Monday, September 29, 2008

In defense of Kendra, Bridget and Ho-lly

I happened across “The Devil Wears Prada” on HBO over the weekend. I had seen it in theatres two years ago but had then focused more on the fashion than on the storyline or the acting. This time I was less distracted and also a great deal less impressed. It really isn’t a good movie. And the choices made by the Anne Hathaway character in the end made no sense at all.

Oh I got the romantic notions at the heart of the story. But the character development was so flawed that when she eventually did the honorable thing and went back to her flannel-wearing, grilled-cheese making boyfriend, her decision made not a lick of sense. It would have been far more plausible had she sold her soul to the Devil.

And at a time when Ms. Hathaway would probably prefer to be hiding in shame as a result of developments in her personal life, she and her wide open smile have been deployed to help market yet another film. One about somebody getting married. One I will probably wait for cable.

The story from her personal life is that Ms. Hathaway spent the past four years dating a supposedly wealthy Italian businessman named Raffaello Follieri. Mr. Follieri is not by any measure an attractive man. In fact, with his weak chin and wonkyish left eye, he is actually as plain as dirt.

this rather plain-looking man could attract a woman as stunning as Ms. Hathaway meant only one thing to me. He had to be extremely wealthy. And he apparently was. After all, he lived in a posh part of Manhattan and paid around $34,000. a month in rent. Can you even begin to fathom the kind of luxury in which one can be cocooned for $34,000. a month? I honestly can’t. Ms. Hathaway and her Italian lover enjoyed the opulent lifestyle of the rich and famous complete with jet setting, spree-shopping, and fine dining. Until it all came crashing down when he was exposed for being a con man.

What I’ve never understood is why Ms. Hathaway has borne no criticism for being a woman with a price, a woman whose beauty and body could be purchased by the wealthiest bidder. Really, for being just a common slut.

I genuinely fail to see the difference between women like Anne Hathaway and the three ‘girlfriends’ of the wealthy and elderly Hugh Hefner. There was a time when Mr. Hefner was an attractive, virile man. That was many moons ago. Now h
e is 82 years old and well past his prime. And yet, not unlike Raffaelo Follieri, Mr. Hefner has managed to procure the companionship of not one but three attractive women. [The oldest of the three claims to have a master’s degree in psychology but apparently always had a dream of being a Playboy Bunny. And with the influence of her aging Lothario, her dream came true.]

And now the Daily Telegraph is claiming that Hef, as he is affectionately known, (or “Puffin” if you’re his Ho Madison) – has been told that he has to cut back on expenses. The current problems on Wall Street mean that not only can your middle-income American no longer afford a sub-prime mortgage, but apparently neither can Hef afford the bill for his stable of blondes. And the bimbos have reportedly been jumping ship faster than you can say “Viagra anyone?”

It makes perfect sense to me that a woman who sells her sexual and companionship services to the wealthiest bidder, would bail when the source of her affluent lifestyle starts running out of money. This does not necessarily mean that she doesn’t care for the old fart. But beauty, especially of the skin-deep type produced with the assistance of a scalpel, does not come cheap. And if the old fart can no longer afford you, well then it’s time to find someone who can. No hard feelings, just a slut doing what a slut’s gotta do.

But no one has called Ms. Hathaway a slut. Somehow she has managed to become a wronged woman who just happened to spend four years living in the lap of luxury paid for primarily by her con man. Never mind the fact that she helped him
to develop his Follieri Foundation, and even served on its board of directors. Never mind that she did not end the relationship with Mr. Follieri until his non-profit organization came under investigation by the IRS in June 2008, days before he was arrested for fraud. Somehow she has managed to be portrayed as the innocent beneficiary of her lover’s stolen funds. But Kendra, Bridget, and Ho Madison are regarded as common sluts.

Sorry, but I fail to see the difference.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Look back, yes...but only from a distance

He broke my heart several years ago. I did not see it coming. I mean I did and I didn’t. One always knows that a relationship may be coming to an end. The surprise is often in the how.

I was shocked at the lack of honor. I felt that after so much history together, he owed me a decent and honorable break-up. And yes I hear the sense of entitlement in that statement but I was not able to shake it. In fact, that is probably part of what kept me stuck for so long. I just could not fathom how he had ended our relationship. I told myself that it wasn’t that he had broken up with me but how. I spun around in circles trying to wrap my mind around it. And at the end of every episode of introspection, every session of sharing once again with a tolerant friend, every attempt to analyze and understand the situation, I always ended up in the same place. How could he?

