Too Old, Too Fat, Too Royal

Top Gun is making a 30-year anniversary comeback, but we will not see codename “Charlie” (Kelly McGillis) the second time round. The problem is that in real life the actress has, believe it or not, aged, and she does not look like someone who’s in her 30s anymore, which probably can be explained by the fact that three decades have passed since the filming of the original Top Gun. 

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Tricky Being Cocky

Because canicule, my brain has switched on to energy-saving mode. It took me this long to realise that we have interestingly reached a situation where women seem to have started to dominate the agenda almost across the horizon.  As for the men, well, men of the universe, you really are not putting forward your best candidates lately, are you?

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How To: Flaunt Your Summer Body

If you’re a woman and have a body, you know what June means. It means it’s too late to get a flauntablesummer body for this season. See, our bodies might be all right for winter and the colder months of spring, but come summer, there needs to be a whole new body. It is also the season of “let’s see what crazy juju we manage to sell women in the name of self care, which we used to call weight loss or dieting before “body positivity” became a thing and we are no longer able to use these perfectly fine terms to make women lose weight for summer”. 

Buy a shower gel

I was looking for a shower gel yesterday and had to consult the staff to find the brand I was looking for. -“It’s where we have our weight loss -products”, I was told. Surely a mistake, I thought, but proceeded to the minceur/afslanken -aisle and indeed there it was, my good old shower-gel that now claimed to possess attributes that would make me lose weight! I couldn’t help but wonder whether all these years the reason for the clogged drainpipes in my bathroom was in fact my lard that had washed off in the shower? Well done Weleda!

Experiment with contouring

Apparently, by using different shades of self-tanner we can disguise parts of our bodies that need to be disguised. I read last week that it is perhaps worth considering to apply a darker tanning lotion on the “lower abdomen” to create the illusion of a more toned, well, lower abdomen. I kind of get the point of body contouring for photo shoots where it’s all about playing with the light an’ all, you know, a bit of highlighter on the shins to make the legs properly gleam

However, given the impossibility to get an even colour using just one shadeof a self-tanning lotion, I really do salute anyone who masters the application of different shades without looking like something out of George in the Jungle. I do. Full respect. 

Ask the Universe

It’s not what I end up getting, it’s my attitude to deal with it that matters. The Universe has my back. Like attracts like. Thoughts become things. The law of attraction gives me what I’m thinking about. Apparently that’s varicose veins.

My right leg knee-down looks like Terminator’s face, mid transformation. If you don’t know what Terminator looks like you’re too young to have issues with your veins. Go run in the sun with your legs exposed while you can. Enjoy the warm breeze against your freshly-shaven pins and see them get gradually tanned. I shall be exhibiting mine at biology classes where tree roots vectors are being studied. 

Blame the sun

If certain Western beauty standards would have it, us women would be completely hairless from our eyebrows down. The fact of the matter is that most of us have hair on our faces. I’m completely oblivious of mine until the sun comes out. I was having lunch on a terrace the other week and saw in my reflection that I have actual whiskers. This is kind of cool, unless there are remnants of my dessert hanging from them.

It’s a fine line, you see, between having pale, peachy fuzz on one’s cheeks and dark, wiry hairs jutting out of one’s chin. This is the question even Gwyneth Paltrow is not immune to (I listened to her podcast on this topic): at what age should we start plucking the hairs on our chin? What’s a quirky Italian ​nonna and what’s a downright lumberjack beard? 

Dig a hole

Did you know that by sweeping a shallow dent in the sand before you park there to sun yourself, your ass has a hiding place, will not expand all over the beach to take space from other beach-goers, and thus will make you look slimmer form the aerial perspective? I knew this because I read it in a women’s magazine not long time ago. We can do better than this, girls.

Why settle for a literally tiny ass-hole on the beach when you can keep digging? Dig a hole big enough to jump into. Ask your friend to fill up the hole so that only your head remains exposed. Please be mindful of covering your head from the glaring sun, and don’t forget the SPF. Also, keep an eye on any tidal movements. 

