Archive for November, 2012

Dear Suzanne Venker,

I read your recent editorial, “The war on men,” on Foxnews.com (not my usual source for news or opinion, but my friend Travis knew I would appreciate your piece). Fox did not enable comments, so I have to share my thoughts here.

I have to hand it to you: You are a good writer. Persuasive, even. I can almost see readers’ heads nodding as you make the ludicrous argument that the problem with men is women.

[Women have] been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.
You’re kidding, right? There’s so much wrong with that paragraph, I don’t know where to start. Let me paraphrase:
Oh boy.
But wait, there’s more:

[The rise of women] has also undermined [men’s] ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them.

So what you are saying is that men can’t be self-sufficient because those darn women are taking their jobs? (Hmmm … the fear of people taking jobs …  a strangely familiar talking point … )


And women “need men to pick up the slack at the office – in order to live the balanced life they seek.” If I were a man, I would be insulted. What you are insinuating is that men are only good at working. And of course, we women should get back in our binders, surrender to our nature – our “femininity,” as you put it. (Now where did I put that blasted apron?)
Men haven’t changed much – they had no revolution that demanded it – but women have changed dramatically.
Those poor, unevolved men. Such sad little specimens looking for the 1950s again. Perhaps they should get with the program and realize that it is more fun to have a partnership than a dictatorship.


My Puerto Rican husband, operating with a full tank of genetically predisposed machismo, happily handles “women’s work” such as cooking, cleaning, sewing, laundry, putting the kids to bed, etc. (In fact, he is vacuuming right now.) He does these things (unasked) almost as often as I do. And we both work full-time. When we both handle tasks around the house, then we get done faster and have more time to spend together. Score!


But aren’t you being a little hypocritical? I mean, you are working after all. You are potentially taking writing jobs away from men. I mean, I guess it is OK because Dr. James Dobson and Dr. Laura Schlessinger say you’re awesome. But still.


I know you’ve carved out a little niche for yourself, but really you need to butt out. (“Shut up” seems too harsh. Plus, I would never want to stifle another woman as she climbs up to take what is rightfully hers.) The Ward Cleavers of the world will find their Junes. The Tony Micellis will find their Angela Bowers and the Mitchell Pritchetts will find their Cameron Tuckers. The Elyse and Stephen Keatons will find each other.


And if they don’t, then it’s no one’s fault but their own.


Happily married to an equal partner for 17 years,

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Dear Founding Fathers,

I know you won’t read this because, you know, you are dead and all, but I felt compelled to write.

And say, “Thanks.”

I don’t usually think about the Constitution, the Revolutionary War, and all that freedom jazz on a daily basis. Then I travel. And feel really freakin’ fortunate.

I’ve been roaming around the desert in 90-degree heat with everyone telling me how nice and cool it is now. Abu Dhabi is apparently Satan’s sweaty butt crack in the summer.

Maybe it is the heat that causes the crazy. Or maybe it is the money. New money. Oil money. “Look at me!” money. Shiny things sparkle. The abaya-clad ladies like crows flock to snatch them up, take them back to their concrete nests.

I want to say so much, but I have to tread carefully. There is a new law that says people can’t criticize the government. I think back to the recent U.S. election, a war fought on Facebook, and I have to laugh a little.

I see strange things — strange because of my American eyes. If I were Emirati, though, I would shrug and say, “No problem, no problem.” National Day approaches. It’s like the U.S. Fourth of July. National pride is especially strong right now, as the country celebrates 41 years. In 41 years, this gleaming city has sprung from sand — sand heated and pressed into windows and doors and walls.

Everywhere is something new. Here a new Guggenheim. There an extension of the Louvre. What’s this? A new maritime museum, also by 2030. Or so they say.

And everything has to be bigger, better, first. Tallest building? Check (Burj Khalifa in Dubai, tallest in all three areas of measurement). World’s biggest shopping mall? Check (Dubai Mall). World’s furthest-leaning man-made tower? Check (Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi).

But wait, there’s more.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (largest mosque in the U.A.E.) alone features the biggest dome in the world, houses the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet, and the biggest chandelier inside a mosque.

Largest mosque in the U.A.E.

World’s largest hand-knotted carpet


Biggest chandelier inside a mosque

Ferrari World (world’s largest indoor theme park) features the world’s fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa (150 mph). Oh, and the largest logo (on the roof).

The Emirates Palace Hotel (second most expensive hotel ever built [uh oh, what happened there?]) houses the world’s first gold vending machine.

You get the picture.

It smacks of desperation. A new country trying to make a big name for itself. Like the last child who is always the loudest, craving all eyes, all attention, all the love.

Meanwhile, logic has gone on holiday. For example, Al Raha Mall is right across the highway (six lanes) from the place where I am staying. Look at how close it is!

But it takes 15-20 minutes, five miles and four U-turns to get there. There is a flyover exit to get to the building next door, but it is not possible to use the same exit to get to the mall.

Emiratis will hire people to build sturdy concrete walls surrounding construction sites (it’s mandatory to hide them), and then tear down one part of the wall when they decide where the driveway or road needs to go.

The U.A.E. is full of great ideas — flashy, PR opportunities. But built on a foundation of shifting sand. It makes me proud of a similar entrepreneurial spirit — America’s foundation — but the difference is follow-through. And a full plan to start. Here, “no problem, no problem” often is a big problem.

It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.

And I feel so fortunate to live in a place where I can talk some smack.

So thanks.

