Fretting Dowagers

It might not be immediately obvious to people in this blog, but growing up my family lived fairly close to the bone.  We were never outright destitute except for a couple of years and that was for weird reasons.  But we never had a lot of money.

Now most of this was probably because mom was socking away every spare cent, in fear of being destitute.  BUT we were close enough to the bone (and to be fair when I was very young there was no money to sock away) that in summer the shoes I’d outgrown during the winter got cut down at front and back and used as sandals.  If there was some money or someone gave me sandals, they were bought very large and worn as little as possible to preserve them for the next year.  Later on, I mostly lived in flip-flops during summer, because they were really, really cheap.

And most of the time I was growing up, I wore a lot of my brother’s cut-down and refashioned clothes, which since he was almost ten years older and built like my boys, mostly meant I lived in a lot of brown pants and largish sweaters.  I also wore dresses mom fashioned from remnants and left overs but since those tended to be rather fashion-forward for the village and also since I was the terror of new clothes (something I paid for with younger son) this didn’t happen often, except for pictures.

This has a point. I’m not complaining.  I was never really hungry, except for two years, and we made do.  A lot of my toys were empty containers and detergent prizes (like cereal prizes but given away by things like Tide) but mostly I amused myself making up stories bout what I did have.  Not saying I didn’t nearly die of envy when all my friends had the fad toy of the moment and I didn’t — I wrote me getting one of those into a story, once — but it was a metaphorical “die” which didn’t mean much.

However, as I advanced in schooling, I became aware that my family’s economics were… well, much tighter than most people’s.

There is a reason for this, and keep in mind what I’m describing is at least 30 years out of date.  I don’t know what goes on in Portuguese education now.

Thirty years ago, Portuguese education was free through college and mandatory through ninth grade (I was amused, shortly after moving to the US, to see some religious organization asking for money for Portuguese children, so that they could have schools to attend — which the organization was supposed to build. — I’m not going to say the schools were that great, but through about 4th grade not only ws it fine, but there were schools those kids were ALREADY supposed to be attending.)

I can hear the “oohs” from the audience though possibly not this audience, which has the values of TANSTAAFL engraved on the inside of their eyelids.

The school was free… if you could get it. And yet for each level you went up in studying, you hit another strata of society, much more so than in the US now or at any time.

EVERYONE was supposed to be in elementary, and because even parents without education saw the value of learning to read and write, most kids attended this.  At least most boys.  Some families saw no value in it for their daughters.  However, the wave of “removals” started in 3rd grade.  Your kid had mastered the basics, and you went to a doctor and got them certified as educable mentally retarded, which took care of the poorest of the poor, who viewed kids as cash cows to help the family survive.  Most of those kids ended up in the textile factories, which were allowed to hire them since they’d been certified as mentally incapable to do more.  (Note their school records weren’t even looked at.)

After fourth grade came “preparatory school” for two years.  About half of my class went to this.  Unless you were really low middle class, you’d send your kids to it.

But at the end of it there was another flurry of removals with the same certificate that they couldn’t do more.  This took a lot of the poorer middle class.

There was a reason for this.  By seventh grade you started on physics and pre-calc, and teaching ranged from the rare brilliant teacher to a lot of dross.  Which meant in seventh grade a lot of people started failing unless their parents hired tutors for them.

A lot of middle-middle class people and high-middle class people could afford that.  A lot or our close family did it, but our nuclear family could not. However, my mom, for various reasons, was determined to show that we were just as good as anyone els,e so “removal” was never even considered for either of us, and we were told we would have the highest grades or else.  Sometimes doing this required finding old books that explained what our teacher didn’t, or simply hitting your head against the wall till you managed it.  Both of us had very creditable grades and went to magnet High schools in the city.

Perhaps because it was a magnet high school, I found I was seriously outclassed in terms of clothes, food, and general consumer goods.  That was fine, as I settled on being a rebel and weird.  (What do you mean that couldn’t have been hard?)  That was fine because it fits the Portuguese myth of genius and just impressed my classmates.

And going to the magnet school instead of the high school the village kids attended and which was staffed lower down the teacher vine — so without tutoring you just COULDN’T get it.  I know.  My best friend went there — when they instituted a brand new and designed to weed out students test in 9th grade.   It failed, either by outright failing or by not making as good a grade as they should, about 3/4 of the class where I attended.  It failed almost everyone at the school the village was assigned to.

The ones who didn’t “outright fail” were channeled into “professional training” mostly elementary school teaching, secretarial, book keeping, mechanics, etc.

