t acceptable dress. I distinctly remember seeing the word “curlers” as among the specifically forbidden attire.
Some time later, when I lived at Fort Belvoir, I remember discussing the dress code with a fellow Army wife. She scoffed at what she saw as the command’s overreach. I remember the commander had outlawed spandex with the explanation that some people “didn’t need to be wearing it” in public. While I agree that wearing spandex is ill advised for some people, what is and what isn’t appropriate can sort of be in the eye of the beholder. There was a time, however, when women who shopped at the commissary were supposed to wear dresses. They weren’t allowed to wear house coats, ratty pajama pants, or tank tops. Men, likewise, were expected to look presentable and respectable.
Nowadays, a lot of people don’t like the idea of being expected to dress to impress. They will say they dress for comfort and screw anyone who doesn’t like what they put on in the morning… or afternoon, as it were. Hell, while I usually try to wear makeup if I’m going somewhere, if I’m sitting at home, I usually stay in my nightgown. I like to be comfortable and rarely see anyone except the random people who ring my doorbell. And I don’t care if they’re offended by my saggy, braless, boobs and bare face because #1., they were almost never invited to ring my bell and #2., my interaction with them is usually less than a minute. You want me to look presentable when I answer the door? Make an appointment.
In the article I linked above, there is a letter quoted by a man from Rhode Island who wanted yoga pants, leggings, and mini-skirts banned for people over age 20. He wrote:
“Like the mini-skirt, yoga pants can be adorable on children and young women who have the benefit of nature’s blessing of youth. However, on mature, adult women there is something bizarre and disturbing about the appearance they make in public,” wrote Alan Sorrentino.
Well… I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that leggings, yoga pants, or mini-skirts are bizarre and disturbing on older women. Some older women can pull them off just fine, just as some younger people look ridiculous in those styles. Unfortunately, it comes down to self-awareness and honesty with oneself… or, barring that, being able to take truthful, constructive advice from friends and loved ones. Really. I think a true friend will tell you kindly, but honestly, if your outfit is in poor taste or doesn’t do a thing for you, as my mom would say.
My ex best friend was famously rude about some things, but I distinctly remember her telling me she liked a hideous pair of pants I tried on when we were shopping. I’m 99% certain she was lying to me and secretly relishing the idea that I’d look ridiculous wearing them in public. She was brutally candid with her opinions when she didn’t need to be, but also a little too complimentary when she shouldn’t have been.
At the time, I believed this ex bestie when she said the ugly knit pants “pulled my waist in” (bullshit!). I wanted to believe her, of course. At the time, I was obsessively worried about my weight and endlessly dieting to the point of stupidity. I desperately wanted to believe that the smaller size I tried on actually fit and looked good, even if deep down, I probably knew the truth. Yet she smiled at me and said I looked fine even as I continually pulled the pants out of my ass crack and squirmed as the inseams pulled irregularly at my thighs.
I know she was loving the thought of me sporting a camel toe or a wedgie while engaged in the business of the day. A true friend would have said something to prevent that from happening. Yes, it would have stung if she had said I should get something else, but it would have been the right thing to do. That would have been the action of a real friend.
Years later, when my ex friend insulted my husband (saying he looked too old for me) while we were engaged, and then flirted outrageously with him at my wedding rehearsal (yes, the day before our wedding), I came to the very painful and obvious conclusion that she was never a true friend. A true friend is not full of shit and won’t want to see you publicly humiliated or embarrassed. A true friend isn’t abusive, cruel, or overly endowed with Schadenfreude. A true friend has the other person’s best interests at heart, even if it means a few minutes of awkwardness or embarrassment. I would rather be humiliated for a couple of minutes in front of my friend who loves and appreciates me than embarrassed forever in front of other people who don’t.
Anyway… I probably still look ridiculous most of the time. I care less now than I did twenty years ago. But at least I have given up spandex and curlers.
First thing’s first. I hate the face masks. I resent having to wear them. There, I said it.
