Bag spam: what’s in my bag? And what’s in yours?

I’ve got friends who keep sending me little memes that I have no intention to spam other people in my Gmail address book with. I can, however, spam the readers of this blog!

So for those of you who are, for some reason, dying to know what’s in my bag, here’s a rundown:

– Work pass & press card. V. important. We have a saying in Russian: “without paperwork, you’re a little bug. With paperwork, you’re a human being!”

– Wallet. This one was a present from my ex, from London. It’s huge, expensive and fabulously bourgeois – novacheck with a patent leather trim. I keep the usual wallet-y stuff in it, and I also keep more unusual stuff, such as two small, laminated icons of the Virgin & Jesus, a small cross threaded in gold on a tiny cloth pillow (of the sort one normally sews into one’s clothes, or a soldier’s uniform – a present from one of my aunts), and small amounts of currencies from all the countries I used to live in (Ukraine, U.S.A, United Arab Emirates & Jordan. Should probably stick a Soviet coin in there too.).

– Keys from two flats – one in Moscow, one in Kiev. A keychain of silver stars I bought in Alabama, and a keychain of a little red and gold bag that my ex brought me back from Dubai once. I feel a little wistful every time I see the little red and gold bag dangling. And so it goes.

– A bottle of mineral water facial spray. Because it’s Freaking. Hot. In Moscow. Sometimes, when I catch random people looking at me when I spray myself with it, I’ll offer to spray them too. They tend to say yes.

– My metro pass. Speaking of the metro, just look at what I had to put with this morning. Hades. This is Hades.

– Cosmetics, to keep myself pretty. There’s a mirror and eyeshadow compact in there, that my badass teenage BROTHER, of all people, bought for me. I told him I wanted eyeshadow for Christmas (as a way of getting him to not buy me anything – I didn’t want him to spend his money), he went into a make-up store with one of his equally badass friends, described my facial features and colouring to the saleslady, and picked out a compact. And it was perfect.

– Deodorant. Because it is Freaking. Hot. In Moscow. I really need to switch to some of that more natural crap, that won’t make my lymph nodes develop tumours. I really need to.

– My big fat Nokia phone. It belonged to my ex. I stole it in a fit of pique, after I discovered that it had a 5 megapixel camera. My ex had broken my camera a few months prior. I am still avoiding the iPhone. I think this is an issue of sentimentality.

– A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I avoided reading Byatt for years, on account of her dissing and dismissing J. R. Rowling in the NYT. No, really, I actually did this. Looking back on it, it might have been a tad silly. A tad.

– A pack of Parliaments and blue lighter to match. I don’t really smoke, of course.

– A long, silver scarf. When I lived in Jordan, I wore it as a hijab for a while. Nowadays, I take it with me when I plan to visit a church, like I did this morning. (There was absolutely no one there, it was just after a service but before they closed their doors. A few women were singing psalms in a corner by the iconostasis. One came out eventually and accepted the little paper on which I had written the names of people who needed prayers – prayers for health and wellbeing, prayers for souls who had passed on, and a special prayer to the Virgin, for two individuals who need extra help. One of those individuals being me.)

– Oversized purple  sunglasses. I bought them in London, after losing my other ones in a pub in Devon. As I recall, I got a huge lecture about switching from Vivienne Westwood to Ralph Lauren – from a person who is actually fashionable.

– A green little iPod Shuffle. My actual iPod recently fell in battle. The Shuffle was kindly donated by a famous philanthropist, i.e. my brother.

– A small bottle of perfume – the grassy, summery kind. “It reminds me of my youth,” someone told me recently. “But you are still young,” I said. “Not in that way,” he replied.

– The bag itself is a black patent leather tote, fabulously expensive, bought on fabulous sale as, to quote Disney’s Emperor Kuzco, “my birthday gift to me! I’m SO happy!” I’m not really happy, but stalking around Moscow with a great bag makes me feel imposing – which is good enough, I suppose. Our head news correspondent recently told me that one of these days, I’ll come back from the bathroom and both she and my bag will be halfway to the border with Belarus. I eagerly await further developments.

