Last Monday was Labor Day, so I took the day off to honor the historical contributions of organized labor to the cultural and political fabric of this country and to shop the Sephora Rouge sale. Look, capitalism is messy. It makes fools of us all.
Anyways, last week was a really challenging one. One of my best friends shared some gutting family news (love you, Hank). And I found out that Charlie, my family’s dog of 12 years, has cancer and maybe just a season left to live.
My mom delivered the news to me right after I’d left a really trying lunch in Highland Park (usually one of my favorite neighborhoods) at HomeState (usually one of my favorite restaurants). Long story short I sat next to the world’s worst group of humans on their first date. The man described his screenplay as “Eternal Sunshine meets The Lobster meets The Breakfast Club.” He asked to take a picture of the woman because the stone wall behind her made her look like she was in Beirut. She acquiesced: just make me look hot and emaciated.
So, you see: I already wanted to smash my brain in like plum tomatoes for Sunday sauce; like those guys on YouTube who crush Jello with tennis rackets. And then I heard that the tumors on Charlie’s lumpy body actually are cancerous and that it doesn’t matter he still acts like a puppy, still runs the length of the house like a sinewy greyhound (in curves) when he catches chat of a “walk,” is the softest, most tender-hearted creature I’ve ever known (no shade to my first dog, who was perfect but a c*nt)—it just doesn’t matter.
Besides just being a dog-lover and a big fan of this one in particular, I think I was hit so hard by the news because there are very few things my dysfunctional family participates in together. Vacations, birthdays, even dinners are all pretty much off the table. But everyone participates in loving Charlie. Sometimes it feels like I don’t have a family so much as I have a mom and a dog, and a house I visit to see them. All of which still makes me exceptionally lucky, but I think I’ll feel even more untethered when I lose the dog. Idk what to say, it’s very sad!
A few fun updates to break the tension!
Staunchly will now come out on Mondays! With, I hope, increased regularity. She’s a fickle one, but she’s finally getting her groove.
I’m partnering with the Los Angeles community space Junior High (product of alt-Virgo mastermind Faye Orlove) to put out a modified version of this humble newsletter every week called The Tiny Staunch. It will include my trademark, troubling wit and coded cries for help plus news about fun and important goings-on at Junior High, an artistic center in East Hollywood dedicated to promoting the work of women, creators of color, and other marginalized voices. If that mission statement intrigues you, consider becoming a member here for as little as $1 a month. Doing so will make you a patron of the arts—a Medici, essentially—what a bargain!
This partnership will allow Staunchly to reach many, many more eyeballs. And to know me is to know (and respect) my well-established oculolinctus (I’m just kidding. Don’t google that). Jokes aside, I love power and influence and am looking forward to an increase in both!
If you’re getting this email in your inbox, this will affect you not at all. If you would like to doubly support me and the “work” that I do, you can subscribe to The Tiny Staunch here.
As always, you can read the archives and catch up on any full issue you missed at StaunchlyYours.com.
Kara Brown said it best on this week’s episode of Lovett or Leave It: “I think he hates women and he’s racist.”
I don’t really know what else to say! He’s a likely-perjurer, a definite enemy of workers, women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and the community of people who care about the environment, as well as someone who thinks birth control causes abortion. Quite the catch.
So, call your senators. 202-684-2473. Email their staffs. Be loud. Be obnoxious. Nothing but full bodily autonomy is on the line.
(Here’s a handy tracker from Indivisible to show where your senators stand on his nomination. Let those wafflers know what’s up).
1. Serena Williams and the Game That Can’t Be Won (Yet): What rage costs a woman.
by Rebecca Traister (The Cut)
“…The umpire insinuated that Serena was herself not playing fair and square. That made her livid. And one thing black women are never allowed to be without consequence is livid.”
Staunchly is always at risk of just becoming a Traister Appreciation Zine and honestly, I’m not mad at it. Her latest on the US Open drama, the price a black woman pays for challenging male authority, and what it means to break the rules of a game that was never meant for people like you hits the mark again. Ultimately, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka are both exceptional athletes and steadfast carriers of human grace and an ump with an agenda and a misogynist’s understanding of female composure can’t change that.
2. Leslie Moonves Steps Down from CBS, After Six Women Raise New Assault and Harassment Claims by Ronan Farrow (The New Yorker)
It’s been upsetting, if not surprising, to see the powers at CBS weasel their way out of any meaningful action to hold Les Moonves accountable for his decades of predatory and vengeful behavior. Ronan Farrow’s latest story details new allegations against Moonves from six additional women, including: forced oral sex, physical violence, and career retaliation. I’m grateful Farrow is staying on the story he broke and holding our attention. It’s critical that we stay focused on these shitty men because the second we take our eyes off them, they think they can sneak back into the spotlight without facing literally any consequences.
It’s like what my mom says about ants: The leader always sends out a couple scouts to search for crumbs and see if the space is hospitable. If it is, they report to headquarters and bring the whole gang back with them. That’s why you have to kill the scouts.
I’m not saying we need to permanently eliminate Louis C.K. or Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose or one of the many other men itching to get their fame back. But I am saying we need to make the space as inhospitable as possible. That means staying vigilant and true and not settling for—to mix a metaphor in an, I think, really elegant way—the crumbs of justice these men are willing to give us.
