Womanity

So far, it feels like rehab

I stood naked in front of my closet on the morning of February 1st carefully surveying, from left to right and back again, what I was going to wear. Overwhelmed and under-inspired, I let slip from my lips the same exact words of exasperation that my best friend’s five-year-old daughter had recently muttered: I have nothing to wear. I probably pouted like her child, too.

Those words held an extra sting that morning because my bestie and I made a pact over drinks a short time after her daughter’s declaration, a mere ten days before I found myself with not one outfit to suit my mood. Our joint decision was one that shouldn’t have been made in haste but absolutely was.  We decided—while we sipped cocktails and spoke of the inevitable monotony of (even a good) marriage—that we shop to fill some unnamed hole, some vacancy in our lives.

Neither of us is lacking for things. Each of us has a lot of stuff. And we came to the conclusion that neither of us really needs more things or stuff. And so we shook hands and set our eyes on a shopping moratorium of six months. I was going to aim a little lower with a four week hiatus; after all, I graduated from San Diego State University and it’s a top ten party school. Why make unreasonable demands on myself? But Rachel is a Blue Devil. She’s the valedictorian of valedictorians. She’s magna cum something. Her basketball team wins everything. She’s determined and single-minded and she’s made of steel. Her DNA is made of nothing but Carbon and Iron.

So. With the exception of certain sundries, hair product and concealer, I will be purchasing no new wardrobe items of any kind until after August 1st.  I have removed most fashion blogs from my Google reader (not all of them—I need to figure out how to refresh what I’ve got) and I unsubscribed from my fashion email lists. Ideeli: gone. Just Fabulous: deleted. ModCloth, All Saints and Nike Women: adieu, mon cheris.

For some, this may be a big fat pfffffffffffft. But for me? Not shopping for one half-year is akin to a boozer going cold turkey by pouring her Stoli down the drain. It’s like Rush Limbaugh dumping his Oxycontin in the toilet. It’s more difficult than breaking up with Facebook. It’s more painful than quitting Angry Birds so you can have sex with your hot but overlooked husband over there, silently blinking at you from his side of the bed. (Not that that’s ever happened in this house. No, Siree. No monotonous marriage here. Just lots of really hot and frequent twisty sex in dangerous places.)

Anyway. I’m one week in and I’m already lamenting my commitment. Especially now that I’ve started yoga because…seriously, people.

I have nothing to wear.

On bullies

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I was running down the stairs, weighted with my overstuffed backpack, jammed in next to all of the other students—some going in my direction and some going up—trying to make it to fourth period on time, when she hit me in the back of my head. For no reason that I can remember now, or that I was aware of back then, the 8th grade bully had punched me from behind. I was in 7th grade with braces, gawky and unknown. She was pretty with long dark hair, was intimidating and unprovoked. After she struck me, I cried in the girls bathroom, alone. My head ached. But more than anything, I was humiliated.

(Go here to read more…)

Speaking of bras…

…let’s talk about breasts.

Keep A Breast

This week, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) released a new set of recommendations for breast cancer screening that turns on it’s head what women have come to expect as far as screening for breast cancer, the second leading cause of death in American women.

Recommending that women not receive mammograms until the age of 50 and then once every other year after that, the USPSTF has concluded that “the current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms of clinical breast examination beyond screening mammography in women 40 years of age or older.”

That part about “current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms” raised my eyebrows. Insufficient evidence to make a call either way? So that means this influential panel upends the current protocol—mammograms every one to two years beginning at age 40— instead of sticking with it?

*Shakes head.*

Call me crazy but the new guideline instantly made me think this is has something to do with money. But what really got my hackles up was this next part about how the USPSTF “recommends against clinicians teaching women how to perform breast self-examination.”

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!? As if the first part of this announcement wasn’t disturbing enough on its own, this second bit feels utterly irresponsible and lazy and callous and pitiable and oy vey, I need a drink. Or a bong hit. Or a shopping spree at Anthropologie with Michael Bloomberg’s credit card.