The ones who stayed in were assumed to be university bound.  By this time most of my classmates were not just richer than I but so much richer than I that I didn’t even get it.  I was insulated from realizing it, because my closest friends were like me, battlers who came from lower economic/regional backgrounds, and who just wouldnt’ quit.  Even then some of them were having tutoring.  I used tutoring a lot as an excuse to avoid things like mandatory rallies and such.  “Oh, sorry, I have tutoring.”  But I never had it, except that in college I had tutoring in the sense I tutored others.  During the very bad, no good, awful two years of our family life, my brother tutored and kept the mortgage paid and enough food on the table we didn’t outright starve.

Mom chose the living room sofas for tutoring convenience.  Ie they must not break easily, since kids will do stupid things.  BUT neither my brother nor I were tutored, we simply used it as a money maker later in life, when things like film tickets or stamps to write to one’s boyfriend in the US became important.

By the time I hit college, I knew I was in a social sense “outclassed.”  But you have to understand, not only did I still live in the village, where our family was relatively well off, or at least socially influential, but my mom had retired (heart condition and tight deadlines don’t mix, so the doctor made her retire) and acquired a new hobby: designing and making new clothes for me.  I had so many clothes, of so many styles (particularly since dad managed a textile factory and there were always end-rolls and things that didn’t get picked up by the client for some reason) that in my little mini village circle I was considered a clothes horse AND incredibly well dressed.  (It was all very eighties.)

In college I made new friends and for reasons that would be hard to explain, one of those groups were people not just wealthier than I but wealthier than most people in Portugal.

They knew I wasn’t up to their income, but to their credit, they didn’t care, and had a tendency to include me in stuff by having my restaurant bill show up mysteriously paid, or by inviting me to all paid vacations.

The first of these I went on, my mom spent weeks making my wardrobe and truly excelled even her excellent skills.  I looked… uh… much, much richer than I was.

It wasn’t till we were at the beach house and comparing stuff we’d brought that I realized I’d brought rags and hand me downs.

No, no, no one had switched my clothes, and objectively there were well made, fo good materials and DESIGNED to my body, so they made me look good.  But there was a problem.  They had no LABELS.

My friends were oohing and aaahing over completely unremarkable t-shirts and jeans, because they had labels of international designers.  They politely ignored my clothes, so as not to embarrass me.

I watched and after the dismay passed was mostly amused.  I — and my close friends back in the village — thought my clothes were amazing, because they were unique, made me look good AND would last, even being washed against stone in a water tank.  BUT our friends who were much richer took that stuff for granted (even when it wasn’t true and the clothes didn’t fit their body type) and concentrated instead on the labels that meant these clothes were very, very expensive and therefore exclusive, particularly in Portugal.

I realized that I’m watching something very similar to that clothes comparison session, for the last 10 years or so.

There are countries in the world where food is scarce, or at least expensive.  There are countries in the world where women can get killed and mutilated for daring to learn to read; there are countries in the world where gay people get pitched off roofs.

Meanwhile anyone who matters in America — the opinion makers, the cognoscenti, — obsess about micro aggressions, over what what gender pronoun to use, over whether we should ONLY read minority authors.  They beat their chests and apologize for the racist/sexist/homophobic sins of ancestors (or field ancestors) about whom they PLAINLY know nothing.  They will descend on you like a pack of dingoes for using the word/thought/concept that isn’t IN this week. They lecture you on the lack of privilege of an NYU graduate who frankly tans a different TONE than I but about the same darkness.  They demand “safe spaces” carefully stratified by skin color and preferred sexual partner, because people might STARE at them.  STARE.  How does that compare to being knifed in the street or raped when outside the protection of males, which is the reality for most women in the world?

Labels.  Only the very rich obsess about labels.  Go a little further down, where things are actually slightly less of a give-me, and people are quite happy with homemade clothes that are good.  Or put in societal terms, people are happy to have clothes to cover themselves with, that are adequate for the weather.

Maybe there is a strata of American society that NEEDS this and doesn’t have it, but other than the outright homeless, I doubt it.  I doubt it because for the last 30 years I’ve shopped for clothes at thrift stores, and my winter coats average about $15 which most of us can afford every few years.  Because we have so much surplus, that we donate so many almost-new clothes that the stores can sell them CHEAP and still fund their cause.  (Mostly I shop at ARC.)

Which means in global terms most of us are rich.  And the people who command the heights of the media and the culture (mostly women and ivy league educated, btw) are really, really rich.  So they’re obsessed with the labels, and never mind what the clothes — or society — are actually suited for or supposed to do.

They’re all fretting dowagers making sure the chairs in the Titanic are well arranged enough to give a hint of their social standing.

