Manic Pixie Mean Girl

Come at me.

When friends and acquaintances and people I’ve just met find out my daughter is in middle school, they get anxious and ask me how she’s doing. I tell them she’d doing fine. She’s confident, she has lots of friends, she has fun, and she seems happy.

When I say these things, nine times out of ten, they ask if she’s a mean girl.

Obviously, most people measure teenagers using movie character tropes from the eighties and nineties because we are unimaginative fuckweasels. But it goes beyond that. Why should words like happy and likable and popular be seen as synonymous with mean when we’re talking about girls? We treat a girl’s confidence as a sign that something unjust or poisonous is lurking just below the surface. But encountering a woman's social power as suspicious or evil holds us all back.

Soon after marveling over this phenomenon on Twitter, I came across the headline “Is Elizabeth Warren ‘angry’ and ‘antagonistic’?” The piece itself was far more nuanced than the headline. Nevertheless, this is how it begins: the long, slow slide into sexist assumptions. Complex analyses are boiled down to reductive, reactionary sound bites and idiotic shared views and that dreaded three-headed hydra of abject stupidity called “common wisdom.” No woman can be judged on her own merits or policies. There’s always a personality flaw (or several) lurking in the bushes, ready to be flushed out. There’s always a way to pathologize traits that we encounter as signs of robust mental health in men.

Enough of stating the fucking obvious, though. Let’s talk about how we’re going to survive the next year of bloviating sexist fuckwaddery. Let’s talk about what it means not just to survive, not just to escape predation and tolerate douche bro-viating and tune out all of the ignorant dipshit-itude, but to savor life and embrace joy as a woman or a girl or a enlightened human of any gender in this ludicrously insipid, unseeing, witless world.

My plan is to expand in every direction like Ursula the Sea Witch, a personal hero of mine. I am going to make my voice louder (sure, by voting and sending money to good candidates and taking to the streets when necessary) but also by being a boisterous whore everywhere I go. And yes, I choose to reclaim and repurpose the word “whore” the way one might scavenge for old boards at a collapsed farmhouse, building a sturdy farm table (or a teetering, poorly constructed bookshelf!) from another’s scraps. A whore should now be understood to be a sister or a lover or a close friend, a daringly pushy and self-congratulatory being of brilliant colors who takes palpable pleasure in overstaying her welcome and blurting out wild opinions and stepping on toes. I don’t care if you’re awkward and messy and you fuck it up, either. I don’t care if you’re not shiny and polished. I don’t care if you’re just indulging some vainglorious impulse. You do you, I am here for it.

A whore festoons her unruly body with sequins or feathers or wigs or lace OR she just pulls on her lumpy soft pants in the morning and says fuck it. She strides through her domicile like a haughty emperor, eating cold cherry pie straight out of a pan from the fridge, and laughing in the faces of mealy-mouthed fools who can’t help but impose a moral on a story about a woman who’s feeling herself.

This is a time of indulgence, sister whores. We are going to find our joy wherever it’s fucking hiding. Have you seen the movie “Cabaret”? Have you seen the TV series “Babylon Berlin”? It is not just righteous but worthy and important to dive into the grace and wonder and glory of witty banter and good sex and strong cocktails, to masquerade about the land with brash, ebullient rage at the ready, in these days before the global corporate-enabled fascists crush us under their shiny black jackboots. These white men are not playing, rest assured. They will hoard their billions and grab all of the pussy in the universe, underage or overpowered, no matter what we write on our cardboard signs. You already know that. You carry it in your bones.

But let’s not get too dramatic just yet. We will fight like the rapacious motherfuckers we are, but right now, we mostly need to slither out of their clutches emotionally. Forget for a moment. Imagine that your bones feel a little lighter. We need to find each other in a crowd of sad, sullen strangers. Do you see a garish hat, a snide scarf, a glint of buttery blonde that nature never intended? Seek and find comfort and laughter and riotous good times in each other. I’m with you.

Before I go, I want to add a word about the pious talk of what women should and shouldn’t do online, how we should and shouldn’t feel, which images of ourselves we have a right to reveal and which images are sinful in their fantastical gorgeousness. Bitch mother lovers, fuck that noise. Yes, I used to think selfies were for the self-obsessed. Now I say let’s fucking do this thing. The technology in our pockets is capable of twisting our sequins and soft pants into a glowing ball hotter than the sun. But here are solemn women on the internet, telling us we can only raise each other up by making ourselves smaller or more flawed or more “real”? Famous women and models can live in an airless vault of beauty and light, but regular women have to show their ugly and their messy? And also men get to do whatever the living fuck they like, wherever they like, whenever they like it? I hear your real message loud and clear: Preening is only honorable in the one percent. The rest of you are meant to offer up your money and then slip back into the shadows. Know your place, ladies. You are here to buy things. Punch in your numbers and stfu.