Now, perhaps there’s a reasonable reason for postponing mammograms. Probably not, given all that copious “insufficient evidence,” but I’m willing to suspend disbelief for a moment and offer a one-time-only benefit of a doubt on this one. I’m feeling generous today. But how, how, HOW can it be bad for a woman to learn what her normal breast tissue feels like? Someone? Anyone? Bueller? Because if you know normal breast tissue when you feel it, you will know abnormal breast tissue when you feel it. You feel me? Which makes me think immediately of my friend Amanda.

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Isn’t she gorgeous? Vivacious? Young? Indeed. Gorgeous, vivacious, young Amanda found a lump in her breast with her very own fingers  and was diagnosed with stage-3b breast cancer when she was just 27 years old.

I LOVELOVELOVE This One!

Amanda is a breast cancer survivor. You can read Amanda’s story here.

I’m curious to know: How do you women (and my male readers, too) feel about this dramatic shift in women’s health care? Do you feel like maybe we’re getting the shaft? Just a little?

Burn ‘em all: From training bra to sleeper bra, we’ve come a long way, baby

It was the image of the bra on my computer screen that caught my attention. I was sure, on first glance, that the lady mannequin was wearing it backwards, what with the way her aerodynamic ta-tas were left uncovered by the absence of fabric that normally holds them in place.

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But quite the opposite from being worn backwards, this cupless bra was intentional: La Decollette is the brainchild of a Brit who grew tired of waking to the horror of chest wrinkles. I just call them chinkles. It’s easier.

In case you’re my editor—or a gay man or a carefree, 20-something co-ed who rightly has no idea what I’m talking about—chinkles are caused after years of side sleeping (sun damage doesn’t help). It’s when uninhibited boobs collide in the night, the result being a series of jagged, vertical lines decorating the décolletage. Be warned, oh young ’uns, and start sleeping on your backs ASAP.

Chinkles are just another in the laundry list of aging women’s battles, and now, for £45 ($80), Rachel de Boer is offering all of us a way to fight back in the form of a revolutionary bra to be worn at night. Never mind that you could jump down from the treadmill, towel off, spin your sports bra around and have the exact same thing—minus two cute bows. The bigger issue here is: Dear Lord!—who wants to wear a bra when she’s sleeping? The first thing I do when I walk through the door at the end of a busy day is the magic bra-through-the-shirt-sleeve routine. The second thing I do is toss it with one quick motion as far away from my body as possible, flinging it to the floor where it will stay until I need to use it again in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore a lacy lovely every now and then, especially when wrapped with a bow and left tucked in my lingerie drawer for my private discovery.

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But overall, I have a general disdain for bras, and whenever I go shopping for one, I can’t help but think of what a rush I was in to need one way back in 1981 when I was but a wee dork. A flat-chested, braces-having, Mork from Ork suspender-wearing dork.

As it happens, my next-door neighbor Heidi was not any of those things. We were the same age, but, somehow, she was light-years ahead in pretty much every way. She was sophisticated, worldly, beautiful and developed. More than anything, I wanted to be like her. If Heidi was serious, I was serious. If Heidi swung her pigtail when she walked, I swung my pigtail when I walked. Heidi was on track to become a concert violinist, so I convinced my mother to buy me a violin. Today, Heidi plays Carnegie Hall and I? Well. I know who Itzhak Perlman is.

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At age 11, though, what I wanted more than anything was Heidi’s boobs. One could argue that, had I chosen to practice the violin even 30 minutes each day, I might have been able to give a recital of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at our local library within the month. But there was no amount of I must! I must! I must increase my bust! chanting that was going to give me the result I wanted, the result that wouldn’t happen for another grueling four years. Thanks, mom, for the biology.

Since my exercises were fruitless, I had my mother take me to buy what was then called a training bra and what I hope, for the sake of my daughter, is no longer called a training bra. The fitting was humiliating, first because there was nothing to fit and next because some orange-haired nana at Girls World with chinkles all up and down her giant exposed bosom, was charged with measuring and pulling and tugging and analyzing, all while my mother looked on. Good times.

