Currently viewing the tag: "personal"

lucy-steigerwald-previewI understand the premise of the insult when a cascade of neo-Nazi trolls suggest that I am ugly, un-doable, and/or Jewish. Nobody wants to be ugly, and a woman is supposed to be extra skittish about the very idea of someone thinking her repulsive. (Obviously calling someone Jewish isn’t an insult, but Nazis, those poor dears, are trying.)

But what to make of the folks who send me emails insulting my nose ring, calling my a bull and a cow? They know I chose the nose ring, right? It was something I selected and paid for, not a tragic birthmark. Calling attention to a fashion choice seems like an oddly ineffectual way to be cruel. “The thing you like is bad, and I am pointing that out!” I must know that my taste is making me less attractive to them. It always comes down to the type of men who believe in reporting what their pants are doing. Strange Women Must Know Whether I Find Them Hot, and If So, How Hot!

Twice while clashing on Facebook with people of the right, I was called a cross-dressing, or someone dressed in men’s clothing because at the time my profile pic was of me wearing a tie and suspenders. I also had long hair, lipstick, and a fairly femme look, as you can see above.

Piercings are not exactly breaking new fashion ground in 2016. Ladies in men’s wear is tragically underappreciated, but far from unprecedented. And yet, these people seem genuinely disgusted and troubled by this small aesthetic choices (mustn’t show them my legs then).

I see this in other reactions. A libertarian former coworker gets bangs and people find it proof that she was always a wicked leftist. Bangs plus glasses with any thickness is suspect. Odd colored hair, piercings, glasses — a definite look that I have some overlap with, but not entirely — is tagged as leftist, slutty, threatening. Why can’t they be blonde and wholesome like Women Were Before? Why can’t they like my aesthetic, not that ugly girl aesthetic?

This is why trans people, femme gay men, tough lesbians are amazing. Not trying to condescend about special flowers and the youness of you, but people are assholes a lot. And more to the point, they’re weirdly terrified of anything outside the norm. And to a surprisingly large number of them, outside the norm involves a nose ring or a tie on a woman. To kick gender roles and “normal” identity in the ass is an amazing thing. It’s very cool, and it’s actually brave (not like wearing a tie).

It doesn’t have to be teenage rebellion, or pretense of having a wholly original look. You’re not a maverick for daring to pierce your nose (or even BOTH SIDES OF IT). But I love my nose piercing more than I ever thought I would — it’s like my face is fancy every day!

Freaking out the squares is so oddly easy.

MothmanNewsBI, three days unshowered, hair in what could generously be described as pigtails, skirt, looking like grimy 12-year-old. You, wearing a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas shirt — I still haven’t read that.

Both of us, browsing Barnes and Noble on a Saturday night in the South Hills of Western, Pennsylvania.

You, with a gentle Pittsburgh accent as I pass by, “is that the mothman on your shirt?”

I, completely out of practice in the sometimes grand old of conversing with strangers, give some kind of affirmative.

And we briefly discuss the mothman, where the movie was filmed around here, and how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette substitutes for The Washington Post in shots. I say I have been to the fest, and it’s well worth a journey down to Point Pleasant, WV for that generous a slice of Americana weirdness. We dance around that vital subject of real cryptids roaming about. I inquire as to whether you have read Fortean Times magazines, and you assure me you were just doing so. (I forget to ask you what’s on the cover, and whether it’s new, and where it might be on the shelves — because it tends to be appropriately elusive.)

You, saying you teach seventh grade history. I, saying I have thought of teaching some kind of history. You, affectionately saying your students are booger-eating monsters. You, saying they ask whether Greek Gods were real, and that you’ll be teaching an elective on myths next fall.

You, before I have a chance to respond enough on cryptids, history, or the fact that your tattoos are Nosferatu, a dodo, and a charming ghost, saying you’re sorry to bother me, and turn back to your books.