On that note…
3. Louis C.K. and Men Who Think Justice Takes as Long as They Want It To by Roxane Gay (NY Times)
How long should a man guilty of sexual misconduct have to pay for what he did? I liked Gay’s answer:
“He should pay until he demonstrates some measure of understanding of what he has done wrong and the extent of the harm he has caused. He should attempt to financially compensate his victims for all the work they did not get to do because of his efforts to silence them. He should facilitate their getting the professional opportunities they should have been able to take advantage of all these years. He should finance their mental health care as long as they may need it. He should donate to nonprofit organizations that work with sexual harassment and assault victims. He should publicly admit what he did and why it was wrong without excuses and legalese and deflection. Every perpetrator of sexual harassment and violence should follow suit.”
4. The Gender Divide in Preschoolers’ Closets by Sara Clemence (NY Times)
“…Even in an age of female fighter pilots and #MeToo, boys’ clothes are largely designed to be practical, while girls’ are designed to be pretty.”
This was an interesting piece on an issue I think about a lot in a philosophical sense but not a logistical one: children’s clothing. Boys should wear pink and sparkles and girls should wear blue and green if they want—that’s pretty much the extent of what I thought. I never stopped and considered the actual construction of children’s clothes. How boys’ clothes are made for dirt and discovery and scraped knees and girls’ outfits—ruffled, bedazzled, frosted like cakes—for adornment and display. Even their play clothes lack the “capacious pockets and reinforced knees” that are standard in pants designed for young boys, subtly programming girls to think they “are dressed to decorate, not to do.”
5. Female janitors working the night shift take safety into their own hands by Brittny Mejia (LA Times)
This piece about female janitors learning self-defense to protect themselves from abusers is critical and devastating and a reminder that the success of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements should be judged by whether they make life and work tangibly safer for all women—not just Hollywood’s women of privilege.
Bonus: T.I. doesn’t know who Cynthia Nixon is but he endorses her. Not for anything specific. Just being a badass. Staunchly knows who Cynthia Nixon is and endorses her as well. New Yorkers make sure to vote this Thursday. You deserve better than Andrew Cuomo.
I’ve read a couple great books recently (e.g. Severance by Ling Ma; Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, to name a few) and one really bad one (Summer by Edith Wharton, which was great until the young, hot guy revealed himself to be a total, irredeemable fuccboi and the cool, willful protagonist, knocked-up and desperate in mf New England, ends up marrying her awful, creepy, ADOPTIVE FATHER). Then there’s one book that fell somewhere in the middle for me, though definitely closer to great: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.
To refresh your memory, this is what my friend Carson said in her recommendation for the Staunchly Midsummer Reading List:
“Ottessa Moshfegh’s new novel probably isn’t going to make you feel good. It’s about a depressive borderline-sociopath who tries to escape the pain and inanity in her life by retreating into a haze of prescription pills…Our world is burning closer to the ground every day, and this book will not distract you from that. But if you’re sad or angry or otherwise internally mangled, you certainly won’t feel alone.”
Here’s what Dwight Garner said in his review of it for the New York Times, after calling it a “remorseless little machine”: “Because this is a novel by the superabundantly talented Moshfegh — she’s an American writer of Croatian and Iranian descent — we know in advance that it will be cool, strange, aloof and disciplined. The sentences will be snipped as if the writer has an extra row of teeth.” (An extra row of teeth!!)
Here’s what *I* say: ...I don’t know!
I thought that if I sat with this book for a few weeks, I'd have a better understanding of what I thought of it. But I'm still just as puzzled as ever. There are days I think it was stunning and days I think it was lazy and I still don't really know what the point of it was, but I think that's the fault of mine, not Moshfegh.
My friend Maddie described Moshfegh’s writing style so perfectly the other day. She said it was like watching a pimple-popping video—gross and addictive. I can’t think of a better metaphor. Her writing is disgusting; her characters are feral. They don’t use the bathroom and make love; they shit and fuck. It’s refreshing. It’s intermittently repulsive. It’s sometimes brilliant.
It’s one of the many reasons I’m fascinated by Moshfegh. Another reason: asked in a round of rapid-fire questions for The Times Literary Supplement to choose between the artists Tracey Emin and Jeff Koons, she answered Britney Spears. This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that moves me.
So ok, where do I land on R&R? I loved Moshfegh’s previous novel, Eileen. Which makes me feel like an asshole because that’s the one Moshfegh says she wrote almost as a joke, to prove how easy it is to write a novel. So, ok I guess I’m an asshole (and Moshfegh is definitely also an asshole)...
Anyways, I thought I could write myself into a cohesive take on this book. As we can both tell by now, that is not happening.
Have you read My Year of Rest and Relaxation? What did you think? Help me!
This week’s Joint Didion will be coming out shortly (as soon as I get my act together—I’m sorry, did you really expect any consistency from a podcast produced by stoners?). We talked about Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, which as I’ve said I loved. While you're waiting for a new drop, you can always peep the archives here. And don’t just peep, listen! It’s dumb but so fun.
Speaking of fun, which I am all about: this is a fun story about how the writer and composer Mark Rivers created the Emmy-nominated song “Totally Gay” for Big Mouth, one of my absolute favorite shows. (Rivers also wrote all the Mouse Rat songs so bless his genius angel heart).