Buying for Baby

When the Paperless Post invitation to Adam’s “meet the baby” party hit my inbox, I jumped out of my desk chair, clapped my hands together and squealed in pure joy (I rarely squeal, so you can tell how excited I was.)

When you're 30, all your friends are settling down. But I'm like, nah, I'm taking up pole dancing.

When you’re 30, all your friends are settling down. But I’m like, nah, I’m taking up pole dancing.

Unlike most women my age, when it comes to babies, I’m typically nonplussed. I don’t fully understand their appeal. Whenever my co-worker brings her infants into the office, everyone runs to see the children — the ooooohs! and ahhhhhhs! can be heard across the street. Meanwhile, I just poke my head around the corner of my nook, to say “Oh! It’s Lily!” before returning to my spread sheets or grant report. Now, if my boss brings her puppies in, that’s another story. I won’t be working until they leave for their walk.

But Adam’s baby is a different baby. He’s an important baby.

Adam and I met on my first day in college, in our orientation group. Once we swapped bios, he decided we were going to be best friends — I didn’t have a choice (we were both recruited athletes, raised in Westchester.) I was christened “Kat,” and became just about the luckiest kid on campus. Adam was my best cheerleader and biggest supporter. Like, when I say cheerleader, I mean with actual pom-poms. He has the kind of infectious “we can do anything we set our minds to! Look at what we’ve already done” attitude that I still pull out some of his pep-talks when I need a confidence boost. We all need someone like that around when we’re trying to make that tricky free-throw into adulthood.

So of course, when it came to buying his son a first gift, I wanted to make it somewhat meaningful. Adam, his gorgeous wife, and I all went to the same college. We were all athletes. It seemed fitting that my gift to them should in some way resemble our Alma’s mascot.

I needed a plush lion and I needed it stat.

Here’s what I quickly learned on my store to store safari: there is a shocking lack of diversity in infant toys. Puppies, bunnies, and monkeys. That’s it. For a child under 1-year of age, those are your plush options. From the crib we’re limiting a child’s view of the world. You can only love these three things. Loving anything else is a choking hazard (metaphorically and literally.)

“We discontinued our lion plush,” the woman at Pottery Barn Babies told me.


“I don’t know, I mean it hasn’t been a good year for lions… or dentists, really.”

I rolled my eyes and stomped out.

When it became clear that my mini-Roaree plan was a fail, I decided I would switch course and track down a picture-book version of Homer’s “The Iliad.” All incoming freshman to Columbia received a copy of “The Iliad” as a gift from the alumni. The first 6 books are always due by the first literature humanities class. I figured, it was never too early to give the Baby a head-start.

Isn't this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel...

Isn’t this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel…

What I also learned is that there are no picture-book versions of any of the Greek classics. I mean, surely if the Coen Brothers can make 2 cinematic adaptations about Odysseus, someone can illustrate one Little Golden Book. I may have to make a phone call to a few artists about that one day…

In short, I had to abandon all efforts for a sentimentally-inspired gift and instead, sought cute and educational. Baby got a plush puppy and a matching book — thankfully, they still make books for kids. I was worried I’d have to find a “Pat the Bunny App.” Sure the puppy doesn’t roar and the book doesn’t have any epic battles, but that’s okay. There are many birthdays ahead. I’d better start drawing…

If I were a puppy....

If I were a puppy….

The Right to Ask for Mr. Right

He looked at me with distaste, and slammed his beer down on the bar top. He began to chastise me:

“Don’t go looking to marry another Ivy-Leaguer. That’s douche-y. You want to be one of those couples in the Sunday Times? Don’t do that. The fancy diplomas, the championship ring — those are your things. Find someone who has his things. Find yourself a real MAN. I mean, a MAAAAN. Someone who thinks you’re fabulous, not ya know, fab-u-looooous, ’cause that’ll open a whole ‘nother door of problems for you.”

Jimmy swished his hand in a stereotyping display, and if I wasn’t offended I might have laughed.

I had been judged unfairly, by someone who knew me better than most.

I was being scolded for holding out for someone who could keep up. To him, that read as I was looking for a man with all the checks in the column — multiple top-tier degrees, a power job, an All-American past and cross-fit future, a golden retriever, and a perfect hairline. This wasn’t the case. He clustered me in with “the 800 other 20-something women I know in New York who are over educated, under paid, and who just can’t find a guy who can keep up.”

“I have a right, you know, to ask for Mr. Right, whoever that may be.”

Luckily, just then, the drunk male Red Sox fan standing next to us started a fight with a drunk female Yankees fan, and a bouncer intervened. His chastising of me was forced to a halt.

When I first finished my MA and ended years of traveling round the world as an aspiring athlete, people were quick to warn me that I’d have a problem finding a guy who was good enough — who was smart enough, who was successful enough, who was worldly enough, etc. It seemed important to the people who met me that I be worried about finding a Mr. Right. I wasn’t and people couldn’t understand that. Sure, I wanted competent companionship… but after I found a job with health insurance.

