29 Nov 2010

Those Who Spell it "Jenn" ...

I received an e-mail recently from MySpace about my account and my first thought was, "I have a MySpace account?"

I doubt I'm alone there. How many of us jumped on that bandwagon, discovered it was just for teens, musicians and people who write their names like they were Anime characters (e.g. ◊×××♥Äñgêlïñå♥×××◊ ) and promptly forgot the site's existence shortly thereafter?

I went hunting and indeed found an account that I had created and abandoned at least four+ years ago. Even though the picture of me (as shown above) was probably from 2006, I swear I have aged twenty years since it was taken. Oh gah. I need to get my hands on whatever Paul Rudd has been eating / bathing in / praying to that keeps him from looking any older than he did when he filmed Clueless 15 years ago (it's been 15 years!? Oh gah again).

But some things do not change. The only entry on my MySpace page was in the About Me section (imagine that), and it states:

Those who spell it "Jenn":
  • Murder puppies
  • Send e-mails all in caps or Comic Sans
  • Have diaper breath
  • Kiss with their eyes open
  • Refuse to give up their bus seat to the elderly
  • Claim your funny stories as their own
  • Choose not to replace the toilet paper roll
  • Take karate lessons
  • Eat babies
  • Think Star Wars sucks
  • Buy thong underwear for their 8-year old nieces
  • Go to Richmond Street clubs
  • Don't yet know how to use an apostrophe
  • Enjoy morning radio "personalities"
  • Didn't care when Arrested Development was cancelled
  • Recently said the phrase, "Think outside the box."
  • Always ask what you got on a test, but never tell you their own score
  • Televise golf
  • "Need" at least seven bridesmaids at their weddings
  • Reek of Exclamation! perfume
  • Never had a crush on someone that was purely based on their intellect
Yep, that's still about right. My dislike for seeing my name spelled "Jenn" instead of "Jen" and my dislike for so many things on that list are still alive and well. Way to be a consistently cranky, self-obsessed bitch.

Account deleted. We hardly knew ye, MySpace.


28 Nov 2010

There Is No Freaking Way ...

... that this would ever happen in real life:

I mean, have any of you ever seen a mom win any game of Wii, let alone all of them?

My bet is that she removed the batteries from the other remotes. Moms may, as a rule, suck at video games - but they're not stupid.

And that is my Sexist Thought of the Day.


26 Nov 2010

Lay Off Oprah: We've Probably Always Sucked

Tonight, the images of the pandemonium that is Black Friday are rolling in on the news. For the sophisticates out there who do not know what Black Friday is (in other words, you European readers), Black Friday is the day after US Thanksgiving that kicks off the holiday shopping season. It is celebrated with big discounts and sales at nearly every retail location in the States, but most notably at department stores like the anus of America, Wal-Mart. The sales promise to be so good that people actually camp outside the stores in order to be among the first stampeders to get through the door. The name supposedly either reflects how jammed the sidewalks are (that they become a blur of black) or that stores which might have been losing revenues finally get "into the black" from sales from this day alone. In other words, Black Friday is America's Ode to Consumption.

That is, if you don't believe that Oprah's "Favourite Things" Show has already secured that title.

Very recently, Oprah did an unprecedented two "Favourite Things" shows. Europeans, I will translate again: Every holiday season, Oprah, She Who Sets The Lady Agenda, showcases products that are her "favourites" from the year, and everyone in the audience gets them. It is a major, major, major coup to be in the audience for that show, as the haul is totally phenomenal (Random Oprah Fact: Medics are actually in the aisles in case their assistance is needed). As a billionaire with EVERYTHING available to her, you can kind of expect that her favourite things are a tad different than, say, mine. "Everyone in the audience is getting DISCOUNTED VODKA, a DVD copy of GIDGET and a case of CHEF BOYARDEE MINI RAVIOLI!!!!"

Even if you do not watch Oprah regularly (and I count myself among that smug group), the Favourite Things show is a must-watch, if only for the study of hilarious, unbridled human behaviour. It is the show that animated gifs are made of. Take a look:

I am of three minds while watching these episodes:

  1. I am embarrassed for us, as humans, and our lose-our-shit ways when it comes to free or cheap stuff. We are a gross species who would be so much better as a whole without this rampant lust for material goods and mindless consumerism.
  2. I am eager and willing to make fun of this spectacle on a purely visual level, sans social commentary. So. Much. Material.
  3. I am just plain giddy while watching this.
To your disappointment, this post is mainly about #3. While there were certainly moments that I shook my head over the absurdity of it all (screaming over that herb saver? C'mon, now. I have that and it's not that great) and certainly rewound my PVR to cackle at the reaction of the gays men in the audience, I have to make this confession:

My hair stands up when I watch Oprah's "Favourite Things."

Despite myself and my misgivings about the drooling materialism that these shows represent, my hair stood up to the point that my arms looked like anorexic porcupines throughout both episodes. If you've been a regular reader of this blog, you've got to know that as a part-Spaniard (who is therefore "blessed" with thick hair ... everywhere), the raising of the hair on my body is a feat against gravity and physics. If my calculations of hair weight vs. gravitational pull are accurate (AND THEY ARE) it shouldn't ever happen. And yet, watching people get free stuff produced a bodily effect that defied science.

As much as I laugh at the crying, heaving, convulsing people in that audience - all of whom, by the way, were chosen because they give of themselves nearly everyday (more than I or you can probably say) - I have to admit that if *I* were there, I would also be a screaming lunatic. Diamond earrings! iPad! Car! Cashmere! Brownie pan! Cruise! Netflix! Oh, yes, please. But it's not *just* that I'd be getting all that stuff, it's because everyone else is also *soooo* excited, and the energy builds with every holla' by Bellowing Oprah™. Plus, I'm sort of a mirror personality who has a tendency to absorb and reflect the feelings of those around me. This is especially embarrassing while watching bad TV - if someone on the screen is dejected (and it doesn't matter if it's Meryl Streep or Snooki), and you turn and look at me, I'll be unwittingly making a sad clown face that reflects whatever is going on with the character of the show. Humiliating.

