OPINIONATRIX…because my opinions dominate

{October 30, 2008}   A Letter To The Undecided Voter

Dear Undecided Voter,

For the better part of a year I have heard all about you.  I have seen panels of you interviewed on TV and watched for your opinions after each of the debates.  In this presidential race, it seems like you guys are the popular crowd.   The candidates want your vote, the newspapers want to talk to you and you are all I ever hear about on the evening news.  Wow, no wonder you’re undecided – it’s beneficial!  You, my little undecided friend, are getting all the attention.

Frankly, I don’t know how you could still be undecided.  This is a year in which we could not have two more different candidates.  Their opinions on individual issues are more clear than ever, thanks to in depth websites and round the clock news coverage.  Plus, if you really don’t like either of these guys then there are always third party candidates to whom you could give your vote – I don’t recommend this, but it’s still an option.  I’d say as far as elections go, there is a wide and diverse smorgasbord of candidates to choose from – SO CHOOSE!  In the beginning I understand wanting to feel it out more, but we have less than a week left!  How have you not been able to make up your mind?  What do you think (or hope) to learn over the course of the next 6 days?

Honestly, I don’t believe you.  I think you know exactly who you’re going to vote for.  You just like the attention you’re getting for being “undecided.”  You are just like that annoying kid in pre-school who goes around singing “I know something you don’t know.”  In pre-school it’s annoying, but understandable because the perpetrator is 4 years old.  In an adult undecided voter it’s a downright stupid and attention getting ploy.

Guess what? I am through with you.  I don’t want to hear any more of your opinions.  I don’t want to follow your “voter dials” on the bottom of news screens in order to see which candidate says the right thing in order to register as positive with you.  I cannot wait until November 5th, because that’s the day when you will have to get down off your pedestals and join the ranks with the rest of us.  Unfortunately for you guys, the rest of us have already mastered the skill of decision making and are thus a bit ahead in the game of life.

All I can say is g-d forbid I have to wait in line behind you at the deli, because I don’t even want to know how long it takes you to pick a sandwich.

With(out) Love,



It is so easy to become a tabloid addict.  You know what I mean, devouring People, US Weekly and In Touch one after another, ogling the bodies, lives and lifestyles of the rich and famous, and then in turn berating yourself for not even possessing a fraction of that perfection.  These days the images of stardom, beauty and wealth are everywhere.  It’s only natural to get sucked in, to start comparing and as a result – despairing. 

Honestly, I do it all the time.  I’ll hear a story of some starlet around my age, and inevitably I will start to compare myself to her.  Almost immediately the focus turns from her to me.  Why aren’t I rich, famous, successful, uber beautiful and happy as a clam?  Granted, I know these feelings are more about me and my own insecurities, but surely I am not alone!  I know others must fall into this trap too.  Lately though, I am starting to realize that despite perfectly airbrushed portrayals of sunshine and lolly-pops, often the lives of the rich and famous are anything but perfect.

Case in point?  Just this week, we learned that Madonna is divorcing her husband and Jennifer Hudson is dealing with the brutal murders of her mother and brother.  These announcements are only the latest in a string of celebrity confessions and disasters ranging from addiction and depression to loneliness and mockery.  Surely these stars are dealing with just as much as the average person, only they must do it in public.  If I mess up and wear something horrible out with friends it barely registers, but a mere bad hair day could land a starlet on the worst dressed list in tabloids across the nation.

It’s hard sometimes to focus on the reality of the situation.  The glossy pictures and gorgeous hair and make-up are so much more alluring than the underbelly of hurt and reality that celebrities so often mask with picture perfect smiles.  Frankly, I don’t buy the tabloids anymore.  If I find one or a friend gives me hers I’ll read it, but I try not to actively seek it them myself.  Even though I know the veneer of fabulosity is fake, it’s still hard for me not to buy into it.  I suppose all I can do is keep reminding myself that we all deal with stuff, and that no one is perfect.  You get nowhere by comparing yourself to others, especially when the life you are comparing yourself to is mocked up, airbrushed and altered for public consumption.  It’s like a horse trying to live up to the standard of a unicorn – the unicorn doesn’t exist and thus the horse will never succeed. 

From now on I am going to try and guage my life and success by my own internal intuitions and feelings.  I am going to get off the comparison train and get on board the “me mobile.” Surely, this will take time, but I am willing to give it a try.  Plus, my mom always said “perfect is boring,” and I sure as hell don’t want to be boring so I guess perfection just isn’t an option.

From “troopergate” to teen pregnancy, the bridge-to-nowhere and beyond, a lot of skeleton’s have trotted out of Sarah Palin’s closet in the past few months.  Well now at least we know they were well dressed. 