Because the thing is, there are real problems in the world, both in our structural economy and in the drums of war echoing around the globe which can very well engulf us while we’re changing “no blood for oil” because that’s such a COOL novel, that all the special kids are wearing.

It will change.  In the Titanic, even dowagers scrambled for the lifeboats when the going got real.

I pray it will not change as hard or as fast as our divorce from reality is inviting.  And I prepare in case it does.  And I give the fretting dowagers, looking for labels on their social standing and importance, the smirk they deserve.

Reality always wins.  And no one is rich enough to be insulated from it forever.  And in the first stages of things getting unstable, the dowagers get louder and obsess more on the irrelevant, because it’s their way of telling themselves everything is fine.

Hold on to the sides of the boat.  I have a feeling there’s choppy water ahead. Keep your cool and row.

121 thoughts on “Fretting Dowagers

    1. That was funny. Fortunately, I never got near the place except one visit as a kid. I did spend some years under their drain pipe, though.

    2. Thank you for this. I just went and found the link on Youtube for that video so I could email it to a buddy of mine who worked briefly at the Pentagon. From the few things he has said, I think he’ll approve.

    3. Sadly, I spent too much time thinking, “I wish that was funny.” And I haven’t even spent any time in the military! But from what my friends have said… Sigh.

      1. This is why the constant radio commercials (probably TV also, but I don’t watch TV) for the National Guard and Reserves, citing how they help out their communities in national disasters and such, drive me into a fury. It isn’t the military’s job to help out in flood and fire, or even after a tornado. The military’s job is to fight wars. As long as it isn’t detrimental to their performance of their main job, it is probably okay for them to help in the aftermath of a hurricane, but it certainly isn’t their main purpose. And it usually IS detrimental, because when they are dragging people out of flooded houses, and redirecting traffic so people don’t drive down the highway closed by fire, they aren’t training to do their main job. When you start to spend a portion (possibly a majority by now) of your training time training for these sorts of secondary jobs, instead of your main job, performance on the main job suffers, AND attitudes like those in the article linked develop.

        1. *waggles hand* The “removing people from destroyed buildings” is pretty decent practice for bomb and terror situations, but you’re right about which should have priority.

    4. The Pentagon’s latest:

      Note how vigorously NPR cottons on to this idea that the point of a military patrol is to hang about in a region as long as there’s not a chance of a war or anything, After that, the point is to keep the military force out of harm’s way.

      Note that the Pentagon is doing the exact same thing.

      And as of this writing, the media silence on this invasion is deafening.

        1. This isn’t new, though. It reminds me of the time I tried to study WWI (I think the book I found in the college library was called “The Swordbearers”), and came across this tidbit: at the start of the war, the French had a stupid rule of engagement that required them to never engage the enemy unless they were within 2500 meters — which meant that they couldn’t take advantage of the fact that their guns had better range than the German ones…

          I have no idea if they adopted better rules (I didn’t go further than the first few pages, due to homework and other obligations of college life), but hey, we’re talking about armies here! I wouldn’t be surprised if what ultimately happened was that the Germans developed better guns than the French, and then decided not to engage them unless they were within 2000 meters…


          1. It’s the nature of bureaucrats and rules: if rules are a good thing (and to a limited extent, they are), then obviously to the bureaucratic mindset, more rules are better – so things like ROE get dragged into high-level inflexible policy.

            The deficiency is lack of a clear, obvious, “bright line” that would separate those things which should be part of rules that are stable for long periods, vs.those which should remain flexible and changeable according to circumstances and observations of same made by those on the sharp end.

            Proposing good “bright lines” of demarcation, and figuring out how to institutionalize them against pressure, would be one of the great things that could be done for improving governance in a great many kinds of organizations.

  1. Reality always wins. And no one is rich enough to be insulated from it forever.

    Absolutely. I still tend to get frustrated with people who refuse to test the validity of their beliefs. I think I understand: they’ve spent years or decades building a world view, and they don’t want to dismantle it without cause. Both the dismantling and the re-building have costs in time and energy.

    The thing is, operating on incorrect information also has costs, sometimes catastrophic ones.

    I’m always adjusting and tweaking my own world view. I’ll stumble across an obscure fact here or a forgotten one there, and if it proves valid, I’ll adjust my opinions and my actions to fit the new information. But the vast majority of people I encounter don’t seem to do this. I’ll mention some new thing I’ve learned, and they will look at me blankly or tell me that I must be mistaken. Or quickly change the subject, because they don’t want to know. I don’t really care for myself. But when I see people doing stupid things, all because they insist on keeping their eyes shut… Grrrr! 😉

    1. They remind me of the people in Scandinavia who apologize to their rapists or other attackers for having mis-communicated or otherwise done something to set them off that caused the poor, misunderstood immigrants to attack. The thing that most women (and men) would regard as the ultimate assault . . . and these folks apologize for being attacked rather than accept that the invaders want to destroy them.