However, I do comply with rules, and I do understand why, if you’re not able to be at least six feet away from someone, they are currently necessary. I do not see wearing them as akin to wearing a seatbelt, though, and I do NOT want to see them become something we’re all forced to wear from now on. I hate it when people compare the masks to seatbelts, because they’re really not the same thing. It’s always been dangerous to ride in a car without a seatbelt (although I pretty much hate them, too– I do wear them, though, because otherwise Bill turns into Pat Boone). It’s NOT always been dangerous to go in public unmasked.
Coronavirus has only been a global issue for a few months. It took many years for legislators to make laws requiring people to wear seatbelts in cars. Now, all of a sudden, people want to make face masks a new fashion accessory and they cheer when a lawmaker makes wearing them mandatory. For weeks, I have seen social media post after post nagging, beseeching, imploring, lecturing, shaming, and demanding that people wear masks and not complain about them. And I don’t understand why people are so happy about this new requirement being foisted on everyone, whether they agree with it or not. This should be a TEMPORARY measure.
I totally get being concerned about virus spread. I get why wearing a mask is currently considered the “considerate” thing to do. I get why wearing a mask might slow the transmission of coronavirus. In fact, I have been staying home and away from people for the past three months, which is actually the MOST CONSIDERATE thing a person can do, besides frequently washing their hands. The one time I did go somewhere that required a mask, I wore one. But face masks are uncomfortable, inconvenient, and unpleasant to wear. And no, I don’t want to “get used to them”. If you want to wear them from now on, that’s on you. But I, for one, do not want this particular accessory legally forced on me until I finally kick the bucket. I hope to see a vaccine or something that will eventually make the face masks obsolete, or at least more comfortable.
I like seeing people’s faces. Faces offer a lot of non-verbal communication cues that one can’t always pick up from verbal communication. Moreover, people who are hearing impaired might need to read lips, which is impossible if the lips are covered by a mask.
I like listening to choirs, brass, and woodwinds. It’s not easy to sing or play an instrument while wearing a face mask. Ditto to other performances like drama or oratory. As it is, I don’t understand why anchorpeople have been wearing masks on air if they aren’t within six feet of someone. If you can’t be six feet apart, okay, but why wear the mask if you’re not close to someone else? It makes it harder to understand the new, particularly if viewers are distracted because it’s slipped down under the reporter’s nose.
I understand feeling suffocated and claustrophobic, and wanting to breathe fresh, cool air that doesn’t smell like halitosis and give me acne. Not everyone feels that way. Some have adapted to the mask just fine. But a number of people besides me legitimately hate the damned things, and we have the right to hate them AND complain about wearing them. That’s part of being in a free society. And no, I don’t need you to tell me to “grow up”, “wear a damn mask”, explain how they work, or say that those who feel like they can’t breathe are “copping out”. Kindly go fuck yourself.
Not everyone reacts to change in the same way. Maybe you have asthma and can wear the mask with no problem. That’s your experience. Someone else may legitimately have trouble with the masks. That’s their experience, and they have the right to speak up about it, too. Below are some comments from the Edinburgh Airport’s Facebook page, where people are being requested to wear a mask. Notice how some people feel they have the right to tell other people what their experiences with asthma are. They say that they can handle wearing masks, so you should be able to, as well. It’s really quite rude. We’re not all the same.
This subject comes up after an interesting thread I started yesterday. I was sitting at my computer, and a Facebook ad popped up. Behold…
When I saw this photo, I was immediately disgusted. I posted this comment:
This kind of shit makes me roll my eyes… I don’t see face masks as “sexy”, and I truly hope they don’t become a permanent “essential” fixture in fashion. I know some people like to wear them, but I hope they’re temporary, because I think they suck.