A series of new studies coming out of an interesting collaboration between researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that my problem may have been that that the situation wasn’t distanced enough. Research now suggests that attempts to understand painful feelings often backfire and ironically may end up keeping us trapped in sadness. In other word
s, I kept myself stuck by attempting to analyze too soon. I should have done it from a distance.

We have all had that friend that reached out to us after her husband cheated or after his girlfriend left. We have all eventually screened our calls to avoid listening to the same pitiful complaints over and over. We have all been shitty friends to someone in pain because we just could not bear to revisit the same conversation, the same repetition, the same victimizing, the same dizzying lack of emotional movement and resolution.

I’d like to believe that I was never that woman – not the shitty friend because of that I know I have been guilty – but the pathetic victimized self-repeater. But I know that I have been. I know that I have cried the same tears and reviewed the same material and asked the same questions over and over and over. And, in so doing, it turns out that all I accomplished was delaying my healing.

New research suggests tha
t we human beings can sometimes be piss poor at making ourselves feel better. We over-think situations and end up keeping ourselves thoroughly depressed. According to psychologist Ethan Kross, “It's an invaluable human ability to think about what we do. But reviewing our mistakes over and over, re-experiencing the same negative emotions we felt the first time around, tends to keep us stuck in negativity. It can be very helpful to take a sort of mental time-out, to sit back and try to review the situation from a distance.”

We may convince ourselves that analyzing things in the moment makes for healthier coping. After all, we are trying not to be in denial. Our goal is to figure things out because if we can just figure it out, we can set ourselves free. That’s what psychologists have long told us is the path to mental wellness.

Not true. It is only with distance that we can do a better job of analyzing. It is only from an emotional arm’s length that we can stop reinforcing negative messages to ourselves about ourselves, and recover.

Kross and his colleagues acknowledge that these notions are not new. This is the message of many eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism, which have long noted the importance of letting go. It is only through freedom from attachment that we can truly end suffering. All it takes is a heaps of practice.

Kross uses the metaphor of the thermostat to illustrate that when emotions become too o
verwhelming, we need to practice dialing them downwards so that we can allow ourselves to think rationally and clearly. He teaches his students that it is only through mastering emotional self-control that they can free themselves from despair.

I believe that for some individuals this process takes time. Time heals because it allows for the creation of an emotional distance from a hurtful experience. But even in the absence of time, Kross’ research suggests that we can learn to tell ourselves that going over the same spiel only co
ntributes to remaining distraught and overwhelmed, that we are more likely to self-blame when the emotional thermometer is dialed up too high, and that we can gain a more balanced perspective with better emotional self-control.

I wish someone had told me this years ago. Or maybe someone did but I was not ready to hear it. But with time, and with the 20-20 perspective of hindsi
ght, I have been able to admit that there is no nice way to break up when one person wants to move on while the other does not. There is no nice way to stop being someone's comfortable pair of shoes, her security blanket that no longer provides thrills but which is reliably always there. Until it wasn’t. And with this perspective, I set him free.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

El Matador earns the ovation of his people

His nostrils flared in excitement as he entered the bullring, el famoso Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, en Madrid, en la España. If los Americanos had been in charge of selecting the battleground, he would probably be stuck on some hot court in some scorching city like Cincinnati, the steady pounding further damaging his knees. Of course he would still win; he was after all, the #1 player in the world. But it was nice to be in his element, on la tierra batida, surrounded by 21,000 of su gente beating tambores and shouting “Ole!” It was the closest he would ever come to something that felt like la Copa Mundial.

It was not often that he got the chance to hang out with his compañeros españoles. El tenis could be a lonely sport. He often traveled the world alone, Tío Toni his main companion. So it was a pleasant change to be on home ground, to hear el lenguaje musical de su gente in his ears, to eat comidas familiares, and most of all to feel included in el círculo de compañeros tenistas, to be part of a group of tennis-playing companions with the same goal of putting la España on top of the world rankings. La España had not lost at home since 1999. She was not going to lose now. There was nothing to stop them. There was no one to stop him.