      1. There was a lot of that sort of thing on 09/12/2001, too. “What did we do to force them to do this?”

        I dunno. Other than simply existing?

        1. “I can’t speak for them, but you being such a puling weakling about it makes me want to do something horrible.”

          Different cultures are different. They analyzed our signals, and concluded that behaving such would accomplish their goals.

        2. Mark Steyn wrote a column shortly after 9/11 about how a female friend was really uncomfortable with all the “What did we do to deserve this?” talk because it sounded a little too much like, “America was wearing a short skirt and asking for it.” He agreed there was a disturbing similarity. In a later column about the Scandinavian rapes, he said that despite the comparison to metaphorical rape victims, he was still shocked to see the multicultural left treat actual rape victims the same way.

          1. And they will turn around and claim that suggesting that women consider the surroundings and activities likely to be going on at their destination is doing the same thing and why are you blaming the victim like that, you misogynist!

            1. To which I’ve been known to snap, “You live in a perfect world. Congrats. The other 99.9% of us don’t, and until the Flying Spaghetti Monster comes again at the Great Meatballing, we’ve got to deal with the real world, which includes people who are stupid or who choose to be evil.” Invoking the FSM knocks the whiners off balance in a way that invoking other deities doesn’t.

            2. And if the woman does it, what’s she’s doing is tell the rapists to go rape someone else. How improper!

              1. I think the right time to ask such a question of a rapist (if there is one) is AFTER you’ve flattened them and have your boot firmly on their neck.

    2. For some of them, they don’t know how to rebuild after they’ve altered it. They never developed an understanding of the tools that are there… and they developed few of the mental tools that let them adjust. “Set in their ways” is a hard pattern to break.

      1. Makes sense.

        I did some thinking after I commented, and now I wonder if living in the information age is a contributing factor.

        When you live in a hamlet of seventy people, you say hello to each person you encounter as you go about your business. Maybe even chat a little. When you live in a big city, you accept that the vast majority of people you walk past on the sidewalk or wherever have little to do with you and your life, and you walk by without engaging with them.

        When the supply of books, periodicals, and fliers was so limited that you could read them all, sorting out truth from lies from error lay within the realm of possibility.

        Now, with information arriving by the metaphorical reservoirful, none of us can even read it all/listen to it all, let alone analyze it all. So we accept that large quantities of it must simply remain an untouched wilderness to us. And when an curious enthusiast like me – alight with some newly discovered and relevant fact – attempts to share… Well, why should I be a better source of information than anyone else?

        Thing is, the facts you’re wrong about will still bite you. Or, as Sarah said, “Reality always wins.”

        1. This is true. There is a lot of information out there. But there are some things that should always be believed. For example, if another person says they want to kill you, you should believe them, and take appropriate action. On a larger scale, if all the leaders of a particular religion state that you are the Great Satan and should be destroyed, you should believe them and take appropriate action.

          For some odd reason, our political leaders think they’re kidding. And try to convince us, the hoi polloi, that the various bombers and terrorists listening to the religious leaders messages of us being evil and must be destroyed and taking action to do so are misunderstanders of their religion.

          The truth is out there in plain sight for most big things. For example again, anyone who in this day and age believes that socialism works, or will if only the right people are in charge, are deliberately misleading themselves. And voting for Bernie. Or Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend’s wife- her policy prescriptions are really no different then those of the proclaimed socialist. The truth about socialism is out there in plain sight.

          1. There are legitimate reasons for Americans to rate Americans high among potential threats. The external error is assuming that there is no real potential outside threat. The internal error is assuming that the domestic game is essentially static; that the only actors are them and what they imagine the right to be.

            1. Let me give a few good reasons for Americans to rate Americans high among potential threats:
              1. Hillary Clinton
              2. Donald Trump
              3. Bernie Sanders
              4. BLM (the agency)
              5. #BLM (the protesters)
              6. Activists who let critters out of biomedical labs
              ….and many more

              1. Motive:
                The people whom the Americans are closest to having an irreconcilable enmity towards are the Americans. The Indian wars have been over for generations, and no outside power has so deeply angered us.
                The nations with significant population in marching distance of the United State are the Dominion of Canada, The United States of America, and the United Mexican States. Canada, America and Mexico do not produce entirely worthless fighting men.
                Americans have killed significant numbers of Americans in pursuit of crime, civil war, and domestic terrorism. Compare ACW dead alone to that of any other single external cause yet.
                Character: The smartest and wisest people to have any significant involvement with the American government all predicted that it would eventually become evil and turn on the population.