I, deeply unbothered, feel somehow we were just getting started. Do you know how a young girl waits to be appropriately complimented on her mothman tshirt? How uncreepy, casual, and friendly this approach is? How impossible it is to tell a strange man of indeterminate age that this is a sign that we should be bros? How bros is a ridiculous, parodic word to call it, but what else? So many men in the world with whom I wish to be bros. My mother had this same problem in her day. Men are men. You are not a man. Are you a creep? Are they a creep (only if you skirt is short, in my experience). You can’t just ask someone — anyone, but especially a man — to be your friend, to talk more, to revel in jumping past “pardon me, lovely weather” to  “so, is the mothman real?” unless it just happens. And it won’t happen if you hesitate for even a moment of deathly politeness.

You, with the trappings of a yinzer, but the soul of a monster hunter concerned about historical accuracy, sorry to have pestered a stranger, turning away too soon.

Me, frustrated by my tongue rust, delighted to be reminded that folks like you are out there — and in here in Pennsylvania! — hoping we’ll meet again in another place, perhaps with more cryptid themes to help us along in our burgeoning friendship, which was clearly arranged for us by some winged, red-eyed mysteriously creature watching from on high.

Presented with little commentary or excuse, the young libertarian poet’s thoughts during the feverish Bush years. (Even the horrible line breaks are accurate. The capitalization is also as written. I am so sorry.) I would like to say this make me feel better about my progress in the past 12 years, but good God is this painful and funny both. I sound a lot dumber than I thought I was back then.

I was super into not using “we” when talking about America during this time. (Which is a good rhetorical point, that I have admittedly dropped entirely now.)  I was also pretty sick of “United We Stand” as a rallying cry. You can see that as I subversively add a question mark to the poem’s title. Look, there were a lot of flags around all the time and I was getting mad.

I actually remember reading this to my homeschool English group to some amount of awkward silence. Once Iraq came along, my terribly edgy sentiment was a little more welcome, if only because these good Christian conservatives weren’t all jazzed about that whole invasion business either.

 

United We Stand?

Tell us what We are

Pawns for Public Service

We Support

When you give us words

What he says — They do

and They make us We

Broadcast as the mood

Love it or leave it

Or cry quietly to be heard by

The arrogant freedom fighter

When there’s nobody like you

Then tell us we stand united

And lean us over the edge

Pray for the chance

For I told you so’s

Here we are, so we’re taken with the tide

– Anarchy anyone?

So maybe they fight

For the nation and the world

But what’s paving that road?

downloadThe rule about Esquire is the issues with men on the cover are better. Esquire on masculinity is pretentious, but strangely earnest, but also sort of vulnerable at the end of it all. They’re over-thinking manliness, but it’s better than when they get into sonnets on the symmetry of Megan Fox’s face. Esquire on women is dressed-up lad magazine atittude. It’s all about looks, but Esquire swears it’s because these B-list actresses are just so captivating, man. The way they eat their salad in the cafe in which the interview takes place is totally art. Like, sexiness is art. This actress who played minor parts on several network TV shows is like a canvas.

And men are well-dressed, well-fed, well-read; tough, but real, human beings.

The April issue of the magazine — starring Jimmy Kimmel with a sharpie mustache drawn on his face — has an intriguing list, “84 Things a Man Should Do Before He Dies: The Life List.” I figured as a well-dressed, well-fed, well-read, not super tough, but working on it real human lady being, I would see how many manly things I have done so far.

1. Apologize.  Should work on my skills there. But boring.

2. Construction related man stuff, nope. Never ripped down a wall.

3. Lost 15 pounds without talking about it — literally everyone losing 15 pounds should stop talking about it.

4. Take one stunning train trip. The more nights, the better. Done! And awesome.

5. Say “I’m sorry, too” in the middle of a “vicious argument”: Uh, not sure off hand. Boring.

6. Spend an uncomfortable amount of money on a really good suit. I haven’t. But I would.

7. Leave a tip big enough to upset you. I am poor and nice, so yes.

8. No, I have never been to Bonneville Salt Flats, but it sounds great. Possibly even greater than this Charlie Parr song called “Bonneville.”

9. I haven’t taken a little girl to see The Nutcracker, but I have been a little girl who saw it. Hell, I was a little girl who listened to a tape of the songs and made my stuffed animals dance. This was when I was six and thought “rock and roll” was loud and grating.

