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Maureen on Maureen: From one Modern Girl to Another

In yesterday’s NYT mag excerpt from her upcoming book “Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide,” Maureen Dowd looks at why it’s hard for a smart, sexy, sassy, independent thinking woman to catch and keep a man, folding in ruminations on magazine cover lines, ruffles and bows, who pays for dinner and why, when Harvard Business School is hot (and to whom), and why everybody oughta have a maid.

Since I am a soft, mysterious cat (read: an unmarried woman of a certain age, though feel free to be uncertain downward when guessing it), I will leave this one to unjaded and uncynical Fishtern Maureen Miller in “Maureen on Maureen,” what we hope will become a regular feature here on Fishbowl. Take it away, Maureens!

A long tall drink o' MoDo.jpgWhat a fun, sexy time for Maureen Dowd! It’s not just the shoes; Dowd herself said as much about her new book in an interview.

And how we love MoDo’s manifesta, which Matt Drudge has already dubbed “The Red-Shoe Diaries” for its noir-ish accompanying photo. This week’s New York Times Magazine metaphorically smacks The Man upside the head with a spatula via the crackling “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?”, excerpted from November’s <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0399153322/qid=1130713430/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-4999811-4801560?v=glance&s=books&n=507846"Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide. Within hours, the once and future op-ed queen returned to her rightful throne at the number-one spot on the MEL list. I’d say TimesSelect be damned, but this one, thankfully, was gratis.

In the past, I’ve taken issue with Dowd’s brand of screwball feminism (“screwball” in the Hepburn and Tracy sense.. For this previous inspiration, see January 13, 2005′s “Men Just Want Mommy,” where we first heard her oft-repeated quip that “art is imitating life, turning women who seek equality into selfish narcissists and objects of rejection, rather than affection.” In the aftermath of the hype behind the spineless Kunkelites, though, who ask we do nothing less than to reject men who don’t deserve us first, I say,” good show”! It’s nothing less than refreshing to see La Dowd take these sad-sacks on for their solipsism and expose the predators within. (Ed. That’s our Fishterns, wishy-washy and unopinionated! Can we pick our Maureens or what?)

A Publishers Weekly advance review complains that Dowd’s anecdotal — i.e. East Coast-centric—approach is “slapdash” without the “slash and burn” of Bushworld, but her breeziness works to better effect in the magazine essay form. Incidentally, the pop of the prose also undermines Dowd’s claim that it’s “increasingly apparent that many women would have to brush up on the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography,” as it is arguably the literary equivalent of the calculated giggle. I’ll take a page out of Dowd’s handbook, though, and “avoid all sarcasm” on that one. That is, I’ll admit I enjoy it, one salty Irish Catholic broad to another. (Ed. For the record, this salty Jew is with you). Say what you want about Dowd’s op-ed screeds; when she’s on the cultural commentary she does best, she’s one funny gal. No barbs to be had here, just the old patented cute ‘n clever, though I excerpt my favorite lines below:

  • “Jurassic feminists shudder at the retro implication of a quid profiterole.”

  • “After Googling and Bikramming to get ready for a first dinner date, a modern girl will end the evening with the Offering, an insincere bid to help pay the check.”
  • Dowd also remarks that “the key to staying cool in the courtship rituals is B. & I., girls say — Busy and Important.” Funny, I always thought the key to staying calm when a-courtin’ was a glass or two of G&T (or is that “T.M.I.”?) (Ed. LOL!)
Remarkably, MoDo even managed to slip in an up-to-the-minute reference to Louise Story‘s infamous September 20 front-page Times story, “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood.” Dowd quotes Yale history professor Cynthia Russett ” as saying that “that women today are simply more “realistic,” having seen the dashed utopia of those who assumed it wouldn’t be so hard to combine full-time work and child rearing.” Too bad, then, that Russett also told The Nation’s Katha Pollitt just this October 17 that she was quoted out of context:

[H]istory professor Cynthia Russett, quoted as saying that women are “turning realistic,” is happy to go public with her outrage. Says Russett, ‘I may have used the word, but it was in the context of a harsh or forced realism that I deplored. She made it sound like this was a trend of which I approved. In fact, the first I heard of it was from Story, and I’m not convinced it exists.’

Uh, you go, girl? (And shout-out to Pollitt for citing FishBowl in that column!)

I’d take on more of the substance of the article, but I think I’m going to have to take a moment for Me Time instead. The whole schpiel, I fear, left me cringing in recognition. I regret I can only dream that I, like the women Dowd cites in her “courtship” passage, C.B.B. — “can’t be bothered” — by this. Her romp through the gender wars has left me, in one way or another, “malleable and awed.” Guess that makes me an Ivy League postfeminist statistic after all.

(Ed. Maureen — both Maureens, actually — always be bothered. What’s the point otherwise? That’s just one salty Jew’s opinion.)

(P.S. Gentlemen, that stuff I write on the blog about not being able to cook was just a joke. Did you know you can make eggs in the microwave? It’s true!)

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