Letter to the Editor: An Exercise in Insincerity

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Staunch defender of Courtney Love

Once upon a time, if you wanted to pester a celebrity, get some catalogs to drool over, or share your opinions with the editors of your favorite periodicals, you had to write a letter (Literally! Pen to paper) and cough up, like a quarter or something for a stamp.

When I was a kid, I wrote a shit-ton of letters, because I read a shit-ton of magazines. I was fortunate—blessed, even, you might say—I spent most weekday afternoons at my grandparents’ house, where I had unlimited access to Entertainment Weekly, People, Rolling Stone, Interview, and Premiere, AND my grandparents, aunt and uncle kept me well stocked in Seventeen, Sassy, YM, and Teen from the time I was eight, until they either ceased publication (ALL OF THE TEARS FOR SASSY, FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER), or I left for college (THANKS, GUYS. YOU’RE THE BEST!!!!) You might think that was enough to satiate my pre-teen lust for the written word, but no. Most weekends, I also managed to talk my parents into buying me one of those newsprinty, poster-filled, tabloidy, teeny-bopper rags—you know, like Tiger Beat, Teen Beat, or Bop. Though I eagerly tore out posters of “No Doubt,” “Boyz II Men,” and “TLC,” to display on my bedroom walls, even as a kid, I mostly thought those kinds of magazines were dumb. This was during the post-Corys, but pre-Leonardo days, when Johnathan Taylor Thomas, or that kid from Boy Meets World (not the main kid, the other kid) was on the cover of every single one (little boys! I mean, really!) Nine year old me occasionally wrote letters, requesting more articles about my favorite crushes—Keanu Reeves, Luke Perry, Dean Cain (REMEMBER HIM? I mean, before he was super-creepy in that Laci Person movie?), Brad Pitt, and Denzel Washington. No, seriously I was legitimately pissed off about the lack of Denzel Washington in Tiger Beat. Also, I wrote a research paper about him in sixth grade, so, you know, if you ever need to know a pre-1996 Denzel Washington fact, I’m your gal.

I didn’t just pen angry letters to to childrens’ publications bemoaning the lack of heartthrobs that were 30 years my senior though (Denzel Washington was born in December of 1954. In Mount Vernon New York. In case you were wondering). I also wrote letters to the grown-up magazines, my favorite being a impassioned defense of Courtney Love that I penned to Premiere in the winter of ’96, which I signed with pseudonym “Courtney B.” (No, seriously, you guys, this one jerk wrote them a letter THAT THEY PUBLISHED, were he was all like, “I don’t want a magazine with HER on the cover on MY coffee table,” and I was like, “LISTEN, YOU, COURTNEY LOVE IS A NATIONAL TREASURE. HAVE YOU NOT SEEN “THE PEOPLE Vs. LARRY FLYNT?!!!” [I hadn’t actually seen it, because, you know, I was 11, and it was a movie about Larry Flynt, but obvs, that was TOTALLY beside the point.] I was devastated when it was not published.

Actually, (not surprisingly), the majority of my letters were never published…except for one. It was ’94 or ’95 (I was nine), and I was determined, DETERMINED to get my name in print. For some reason that I no longer remember, I concluded that Bop would be most likely to publish one of my letters, so I plopped down on the living room floor (my favorite letter writing and magazine reading spot) with a previous issue, and studied the letters that they’d opted to print. OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. THEY PUBLISHED THE DUMBEST SHIT EVER. Like, seriously, it was all “BOP IS THE COOLEST, AND I LOVE JTT!!!!!11111” (Ok, these were probably handwritten initially, and some copy-editing was involved, I’m sure, so there was no actual “!!!!11111,” but were they written today, as internet comments, there would be lots of “!!!!1111.” Lots. Occasionally though, they did publish, and answer questions about upcoming movies or television shows, so that was my initial strategy. I wrote a few letters with movie questions, and then, finally, I went for it. I bit the bullet, and wrote, what I just knew they would eat up. It literally, pains me to type it out now, even though this was nearly twenty years ago. I said:

Bop has always been my favorite mag [not “magazine, but “mag.” That was crucial], but now I’m not sure. Do you hate me forever?

