Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things

Sometimes…

“It’s my pig.”

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Ashley Judd spoke about her new book, All That Is Bitter and Sweet, at the New York Public Library on Tuesday for the Young Lions, and the occasional tag-a-long such as myself. The book is billed as “A Memoir,” which better encompasses, I think, an understanding of the book as Ashley’s life, instead of exclusively a story of her humanitarian work.

Judd spoke frankly about her writing, how writing became a way to deal with the sights and hardships she witnessed while traveling with the many foundations she works with. But even while discussing her heroic work, she seemed incapable of escaping her own self. She alternated between the seriousness of a woman forced into prostitution to support her family after her husband abandoned her, to a light-hearted “Aren’t my shoes cute!?” She spoke of the difficulty of visiting so many brothels and seeing so many people in pain, but then belittled her activities later when the summation of her reasoning became “What else do I have to do? I don’t really like shopping. I get all my clothes for free!” And though she speaks of humanitarianism as her calling, she also revealed she turned down the initial phone call requesting her involvement as a YouthAIDS Global Ambassador; it wasn’t until they called back with Bono that she was led to say, well, ok.

Despite her belittling, humanitarianism is in fact Judd’s life. In writing a book to deal with the lives she was witnessing, she also ended up dealing with her own personal trauma, and a history of abuse. Because of her personal history, she radiates an empathy with those she works with, of women and children and families born into inescapable circumstances, lives littered with pain, disease, and abuse.

Sadly, Judd’s words also expressed her inability to empathize with my world. She seemed proud to have entered a treatment program for depression, insomnia and codependency. Because, of course, when you’re from a famous family, how could you escape such things? The end result of the discussion as a whole was that I felt alienated. Though I know individuals who too grew up with alcoholic parents, suffering abuse and neglect, I know no one with the time and capacity to enter treatment. Though many people, I believe, strive to help others as they can, not getting my clothes for free and “having a hot husband,” makes the work that much harder, as we must overcome day-to-day trials more than international spokespeople do. At the end of the day, our bills must still be paid before we volunteer, we must still go to work before we enter treatment, and we do, unfortunately, have to pay for clothes.

At one point, she told the story of her aunt, a resident of Pacific Heights, CA, who owns a pig. Judd said that her aunt, when asked about the pig, uses the pig as her justification, saying simply, “It’s my pig!” The pig seemed a symbol of pride and power, individualism and personal choice. Judd then described her choice to be a humanitarian as her pig – something she does for an inexplicable reason. But I think the reason is quite logical: she has the time and the public image to do something good for the world, and she is choosing to do so. To me, in the end, her “pig” wasn’t her choice of vocation, but her inability to escape herself, and the power and weakness that comes from a life in the public eye. Or perhaps it’s my pig that I have a hard time listening to those who I feel take their fortune for granted, and those who disregard powerful moments (visiting presidential and government palaces all over the world!), because they seem “boring” compared to visiting brothels. I bet the brothels are more interesting, sure, but you really need the palaces in order to get rid of them.

I hope that this book is the journey Judd needed to understand her personal history, and that her fame becomes the tool she uses to bring attention and support to her humanitarian work, and not her justification and raison d’etre.

The Suburbs’ Favorite Holiday

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There are few days in the year when my family literally fights over the newspaper. The competition is toughest on Thanksgiving day, when we plan the route for Black Friday, comparing the doorbusters and making sure we have the opening hours correct. These days its mostly all talk, however, as most of my family can’t be bothered to wake up at what has become a truly ridiculous hour for what is really a low-grade war zone. In the good old days, my parents would lay a map out on the kitchen table, and label the stores with the opening hours and the goals in each. But then some woman tried to run my mother over with a cart and as she lay there, sprawled on the floor, while savages climbed the toy aisles eventually dominoe-ing the aisles, she decided it wasn’t worth the great deals.

Me, with my great deals.

