Tag Archives: fads

Cougars and Other Wildcats of the City

In this wacky new age of changing everything into acronyms, such as WTF, OMG and KFC, there is also the penchant of labelling and categorizing things. I’ve talked already about the whole genre categorization of fiction. But it goes farther than that.

These days, everyone from your friends to the government want to catalogue and categorize you by demographics, whether it’s age, gender, religion, financial affluence, education, gender preference, geographic region, favorite vegetable or any of a number of esoteric specifics. Labelling serves the purpose of saying we need this much of these resources for this many people. But it can also be used to ostracize and cage a group.

The gay community has long lived with tags, many of them from those who were outside of the lifestyle. However, I have several gay friends and they are just as likely to call themselves rice queens (men who like Asian men), potatoes (men who like white guys) and other variations on the theme more than others. I’ve known Asian people as well who call or label themselves as “banana.” White on the inside but yellow on the outside.

So perhaps it’s only natural that women had to get another name besides wife, mother and ho; that of cougar. Although there have been strong and independent women throughout history, more started appearing during the second world war when they took on the jobs of men who were in the war or in some cases, jobs such as mechanics in the army. Every able-bodied man was required on the front so women were trained for all the jobs traditionally worked by men. My mother worked in a hat making factory, running the machines. When an inspector came by he found she was being paid women’s wages for a man’s job and they had to adjust her wage.

So yes, independent women; not a surprise. Once we moved out of the 60s people started to re-examine the traditional roles. Men had been breadwinners, women, homemakers and mothers who often didn’t work. But women started to work more and more. Economy and inflation of home prices added to this, as well as many women decided they didn’t want children or wanted to keep their careers. Although some women took what were seen as traditional roles (nurses, teachers, librarians, seamstresses, etc.) others started to go into men’s fields: engineers, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, etc.

This movement into the workforce was seen as a threat by some men, that the status quo was being upset. Men have been the strong ones, the breadwinners, the head of the house. With some men, wives and children were status symbols like cars and TVs, showing their wealth and virility and their power. So when women started working men’s jobs they were made fun of, ridiculed and generally paid less for the same jobs. A female politician might be described or noted for the clothes she wore (not her work) whereas a male politician’s clothes were never mentioned. Gender bias has happened in many places and many jobs. Media people are trained these days in ways to avoid gender stereotyping but it is very insidious.

Even with a more broadened awareness there is the need to label women over fortyas cougars. This often stands for a woman who is independent, strong and confident but may also date younger men. Its negative aspects depict a woman grabbing at youth and hunting younger men for sex toys. Our society, in certain areas, felt the need to single these women out, to stereotype them, to ridicule them. What better way to try and lessen a woman’s power but to laugh at her and not take her seriously. Make a caricature to keep women in their place.

You might think I’m going over the top but if in fact women were treated equally in all circumstances, then we would not have the subjugation of women in Afghanistan where the only good woman is one in a burka. Well, that’s different; that’s a different country. Okay, what about the fact that most domestic violence occurs against women and that more women die than men, and are usually killed by men in such situations? What about all the women who are raped?  Until those crimes are eliminated women won’t get a truly fair shake.

But back to cougars, or pumas or tigers (which I have no clue whether they’re real terminology for further categorizing women’s taste in men)…why does our society take such glee in these names? Because it’s all right for a man twenty years a woman’s senior to chase her down and maybe marry her. Hello, Hugh Hefner. It’s all right for a men twenty-thirty years older to play the love interest to a twenty-something in the movies but the other way around and Hollywood wants a much shorter age range, if they’ll do it at all. Though there have been movies such as Harold and Maude and one that I don’t know the name of that had Susan Sarandon as an older love interest.

Yes, the attitude is changing…slowly. However women are made laughed at for what men have always done. In the end, who cares who is sexually attracted to who? As long as everyone is of legal age, it’s up to those people to work out their relationship. Maturity and compatibility should matter more than chronological years.

But as terms go at least a cougar is a sleek, beautiful, powerful animal. Much better to be compared to a feline than to a worm or a snake or a cow. And if you want to look at one term for older men that has a pretty negative connotation, well I’d take cougar over “old goat” any day.

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Genital Fads

Because it’s looking like spring (at least here in the Pacific Northwest) and little shoots are poking through the ground, and the big VD just happened (that’s Valentine’s Day not venereal disease though they do have a relation), I remembered a conversation with a friend last fall.

We were at the World Fantasy Convention, in the art show. There were some dark, moody-broody pictures involving nudes. After my friend looked at one, she said to me, “I noticed that the woman in that photo had her genital area shaved. Am I way behind the boat here? Is this something that people are doing now?”

And I enlightened her that it is in fact a fad these days for men and women to be hairless. Women already have shaved underarms and legs for years. Now they may have their pubic patch trimmed or taken away completely, commonly called a Brazilian. Men have also been getting waxed of recent years, from back and butts, to chests and genitals. Some of them shave the genital area or go in to see an aesthetician to have as one friend referred to it, a crack and sack hair removal.

It’s been common in the Middle East for hundreds of years, yet in Italy of the last century a woman with hairless legs were considered to be tarty or ladies of the night. But this modern age is not the first time that people have applied fashion trends to their genitals.

If we go back in time there were ribbons applied to pubic curls in the 17th century. Known as a merkin, men or women would adorn these pubic wigs to either disguise the syphilitic ravages to their flesh, to discourage vermin (having shaved the region) or because people found a dense bush more sexually appealing. Some extravagances involved crimping the pubic hairs, adding ribbons, jewels or flowers. Quite a treasure trove for the exploring Don Juan.

