Category Archives: femininity

SLEEP NO MORE and My One-Night-Hand-Stand

vanity fair sleep no moreLast night a strange man held my hand. That’s right: I, Ester Bloom, married lady, mother of a young child, partnered with the same dude since I was 18 years old, committed hand-adultery. I had an anonymous one-night-hand-stand.

Mr. Ben and I were at SLEEP NO MORE, the immersive theater experience where you wander around a huge, five-floor, dimly lit but extravagantly designed set that was once a hotel, forbidden to speak or to remove your opaque white mask. Around you, actors and dancers silently recreate scenes from and inspired by “Macbeth.”

To reach peak surreality, as an audience member, you are encouraged to explore the dreamscape solo. Mr. Ben, who takes this shit very seriously, waved me goodbye early on and dashed off to try to get as many one-on-ones as possible. (That’s when certain cast members take you “off-stage,” into a small enclosed space, for a special bonus dose of weirdness.)

So there I was, be-masked, silent, and alone, watching the banquet scene in the basement, when another audience member — a well-dressed white dude — took my hand. TOOK IT, LIKE IT WAS HIS. Like he was Christopher Columbus and my hand was America.

I cycled through several immediate thoughts:

+ Oh, how embarrassing for him! He must think I’m someone else.

+ Is he a member of the cast who’s going undercover, The Prince and the Pauper-style, by wearing the mask of an audience member?

+ His hand-holding sure is confident! He probably works in derivatives.

+ If I can’t speak, how can I say “no”?

+ Is this like improv, where I’m not supposed to say “no,” at least unless he does something super creepy?

While I was wrestling with all that, Christopher Columbus assertively led me out of the ballroom and to another scene, and then another. After a few minutes it became impossible to shake him off, not just because he was holding my hand so tightly but because perhaps I had missed my window of opportunity. Soon we would be joined together for life! What would I say to Mr. Ben and Babygirl? “Sorry, Christopher Columbus grabbed me. Gotta go. See you maybe in twenty years when he lets go!”

His hand was very warm, yet dry. I didn’t hold his hand back, per se, but I did allow my hand to be held. In almost fourteen years, this is as close as I’ve come to sexual contact with a person besides the father of my child.

Finally, Christopher Columbus led me to the bar on the second floor, which is the oasis in the SLEEP NO MORE desert: the place where you’re allowed to eat and drink and catch your breath and talk.

“Hello,” I said, because I’m exceedingly clever and make my living using words.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he said.

“No thanks?” I said.

He shrugged and smiled and disappeared. That was the last I saw of Christopher Columbus. I put my mask on and went back to SLEEP NO MORE.

“For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” —
Romeo & Juliet

Why I’m Starving: A PhD Tackles the Question

FRIEND, PHD:  hunger relates to calories needed vs calories consumed.
ME:  yeah, but calories burned => calories needed. we don’t burn calories sitting at our desks!
FRIEND, PHD:  if you are gestating a baby presumably you do.
ME:  presumaly, cuz otherwise, this [i.e., eating like a Sumo wrestler in training for a marathon] is ridiculous.
FRIEND, PHD:  maybe the baby is more of a manual laborer type, not a diaspora Jew
ME:  hee! or a little sabra in training.
FRIEND, PHD:  exactly. farming the land inside you, building towers and stockades, fighting off the natives, etc. that takes calories.
ME: fleeing cossacks, crossing the seas …
FRIEND, PHD: right, maybe it is fleeing persecution. let’s not assume it has already achieved proud sovereignty in its homeland.
ME:  the story usually begins with trauma and adversity, the overcoming of which brings the emigrant to the holy land
FRIEND, PHD:  that’s the typical teleology!
ME:  and prepares him/her for the toil of settling this new empty* barren country
FRIEND, PHD:  nowhere in this story is there a desk job at a nice American Jewish foundation.
ME:  that’s several generations later. why am i giving birth to the past, anyway?
FRIEND, PHD:  ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny
ME:  sesquipedalianism obfuscates pellucidity
FRIEND, PHD: shut up
ME:  my journalism teacher in HS had that on her wall 🙂
FRIEND, PHD:  no, but really! don’t you remember that from high school bio?
FRIEND, PHD:  I think that was actually very clever of me, if I don’t say so myself. the development of the fetus somehow mimics the status of human evolution from fish to human, or amoeba to human. ontogeny = fetal development, phylogeny = development of the species. recapitulates = looks something like.
ME:  uh huh.
FRIEND, PHD: i.e., your fetus first has to flee the Cossacks before it can work at [your small Jewy nonprofit]!