This week, it came to light that the RNC had spent 150,000 dollars on clothes, hair and make-up for Sarah Palin and her family.  150,000 dollars!? Wow, that’s more than the majority of Americans make in a year.  What’s worse is that the McCain/Palin campaign has been running around the country talking about “Joe the Plumber,” “Joe Six Pack” and just about any other Joe they can dig up.  This is the same Sarah Palin who has been touting her ‘average jane’ street cred since being tapped as VP. 

 It is the hypocrisy of this that has me incensed, not the amount of money that was spent.  John Edwards was mocked for his 400 dollar haircuts, Hillary Clinton came under fire after it was discovered she spent 3000 dollars on hair styling sessions and Barack Obama has been heralded as the elitist candidate in the race since day one.  However, now that the shoe is on the other foot, the McCain campaign expects us to just ignore this and sweep it under the rug? 

Of course the American people and the media are going to go nuts with this!  For one there is the disingenousy of the whole thing, but what’s more is that 150,000 dollars is a huge amount of money.  In this economy anyone spending 150,000 on anything that isn’t a necessity is going to garner some attention. 

Ultimately, we need to move on.  What the RNC pays to outfit the Palin family isn’t really important in the long run.  We need to focus on the issues.  The economy, healthcare, civil rights and foreign relations.  These are the things we should be talking about, not the fact that Sarah Palin went to Barney’s instead of Ann Taylor.

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Palin.  Truth be told, in a way this whole incident almost proves what she’s been espousing all along; she is middle class.  If she was truly rich and into high end clothing, she would have had a wardrobe that was campaign appropriate already.  I would be willing to bet that Hillary’s famous pantsuits were designer brands, and we all know Cindy McCain isn’t shopping at the Gap.  Neither of these women’s wardrobes became issues, because they already had the appropriate clothes in their closets.  Palin on the other hand did not, and thus the RNC had to purchase these things for her.

Let’s be honest.  Looks and image matter.  It is important for candidates to present well on the campaign trail.  So much so that political scientists still attribute Nixon’s loss in part due to his appearance in the 1960 presidential debate:

What is most remembered and discussed is the telegenic “image” presented by Kennedy and the decidedly non-telegenic presence of Nixon. Nixon didn’t wear make-up, was recovering from the flu and had lost weight, and suffered from a knee injury. He also wore a gray suit, which provided little contrast with the background set. Kennedy wore a dark suit, wore make-up (though he already looked tan), and was coached on how to sit (legs crossed) and what to do when he wasn’t speaking (look at Nixon).        CNN/TIME

I understand the McCain campaign’s need for Sarah Palin to look good.  It isn’t sexism – it’s politics.  Do I think 150,000 was way too much? Yes, she could have easily looked just as good for A LOT less.  However, we need to move past this or we risk losing sight of what is really important in this election.  We have a lot at stake here.  As a country we need to move past clothing, Bill Ayers and which part of the country is most American, and get back to debating the real issues. 



It recently came to my attention that last Wednesday was Love Your Body Day.  I am not sure exactly how or if this was publicized (I found out about it this weekend from a friend), but I have no doubts that its creators meant well.  Judging from the promotional website, this was a campaign aimed at women (though I’d argue men have body issues too) in order to get them to take a special day to love and appreciate their bodies.

In theory, I think this is a wonderful idea.  The majority of women and men (myself included) constantly fault and punish their bodies, focusing on weight and appearance rather than being thankful for their health and the multitude of things our bodies do for us daily.  In today’s appearance propelled culture, body image is at an all time low.  You know our society is in trouble when it is not uncommon for children under 10 to feel the need to diet.  Obviously, all this self hatred/criticism needs to be addressed, and I imagine that was a part of the “love your body day” campaigns goal.  Kudos to them, it’s about time we addressed this important issue on a large scale.  This is just as prevalent a problem as the rise of obesity (if not more so).

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just decide to love our bodies and be done with it.  Like “no TV week,” it would be so easy to just flip a switch for a week or a day and be able to experience the difference.  The problem here, is that unlike a TV set, there is no switch that flips easily from self hatred to self acceptance.  Loving ones body is a process that takes years for some, and is endless for others.  I know I am constantly critiquing, comparing and feeling unsure about my own body, and it would take much more than a day to move me over into the world of body love.  I don’t think it is too far a leap to say that this is the reality of most women (and men) out there.

