Monday, June 29, 2009

Are we mice or are we men

I had a conversation with one of my high school friends a few months back...or longer, I can't be sure. Ah, I think it was at the time when this big name in useless men's magazines had just announced that they were starting out on this side of the planet. (Let me just say that even before this publication began there were already others like it, and it's already pretty jaded and cynical of me to admit I wasn't surprised.)

The conversation was not about the magazine, really. It was about the prevalence of this kind of stuff. I was telling my friend that maybe we'll do better without these things--think about what it will liberate women of yadda yadda. She, perhaps thinking practically or economically (can't find right word), said it means business. Ok, point taken--this culture of disrespecting women does make money, but for now let's forget at whose expense.

What bothered me about her argument was not the fact she said it makes monies. It was what she said about guys, in general. She said that this type of "entertainment" is available and will never be extinguished because by nature men NEED it. So... are men not expected to have temperance? While so much is expected of women?? Ganun na lang? We'll keep polluting convenience stores, the TV and the Net with these things because men are like animals and must be satisfied at every turn?

I don't believe it.

If people go on thinking that men do not have brains enough to understand what is truly good, to appreciate what is truly beautiful, and to put their hearts in the right place, then shouldn't it follow that eventually no one would expect any virtue to come from men? And how unfair is that?

Guys, you tell me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The minx, the moron and the parasite

All is summed up in the prayer which a young female human is said to have uttered recently: "O God, make me a normal twentieth century girl!" Thanks to our labours, this will mean increasingly, "Make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite."

This quote is from The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. The persona is Screwtape, a devil who has "expertise" in the art of temptation. Throughout the book, Screwtape writes to his nephew Wormwood, who seems to have just graduated and is now assigned to his first "patient". Sometimes Screwtape praises Wormwood for something he did, but most of the time the uncle lectures him on things he could've done better, and gives advice on damage control or how to make a good thing work for the dark side (e.g. see advice given above).

How true is Screwtape's definition of the modern girl? (Let's ignore "twentieth century" for now.) I know a lot of awesome women and certainly they don't fall under that category, you may well think, and to this I must agree. Because today's women as we meet them in real life are sensible!

But look at the media--what kind of girl are they glorifying? Fashion magazines have a certain kind of girl in mind. Hollywood, another. MTV, yet another. And these brands of women get so familiar to us that sometimes we think that they're the norm--they're what women of today are.

And because this brand of woman is what we're all supposedly trying to be, it's no surprise advertisements are going into that direction as well. You can't even commute home without hearing that advertisement on the radio about a guy trying to sell a cold drink to a girl by calling her sexy. A beauty product company keeps coming out with outrageous ads that work along the lines of "your husband will love you again, only if you look young" or "guys will only notice you (or marry you?) if you have pinkish white skin."

How dumb do they think we are?

If you haven't noticed yet, I didn't use pictures of the "typical" woman that the media insists on. You might even say the women here look a bit outdated, even that one on the cover of Esquire. But I just wanted to show that women are so multi-faceted that you can't box them like that--why should she be a minx when she respects herself? why should she be a moron when she can be bright? and why should she be a parasite when she has skills enough to be useful--even during the pre-feminist movement era?

What the media shows us is not always real (and you probably know that). I just hope that more sensibility goes into what goes on out there. Perhaps the solution to that is to not be swayed by what's popular (or what they say is popular), and to stay true to oneself. And then maybe Screwtape or the likes of him won't be able to redefine us so easily.

Cora Cooks Pancit

Oh, I am drooling! My lola just made some pancit for us yesterday when we visited her in Cavite. You could smell it from the living room, a warm savory aroma, and when you put it on the plate, the whole bottom heats up so fast you might burn yourself if you're not careful. Nothing beats lola's cooking!

I discovered this book on the Internet--it's published by Shen's Books, and it has a Pinoy theme. How very interesting! Must keep eyes peeled for a copy somewhere. Here's the synopsis from the website:

Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama's assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora's head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish.

With Mama's help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won't notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot—carefully-- while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore's text delightfully captures the warmth between mother and daughter as they share a piece of their Filipino heritage. With bright and charming illustrations by Kristi Valiant, Cora's family comes alive as Cora herself becomes the family's newest little chef.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Reconciling "fashionable" and "modesty"

Marc Jacobs, 2008

Google "dress" (under Google image search) and you get all sorts of dresses--prom dresses, summer dresses, casual dresses, formal dresses... mostly strapless or plunging or too short dresses. It always seems to mean "fashionable" (and the results get even more fashionable if you stick a popular clothing brand before the word "dress"). But google "modest dress" and there's suddenly something a bit less fashionable among the search results. And most of them have nuances of one religion or another.