Be that as it may, although there are pregnancy resources up the wazoo, I haven’t found anything to help me deal with the fact that suddenly, under these circumstances, big does not equal bad. Having a belly has been a source of shame since I was little. Once, I remember, I was looking in the mirror in my bedroom and my mom came in. “Look, Mommy, I have a belly!” I said. “I know,” she said. “That’s because you don’t exercise.”

Of course it’s not her fault — the world she lives in, and knew that I’d have to live in too, measures your self-worth by your waistline. You over there! You’re taking up too much space! Only in clothes sizes do we strive to be zeroes, but we strive for that nothingness with energy and resources we dedicate to few other endeavors. For almost two years, I forewent dinner except for vegetables, and in the process I lost two dinner companions, because they ate hamburgers and couldn’t stand sitting across from me evening after evening as I picked morosely through my salad.

Pregnant women laughing with salad!

A fixation on appearance — specifically, wanting to be slim down as far as possible — is a common affliction among women in my cohort. That being the case, why isn’t there more attention drawn to the fact that it’s destabilizing to get pregnant, wake up every morning feeling like a stray dog who hasn’t eaten in weeks, and visibly expand? It’s just so strange. Suddenly, I’m supposed to listen to my body and eat what it wants. (Up to and including two [2] cheeseburgers, my first since I was 13.) When my pants start feeling tight, that’s a good thing. When I look down and see the beginnings of a dome, I’m supposed to rejoice. I keep thinking, “Really?”

I’ve been sucking in my stomach since high school and now I’m supposed to throw my shoulders back and bear my belly proudly. The cognitive dissonance is intense, and it’s taking me time to adjust.

A Humble Suggestion

Get a harmonica!

While reading Tina Fey’s second hilarious New Yorker piece, I had a realization: This woman needs to reproduce. Since she has valid concerns about what that would mean for the 200 people whose livelihoods depend on her, I’m willing to take one for the team. So, I wrote a memo, in my head.


FROM: ME. (Hi!)

RE: Reproduction


I’ll have your babies! Let’s mash our eggs together (science, you know, whatever) and I’ll take care of the resulting children. You can see them whenever you want!

This may sound forward of me. After all, you don’t know who I am; in fact, I could be the kind of 5’7″ blond, sweet, well-adjusted lady who would scar a kid for life, if that kid were like you. But I’m not! I’m short and wry, and I read too much Dorothy Parker when I was 12 to ever have a normal outlook on life.

I’m Jewish, which is like being Greek, I imagine, since most of what I know about being Greek comes from reading David and Amy Sedaris, and they are Brothers Of Another Mother to us Jews.

Look at that punim!

I live in Brooklyn Heights, one of only a few select city neighborhoods ruled entirely by baby carriages. It is a perfect environment to raise children: there’s a kids’ gym and a kids’ spa and a toy store and a fancy cupcake place and a farmer’s market and right across the river there’s Manhattan, where the beautiful people live.

As you can tell, I’m wordy, like you, and over-educated, but I am made almost entirely of cleavage, so I was also designed to be maternal. My husband’s nice too! He’s a big fan. If he could have sex with you once, even with lights off and most clothes on, that would make him really happy.

The bottom line is, the world needs more of you, Tina. I know you’re doing all you can — the show, the movies, the upcoming book — but you’re only one person, after all. You have limitations. Maybe if I expose our babies to radiation they’ll have no limitations, like superheros!

Take your time. I’ll be fertile for a while yet (I think).


PS — I love you.

More feminism, she cried!

Have you read “Ask an Abortion Provider” on the Hairpin yet? This is for serious, and it is seriously amazing. Why did the author choose this path? “I figured the most direct way to ensure that there wasn’t a total asshole at the bottom of the table was to do it myself,” sayeth she. And she goes on:

I was with the doctor I train with doing the initial steps of an intake — an ultrasound to date the pregnancy and a full history.The patient says to the doctor, “I should not be here today. I agree with the people out there.” Gestures out window to street. The people at the bus stop???? “The people who are protesting. I think what you are doing is wrong. I think you should be killed.” Oh. Whoaaaa! …

So I told my patient what I truly believe, which is: “I’m so sorry that you feel that way because feeling that way has got to make this an even harder decision than it already is. I imagine it must really feel awful to think that you have to do something that goes against your own beliefs.” (Secret inspiration: my own feelings about the situation!)