(LIES. ALL LIES. BOP WAS NEVER EVEN CLOSE TO BEING MY FAVORITE. FORGIVE ME, JANE PRATT, I KNEW NOT WHAT I DID. EXCEPT FOR I DID. I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT I WAS DOING. I WAS BLINDED BY THE GLORY OF BEING PUBLISHED.)

I cringed as I wrote it. I cringed as I sent it. But I knew they would print it…and the DID. They did print it, and they spelled my name “Kathryn Keagberg.” And the editor responded with his own comments; Not forever…several hundred years, perhaps (KILL ME. KILL ME NOW) and then a kindly reassurance that I was free to enjoy whichever magazines that I wished, but that he hoped I would continue to read Bop.

Since this was the days before the obligatory “Good news! We are publishing your letter!” e-mails, I discovered that my letter had been published during a trip to the grocery store. I ran to find my mom so that I could show her.

Me: “Look, mom! Bop published my letter.”

My mom: [nervously— I think she was aware of the type of letters I usually wrote] “They did?”

Me: “Uh-huh; READ IT!”

My mom: [reads it, and gives me this look like,you wrote that? Really?)”…I guess we should buy a copy.”

And buy a copy we did.

That One Time When I Saw Anna Wintour At Bloomingdales

I posted this as a Facebook note in my pre-blogging days, but I think it works better in blog form.

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Anna Wintour (presumably) in New York.

ImageMe (the opposite of Anna Wintour, and pre-Anna Wintour haircut) in New York

One lovely spring day, in the not too distant past, I was in NYC for a yoga workshop. I had taken to eating lunch at Bloomingdales in Soho because it was nearby, they had reasonably tasty hummus, and I could sit and read the “Yoga Sutras” for a while with minimal distractions (Bloomingdales does not have free wifi). Plus, let’s face it, lunch was the only thing I could afford at Bloomingdales anyway, and I REALLY wanted to be able to afford something at Bloomingdales.

Now, I know yoga teachers are supposed to be non-attached to material possessions, and ESPECIALLY non-attached to super-expensive luxury possessions, and brand names and all of that. I mean, haven’t you heard of all of all the enlightened souls removing the logos and tags from their $100 Lulu pants on principle? Yeah. That’s not me. My first pair of Lulu pants warranted a tweet AND a status update.

That said, one lesson I’ve been learning consistently through my practice, is radical self-acceptance (note: yoga teachers, even us materialistic yoga teachers, really love to attach the word “radical” to everything), and I accept that I am not yet a fully enlightened being. I then also accept my occasional need to press my little yogic nose against the windows of Kate Spade and Tiffanys (metaphorically of course, I do realize someone has to wash those windows), as well as my desire to walk out of Bloomingdales with my very own “Little Brown Bag,” even if it does just contain a “Little Brown Espresso Cup,” and a half eaten bag of pita chips.

Thus, my tale begins on my last day in the city for that particular Manhattan excursion, when I decided to take one final pilgrimage to the land of $1,000 parkas.

During this particular spring, I had decided, as I do every now and again, to go blond. Inspired by fellow yoga and lipstick enthusiast, Lady Gaga. I also went with a chin-length cut and some nice long bangs. I regularly finished off this look with a giant pair of sunglasses (Note: If you have tiny little vatic eyes like me, huge Gagaesque sunglasses are like manna from Heaven). On this particular day, I was also carrying two giant bags–one with my laptop and a few yoga books, and my usual moderately priced vegan purse. Also, like every other person under the age of 50 in New York (or really anywhere) in the spring of 2011, I was wearing leggings, a mini-dress, and some terribly uncomfortable boots.

As I approached the front door of Bloomies, I observed someone getting out of a car. A REALLY nice car, that let this person out right in front. Now, not being a New Yorker, this didn’t phase me too much, I’m used to people getting in and out of non-taxi cars all of the time. What I did notice though, was the hair! Holy freaking cow. This person, who was now walking just in front of me, had the best haircut I’d ever seen. It was the cut and color that I myself had been going for, but at that very moment, I realized that I’d failed miserably. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the back of this lady’s head. It was sleek and shiny, and very, very expensive looking.