I think a better day might be “Be Good to Your Body” day.   A day where we could take the time to pamper and reward our bodies for all they do for us daily.  A day to abstain from dieting, constant working out or belittling comments, and instead thank our bodies for getting us through the day.  This would be a far more feasible task than simply “loving” our bodies.  It has taken many of us years to develop an ideal body to lust after and hold up in our minds as perfect, and it will take just as long for us to rip that down and accept the body we were given.  Loving your body may sound simple, but in reality it is anything but.

This morning on Meet the Press, General Colin Powell announced his endorsement of Barack Obama for president.  This is a big deal.  Not only is General Powell a Republican, but he was once thought to be the man most likely to be America’s first Black president.

Powell stated that his choice was based on a number of factors; including the direction of the Republican party, the way McCain has dealt with the economic crisis, the selection of Sarah Palin as VP and the negative direction the McCain campaign has taken.  Powell elaborated on the current state of the McCain campaign, blasting him for inciting the idea that Muslims are terrorists, and continuing to bring up William Ayers instead of focusing on real issues.  He went even further, stating that members of the Republican party should be called out for perpetuating these rumors and often hate filled sentiments of behalf of the McCain campaign.

Powell made it clear that Obama has proved to him that he is ready to be president.  I found it interesting that Colin Powell specifically stated that he is not voting for Barack Obama for the sole reason that he is Black.  He thinks of that as a source of pride but in no way based his decision on race.  I tend to believe this, simply because if Powell was basing his decision on race he most likely would have come out with it much earlier.

I am thrilled with this endorsement.  General Powell is a widely respected political figure with a wealth of knowledge on the current political and military climate.  All the independent and undecided voters will likely see this as yet one more reason to jump on the Obama/Biden bandwagon.  As a Barack Obama supporter, I could not think of a better endorsement for the ticket to receive.  And the icing on the cake?  This endorsement followed a variety of unexpected and influential newspaper endorsements for Obama/Biden.  What a week!  A win in the debate, newspaper endorsements galore and a thumbs up from Colin Powell – I imagine the Obama campaign must be thrilled.

Tom Brokaw did a great job with the interview.  He highlighted the ideological differences between Powell and Obama, pressed Powell on his past decisions regarding the war and really gave him the time to elaborate on the reasoning behind his various decisions.  What is most amazing to me is that the man who endorsed Bush/Cheney is now voting Obama/Biden. Talk about a 180 degree turn.

All in all a terrific way to end the week.  This will certainly dominate the news cycle for a couple of days, and it can only help the Obama/Biden campaign.  With only a few weeks left, the Obama campaign must be feeling pretty good.

I love Desperate Housewives.  I have been a fan since season one and even stuck by it during the “Betty Applewhite season 2 slump.”  This show is the perfect blend of quirky, over-the-top, backstabbing fun and I look forward to it every week.

I think the 5 year jump forward has served this season very well.  It allowed the writers to create a virtually new show, without abandoning the characters fans have grown to love.  So far, I think most of the stories are entertaining and juicy.  I look forward to see where this season takes us.

Unfortunately, I do have one criticism. The Gabby storyline.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Gabby has become a frumpy, cash strapped mother of two.  What I am not a fan of is the “fat children” story.  This show has enough material to work with, without using the plight of chubby children to get laughs.  I get it.  Gabby is image obsessed and yet has to contend with two overweight children.  I just think it hits a sour note.  I feel bad judging the appearance of kids.  I mean these characters are supposed to be under 5 years old, and we are laughing at their expense?!  Surely this isn’t necessary.  A funnier story would be for Gabby’s kids to be just as image obsessed as she used to be, and to be embarrassed of their mothers looks, style, lack of expensive things, etc.  I would feel much more comfortable indulging in a little schadenfruede if it was aimed at an adult.

I remember reading somewhere that the cast and crew go to great lengths not to shoot the scenes disparaging the looks of the two child actresses in front of them, but kids are perceptive.   Surely this has to affect them.  It’s not that I don’t think this story line is fair game, lord knows there are worse things on TV these days.  I just think that a show like Desperate Housewives which has so much to work with, it is completely unnecessary.

{October 9, 2008}   Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Much talk has been made lately about how little the 700 billion dollar bailout seems to be doing for the economy.  The stock market continues to fall, the Asian markets seem to be following suit, and many are wondering what will come next.  The bill that was supposed to save us seems to be a dud.

It is easy to write of the bailout package as unfair, ineffective and ladled with “pork,” but every cloud has a silver lining and this is no exception.  I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ‘”pork” that was added to this bill – and it’s true there were a lot of sweeteners thrown in to get it passed.  However, not all of that “pork” was as inconsequential as one might believe.  Tucked into the baliout package was a Mental Health Parity act – something that advocates have been trying to push through congress for over a decade.