                Set aside my usual ‘it is all the Dems, and they are the worst’. Because Democrats mostly aren’t that different from the rest of us, and many of us could be like them in different circumstances.

        2. I happened to be thinking of the Food and Drug Administration as I wrote my comments. They’ve got their nutrition recs bassackwards, but the vast majority of the country follows those recs right on down to heart disease and diabetes. And then everybody wonders why the incidence of diabetes and obesity gets younger and younger.

            1. I lost 20 pounds when I cut the carbs. Since then – over 3 years of injury and illness mixed – the carbs crept back in, since my husband was doing most of the cooking, bless the man. With the carbs came returning weight.

              I’m back on the wagon now, so we’ll see. (Exercise is part of the package, too. Human bodies are made to move.) But, of course, weight is only one visible marker for what a high carb diet does to the body. Insulin resistance and chronic inflammation occur over time (years) even in the thin.

              1. I was injured and had a few other setbacks that basically put paid to my regular excercise regimen. I’m hopelessly out of shape. But at the same time, I’ve been cutting carbs & seed oils out of my diet and replacing them with olive oil, meat & cheese.

                I’m still wearing the same size clothes. Wierd.

                1. Good for you!

                  Sorry to hear about your injury and the setbacks. Health is such a key piece of living. When there are health struggles, everything else is affected.

    3. I’ll mention some new thing I’ve learned, and they will look at me blankly or tell me that I must be mistaken. Or quickly change the subject, because they don’t want to know.

      I think I’ve figured this one out– a some people skip the part where they make sure it’s a valid difference, and they’ll constantly be hitting people with the “new thing” they learned which amounts to brow-beating and intensely uncomfortable conversation if you fail to jump right on with them.

      The “check it out and THEN want to talk about it” group would have to be incredibly large to make it a 50/50 chance with the butterfly believers (flit here, flit there, flit hither and yon…but ALWAYS the very most up to date and accurate. 😀 ) and you’d need a much better than 50% chance of the conversation not being incredibly uncomfortable for folks to WANT to have it.

      1. …some people skip the part where they make sure it’s a valid difference…

        Oh, for sure. And I suspect that it’s “most” (alas), not just “some.” You really can’t blame folks for tuning it all out. And yet… the things you know that ain’t so will still bite you. 😉

  2. In the early 1940’s my aunt went to college–a Very Big Deal for her generation and the family. She may have been one of the first, male or female. Because this school was for Young Ladies, they were expected to take part in social events like concerts, and thus required to have an evening gown. Growing up on a farm in Texas, evening gowns were not precisely common. But she knew how to sew, and the family had a friend in town who made coffins. Velvet-lined coffins. My aunt made her debut in a velvet evening dress… of free coffin-lining remnants. That, and the fact that she got flowers delivered every week made her colleagues think she was rich. (My grandfather grew flowers, in bulk, for the florist trade and even had them picked up by aeroplane!)

    Yeah, it’s all status signalling. I confuse a lot of people because I do not watch TV at all, don’t care about what car I drive as long as it runs, and shudder at the thought of iAnything. Fortunately my friends are much the same 🙂

    1. Even Ecomentalism is more about status signalling than actually saving the planet.

      1. See? My friends have the correct priorities. Also decks that are shooting ranges and giant coyote-hunting dogs… those are real status symbols 😀

        1. 😦 I punish my dogs for running coyotes, so that must mean I’m not a friend of yours.

    2. Sounds like my mom in the late ’30s. (“Finishing” school didn’t take though – this was rather obvious.) No handy relatives for materials, but granddad was the local snooker parlor owner, and there were always rather complicated “deals” between the local merchants in her small town.

    3. Now there’s a turn of phrase I have never read in my almost 60 years of reading: “free coffin-lining remnants.” There’s a story in there somewhere.

      As for TV, well, yeah. I read books…or I write them.

      1. “free coffin-lining remnants.”

        I used to volunteer with an organization that used coffin fabric remnants to make burial garments for infants and keepsakes for the parents. There’s a lot of yardage that goes to waste and it’s nice fabric.

      2. And here’s another rare tidbit to go in the story hopper. Because this fabric was for the coffin trade, it was wide selvedge–to fit a 6′ or longer coffin. Those who buy fabric will know what that means 😉 Much easier to make a long dress from scraps that way!

        1. And my relatives who worked at the local spinning plant (closed, the company went bankrupt maybe because they *didn’t* move to another country) have said that casket makers are very picky about the looks of their product.