I came away with three training bras, not one of which you could tell I was wearing when I was fully clothed. So I took to wearing very tight Izod shirts over my very sophisticated I’m-growing-up bras, which I wore all the time, even when I slept—ahead of my time, I was—and which very nearly brings me full circle. I always made sure a strap was somehow exposed, not a lot, just a smidge, because I’m classy like that. And then, because a bra should be filled, I took to stuffing it with neatly folded layers of toilet paper that left my “breasts” looking less like budding orbs and more like Tefillin you see strapped to the foreheads of Rabbis the world over. That I went out in public with my shoulders thrown back, unapologetic and prouder than hell was nothing short of foreshadowing. Of what, I will leave up to you, Reader.

And now I find myself today looking at what the Daily Express calls a “revolutionary bra designed for women who suffer from wrinkles between their breasts,” and I’m scratching my head. I’m no longer the girl with the boxy breasts that could put an eye out, and I’m not yet the poster woman for the anti-chinkle bra. I’ve been one and the other may be my fate—I am a side sleeper, after all. But do I really want to sleep in a bra at night simply so that my breasts don’t flop over on each other? What if this revolutionary bra causes them to slide into my armpits? What then, I ask? What. Then.

The women of Holland may have bought into the gimmick, but this girl’s jury is still out. If I do decide to give it a go, barring an offer of a free product for testing, I’ll give my $14.99 Target sports bra a spin around the mattress.

(As published today in San Diego CityBeat.)

It’s more than just a word

I’ve been involved in a rather heated internet debate with some women I collaborate with on another website. We’ve been going back and forth, as part of a larger discussion, on the meaning of a loaded word. And I’d really like to know how it makes you feel, what it makes you think. I’m curious to know whether it’s use is horrendous and offensive enough to make you run away and never look back,  or whether it’s just another word like any other that only has the power we give it. There is no judgement here. I am simply curious.

So. Readers. Tell me.

What does the word “cunt” mean to you?

ter⋅ror⋅ism

-noun

  1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes
  2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization
  3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government

I am unspeakably sickened by today’s murder of Dr. George Tiller, a man who dedicated his life to womens’ health, despite myriad intimidation tactics and at least one previous attempt on his life by psychotic idealogues who piously claim to be “pro-life.” Because my feelings at the news of this loss are so surprisingly strong, my instinct is to say that I’m as devastated as if I had known Dr. Tiller. But that would be insulting to those who did know him and love him, because there is no way my grief could ever compare to theirs. I mourn alongside them, though. And I wish I’d known him. He sounds like the kind of human being I would have liked to have known.

The method and unjustness of Tiller’s death is horrifying. It’s stomach-turning and fist-pounding and knee-buckling all at the same time. That a self-righteous whack-job could walk into a church and gun a man down during his time of worship simply because a part of the man’s job is disagreeable, is an unfathomable tragedy. It’s a tragedy for his family and his patients. But it’s also a devastating tragedy for women everywhere in this country.

It is disturbing on a molecular level because it feels like the proverbial shot fired from the bow of a ship, an open declaration of war. Of course, this war has been on for a very long time as this is not an isolated incident: Violence at the hands of “pro-lifers” is uncomfortably commonplace. But this feels particularly frightening given U.S. Marshals are being deployed to protect workers of women’s health clinics and the patients who seek their services.

Imagine being a woman in Wichita who, tomorrow, needs to walk into a Planned Parenthood to get her birth control pills. Or a pap smear. Or counseling. Or, yes, an abortion. Imagine being the people who work in these much-needed clinics all over the United States, a country whose Constitution protects a woman’s right to choose. Women should not be afraid to make choices about what is best for their health. Doctors and nurses and administrators and counselors should not be afraid to do the work they’ve been trained to do. That it should be so is wholly un-American.

The man who murdered Dr. Tiller is a terrorist and those in the pro-life movement who support what he’s done are terrorist sympathizers. They are Evil-Doers. These vile people are different from those 19 men who flew planes into the twin towers only in the God they worship.

New online ‘zine for the ladies

My friend Mrs. G. of the now shuttered Derfwad Manor, has started up her very own online magazine and has included me amongst the first of her guest writers for the launch. I may be taking on a more permanent role over there, which means I’ll sleep when I’m dead, but I couldn’t be more flattered that she wants to play with me.

There’s a lot to read at the new site and kinks are still being hammered flat with a five-pound sledge. Input is needed so feel free to weigh in with feedback. Knowing how kind-hearted and gentle Mrs. G is by nature, I know she won’t swing that thing in your direction. Unless you’re mean. But even then, she’s morel likely to aim her wit at that soft spot between your eyes.