This is so undeniably important.  Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness and addiction.  Hopefully mental health parity will make it easier for those people to get the help they need.

Under the bill, which goes into effect in 2010, group insurance plans that cover mental illness already must now equalize its value with medical and surgical coverage. The number of covered visits, the cost of copays, and the total value of treatment covered each year would have to be on par.       -webMD

Getting insurance to pay for anything is a hassle these days, but for more abstract issues such as addiction, depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems it is double the stress.  Insurance companies will try anything to get out of paying for treatment. They argue that mental health issues aren’t biologically based, that intensive treatment isn’t necessary or that one is not “sick” enough to merit coverage.  For example, if one is merely depressed they might not qualify for coverage because they aren’t suicidal.  The current mental health coverage isn’t proactive, it’s reactive – if that. It’s about time congress acted on this!

I would challenge anyone out there to find someone whose life has not been touched by mental health issues.  These day’s we are pushing ourselves harder and harder, and life’s stresses are becoming more and more elevated.  As someone who has benefited from speaking with a therapist, I firmly believe this type of treatment should be covered and available to anyone who wants it.  It isn’t a matter of being “crazy,” it’s a matter of being aware enough to stay healthy.  While I do not take medication, I know countless people who do and think that prozac is just as important as lipitor and both should be covered equally by insurance companies.

The health system in this country is in need of a serious overhaul.  There are too many people out there without any coverage whatsoever, and we need to change that.  No one should die from an illness simply because they cannot afford to go to a doctor.  It is basic human decency for a country to provide its citizens with basic needs.  The Mental Health Parity Act is a step in the right direction, but it is only a baby step.  We need to focus on the important things.  My mother has always told me: “the most valuable thing you have is your health,” and we need to make our government understand that.  For ten years activists have been lobbying for Mental Health Parity, and finally action has been taken.  We now need to move on to the next thing: health insurance for anyone who wants it.

Last night while channel surfing, I happened upon TLC; the learning channel.  I am an occasional watcher of Jon and Kate plus Eight, (a lighthearted look at a family raising twins and sextuplets) and have an odd fascination with large and unique families.  I was in luck, because I unexpectedly stumbled upon the Duggar Family.

OMG! Within minutes I was hooked.  The Duggars are a family of 19: Mom, Dad and seventeen children (with number 18 on the way).  In case you hadn’t guessed it; they don’t believe in birth control. The family is very clearly Christian/conservative when it comes to most everything, and thus they live their lives as such. Last nights episode followed oldest son Josh (20) as he proposed to Anna.

The Duggars seem like lovely people, they are endearing and fun to watch, but who knew people still lived this way!  Josh flew out to Florida to propose to a girl he had met two years prior at a home schooling conference.  There had not been much of a ‘relationship’ since then (other than some contact between the families) but Josh felt “the lord was guiding him to choose Anna.” Anna accepted his proposal and the two celebrated with a hug.  All throughout the episode, various members of the Duggar family guided the viewers through the appropriate “courtship” rituals.

* Josh and Anna could hold hands, but nothing more

* They could not kiss until their wedding day

* They could not be alone together and had to have a chaperone with them wherever they went

I know right!? Who knew this kind of innocence still existed?  I cannot imagine not kissing or being left alone with my future husband until after we were married.  Not to mention deciding to marry someone I barely knew.  It was so odd to watch.  I felt like this family was from another era.  Josh and Anna were cute and cuddly, but I couldn’t help but think they appeared to be playing “house.” When Josh took her to the car lot he works at and remarked “this will be our life,” I didn’t know weather to laugh or cry.  It’s such a simple existence; dominated by puritan values.

I do not look down on the Duggar’s religious ideology.  It’s just so foreign to me.  I wonder how many people in this country grow up this way, entering into marriage without the slightest idea of what love is.  I am sure Josh and Anna will be very happy: they come from similar backgrounds and have identical values.  In today’s world that can be half the battle.  It’s just that they seemed to young, so innocent, so ill prepared for the adult world.

As the show came to an end, I found myself so engrossed in the daily rituals of the Duggar family that I immediately began to look forward to the next episode.  The Duggar’s are so much fun to watch, because they’re so weird.  Surprisingly, it is not their large family that astounds me but rather the way in which they live their lives.  Even the people who come into contact with them onscreen seem shocked by their interpretation of the world around them.  I feel for the Duggar’s.  I am sure their show will be successful, but unlike Jon and Kate plus Eight I doubt viewers will be able to empathize or see themselves in the family.  Instead, the Duggar’s are perceived much like animals in a zoo: odd, exotic and fun to oggle. On some level, that’s a little sad.