    4. In the early 1940s, a magazine story in support of women doing war work has an aunt silence her nephew and niece by pointing out that their mother had a year of college, thus demonstrating her obvious capability.

  3. We are all condemned men, doomed to die.

    Mind your oar, and don’t give up if the ship comes apart.

    1. We are all condemned men, doomed to die.

      I don’t recall the exact quote, but wasn’t there a line in Tunnel In the Sky where Rod’s mother asked his sister (home on leave from the military) about the death rate in her unit, to which she replied something like “one each, same as everyone else”?

      If not those words, at least the sentiment.

        1. Looks like I am overdue, too. IIRC, it was in conversation between Rod and Helen – but it’s foggy.

          1. Dug up my copy because it was bothering me…

            Mrs. Walker shivered. “Gracious, darling, I wish you had never taken up a calling so… well, so dangerous.”

            Helen shrugged. “The death rate is the same for us as for anybody… one person, one death, sooner or later.”

    1. There are the women (and some men) who read the labels. Then there are the men (and some women) who read the tags (as in “price”).

      I am fortunate to have one of those “some” women as a wife…

      1. My wife reads both the label AND the price tag. And has pretty good clothes sense. I have essentially no interest in the label, some interest in the price (or at least the value) and almost zero clothes sense.

        When it’s important I let her dress me. It works well. Even though it often seems to require a trip to the shops to get something that I don’t have. Or which I do have but is 20 years old and “tired”.

    2. I think the right way to thing about clothes with no labels is: Bespoke clothing, so exclusive the designer is beyond the need to label things!
      (Yeah, my wife is a designer/tailor/seamstress from ‘way back, too.)

  4. I got confused at first because you were kind of describing my upbringing. The times we got to go buy a dress brand-new stand out in my memory because it was so rare. I still like hand-me-downs and thrift stores for clothes. We got to do some things because my dad was a locksmith and he sometimes got paid by trade. That was how at least one or two of my siblings learned to drive (it wasn’t taught in our schools for cheap). We spent several days at a Boy Scout ranch because my dad was hired to change out all the locks on the buildings. We had the whole place to ourselves mostly. We’d get to go to a restaurant because my dad did work for them.

  5. WHEN, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?

    He takes a part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter every individual among us.

    And shall we, who are the consuls, tolerate Catiline, openly desirous to destroy the whole world with fire and slaughter?

    A camp is pitched in Italy, at the entrance of Etruria, in hostility to the republic; the number of the enemy increases every day; and yet the general of that camp, the leader of those enemies, we see within the walls—aye, and even in the senate—planning every day some internal injury to the republic.

    Excerpts from The First Oration Against Catiline by Cicero

  6. It’s funny. I think quality, attractive handmade clothing is way cooler than mass produced clothing. I actually felt a little embarrassed for Sarah’s boojie friends in the post, fawning over something so stupid.

    Of course, the class association behind homemade clothing has been turned on its head nowadays. In America today, it probably means you create clothing as a hobby and thus are wealthy enough to CHOOSE to do such a thing (or to pay someone to make it for you). But practicality has always big thing for me. I couldn’t help but admire that kind of utility regardless of class distinctions.

    1. My daughter – from elementary-to-middle-school age went from being hideously embarrassed because I made all of her clothes at home to being rather proud of it. This happened somewhere between the time we transitioned from a military base in Spain – to Utah. At the base in Spain – it was the done thing among the kids – to have clothes bought at the BX, or through mail-order from CONUS. Having home-made clothes was just so infra dig as to be an embarrassment. And then when we got to Utah – oh, having home-sewn clothes? That was a mark of superior status; it meant that you had a serious, hard-corps Mom, who did home-couture, just for YOU!
      Yeah, I was amused at how the attitude from the Daughter-Unit did such a turn. In the space of about six months or so.

  7. “And in the first stages of things getting unstable, the dowagers get louder and obsess more on the irrelevant, because it’s their way of telling themselves everything is fine.”

    Excuse me, Ms. Hoyt, but are you insinuating that the global fight for transpecies toilets is in any form or fashion frivolous? Har-rumph, I say!

    1. Excuse me, Ms. Hoyt, but are you insinuating that the global fight for transpecies toilets is in any form or fashion frivolous? Har-rumph, I say!

      Random thought…

      If and when we meet a species that uses xe/xem/xir as a personal pronoun, are xey going to be upset at the cultural appropriation?

        1. Could be worse… they might use H2S or CH4 as pronouns. Now THAT would be embarrassing.

    2. There are a lot of silly old women (of both sexes) who have so little experience of real oppression and so little understanding of life outside their own little circle that they enthuse about every fresh cause, and do not see how much public fuss about “rights” and assorted grievances is composed of smoke and mirrors.