[/off-topic tangent]

Anyway, jealous people are very quick to shit on Oprah over this show and its promotion of consumerism / materialism / greed. I frankly don't think this show really makes that much of an impact in that matter - if anything, it just reveals our pathetic true selves. Black Friday craziness (which I don't personally participate in) would happen with or without Oprah. The enthusiasm for STUFF runs deep within us. In other words, I am here to tell you that Oprah didn't start the fire. It was always burnin' since the world was turnin'.

Before I was working from home doing the freelance thing, I worked at PR and marketing agencies - neither of which should ever be considered glamourous gigs (one day, I will relay some of the more humiliating and disturbing stories from agency life). It often meant being among the people at trade shows or industry events and shelling out crap - the free'er the better! It didn't matter if it was grainy soy milk or a not-a-company-you'd-care-about branded keychain or what turned out to be the holy grail of swag - a pen that was also a laser pointer - people WANTED IT. I'd witness grown adults act like complete idiots to get their hands on said random objects - and behave even worse in order to get more than one. People pushed, people shoved, people filled their pockets like pen-hungry hobos, people lied ("uh, I'm just getting a couple for my friends who are in the washroom," said the loner) - all to get this bullshit thing that they didn't even know they wanted before attending this marketing function.


That, sadly, is the DNA of our species. We suck and have ever since someone dangled a free apple in front of our faces in the garden of Eden.

We don't have to be that way, but we certainly can't blame Oprah for it. At least Oprah's shows bring out joy (the kind that makes people forget they're on national TV and inspires them to do the Running Man in the aisles). But when you look at the faces of most of the people who are charging through the stores on Black Friday or scrambling to get free samples at trade shows, it's not joy that they're expressing. What's surging through their veins is often far darker - like feelings of entitlement, greed, and in some cases, murderous rage. Black Friday, indeed.

Image Sources: Oprah.com; TrendzInfo.com


24 Nov 2010

No Offense to Betty White ...

... but this familiar face would be the best SNL host EVER, and I'm not just saying that as giant weirdo who has a childish adoration for all things Jim Henson.

The use of air quotes at the very end actually made me shriek a little. Oh, way to be awesome, Sesame Street writers.

I would totally stay up in on a Saturday night to watch this.

Support our dear Cookie Monster in his quest to host SNL! It will be the most important thing you'll do today, I'm sure.


21 Nov 2010

The Morning After Checklist

After having a few* drinks the night before, my morning involves:

  1. Checking I didn't write anything vulgar in my Facebook status or on anyone's wall
  2. Ensuring I didn't out-of-the-blue message anyone on Facebook
  3. Confirming I didn't tweet anything particularly obnoxious on Twitter
  4. Making sure I didn't share any "honest" opinions on my usual message boards
  5. Checking to see that I didn't send off any e-mails to people I haven't talked to in a long while, or any people, for that matter
  6. Confirming I didn't text confessional things to friends or clients
  7. Scanning my phone record to see if I called anyone
  8. Ensuring I didn't blog any "You Know What, World?" rants
  9. Checking to see if I blipped any tragic or embarrassing songs across my network
  10. Making sure I didn't buy anything on eBay
Remember when there was just "drink and dial"? Oh, the good old days.

* A few drinks last night consisted of five bottles of wine split between four people, one of whom only had a couple of glasses. That person was not me.

Image Source: Someecards


19 Nov 2010

When Not a Crazy Person ... #1

When I'm not being a nutbag in the midst of a housewife project, I (as of this very moment):

... spend my day doing things like this:


I'm on deadline and working on six projects between four clients ... busy. And you're spending this time blogging because ...? Shut up, voicey!

... while listening to things like this:

"Take on the World" by Wavves. Reminds me of that time between high school and being an adult.

"Don't Haunt This Place" by The Rural Alberta Advantage. (Transparency Alert: The lead singer of the RAA is a friend of mine. That said, this band is legit awesome. This particular song is couple years old, but the new album, scheduled for release in early 2011, will knock your socks off. Literally. You will need to buy more socks.)

Warning: The language on this next one is probably NSFW, unless you work in a really laid back office or on a boat.

"Homecoming" by Teenagers. It's like a totally vulgar, hipster version of Grease's "Summer Lovin'"

"Dogs of L.A." by Liz Phair. When I was 17, I wanted to be Liz Phair. I think she's still my teen idol.

"Bye Bye Love" by the Everly Brothers. They were just shy pups in this clip! It may be ancient, but this song still kicks it. The music is a major reason why I loved immersing myself in the 50s.

... and taking breaks to read things like this:
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. It's a book by a former vegan who found that adding some animal products (*not* factory-farmed ones) into her diet improved her health and even had environmental benefits that she hadn't realized through a vegan diet. I'm clearly looking for any intellectual excuse I can to still incorporate certain meats into my life. There were moments in the 50s Housewife Experiment where we were having bacon TWICE a day. It is very, very, very hard to break the bacon cycle, people.
Math Doesn't Suck by Danica McKellar. Your eyes aren't deceiving you - that is indeed Winnie Cooper on the cover. Every boy in my Jr. High class (and probably university dorm) had a thing for Winnie Cooper. It turns out that she's not only the brunette of every young man's fantasies but also a true math geek. This book is aimed at 12-year old girls, which is perfect, as that's about the age that I mentally clocked out of math class. I actually don't like being bad at anything (except skiing, I am JUST FINE leaving that one alone), so I'm attempting to improve my craptacular math skills under the tutelage of Kevin Arnold's girlfriend. STOP JUDGING ME.

.... and watch things like this:
Being Erica. One of the smartest and most heartfelt [time-travelling] shows on TV. Plus, it films in my neighbourhood!

Community. So funny, so quick. 30 Rock was my favourite TV program, but I think this is beating it. I don't think there's anyone out there who can deliver a line quite like Donald Glover can.

Top Chef (please don't tell me any spoilers! We're a couple weeks behind in Canada!). It makes me want to cook more ... or at least literally run around in my kitchen as much as possible.

... all while wearing things like this:

That last one was unexpected (and not really matchy), eh? I'm not sure what triggered the purchase this past spring, but I think those might be mid-life crisis boots. Dr. Martens + Liz Phair songs ... yup ... it's a mid-life crisis, people.

... and fueling myself with things like this (mostly veggie and vegan - except for a certain component of that first pic):
Breakfast: Pancakes with homemade strawberry sauce and my rationed two slices of bacon. Lunch: Tabbouleh salad. Dinner: Stir fry with wild grains, nappa cabbage, carrot, mushrooms, onion, basil, garlic, soy sauce, and a bit of tofu.