I’ve got a new piece up in The Family Room, an oldie but goodie in The Bedroom (as I read it, I actually thought someone else had written it) and last year’s Ode to Javier is up in The Cabana. Damn it if the latter isn’t one of my favorites. He’s the peanut butter to my jelly, that’s for sure. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

But don’t just read my blubbering. Check out posts by Nora and Stacy in The Confessional, Melanie’s post in The Kitchen and of course all things Mrs. G in The Belfry. Please, when you’re wasting time today scooting around the web, stop in. We’d really love to see this thing fly.

HuffPo: I love you but your endless news cycle is going to put me in a straight-jacket

Okay. I’m about to go off and say some totally inappropriate stuff. Just…yeah. You don’t want to see me when I’m angry.

1. Republicans have learned nothing from their failed policies. They remain more determine for their ideology to trump progress. They choose to be be anti-American obstructionists rather than becoming genuine patriots working to make the future better for American citizens (and citizens of the world, too, but this is a bit much to ask of these ethno-centric lizards). But, as we were reminded late last week, Obama won. And President Obama (!)? He’s got the back of thinking people and is proving it every day, even while his detractors work and hope for his failure. I cried as I read this just now. Equality for all citizens—including the right for gays to marry—is not only possible with this new administration but is an eventuality. And while it will take more time, even the narrow-minded fear mongers on the right can’t stop it.

2. Democrats did compromise for the Repubs by removing money for infrastructure and stripping the bill of funding desginated for family planning (still, the unscrupulous righties balked because this way, they mostly get what they want while distancing themselves from the legislation should it pass and fail to work). As I see it, the problem with removing family planning dollars is that people like this vile woman continue to somehow wind up pregnant because, geegollygosh! I have no idea how that happened?!? (Insert eyelash batting here.) It’s one of those uncontrollable things, right? One day you sneeze and ShaZAYam! More self-righteous republicans on the planet. I say we need some forced sterilization in that bill. Just sayin’. Too bad gays can’t pro-create and populate the planet with a whole bunch of mini-gays. Wouldn’t that be a party? We need to get ‘em marriage rights first, then we can work on impregnating all of them, preferably with multiples.

3. Speaking of multiples and the need for mandatory tubal ligation and vasectomy, my uterus nearly exploded while reading this. The woman was in the hospital for seven weeks prior to having her litter and the puppies will remain in hospital for another couple of months. That family must have some really awesome health insurance. I wonder if it covered the fertility drugs…. Whether they have the best insurance policy on the planet or none at all is irrelevant, really, because either way, the rest of us are helping to foot the bill for this family (and I’m not speaking about financial assistance). A family which incidentally? Includes six older siblings. Social responsibility? Anyone? Anyone? They have yet to show their faces to the public and I can’t say that I blame them. I’d be in hiding, too.

4. Really. She expects us to believe that they were having mind-blowing sex? Mmmmhmmmm.

5. What year is it again?

My mother, myself: I love her, but can I avoid becoming her?

“Would you care for an olive? Auntie Mame says olives take up too much room in a little glass.”
—Patrick Dennis

Being a mother makes you crazy. I used to think The Crazy was directly correlated to the act of squeezing a human being out of a too-small opening, making me immune because I adopted. Initially, there is no evidence anything has changed, but The Crazy surfaces and intensifies over time. Trust me. I have the craziest mother of anyone I know.

Gaye Donna came from Seattle for a brief visit last month. She had business in L.A., so she stopped in for two nights, shimmied her way north for a bit and flew back to San Diego on her broomstick for two more nights. Sam and I have a strict Four Day Rule for visiting parents, should they choose to opt out of the enthusiastically encouraged hotel option. Pointing out that we never stipulated the four days had to be consecutive, my mother creates fun combinations of overnighters, discussing at great length all the various permutations, thus complicating the simplest of situations. It is in this manner that her craziness begins to permeate my world before she ever explodes her suitcase in my living room.

To an outsider, two nights here, two nights there might seem like a cakewalk. But remember The Crazy. It’s a good crazy if you’re not her daughter, a very difficult-to-endure crazy if you are.