Then I noticed her bags. Now, I really don’t know for sure that one of them was a Birkin bag, but in my imagination it was, so just go with it (And yes, I know Birkin bags are made out of leather, and sheep guts, and unicorn tears, and no I would never personally purchase one, not even in the alternate universe where my childhood crush, Neil Patrick Harris is straight, and I am his kept trophy wife, OK?)

The scene, of me and the mystery woman in front of me, was, honestly, terribly amusing: She, with her perfect haircut, giant (non-scratched) sunglasses, fabulously fabulous boots, well-fitting dress, and two gigundo-sized designer handbags, and me, traipsing in behind with my knockoff haircut, blond that had gone a bit too brassy (with a good two inches of rootage poking though), giant sunglasses (from a street vendor) that I could barely see through, thanks to dropping them on the sidewalk way too many times, a tote bag from Barnes and Noble, and a Le Sport Sac handbag purchased on Ebay several years prior.

I trailed this woman feeling the equivalent of a Canal Street knockoff to her honest-to-Goddess Cartier watch–and I don’t mean that in a “feeling sorry for myself that I’m not a bajillionaire” kind of way, I was honestly just really amused at the contrast (though I did resolve to get to a hair salon before my trip was over).

Now, it should be noted, that every time I’ve gone into Bloomingdales (or Neiman Marcus, or Louis Vuitton, or anywhere that sells anything over two grand that can’t be driven or plugged in), that I always secretly think someone is going to ask me to leave. Like, no matter how many chocolate chip cookies, cappuccinos, or packages of stationary I buy, that having a disheveled 20-something with a face full of acne, and roots that would put 1980s Madonna to shame is just not worth it, as far as keeping up appearances is concerned. (Especially if said 20 something is wearing a backpack, which is often the case.) So, as I walked into the department store, following my thinner, richer doppelganger that spring day, I breathed a mental sigh of relief when the perfume spritzer smiled and said “good afternoon, ladies!” (As opposed to the “Hold it right there!…Security! We have a ragamuffin here…” that part of me always fears I will hear.)

I held my head a little higher as I headed for the escalator. The perfume spritzer referred had to me in the same sentence as someone that carried two purses with the combined worth of a four year tuition at a sate college! Maybe she even thought we came in together!

I rode behind her on the first escalator, and stepped off on the handbag/coffee/junior department floor, as she continued upward toward the cocktail dresses and fur coats (and no, I do not approve of fur, nor would I ever wear a fur coat either, even in the other alternate universe where I am competing  in the Iditarod).

That’s when I saw her face.

I would recognize it anywhere, because she’s sort of a hero of mine. Thanks to my spoiler-laden title, it should surprise no one that it was Anna. Fucking. Wintour. I swear to God. I did, like, a triple-take to be sure, and then I Google-imaged her when I got home and stared at photos for like , 20 minutes to mentally confirm. Also, I checked the interwebs to see if she was actually in Manhattan that weekend (she was!) And even if it actually wasn’t her, and you know for sure, because you were officiating her chihuahua’s baptism in Saint Barths or something that March, for the love of all that is holy and sweet, let me have this! Besides that one time that I saw Lou Diamond Phillips at the grocery store, I seriously have some sort of celebrity repellant, and never seem to meet anybody, so really, I need this.

And honestly the story ends there. I realize there should be some sort of moral, or epiphany, or at least satisfying conclusion, like, say, I realized that a haircut or a handbag did not define me as a human being, or, in yet another alternate universe, Her Royal Vougueness spoke to me, was immediately charmed and offered me Lauren Weisberger’s former position at the magazine. But, no.

The only moral to this story, is that I am 99.9% sure that I once saw Anna Wintour, in person, and that is really fucking cool.

THE END.

Literary Archetypes: We Are All Sally Bowles

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(OMG! I totally have her hairstyle!)