10. Nearly die, then don’t. I almost died from asthma and pneumonia as a six-month-old, so sure.

11. See a band’s last show ever. Not yet, hopefully. I did see the very last Old Crow Medicine Show concert that Willie Watson played with them, however. Tears. Unmanly tears.

12-13. I lose major man points for not being able to drive.

14. Volunteer. Obligatory entry, and not as much as I should. I should do some Food, Not Bombs. I did pass out Christmas toys in Zagreb once, on the other hand.

15. No, I haven’t taken a tiny sea plane in Vancouver. That sounds like something I would be terrified and delighted to do.

16. Love something other than yourself (with picture of dog). Well, of course.

17. Shoot a Glock. No! But I have shot a Colt .45 and a dang semi-automatic SKS. I think I have more man points than John H. Richardson, who wrote the brief.

18. Write a poem. Fuck yeah, man. I once earned $50 from a poem, which probably puts me in the top three most successful poets of our time.

19-21. Drug and casual sex suggestions. Boring.

22. No, I do not make incredibly important decisions quickly. Nor do I make inane ones. It is not in my genes.

23. Coach kids what? Sports? God help them.

24. Vacations with friends are good, annual ones would be great.

25. I have better than a personal uniform. I have style.

26. I cannot tell a joke. But I will keep telling the one I made up. What do you call a frat boy who enjoys making up new words by putting two together?

27. I haven’t met a lot of newborns, and I haven’t yet held their hands.

28. I have been lost, both on purpose and by accident.

29. No, I cannot change a tire. Have definitely never done it without telling someone.

30. I haven’t toasted my father.

31. Write a country song? Ah, fuck you, Esquire. Stop trying to win my heart. Joke ones, sure.

32.  Build an irresponsible fire. I was with some disreputable 25-year-old punks, and I was 17, but we did have a trespassing bonfire on a muddy night in God Knows Where Woods.

33. Shovel soil onto a casket. Oh, Jesus, Esquire. It will happen, do we need to put on the official list?

34. Take a month off? Not really on purpose.

35. Face your own mortality by taking a physical risk. I have climbed some Montana boulders and hills that were not so safe, and I was not so skillful.

36. Drive cross country the other way — from Great Falls, Montana to Austin, Texas. Great one! I have been across country by bus, train, car, and plane, AND my mom is from Great Falls, but I have not yet done the sideways venture. It’s going on the list.

37. Walk somewhere at least 50 miles away. This has long been on my list. It has to be if you grew up on a diet of children’s books filled with runaway orphans and stranded Alaskan travelers.

38. No, I haven’t been to or climbed Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Sounds Biblical.

39. Drive a Glacier National Park road! Shit, who in Esquire loves Montana this much? Tragically, I haven’t been to Glacier yet.

40.  Hondle. A word I have never heard in my life. It means haggle, basically. I am so bad at haggling that when I saw a $100,000 Reichmark bill for sale at a flea market, I said “I WANT THAT NOW, NO HAGGLING, NOW. TAKE MY MONEY.”

41. Quit your job. I haven’t had a lot of them.

42. Kill your dinner. Not even been fishing. Feel like I should, though.

43. Put your phone down. People always call when you do that. But I love to ignore my phone as much as possible.

44. Be obsessed. Have you met me?

45. Make enemies. Working on it, darling. And all the right ones.

46. Sleep outside, next to a fire. Done. You tend to wake up cold.

47. Sleep outside, in a public park. Not yet. Not even after reading Evasion.

48. Try really fucking hard to be great at one thing. I should try a lot harder.

49. Help to bring life into the world. No thanks. But I would like a puppy. Or to make one in a lab.

50. More driving.

51. I can’t do much while drunk, no.

52. Live your nightmare. Non-specific, but the piece is about dying at a comedy club. No, thank you.

53. I can’t make an old-fashioned, but the last one I had was made by a Southerner who is a foreign correspondent in Haiti. I cam eto his party clutching my Christmas Rye, and he made me one old-fashioned out of the last dregs of it. It was delicious.