Gaydi is like Auntie Mame (Rosalind Russell’s Mame, not Lucille Ball’s Mame—an important distinction). Only, she’s Mame with attention deficit disorder and blurred vision. She’s Mame on a shaken martini, two-day-old coffee, stale Red Vines and lots of kind bud to even it all out.

I call her The Gaydi Project because being with her is an event. She necessitates more patience than navigating the Cox Communications call center and the concentration level of a tourist trying to spot a green flash. My Auntie Carroll—who herself is bat-shit crazy—used to lovingly refer to her as “Gaye Donna Marie Donnetta Louise Vagina Clitoris Unique,” a bit of a tongue twister, sure, but it stuck—because it fit. Gaydi’s friend Jon explains away her nuttiness to strangers by claiming she’s a world famous Russian ballerina. “Don’t y’all know who she ee-is?” He’ll say in his charming Okie drawl. “Why, she’s Whirrled! FAY-mous!” By this time people have already gravitated to the Pied Piper, their eyes swirling under the hypnotic powers of her eccentricity.

This is a woman who doesn’t much care to color inside the lines, whereas I like to boldly define them, making for a tumultuous, sometimes treacherous bond between us. She careens wildly through life much the same way as she smashes against and bounces off curbs when she drives, which is, thankfully, infrequent. She prefers the freefall of life; I like to keep my feet on the ground. She likes to start little fires, figuratively and literally; I run around behind her with an extinguisher.

Her wild conversational gesturing has been known to knock a glass of port so magnificently that spilled wine has splattered into the corners of adjoining rooms. She misplaces necessities—glasses, keys, purse, bus pass—with such regularity that going to the grocery store requires a dedicated event planner. She chews ice vigorously; no other mastication has ever made ice seem more jam-packed with flavor. Her little Chihuahua wears a service-dog vest so she can take him to restaurants and circumvent additional charges for air travel. Sometimes she dresses Perrito in a yarmulke.

When I picked her up at the airport several weeks ago, she immediately kicked off both shoes and began picking at the dried skin on her heel, a habit that makes me want to replace her morning yogurt with Eucerin and caused one of our more pointed arguments.

“You know, it’s the oddest thing,” she said in the car after I grumbled that she was Doing. It. Again. “Your brother comes over and I sweep. I have to sweep. I can’t help it. And I get in your car and, without even realizing it, I pick.” With that, she chuckled and flicked a little bit of calcified flesh out the window.

“Well,” I said. “At least you’re throwing the detritus of your foot outside instead of leaving it on the floor mat like before. I’d say that’s progress.”

We laughed and she put her shoes back on. In recent years, The Gaydi Project and I have found some middle ground, each of us becoming a little less of who we are, to the betterment of who we are together. We’re more conscious of stepping around each other’s last nerve rather than directly on it. She works hard to let go when I become tense in response to her maddening loosey-goosey style. And I work hard to let go when she takes my latest New Yorker—the one I haven’t even cracked yet—into the bathroom, getting poop fumes all over it, rendering it unreadable. So maybe I haven’t let that one go just yet. But I kept my trap shut when it happened. I’d say that’s progress.

Minutes after breaking the No Reading Material in the Bathroom Rule, my mother accidentally Super Glued her lip to her teeth, which is the danger of impatiently trying to yank the lid off the tube with your mouth. In her defense, there is no warning about this particular hazard anywhere on the label. “Oh my God!” I yelled at her before I folded in half with laughter. “You’re not supposed to eat it, you’re supposed to sniff it!” We were a mere 10 hours into her stay.

Our bookendish adventure carried on like this, The Gaydi Project crashing through my world and me trying not to short-circuit from frustration. I held my ground. But I’m beginning to wonder whether The Crazy isn’t actually contracted by cumulative exposure.

(As published today in San Diego CityBeat.)

Check…mate…?

Like most of the women I know, I am sufficiently offended by John McCain’s choice for Vice President. I’ve spent the weekend purposefully not reading the commentary that is surely flooding the Internets and I doubt that I’m adding anything new or insightful to the conversation here. But adding it I am, because I have so many conflicting thoughts and I think that was the intention of the Republicans’ choice.