“I know there is no way you’re going to go home feeling you did the absolute right thing no matter what happens today. We are not going to do any procedure until you are absolutely certain that this is what you want. I do not want you to have an abortion. The only that I want you to do is the thing that is most right for you, whether it’s continuing this pregnancy and becoming a parent, or adoption, or abortion.” Then we brought her with her boyfriend to the counselor who talked with them for hours about the spectrum of resources available for not just abortion but adoption and parenting. At my clinic, we joke that we turn away more patients than the protesters do.

And although she did end up terminating the pregnancy, the procedure went well, there were no complications, and she told the staff we had been the “most supportive!” I personally thanked her and told her it was an honor to be there for her and still get teary when I think about it. Ice burn, Lila Rose!

On Saturday I rallied for women’s health and Planned Parenthood and I was moderately proud of myself in a “Good girl! Look what you did instead of lolling on the couch watching old episodes of Buffy and eating packs of Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed” kind of way.

Reading this piece makes me think about soldiers. I didn’t grow up around military people and yet, when I met a Marine on New Years Eve in New Orleans, I knew exactly what to say: “Thank you for your service.” I rely on the men and women who join the Armed Forces to protect my freedoms. However you may feel about the Military Industrial Complex, you have to respect the individuals who commit to spending a year at a time in dusty, desert-y, Middle Eastern countries away from their families and friends and Netflix and Trader Joe’s, and much closer to death than we, in general, are.

But the men and women who choose to become abortion providers, and the fine folks at Planned Parenthood who support them, are protecting me too, and without anywhere near the same kind of societal recognition. Because I know that those doctors are there, I don’t have to choose between having a romantic life and a professional one. Because they are there, I can work — at my office, 9-5, as well as on my writing — and take that work, and myself, seriously. Because they are there, I don’t have to just be a woman; I can be a person too. They give me that freedom.

So thank you to everyone at Planned Parenthood who were so kind to me when I went in, twice, while unemployed, because I didn’t know where else I could afford health care. Thanks to those of you who stand at the ready in case I need you for other reasons, and who have helped the women I know who needed you. Thank you, Gail Collins, for urging me to think about all these issues as I read When Everything Changed. And thank you, Dolores P., for your service, which, in so many ways, makes everything possible.

“Recommended by 0 Readers”

This contender for “best comment ever” appears on a Gray Lady article called “The Mommy Penalty,” documenting the damage done to women’s salary prospects after they take off time to have kids. Doctors fare better than MBAs; PhDs fall somewhere in the middle. Starbucks employees? Who cares? Not the NYT!

But that’s not important right now. What’s important is, this man (who sure does love his exclamation points!) has probably never spent several hours pacing in the dark while carrying, and singing to, an inconsolable infant who is squalling and leaking fluids onto his shoulder.

If I had to choose between repeating that night I spent babysitting a six-month-old and “material riches,” you’re damn right I would dive for the MBA — or the MBA, or the PhD –, and so would he. I mean, if the tedious, thankless work of keeping babies alive is “priceless,” why the hell doesn’t he do it?

Judging by the resounding silence that greeted his comment — if you listen hard, you can even hear cyber-crickets! — the Gray Lady’s fan base agrees with me.

Things I Loved and Forgot

It can be such a thrill to rediscover something one lost sight of, for whatever reason. The Film Experience blog, for example, provides an oh-so-useful list of the films of 2010 grouped into categories like “Don’t Miss,” “Recommended with Reservations,” and “Make It Stop.”

According to Rogers’s list, cross-checked against the Indie Spirit Awards results, the most important films I haven’t seen yet are Black Swan, Blue Valentine, and Rabbit Hole. And I don’t have to feel bad about missing Alice in Wonderland and Iron Man 2! What a relief.

Still, get set for a tear-soaked holiday season, y’all! Maybe I’ll blow off all those movies and just re-watch Babies, which is basically one long YouTube video capturing the cuteness that transpires when small people with big eyes and no motor skills play with things (rocks; cats; goats; their siblings).