... and trying not to cry over things like this:
WARNING: It links to a photojournalistic piece about a young boy and his mother living - and dying - with his terminal cancer. It's not only heartbreaking but also disturbingly graphic.
It's just one more reason why donating to cancer research matters.

... but also enjoying a laugh over things like this:

Clearly, all the writers of Star Trek: The Animated Series *must* have been in on George Takei's worst kept secret. Otherwise, this is just horrible, unfunny, groan-worthy dialogue (and winking) - and I can't believe that could happen in a sci-fi animated series.

So, what does your day look like?

Image Source: Urlesque


17 Nov 2010

Fresh From the Oven: A Self-promotional Link!

There's a very quick Q & A about my 50s Housewife Experiment on Momlogic (it should be said that I'm probably a better demographic fit for a website called Childfreechaos.com - but I was happy to chat with Momlogic-ians, of course!).

Within the article there's a spot of news I've been keeping buttoned since July. There's still nothing official (and will possibly result in nothing but my old standbys, rejection and humiliation), but, yes - I'm in the midst of working on things that may contribute to the further downfall of culture. Will let you know more as things firm up or painfully die.


Image Source: EcoStains


Oh, Brain, You Are So Weird

Last night I had a dream that my former boyfriend, Ashton Kutcher (not really my former boyfriend and not even someone I ever think about), and I had to take a group of daycare children to an ice rink. Unfortunately, we had no idea where we were going and the herd of us were just wandering around the streets of Toronto. I, however, couldn't care less as all I wanted to do was WIN! ASHTON! BACK! and spent the entire dragged-out time flirting with him.

We finally find the ice rink and rather than help get the skates on the kids, I decide, ever so dramatically, to show Ashton exactly how I feel: by performing a heartfelt solo figure skating routine to this long forgotten song of all things:

Ugh. How tragically Canadian ... ice rinks and Luba. My subconscious might as well have also thrown Mr. Dressup and portaging a canoe in there for good measure.

Anyway, my dream got a little foggy after that - all I know is that my woo'ing of the Kutcher was not successful, and if anything, made things more awkward. Thanks, brain, for finally throwing a dash of reality into the mix.


Image Source: SodaHead


15 Nov 2010

Let's Not Get Too Smug

The things one can talk about while doing a 50s Housewife Experiment could probably take all year, so every so often, I like to re-explore little bits of it ...

... Like what it's like to be flipping through the 1952 Spring / Summer Sears catalogue and come across this:

Asbestos ... beauty that lasts ... beauty that protects ... beauty that kills! Try asbestos on your home ... watch how it laughs at the weather ... and at that unexplained breathing condition you've developed. All for less than $0.12 a square foot!

Oh dear.

While we all might giggle at the 1950s-ians and their asbestos products, lead paint and strange penchant for marshmallows in entrees, I'm sure our grandchildren will have plenty to mock us with. My bets are on aspartame, toothpaste whitening ingredients and Prime Minister Justin Bieber.

What do you think? What will the 2010s (is that what we're calling ourselves? Maybe, the O-10s? Two-tens? Any word on our brand?) look like fools over?

And speaking about being smug and / or shamed - one person has just won the right to get into the fetal position be very proud - the winner of my draw for the Good Housekeeping Book of Salads. And that person is Pattie - Chicagoland, IL!

Congrats, Pattie! Your dream of wowing friends, family members and evil spirits with tomato aspics and a recipe called "Ice Cream Salad" that actually involves eight radishes (no lie!) is about to come true! Yay!


14 Nov 2010

Overheard ... Not Really How Ad Campaigns Get Started

I went out last night with Jacquelyn for a spot of gossip and we had a couple of drinks at a neighbourhood bar (literally just two drinks - it was a far cry from inspiring Arthur 3: To Cirrhosis, With Love) . While walking home from the rendezvous, two trashed twenty-somethings are ahead of me, having just come out of one of Canada's great institutions, Tim Hortons. One girl starts to sing into her doughnut (something I may or may not have done myself ... but while sober):

Girl in Little Dress: *singing badly to the tune of "Cruel Summer" by Bananarama* It's a cruller, cruller autumn ... oh oh oh ... shoving it into my mouth ... cruller, cruller autumn ... soon you'll be gone ... and I'll have to buy another one ...

Girl in Very High Heels: OMG ... You know what? They should use that! They should use that! We should tell them! I'm serious - that would be the most best commercial ever!

Girl in Little Dress: Really?

Girl in Very High Heels: *Grabs the songbird by the arm and turns her around* Let's go back and tell them!

I don't know how this ended as I kept on walking, but I imagine that the marketing decision-makers for Tim Hortons - that being the midnight counter staff - were thoroughly impressed and didn't at all hate their lives at that moment.

Image Source: Candy Critic


12 Nov 2010

Vintage Cookbook Winners + A Chance For More

Happy Friday!

Notice anything different around here?

"Your inflated sense of self?"

Heh. Actually, I decided to ditch the flashing weird pictures that I used to have along the sides of the blog. They were admittedly rather obnoxious, slowed the site down and were possibly an epilepsy risk for some. Ahhh, it feels much cleaner in here already.

But enough about me, more about you!

A big thank-you goes out to those who gave my sister and her fiance such wonderful and thoughtful relationship advice in honour of their recent engagement. So much wisdom out there! The giddy couple has been loving the insight, all of which they appreciate and will promptly ignore take into consideration.

Everyone who commented was entered in a chance to win one of three vintage cookbooks from my personal collection. And here are the winners:

Serenity Love Sincere Peace Earth .... the Casserole Cookbook

Hippychic .... the Quick 'N' Easy Cook Book

Lauren .... the 10 P.M. Cook Book

Congrats, wieners! Now, you too, can cook ironically. To your families and friends: please accept my humble apologies for what your eyeballs and taste buds may be witness to in the near future. Patrick is always available should you want to console with someone who has been there.

If you didn't win anything, you still have a chance to scoop a horrible cookbook by simply leaving a comment in my Lessons from a Husband-Obsessed 50s Housewife post by 6 PM on November 15. Up for grabs is a 1958 Good Housekeeping's Book of Salads. Mmmm ... jellied, crazy, meat-infused salads. Good luck!