      As an economically challenged conservative Christian aging white heterosexual male, I’m I having a hard time these days determining whether I’m in the oppressor class or the oppressed.

        1. I confess! (to being a dinosaur. Can I be a theropod?)
          I repent of myself in sackcloth and ashes! (Tried that. Didn’t work)
          I renounce Nietzche, Marx, Freidan, and Sanger, and all their works!
          (Wait. I never accepted any of them in the first place)

            1. I dunno. I thought a gunnysack was one of things my grandpa would leave in the shed after he fed the livestock. I seem to recall my parents threatened to have me wear one if I ruined any more clothes. I was more into weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, myself.

              1. That’s what the brand is named for– I’d guess they were going for the old complement of “She’d look good in a gunny sack.” (IE, so attractive that the clothes don’t really matter.)

                Plus, it made for a lot of funny jokes. A relative adores playing the dumb hick by telling them she was wed in a gunny sack.

                1. “She could stop traffic in a gunny sack.”

                  Which always made me think, “well of course she could, how often do you see a woman wearing a gunny sack when you are driving down the road.”

                  1. As bizarre as women’s fashions get, I might not even notice.

                    Men’s fashions aren’t quite as insane, other than the occasional fads for cowboy boots. A cowboy boot is a highly specialized piece of footwear; the pointy end is designed to find and enter a stirrup hanging on a twisty strap. The stacked heel locates the sole in the stirrup so it can’t slide out easily. Inside, there’s a hard leather or steel reinforcement so you can stand in the stirrup without killing your arches.

                    Those boots aren’t made for walking…

                    1. No they aren’t, although Packers are designed for both walking and riding. That being said, I have known of multiple doctors to recommend men with bad backs to wear cowboy boots or similar boots with a moderately tall heel (I think in the 1 1/2″-2″ range, not something like women’ 6″ heels) because apparently the geometry of that tall of a heel is better on a damaged/bad back.

                      I will point out that the pointy toes of cowboy boots work remarkably well for kicking someone’s ribs in, in a bar fight. Something with more moderate heels, laces for better ankle support, and a better gripping sole than slick leather, would be recommended however if that was your chief criteria in picking out footwear.

                    2. Yeah, I’ve noticed that about men’s fashions myself. If you were to plop a man in a business suit into the 1600s, the people will look at you funny because your suit looks oddly cut — and it may even be old-fashioned, in some cases! — but othewise it wouldn’t be out of place!

                      Casual wear seems to be t-shirt and jeans, and semi-casual seems to be polo and khakis.

                      Women’s fashions seem to be much more complicated, and much more fickle. Sometimes I wish men’s clothing were more varied, like women’s fashion is…but often I *really* appreciate the practicality. (As a mathematician pretending to be a software developer, I particularly appreciate all the pockets available in a business suit, even if I seldom wear one to work…)

        2. I am oppressed by the SJW. I have congenital omnimiscy. I demand reasonable accommodation for my disability.

        3. The SJW’s “favorite” type of “oppressor”.

          IE Ones without power to really oppress. 😦

          I’d love the SJWs to meet somebody with the power and willingness to oppress them. 👿

              1. I’m pretty sure that would be an act of war.

                …sure, the major reason we have SJWs in the first place is because of the Soviets, but that regime fell so…..

          1. That and they are not cruel people who to harm others.

            Makes them less likely to retaliate against an SJW pointing and screeching “OPPRESSOR” and so on. In fact, SJWs have gotten mileage from attacking people like that since that sort person’s first instinct is to wonder if they accidentally harmed someone and apologize.

            What the SJWs don’t realize is even nice people have limits, and can realize that they have committed no offense at all and it’s all the SJW’s doing.

            1. Okay, I need more caffeine:
              “They are not cruel people who want to harm others.”

      1. You have conservative privilege. Odd are you inherited it from parents who held you accountable, taught you self-discipline, and valued education. YOU personally didn’t do anything to get it, though we will admit you have to work to keep it.

        So you have an obligation to share that privilege with the less fortunate, or (if you are unable to have kids or help raise other folks’) to call to account those people who would try to deny these advantages to the underprivileged.

        Heh. I can speak prog when I need to.

        1. Hey! Does having conservative privilege come with the right to be irritatingly smug, insufferably condescending, and obnoxiously preachy about it?

          1. Or am I confusing it with the kind of privilege the SJW types accuse everyone else of having and demonstrate so well themselves?

      2. Giving them the benefit of every doubt: It seems to me that they obsess over trivialities because they are incompetent to do anything about the greater evils in the world, and educated to be ashamed to do nothing at all.