In any case, my younger sister and I arrived at the mall just before 9 am. We meant to get up at 4 for the opening, but we overslept. Anyways, there were no parking spaces, so we engaged in the polite searching method also known as stalking people. The polite ones point to their cars and sort of walk you to them. The rude ones cut through different lanes to throw you off their scent. We found polite ones. And then we found Gap – 50% off your entire purchase before 10 am (the line was twice around the store and everyone looked pissed, plus the entire store was already trashed), and Banana Republic – 40% off your entire purchase til noon. Macy’s had about 30 people in every line, and they have a lot of registers. The mall got some business back; I helped. I finished all my Christmas shopping, and there were carolers! ¬†Another happy holiday.

Mr. Lincoln: ‘the sexiest man in American history’

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This Thanksgiving, while perusing the ol’ Nytimes.com, I discovered a heartwarming tale on the origins of President Abraham Lincoln’s sexy beard. When the dinner conversation threatened to veer to the point of no return, the area which makes me greatly fear ever, ever introducing a potential husband to my extended family, I steered the family away from personal stories and to the heartwarming tale of little Grace Bedell, who recommended Lincoln grow a beard, so she might convince her brothers to vote for him. She added, “All the ladies like the whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” Guess what Miss Bedell? You were quite on the money!

My lovely Nana chose this moment to announce, quite out of the blue, that my great-great-grandmother was one such woman. She shook Lincoln’s hand in fact. And, moreover, my great-grandfather bought bookends of his face! Whiskers and all. Mr. Lincoln, I know you saved the union, but also contributing to the 19th century Renaissance of beards? How can I ever repay you.

Nana, with her Grandfather’s Lincoln bookends, circa 1910. They will be mine when I settle down and/or when i get married, or when she dies. But not right now because it’s “just a phase.”

Galleria Mall Fire Ravages Local Hot Spot; Destroys My Favorite Store

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CALIFORNIA – Trader Joe’s lines were extensively long this afternoon, the product of, I can only assume, an arson at the Galleria Mall in Roseville which shut down the area’s greatest attraction – a 1.5 million square foot mall that 9 million people visit each year. Alexander Corney Piggee, the prime suspect, walked into a Game Stop shortly after the mall opened on Thursday, claimed to have a gun, muttered incoherently about his sister being abducted by “aliens,” and ordered the employees out. He then set fire to the store. Though Piggee was apprehended shortly after the mall was evacuated, his backpack had gone missing. Because police suspected it may contain an incendiary device, firefighters were not allowed to enter the mall, leaving only the sprinkler system to combat the fire. Instead, they attacked the fire from the roof, spraying down the flames climbing the building, as the damage spread and the roof caved in. By nightfall, the fire had been tamed, but smoke, fire, and uncountable gallons of water had left at least $7 million in damage, not including merchandise.

As the most successful mall outside of San Francisco, the Galleria has always been a hot spot. The day it opened, in 2000, caused unexpectedly high truancy rates throughout local school districts as kids cut school to see the stilt walkers and circus acts, and cram with thousands upon thousands of people to buy, buy, buy. I feel a great sadness for “the regulars,” a group of people I familiarized myself with when I too was a mall employee. “The regulars,” also known as “the die-hards” seem to live in the mall, and may in fact now be homeless. Fortunately, the loyal community has already rallied, with a musician offering to do a benefit concert, and concerned citizens calling to ask how they can help. The City of Roseville, which depends heavily on the mall’s $3 million in tax revenue each year, asks only that people continue to patronize the stores nearby, and turn out to support the stores upon reopen. At the moment, it is hoped the undamaged area of the mall will be open by the locally (and nationally) celebrated holiday, Black Friday, but it seems that my favorite store, American Eagle, was just beneath the scene of the crime. It is unlikely I will be able to “Live in Jeggings” anytime soon.

As a side note, it is rumored Piggee attempted to check himself in to a mental institution several times in recent weeks for depression, only to be denied. That was a mistake. As my sister says, “Local women everywhere will be crying for days at their loss.”

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