Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Joga Bonito

I was going to write a self-congratulatory post about how cool I am as an American who likes soccer, but Dave Eggers got there first. (You shall know his velocity!) And anyway, I like it a lot less now that it's interfering with my nightly TV habits. It isn't that the Comrade watched the television continuously from 8:00 to 11:30 last night; it is simply that the television had to be on at all times and tuned to Fox Sports World, sometimes with the sound off, so he could stop his work on the computer and run into the living room to be continuously updated without the time-wasting drudgery of applying thumb to remote.

He didn't understand why this would so irritate someone who, for the love of God, hadn't even seen the season premiere of Entourage yet, and kept insisting (in that tone that means not "I'm sorry" but "I'm sorry you're being such a pill), "It's only once every four years."

Suffice it to say that we're only four days into this thing, a new episode of Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D-List is on tonight, and it doesn't look good. I was wondering what the non-soccer-watching women of Europe do during the World Cup, when it occurred to me that in Europe the men get out of the house and watch in a bar, where they can drink beer on tap and kiss with tongues when anyone scores a goal -- the way God(dess) intended. So much is wrong with this country.

Before I was personally inconvenienced by the beautiful game, I have to say that I was really getting into it, and nobody could be more suprised by that than I am. I've always thought the sound of TV sports in the house on a Sunday afternoon is one of the loneliest sounds on earth, and one of the best things about having my own household was that I didn't have to hear it anymore.

When I was growing up my mother had a hall closet full of books, most of them religious but a few devoted to feminine self-improvement. One of these, which I of course found irresistible, was Helen Gurley Brown's Having It All: Love, Sex, Success, Money -- Even If You're Starting With Nothing. It was published in 1982, so I must have been 12 or 13 when I read it. I could devote a whole post to the things I remember from that book*, but one of them was her advice about supporting and encouraging a man's interests, even (and maybe especially) when you couldn't care less. She cited an anecdote in which a female friend of hers was able to suffer through an entire season of courtside basketball tickets because she distracted herself by contracting*** her vaginal muscles.

Now, friends, even at my impressionable age, this struck me as (pardon me) bullshit of the highest order. But when, 14 years later, I found myself watching the Goals of the Week with the Comrade on Fox Sports World, asking prompting questions and patiently watching live living-room-rug replays of Maradona, Mexico, 1986 -- well, I couldn't help but wonder: What was happening to me?

I finally came to the conclusion that soccer just made me feel smug and cosmopolitan, and that, it must be said, the players are uniformly foxy. Really, do they just not let you play unless you're rumpled and thigh-intensive and louche and muffintastic****?

When I had zeal for the World Cup (that is, before it started), the Comrade and I were watching the surprisingly entertaining videos on the Nike football site, one of which is billed as "The World's Longest Soccer Video." It's 12 minutes and 26 seconds of videos spliced together to give the effect of a guy in Lima head-butting the ball to a couple of little kids in Dusseldorf, who kick it to a bunch of guys in South Africa, and so on. (There are three clips from the U.S., and one of them is just the ball bouncing into and subsequently scattering a flock of pigeons, a perhaps-not-unintentional homage to perceptions of Americans everywhere.)

I got kind of fascinated with it and wanted to film a link for the chain, with me in it. (As it stands, there are only three girls in more than 12 minutes, and they just watch the ball as it rolls past.) I'd put on an evening gown and do it in front of the big Public Library, maybe off the top of one of the lions.

The only thing is, I could never even play kickball, really, and I doubt my ability to "catch" the ball and propel it out of the frame. Maybe I'll just sit there and contract my vaginal muscles.

* How glad Brown was to get out of Arkansas (a place, she recalls, where people would say, "She give five dollars for that hat!"); the reason she was fired from her first job, in radio (because she was too lazy to get out of bed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor); the Christmastime she ate a whole box of Greek pastries when David was out of town (but she exercised the day after her D&C and the day her mother died)!; the reason you should just buy as many accessories as possible (because you just never know what's going to go with what).**

**Come to think of it, all the lessons here, both explicit and implicit, may have formed the blueprint for what's become my adult life. Remind me to think more about this sometime when it won't seem so devastating.

***And, one presumes, releasing

****There are a couple of notable exceptions that here I won't note.


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