54. Never rode a horse. Mom says I rode an elephant in LA once. It was probably well-tethered.

55. I really am not handy.

56. Make a sandwich at three in the morning. This is just an excuse to show Jessica Pare in her underwear. On the other hand, she has a friendly pin-up girl smile and is not posing in an impossible way, and for a man magazine, that is true enlightenment.

57. Swim naked. More Jessica Pare juxtaposition excuses, but again, she looks friendly, not deadly-sexy. Fair enough. And yes I have gone skinny-dipping. Love those cold Montana creeks.

58. I have never busked! Which is part of my sneaking suspicion that I will never be great. Wait, once I was sitting on the sidewalk for my mom and I began fiddling with my viola, because this was after junior orchestra. One of the directors throw a quarter into my case, so there you go.

59-60. Meet your hero/have a hero. I have met several of mine, musical, ideological, journalistic, and otherwise.

61. No, I have never been to that specific place either.

62. Walk away from a conversation you’re not enjoying, without explanation. Yes. It’s hard for the shy, but it’s good practice for the woman getting creeped on at a Justin Townes Earle show.

63. Get fired, with cause. I was much better at that work study in the ELS office at Chatham than the one girl. But dammit, last hired, first fired. She slept at her desk, man!

64. Talk to your father about back in the day. Not for a while, but I was THE child for this sort of story of back in the day.

65. Sail continuously for three days and night on the open ocean. Oh, come now.

66. No, my left hand is rubbish. I am way far from ambidextrous.

67. Never been married, don’t really want the state to endorse my relationship. We’ll see.

68-69. Never hired or fired someone.

70. I still laugh at Cookie Monster, and the lesson from Sesame Street I learn is that eating inanimate objects with glee is hilarious. Enthusiasm. Let’s say I learned enthusiasm.

71. I would be glad to attend the launch of a rocket.

72. Be a true believer, then believe in the opposite side of the thing. Unless I become a fundamentalist or a fascist, seems unlikely to happen.

73. I like LA, and I have always wondered about chicken and waffles, so okay, maybe that one. I will visit that restaurant.

74. Walk around New York City all night. I thought not, but actually Pamela Stubbart, Todd Seavey and I just made it to dawn in January, 2013. Bam!

75. Commit a petty crime. Sneaking into a Pittsburgh city park swimming pool at night. Twice. Very rewarding crime.

76. Reread highschool novels you skimmed. Plan to.

77. Read Huckleberry Finn. I was literally just thinking today I should do this.

78. Read 50 Shades of Grey. Oh stop it, hipster-contrarians.

79. Do something awesome and not get paid for it. Sorry, “refuse to monetize it.” This blog post counts.

80. Have a pair of shoes made. I should, because my leg is all fucked up. Do $700 orthopedic insoles count?

81. No, I will never win an office.

82. I could definitely lose at running for office, but it seems unlikely I will ever bother.

83. I would like to go to Detroit for journalistic reasons, but, uh, it’s a little weird that Esquire thinks you can do most of the things on this list with impunity there.

84. Don’t have a life list. Edgy. Manly and edgy twist there.

Sadly, there is no way to tally your man score at the end. The magazine that published “The Falling Man” and “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” would never be so quantitatively lowbrow, so unliterary, man.

Let’s just say I am relatively manly.

I haven’t ever seen a Cosmo, etc. version of this list, but I suspect it would be 1) have a sweet boyfriend/have kids or don’t, but decide!!! 2) buy clothing that makes you feel good (hint: this thing from our advertisers), 3) A wild stab at topical feminism with “uh, ask for a raise, I guess.”

Esquire‘s life list is both a demonstration of its conventions, and better than it might be, all things considered, and much better than any general interest magazine for ladies. In short, Esquire-y.

Last week, I was so ready to write a thoughtful, invariably inside libertarian baseball response to Jeffrey Tucker’s piece in the The Freeman. Or I was going to write about horrible police brutality for the various outlets who enjoy that sort of thing. But then my Montana-dwelling aunt called, and we discussed the imminent spring, and the greatness of the Coen Brothers — with me evangelizing about Ralph Stanley, and both of us agreeing that the Greenwich Village-style of folk was not the platonic ideal, being a little too earnest English balladish, and not high and lonesome enough.