When I come across a fictional character that I really relate to, I tend to wonder if it’s because I, as an individual, am actually unusually similar to that particular character, or if the character is just meant to be universally relatable—like Harry Potter. Everybody thinks they’re Harry Potter. But I’m not really sure what to think of Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles. Most people’s reaction to her (in informal polls that I have conducted), is usually either, “ZOMG!!! LIZA!!!!” or, “Sally Bowles is shallow and selfish,” or, “what the hell are you talking about, Kat? We’re supposed to be meditating right now.” For some reason though, when I read Isherwood’s novella, I feel super-connected to Sally. I’m definitely lacking in the Liza department (despite my best efforts), so perhaps I might be just an eensy bit more selfish, and a skosh more shallow than the average human? Something I would be surprisingly OK with, but even if I am, I still think Sally represents an archetype that’s more universal* than we think…I mean, she’s at LEAST as relatable as Carrie Bradshaw (really, she basically is Carrie Bradshaw), and EVERYBODY is all like “oh my God, I am TOTALLY a ‘Carrie,’ you guys!”

[* I don’t think “more universal” can really be a thing, but IT IS TODAY.]

Like most people born in the second half of the 20th century, my introduction to Sally was via Liza Minnelli’s portrayal of her in Bob Fosse’s film adaption of “Cabaret”—which, by the way, is my favorite movie; I mean, think about it, BOB FOSSE DIRECTED  A MOVIE BASED ON THE WORKS OF CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD. STARRING LIZA  MINELLI. AND IT WAS A MUSICAL. AND BOB FOSSE CHOREOGRAPHED IT TOO. IT IS THE MOST PERFECT THING EVER. AND IT EXISTS. IT IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT.

So, yeah.

I first saw “Cabaret” when I was around 11 or 12, and I LOVED IT, but I never thought of Sally as a particularly relatable character (though really, what twelve year old is like, “oh, my God, I am TOTALLY Liza, you guys!?” The answer of course, is the best twelve year old ever, if such a twelve year old exists). Sure, I dreamed of playing Sally onstage someday (in an alternate universe where I can sing of course); I liked her costumes and her songs, and her green fingernails, but I saw her very much like I did Roxie Hart—a fun character, but not somebody that was like me, or anybody that I knew in real life. And while outside of my teenage fangirling over really well known musicals that the real theater kids rolled their eyes over, I have zero knowledge of Broadway and the subsequent film adaptions of Broadway musicals, it kind of seems like escapism is the point—who wants to go stare at themselves for three hours when we could stare at fabulous people being fabulous? So that was that. For most of my life, Liza was Sally, and Sally was Liza, and I was singing an off-key version “Mein Herr,” into a hairbrush.

It was actually thanks to yoga that I discovered Isherwood’s Sally. Because of course it was. But really, it was. Christopher Isherwood—probably the most interesting and awesome person that ever existed (or at least the most Googled person in my search history), co-authored this fabulous translation and commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra with his teacher, Swami Prabhavananda (Isherwood also co-authored a translation of the Bhagavad Gita), which I initially read for a teacher training. When I saw his name on the cover, it seemed sort of familiar, but when (thanks to my first ever Isherwood Google) I figured out that Cabaret was based on his stories, my reaction was that of an overstimulated labradoodle [insert your favorite GIF here].

Obvs, that inspired me to read “The Berlin Stories” (and by that, I mean, get a copy of “The Berlin Stories,” and read “Sally Bowles,” ten times), and thus was my introduction to Sally Jackson-Bowles (her name is actually hyphenated, how great is that?) Dear, sweet, terrible, relatable Sally in all of her crass, pretentious, prairie oyster eating glory. Unlike the similar (yet—at least to me—much more difficult to relate to) Holly Golightly, Sally doesn’t have a tragic, or even a very interesting backstory (other than using a fake pregnancy to get out of going to school. But really, haven’t we all done that at one time or another?) Sally is a nineteen year old woman, with loving, supportive parents and a seventeen year old little sister back home, and she’s living in an interesting city, all by herself, and desperately trying to be interesting, pretending she doesn’t give a shit about what anybody thinks when she really, really, REALLY does. She overestimates herself constantly She lives in a really sucky apartment until she finds a nice friend/roommate to move in with, and she makes a lot of really bad decisions, that totally seem like really good decisions at the time. She has big dreams, that are mostly unrealistic. And unlike Liza’s Sally, that’s all,”Oh, hey, hot British guy, let’s go get married– JUST KIDDING, SEE YA LATER!” Isherwood’s Sally experiences the other side of rejection a lot more. She wasn’t an irresistible manic pixie dream girl, she was flawed, naive, gullible  wonderfully human, and pretty damn smart—even though she still was prone to doing the stupidest shit ever, BECAUSE BOYS, or something. She even makes poor fashion choices—the green nails that I so envied as a child? Isherwood describes them as bringing WAY too much attention to her hands, which were super-yellow thanks to all the chain smoking, and he also says that the color she dyes her hair/brows TOTALLY clashes with her eyes. But, BUT, in spite of it all, she has this incredible  unwavering zest for life. She’s a survivor, even though she never knew she’d have to be, and she’s an eternal optimist, even though her optimism is mostly rooted in naivete. (PLEASE TELL ME OTHER PEOPLE CAN RELATE TO AT LEAST SOME OF THIS.)

