February 2011


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Prepare for some schadenfreude.

Do you often feel that life’s annoyances come at you like holidays, grouped together in an intensive manner to cause the greatest distress?

If you don’t, maybe I need to come live with you.

So let me paint you a picture:

My cat has fleas.

She lives indoors.

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

Sigh.

As I proceeded to purchase $52 of flea spray and shampoo, it occurred to me that if raising children is anything like raising cats, I may not be cut out for it.

And as I vacuumed every surface in the house, using attachments to get in every corner, I gathered the rugs and pillows to take to the washing machine.

And as I put a load of rugs into said machine, it died.

Unexpectedly.

Mysteriously.

Tragically.

Apparently even though you can wash small rugs in a machine for 3 years, it can suddenly decide it likes you no longer, and will quit like a stripper dancing for a guy who forgot his wallet.

And to add insult to injury, I don’t even own the machine, so now Grandma calls out a repairman. I ask my dad if I should pay for the $150-ish repair and he replies that it’s ok, she thinks I’m broke anyway.

Well that’s nice.

So now I have a pile of wet rugs, about 5 loads of unwashed laundry that will very likely have to be taken to the Laundromat, and a slightly bruised ego.

And tonight I get to – wait for it – give the cat a bath.

Did I also mention my thesis revisions are due in three days?

Admit it: so you wish you were me right now.

awww

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I’m going to get a bit personal today folks, because, well it’s Valentines Day, and I CAN.

Yesterday the boyfriend (M) and I were heading over to a friend’s house for a Sunday barbecue. While sitting in the passenger seat examining myself in the flip-down mirror, the ever familiar thought that 99% of women frequently have (damn you Giseles) popped into my head: Ugh.

And of course, being a woman I often wonder if the thoughts I have about myself are all in my head, if the breakout I see under the makeup is actually visible, if the frizz on the back of my head is a hallucaintion.  This prompts me to ask M, “Do I look gross?”

– Now, let’s be honest, if a man has any semblance of a brain he will answer “Of course not!” quickly – but not too quickly, lest he appear false and lying. And this M did; he replied “No, you look good!” And then he paused and said, in a well-natured tone, “You complete me.”

He said it with a smile, almost in the way you might say something silly and exaggerated, like “you are the most spectacular quarterback in the world!” (me to him on that one), but there was something behind the laugh that made me think that there might be a grain of truth there.

And let me also say I had, not five minutes ago, declared that he “was the most annoying man on the planet.” But in this  moment in the car, I had the feeling that maybe it was true, not in the cloying-and-annoying-co-dependent-relationship way, but in an actual partnership sort of way. The I’ve-hitched-my-wagon-to-yours-because-I-want-to kind of way.

So maybe Valentine’s Day is an excuse for companies to sell massive amounts of candy, flowers, and the like, but before you dismiss the whole day, think that maybe, behind all that commercialism, there is genuine thought or emotion. That maybe when you’re buying candy for your significant other because society “forces you,” you choose their favorite kind.

And even if the thought ends up being from you to yourself, to quote Martha Stewart, “Its’ a good thing.”

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There has been a great deal of talk online about Forever 21 lately, and most of it is not good. But you wouldn’t know it if you left the net and walked into a store. Recently in my local mall they moved into an empty Mervyns, a space at least 5 times larger than their previous one. And I admit, when I walked in for the first time, it was exciting. While many smaller stores can be impossible to find anything in, this one was organized and spread out, filled with customers and not crowded.

And the allure of Forever 21 is the accessibility: you can walk in a know that you can afford anything you see. When I walk into Anthropologie, I want everything I see, but I can certainly not afford much more than a tube of lip gloss. And whenever I go, I can always find something rather unique or trendy that spices up my day.

But is anything there really unique? Most signs point to no – and even I, not in the industry, always see similar patterns and designs in their merchandise. It reminds me of when I used to sell women’s shoes at Macy’s and there was a Payless right outside the door. I would often see the exact same designs at Payless that we were selling next door for 4 times the price. The catch of course with shoes is that there is no comparison for quality. But for a trendy t-shirt, quality isn’t such an issue; by all accounts you don’t need to wear it for years, and the shirts that cost $100 versus $12 don’t seem all that better; you’re buying the label.

image Call it the trickle-down effect…

Therein lies the rub: the label, and the reason that designers are making a big fuss. Now I’m not talking about the allegations about cheap labor and production – that’s another issue, one which is more serious in my mind and not addressed here (This is a great article for that issue). Let’s take the case of Virginia Johnson, who sued and settled with 21:

In 2005, her intern spotted a skirt in a Manhattan Forever 21 with a print much like one that Johnson had sold the previous season at Barneys. Johnson’s skirt went for about $175; Forever 21’s version was less than $18.

I’m sorry, but for most of 21’s clientele, $175 is out of reach, so it’s not as if they were stealing Johnson’s potential customers. It must be frustrating for these designers, but I’m sorry, their clothing is just too expensive for many consumers, especially when the clothing is so on-trend that they won’t be able to wear it next season.

This is a result of our economic system: demand producing supply. This is a different type of intellectual property than say, literature or creative writing, because  if two authors wrote the same book, the consumer could choose either one. But there is no choice for me between the Johnson skirt and the “copy” sold at 21.

So the real issue here is not really economic ,which is ironic since all the designer will ever get is a financial settlement, but artistic. And 21 is trying to use more in-house designs that will be original, though there is bound to be some overlap, as artists have always created in ways that speak to the work of other artists.

And we are already Forever 21-ing art. We sell prints, postcards, bookmarks, and puzzles of A Starry Night, because 99% of us can neither afford or even see the original. And does the artist get a cut of every image out there of their painting? Would the designers be content to see a sign over their designs indicating the origin of the design? I highly doubt it.

So it comes down to money. And if I have to hear one more designer bitch about Forever 21 ripping off their $1000 dress…

Is imitation still the sincerest form of flattery?

I’m not saying that there is nothing wrong with the way Forever 21 practices business – they can be sketchy – but in the matter of copying expensive designer’s clothing for the general public, there is less sympathy to be had, and at the end of the day there’s no fake Fendi label on the knock-off purse, only one from Forever 21.

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Well folks, grad school is almost over. Completed first draft of thesis over the break, and I’m down to the wire. Paperwork filed.

Is this the end?

Will I go back?

Do I need a 12-step program to wean me off school?

Maybe.

 

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Did I just tag “graduation?” Shit. YES I DID.