Category Archives: Clothing

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman . . . and damn is that process expensive!


Here’s a picture of me and my sister, Nancy Botwin. You might notice we look nothing alike:

Shvester 2012
NB on the left, PP on the right

There are reasons biological (random dispersion of genes) and reasons behavioral. To wit: In the morning, I brush my teeth, take a shower, run a brush through my hair, throw on whatever clothes are lying on my floor or near the front of my closet, stick my helmet on my head (no “style” to ruin!), and take off to work (or the local, organic coffee shop) on my bike.

Nancy has never left the house with wet hair. After showering, she blow dries her hair for an hour, with a diffuser, and mousse, and whatever other special ingredients go into the mix. She brushes her teeth at least twice. She flosses. She puts on her makeup. She tries on a few outfits. And then she steps into her “sports car” (which is really not sporty at all, but it’s not a mini-van, and can’t fit all 4 of her kids, so to her is a sports car) and drives to work (or the mall).

Admittedly, in the picture above, I’m about as groomed as I get. Nonetheless, my hair, even here, is a bit greasy (I worked out in the morning and then sprayed on a little dry shampoo–which is nothing like real shampoo–to cover up my sweat), and the fake eyelashes I stuck to my lids quickly, without reading the instructions, are in the process of coming off.

My sister like to tell me that I’m the lowest maintenance woman she’s ever met. She regularly calls me a hippy.

And yet —

This “hippy” spends a pretty penny on waxing, threading, highlighting, pedis, and a few other such woman-becoming procedures because apparently even an academic, feminist, hippy can fall into the trap of buying into that whole feminine mystique thing.

Also, I’m afraid I would terrify people if I walked around in my natural state (as might NB):

Shvester 1989. A true “before” photo.
PP, a sloth, NB

The Poor Princess’s Tips on How [Not] To Pack and Move


A week before the move, anxiety levels start to run high. Believe me, I know. So here are the strategies I employ:

1. Try on everything you own. It sounds like busy work, but it is far more interesting than wrapping picture frames in 5 inches of packing paper. And it’s efficient! Why move with that hideous bubble gum pink satin skirt you wore to your brother-in-law’s wedding (thanks for that color scheme, by the way . . . I really owe you one). Or the fuschia shoulder-padded lace jacket you had made? Try them on, realize you will never wear them again, and on to Goodwill they go!

Sartorial sloughing

2. Listen to every CD you own. You might find some gems in there . . . or not. Do you still like Soundgarden? Roxette? Tripping Daisies? (yes, these are/were all in my collection). Do you only like one song on each CD? Then take the time to copy that song onto your computer and for goodness sake, trash the CD (or take it to your local record exchange shop — maybe you’ll make some money!).

Disc dump

3. Is your baby still a baby? And if not, is your womb retired? Then you probably don’t need that cocoon babycot, the car seat adapter for a baby seat, or that activity mat. Bye bye baby, and farewell pedaphernalia!

Farewell Pedaphernalia!

4. It’s possible that you’ve figured out the other activities I think are important by now, like looking through each of your photo albums as you prepare to pack them (and scanning some classics to Facebook that piss off your old friends — for goodness sake, so what if we all had big eyebrows, fat faces, and bad acne when we were 16? Get over it!). This is the time to smell the proverbial roses! Those photo albums just sit there and collect dust the rest of the year. But now is their time in the sun! (or at least your hands . . . and scanner).

To not completely be cut off from said old friends, I am not going to re-post the lovely pictures I put up on FB earlier today . . .

5. OK, we’re getting there. Time to relax. I did so by going to a ghetto fair today:

The very classy mouse roller coaster

6. This will be the final tip for now. Here it is: don’t forget you need your strength when you’re packing and moving! The Scientist eyed my dinner skeptically, but I was quite pleased with my inventiveness. I made a bowl of cannellini beans with a cube of frozen basil (clearing out one pantry item and one freezer item), followed by sunnyside up eggs with kimchi (two fridge items). I drank an unloved Trader Joe’s Vienna Style Lager with it (one more fridge item!).

. . .Now, hopefully you’ve figured out how to extrapolate from the above list. Have you watched all your DVDs to make sure you’re not moving with any scratched ones? (I did). Did you skim through all your books to see if they’re worthy of your bookshelf? (I did). (Dan Brown? Really?). You get the picture.