To get you in the mood for the weekend, here's a fitting old ad. If you ask me, there just aren't enough flute solos in beer commercials anymore:


11 Nov 2010

Things To Remember

Yesterday, I shared with you my most ridiculous and self-indulgent blog post ever (although I'm sure I'll best it before you know it - I have a knack for acting like a twit). Now, I'm awkwardly switching gears to touch on something completely different and not nearly as idea inspiring absurd as Patrick's Man Cage.

Today in Commonwealth countries and the Netherlands, we recognize Remembrance Day. In the U.S., it's Veteran's Day and in France, it's Armistice Day. In Germany, it's We Really Can't Be Trusted With Right-Wing Leadership Day. Aw, I kid, Germany. I like you .... now.**

**(Edited to say: Ack - I just don't have the heart / balls / other anatomical feature to leave that joke hanging there like that today. In all seriousness, the average German person was just as much a victim of expansionism and fascism and runaway government power as the rest of the world. I genuinely don't want to belittle that fact or appear like an ignorant dick. "Too late, Jen," said the masses.)

[Back to serious ...]

It was 92 years ago today that World War I - "the war to end war"- was officially over. As a society, we seem to be very good at coming up with catchy slogans and unfortunately very bad at living up to them. The estimated 55 Million people who died in World War II alone (which started just 21 years after World War I ended) is sad proof of this.

Today we think about and honour our fallen, those who served and those who still serve. They deserve our respect and reflection not just today, but every day.

This is not a pro-war sentiment. If anything, facing the grim reality of war should act as a deterrent for violent aggression of any kind. War should not be romanticized. It is not Andrews Sisters songs or handsome uniforms or brightly coloured flags. While we often see true examples of courage, determination and loyalty in the midst of it, war is a story of death and despair. It is brutally efficient in its ability to rip apart families, maim the body and spirit, and destroy human potential in ways we can never measure. We'll never know what marvelous possible inventions, cures, ideas, inspiring words, works of art and moments of happiness were stamped out with all those precious lives - military and civilian.

I'm reminded of this fact by some of my books (and no, I'm not thinking of all those cookbooks I have that could all basically share the title of Good Housekeeping's Book of Why We Now Have Food Stylists). Second in size to my shelf of 1950s housewife-focused material, is my collection of books and publications produced for the British and North American war wives of the 1940s.

Every one of these is amazing and interesting and worth sharing, but one especially stands out for me today.

They Can't Ration These
was written by Vicomte De Mauduit, a food enthusiast who considered himself a "wandering nobleman" and enjoyed life in France, England and America. Originally printed in 1940 (mine's a reprint), the book details all the ways a person can find unexpected food and fuel sources available in the wilds and country-side. With food and fuel scarcities being real problems for the people of wartime Britian (an issue that often fell on the shoulders of wives and mothers to resolve), Vicomte De Mauduit's tips on identifying and cooking things like wild grasses, roots and birds and information regarding which types of bark, plants and forest material could keep a fire going best may have saved, or at least, bettered countless lives when in the hands of industrious women. He even showed people how to have a little cheer, with tips on making homemade wines, beer and the odd beauty product.

Vicomte De Mauduit was a person of greater stature than the average war wife and likely didn't always have the same concerns and needs that she did. And yet, he used his resources during this difficult time to get such a book out to her. Along with attempting to show others how they could fulfill their basic needs, Vicomte De Mauduit was also inspired to promote a sense of optimism of the future and better days, a time in which he hoped this information could continue to help people. In the book's preface, he says:

During the war [this book] will serve to relieve some of the strain on the nations' food supply and will teach those of us who will turn to the country-side for immunity from direct war destruction how to maintain life in the case of difficulties with regard to the carriage and distribution of food.

And when Peace will again come on Earth, the people of Britain, already made conscious through food rationing that meals no longer consist of a hot and then cold "joint with two veg", will find this book a practical and valuable guide to better things.
The little boost of cheer given by Vicomte De Mauduit is sharply flattened by news on the book's inside flap:

Vicomte De Mauduit wrote four cookery books, THEY CAN'T RATION THESE (1940) being the last. He is believed to have been captured by the Nazis after the Fall of France and to have died in Germany.
It makes your stomach flop to read that. He became another brilliant soul snuffed out (we presume, it's horrible that we don't even know for sure what happened to him) just like millions of other brilliant souls the world never had a chance to know to begin with.

And so, today, as we honour our soldiers present and past, consider taking a moment to also think about the other victims of war and the larger impact it has on our collective being. We owe it to our troops, the memories of those before us and the future of those ahead to think about this every time someone in a position of power attempts to rally a battle cry. Thinking about whether it is worth the cost - the real cost - is the very least we can do.

[I promise, my next post will be more cheery than this ... unless it's about a JELL-O salad, in which case, I apologize in advance for the depressing turn this blog has made.]

Image Sources: They Can't Ration These by Vicomte De Mauduit; Veterans Affairs Canada; Persephone Books


10 Nov 2010

The 50s Housewife Gets Way More Sarcastic Than Usual

If you thought I was a navel-gazer before, check out this post! I think I can see my spine!

During this round of the 50s housewife experiment, my blog was picked up by a feed or two and the experiments (both the original and the latest one) were mentioned on a few websites, some with much larger audiences than mine ... like here and here and here and here and here and here. Please – take a look! The rest of this post makes much more sense with that bit of context.

Getting the increased traffic was both exciting and terrifying. Knowing more eyeballs were watching added some pressure to "perform" – but that wasn’t what made my stomach feel achy – it was the Ring of Plenty all the unfiltered opinions, many none too complimentary, about me, Patrick and this very goofy "experiment."

If you’re going to share parts of yourself online, you have to expect criticism. I completely do. If I get to enjoy the nice things people say (and there have been some very nice things – thank you!!!), I have to expect some not-so-nice things will be said as well. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but both Patrick and I have pretty thick skins, a sense of humour about ourselves and a certain amount of openness to actually consider the validity behind the critiques. In fact, some of the comments were actually quite witty, and I love wit regardless of which side of the argument it falls.

The bulk of the conversations that I linked to above happened over a week ago, which means for most people, those threads are about as buried and forgotten as sweet Mark Linn-Baker’s career (I’ll save you the effort of clicking and / or Googling: He was Cousin Larry in Perfect Strangers).

