Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cultural Appropriation - We're Not All "Sexy Nuns" on Halloween

I decided to put together a Halloween costume this year.  Leave aside the fact that that fact makes me a big kid past 50, I want to be Frida Kahlo.  As you probably well know, she has become an iconic part of popular culture in recent years.  In part, due to the movie made about her life in 2002.  But also her raw, moving, and complete art collection came north of the border for the first time several years after the movie was released.  I flew to Atlanta specifically to see it, and was not disappointed.  I have had books of her art and biography around the house for years.
Upon sharing my costume idea with a young adult daughter (she’s going to be a mermaid this year), I was informed that it would be in bad taste and represent disrespectful “cultural appropriation” for me to do that.  My knee-jerk reaction was to be crestfallen.  The last thing I wanted was to be hurtful or offensive.  But being over 50 comes with its benefits, too.  Quickly righting myself, I began to wonder why Frida could not belong to me too? 
Yes, Frida was Mexican.  She was also a woman of unique strength, heart, talent, and before her time giant balls.  It is with complete respect I emulate her for a day – and if I am being presumptuous at all, I think she would be pleased at her name coming up at a party so long after her death.  What a legacy! 
There are many things we have all integrated into our daily lives.  Good things that have their roots in other cultures.  Far from being a put down, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.  I speak Spanish.  My first ever love was a Mexican man.  We cook and eat Mexican food.  I will never BE Mexican.  Does this mean I must treat all things outside my own culture as one-dimensional property of others?
And it’s not just Latin cultures that we could, in theory, be admonished for enjoying.
I exclaim “Mazel Tov” occasionally.  I am not Jewish
As a show of support and acceptance, rainbow flags are flown by those who are not gay.
You may take your shoes off when entering someone’s home – even if not Japanese.
I think it is hypocritical to wish for One Love, yet feel so fiercely proprietary about the beautiful things brought here from other people and places.
I guess it all boils down to intent.  Cuisine, language, music, fashion, history.  The more we share of ourselves, the more others learn about who we are.  And to withhold who you are from the curiosity and interest of others assumes they do not value you.   Please don’t assume that!  Use it instead as a springboard for education and conversation.
Sometimes, donning something of another makes us feel beautiful - and we tend to try on the identities we admire.
Think about it.  I welcome your viewpoint and comments.
Image result for frida kahlo

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jean's Awesome Personal Travel Tips - Chicago, Anywhere

Travel is like money, or beauty.  If you judge yourself based on others, you often fail.

Just when I am feeling like a hot shit for, say, driving New England on my own - or carrying out my arbitrary goal of “leaving the state once per month” -  I meet someone who has been to Dubai,  Reykjavik and/or Costa Rica….recently!  While it’s true, sticking to domestic destinations is a conscious choice right now for me, I admit to some “travel envy” and a feeling of competitiveness.  Muttering the proverbial “I’ll get there next year.”  In the meantime, I pick their brains for ideas.

It is in that context that I offer you, in no particular order, my top tips for comfortable travel.  Not sure they are revolutionary, but they are personally tried and true.  I hope you find something here that makes your next trip just a bit more comfortable.

   - Peppermint Oil.  While some inconvenience and discomfort are integral to travel, airplane odors sometimes get to me – even jet fuel smell is a bit nauseating.  Putting peppermint oil under your nose, behind your ears, etc can really help.  Don’t worry about the person next to you complaining.  It seems to be universally appealing, and does not hang in the air.  It is also excellent for keeping cool in hot climates.  Just apply liberally at the back of your neck before heading out for the day.   Here is a good quality one on Amazon:

    -Conditioner.  It’s not just for your hair.  Whether you pack yours, or use what the hotel gives, conditioner has lots of uses.  One of my favorite is in place of shaving cream.  Please stop buying that ridiculous metal dispenser full of fluffy cream.  Men’s beards and women’s leg/underarm hair can be softened with ordinary hair conditioner.  Then, after shower, many of them are formulated to not feel sticky or greasy when used on feet and hands as lotion.  Or banish static cling by rubbing a tiny bit on your hands and separating yourself from your garments.

     -Forgot your phone charger?  Most hotels have a huge lost and found box full of them.  Even if you are not near your own hotel, the nearest one will likely be happy to rummage through and find one that will work.  Take a break in the lobby, and juice up for the day.

   -Germ freaks unite!  Before leaving for the airport, I have adopted the custom of liberally coating my nasal passages with Vaseline or other heavy lotion.  The nose is a major pathway of entry for all of those mysterious coughs you hear.  The eyes too.  Consider leaving out your contacts and wearing glasses during transit as yet another buffer.  Yes, I am serious.

And now for some Chicago specific ideas…..

-Try the L Train from either airport.  Don’t make your friends and family have the distinct displeasure of circling the airport to pick you up – especially at heavy traffic times.  You could take a Lyft or Cab (I do recommend Lyft over Uber, by far), but the blue line from O’Hare, and the orange line from Midway straight into the loop works great.  Even if your destination is too far from the loop stop, a cab from there will be much cheaper.  Don’t believe the crime hype you read.  Use the trains. 

-Regarding site seeing, bigger isn’t always better.  Okay, this is purely opinion.  But the obvious places don’t always yield the best experience.  For example, everyone sees the Art Institute.  It is beautiful, world class, and right in the middle of everything.  But go a bit north, and see the Contemporary Art Museum instead.  Less exhausting, more intimate, and the gift shop has lots of unique items.

or this one in a gorgeous neighborhood historic mansion if you are into science….

I could go on and on.  But, that’s plenty from me.  Please feel free to comment with YOUR best travel tips.  Tell us what you’ve learned from experience. 

As always, wishing you safe journeys.