Boobquake revisited

Reading this comment from Sarah on the subject, I am reminded of how the issues surrounding the pseudo-religious slut-shaming of women are not just issues that happen to “people over there.” Plenty of us experience directly, regardless of our personal religious beliefs, or lack thereof. I experienced it on a regular basis in Jordan, for example. Though I am also saying this as a fairly religious person myself – one who goes to church on a regular basis, and covers her head when she does so.

As I mentioned in my previous post – no, Boobquake was not a serious action. Neither was it inclusive. But it was also a preposterous response to a preposterous statement and as such, I believe it worked.

Ironically enough, one of the people to call my attention to Boobquake on Facebook was a Muslim friend who, although a fairly conservative dresser and not planning on participating herself, thought I might find it “fun” and “[my] cup of tea.” She read me correctly, of course. It certainly wasn’t her cup of tea, not by a long shot. While I don’t believe that trotting out one of your friends at a moment like this makes for any sort of argument – I did appreciate the sentiment behind this. This is a person who has intimate knowledge of just how badly I struggled with issues of both self-image and safety while living in Jordan. She knew I would immediately relate.

There isn’t one correct way to respond to slut-shaming, after all. People have different arsenals, and use them the best way they know how. Does this somehow negate white Western privilege? Well, uh, no. But it can lead to points of contact for us all.

Also, here’s a beautiful, wonderful, a little scary and fairly NSFW Monica Bellucci gif. Because, any excuse, really. Any excuse:

Continue reading “Boobquake revisited”

Aw. You guys. Jeremy Renner liked Amman.

It’s odd for me to hear Letterman ask if Jordan was “foreboding.” I keep forgetting that many Americans view the Middle East as a generally horrifying place. It’s really unfortunate, particularly in the case of a country like Jordan, because it’s so beautiful. And yes, it was tough as hell on me, I didn’t like living there, I didn’t like the kind of negative attention I got as a foreign woman, and I did run away, far away, but for a male visitor in particular, Jordan is anything but “foreboding,” I think.

In other news, that is one hell of a deserved Academy Award nomination right there.

Intense “28 Weeks”-era Jeremy Renner agrees. Speaking of intense, this guy has never been in a romantic comedy, I don’t think. Let’s hope he never will be in a romantic comedy. (Not that romantic comedies are bad on principle, but come on, the last good one I saw was “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” I didn’t even have a driving license back then.)


The original title of this post was “2009 Sucked.” But then something odd happened.

I suck at making resolutions, though there are definitely people and things I’d like to say goobye to. Mostly to you and you. And Madeira. Holy crap, I am never drinking that again. I am also never standing on icy bridges, hurling dog tags into the water. I am putting a moratorium on dramatic text messages and little packages of salted calamari, embarrassing amounts of which I have devoured this year. I’m not going to be obsessed with the cheerful blandness of five-star hotels. I will not take powdered creamer in my instant coffee. I will not fight one-woman battles against unseen enemies. Good night ladies, good night, sweet ladies, and goodbye.

But if there’s one resolution I really ought to make, it’s pretending that everything’s Fucking Horrible. It’s a bit of a reflex with me. A superstition, even. “Don’t say that things are fine, because you’ll jinx them, and they will be un-fine.” I’m sure some of you reading can relate. You know what, though? Superstitions suck. And they are tedious as well. Going around an entire block because a cat ran into your path – who does that? Tedious people do. People who would like a semblance of control, when none of us have any (as Woland pointed out to Berlioz).

So in keeping with that, I am not going to say that 2009 was a bad year. It was a hard year, but “hard” and “bad” are not necessarily synonyms. Perhaps this is just another superstition, but moaning about how 2009 Destroyed Mah Life seems ungrateful. You never know, which agents of fate may be listening to you moan, or how short their tempers may be.

