Tuesday, December 23, 2008

the royal we

This morning I interviewed an artist for an article in Bitch magazine. At the start of the conversation, she said, "I really liked what you did with Steinem." No clue what I did with Steinem, and, in fact, it wasn't until later that I put the words "Gloria" and "Steinem" together. But I do know that there are about 70,000 Janet Millers on the web, and at least one of them is a writer. So I said, "That must have been another Janet Miller."

But she insisted. Finally the confusion was cleared up when she said, "When I said 'you,' I meant 'Bitch magazine.' I was using the royal we." The absolute inappropriateness of associating me (I've written five small articles for them) with Bitch (they've been in business 12 years) made me laugh. It was kind of fun to wear that hat for a split second, though. I became dizzy with freedom and immediately tried to think of some way to outrageously misrepresent them. My amagdyla failed me, though -- no crackpot scheme triggers.

However, the concept of the "royal we" started to get interesting. When you hear it so wildly misapplied (like when you're given credit for something with which you had nothing to do), you start to see how it pervades everything. We, as in Americans. Californians. Berkeley-ians. We as women, we as feminists.

I was in San Francisco when the 49ers won the championship for the third year in a row. Everyone was on the streets, celebrating. It was incredibly fun, super silly. Just by virtue of being in San Francisco, we all got to take credit for the win. Nothing is more random than sports team association (at least to my uneducated mind; sports fans may differ) but no royal we is quite as much fun when your team is winning.

Anyway, just made me think of how many prejudices could be eradicated if we all refused to use royal we. That's hard, though. I, for one, could no longer be the first to walk on the moon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

presents from boyfriends

In October I had to move out of one apartment two weeks before I moved into my new place. During that time I stayed at a friend's. And developed a new appreciation for a tiny, silly present my last boyfriend gave me.

The dish scraper. It's a flat plastic squarish-shaped thing you use to scrape food off dishes that you're washing. During my two weeks of homelessness I reached for it a thousand times. My happiest unpacking moment was finding it again. It works on anything baked on and then it washes clean itself. No more icky cheese particles embedded in the scratchy part of your sponge.

The funny part of the dish scraper (besides how much I prize it) is that he only gave it to me because it came in a package of two. I saw it by his sink and asked what it was, and he told me I could have one. It's not like he set out to change my life or endear himself to me forever or anything.

And most boyfriend presents are like that. I mean, the stuff you remember later is always throwaway stuff like that. For instance, Josh got me a FasTrak application and made me fill it out. Every time I cross the Bay Bridge, I think a little thank you to Josh. (Who otherwise I would totally wish I'd never met.)

Same with friends and people you once worked with -- they change your life in tiny cool ways that don't seem important at the time. (Except the friend stuff keeps happening, and adds up way too fast to count.)

My last boyfriend also introduced me to Olivier Messiaen and countless other incredible composers. But it's the dish scraper that really got to me.


I got to see my geek chic 16-year old goddaughter Sarah during Thanksgiving weekend.

A friend set Sarah up with a guy who later met her at the mall. (I totally love the mall, btw. It's about so much more than shopping.) Sarah, never at a loss, quickly prepared a written test for him to complete. I begged for a printout, and I didn't even have to beg very hard.

It has the abstract painting series name: Dorkitude Test 1. She created spaces for the name, date, and period. Period. For a guy who is expected to complete this at the mall. And that's putting aside the dis inherent in asking him to enter his name, as though he's competing with throngs of other adolescent men. Her mom told me that he received a B plus.

The test features questions like "Pokemon?"

I don't even want to get into the right answer to that, let alone what counts for extra credit. The scary part is that my friend Lisa (who, each time she saw me after Thanksgiving, asked me if I had the test with me) managed to score well on most of the questions.

My favorite question, which I couldn't answer but which fully half my friends can, is:

What does nobody expect?

At least I knew the answer to life, the universe and everything.