Not listed, presumably because Rogers hasn’t seen them yet: True Grit and Love and Other Drugs, both of which I’m curious about if only for the glimpses of little Gyllenhaal.

Speaking of films, a site called Jon’s Ego printed an argument against the Bechdel test (which I call “the Ms. Test for Movies“). It’s simply explained this way:

all credit belongs to A. Bechdel, friends, for this brilliant 3-part movie test:

1) Is there more than one female character? If so,
2) do the female characters talk, and if so,
3) about anything other than men?

You would be amazed at how many movies don’t pass this test. Good movies. Great movies, even — go ahead, count.

I don’t think you need to self-flagellate over this, for what it’s worth. A movie can flunk the Ms. Test — I mean, the Liz Wallace via DTWOF and Ms. Test — and still be quality. But for what it’s worth, one of the reasons I’ve never been crazy about Scorsese is that virtually none of his movies pass the LWVDTWOFAMT Test. It’s all-macho-all-the-time with Marty, with the glorious exception of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which you could say is the only Scorsese movie he’s only made once and which almost no one talks about.

Is it so hard to have women be real people in good movies? I mean, even master-of-macho, Russell-Crowe-worshipping Ridley Scott hasThelma and Louise AND Alien on his resume.

But Jon’s Ego has a problem:

I hate the Bechdel Test. It seriously annoys me every time I see it brought up and used as proof of sexism in movies (Even when they’re used by esteemed coworkers of mine. Sorry, Rachel!). Hollywood is clearly filled with sexism but the Bechdel Test proves nothing. …
let’s try something else. Think of a movie that has a female main character. I’m not talking ensemble piece here. This has to be a clearly defined main character who is a woman. Now do an inverse Bechdel Test about the male characters. Does it pass? I’m gonna guess it doesn’t. Does that mean that that movie is sexist against men? Of course not.

Jon seems like a good guy, and I don’t mean to get all patriarchy-blaming on his ass, but he’s pulling a total Limbaugh here. First of all, his main evidence is that he’s “gonna guess” that if flipped on its head the rule will still apply — i.e., in a movie featuring a clearly-defined female lead, there will not be a substantive conversation between two male characters. I’m gonna guess he didn’t spend five minutes thinking that through. There are always prominent men in movies, even female-driven ones. And they always talk.

Check out IMDB’s Top 250 list. You may notice that you have to scroll before you find a film that even fits Jon’s criteria, which to his credit he acknowledges is a problem. Depending on your point of view, the first entry is either Psycho (#24, which, btw, is bullshit — that should be in the top 10) or Silence of the Lambs (#27). Either way, both of those films also feature very prominent male characters, characters who have, in fact, arguably juicier roles than the ostensible female leads.

If you want to be more orthodox about his rules, we can keep going til we get to Amelie (#45) which is beyond debate a movie centered around a woman. Even there, the male characters have conversations with each other about things other than women. In French, sure, but that still counts. Or Pan’s Labyrinth (#74 — also bullshit; that movie is amazing), where the only thing dudes are gossiping about is fascism.

He can’t be thinking of “Sex and the City,” since he specifically says he doesn’t mean ensemble pieces. Even if you were to consider “Sex and the City” as a counter-point, though, I’d argue that, as a 25-minute TV show starring four women or a movie based on same, it’s a very different kettle of fish. Men are shortchanged in the show and the movies alike, sure, but sitcoms involve time and narrative constraints unimaginable to most filmmakers.

No, Jon’s “guess” is plain wrong. The fact that, in the entire top 100 list, there are maybe five films where it’s arguable a woman is THE lead character — and male characters outnumber female characters in just about every film by about four to one — is all the information you need to call Hollywood sexist. The Bechdel/ Ms. test helps make that clear in a straight-forward, accessible way. It’s not an indictment, but it’s a fair and a useful tool.

Being Ladylike is Overrated

Women who make shit happen and are imprinted in the Book of Life are generally not the ladylike type. The exemplary Elena Kagan — currently on track to be our next Supreme Court justice — is a Jewish New Yorker with bad hair, bland clothes, and possible lesbionic tendencies. (Carpet munching? So not lady-like.) (Though to be fair, appearing or acting sexual in any way is not very ladylike either.) For the next few days as she makes it through her confirmation hearings, however, she will put a good show: she will cross her legs at the ankles, wear skirts, smile pretty, laugh at the jokes of men, and say as little as possible.

