Saturday, February 4, 2012

Love, hate and Philly Mag

I have a love-hate relationship with Philly magazine.  Each month when it arrives, I devour it--I get excited to vicariously participate in the adventures of the locally fabulous, and then, just as quickly, become kind of disgusted with myself for buying into the hype.   Call it the locally fabulous hangover, if you will.

I'm starting to believe that I prefer my hangovers to originate from beer and wine, or, at a minimum, from a party to which I was actually invited.  I mean, seriously.  If I'm going to have the hangover, I'd like to have had the fun first.

I realize that the term "locally fabulous", especially as applied to the Philadelphia metro area, is kind of an oxymoron.   It's Philadelphia, for crying out loud, where "fabulous" is often synonymous with "wearing clean sweatpants to the Outback".  Okay, that was mean.  If I'm being slightly more charitable, I'd describe it as a city with a massive runner-up complex, the Jan Brady to New York/LA's Marcia Brady.  I'm speaking on no authority whatsoever, but I'm fairly confident that fabulous in Philly is roughly equivalent to C-list in New York and LA. I'm thinking Kathy Griffin territory, here (who, incidentally, I do think is kind of fabulous)

Before I get lynched by the Philadelphia faithful- I am one of you.  I was born in this area.  I've lived here my entire life- initially by birth, and then consistently reinforced by a series of (some good, some questionable) choices.  I've spent my entire life trying to get out of here, but yet, I've never pulled the trigger.   My relationship with this area is probably the single best illustrative example of a love-hate relationship in my life.  I love the grittiness of this area.  I love the work-a-day, blue collar ethic.  I love the passion.  I love the historical significance.  I love the fact that it's completely okay to throw shit at Santa Claus.  I don't understand cities that don't have such ingrained passion.  There's plenty that I'm not so fond of, too- but I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked, so I'll refrain.  I don't hold up so well in street fights.  My jacked-up nose is evidence of that.

Side note: that statement made me sound much cooler/tougher than I actually am.  I broke my nose in the karate class that my mom made me take for self-defense purposes before heading off to the rough streets of Villanova.  I couldn't block for crap, and, for that matter, couldn't punch either.  After my nose cast was removed (yes, I really had a nose cast, and yes, it was as psychologically damaging to a 17 year old girl as you'd reasonably expect) Mom bought me some pepper spray instead and wished me the best.

Shockingly, I digress.

The point of this rambling is that I take umbrage to the glorification of "fabulousness"-- even if it is graded on a curve for the Philadelphia market.

That sounds harsh.  I know a good number of truly fabulous people in the real world, and these people should be glorified--because their fabulousness is based on actual substance and not relational bullshit.  These people should be considered out of scope from the full scale rant on which I am about to embark.

Who exactly decided that these people were better than anyone else?  Who exactly decided that these were the people who get to choose who is worth knowing and who should be relegated to the sidelines? Who exactly decided that these were the people who would ultimately decide if I'm worth knowing or not?

WTF.  Repeat after me.  WTF.

I read an article in this month's issue that profiled a woman who is apparently the person to know on the Main Line social scene.  I'll admit that I'd love to have a drink with her- she sounds totally amusing--but I surely would not pass muster.  Not the point.   What annoys   enrages me are the methods by which  "fabulous" women earn their titles, and the methods by which this "fabulousness" is repeatedly reinforced---all while reinforcing social stratification.  Awesome.

Apparently, what it takes to be a fabulous woman worth knowing is the following:  Be born white, at least moderately well-connected, and pretty.  Get enough of an education to look good on paper.  Get boob job and whatever other cosmetic procedures are required.   Absolutely, be blonde or get blonde.  Become the second or third wife or a wealthy man considerably older than yourself.  Have at least 2 children, a nutritionist and a personal trainer.  Work the social circuit.  Develop your "brand". Divorce.  Re-brand.  Become queen of a kingdom where who you know is more important than what you are.

And then get usurped by the next big thing in two years.

I have a little girl.   I worry about what she sees.  I worry about she reacts to what she sees.  I worry about how she uses this information to  frame her own definition of a woman of character.  This is not what I want her to see.

Allow me to be a bit more blunt.  I'd rather set fire to my own house while I sit in it than raise a daughter who thinks it's fabulous to be a queen bee (or queen bee lady-in-waiting) in a shallow kingdom that creates and perpetuates its own bullshit-- and expects others to bow to the throne.  I'd also like her to actually ACCOMPLISH something meaningful before she becomes supremely proud of herself.  Maybe that's just me.

This, incidentally, is probably precisely why I'm never going to end up on any Most (fill-in-your-obnoxious-adjective-here) List.  I'm okay with that.

It bothers me enough when I see messages like this in the media, but I find it even more troublesome when I see it in the course of everyday life.  Which I do.  More than I should.  I'd run out of fingers and toes to count on if asked to quantify how many times I've been told in the last year that Mr./Ms. XYZ is awesome, and I should really try to make sure they like me.  That my life would be better if I was deemed worthy by the elite Mr./Ms. Fabulous.

Again, WTF.

Shall I bring my best dress to the cleaners?  Get my makeup done?  Be witty and charming and smart (but not too smart) and say the right things, and only the right things, and pray that I make the cut?  Fail.

Life's not sorority rush-- which, incidentally, I survived in the mid 90s by a mutual choice between me and a group of quality girls that shared core beliefs, if not every opinion.  For the record, it's the lack of mutual choice in these types of setups that have me running for the hills.   I'm too old, too tired, and too time constrained to put myself in situations where my role is to pretty myself up and pray to be chosen-- in a relationship that would likely be unilateral.  Let me get this straight- I am supposed to like you, because you're better than me, and I should just reallyreallyreally hope that you like me?

I'm packing up my ball and going home, kids.  I'm not least not anymore.  I spent too many years trying to be the version of me that I thought was most suitable for mass consumption--only to realize that I no longer consistently realized who I was.  I have a little girl who watches my every move- this crap doesn't fly.  I have a masters degree, a respectable job, and a lot of opinions (!!), but none of this matters if I can't show my daughter that if you don't love and respect yourself, you can't really love or respect anyone else.

I think it was the great poet Jewel (ha!!  please kill me) who said something along the lines of "people living their lives on TV.  They say they're better than you, and you agree."  You may say you're better than me.  I don't agree- at least not until you get to know me, and I get to know you, and we can actually make some sort of informed decision.

Rant over.   Next time, I'll be less serious, i promise.

No silence, no consent,

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