Sunday, August 26, 2012

Covering up the cracks

Hey style police -
Maybe a designer out there could whip up some trousers that do not allow fat men's cracks to leap out at the unsuspecting viewer when they bend over - seeming to return your startled look. Sometimes they just droop to either side. Must be tiring. The upchuck reactions of many many women would be spared by the added trouser top. But maybe only women would buy them for their men, who wouldn't even notice otherwise. Then all the single crack flashers would remain untouched. Would there be any way to market crack-camoflage trousers that makes them look macho? Or would that be akin to convincing men it's macho to put down the toilet seat?
Would brutal honesty work? Like showing a couple of cute girls being sick as they step out of their house & find the gardener down on all fours with 6 inches of rear cleavage rending the air? What about humor? I once saw a sketch show in the US that "advertised" Crack Spackle in all skin colors. It was pretty funny, but does not seem to have caught on. Okay, I live in Denmark - where it definitely hasn't caught on - but on visits home I can compare ... uh ... notes.
Not trying to be mean to fat guys here - really the opposite. A salesmen came to our house once & gave us a lengthy demonstration of a new vacuum cleaner/hoover. He refused to cut to the chase, tell us price & so forth, but we might have considered it, had he not bent over to rig the thing up. His crack popped up & said ... no it didn't, but it was as aggressive as swearing out loud for no reason. The element of surprise has its limits in one's very own living room.
Designers - pleeeeease. It could be the challenge of your career. Maybe grateful babes would hang all over you. Maybe you would be rewarded for beautifying the environment. Maybe you would even prevent pneumonia caused by icy tail winds - then the chubs would realize they needed your design & sales would go through the roof. It's worth considering, not?

While we're at it: is there some way to get very overweight women to wear a long shirt or dress over their leggings? I know leggings don't squeeze anywhere & that's why they're so popular. I also agree that we should accept ourselves as we are, not least as we age & our bikini figures not only go south, but east & west, rolling all the way. But the mirror has been invented & a little vanity is healthy, keeping us from letting it all hang out, both literally & mentally. Keeping us awake.

It's all about balance - only that goes too. Dang!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An immigrant dilemma