They had heard a rumor that el Roddick would not be coming but they knew that los Americanos estaban echando mentiras, putting out lies t
o distract them from their preparations. El capitán, Emilio Sánchez, had reminded them that el Roddick had been playing great tennis recently. Éste Roddick went through periods when he could look like a beginner, and other times when he suddenly became ferocious. And right now he was going through un período formidable.

As befitting his position, El Matador was given el honor of opening for la Copa Davis. His opponent was the same Sam Querrey who had given him a hard time at the US Open, who had hung in long and tough and had forced El Matador to four hard sets. More than any other opponent, this was the one that Federer should be thanking for his US Open victory. It was this match that had caught El Matador by surprise, that had weakened him just enough to not be able to beat Murray and face Federer in the finals. Although they would be facing each other on clay, El Matador knew better than to underestimate el Querrey on any surface.

El Matador found himself feeling un poco distraído at the start of the first match. Tío Toni had warned him not to become too aware of the presence of Prince Felipe in the audience; e
veryone remembered how el presidente Clinton had cost Agassi another Roland Garros title. But El Matador was unable to shake off los nervios. He found himself wishing that the sun wasn’t quite so bright, the crowd quite so noisy, the music of the band quite so loud. When he double-faulted to let el Americano go up set point in the first set, he knew he was in trouble. Being consoled by el capitán Sánchez did not help. When he got broken at the opening of the second set, El Matador knew that it was time to turn inwards, to dig deep, to rely en si mismo. Éste Querrey was a thoughtful, patient player. He did not just hit balls, he played strategically, intelligently. El Matador would need to both outwit and outhit him. Once again it took him four tough sets to do this. El Matador felt relief instead of pleasure after winning. He did not feel deserving of the crowd’s loud ovation. He would have to make it up in the match against el Roddick.

Next up was éste Roddick against su compañero Ferrer. It was a tough brutal match. It took Ferrer 3 hours, 17 minutes, and five grueling sets to finally subdue el Roddick. The score was 2-0 in favor of la España. El Matador wondered if his own match against Roddick would end up being a dead rubber. After all, los gemelos Bryan were not playing together. One of them had injured his shoulder, and had been substituted with Mardy Fish who was supp
osed to be at home getting ready for his matrimonio. Surely he would be under-prepared and distracted? But, para su sorpresa, el pescado played the match of his life, and along with un gemelo Bryan, ended up spoiling what was supposed to be the big 27th celebración de cumpleaños de Feliciano López. The score was 2-1, para la España.

El Matador did not mind that it all came down to him. The truth is that he was thrilled that the eventual victory would be sobre sus hombros, on his shoulders. He did not want to play un juego muerto. He wanted to be the one to take his country into the Final de la Copa Davis de BNP Paribas, for a sixth time.

The match against Roddick started late. It was a rainy Sunday en la Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. El Matador started shakily, but finally broke Roddick in the sixth game of the first set, and then consolidated for 5-3. But Roddick held his serve. El Matador fell hard on la tierra batida as he chased a Roddick dropshot. And Roddick continued to challenge him as he served for the set, encouraged loudly from the sidelines by el capitán McEnroe. It took superior concentration and effort for El Matador to dig himself out of a 15-40 hole and hold for the set. He rebounded by breaking Roddick in the opening game of the second set. He imposed his superiority and fed him a bagel. Roddick fought hard and saved five match points on his own serve in the third set. But El Matador won on the first opportunity on his own serve. He had taken la España to victory.

When his compañeros lifted him up and carried him on their shoulders al más puro estilo taurino, he felt deservingly happy. Afterward, in the interview, he admitted that in h
is career, “ha habido muchos momentos buenos, he had enjoyed many good moments, but “en ambientes como éste, con tu público, ninguno”, but they all paled in comparison to playing in such an atmosphere in front of his own people. He had earned their standing ovation.

Feliciano Lopez won the dead rubber against Sam Querrey. And Juan del Potro almost single-handedly brought Argentina to victory over Russia. Spain will face Argentina on indoor carpet in Buenos Aires at the Davis Cup Finals in November. I would give anything to be there.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It’s not the wind, it’s the water

My grandmother was born and raised on a small Caribbean island. An independent woman she refused to move in with either of her daughters even as her eyesight continued to fail and the government took away more and more of the land her husband left after he died, but before making arrangements to pay off back taxes. Until her cottage was flattened by a hurricane and she found herself with no other choice.

