Category Archives: modesty

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

Fame! I’m gonna live forever!



Glorious actresses graphic via NR

Film Experience emperor Nathaniel R. has shined the “Reader’s Spotlight” on me and I am now famous throughout the land. Behold, my splendor:

“Imagine yourself as supreme empress of the cinema. What would you do?
I would…

  • + Declare a moratorium on anything to do with superheros, vampires, or superhero vampires. (Exceptions may be given for pre-adolescent Swedish vampires and Lisbeth Salander.) Sequels would have to be justified in a five-page paper about what their purpose is beside the making of more money to be spent on more sequels.
  • + Have Pixar lead workshops on Film 101 that are mandatory for any director, writer, or producer whose movies score in the red on Rotten Tomatoes or MetaCritic.
  • + Take away all of Tim Burton’s CGI toys.
  • + Double the budget of Focus Features (and appoint myself to their development department).
    + Bench Michael Bay and divert his money to Amy Pascal to produce several strong, smart, female-driven comedies.”


There’s more, including my thoughts on what Tarantino does better than anyone else, “When Harry Met Sally,” and red-headed women. He also asked who’d write the movie of my life (Tamara Jenkins) and who would play me in it (what’s that little girl from Curly Sue doing these days?) though that part of the Q&A didn’t make the cut. Check out what did here. And thanks again, Nathaniel!

Maiden America: Virgins in Film, 2010

True Grit and Black Swan have, superficially, not much in common. One is a blackly humorous Western where men shoot at each other, and at cornbread, with little provocation. The other is a ballet melodrama of the old school where most of the violence is self-inflicted.

One is literary & masterful; the other is (almost) camp.

One is funny; the other is — well, also funny. Certainly it makes its critics hilarious.

I enjoyed both to varying degrees but I recently realized that they do have a very interesting theme in common. They’re about virgins. What are virgins capable of? Can they be taken seriously, by men, as avengers? How about as artists?

In True Grit the two main male characters, played beautifully by Matt Damon and Jeff Bridges, don’t know what to make of Mattie, the 14-year-old heroine who comes to them for help in tracking down her father’s killer. She’s too old to be a child and yet she’s not fuckable either — she’s called ugly at one point, and she wears her father’s over-sized clothes. Her in-between status unsettles them. Matt Damon’s character, the blustering Texas ranger, tries to solve the problem one way or the other: he turns her over and spanks her. She refuses to react like a child. Though humiliated, she refuses to cry, and by continuing to act like an adult — albeit an unfuckable one — she earns the respect of both men.

In Black Swan, which is much sillier and more over-the-top, the question seems to be, Can a virgin make art? Does a woman need to be sexually experienced to portray depth of emotion on stage? This is funny to me since I consider ballet to be profoundly unsexy, but here it’s a real dilemma. Nina (Natalie Portman’s character) is hemmed in on one side by a mother who infantilizes her and on the other side by a creepy French ballet teacher who sticks his tongue down her throat and tells her to touch herself, or she won’t be able to dance the starring role.

Once you start looking for virgins in 2010, you see them everywhere. The teenage daughters in The Kids Are All Right and Please Give (two of my favorite movies of the year so far) both gave earnest, moving performances; the teenage daughter in, and heroine of, Winter’s Bone, another of my favorites, was the raw force that propelled that film forward to its resolution, which is almost unwatchable, except you can’t look away. There was no vanity in any of those performances, or in those of Hailee Steinfeld or Natalie Portman. And that is pretty impressive.

More impressive: Their virtue isn’t introduced only to be overthrown, in the manner of American Pie or similar. You could argue, in a way, that — SPOILER ALERT! — Nina even dies to preserve hers. The sexuality of these young women isn’t the focus of any of the films; largely, in fact, it’s incidental, which is no small feat in Hollywood. Only Nina is really the subject of the male gaze, and it kind of — SPOILER ALERT AGAIN! — kills her. Through penetration, of course. The Freudians probably have been having a field day with that movie.

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.

The purity of childhood

This NYT article showcases — and, naturally, frets about — the young, female star of a violent movie. Not because she is violent, but because she uses naughty words.

the filmmakers are bracing for the reception that the movie and Ms. Moretz may receive. In Britain, where the movie was released at the end of March, David Cox of The Guardian assailed its creative team and Ms. Moretz’s mother for allowing that swear word spoken by Chloë to become “acceptable parlance for children in mainstream movies,” adding, “We’ll be the poorer for it.”

Now, I don’t know which bit of verbal raunch is being referenced here. Perhaps it’s garden variety (“shit,” “bitch”). Perhaps it’s what Kurt Vonnegut in Mother Night called “the most offensive compound word in the English language.”

(Speaking of Vonnegut, let’s hear what he has to say on the impact of salty talk:

There is the word “motherfucker” one time in my Slaughterhouse-Five, as in, “Get out of the road, you dumb motherfucker.” Ever since that word was published, way back in 1969, children have been attempting to have intercourse with their mothers. When it will stop no one knows.)

God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut. I hope that, when you got to Heaven, they gave you a perch with a good view of all the nonsense that goes on down here.

Regardless, is this really something to get all yelpy about? Me, I love “bad language.” The more creatively vulgar, the better. Cursing features prominently in some of my favorite movies. And what makes me particularly disappointed in stuffy old Mr. David Cox of the Guardian is that British profanity is even more gleeful and entertaining than the American kind.

When I was thirteen, the same age as this tender young actress, I could turn the air around me so blue you would think Cookie Monster had exploded. I turned out okay and so did my friends, who were occasionally shocked but usually on board. “A word after a word after a word is power,” says Margaret Atwood, who is one savvy lady, and who understands that for young girls especially saying what folks don’t expect them to is an excellent way to be not just looked at but seen.

The article goes on:

Mr. Vaughn said this kind of condemnation was hypocritical because it attacked the movie’s language while essentially forgiving its violence. “I was like, ‘Does it not bother you that she killed about 53 people in this film?’” he said. “I’m like, ‘Would you rather your daughter swore, or became a masked vigilante killer?’ They’re going, ‘Yeah, I don’t know.’”

Open wide …

Off I go, in mere minutes now, to the Why to do what I call my slut exercises. No, I don’t mean “yoga,” although I challenge you to get on a mat with a rope and a couple soft blocks and not let your imagination get the better of you. I mean actual exercises.

As required by the contract I signed when I joined the Why in January, I met with my large, buff trainer again. Frankly I’d been kind of jazzed — he had told me I had to go run on a treadmill or similar three times a week and dammit, I had done so, and I was proud. But he didn’t even inquire after my progress. No, he had one simple question for me:

Upper body or lower body?

Uh. Excuse me? Can we leave my body alone please? It doesn’t like to be looked at, used, or, worst of all, “toned.”

With the grimace that always accompanies picking the lesser of two evils, I said, “Lower body.” And the trainer led me through a humiliating series of “exercises,” several of which necessitated spreading my legs. I tried to tell him ladies don’t do that — ladies should be able to hold a dime between their knees at all times, in fact — but he was too busy using words like “abductor” and “adductor” to hear me.

One word, however, he could not remember. “Facing the mirror, you take this medicine ball and you … what’s that ballet thing?” I looked at him like he was crazy: do I look like the sort of girl who was interested in dipping gracefully while holding a medicine ball? “Plie,” I said. “Right!” he said. “I gotta write that down.”

And so, face aflame, off I go to the Why three times a week to “plie” through these tortures, at the end of which I can only hope my thighs with be strong enough to support my fragile and wounded spirit.