But even though I realize that no one cares anymore, I’d like to clarify a few points brought up in some of the comments on those websites. After all, a *slobber ... drool* publisher could one day stumble onto this, and I’d hate to miss out on the opportunity to frankly explain what this book-worthy blog is all about and who this Jen But Never Jenn person really is.

A smart and classy woman would take the high road and continue along as if unaware of anything that's been said of her; a post like this is probably a bad idea. But it should come as no surprise to regular readers: I am not a smart and classy woman. So here’s the deal:

  • When I’m not being a publicity-seeking attention whore, I like to keep my husband, Patrick, in a small but comfortable cage in the den. I’ve decorated it with masculine tastes in mind – a brown, corduroy beanbag chair, a few jaunty denim throw pillows, and a neon Budweiser sign to act as a night light. By storing my husband in this setting for the majority of the year, I’m able to establish a control to which I can compare my highly scientific experiment results against.
  • I don’t consult with Patrick about whether I’m going to do a bizarre lifestyle project that impacts him in nearly every way nor does he get any say over the fact that I’ll be sharing it all on the friendly Internet. I’ll tell you what I tell him: It does what Jen demands of him or else it gets the hose again.
  • During our “normal” life together, Patrick never gets alone time. Even when in his cage, I force my presence on him. There’s no need to be courteous of my husband’s feelings because he doesn’t *have* any. Remember, I married a Patrick, not a Patricia.
  • The 50s housewife experiment brought nothing but misery to our home. We never laughed or smiled or had any sort of fun doing it. We actually had to pay actors to come by and pretend to be our friends (casting the role of "Baby Charlotte" introduced us to the world of the stage mom - now that was an education). Any references to positive feelings we had were fictionalized as to make me appear more bankable in the eyes of advertisers, publishers, Hollywood producers and Oprah.
  • I fully intend to demand a divorce if Patrick doesn’t immediately start liking capers.
  • Magazines, television and books from the 1950s are completely accurate reflections of what life was like then, just like magazines, television and books today completely capture modern life. Sometimes, I swear Cosmopolitan is just a reprint of my diary (especially the parts about always being on the look-out for new sex positions)!
  • Two weeks of living by advice from the 1950s has made me an expert in what life was realistically like for every woman in that era ever. Perhaps I should have explained: Before starting my 50s housewife experiment, I went through that spinning time-space travel machine from Contact. What may have seemed like two weeks for you, was actually a lifetime for me. It's true, just ask Jodie Foster.
  • I’ve submitted the contents of my blog to several medical and academic journals. The breakthrough research I conducted fetched such solid factual results that I think I actually have a shot at winning a Nobel Prize in a number of different science categories. The Nobel Prize in Literature is obviously in the bag.
  • I see your point – taking on the tasks that 1950s housewives did is just like writing a giddy blog about being a slave or living in a concentration camp. Frankly, I'm amazed they don't sell aprons that have "Arbeit macht frei" embroidered on them. When I passed that observation along to friends whose relatives perished in horrifying ways in said camps, it was applause all around. "What a sensitive, thoughtful and rational comparison," they remarked.
If reading between the lines is not one of your strengths, I’ll come right out with it and provide you with the true gay agenda of this blog. Here are the Ten REAL Lessons I was hoping to get across to the masses through my 50s Housewife Experiment:
  1. You should never explore subject matter that interests you in a fun or unusual way - and that goes double-true for professional writers who usually spend their day working on ad copy and manuals. That would be very, very silly and the world demands we act serious all the time about everything. Also: I should get a real job. And perhaps have some children.
  2. I hope to convince the world that women shouldn't have a choice about how they live their lives. I yearn for and demand a return to a time when women were pressured to have one kind of career, regardless of their personal interests, aspirations or skills.
  3. I want to be spanked - hard and often. The problem is, I just don't know how to tell my husband directly, so I'm hoping these round-about, public posts about JELL-O molds and radish roses will hopefully clue him in.
  4. The 1950s was the greatest decade ever. It didn’t matter if you were a woman or black or gay or socialist or an immigrant or suffering from a mental illness – the 1950s was an era where everyone was happy, experienced equality and could eat apple pie without abandon (it had no calories back then!).
  5. Feminism isn’t about choice – it’s about wearing pants – and I *hate* pants.
  6. If I lived in the 1950s, I wouldn't miss very much ... well, maybe my favourite TV shows - Two and Half Men, Big Bang Theory, and Sex and the City re-runs. At least I'd have Big Bopper tunes to keep a smile on my face.
  7. All technology is evil. iPhones, microwaves and horseless carriages will eat your soul.
  8. If you don’t like something about a particular era, you should disregard *everything* from that time. All advice, tips and values should be considered as backward and worthless as a slam dunk contest in the WNBA.
  9. Organ meat is highly underrated.
  10. If a group of people were pressured into homemaking and weren’t happy with that path, it therefore means that *all* people must have hated being a homemaker. Anyone who chooses to be a housewife today is either misguided or simple, and will one day turn into a less hot version of Unhappy Betty Draper - the only difference being that they'll never even have known the joys of a Don Draper dicking.
Here endeth the lesson. I hope that clears things up.

Har. And that is what the kids call "overkill."

Now, a true lesson? Life is better when you don't take yourself so seriously. The next time someone has something negative or peculiar to say about you, pull up a picture of yourself on MS Paint and go to town creating a visual representation of yourself that matches their perception. It's good old-timey fun. Even grapefruit baskets can get in on the action!

I want to thank the people who "got" the blog as I intended it and said so here or elsewhere. It's a bit scary to wade into a sea of snark and your comments were like little buoys that lit up the page and my day. I discovered quite a few of your own fun blogs in the process (like this one and this one and this one and this one) and they are now a part of my daily spin around the web. Heart, heart, heart. NOW WE ARE SO HAPPY, WE DO THE DANCE OF JOY!

And those of you who had a totally different perspective? You're a-ok, too. Like I said, some of your comments were genuinely entertaining to read and, as I just discovered, respond to. I also thank you for taking the time to speak your mind, even if I might totally disagree with it. Opinions are fun (and plentiful!).

Just a reminder - you still have chance to enter my two draws to win vintage cookbooks. One ends on November 11th and the other ends on November 15th! Even critical comments qualify - I hold no grudges (for real, I'm pretty much a grudge-free zone)!