I can’t remember the name of that particular hurricane. It might have been Eva, or Flora, or Jean. It was a woman’s name, from a time when hurricanes were only named after women, when Mother Nature was at the same time celebrated on the island for her generous bounty of succulent fruits, but also feared as a figure of destructive wrath. And until her small cottage was flattened by Eva, or Flora, or Jean, my grandmother would prepare each year for the hurricane season by repeating the same phrase over and over. It’s not the wind that will hurt you in a hurricane. The wind you can survive. It’s the water.

Whenever we visited her small cottage – and we could not all go at the same time because the cottage was very small, so that one or two of us children would have to take turns spending a portion of the summer separated from the other siblings – whenever we visited, my grandmother would regale us with frightening stories about what could happen in a hurricane.

I am yet to see a horror movie to equate the fright she could put into us with stories about the village being plunged suddenly into darkness as the winds howled outside and the lightening crackled, and the thunder boomed, while sheet roofing went flying zoom! But as scary as that was, nothing came close to her descriptions of being pulled out to sea, in the dark, the currents swift, buffeting you this way and that as your mouth, your ears filled with water, while you prayed to drown because that was better than being eaten alive by the sharks, sharks that could see you in the dark even if you could not see them, and that beckoned you forward, deeper into the ocean, their mouths wide open. This is what she said had happened to the child of a friend of a cousin of a neighbor who used to live down the road and now had fled the island after the last hurricane.

Which my grandmother refused to do - until her house was flattened by the winds of a monster of a hurricane named Eva, or Flora, or Jean, and the waves rose over 25 feet and
would have pulled her out to sea had she not fled in time to seek shelter in a church.

When you grow up on a Caribbean island, hurricanes become part of your yearly reality. A friend of mine, a Puerto Rican man, tells me how his family would look forward to the hurricane season each year because then they could claim damages from the government. He says that this is how he and every single one of his siblings ended up living in sturdy structures financed mainly by tax money. To this day he experiences a frisson of excitement when a hurricane passes over his island. He sees hurricanes as nature’s way of washing things clean, getting rid of excesses that you do not need, and offering the chance to start anew.

But it is hard for me to romanticize hurricanes when I see the damage they do in places like Haiti [see photos from yahoo], an impoverished country battered by four tropical storms and hurricanes within the past month, killing over 300 people and leaving thousands with nothing. There’s just no way to romanticize that.

And it's hard for me to romanticize hurricanes because I associate them also with the temporarily broken spirit of an elderly woman who scared her grandchildren with stories of their awesome power, even as she prepared annually for their visits. (Her spirit was further crushed by the government of a banana republic that had no qualms about stealing the lands inherited by uneducated old women.

But my grandmother recovered. And soon she was regaling us with stories about the night she spent in the church before she was rescued off the island. It was a church she never really attended as she always found the minister to be a bit full of himself because he had belittled the aspirations of the women in his congregation, women like herself who craved positions of spiritual leadership. But it was a sturdy structure and she knew she would be safe within.

She said that that night they prayed and prayed as the winds howled and the lightening crackled, and she could hear trees smashing onto the roof. And then the minister, caught up a frenzy of prayer, decided to open a window and declare “Peace!”, momentarily believing that he had the power to calm the storm. And a sheet of galvanize came down from the roof and sliced off a piece of his arm.

And that is how I learned that my grandmother was wrong, and that in a hurricane, what mattered were both the wind and water.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why James Blake got bumped from the Davis Cup team

I’ve taken some flack from some readers of this blog who believe that I am too harsh on James Blake. To one friend who commented that I really needed to cut James some slack, I replied that perhaps that was the problem and that she should read my entry on whether he wears Spanx. She has not spoken to me since. Some people just can’t take a joke.

Of course when James beat my fave Roger in Beijing, several people who shall remain nameless called me to jeer. I told them that they keep missing the point of my criticism of Blake. I said that James can beat anybody on any given day in the best two
sets out of three. He is an aggressive shot maker with a go-for-broke style of playing that makes him a dangerous opponent against anyone, including yes my favorite Federer. So facing Federer in two-sets out of three, of course James had a chance of winning.