When it’s over, she may never have to pretend again. I will be very happy for her. I am guessing that Camille Paglia will not. In the NYT this weekend (on Pride Sunday, in fact, because Gray Lady editors have a sense of humor) she laments the fact that white men and white women have fused to become a sort of androgynous, asexual unit:

[A] new pill, despite its unforeseen side effects, is necessary to cure the sexual malaise that appears to have sunk over the country. …

In the discreet white-collar realm, men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work. Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure.

Now, whose fault is it that being ladylike/gentlemanly is out and androgynous in? “[E]lite schools, with their ideological view of gender as a social construct.” She calls them feeder cells, which is super cute because as you may know that’s a label usually used for terrorists.

She goes on to explain that white folks are screwed up because our men and our women both look like boys, whereas the darker-skinned folks have a more “healthy” ideal:

[V]isually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left. … American actresses have desexualized themselves, confusing sterile athleticism with female power. Their current Pilates-honed look is taut and tense — a boy’s thin limbs and narrow hips combined with amplified breasts. Contrast that with Latino and African-American taste, which runs toward the healthy silhouette of the bootylicious Beyoncé.

Oh my god, Camille Paglia, have you lost your cotton-picking mind? Where is the proof of any of this? First and foremost: what sexual malaise? Seems to me like Americans are doing it early and often (and outside). The subset of Americans she is pounding on here, the educated bourgeoisie, is actually the most likely to have stable marriages. Wouldn’t that probably be less true if men really did just feel like cogs in the domestic machine?

In Paglia’s world, there don’t seem to be any lesbians (mystifyingly, since she herself identifies as one). There are no folks who find gender-bending or androgyny titillating. There are, in fact, no real people at all, only figments of her imagination.

My friend Veronica put it best in a consolatory email she sent after reading the article:

Please let me express my condolences for your sexually suffocated marriage. You must just be killing Ben with your anxiety and ambition. And, my God, he probably has no idea what to do with your Venusian figure. What a shame. But, then again, I should probably question how I can be a Latina lesbian who prefers my girlfriend’s broad shoulders to Beyonce’s extra-yeasty double-rise curves.

Extra-yeasty. I myself rather fit that description, being composed almost entirely of cleavage; it is hard for me to be as ladylike as I sometimes feel pulled to be. In those moments, though, I try to relax and think of Elena Kagan, not to mention Margaret Cho, Alison Bechdel, Victoria Woodhull, Michelle Obama, and everyone else who has made the world better by simply being who they are.

Feminist Readers Digest

  • Have you ever wanted a set of colorful, informative slides to explain the persistent wage gap — to what extent it exists, when, and why — between men and women in America? {those “lesbian shitasses” at Jezebel.}
  • Want to help start a Boobquake on Monday April 26? Wear your most office-unsuitable tops and draw the wrath of God down upon us.

    So, start here …

    That’s right! Just like that.

    Then, progress to Step Two.

    After that, take a drink — you’ve earned it! — and sit back and watch the tectonic plates start shifting.

  • Wanna get self-conscious about what you wear? Check out this list of the 25 most “fattening” clothing items, featuring virtually every kind of pants (mom jeans, grandma pants, cargo pants, capri pants, white pants, hot pants, sweat pants, any pair of pants with an elastic waistband, acid washed jeans, and shorts of any kind), skirts on both extremes (frilly mini skirts and peasant skirts), and comfortable shoes (ballet flats, gladiator sandals, white sneakers).

    Also bad: patterned tights, baby doll dresses, and bikinis (!).

    By contrast, what is the #1 most universally flattering item of clothing? I’m so glad you asked.


    Luckily the commenters have the right attitude:

    GIRDLES are on the non-fattening list? Well, yeah, but that doesn’t really count as CLOTHES. Also, god, look how much more FUN the fattening list is: binkinis, colors, cute details, trends. The non-fattening list is basically just monotone-black underwear. I’d rather look fat and cute and non-girdled, thanks.