Also - have you supported our friend Dave in his quest to raise $ for prostate cancer? Because unlike me and the entire contents of this post, what he's doing actually matters!

Keep smiling, Internet!


8 Nov 2010

It's Movember, Yo

Here's a totally-not-related-to-the-1950s kind of post, but with the experiment done, I'm allowed!

When it comes to raising awareness and funds for diseases, there appears to be two ways of going about it:

  • The lady way: running marathons, walking 10k, hosting giant galas
  • The man way: growing some facial hair
I don't want to be a traitor to my sex or anything, but I have to stand up and slow clap it for the gents (in my fantasy, I'm wearing a Letterman jacket - please feel free to visualize that too).

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, November is prostate cancer awareness month and the various charities that fight the disease have promoted something called Movember - a month of mustache (mo) growing. These mustache-growing warriors collect money from their hard-earned efforts which all then go to the cause of curb-stomping prostate cancer.

Patrick isn't growing a mustache. See, he kind of .... can't. I don't know what the deal is, but his face has basically refused to foster much follicle action above his upper lip. He can get it scratchy but not patchy.

If anyone in our home is going to grow a mustache, the responsibility sadly (and if you're my face - eagerly) falls to me. All I need is a week in the woods and I'm ready to blend into any fireman's reunion. I'm kind of not kidding. In those moments in life where I space out and think about things that will never happen, I've contemplated what my "personal luxury item" would be if I were ever on Survivor. I can never decide between Nair or just biting the bullet and bringing a razor. Those are the dilemmas that my brain spends its time working on. How amazing of it.

and .... [/tangent]

Prostate cancer is something that has impacted my family. We're really lucky though (well, we'd be luckier if my dad never had cancer to begin with but you know what I mean) - my dad is doing all kinds of wonderful now - still getting tested and still getting the occasional treatment - but his 60-year old butt is kicking prostate cancer ass. This wouldn't be the case without research and donations by everyday, awesome, beautiful, thoughtful folks like you.


A friend of ours, Dave, is growing his Mo - but he's also offering you something more if you donate at least $15: He'll draw your portrait! For that paltry sum and a pic of your choice, he'll turn you into a 2-D thing of beauty. He's doing this all through an official website set up by Prostate Cancer Canada, so you need not think this is some kind of scam by the good folks at Jen But Never Jenn.

The pic up top is one such pieces d'art. That's of my brother-in-law, Jason. Handsome, yes?

So, if you have $15 to spare (or more! He'll take more!) and a burning desire to see a cartoon version of yourself, please click the link. In the "message" part (after you've filled in your payment method), pop in your e-mail address so he can track you down and you can send him the picture you want cartoonized.

Update: Here's a toon of us from our wedding day!
Muchos muchos love to any of you who do this. You are good.


7 Nov 2010

Lessons From A Husband-Obsessed 50s Housewife

Before I begin yammering about the lessons that I learned from the husband-obsessed 50s Housewife Experiment, I want to make it clear that - just like the initial list of 50s housewife lessons - I'm not suggesting that these notes are specifically for wives-only - they're applicable to anyone, regardless of gender, occupation or marital status. Frankly, I'm not even comfortable suggesting that any of this should be considered advice for anyone at all. After all, I'm just some random loudmouth you came across on the Internet. I'm not Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz or any other FrankenGuru spawned in Oprah's Laboratory™.

That said, I took what I consider to be the best ten nuggets of wisdom from the past week and explained them below. Some are really simple and obvious and some will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. Well, probably not. You might, in fact, just find them all to be as pointless and as confusing as the Rogers ringback. That's OK.

1. Know Your Meat
We ate more meat this time around to satisfy Patrick's bloodlust palate. If you eat meat (and you don't have to) it's in your interest to know more about it. There's different ways to marinate, cook, rest and pair different cuts to capture the best flavour and / or texture of this protein. Some cuts are just as wonderful as others when prepared right, but available for way cheap. Don't know what's what? Talk to a butcher! They're fantastic and knowledgeable in their craft and happy to help you out. Do also know that the meat your grandparents ate likely isn't like the meat you're getting at the grocery store today. All this talk about antibiotics in feed and factory farming and effed up crap (of the literal variety) getting in our food supply isn't just for dirty hippies to be concerned about. Do check out the information available if you feel so inclined.[/lecture]
* Only getting the best when getting meat - keeping it.
* Asking the butcher stupid questions - keeping it.
* Eating meat nearly everyday - ditching it.

2. Salads ARE For Lovers
If you love your health, you'll add some more leafy greens to your daily diet. They were part of the "Basic 7" foods every housewife was suggested to serve her family each day - and she was encouraged to eat and serve more of them if she was concerned about her or her husband's weight. Consider this: the average waist size of the American woman in the 1950s was 25". Today, the average is 10" bigger. That sounds like an ExtenZe testimonial gone horribly wrong. In any case, I'm sort of inclined to take the wee-waisteds' advice on this one.
* Having at least one salad a day - keeping it.

***Because I'm so appallingly desperate for attention nice, if you comment in this post, you'll be entered in a draw for a chance to WIN a copy of Good Housekeeping's Book of Salads (here's a lovely picture from within it. Mmm!) Please refer to my other vintage cookbook giveaway regarding the condition of this prize and the fact that you'll need to provide some way that I can track you down if you win. Comment about anything you want - there is no wrong thing to say. There is only Zuul. Deadline for the draw entries is Monday, November 15, 2010 at 6 PM EST.***

3. Maybe We're Addicted To Things That Go "Bing!"
This particular lesson is somewhat of an extension of the observation I picked up the first time I did a 50s Housewife Experiment - that lesson being "Maybe We're a Bit Too Distracted." Like last time, I did my best to avoid technologies not available in the 1950s (except when it came to blogging, obvies) - and man, was it ever hard. We had a rule that there could be no use of cell phones or computers or TV when we were dining or talking with one another (you can't lize and text!) and it got to a point that we literally had to turn everything OFF in order to accomplish this.