But if he’s that good, I countered, how come he did not go on to win a meda
l in Beijing? Because he does not have the staying power required to win tournaments consistently. Which explains why he lost to Fernando Gonzalez in the next round despite holding three consecutive match points. And then lost the chance for bronze to Novak Djokovic. Yes, James is that unreliable.

The simple truth is that it is very difficult to keep making shot after shot. It is difficult to keep relying on your speedy footwork. It is difficult to keep nailing the lines and pockets from impossible angles. Sure these make for incredible ‘points-of-the-match’ moments that often get highlighted on ESPN, but as a strategy for consistent winning it is not going to work. It gets you fame but not many results. James is almost 29 years old. He will be 30 come December 2009. To paraphrase Danny Glover in ‘Lethal Weapon’, he is getting too old for this shit.

I was therefore not at all surprised when Captain Patrick McEnroe announced that he has decided not to include James in the Davis Cup line-up. The official reason given is that Blake was exhausted. The wording of the announcement implied that Blake had made the decision himself: “James is just exhausted physically and mentally after a grueling summer,” McEnroe said. “He said he needed a break and we respect that.”

OK, let me see if I understand this. Davis Cup is scheduled for September 19-21. James Blake bowed out of the US Open on Saturday August 31. So we are to believe that this professional athlete was unable to recover physically in 19 days? That makes no sense whatsoever. Upon reflection, McEnroe’s statement seems to contain more than a whiff of face-saving PR.

I’m not saying that James might not have been tired. Of course, after the beat-downs he received in Beijing from Gonzalez and Djokovic, his physical stores probably did need some topping up. But this did not prevent him from entering the US Open. And between the day he was spanked out of the US Open and the official start of Davis Cup, he would have had almost three weeks to rest and recover. Exhaustion then becomes irrelevant as an explanation of the decision not to include him in the line-up.

His unreliability is however another matter altogether. No better word describes his losses to unknown players like Kei Nishikori and Marcel Granollers, or to the better known but past-his-prime Rainer Schuettler at Wimbledon. You just can’t count on James to deliver consistently.

Now let me be fair. Since the 2001 US Open match when James had Lleyton Hewitt on the wire, only to run out of gas and swallow a bagel in the fifth – since then, James’ fitness has improved tremendously. In fact, I cheered along with everyone else when, at the 2007 US Open, James finally won his first ever five-set match – even though it was against my sweet
heart Fabrice Santoro. But sadly, his reliability as a player has not improved one whit. He is hot today, cold tamale.

In Beijing, Blake revealed that he was inspired by being a part of Team USA: “When I go out on the court and when I see USA on my chest, it's just a different kind of pride that you feel going out there. You feel inspired by other athletes. You feel inspired by Michael Phelps, Dara Torres, Tyson Gay, the Dream Team. You're just proud to be a part of it.” And indeed, in 2007, Blake won both of his matches and helped lead Team USA to a record 32nd Davis Cup title. But this year he is apparently too exhausted to try.

On September 9, (10 days after James had been bounced out of the US Open), Captain McEnroe announced that Blake had been replaced by Sam Querrey. The 6 foot 6 inches tall Querrey will be 21 in October. He represents the next generation of American tennis. And if James wasn’t feeling old before this decision was taken, he’s probably starting to feel that way now.

Querrey has been handed the honor of being part
of the team that will defend the US in Spain on clay against the likes of Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez. Even with Roddick and the Bryans on the team, it’s hard to believe that the US has a chance in heck of winning. But apparently including James may have been that much more of a handicap. If I were a fan, I would say “Ouch”.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A polka-dotted year

I went to the US Open on September 1st and 2nd. I had a glorious time, and when I get around to downloading my photos, I will challenge myself to come up with some creative way of expressing this.

For now, let me tell you about my polka-dotted face. It had everything to do with the hat I borrowed from my daughter. It was one of those fancy summery floppy straw hats with minute lattice openings in the brim. I should have made the time to buy a proper hat to handle the New York sun, but in my haste to make it to Flushing Meadows, I went with borrowed headgear. And now I have a polka-dotted face to show for it. The New York sun was hot, blazing really, on both days. There was as yet no hint of the downpour that would wash out play mere days later. There was no sign that Gustav, or Hanna, or Ike were about to make their presence felt and challenge the USTA to consider buying a roof.