Stars and stripes forevah,

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Dear Readers,

On this day of thanksgiving, I want to share with you the (admittedly random) things for which I am thankful, beyond the usual gratefulness for family, friends and health. I am thankful for (in no particular order):

  1. A husband who isn’t a lazy, fat slob (even if he has gone too far the other way and joined the Crossfit Cult)
  2. Artistic children
  3. The Avengers (specifically Thor and Iron Man)
  4. The ability to visit friends in far-flung places such as Abu Dhabi
  5. A job that I love
  6. Funny and talented colleagues
  7. The words “qi,” “za” and “jo” that are so handy in Words With Friends
  8. Apple (in our house: iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, MacBook Air, two iPads, two MacBook Pros and stock in Apple for obvious reasons)
  9. Bacon
  10. Stan Lee
  11. Adobo seasoning
  12. Full-coverage underwear
  13. Crocs (I know they are butt-ugly, but they are so useful)
  14. This
  15. Honey Boo Boo
  16. Puréed pumpkin in the freezer awaiting pie-making at Christmas
  17. Stephen King and his gloriously messed-up imagination
  18. Parker’s growlers
  19. Facebook and Twitter
  20. The word “moist” (A polarizing word, “moist,” but perfectly descriptive)

Here is what I could do without:

  1. The word “penetration” used in sports
  2. Any recent Patricia Cornwell books
  3. Poetry (Sorry.)
  4. Thongs
  5. Green peppers
  6. Mosquitoes, flies, sand gnats, telemarketers, talk show hosts and other pesky creatures
  7. The 24-hour news cycle that causes the focus to be on the salacious rather than the serious
  8. Men who don’t trim their ear and nose hair
  9. Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr
  10. Any of the “real housewives”
  11. Burlap
  12. Strip malls
  13. Steven Seagal
  14. Fad diets such as Paleo, Zone, Atkins, etc. (just eat more fruits and vegetables, fewer sugary things, and exercise more, people!)
  15. Boys’ pants with unreinforced knees
  16. Knickknacks
  17. Chicago Manual of Style
  18. Anthony Bourdain
  19. Golf
  20. “Talking points” instead of just talking

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Vegas, baby

Dear Vegas,

To borrow the words Adam Levine used to describe Nicholas David on “The Voice,” you are so strange and beautiful.

I visited you in April and had a wonderful, over-the-top time. I think, though, that once a year (or even once every year) is my limit.

I visited you last weekend to represent my university at a conference, and you were just overwhelming.

What looked pretty from my hotel room at night was just too much sensory overload — by day and by night. Too much to take in. Everywhere I looked, I saw something out of the ordinary. But that’s how you are. Only in Vegas would you see:

The Grinch hanging out with Alan from “The Hangover.”

Spider-Man watching a breakdancer.

A man wearing a half shirt sleeping at the bus stop.

A window display proudly featuring animal carcasses.

One thing that you can find in any city though, is a crowd of people losing their minds over free stuff at a convention. At the one I attended at the MGM Grand, the swag-happy brought suitcases — suitcases! — to carry their loot.


(The tall woman in red is serving as the relayer, passing the boxes of free books to a herd of her compatriots.)It was a feeding frenzy. No exaggeration. And then there was a line at the business center of those same people shipping the swag home at exorbitant rates.

Just too much. I couldn’t take it. I was in bed by 9:30 each night. I’m sorry I wasn’t mentally prepared and able to take advantage of your varied nightlife: shows, showgirls, strippers, etc. Not that I wasn’t invited to partake … repeatedly.

Thanks anyway.

(And I’m also thankful that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I rather like my regular, quiet life.)

See you in a couple of years when I can build up my tolerance for your neon jungle.

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Dear members of the GOP:

I know you are sad and licking your wounds today. This election battle was incredibly contentious with plenty of time, money and emotion invested.

As I am one of those voters you would like to target (the kind who votes for the person, not the party), I’d like to give you some tips on how you can win in 2016.

  • Pick a candidate people actually like. Even die-hard Republicans had trouble getting behind Romney. Cold and robotic don’t play well in politics. Just ask Al Gore. It says something when a Republican restaurant owner feels inspired to give the Democratic president a bear hug (and then of course gets ripped apart by other Republicans).

  • Don’t let your candidate and his wife talk about their three houses and four cars. It’s OK to have a successful person as a candidate, but don’t rub it in a struggling nation’s face.
  • Don’t alienate most of the country. Heinous bumper stickers with slogans such “Don’t Re-Nig” and T-shirts bearing the phrase “Put the white back in the White House” may play well among the racists, but we should all hope that is a small (and getting smaller) group.
  • Remember that gay people and women vote. If you are going to promote policies that negatively affect major groups of people, those people likely are going to vote against you.
  • Remember that Hispanics also vote. Anti-immigration policies that are a not-so-thinly veiled attack on Hispanics, especially Mexicans, are not going to be crowd-pleasers in the Hispanic community.
  • Don’t talk about abstract concepts that — while important — are not affecting the daily lives of citizens. The deficit is extremely important, but it is an abstract issue for most people. You know what is not an abstract issue? Same-sex marriage. Also Planned Parenthood. And Big Bird.

If you really wanted to defeat Obama, you should have picked someone like Jon Huntsman. He could have pulled in people from the middle and the left.

You have four more years to get the party back on track. The horse is out of the gate on same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, and other issues you have been fighting. Get with it. Shift party focus to economic issues. Join together and start talking about working with the Democrats to make this country stronger.

Better luck in 2016!

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