Like Pavlov's dogs, at the sound of the little alert (indicating a new e-mail, a text message, or a notice that someone had retweeted one of our *genius* musings), something strange would come over us. We could be in the middle of the deepest conversation of our lives (likely topics: doughnuts, Muppets, gout) and we'd hear a little "bing!" and life would stop. It would take everything in our power not to lunge for the gadget. And then we'd just stare at it - drooling. I'm not kidding, it was like some kind of drug response.

Turning everything off allowed us to concentrate on things-not-digital. It didn't kill us to be disconnected from that which went *bing!* for an hour or two and in fact allowed us to better connect with the other people in the room.
* Going out without cell phones - as if.
* Turning off all electronics for some private time together - keeping it.

4. Get Your Game On For Guests
For the most part, when I go out to parties and get-togethers, the main form of entertainment is drinking. Let me make it clear - I AM NOT COMPLAINING. Drinks are wonderful, wonderful things. Let's never, ever question that. That said, you can have drinks and games, like the amazingly fun night of Name Game.

The next time you're hosting people, consider encouraging a round of a favourite game, just like a 50s housewife would have. Want to know what's priceless about someone doing a charade version of Michael Keaton? It's the person in the room who was born after 1990 who asks, "Who the hell is Michael Keaton?" It's the fact that for a rare moment in time, NO ONE is looking at their iPhone or Blackberry or Not-Worthy-of-Mentioning-Brand of communication device; they're too busy losing their minds over the person flapping his arms and pouting and pretending to drive a Batmobile in your living room ("Mel Gibson?! Are you Mel Gibson?!"). Those are the moments we cherish, people. Those are the moments. *Tear*
* Forcing guests to participate in organized entertainment - does a clam have body odour? Hells, yes!
* Writing "Pacey Witter" as a name for the Name Game - no, because I was only person who shamefully knew who that was and therefore got yelled at for making an unfair suggestion.

5. Stop And Listen. No, Really, Really Listen
<- Now that's some epic lizing! Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you could tell they weren't really listening and yet you kept on talking? Why do we do that? Do we just like hearing ourselves talk? Or is it because - in our desperation to be heard - we don't give up on the hope that they might suddenly start listening? I know not every conversation we have will thrill us (trust me, I once dated someone who had a passion for trains. Oh, yawn), but putting in just a touch of effort by making eye contact and *trying* to concentrate on what the other person is saying (instead of spending that time formulating our own responses or reliving childhood shames in your head), is an appreciated gesture. It's probably also a good exercise in patience and focus.
* Lize like you mean it - keeping it
* Catching the ol' brain the next time it boots up an 80s TV theme song instead of focusing on the conversation at hand - keeping it

6. Advice Might Be Overrated
*Said the jerk giving pseudo advice* The original idea from my 1950s books - that a husband "doesn't desire" his wife's input, as if it's some kind of blanket statement for every relationship and situation, is a load of sexist bull. However, not constantly butting in with my amazing wisdom wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It let Patrick instead spend that time venting, or answering my questions or coming up with a solution on his own. And sometimes that's what he needs more. Perhaps the lesson is that there's a time and place for advice; a time and place to help people figure things out for themselves; a time and place to encourage; and a time and place to listen. And how do we figure out what's best at that moment? Maybe we simply ask the other person what they need. Go figure.
* Assessing or asking what he's looking for in our conversation - keeping it.
* Never giving advice - heh. So ditched.

7. Asking + Imagining = Consideration + Empathy = Better Everything
According to 1950s advice, a wife should learn all that she can about her spouse's workplace so that she could figure out ways to help him out. I actually don't think that's crap advice - but let's apply it to, well, everyone! Instead of letting stereotypes, misinformation or huffy first impressions influence us in what life is like for [a stay-at-home mom, a woman running her own business, the building janitor, an executive dad, a gay student in high school] - ASK them what goes on in their day - or in the very least, try to really imagine what their reality is like.

Once you have that information, use your imagination to its fullest to put yourself in his or her shoes. Why? Because the sooner you've gained a perspective of how another person lives and feels, the sooner you can (and are motivated to) stop judging and possibly even help them out - because we all could use a considerate gesture. I think a sense of empathy is the best trait a person could ever have - and I say that with utmost sincerity. Using the advice of learning more about Patrick's day and putting some mental energy into coming up with ways I could make things easier or better for him, I was able to truly improve my husband's week, and for all my goofing on the subject during this experiment, that matters to me immensely.

Again, it's not just a tip for wives to use: After having chatted about this very subject together, Patrick acknowledges that if he had stopped and really used his imagination to have thought about what I was likely going through while getting our dinner party in order, it would have resulted in better decisions on his part too.

This is not a 50s resource, but the point above is driven home far better, deeper and absolutely brilliantly in a Harvard commencement speech by J.K. Rowling (who also talks about the value in failing, also fabulous). If you decide to click on anything in this post, click on that - it is probably one of the best modern speeches I have heard (but I warn you, it's not about Muggles or Quidditch or Bertie Botts).
* Putting myself in others' shoes, including my husband's, more often - keeping it.
* Acting on that information more often - keeping it.
* Asking Patrick more questions about his job - keeping it.

8. The Nag Jar Isn't All Evil
Just writing that title makes me feel like I've walked into Chief Feministo's office, slapped my vagina on the desk and said, "Here! You want it? Well, there you go! I'm off the force!" and then strutted out of the office, my mullet flowing behind me, prompting Danny Glover to mutter, "I'm too old for this!"

And that's the second Mel Gibson reference in one post. Yikes.

But please hear me out on why the "fines" for nagging actually had some value (and not just to Patrick who spent his Nag Jar "winnings" on a Mustachio chicken and eggplant sandwich. "Mmm ... hot nagging goodness," he said as he bit into it.): It made me catch myself. It forced me to stop and think, "is this worth it?" - the 'this' being my squawking about something and the 'it' being $2. It made me actually think about picking my battles and the nature of nagging, something I sort of viewed as being an activity I was "forced" into by my partner ("if you just did what I wanted you to do in the first place, I wouldn't have to nag."). The fact is, no one is forcing you. If you don't like nagging, if it isn't very effective anyway (or it causes more drama than the original issue) recognize that there are other ways of getting things accomplished that will actually make you feel better.