Adornment hasn’t just happened to the pubic hair but to the flesh as well. There have been an abundance of piercings for men and women, some being ornamental, others religious, others for sexual enhancement. These have been done for centuries in some Asian and African countries and are popular in some aspects of North American and European culture.

Clothing has also been worn at different times to enhance the genital area (besides the merkin). These have included extravagant codpieces from the German Landsknecht “slash and puff” clothing, through the Elizabethan and Tudor periods. As well, various tribes may have worn penis sheaths made from wood or gourds, such as the New Guinea koteka. Tattooing is also not new.

The fashion of making ourselves as hairless a possible will probably change in decades to come. Nothing is new and nothing is permanent. Whether we see these pubic fashions as awe inspiring, fashionable, sexy or ridiculous they too will change in time. Someone will come up with something new, maybe wearing airplane parts or hanging Christmas ornaments from their pubic regions. Who knows, you might be the first to have the newest undercover fad.

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A Case of Indulgence

This was the last of the Fearsmag articles that I wrote. I thought of putting it out tomorrow but I could be nursing a hangover, or more likely sleeping in. That’s one of my indulgences.

In whatever stage of abstinence or feeding our appetites that we managed to survive through the holiday season, we now suffer the aftermath. A new year has begun and in many cultures it becomes a time of reckoning, of cleaning our mental houses, of taking stock and changing or honing up on our past year’s progress.

Often January is a time of making too many promises and setting stakes too high. You might say it’s the time of atonement, whether you’re religious or not, for our past sins, be it laziness, overindulgence, taking on too much, doing too little, not changing, lacking stability, clinging to the past or not planning the future. We try to set past abuses or mistakes right with New Year’s resolutions. If we can whitewash the slate, perhaps we can start fresh and ignore all that’s gone before.

Or not.

Not too many years ago, I decided to stop making resolutions. After all, why set yourself up for a fall? We resolve to make these changes in our lives, often drastic ones, and wonder why we then fail to change. In January, because there’s no planning for holidays, we’re broke from spending too much and have already saturated our flesh with sugar, alcohol, salt and fat; we heroically battle our faults. Start a new year, start a new plan, start right.

And time, which is really just a big wound-up clock that we imagine, unwinds the wheel of the year as well as our plans, which fizzle by March if not earlier.

I guess I learned the lesson. Don’t overindulge through the holidays, then you won’t have to diet yourself down to the right size again. Of course, many people control themselves throughout the year and feel that this is the one time to let loose, to balance the scales even if those scales can be tipped to one side rather quickly and it takes the whole year to get back there again. To indulge or not—the fear to let go, to take the plunge.

We have set ourselves a tricky quest in this new century, as in the old. We want to have it all but we don’t want to wallow in it. Gourmet chocolate shops, delectable world-select coffee bars, elite watering holes holding alcohol from every exotic locale, and the finest clothes made of wondrous fabrics not seen since the Egyptians wove cotton, abound in many countries. We surround ourselves with splendor, covet what we don’t have and continue to search for the most expensive, exquisite or unique of today’s fads.

Well, what’s wrong with having the best, of rewarding ourselves for what we’ve accomplished? Nothing, but those that have too much, who can acquire whatever they desire, who have sailed to the highest pinnacle and hover there, are watched by the heaving millions with envy, jealousy and ridicule.

Like Icarus and his fateful flight toward the sun, we view movie stars, singers, politicians, the famous, the rich and the powerful as those who try for godhood and will fall back to the earth. And like scavenging vultures, we wait to pull them down or help them on their descent. Each and every person wants what is rightfully theirs, perhaps more than a fair share and will seek it out. All of us would like to indulge. Those that do are loved at first. We hold them like beacons in the darkness of our obscurity. They shine as examples of what can be done, of what-ifs made real and that some people can have it all. Yet, if they stay too long in the flame, we burn them with our scorn. We hold their lives up to that oh-so-bright light and examine every pore, every crack, every flaw.

Michael Jackson is no longer a rising star. His comet is falling and he receives as much ridicule as adoration, not for his music but for his life that, like any one of ours, cannot stand the polished gleam of godhood for long. Let’s face it, people are hypocrites. It’s all right if I have it, if my loved ones and friends have it, but if others have it and I have to watch for too long, well that’s just not right. Just like the dog that’s done his business in the wrong spot, eventually he gets his nose rubbed in it. Those who have and indulge end up rubbing our noses in it. Not the same as the dog. It’s not necessarily intentional, but many people see this material flaunting as the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. And perhaps there are the unspoken messages that we really don’t like to hear: Could I have done more? Am I doing anything with my life? Will I amount to anything? Does anything I do matter? Will I be remembered after I die? Why have I failed when others have succeeded?

So it is that to indulge, in more than one culture or religion, is seen as a sin, a luring to the dark side, a vice. Indulgence in itself is not necessarily bad. You can indulge someone, let him or her cry, or rant or be a little crazy once in a while. It makes you look magnanimous, open-minded, loving. Having a little chocolate or getting looped or dancing the dawn into being is okay, once in a while. But do it all the time and you become a pig, a dilettante, a bohemian, a hedonist, a self-centered creature. The names abound.

In the end, our indulgences are our own but it’s our society that really let’s us know what’s not right and what is considered overindulgence. So, don’t make a resolution, until you’re ready to, whether it’s January 1st, March 19th or November 23rd. In the end, it matters only to you, and society, your friends or other forces like your body will tell you when to change. Indulge a little but don’t parade it in front of others. And before you indulge, ask yourself, with just a little fear lacing your veins, am I ready for what it will do to me and how others will see me?

Happy New Year. May your indulgences keep you healthy.

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