We arrived early on Labor Day, and managed to score free radios from the American Express booth before they decided that you had to show an Amex card in order to qualify for them. That turned out to be a godsend because we could not get tickets into the Arthur Ashe stadium, not even after I begged, pleaded, and momentarily considered selling my first born. I jest. Really.

It was clear that we were not going to see Nadal, Serena, or Monfils that day. They were all scheduled on Arthur Ashe. I bristled at first, and then it occurred to me that minus James Blake and his overachieving backside, the better matches were all scheduled at the Ashe stadium. Race seemed both relevant and irrelevant. I decided to make sure that I had Ashe tickets for the following day. I was not taking any chances.

We located our horribly overpriced seats in the Louis Armstrong stadium. I followed the matches next door on my new Amex radio. I still have not recovered from paying over $200. to watch Lindsay Davenport and Daniela Hantuchova pretend to care about losing a doubles match against Ai Sugiyama and her partner. They were spectacularly horrible.

It did not help when later, as I was minding my own business and heading towards the Heineken stand to cool down from all that scorching sun, I heard this gruff voice behind me demanding that I step aside now, step aside! And I turned around to see tall-ass Lindsay and old-ass looking Hantuchova being escorted out of the stadium by a big beefy Black bodyguard. It was all I could do to restrain the thought of pelting my beer at them. Mind you, it was an easy decision since I had not yet purchased said beer.

There were a few redeeming aspects to being relegated to Louis Armstrong. For a start, I finally got to see Dinara Safina in the flesh. Except she was not looking good at all. Sure she beat Groenefeld, but she was all twisted up and frustrated and tired. No way was she going to win her first USO. I wish I could say that the ensuing Mauresmo-Pennetta match made up for this but Mauresmo sucked so hard that I walked out midway. Strolling the grounds and taking photos of some of the upcoming Juniors was a far more productive use of my time. Although I do plan to find and buy Mauresmo’s sexy outfit; she won the fashion contest hands down. Finally, I got to see Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Kei Nishikori, both of whom are promising talents. Nishikori is a plucky player who needs to learn how to pace himself. He has a go-for-broke style that reminds me of James Blake. That is not a compliment. No surprise he lost in straights to the Argentinean.

Tuesday was a much better day. The sun continued to blaze, scorching me through the fancy straw hat. I plastered myself with sunscreen but knew that it would make no difference. It was another brilliant New York day. But thank goodness we had tickets for the Arthur Ashe party stadium. It turned out to be almost like being in the North Stand for Carnival. There was music, laughter, dancing, and friendly strangers who did not know each other from Adam but who connected easily – and not only because of being in a collective drunken stupor. Never again, I told myself, not me and that stale old Grand Stand. I mean Louis Armstrong stadium. It’s Ashe or nothing from now on.

The first match up was Dementieva-Schydner. I had told my daughter the story of Patty’s scandalous past so she was agog about seeing the former orange-juice drinking cult member. The match disappointed. I went for beer.

I came back for Djokovic-Robredo. It went to five sets, much to the dismay of the Serbians who had suddenly materialized around us. Many of them wore T-shirts emblazoned with words about Kosovo being a part of Serbia with comparisons to the US losing Texas to Mexico. They didn’t just root for their “Nole”, they lectured him loudly. And, to my surprise, Novak would pause between points and look up to the crowd to acknowledge their words. Why doesn’t he just focus on the blasted match, I kept asking myself. I could not believe that he would allow himself to be so distracted. Then again, this is a player I have previously criticized for being emotionally needy. Seeing this played out live was quite disconcerting. When he finally won the match, he puffed out his chest and punched it in pride. He looked like a buffoon. The Serbians departed en masse. They were not interested in anyone else.

Next up was Federer vs. Andreev. The crowd was openly, unashamedly, enthusiastically pro-Federer. Hats off to Andreev for handling this and taking him to five sets. Hats off to Federer for eventually winning. It was touch and go for a few moments there. We left the stadium at 9:00pm. The Federer match had started in the blazing afternoon sun, but had ended under the lights. Federer later blamed this for his difficulty closing it out.

Several days later, and I now have a polka-dotted face, thanks to all the tiny openings in the straw hat that let the sun through. And I find myself reflecting that this is fitting as it is actually as polka-dotted as the year that both of my faves have enjoyed. It’s been an up and down year for both Serena and Federer. A dot of a win here, an embarrassing loss there, injuries and illnesses galore. But now they are both champions again.