The thing I can't co-sign about The Nag Jar is the bit about being penalized for "showing irritation." Shutting off a part of your healthy emotional range can't be good and can't lead to good things. You have to be honest in a relationship and to yourself and that includes moments of irritation. The only thing I'll nod about is that fully giving into feelings of irritation as if it were a part-time job is not how I personally want to go through life. I have an acquaintance who is bothered by everything. No one can do anything right. The world is against her. Every minor so-called grievance is worth harping about. Her Facebook statuses make Angela's Ashes seem cheery. If she had been keeping a Nag Jar in all the time I've known her, it could probably pay off my mortgage.
* Picking my battles - keeping it
* Stopping to realize he (and everyone else) is not a mind reader. What I'd like to see done at that very moment is my own deal, not necessarily his - keeping it
* Having a nag jar in our home - no, that thing is going off a cliff, Goofy style

9. Figure Out The Ends, Experiment With The Means
As I was researching and doing my best to stick with the husband-obsessed journey, I was reminded of The Taming of the Shrew - which is probably one of my favourite works of Shakespeare's. And no, I did not just compare this very silly blog with a masterpiece by Britain's most famous playwright. This blog is far more like Jesus's teachings - duh.

If you're not super familiar with the The Taming of the Shrew, you can watch a couple versions online like the popular Franco Zeffirelli version, a modern, updated one from the BBC series, ShakespeaRe-Told (featuring a very fetching Rufus Sewell!), even a claymation (squeee!) version. The movie 10 Things I Hate About You is also based in part on the story.

Anyway, super quickly, here's the main jist: Kate is a very headstrong and hot-tempered woman. In some ways she's awesome, in some ways she's a bit of an asshole. For reasons not initially motivated by love, Petruchio, who's a bit of scoundrel and a misfit like Kate, decides to woo her (quite amusingly) and marry her. Once married, he goes about various methods to "tame" her. There's much more to it than that (hijinks, reverse psychology, a battle of wits, a very silly wedding - you really must watch it to get it). Kate eventually catches onto his act. Regardless, it turns out that the two are actually quite well matched for one another.

There's a lot of controversy over this story when it comes to its ending. Kate, now a much happier woman, espouses to her female companions about the virtues of being 'tamed' and how a wife must obey her husband. This is *not* the Kate we knew. What's up for debate is Kate's sincerity in her statement. Some people take it at face value and are pretty much horrified by the sentiment. Others suspect that Kate has clued in that by acting like she 'obeys', she actually really gets what she wants in the end, that she is in fact the puppet master, and it's she who has the last laugh. And then there are some who think Kate is saying this completely ironically, and that she's actually using air quotes throughout her speech. Personally, I tend to go with theory number two.

Here's where I finally get around to connecting this all to my husband-obsessed 50s housewife experiment. The reason I like the The Taming of the Shrew is because it demonstrates that sometimes we're too focused on controlling how we're going to get what we want rather than knowing what our true goals are. The play also dives into understanding the psyche of the people around us and figuring out their true needs (sorta that ego, order and appetite thing I was mentioning the other day) as a way to fulfill your own. Much of the advice in my books are counter-intuitive, and appear at times rather selfless, and yet, some of the tips kinda sorta brought more happiness (the ultimate goal) to my own day and to our home. Would that still be the case if I did this all long-term? Not for everything, but for some things ... perhaps!
* Letting go of some stubbornness - keeping it.
* Trying out a different road map once in a while - keeping it.
* Keeping the main goal in mind - keeping it.

10. It's Clearly Not for Everyone (And That's OK)
We all knew that one already. Lesson Number 9? Totally not for everyone. Working in an office? Totally not for everyone. Being a homemaker? Totally not for everyone. That last point was becoming more and more a reality in the 1950s. Take a look at that article to the left (click to expand it). It was written by Judith Chase Churchill for her "About People" column in the July 1959 issue of Woman's Day. In it, she describes a trend among American teen girls: they wanted to get married, but they didn't want to be homemakers; only 3% "have any idea of doing housework." Talk about a shift! The article goes on to explain that the girls of 1959 were developing different aspirations: to work outside the home (which makes the article's title rather odd). Perhaps girls had watched their mothers toil in the home and saw it as a thankless, ongoing job that stunted their mothers' full potentials and interests. Perhaps it was because all these new career options seemed much more exciting and empowering. Perhaps it was because they presumed that the grass was greener on the other side.

In the 1940s and 1950s, North America had reached a point in history where working outside the home was a more and more realistic option for women and that - gasp! - men were also starting to pitch in with the running of the home. We all know what happened next. Domestic disaster The pendulum swung and the opportunities and pressure for women to earn an income became the norm. Is another pendulum swing on the way? Who knows.

I'm all about choice, something afforded to us by an evolving society - including the work of feminists both male and female. What you want to do in life may be different than what I want to do - and hopefully we're both lucky enough to be able to follow our own paths (because even with options available, circumstances can make it tough for us to do what we really want).

I'm not into absolutes, though. I don't think everything from the 1950s housewife life was dandy, nor do I think everything from that time was foolish. The same goes for the options and expectations set today.

The next big wave in feminism (and you might disagree with me that this is even a feminist goal at all) is one I think we're pretty far from achieving: the removal of judgment concerning the life choices of others. One tiny spin on the Interwebs will net you a never-ending pool of snark and opinion:

"Someone needs to tell Michelle Duggar that her womb is not a clown car."

"My sister just bought a BMW. Who does she think she's impressing?"

"I'm not voting for someone who can't even run her own home properly."

"I guess she thinks she's too busy and important to have kids. I feel sorry for her - she'll never know true happiness."

"She went to university, got a masters degree and now spends her day making crafts and cooking meals for her husband. What a waste."

"I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to go back to work when their baby is just a month old."

"He 'works from home.' Must be nice to have Sugar Momma."

"If you really have your child's best interests at heart, you would try harder to make breast feeding work."
I'm not innocent in this discussion either. But I'm trying. Maybe I need to create The Judgey Jar. What an experiment that would be.

So that's the big mind dump from this round of 50s housewifing. Now, comment below and enter in a chance to win that vintage salad cookbook! There's a whole section in it devoted to molded concoctions. Let it be said: IT IS AMAZING.

Image Sources: Practical Housewifery; Esquire Cook Book; Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book; Woman's Day Magazine, November 1956, "Mrs. Dunbar Dyes Her Hair."; Slope of Hope; Second-hand Swag; ; John Bull Magazine, March 1950; MoviePosterDB.com

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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