It's so easy to dismiss any dress that is called "modest" as unfashionable or fit only for those old women who don't care for fashion anymore. (Must point out that many mature women are very fashionable, in fact more fashionable than women my age, so this previous statement is probably oozing with common bias. Forgive me.) But I really do think that a modest dress is not something one who doesn't care for what she wears will pick up.

Why? Because it's so much harder to find a modest, fashionable dress! Anyone can simply get herself a dress--but to get a dress that covers you well and makes you look elegant (drawing the eye to your pretty face!), well that's something more of a challenge isn't it?

Can anyone give tips on choosing better dresses? I have one: think elegant.

Fashionable is not always flattering--and honestly, following trends all the time? That gets tiring. It seems that modesty, especially when it comes to dresses, is quite non-conformist!

And who says nonconformity is not fashionable?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rainy June day

It's June again! School again! Rain again! And what should little tots do to learn? Why, play of course! So for the month of June, Baby Magazine is focusing on play and toys that are really good for the kids. There's a special feature on Pinoy games, those simple but super-fun games we used to play in the school driveway or wherever. Kids today are not let out as much, some even don't want to go out because of the lure of computer and console games (especially now when some consoles promise you actually get to move around)--but if you encourage these old games to your little ones, who knows how much more fun they'll have?

There's also a feature on leptospirosis--that scary disease you get from wading in infected flood-waters! Not many people are aware that going out in the rain in inadequate gear can make one really sick...and not many people are aware that it isn't only flu that you can catch out there. So, buckle up those boots and give your kids some wellies and read about what else you can do to keep healthy during the rainy days.

I learned a lot from writing Catherine Lanzona's story--Catherine has five kids that she has been homeschooling for 4 years now. Her story is something to inspire parents who have been looking for a way to take their kids back from the prevalent and not necessarily wholesome culture of today.

Oh, and that very active cutie on the cover is little Jaden Chua Medina, who in the picture is comin' at photographer Kristin Alfafara Rodriguez of Little People Lifestyle Photography! Watch out, Kristin! Teehee! The photo was taken at Gymboree, Manila Polo Club. Baby magazine is published by Marathon Publishing Co. and is sold at all National Bookstores, Babyland (Robinsons Galleria, Shaw Blvd. near Cherry Foodarama, Shoppesville), Baby & Co. (The Podium and Power Plant Mall), Bufini, Procreation Shangri-la mall, Big & Small Co. Shangri-la Mall.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Superhero duties...and Teamwork

As promised, here are more lessons on doing household chores, which from the beginning I have put under that death defying label, the Superhero Duty. Look at that Avengers picture above. Obviously superheroes also value teamwork. I just wonder how they can work together without getting into each other's hair.

I've been doing this a while and I notice there's more than teamwork involved when putting the house in order. It's one thing to say we'll clean the house as a team, but it's a very different matter to assign chores. Why? People being people, we all tend to be a little touchy when someone orders us around. I know I do, sometimes.

Here's an example: on the first week of our housekeeper's vacation, I was so enthusiastic about the new duty of fixing the bed every morning. I would wake up and wait for my sister Isis to get up, and then I'd attack the covers and pillows with a flourish, to the point that I could fix the bed with 5 minutes left to spare in the cellphone alarm. It was all good until my sense of fairness started bothering me and soon I was pretty indignant about her not getting up as early as I would like. I thought, "Am I spoiling her?"

So I brought the matter up with a friend and she suggested that I could divide the work (but of course!). I told my sister the new plan and she was ok with it instantly--but I had to find out in the morning what it was truly like.

Every time I would remind her to do something, she comes at me with another. Mornings go this way:

"Your turn to fix the bed."
"Okay, but you do the dishes."
"Okay, but you feed the cat."
And so on.

Why do we do this? I don't really understand the need to assert the fact that something else had to be done by someone else because one's hand is already full with something herenoworelse.

Just this morning I was washing the dishes and I asked my sister to feed the cat. She comes up to me twenty minutes later saying she can't feed the cat because I didn't bring the food out. Apparently I was supposed to have done it for her. Ah, well.

Teamwork makes work easier but at the same time it causes some friction here and there. (So one must really stock up on patience!) And teamwork plus superhero duties? All I can think of now is: 'Now that's something to force you to grow!'