And then of course politics faded from my soul, as it does. I subscribe to the Tucker and the Radley Balko school of politics (and, really, most of the Reason writers agree) which says that it is a vile thing, and the victory of libertarianism would mean an ability to ignore politics without feeling as if you were betraying your imprisoned and oppressed fellow man. I just wish I knew how to channel a career into dissecting how Ralph Stanley sounds, as opposed to how endlessly sick the prison state makes me.

I had a lovely birthday on the 8th. I had lovely people come to visit me and gather around. But before I went to my own party, my mom and I went to a church down in Pittsburgh that was doing their monthly shapenote singing sing.

Shapenote singing was a 19th century method of teaching folks who couldn’t read music how to do four-part harmony. There are some great modern and older recordings of it on the internet — One of my favorites, from the famous Harry Smith anthology of folk music, is below:

At its best, shapenote singing has am unpolished eerie quality that undermines and delightfully clashes with its stodgier sort of choral aspects. Instead of just beauty, it has roughness and resonance. Like the voice of Ralph Stanley (who grew up in a Primitive Baptist Church, which bar instruments) sometimes does, the strongest shapenote singers have this quality that can only remind me of bagpipes. It just has this huuuugh gut thing.

Mom, who used to play the saxophone and plays piano and guitar, knew enough music to be baffled. I didn’t know enough to know where to begin or how to follow, plus read, plus hear other people, plus hear myself.

In our post-O Brother Where Art Thou?, post-Mumford and Sons world, I was not surprised that the demographics of the singers were middle age nearing old age and younger, scruffier types. I was not the only singer with a pierced nose, for Christ’s sake.

There was someone who swore, and people who seemed devout Christians. The most powerful, ceiling plaster-endangering singer was a middle aged woman with long brown hair who came from God Only Knows, Alabama. She was all down home encouragement and June Carter sass.

Here’s a more recent kind of shapenote singing — less weird and ancient, more just loud:

Though the traditional text, The Sacred Harp, contains mostly songs about Jesus, and other folk I don’t know well, shapenote singing is so perfectly American and strange, and I think it’s wonderful. It is not mine, but I like to borrow it.

My birthday party had a cacophony of people I love very much talking too loudly in too small a space. It was fun, but the diminishing returns of socializing were lurking at its loudest points.

However, S.T. and J.K., musical friends from Richmond and Baltimore respectively, decided to crash and give me musical celebration. When they play together, they are called the Dirty Mallards. I drank my first moonshine in their presence one summer day in 107 degree Richmond weather. From them I learned that “Tommy” without clarification means Tommy Jarrell, the great North Carolina fiddler.

S.T. and J.K. are more libertarian than not. J.K. is more personally conservative, but he has recently attempted to go off the grid, internet-wise, and I have to assume the National Security Agency is a big reason. When I first met S.T. he seemed to have stepped out of the pages of Tony Horwitz’ Confederates in the Attic, for all that implies about his views. And that’s not all wrong, but it’s not everything about him. He’s a student of history — and some of his conclusions I might disagree on — but he’s incredibly well-read, as well a an instinctual, leave me alone libertarian. They are both good people who provided with with the best birthday present since my cousin T. got Jello Biafra to insult capitalism just for me.

Now, my one association with Jeff Tucker is that he is endlessly optimistic about the non-state. Culture, markets, music, fast food, all of these do and will continue to bring freedom and choice to people. All of this is beautiful and chaotic instead of planned from above.

So when Tucker uses his “brutalist vs. humanitarian” libertarian metaphor in The Freeman essay, he almost pulls it off. The brutalists stripped down architecture to its cold, practical essence. Brutalist libertarians do the same with their liberty. They say, I have my freedom to be as awful as possible, you have yours, we need not encourage social goodness and kindness and need not discourage racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. within libertarianism.  If it ain’t the state, who cares! Is that really what he thinks will happen in Libertopia? Is that what he thinks will happen without an implied litmus test? Does he think that defending pure liberty is implicitly saying we desire to live in small, mean tribal societies? If Tucker truly believes most, or even a lot of people would pick that, he is not the optimist I thought he was.