I got a couple of comments, including one from a notorious face mask nag… and a “wow” reaction from someone who has a family member with COVID-19. I think at least a couple of people thought I was panning face masks as a whole. I was not. I do legitimately hate them for many valid reasons, but I see why they are necessary FOR NOW. Nevertheless, I added the addendum below for those who didn’t take the time to read the thread:
Edited to add: I am saying that this particular mask is stupid— especially the ridiculous price tag. I don’t think there is anything sexy about disease prevention. It looks like she has hooker undies over her face. I don’t like masks, and I sincerely hope they don’t become standard apparel from now on, but that doesn’t mean I am non compliant.
I looked up XSuit, which was selling the above two masks… Actually, I didn’t see the black lacy mask after I hid the first ad and posted how fucking stupid it looks. The company gets really poor reviews for customer service and the quality of their merchandise. I’ve seen a lot of these kinds of ads on Facebook… businesses capitalizing on the sudden need for face masks and trying to make them “fashionable”. I refuse to give in to the fashion trend, though… not that I’m particularly fashionable as it is. I am wearing disposable paper masks on the very rare occasions I’m in public. I don’t want a cloth mask, because I do not want this to be part of my standard wardrobe.
I don’t feel happy or excited to see face masks turned into something we are legally required to wear. These kinds of laws, once on the books, can be hard to undo. I also think we need to be careful not to give in to the pressure to surrender too many of our civil liberties. The masks make sense in some situations when social distancing isn’t possible, but I’ve been reading about people taking it upon themselves to police strangers who are just out and about tending to their business and not actually close to other people. I don’t need granny on the street corner yelling at me to wear a mask if there’s no one close to me. She can shut the hell up, give me a wide berth, and mind her own business.
That being said… the thread I started about the lacy porno mask did get kind of funny. For one thing, that particular mask does not look to be very functional. Here in Germany, people tend to be pretty good about doing things for the common welfare of others. So I have not seen or heard of people protesting by wearing KKK-esque hoods or crocheted masks that are technically following the rules, but either offensive or not effective. The tacky porno lace mask in the first XSuits screenshot I shared looks like something one would wear at a BDSM club, and it barely covers the model’s nose. Many people commenting said it looked like she was wearing panties on her face. And I couldn’t help but think of this classic scene from Revenge of the Nerds…
As Bill and I were talking about this today, I was reminded of “Welcome to the Monkey House“, a story by Kurt Vonnegut. It was in his book by the same title. The story is about how the government encourages people to commit suicide to help keep down the world’s population. The government also forces people to suppress their sexual urges by making them take a drug that makes their genitals numb, but doesn’t render them infertile, since that would be considered offensive to religious people. An “ethical suicide hostess” named Nancy McLuhan, virginal and dressed in a sexy body stocking, gets abducted by a group known as “the Nothingheads”– people who refused to take the medication that numbs orgasms.
Billy the Poet, leader of the group, forces Nancy to come off the genital numbing drug and then rapes her, thus teaching her that sex is meant to be felt… kind of like air is. Rape is not something that most people enjoy, and in that sense, the story is kind of off note, but the point is, the character didn’t know what she’d been missing because the drugs had been required of her by the government for her whole life– supposedly for the common good. Nancy presumably decides to join the Nothingheads, having realized that she liked being able to feel her genitals and enjoyed the sensation of having sex, much like people like to breathe air that hasn’t been filtered by a sweaty face mask.
The story is an interesting read… and some aspects of it are kind of disturbing. For instance, rape is part of the story, and it’s presented in a way that implies that some women enjoy rape and deserve it because of how they dress. However, the main theme of the story– the public being forced to take drugs and encouraged to kill themselves at the behest of the government and presumably for the “common good”– does seem kind of applicable right now. If you haven’t already read the story, I recommend checking it out, keeping in mind that it was written in the 1960s and times and attitudes, particularly about sex, were different then.
Anyway… I see people are excited and approving about face masks being legally mandated. I understand why they want to see people obliged to wear them for now. But I also think that one should be careful what one wishes for, and what becomes a legal requirement. It’s a very slippery slope. And I will leave you with yet another brilliant George Carlin rant… which also seems very applicable today.
I might actually enjoy wearing a mask with a middle finger on it… it would probably repel people out of my six feet buffer zone, too.
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