I think the thing that actually made me like Sally the most was the Prairie Oysters. They’re  in the movie too, so if you’ve seen it, you might remember them. They’re absolutely disgusting, but I think they’re actually a thing, because Wikipedia says they are, but anyway, they’re like, a raw egg, mixed with Worcester sauce. In the novella she says she “practically lives on them,” because they’re cheap, and then she STIRS THEM WITH A FOUNTAIN PEN. And I love her for it. I love her because I understand. I don’t gulp down raw eggs on the regular, but so often I’ll come home, exhausted, and despite my sincere love of food, not eating in order to avoid cooking generally sounds WAY better than cooking, and I don’t want to spend money on pre-cooked food. But damn it, I have to eat, so I boil some water, toss in some oats, and stir in an ungodly amount of peanut butter (usually with an inappropriate utensil, like a chopstick), and then basically drink it down, because PROTEIN, It’s a goddamn prairie oyster is what it is.

Ten Things I Don’t Believe, and Ten Things I Do

Disclaimer: All beliefs are subject to change, as all beliefs should be.

Disclaimer II: I WILL PROBABLY END LOTS OF SENTENCES WITH PREPOSITIONS.

Disclaimer III: My philosophy teachers would hate this. They would remind me that to believe in something, and to believe that something exists are two entirely different things. That’s true, they are, but if John Lennon chose not to differentiate, I’m going to assume that a precedent was set, and I can condense the two concepts for my lists too (Side note: In “God,” when when he sings, “I don’t believe in I-ching,” he pronounces “I-ching” like,  “eye-ching,” and when I was a kid, I misheard the lyric as “I don’t believe in hygiene.” I also thought the “jai guru deva,” in “Across the Universe,” was “Chattanooga DayGlo” until I was in my early twenties). ANYWAY…

Ten Things I Don’t Believe
(I am beginning with the negative, because I’ve heard that I should always go out on a positive note. I’ve also heard that I should always open on a positive note too, thus creating some sort of mood-shifting sandwich, with optimism on the outside, and crushing despair on the inside, so I am going to count the John Lennon reference as “opening on a positive note.” Everybody likes John Lennon, right?) ANYWAY, here’s all the shit I don’t believe:

1. That everything happens for a reason

2. In the Master Cleanse

3. In the blatant omission of commas, which seems to be all the rage these days

4. In voicemail

5. In soulmates

6. In lizard people

7. In dinosaurs (JUST KIDDING; I LOVE THOSE GUYS)

8. In proselytizing (NOT KIDDING; IT’S RUDE)

9. In Using the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably

10. In public spitting (ALSO RUDE)

Ten Things That I Do Believe
1. That it’s up to us to create meaning, and to infuse our lives with purpose

2. In kindness

3. In practice

4. In shoes (Sorry, Yoga. I am probably undoing all your good work by Carrie Bradshawing my feet to death)

5. In discussing deep philosophical concepts, whilst talking like a valley girl (well, a Midwestern valley girl—so basically, Sarah Palin :/)

6. In education

7. That people are basically good

8. In feminism

9. In you (awwwww!!!!)

10. In me (homage to John Lennon. But also true. And going out on a positive, yay!)