  8. I’m not hungry – but I’m spending less money on food than people on food stamps get, so I can make it to LibertyCon this year.

    (That said, oranges, fresh veggies, and low-cal soups are cheap at the local grocery stores, so I’m eating my fill _and_ losing weight.)

  9. Where I grew up, having a personal tailor and quality custom made tailored clothing was considered to be a pretty cool thing. I remember a friend of mine learning to make his own custom shirts from his uncle who was a tailor so he could show off his custom clothes.
    My school was a strange mix, kids on welfare, kids whose parents owned TV networks, famous photographers, doctors, and physicists, and lots of middle class in between. It was pretty rare to see people lord their wealth, because it was considered crass.
    Wonder where we all went wrong here?

  10. My grandmother was a professional seamstress; she did alterations for a living but also made a lot of her own clothes. She had little custom labels that she sewed into her work.( Doing so apparently used to be common; I’ve seen ’em elsewhere, but not recently).

  11. My concern: when the war drums stop, and the muster drum starts, the generation that went to Iraq an Afghanistan after 9/11 is going to be too old to fight, and the ‘everyone needs a college degree give me free stuff microaggression generation’ is going to have to fight the war. Most of them will get PTSD just from the drill instructor yelling at them to get off the bus, if they don’t get it just from their draft number coming up.

    1. The Iraq and Afghanistan vets constituted a tinier percentage of the American population than the forces for any other war we’ve fought. And they were, by and large, Millennials. I think we might be able to find lions enough. It’s the donkeys that are the main concern – and have been for quite some time.

      1. If there is ever a call up enough to result in a draft, we’ll get lions sheep and donkeys in the military all at once.

        1. If the higher-ups were willing to give those kids a good dose of perspective and reality, that might be the best possible thing for them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem they are. If they coddled Major Hasan, I see no reason for them to balk at coddling Jayden the neurodivergent spirit-wolf. And Jayden may not have the stones to kill his comrades directly, but I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be treachery.

          1. not what i am concerned with , i am concerned with him collapsing into a gibbering pool when confronted with actual enemies that shoot back, and getting other soldiers killed.

          2. I dislike the word neurodivergent.

            It seems like it was wrongly coined to contrast with neurotypical. That word’s origins are clear. A high functioning autistic used it to describe people who were not autistic in that fake DSM entry that was more or less ‘and you people call me dysfunctional?’ It was a hilarious parody, but the fact is those weird fixations on monkey games somehow make human social organizations work. Human social organization is powerful and useful, groups of only high functioning autistics would do a poorer job of it, therefore I’m not inclined to bitch much these days.

            Special snowflake bullshit, which neurodivergent is used for, is at least partly monkey games. Therefore contrasting with ‘neurotypical’ is inaccurate. Except insofar as SJW correct thought tells mildly autistic people that the real root of their abnormality is that they are actually of the opposite gender, and attracted to their own*.

            I think the word neurodivergent is used in inaccurate ways, or ways that conflate different things in an evil way.

            *A friend of the family claims to have seen incidents where they think this has happened.

  12. I made my toddler daughter’s dresses complete with lace-trimmed hems (left-overs). The first time she looked at store-bought dresses at the inside hems, she asked “where is the lace?” A fun memory. (Was she over- or under-privileged? I mean, really, home-made dresses!! Times change.)

  13. I just now recalled going to star parties and such with a homebuilt telescope. It had some problems (first try at a rather young age), but it was there and did the job well enough. There were folks with various commercial makes, and I don’t recall anyone really looking down on things – more impressed that it had tried/done. And there is the story that a friend/acquaintance of Albert Einstein built a telescope for him. Albert wanted a telescope, but knew if he bought one it would get taken as a commercial endorsement which he didn’t care to give.

  14. Hmm. I just wrote a blog post wondering what the poor want out of education. Did anyone ever ask them.

    Well, you have answered me. Parents want education for their kids until they need them to work or until it becomes too hard paying for it.

    As always, it is fascinating to read about your early life, Sarah, for it seems from another world to an upper-middle-class brat like me.

    1. Hmm. I just wrote a blog post wondering what the poor want out of education. Did anyone ever ask them.

      Don’t be silly; we know what they need, there’s no need to bother them with the pesky details.
      /sarc (if that wasn’t obvious)

  15. I’d love to see Mrs. Hoyt and my mom get together to play the “I never went seriously hungry (except for that one time)” game. I’m still on the fence who’d come out on top (bottom?) because while Mrs. Hoyt had shoes, she didn’t have winter. Plagues of ants vs. communists (Mrs. Hoyt “wins”)

    Either way it would be fun.

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