If you’ve really gotten rid of all the things I think you’ve gotten rid of, as I have, congratulations!! You have saved yourself money in packing materials and moving time so I think you ought to reward yourself for your hard work and achievements by calling your mover right away and telling him that with your extra money, you are going to have him pack up all your stuff before the move. That’s what I’m going to do!

Good luck!


Oberservation: Dressing the part in the Land of Duddy Kravitz


Duddy Kravitz and the unfortunate Yvette. He stood for the money-grubbing Sec Jews, she for the anti-Semitic but victimized French Canadians. Missing only in this picture of Laurentian life is the Orthodox icon, who in Duddy's time and by Richler's reckoning was not a young mom or dad with a dozen kids filling the playground by Lac des Sables, but the old man whose time was almost up. In the book, the country house Jews were made up of "the short husbands with their outrageously patterned sports shirts arm in arm with purring wives too obviously full for slacks, the bawling kids with tripledecker icecream cones, the squealing teenagers, and the grandfather with his beard and black hat."

Bullet-proof stockings, silk shmatas on their heads or pared-down-for-the-summer shtreimels, clothes that are long, loose, and often quite lux, the Chasidisshe Jews here wear many layers, despite the hot, humid summer air.

Cool J and a Chabad camp

LL among the 'lidges

Mini putting with a maxi family: our boys wait patiently behind a family of 11

Not so the Sec Jews. These are the ones that got to camp with LL and Cool J. Some are Shomer Shabbos, some strictly Kosher (some less so. Says one camp mom to another: “I was going to join the kids hiking today, but I’m fasting, so it’s probably not a good idea.” Replies the other: “Oh, for Tu Be’shvat?” The first: “Not quite.”). But all are Sec, surely, beside the Bobovers and Satmars, for whom they appear not even as Jews but rather a bunch of shiksas and sheygatzes. This group is made up, primarily, of ladies polished and groomed (their men, for the most part, back in the city, earning the money for that polishing and grooming). In their athletic apparel, they appear poised, at all moments, for a jog along Lac des Sables or yoga sur la plage.

Meanwhile, the French Canadians, with cigarettes dangling from their lips and peroxided hair, hold court by the lakeside casse-croute in their string bikinis and heels, calling to their one or two children (such measly families–such a switch from Duddy’s time–now the Bobover kids dominate with their 12 or 15 or 18 children, and the Secs don’t do badly with their 3 or 5 or 6). “Loic! Aurélie!” The children, boys and girls, wear their hair long, and these same children, boys and girls, are often only clothed below the waist.

And so, in the land where people are supposed to be divided into linguistic groups–Anglophone, Francophone, Allophone–they are instead separated by their apparel: the Chasids wear a lot, the Sec Jews wear Lulus, the French wear little.


On Style


We have instituted a policy of “Tourist Sundays.” For our first “Tourist Sunday,” we journeyed into that big city that is the epicenter of the universe. It’s not too too far away, and we could feel its lure, imagining the copper lady beckoning with her beacon. It would be a daytrip, a vacation for the poor. Oh hell. It’s a recession—even the rich go on staycations these days.

I decided we were going to take a good look at my newest paragon of beauty and style, Frida Kahlo. What I actually ended up looking at, however, a whole lot more than self-portraits of the Mexican Mistress of the Monobrow, or other works of art made of intricate brushstrokes or smooth sculpting, was the people. The people.

The men in this fabulous metropolis channel their creative juices into scarves. Their all-black outfits serve as the ideal blank backdrop for their scarves—black and white or sepia like spools of old film; a single, bright primary color, perhaps International Klein Blue, a museum camouflage; yellows both liquid and liqueurish, a ring of chartreuse or limoncello; knitted; woven; silk georgette or silk jacquard; or thick or light wool; gauzy or opaque; looped once; looped twice; hanging low; hanging short; hanging off the shoulders; hanging front and back; wide or narrow; wintery or whimsical. The scarves speak.

And the women? Not too shabby either.

And then there’s me in my standard uniform: a cable-knit sweater, of a solid color, and dark jeans. Where is my je-ne-sais-quoi, my flair, the action painting on my personal canvas?

Being poor is very boring. Am I allowed to go shopping yet? Hermès calls.

March 4, 2011 update: Hey, I’m not the only one with a not-so-powerful-power-suit that I wear everywhere. Today’s New York Times reveals a few other, slightly richer, folks follow–I can’t resist–suit.