{October 5, 2008}   Karma’s a Bitch

Ha!  Thirteen years to the day after OJ Simpson got away with murder, he was convicted on 13 charges including armed robbery and kidnapping.  Well, you know what they say: what goes around comes around!  Simpson could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.  Honestly, I cannot think of a man who deserves it more.

Simpson almost undoubtedly committed those murders thirteen years ago.  He was found not guilty due to circumstantial evidence and great lawyers.  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees.  One would hope that Simpson would have thanked his lucky stars, reformed himself,  and become a good citizen.  But no, that was to hard for this arrogant sun-of-a-gun.  When I heard he had a book deal, and that a “fictional” account of the Nicole Brown/Ron Goldman murders was going to be released I was aghast.  Really?! Does Simpson really want to bring all this back up? Not only was he voluntarily willing to cement his image as a brutal murderer, but he was going to force the victims families to relive it all over again.  And did Simpson really think we were all going to fall for this “hypothetical” business?  Did he think the American public were that dumb?  Furthermore, was he that desperate for money? Apparently, he was.  Anything to make a buck right?

After the “If I Did It,” firestorm I thought that we’d finally heard the end of this bozo. Wrong again!  OJ Simpson was dumb enough to get involved in shady business that led to armed robbery and kidnapping.  Did he really think that he would get away with this too?  I mean, a cat only has so many lives.

So OJ Simpson has finally been reined in.  He could now spend the rest of his life in prison.  His attorney thinks his fame worked against him.  I would say it was his behavior and arrogance that really did him in, because I know of a lot of other famous people and most of them are not running around commiting murder and armed robbery.  I am glad Simpson will finally be held accountable – it’s about time he took some responsibility.  If I never have to see another picture of him golfing, or listen to another interview I wont be upset.  As they always say: karma’s a bitch.

This week congress got up and congratulated themselves for passing a 700 billion dollar “rescue plan” that will help to stop the hemorrhaging of our economy.  Why are they congratulating themselves!? Isn’t getting together and voting on bills to help our country the very description of their job?  They should have been apologizing. The American people deserve an “I’m sorry our leadership failed. Had we done an effective job, it never would have come to this in the first place.”

While I am not one for rewarding Wall Street ‘fat cats’ for their downright greed and immoral behavior, there is no one who can effectively argue that government shouldn’t have stepped in.  For better or worse, our economy runs on credit, and without this bill it would have dried up.  Already, it is harder to get loans and mortgages than it was 6 months ago.  Employers use credit to to pay their employees, business’s use it to run day-to-day operations, and average people use it to buy essential needs like gas, food and clothing.  Credit running dry in this country would bring the economy to a screeching halt.  We cannot afford – both literally and figuratively – for that to happen.

Thankfully, congress added some things to make this bill more appealing than the original proposal from Henry Paulson.  Paulson basically wanted a blank check with no oversight at all.  Obviously that wasn’t going to fly, but the current bill is not all roses either.  There is no relief for those in foreclosure written into this bill which is why it changed from a “bailout” to a “rescue plan.”  Congress is not “bailing out” those who bought homes they couldn’t afford.  Paradoxically, it seems to me that they are very much bailing out Wall Street, so to me this still seems a lot like a “bailout.”  The bill is also stuffed with pork

Tucked into pages 262 and 263 of the bill, for example, are provisions that will aid the manufacturers of “certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.” The bill will exempt the arrows from an excise tax of 39 cents. There are also tax breaks for race-track owners, for rum imported from Puerto Rico, for worsted wool makers, Hollywood film and television production companies and on and on.

However, it does give congress oversight, and it ends the golden parachutes to CEO executives.  Thank g-d for that!  I cannot believe these CEO’s who ran their business’s to the ground, destroying tons of lives in the process and yet walked away with millions. And surprisingly, it happened time and time again. Hopefully, this bill will put a stop to that.  Still though, while intellectually I realize the necessity of the legislation, I cannot help but feel that the little guy is still drowning while Wall Street has been given a life raft.  I am not an economist, nor do I have extensive financial knowledge.  I am just a regular American citizen, worried about paying the bills and restoring some faith in our economy.

So, congress passed a bill, but this is far from over.  Whoever is elected President this November will have a lot to deal with.  Many of the promises made by both candidates will have to be shelved until this crisis has been overcome.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we are looking at a major recession coupled with declining home values.  As a nation, I am fairly confident that we can dig ourselves out of this – we did it after the Great Depression and again after the Savings and Loan Crisis.  But it wont be fast, and it wont be easy.

et cetera