Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hard Choices and Cold Fingers

Dear Monica,
I'm in a bit of a sticky wicket.  When my sister said she wanted a pair of gloves for Christmas, I thought would be an easy enough request to fill.  Naturally, I went on ETSY because obviously unique and handmade items make the best presents.  Plus, you get the satisfaction of supporting artists and craftspeople rather some behemoth conglomerate.  

Here's where things get weird.  After looking through 40+ pages of hand-knitted "gloves," I realized something unsettling.  GLOVES NO LONGER HAVE FINGERS.  They cover more of you arms, which is good, but your fingers are exposed.  What the fuck is up with that shit?  When did gloves stop covering the part of the hands that need to be warm?  Don't people know that you lose more heat through your extremities than any other part of your body?  

My sister lives in a frightfully cold area.  She probably wants her fingers to be warm and not lose them to frostbite, but she is also very stylish and I don't want to give her something that she would be ashamed to wear in public. Is it worse to be cold or unfashionable?  Please let me know what is up.

Yours Truly,
Lost in the Cold

Dear Lost,

Your question goes straight to the heart of one of the biggest dilemmas of modern times, the tension between form and function.  All too often we find ourselves in the position of having to choose between looking stylish and being comfortable.  And, as Herman Melville so aptly observed, how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!

Let me clear some things up for you.  Although you are morally correct to shop on ETSY,  the products for sale on this site are primarily made and marketed by hipsters.  How else are they going to afford PBR and Cosby sweaters?  For these people, form will always trump function.  Case in point? Pretty much everything these people deem fashionable.

The interesting twist, however, is that the fingerless gloves are a response to technological advancements in the modern age, namely the fact that you can't send ironic text messages, look for the closest coffee shop with free wifi, or type the Mac Airbook that your trust fund bought you with covered fingers.  The smartphone's touch screen will not recognized the gloved touch and the Mac's keys are too close together to allow for anything other than skeletal fingers to type on them.  

The bad news is this.  If your sister lives in an area or neighborhood that is densely populated by hipsters, then know that they will look down on her warm, covered fingers.  In most cases, the looks will be a disparaging mixture of envy, condescension, and pity.  

The good news is this is the only expression that hipsters are capable of making.  They will look at your sister (and everyone else) the exact same way no matter what she is wearing.   This means that she is free to wear whatever she wants.  She will simply need to shake those haters off, doing so with the confidence that comes from the knowledge that their spite comes from a place of low self-esteem and painfully frozen digits.

You know your sister.  You know what she values most.  If you are unsure, ask her.  The holidays are about getting what you want, not having to fake delight over other people's unfortunate choices that they made for you.  Faking satisfaction with gifts is like faking orgasms, do it once and you're going to be doing it forever.

-M. Perling

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hairy Situation

Dear Monica,
My conscience is burdened and I need your help. I was just witness to a terrible tragedy involving a facebook friend and a pixie cut. About two weeks ago a friend who shall remain unnamed, started posting status updates about a haircut she was planning to get.  I should have known as soon as the Carrie Mulligan picture appeared that this was going to end badly.  And, oh, did it ever.

My first impulse was to say "Stop.  You don't have her bone structure.  You know all that weight you just took off? Well, this haircut is going to put it right back on."  But, Monica, all of her other friends were telling her how great it was going to look.  Then, when she got the haircut (which looked nothing like the picture, by the way) and it looked awful, all of her friends were saying how great it was.

Is it my fault?

Many Thanks in Advance,
Guilty and Confused

Dear Guilty,

Let me start my thanking you  for bringing this situation up.  It is a timely and important question.

This is indeed a terrible situation and I understand your feelings completely.  Not only did you stand by and do nothing, but now you have to witness the inevitable conclusion of your inability to act everyday when you log into Facebook.

Let me tell you some things that might make you feel better.  First, the pixie cut is a pox on all our houses.  And thanks to insensitive celebrities who have brought this impossible standard of beauty back, we are now dealing with this abomination everyday.  The sad reality is that unless you actually are Emma Watson, Carrie Mulligan, or Julie Andrews circa Sound of Music-present, then this haircut is almost always going to make you look much fatter, much older, and much more pathetic than you actually are.  I say "almost always" because there is .001% of the actual population that can pull it off.  However, these people know who they are and do not need to solicit validation from Facebook friends.  

Luckily, Guilty, there are people that are far more culpable that you.

Which brings me to my second point.  The person that is potentially more to blame is the hairdresser that executed the cut.  It is their job to help people with style issues and clearly they failed.  I should, however, point out a small caveat. When I consulted my hairdresser regarding your problem, she told me that some people simply will not listen.  As such, she has been forced to give pixie cuts against her will.  This, Guilty, is beyond your control as there was nothing you could have done to prevent this.

Third, the very good news for you is that you weren't one of the people that said it would good.  These people are clearly spiteful frenemies whose intentions are malevolent, at best.

My advice for the future, should this situation arise again, is to begin by thinking about how much this person means to you.  If you really care about them, private message them and express your concern.  Refrain from doing this in the public comment dialog, as this could lead to hurt feelings and start unnecessary drama.  In your message, do not frame your opinion negatively through emphasis on how wretched they will look after the fact.  Rather, express how beautiful their hair is currently or how much you've always envied it.  Point out how long it will take to grow back and what a chore it is to style the pixie cut.  Then ask them are they sure they want to risk it?  This will hopefully put enough doubt in their mind to prevent them from going through with it.

-M. Perling

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Beginning...A Very Good Place to Start.

A very warm, and affectionate (but not inappropriately so) greeting to all of you out there.  These modern times are fraught with uncertainty, leaving some to question if we are approaching the end of days.  One of the biggest problems we are faced with is the erosion of the codes of conduct by which we live our daily lives. This is a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.  To borrow from the elegant Fred Astaire, we are facing a problem in which the youth cannot learn manners for lack of positive example.

The primary culprit is technology.  Computers, cell phones, and the like are reshaping the social terrain in unspeakable ways.  How are we supposed identify appropriate courses of action in unfamiliar social contexts?

Do any of these problems seem familiar?

What is the most polite way to decline to help that poor Nigerian prince?  What is sexting and how do I do it effectively?  When is it appropriate to use text speak?  If a handsome fellow on facebook is all like[...]and then I'm all like [...]what is my next course of  action, given that I don't want him to think I'm all[...]?  Does having a lot of cyber sex make me a whore?  If I like someone, how long should I cyberstalk them before initiating contact?  IS god dead and did we kill him with the internet?

If you are confused, don't be.  For I, Monica Perling, am here to help you traverse the choppy waters of modernity.   No problem is too big, too small, or too personal.  Through right thought, right speech, and right act we shall overcome the problem of modernity.

That is what this blog is for.