In selecting Sara Palin as his running mate, John McCain wasn’t even trying to disguise his blatant pandering to women and I hope most are wise enough to see it. The mindset that we women are interchangeable because we have the same parts should be enough to give all thinking women pause. Apparently, it doesn’t matter to whom the fallopian tubes belong. To McCain et.al., vagina is vagina is vagina whether it’s attached to Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice or an ex-beauty queen with two-years’ experience running the largest state in the nation whose population is less then one-million people. “Other than bringing a set of ovaries to this ticket,” one friend said to me the other night, “what does she have to offer?”

True to expectation, Palin is frighteningly conservative; any exalted endorsement by Ralph Reed gets my hackles up. Sarah Palin doesn’t believe the science that proves the polar ice caps are melting, she doesn’t think the Polar Bear should be on the endangered species list (even sued the Federal government over it), she wants to drill in ANWAR, she’s digs on creationism and thinks it’s a great topic for the classroom, she’s anti-choice, and—AND!— she doesn’t wear any pantsuits (at least she won’t be referring to any sisterhood thereof; grimace). I ask you: why she gotta be hatin’ on Talbot’s?

Palin’s also very pretty in the way that women who pin those faux hairpieces with lots of curls to the tops of their heads are pretty. That McCain picked a looker is a calculated move; there are plenty of smart women with more experience than Palin who would be excellent candidates but who wouldn’t quite give America the same collective erection.

On it’s face, the gamble seems to be that looks are gonna carry the day for the GOP. Wonkette, who’s had a crush on the nation’s premier “GILF” (Jennifer Granholm’s gotta be in there somewhere, right?) for some time now, referred to Palin as a “STONE. COLD. FOX.” As in, “…no one will ever care about this [scandal she's involved in] on a national scale” because they all want to bone her. Not only would it be unprecedented to have a woman Vice President, but one that Americans could masturbate to, as well? That might just be the one innovative thing John McCain could do for the country.

Of course Palin forces all of us to once again revisit the pervasive sexism that exists in this country. I admit that as I read about her on Friday morning—after the McCain camp so deftly bumped Obama’s incredible Thursday night rally from the top of the fold—my first thoughts were disappointingly sexist: She’s a freaking pageant queen! She has five young children, one with Down Syndrome! She doesn’t own a pair of pants! Her husband is named “Todd”! This fact alone should disqualify her.

I struggled with these thoughts, which run counter to my belief system that women can do anything we want to do, anything men can do. But I also believe that “having it all” is an illusion, that we make choices in our lives and sacrifices always have to be made, which is true for women and men. Something must be given up for something else to be gained. If you decide to have children, you’re making a commitment to being a parent and certain other ambitions have to be put on hold if you want to truly be present in the lives of your kids. Certainly, how Palin—or anyone else—chooses to parent is none of my buisness. But the packaging of her as Every Woman, as the one whose going to “shatter that glass ceiling,” as if she’s even remotely in Hilary Clinton’s league, is condescending and deeply insulting.

And then there is the double-standard which I expect will be on full display when Joe BIden goes to debate Palin. Without question, he’ll school her when it comes to foreign policy. There is no way she can have all the Cliff Notes-worth of Biden’s experience memorized by that time (or maybe the moderaters will lob only easy questions and it won’t matter). But lawdy help the man if he is perceived in any way as being mean to her. The punditry with have a field day with him, everything will be woven and spun until Biden somehow looks like Satan and Palin the wronged party.

All of which makes me very concerned.

As I partake in my own frenetic inner dialogue and then engage with my friends about it, I am terribly worried about the McCain/Palin ticket. Because here’s the thing: With every conversation, we inadvertantly discount the possibility that she could be in anyway qualified and therefore help the Repubs lower the bar of expectations, making it impossible not to exceed them. Which is ultimately what they’re are aiming for. They did it with Bush (remember the debates he “won” with Al Gore in 2000?) and they’re doing it again now. It’s a tried and true tactic and why change what ain’t broke? Besides, we all know that Americans are a) stupid and b) forgive practically anything if the packaging looks good.

Karl Rove’s greasy fingerprints are all over this one and I think it would be wise of voters to be extremely careful about how we pigeonhole Sarah Palin.