Elitism and age discrimination

>> Sunday, November 20, 2005

Yesterday I spent the afternoon watching the re-run marathon of Bravo's reality series Project Runway. I'm not much into reality television, but last season this one captured me and I got hooked. I was particularly interested because one of the contestants, Wendy Pepper, was a 40 year-old homemaker/mother from Virginia with no formal training or experience in fashion design. She was clearly the underdog, and from the beginning, it was clear that she was looked down upon and bullied by the younger contestants who, by virtue of their youth, believed that they were more "hip", and therefore more talented. Wendy knew that she was going to have to work hard to stay in the competition, and that in order for her to do so, she was going to have to have a plan to win. I'm not sure what that "plan" was, but the younger ones seemed to think that it involved cheating and back-stabbing because in their estimations, Wendy was obviously not talented enough to make it on her own merits. I never was quite clear over what they were calling "cheating" or "back-stabbing", but whatever it was, they did a great job of convincing themselves and everyone else that Wendy was engaging in it. Wendy made it all the way through the competition, becoming one of the final three competitors, winning the opportunity to design a line of clothing to be featured in the big New York Fashion Week.

In the end she didn't win the big prize, but she did get the opportunity to design and show what I believed to be a stunning line of clothing for New York's Fashion Week. Throughout the series the younger competitors kept using the term "washed-up" in regards to Wendy. It was obvious that they truly believed that because she was 40 years old and a mother that she had no talent in fashion design. Even Michael Kors, leading New York fashion designer, delivered the final elitist blow to Wendy, (rather coldly, I might add), in his final assessment of her work by telling her that she was a fine "tailor" and that she knew how to cut a dress to fit a woman's body but that she had no talent as a designer. Then he proceeded to rip her apart because she dared to include a sheer dress in her line that exposed the model's "boobies". (OH MY GOD, MICHAEL! Were you really offended by the sight of boobs, or were you jealous because you don't have boobies?)

It seemed that no matter how hard she worked, no matter what she came up with, she was destined to lose. Because she had no talent? No. It was because she was up against an elitist, youth-worshiping, superficial, petty, culture that didn't want her to win. No, strike that. They were AFRAID for her to win. Why? Because if she did, it might just expose them for what they really are--shallow, superficial, and banal. It might reveal that just because one is young, it does not mean that one is the best. It might expose them for all their youthful prejudices and insecurities and perhaps even their lack of talent. In the end, even Kara Saun, Wendy's harshest critic, the one whom everyone thought was "perfect", and the one who snubbed Wendy to the very end, refusing even to acknowledge her presence, was told that her line was too "costumey" and too "Gucci-esque".

Kara Saun and Wendy both lost to Jay, who in my opinion was the least talented of them all! But what do I know? I'm just a 45-year-old, washed-up, talentless, mother-of-three, living in Oklahoma. Well Wendy, here's an offer for you. When Mozart Lives! (the film in which I was a featured main character) goes to the Oscars in the "Best Feature Length Documentary" category, I want to be there. And when I go, I want to be wearing one of YOUR designs. We middle-aged, washed-up, talentless, low-life, housewife/mothers gotta stick together, you know.

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Missing my mother

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Last night, as I sat on the floor of my bedroom surrounded by pins, needles, thread, and a sundry of other sewing notions, I was terrified at the prospects of having to cut off and hem the skirt to my new Chamber Singers gown. I wished that I had time to call Judith, (the talented lady who made my 18th century gown), but alas, my dress just arrived this last Wednesday and our first concert is this coming Sunday! I said to Steph, who was dinking around on the computer as I sat carefully hand rolling and pinning the difficult chiffon over-skirt, "If my mother were still alive I'd be over at her house right now! Together we'd have this done in no time! She even had a little foot on her sewing machine that rolled hems like this."

Mother died a few years ago after a long bout with cancer. I think of her often and miss her constantly and I wonder how different things might be if she were still here. Being the consummate homemaker and loving to entertain, Mother loved the holiday season. She could cook and bake like no one else I ever knew and she could set an elegant and lovely table. The only thing of hers that I desired when she died was her Lennox bone china. To me, that china was the epitome of her. I proudly display it in my china hutch, and every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, I set the table with it and believe that when I do, Mother is there watching. I like to think that she would be happy knowing that her grandchildren continue to remember her fondly and look forward to eating off of "Grandma's" china during the holidays.

I remember the countless Thanksgiving Days in our home when the entire Erwin clan would come to our house, as well as my Grandpa and Grandma Goss. There were years when we would have as many as 35 people there! I'd awaken in the morning to the delicious aroma of a turkey already roasting in the oven, home-baked bread, pies galore, and a sundry of other culinary delights, all prepared from scratch by my mother. As I grew older, she taught me how to cook and by the time I was twelve, I was usually up early with her, helping her prepare the turkey dressing, making the cream cheese, whipped cream, and powdered sugar layer that went on the bottom of our favorite chocolate refrigerator pie, and helping her set the many tables that were scattered throughout our large living room and in the kitchen. Every year, after Dad would get home from feeding the animals in the kennels of his veterinary clinic in the early a.m., he would come into the kitchen to get a taste of the dressing which mother was preparing to put into the oven. She would always ask him if it needed anything else and he would always reply, "It could use a little more sage."

The holiday traditions in my home are very different from the ones with which I grew up. We don't have large amounts of family and our religious beliefs, which were central to everything that my family of origin was, are very non-traditional. We're an "alternative", blended family, but we are no less a family than the family from which I came. We still celebrate the holidays in the traditional ways and I have passed some of the traditions from my family of origin on to my current family. When Mother died, it seemed that much died with her, including most, if not all of our family traditions. After her passing it became very clear that Mother was the glue that held our family together. I think of Mother and miss her the most at this time of year and I wish that there was some way that I could recapture that closeness that my mother, father, brother, sister and I had during the holidays. But with my divorce and my subsequent partnership with Steph, soon followed by my mother's passing, that closeness between us died and was buried with her. However, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I get out her Lennox china and lovingly set my family's holiday table in the way she so carefully taught me how, I remember my mother and the way she had of making things so warm and special at this time of year.

Thank you, Mother...and I miss you.

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Values I want to install in my children

>> Friday, November 4, 2005

I grew up in a home where it was deemed more important to instill beliefs rather than values, which to my way of thinking is like putting the cart before the horse. Beliefs cannot be instilled, rather, they are developed out of a healthy set of moral values. A child must develop their own beliefs out of the values with which they have been raised. Therefore, if a child is raised with healthy values, they will develop the beliefs which best serve and demonstrate those values. Here is a list of values I wish to instill in my children.

  • Compassion
  • Tolerance
  • Loyalty
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Gratitude
  • Determination
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Courage

There are probably a whole lot more, but I think if I'm successful at these, then the others will come along with them.

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