When you’re a native speaker of one of the world’s principal languages, especially English, the 500-pound gorilla, a lot of your passing contacts have to do with that. And it can really be a bother. Danes love to practice their English, which is one thing. A lot have also visited America & can’t imagine I wouldn’t be thrilled to pieces to hear all about it. Then there is the large group who never got anywhere, but seemingly think they have. At least they figure they’re in the know. Stereotypes thrive here – like an old guy who couldn’t believe not all Americans drove Cadillacs. Seriously. Danish is tough to learn. Even little Danish kids speak later than most other kids because of the special tongue twists they have to master. There are 4 vowel sounds not found in English that I couldn’t even hear the first year, let alone pronounce. So now – 35+ years on – I still have an accent everyone can hear after half a sentence. Young people are generally cool about it. They are very good at English, start it in first grade & have so much of it all around that they don’t feel the need to practice on the odd granny who talks funny. Beware 40 & up. Not only do I have to hear their profound musings on my native land, I have to hear it in my native language. Like this ex-sailor who keeps dropping in to the center where I work to have a chat in English – fortunately it’s been a while now. Last time he had just seen ‘The Help’ & wanted to discuss race relations based on that. It seemed he had missed the bit about it taking place in the ‘60s. I suppose that’s about when he was out sailing & docked stateside. Last Friday another man kept going on about how America’s great fun but if you get sick, you’re dead. Let’s hear it for the nuanced view. I talked up Obamacare – the president is my hero – as well as health insurance which would be more widespread if the Republicans could see beyond their own wallets. “I know a joke about Republicans,” said he. “Republicans ARE a joke,” I answered & that finally shut him up. I often feel like a skunk for being so irritated, even though I don’t show it, but I am annoyed by anyone who wastes my time. I know an American artist here who simply refuses to speak English at all, even with me when we’re alone. THAT annoys me too, but doubtless he’s met even more of this sort of thing than I have – so okay, I get it. It is a lot easier now. Obama’s a rock star in Europe – in most of the world, I think, as opposed to Nixon, who was president when I got here, & Bush. The Bush years were like a cosmic echo, but I took it easier. When I first got here & landed in a nest of student Marxists (Don’t get me started. Talking to them was like being trampled by geese.) I felt I had to buy my way into the group by saying something negative about Tricky Dicky. The way Italians must have felt in recent years when they immediately had to assure all present that they did NOT vote for Berlusconi. A lot of Danes say positive things, usually at great length. Maybe that’s how they buy their way to a new exotic acquaintance. Some just switch to English & let it go at that. If they’re good enough I’ll play along. Just.
Of course it’s the natural urge to tell about something that means something to you that’s in play here. I like to talk about America in Denmark & about Denmark in America, but try to be sure the other person feels the same – as in: dialogue, not monologue. Many years ago, when World Learning Inc. was Experiment in International Living, the returning au pairs held reunion meetings often because their Danish friends weren’t interested in hearing about that year, just as American friends aren’t always interested in hearing all about someone’s year as an exchange student. (So why would any odd native speaker be?) Friends are still in the same place, both literally & figuratively, where the one who’s tried something new might almost be a different person. Friends feel insecure & try to erase & rewind. The greatest irony of all was the Fed Ex guy in Tucson. We were sending several boxes of family stuff to Denmark after my father’s death & decided to speak Danish because we needed to get in & out in a hurry. We didn’t want to chat & figured a guy who had to stand alone in his little booth all day would not be in a hurry. But you can’t trust anyone. The minute he heard us he brightened up like a solstice bonfire & chirped, “Taler I dansk!?” Uh oh. He had been an exchange student in DK a few years earlier & blabbediblabblabblah …. Poor guy. We scrammed as soon as we decently could. He had lots more to tell. We’ll never try that again. It’s an immigrant dilemma.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hi again. Off to a swell start – skipping week 2. Deal is – I’m a working old bat & that summer holiday buzzed right on by, as they have a tendency to do. I did manage to finish several projects & would like to recommend one, especially if you are also beyond 60. Memorize something.
Come again? Memorize something? Like in 10th grade?  Seriously – one of the best things we can do for our aging brains is to tease our memory to remember. This is easier now, what with Prof. Google to find the last verse of that song you smooched to in high school or the missing word in that clever saying by … oh dang, who was it now? Better check that out too. Yep – do it! Don’t know if it will directly stave off senility, but certainly can’t hurt. If you’re a reader, you would probably enjoy Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why. He recommends memorizing poetry both as an exercise & a rhythmic delight. Agreed. He starts with little but mighty – Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Eagle. Even poetry haters can feel a thrill with that one. I’ll end this entry with it.
I went a lot further this summer & memorized all 3 pages, 18 verses, 110 lines of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven – triggered by seeing the borderline silly but very suspenseful film of the same name in April. Bet Poe would love to see himself presented in the decorative – not to mention tall – person of John Cusack. John gets to read 1½ verse to a ladies’ book group near the end. Poe was big with ladies’ book groups. Doubtless the producers felt more than that would put the target audience straight to sleep & they would miss the end. That would be a shame, given that Poe’s life was seemingly just as boring as his stories are not. (That seems to be true of a lot of writers of scary stuff – for example Stephen King & a couple of Swedes I can think of. Their dark sides come out in their fiction.) My husband was game to listen to the whole recital. When I say ‘better half’ I am not joshing. I sent a grateful thought to Sister Ann Elizabeth, who made us memorize a poem every other week back in high school. I have that kind of memory & thought it was fun. Those who didn’t thought it was hell. Standing in front of a classroom & sounding like a dolt week after week – even though you aren’t one – is trauma. I experienced it when asked to figure a math problem out loud & am not harking back to the bad old days where school kids had to learn by rote but understanding what they parroted back was no big deal. Young people now don’t learn to remember anything exactly because it’s all right there on their smart phones, ipads, etc. How will they do as old bats & fogeys? Maybe just fine because other skills take over. I almost said ‘we’ll see’, but the beyond 60s won’t be around, so we won’t see. So – keep remembering anything that surfaces.

A teaser: The Eagle
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.