Though Tucker does not say as much, and his version of this question is better than any of the ones I have seen recently, the artificially of the two camps still gives me a moment’s pause. Are libertarian J.K. and S.T. and their politically incorrect jokes humanitarian or brutalist? How about my conservative-leaning libertarian father? My an-cap atheist friend who professes to hate feminism, who I recently saw defend the Duke porn star from another Facebook commenter who was calling her trash? My Christian an-cap friend with whom I disagree about gender roles and religion, and who has argued with me about that long into the morning?

Even in Tucker’s Libertopia, I would not surround myself only with the angels of tolerance who are always saying just the right things. So, I certainly don’t want to discount flawed creatures before we get to that free land. We live now in a world in which minorities of ALL stripes are put upon by the state: Religious weirdos, the peaceful, bunker-dwelling racists, the cultists, or for fuck’s sake, just the people who maybe don’t want to use college liberal terms to filter the world. I want them all in my tent as well. I want them if only because more people than any libertarian would wish think they are right-wingers — inherently suspicious, likely bad, for wanting less or no government at all.

Libertarianism and friendships both have a sort of Miller Test. Or, rather you “know it when you see it” — know the good people you want in your life, or in your fight for freedom. I can’t tell you who they are for you, and you can’t tell me either.

I think I know good people who are are not PC and who are also a net gain for liberty in the world. This is not to say that we can’t say, as individual libertarians, or as groups, say we prefer tolerance of gay people to not tolerance. This is only to say that the divisions between libertarians, like anywhere else, are rarely as purely simple as paleo vs. cosmo, conservative vs. liberal, or humanitarian vs. brutalist.  Tucker is, again, incredibly deft and fair in his piece. He doesn’t seem to be trying to kick out anyone at all. But the two camps idea still didn’t seem real enough to justify it as an exercise. There is a danger in making people, even just libertarians, seem that A) or B).

I wanted to write a political response to Tucker’s piece. I was distracted by the pleasures of voluntary culture, and life, and music instead. Hopefully that’s still the point.

8282Some years ago, I was in Borders when I saw this new cover for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. I hated it on sight. Out of the Little House series of children’s books based on Ingalls Wilder’s childhood (and at least co-written by her daughter, libertarian Godmother Rose Wilder Lane!), only The First Four Years rivals this one for bleakness. Though still a children’s book, The Long Winter is basically about seven months of frozen hell in 1880s South Dakota. A memorable passage describes Laura being weak and stupid from hunger as, again, the snow piles outside endlessly and everything is grim and awful.

Now, the familiar to me Gareth Williams cover is also too sweet-looking for the fight for survival plot of the book. But at least it’s old, and it suggests a story that is older still — it is sweet, demure, and not 2014. (The first edition of the book might have had the best cover, actually. It feels dark.) The family of photo-real people laughing uproariously as they huddle in their cabin is weird. It is telling little 10-year-olds that yes, there’s nothing different in this book! You won’t even notice that it’s set 150 years ago. They are just. Like. You.

51G4Cuyx9YLThe Ingalls family wasn’t like you and I. I grew up homeschooled by libertarians. My parents’ home was initially in the country, but now it is almost suburbia. There is still a bubble of farmland, though. Not to mention my parents’ nearly 12 acres. All of that, and I still always knew my life wasn’t the same as the Ingalls. And that was the damn point. My life also wasn’t Caddie Woodlawn’s, or Anne Shirley’s, or the damn spoiled Boxcar Children’s. And that is why I wanted to read their stories of pioneer life, of being a dreamy Canadian orphan, or just living in a boxcar and cooking wonderful-sounding vegetable stew and getting all your dishes from the dump. I wanted to read about different lives — girls who hid escaped German soldiers, or little mischievous Scandinavian children going to school. Why would I want a heroine or hero who was too relatable? (This was another reason “playing house” baffled me. Building a fort was naturally different. And playing school was a novelty for me, but not most kids. What the hell was “house”?)