Piety and shame, enemies of liberation, wielded by our own sisters speaking in righteous-sounding but false tongues! Here’s what I say to you: Bite me now and forever. My sister whores and I will take up more space, and look hot doing it, too. So reconnoiter the ridge with me, soldier-lady tartlets. Let’s get tawdry up in this bitch. It’s time to play and experiment and fuck shit up. Make this your year to show off with impunity. Swagger and prance and prattle recklessly. Do not second-guess yourself. That’s an order. Bring me my goddamn gown. Shake up some gin libations. Make some terrible noise. I am going to sing at the top of my lungs and dance obscenely until they come to burn this witch into the ground. I know you will, too, my honeys. This dark and boiling planet doesn’t know what’s coming.


You should enjoy it.

On a trip to New York, away from my husband and kids and dogs, I find myself savoring my experience more than I do at home. New York looks more beautiful to me each time I visit. What I once perceived as the flaws of the city now look appealing to me: Air conditioning units hanging out of windows on a tall brick building, gray trash cans lined up against a black iron fence. My cabbie got pulled over on the way into the city. He gave the cop the business card of his cousin, also a cop. “What’s your cousin’s name?” The cop asked. The cabbie stuttered. The cop gave the card back, saying, “You gotta at least know his name!” But he let him off without a ticket.

“We call him Serge, or Sergo, but that’s just his nickname,” the cabbie told me. “I couldn’t think of his real name because we never use it.”

“You played it cool, though” I said. “You didn’t say a lot. That was smart.”

The cabbie laughed and said he was trying hard not to say too much or argue too much. We talked for the rest of the trip. When we said goodbye, I thought, “You just made a new friend and you will never see him again.”

In New York, I feel that way everywhere I go. I have mountains behind my house in LA. We live in a very ordinary suburb, but I can sit upstairs and watch the setting sun turn the mountains bright orange in the distance. I can watch the sky turn pink in the morning over those hills. I have a family, but I also have lots of space and time.

When I’m in New York, I feel a little too slow for my surroundings. But I love long walks on sidewalks crowded with preoccupied people. I have an urge to stop and commune with a busy and important bomb-sniffing dog I see at the airport. I want to go to the library and watch people come and go. I want to talk to the clerk at the bookstore about what he’s read lately. I want to sit at the rooftop bar and drink a cold gin cocktail from a tiny coupe glass. I want to see all of the musicals there are to see, and all of the plays. I want to eat all of the foods. I want to flirt with men of all ages. I want to sit in the dog park and introduce myself to all of the dogs.

And when I think of my husband, back in LA, dealing with drop offs and pick ups and homework and soccer games without a complaint, I think that I should look at him the way I look at these tall brick buildings lined with room AC units. I should stare at him in wonder and encounter his little flaws as enchanting and delicious. I should listen to him talk about students who can’t write that well and colleagues who commandeer meetings and I should understand how difficult it can be, to hold down a straight job in the straight world instead of meandering around all day, thinking your own thoughts and writing whatever you want.

But sometimes when I’m out of town and my whole life feels like it’s expanding in every direction, I talk to my husband on the phone and I want to say: It’s time for you to grow into something more interesting than a man. I want your longings to take on a more colorful shape. It’s time for you to mature into an artist. I want to feel my way towards you on a river of your words.

Most men are simple beings who traffic in concrete facts. I like concrete facts and the people who haul them around. But I want to live inside my imagination a lot of the time these days, because this world feels too mundane for my taste. If we spent an hour of silence together, we’d learn a lot more than we know right now. We could cut through the trivia without using words. We could wait quietly until we felt this drab world transform into something more unexpected and luminous.

I told an extremely smart and confident older friend of mine in New York about trying to let my hair go gray and she interrupted: “No.” That was all. I told her that I was trying to enter a new phase of my life, but some stubborn part of me didn’t want to.

“Phases of life aren’t for people like you and me,” she said. “They’re for other people, people who need a narrative, like a chapter book. We don’t need that, though. We just live.”

“I guess I feel guilty for wanting more,” I said.

“This is the most luscious part of your life,” she said. “You should enjoy it.”

I carried those words with me the rest of the day. Maybe I don’t have to yield everything I want gracefully, because that’s what good wives and mothers do, I thought. Maybe it’s ok to want whatever I want, to get a little greedy about it. Then I checked into my hotel room and the clerk said, “We’ve upgraded you to a King Suite.” No explanation. The room was enormous, with floor to ceiling windows and an outdoor deck. I felt like my friend’s prophecy was coming true. LUSCIOUS. It made me want to stay all week. It made me want to text every last person I knew in the city and ask them all to meet me for dinner: together, separately. I will usher in the most luscious part of my life however I please.

What do I deserve? We don’t like women who have a lot and still want more. These are the villains of our fairy tales and parables and fables: insatiable, vain, greedy women. But there is an evil queen rising within me, looking into the magic mirror and not asking any questions. She knows the answers already. She’s not preoccupied with some naive little tartlet out in the forest, napping with the dwarves. There is nothing to fear and no one to punish. These flaws look luminous. This curse is an invocation.

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