Serena is again the #1 player in the world – a hard earned result against a finalist whom I previously dismissed as a boring retriever. In truth, Jankovic played the match of her life. Kudos to her. And congratulations to Federer for finally winning his 13th Slam. One more and he equals Sampras. But I’d prefer to see this record crushed. It would be worth every unasked question from my coworkers about the bizarre state of my polka-dotted face.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Unleashing the Bitch

The other day I happened across an exchange on television between Omarosa and Wendy Williams. I can’t remember how I chanced upon this show, as I happen to like neither woman. I was nevertheless transfixed and watched the entire episode, much in the same way that it becomes difficult to avert ones eyes from a train wreck, in this case featuring two fake-breasted, loud-mouthed trannies.

Omarosa was supposedly on to promote her new book. But she never really got a chance to say much of anything about the book because she started things off by confronting Wendy on her desire to straighten her out. Wendy shot back that her intent was actually to smooth out Omarosa. Things went speedily downhill from there. Wendy tagged Omarosa as a stereotypical Angry Black Woman. Omarosa retaliated that she would rather be an ABW than a buffoon. Neither woman seemed to realize that both labels represent negative stereotypes that do nothing to uplift the image of Black women anywhere.

This particular episode of the Wendy Williams show was apparently a smashing success. But for me it remains a low moment in Black female television. And then along came Sarah Palin who helped me to realize that the bitch stereotype is not unique to Black women at all. White women are also quite well represented in this category.

I now think of Sarah Palin as the White bitch who has been unleashed on our television screens with the specific agenda of helping John McCain become President the United States. Like many bitches, Sarah Palin masks her lethality in tones of saccharine. At the Republican Convention, she attacked Barack Obama ruthlessly. One television pundit later described her behavior as “unseemly”. I know what he was trying to say. He was implying that she had been a complete bitch.

I have been intrigued by this strategy for helping McCain win. It suggests that Hilary’s Pied Piper movement with its 18 million female followers has been reduced to her having been a successful bitch. So if Hilary could be a bitch, well then Sarah Palin will be the bigger and better bitch. And so far, she has delivered.

This stands in stark contrast to Obama’s studied nice guy stance. He has steadfastly refused to milk the opportunities presented by the steady drip of scandals emanating from the Palins' Alaskan household. He resolutely stated that his mother had had him at age 18 and he was therefore not going to criticize the out-of-wedlock status of Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter. Part of me admires Obama’s tendency to aim for the higher ground. The other part wants to shake him and remind him that nice guys finish last – especially when facing an unleashed bitch who, despite the precariousness of her own family situation, has had the chutzpa to adopt a no holds barred position. The audacity of that bitch.

I was stunned to discover that John McCain had met Bitch Palin only once before selecting her. I was stunned because this seems so unlike the man I assumed McCain to be. I had expected him to select a long trusted friend for a running partner. He was practically begging Hilary Clinton to cross over to the dark side, and she was practically saying that it might be possible, what with her constant reminders to all and sundry that she and McCain have long been such great friends.

To me, John McCain just does not seem to be the type of man who is capable of placing his trust in a complete stranger. He seems too anxious, too controlling, almost too paranoid for that. Witness his close monitoring of her speech as Palin spoke at the convention. While everyone else was listening to and screaming for Palin, McCain nervously kept his eyes glued to the monitor, his fingers twiddling nervously at the front of his jacket as he read along beside her. One would swear that he was actually seeing her script for the first time. I would not at all be surprised if he was. He is no longer in control of this machine.

Sarah Palin seems to have been handed to McCain as the representative of that arm of the Republican Party that used to be called the Moral Majority. By revealing that he had previously met her only once, McCain seemed to be acknowledging that the decision to select her may have been taken out of his hands. He seems to have accepted her unvetted. Her public vetting by the media must be making him squirm. Old man McCain suddenly seems in over his head.

As I watched Mrs. Palin deliver her speech at the Republican Convention, I found myself thinking that she must not only have bought Omarosa’s book but she must have inhaled it cover to cover. The book is called “The Bitch Switch: Knowing How To Turn It On and Off”, and in it Omarosa aims to show women how to be assertive and aggressive bitches when they need to in order to get what they want. Sarah Palin could easily have written the foreword.