TheLongWinterA libertarian railing against potentially-sensible marketing, yes I know it’s silly. And maybe tricking kids into reading historical fiction could lead to them liking history. But it itches at me to see this kind of thing, this laziness, and this belief that children can’t possible suspend disbelief enough to realize that there were times that were not now, and those times had people living in them who were very different in many ways.

(A version of this modernizing should be awful, but isn’t when you look up the history of it is the anti-corset/proto-feminist dialogue by Marmee in the 1994 Little Women film, as well as the anti-slave dialogue by Meg. You think it’s just an awkwardly shoe-horned in piece of 1990sness, so that the audiences won’t be totally bewildered and alienated by the archaic and pious characters. Turns out, the real Louisa May Alcott grew up in a family of radical intellectuals who palled around with Henry David Thoreau and were mad enlightened. Indeed, the reason the last half to last quarter of the book Little Women is so inferior to the beginning is that Alcott was reluctantly goaded by her publisher and fans to marry off the heroically spunky Jo. I like Little Women a lot, I yearn for the Little Women that might have existed in a different market, written by a more honest Alcott.)

Along these same lines, I didn’t even read the Babysitter’s Club books (mostly because their subject matter seemed unbelievably boring), but I was deeply annoyed when I read how they were to be updated for modern readers. Ten-year-old girls can’t be expected to understand that once there were not iPhones, but cordless phones. That there were, shit, I don’t know, scrunchies and those weird saddle-leggings, not jeggings and whatever the fuck tweens wear now in their hair. There were even typewriters for writing on instead of computers. Holy fuck, the children’s heads will explode if we keep that in.

Many kids are not going to spend their entire tween and teen years mooning about the past with aching fascination as I did. That’s fine. But is it necessary to coddle them too much when they’re faced with the reality that yes, these books are from the past? Is it necessary to remove mentions of perms, as they apparently did from the Babysitter’s Club books?

(It also disappoints me that the American Girl books and (painfully expensive) dolls have moved so far into modern, boring stories. The whole point was girls — from plain WWII-ready Molly, to sassy colonialist Felicity, to runaway slave Addy — who were from a different time in American history. Overly tidy history, life lessons, standing up for what you believe in, potentially-anachronistic girl power!)

773514Now, an ironic twist on this complaint is when books are misleadingly old-fashioned in their packaging. The paperback covers for L.M. Montgomery books are all thematically similar: raised lettering, cursive, beautiful heroines staring out to sea, or at something distant. They look soothingly pastoral, but also a bit soppy. And they’re not 1984, nor were they meant to be anything too hard or masculine or sad. But Montgomery, best known for Anne of Green Gables, does not have the reputation for wit — even sarcasm! — and poignancy that she deserves.

Anne Shirley of Green Gables was sweet and bouncy and carrot-red of hair, but Emily Byrd Starr, who only got three books to Anne’s eight, was a much more realistic heroine (though Anne did grow up to worry that her husband was cheating on her with a sexy blonde). An orphan like Anne (what star of childhood fantasy books isn’t?) Emily has writer ambitions. She has a creepy relationship with an older man who, Forever Young Adult is not kidding here, kind of grooms her to be his lover. She spends the entire third book in the series being horribly depressed in what feels like a relatively modern fashion. (Montgomery suffered from this as well, and it was recently revealed that she actually died of suicide in 1941).

And through it all, Emily is often funny. And though she writes romantic descriptions of the landscape that try my patience on occasion, Montgomery is an amusing narrator as well.

And you would never, ever think this if you looked at the covers of her books.

Train_stuck_in_snowSo, yes, romantic lady writers of the teens and ’20s are secret humorists, and pioneer days weren’t as jolly as they might seem. People — both fictional and real — were not the same as they are now, and neither was society, culture, technology, or expectations for certain individuals. Yet, in books that are 80 or 150 years old, you can kind a relatable, understandable, humorous, same kind of spark that exists in characters and in people today. That’s why both history and literature are magic and enough to save me from misanthropy forever more. But that also means folks should leave the damn ’80s perms alone, and marketers shouldn’t imply through a cheap, hacky cover that a seven month winter was just as much fun as sitting inside and watching the latest cat clip on Youtube.

Seriously, this was the winter Ingalls Wilder was writing about.