Then enjoy your beach body and live your best life. Have a drink delivered at regular intervals, but remember that you will need a straw to imbibe it. Think of all the plastic waste in the oceans and insist on a straw that is not made of plastic. Thank you for your understanding. 

Why I Walk

I love walking, and walk almost everywhere. I cannot deal with public transport first thing in the morning, so I try to avoid it as much as possible, so weather permitting, I’m also doing my work commute by foot. The best walking, however, is flânerie, or boulevardier-ing. This means to wander around aimlessly, or with very little aim, absolutely without rush or particular purpose. Flânerie is my all-time top favourite pastime activity.

Until just a couple of decades ago, aimless wondering in the city was considered a masculine privilege – possibly also dictated by the realities of life: it was rare for women to have all kinds of time in their hands to think deep thoughts while pounding the streets. City streets were dangerous places for women, and any female caught walking around without a chaperone and without a particular purpose was most certainly considered a prostitute.

In the olden days camouflages were necessary, and the French writer George Sand was known for dressing like a boy to be able to lose herself in the 19th-century Paris. The emergence of department stores was a big, liberating breakthrough for urban women – finally a place to spend time, do lunch and catch up on goss and merch while feeling safe. 

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In a student coffee shop near NYU, two young women are talking.
​"Guess what?" one says. "I saw Romeo and Juliet on Broadway last week."
"Oh, yeah?" the other says. "Is that thing modern?"

I walk around cities to clear my head, to observe people (in a non-creepy way) and to find interesting things par hazard. Recently in New York I walked into one fashion shoot, one TV- shoot and went to check out how far the renovation work of ​Sarah Jessica Parker’s house had advanced (still ongoing).

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Each day I leave the house, I tell myself I’m going to walk up the East Side. Yet I seem always to find myself on the West Side. On the West Side life feels positively thematic. All that intelligence trapped inside all those smarts. It reminds me of why I walk. Why everyone walks.

Few observations about walking in cities:

Boulevardier is a solitary hobby,  best done alone. This consequently, unfortunately means there are safety issues to be considered. I only ever walk around on a daylight (in a city I don’t know, obviously this is less of an issue in a place I know well). I never take risks, which possibly makes me a boring flâneuse, but so be it. I’ve only ever had to take a sharp U-turn once. Parks: never after sunset.

– Google maps is your best friend, therefore a properly charged mobile phone is a must.

– I avoid the generic high streets of zero character (= the ninth circle of Hell with all the chain clothing stores and McDonald’s of this world) and the obvious tourist traps. In most cities the old towns are most interesting, have the best cafés, parks and urban landmarks, and small streets almost always come with more interesting, independent things to see, buy and eat than the big boulevards.

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“Did you hear?” the woman in pink says. “The pope appealed to capitalism to be kind to the poor of the world.”
The woman in blue responds, “What did capitalism say?”
As we’re crossing Seventh Avenue, the woman in pink shrugs.
​”So far it’s quiet.”

– I try to have as little stuff with me as I possibly can. Mobile, keys, wallet. If it’s hot, a bottle of water. Sometimes I take my camera. I can’t be bothered with umbrellas (generally in life). If I’m going to be doing hard-core people-watching, a book makes for a nice camouflage.

– Always sunscreen. Always, always. City favourites at the moment: Tatcha “Silken” with SPF35, de Mamiel “Daily Hydrating Nectar” with SPF30 and Drunk Elephant “Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense” with SPF30. I will go for higher SPF in the summer.

– Shoes. No heels, no ballerinas. Asphalt is tough on your feet. Have proper footwear. 