    I concur. Reject what my friend Lana calls “the tyranny of the flattering!” Trying on a daily basis to look your most tall, your most thin, your most non-threatening, professional but fun, sexy but not slutty, *and* age-appropriate is exhausting. And what’s the point? Somewhere, at some point, the earth will shake, and you’ll still get blamed for the rubble.

A quick assignment

1) Take a look at this picture.

2) Read the accompanying short article.

3) Then read the comments. Yes, I know, there are over 300 of them. Here’s a handy trick I learned in college: Pay attention to what comes first and last and skim what’s in between. Or, to get straight to the point, relax your eye to see only the word “health/y.”

Whoa, right? Who knew it mattered that women who are paid to look a particular way are “healthy” — and also that we all agree about what that word means? Maybe I’m sensitive to this issue because I’ve been so recently immersed in the randomness of cancer. My father was far less healthy than my uncle and he died three years older. From farther away, their deaths are indistinguishable, despite one’s purported health and the other’s neglect.

Another example comes courtesy of Jezebel: Carrie Fisher, who, as she puts it, used to be “pretty” and isn’t anymore. Of course, when she was bikini-ready, she was on ten kinds of drugs, and she’s now fat because of psychiatric treatments that keep her moderately sane. (“This is my medication overweight. I barely eat anything and I wind up looking like I’ve been combing the city for donuts.”)

All of which is to say: Health is not as easy to read as we assume it is from a person’s physique.

Okay, I hear you saying, rolling your eyes. But these people are exceptions! Or, as my friend Jenn put it, “The AMA would disagree with you.”

I’m sure it would. But that doesn’t make the AMA right. Jenn and I went on to discuss the issue:

me: these things are averages, not destinies. in any event, i don’t think a woman’s health has any impact on her ability to model clothes. skinny or fat, i think the only question is Does she look good? and Do the clothes appear to advantage on her body?

Jennifer: I agree. Also, i’ve seen enough runway shows to confidently say that size zero models still have cellulite

me: … thank you, honey.

My favorite comment, which I think takes the health fixation to its natural extreme, says, without any apparent irony, “Models ideally would be women who ate right, exercised regularly and managed their stress.”

ROLE MODELS, ideally, should eat right, exercise regularly, and manage their stress. MODELS should show up, look purty, date Leonardo diCaprio, and be of whatever size works for them professionally. Models are more than billboards. But they are less than superheroes. I don’t care if Kate Moss has a coke habit the same way that I don’t care if politicians get their kicks from necrophilia (though I draw the line at screwing with socks on).

Diabetes! Heart disease! OBESITY EPIDEMIC! I’m just saying it so you don’t have to. But feel free to say anything else.

Olympic Madness

This is like the movie version of My Fair Lady, with the studio casting Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews and then using Marni Nixon’s voice: the little girl who sang in the opening ceremonies was the face China was looking for, but the voice was provided by a less adorable seven-year-old. God, how depressing. We’ll never get over our perfection-obsession, will we?

(Because I can’t resist the Biblical reference, I have to admit this quote also sprang to mind: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”)

Predictably, people are pissed:

The outrage was especially heated over the cold calculation used to appraise the girls. “Please save the last bit of trueness in our children,” wrote one person with an online name of Weirderhua. “They think Yang Peiyi’s smile is not cute enough? What we need is truth, not some fake loveliness! I hope the kids will not be hurt. This is not their fault.”

Another person added: “Children are innocent. Don’t contaminate their minds!”

Though I’ll happily debate the “children are innocent” canard, otherwise I agree. It’s this kind of stage management that makes people either strive for the unattainable or become cynical about everything. Like the New Yorker article about photoshopping, which made it clear you can never fully trust what you see. Do you think there would be so much conspiracy theorizing — about the moon landing, 9/11, and Britain’s 7/7 — otherwise?

The idea that a child needs to not only have the best voice but the best look is American Idol-type nonsense. So is the idea that no female Olympian is complete, not even with a gold medal, if we don’t know that she also has a husband and a baby in the wings, as a Johnson & Johnson ad last night made clear, or is about to start a family, as the media and announcers during the women’s beach volleyball competition kept stressing. Already they have to compete in bikinis, so that we can objectify them even as we admire them.

Seriously, isn’t it enough that these athletes do unreal things with their minds and bodies to perform for us on an international stage? Do we really need them to shrink back to human size once the cameras are off?