Check it out: 2009 lavished me with brambles and hangovers at 4 p.m. It was a cornucopia of brown boots, bruised thighs, guns, pipes, and hanging out of the door, singing “Olena ne plach'” into the falling snow. It was a shitload of really good work. It contained collapsed volcanoes, doors to other worlds (conveniently located in Somerset), and Suberstar. It stomped a bloody hole in my chest, but the hole also let the light in. It gave me new friends and enemies, and it brought back and resurrected old ones. It gave me chances to terrorist-fist-bump my brother before he goes to bed at night. It let me lean on my family, and let them lean on me, and witness the bizarre miracle of nobody getting toppled. It made me blubber over an e-mail from someone I haven’t even met, but do so in a good, summer rain-y sort of way. It made me hold my own hand. It busted me, and made me grateful — “for every single moment of my stupid little life.”

Pretty good year. Hasta. Baby. 😀

Don’t worry, though, ya’ll, I’ll be back to my regular bitchy self in no time. The people have come to see Tsarina, and she will not disappoint them, etc.

Link round-up (Polanski, hijab, zombies, etc.) and a moment of truth

Anne Applebaum annoyed me with her clueless stereotyping of Russian women, but she downright freaked me out the other day when she went to bat for Roman Polanski. Her subsequent defense of her comments is even worse – Applebaum has the nerve to call the victim’s testimony “salacious.” I don’t even know what to say to that. No joke I could crack right now could possibly be grim enough. Paul Campos is right, for Applebaum, it quite obviously comes down to “slut was asking for it.” Applebaum lives in a universe where some women – Russians, pretty little American models – can be consumed and spat out with impunity. A commenter on the Campos post probably put it best:

… Applebaum sees Polanski as one of the elite, with whom she self-identifies… Law and legal consequences are for the unwashed masses, not for the superior beings who hold sway in Washington’s celebrity circles. She certainly sees the girl as, at best, a DFH, who should have been glad to be drugged, raped, and sodomized by such a great man.

For more on the Polanski situation, see Jill’s excellent post about his famous apologists. Also, check out Daisy’s review of “Repulsion.”

I recently read “Dead Man’s Holiday” by Nick Seeley, and I am in love with the story. You should be too.

Speaking of Nick, he’s editor-at-large over at JO, and JO recently published my piece, “The Fake Muhajaba,” which is now online. It was difficult for me to write this. The sad thing is, I left Jordan for good this year. I made the decision shortly after the piece was published. There isn’t a lot I can say about it in this space, though a part of me misses Amman, and always will. It’s just that I could never have a life there, and that was something I had to face eventually.

In other news, Penelope Trunk is all kinds of awesome. Miscarriage is a part of life. So is abortion. It’s perfectly normal to feel relief when a clearly unwanted pregnancy ends.

I didn’t think I’d like “Obvious Child,” but I did. Bonding on the couch in an abortion clinic, on Valentine’s Day – what could be cuter? OK, maybe it gets a little too cutesy at various points, but at least there’s no PBR.

Zombie Research has a cool note up on zombies & rigor mortis.

Ren lost her kitten and is facing a huge vet bill. There’s a donation button on her old blog. Click on it if you can spare something. It sucks to lose animals, especially when they go while still very young.

Ex-sex – this was very sad, and very well-written.

On a personal note, I recently got a compliment on this blog from someone whose writing I admire. It felt odd and miraculous that it happened, because I have been thinking of nuking this enterprise. I’ve been questioning everything that I’ve been doing on here, obsessing about how pointless and stupid and embarrassing it is. I’m not of the “never apologize, never explain” school of thought, and it’s never been clearer than right now.

Things have odd lately in general. I’ve become the girl who sits at the far end of the table, stares down into her wine glass, and bums everyone out. I know it’s going to pass, but goddamit, when? My ever-helpful aunt suggested it will take about 6 years. Hah. And then she wonders why I never come over for pie anymore. Grandma’s been telling me to go to singles’ nights with all of these forty-something middle-manager types, and saying that I look “just like a girl” (I’m 25, grandma, in civilized countries, that’s still young), and I finally told her that I’ll shoot myself in the face if she doesn’t stop, which was a cruel thing to say, except that it worked.

The upside to all of this is that I’ve lost so much weight that my previously nice, tight jeans can now be pulled off me without undoing a single button. Which could potentially be hot. Or dangerous.

Still, I’m not nuking this blog. Or my face. “Not yet. Not just yet.”