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New York belongs to me as much as it belongs to them: but no more so. We are all here on the Fifth Avenue for the same reason and virtue of the same right. We have all been walking the streets of world capitals forever: 
actors, clerks, criminals; dissidents, runaways, illegals;
Nebraska gays, Polish intellectuals, women on the edge of time. 
Half of these people will be lost to glitter and crime - disappearing into Wall Street, hiding out in Queens - but half of them will become me:
a walker in the city; here to feed the never-ending stream of the never-ending crowd that is certainly imprinting on someone's creativity.

Why do I walk? Because I want to explore places at my own pace. Because I want to see and do my own thing. To me it’s the only way to understand my surroundings. Some people do a bus/tram/metro –tour d’horizon in a new city to get an idea where everything is. I walk.

I also walk because I can, and because the joy of walking in the city belongs to me, too. Space is not neutral. Space is a feminist issue. As ​Lauren Elkin writes: The space we occupy – here, in the city, we city dwellers – is constantly remade and unmade, constructed and wondered at. A female flânerie not only changes the way we move through space, but intervenes in the organisation of space itself. We claim our right to disturb the peace, to observe (or not observe), to occupy (or not occupy) and to organise (or disorganise) space on our own terms. 

For aspiring female city-walkers I would like to recommend two excellent books about this exact topic, namely The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick (all quotes in cursive are from this book, which is a memoir about walking in New York City) and Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse (her book covers flâneuse-ing in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London). 

Not Sweet, Alabama

This week, I had the best and the worst of the land of the free and home of the brave. New York City, the centre of the universe, offered personal refuge in a liberal, literate La La Land where life is fast and exhausting, but possibility lurks around every corner and living can also be a shiny, spectacular and over the top dream. With lots of long hair.

Then Wednesday came and burst the bubble that I had firmly established in the SoHo and West Village coffee houses. Alabama made abortions illegal.

There are (at least) two ways to look at this: who has access to healthcare and who decides on behalf of women. 

I’m a white, European woman of comfortable means. I will never be affected by decisions like these. I am insured up to my eyeballs, and can access healthcare anywhere. Like most Europeans, I will get treatment. If not in my own country, then somewhere else in Europe. Such is the system we have created.

Famously, there is no system in the U.S., except that you buy your way out of sticky situations. Rich people will always get by. What happens when it’s the raped underaged daughter of a minimum-wage single mother whose employer does not cover family members’ health insurance? How do you explain the newly minted law to Alabama girls and women who are impregnated by their abusive family members or relatives??

The political swing to the right in the U.S. has set in motion a movement to overturn the landmark nation-wide ruling on women’s right to abortion, Roe v. Wade (Hello Ruth Bader Ginsburg!). There’s an excellent documentary about this called Reversing Roe v. Wade, and it should be still available on Netflix. It does a superb job in explaining the American sentiment around this issue. 

It’s not just the abortion procedure that’s being targeted. As collateral many states have already experienced cuts in services for poor children, medical care for pregnant women and affordable contraception for women as well as attempts to hinder sex education at schools.

The second question is who gets to decide. You are free to worship at whichever altar you wish,  I don’t judge/discriminate, but if we leave out the Jesus-factor here, the question is simple: why cannot women decide for their own bodies?  Or, more simply:

​Why do men get to decide over women’s bodies?

We should not watch the Alabama-spectacle as some soap opera unfolding before our eyes. Anything can happen anywhere. Including in Europe. People can walk backwards in here, too.

That women’s actual, physical bodies are still being used as a political playground in 2019 I cannot comprehend. If men could get pregnant, abortions would be handed out at every gas station and drive-thru across the world. For free. 

In case you are already half-way rereading your Handmaid’s Tale, let me suggest another American giant on this matter, again offering a tremendously moving context to the great abortion spectacle in the U.S.: A Book of American Martyrs by ​Joyce Carol Oates. 

Finally, for anyone who says that feminism has gone too far and we should instead focus on the equality of opportunity, I have but two words: Fuck off. 

I know it’s not you people, but I just had to put it out there.