The job came, my career was finally on the move and people stopped being interested in my dating life… or at least, it wasn’t the first thing they asked about. People stopped prescribing a rich husband and started asking how much was too much to pay for an artwork. I become more than a single girl with an advanced degree in something people didn’t understand. It was a relief.

And then I had lunch with the Professor…

“It must be hard for you,” he said, after confessing that he’d googled me and found my blog.

“What must be hard for me?”

“Dating. I imagine the pool you have to choose from is very limited.”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone with your education — there aren’t many men that can keep up, I bet.”

I suppose, I should have been flattered, but I wasn’t.  He was exactly 20 years older than me, I was unclear about why we were having lunch together (the encounter walked a fine line between networking and well, not networking), and he didn’t know me.

“An ivy league degree doesn’t guarantee intelligence, or intellect, or sensitivity,” I replied. “What makes my dating pool small is not that fewer men have graduate degrees than women. It’s that I have passions and ambitions. If all I wanted to do was settle and have 5 kids, I’d be married by now. But I want more than that. I am more than the sum of my degrees and I expect my partner to be as well.”

He could sense the irritation in my voice. We proceeded to talk philosophically about happiness and relationships, about being a Marine during the sexual revolution and the pitfalls of being a dating blogger.

Ink Me Up

“Why would you want to add a tattoo to that perfect skin? You’re beautiful just the way you are. Besides, you already have this…”

The Admiral ran a finger over a small candy-cane shaped cluster of freckles on my arm. It’s not a marking you’ll readily notice, but it’s a distinguishing feature — my birth-given tattoo, courtesy of god’s (or whoever’s) henna-inked pin-pricks.

Then he added: “I hate tattoos, especially on women. It’s almost a deal breaker.”

I had just shared that I had wanted a bit of ink since I was a teenager. Something small and meaningful. It was an inevitability, I just hadn’t all the way settled on what and where. He was clearly less enthused, and while I appreciated the compliment, I was less keen on the attempted coercion. (When the Admiral and I broke up, one of the first things I did as a purge was cut my hair short because he liked my hair long. His need for dominance brought out the insubordinate in me.)

Two years later, I was dating Chris, a muscle-bound, bearded guy I met at my gym. Like oh, so many New York/Long Island/Westchester bred late 20-somethings, Chris had tats you could see… and several you couldn’t. He was a soft-spoken physiotherapist who liked the outdoors, adored his sister, and played an acoustic guitar. The elaborate ink, including a large inscription across his chest, which peeked out from under his workout wife-beater seemed in total contradiction to his mild-mannered ways. The tattoos were among his most attractive qualities — it suggested a little bad boy behind a teddy bear exterior.

Our first date was at a craft-beer gastropub on the Hudson River. Our waitress, a tall, slim alabaster-skinned woman with jet black hair restrained in long braids a la Bo Derek, had more than a few tattoos emerging from every corner of her outfit — stars creeping up her neck, roses growing down her arm onto her hand, a flock of swallows on her shoulder blade.

I could tell he was fascinated.

“Yea, I mean, I like women with ink,” he said when I asked. “I have ink. I think it’s sexy. It makes you different, and I like different. Have you ever thought of getting a tattoo?”

Well, actually… now that you mention it, I had this one idea…

When I was 12, I was all about henna and temporary tattoos. When my parents and I would vacation in Mexico, I would get those string wraps in my hair and then visit the airbrush-tattoo parlor for something. A butterfly on my arm. A heart on my ankle.

Beyonce is just one of many celebs and private citizens rocking metallic tattoos these days

Beyonce is just one of many celebs and private citizens rocking metallic tattoos these days

In the 90s, much like now with sponge-on metallic tattoos, temporary tattoos were all the fashion. Maybelline made this liquid temporary tattoo ink in different colors that came in a bottle like liquid eyeliner, complete with fine-tipped brush. I had several of those. Then I bought a body-art stamp and body-ink pad — a small pepper I’d always add to my shoulder when it was summertime. #HotTamale My parents (well, my mother) even gave me a henna kit for Christmas. They seemed to have no beef with the prospect of their daughter rocking some body art… as long as it was temporary.

Maybe this was just a phase, they thought. She’ll grow out of it. She’ll never get behind the idea of having to commit to one of those butterflies forever and ever…

One could argue that I did indeed grow out of it. Eventually I stopped adorning myself with things that pressed on and washed off. In college, I had a few friends who did that stereotypical college thing — get plastered and then get terrible, terrible, terrible tattoos. That was a bit of a turn off. So I quieted that desire to get ink of my own.

Then I turned 30, and in a rosé-dazed moment I made a deal with a friend that we would get tats together before the end of the year.

“You know, you could just get a custom designed bracelet,” a friend witnessing the pact suggested as a less permanent alternative.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working my way through the sheets of temporary ink, designed for teenagers and purchased at Claire’s. I have a hidden pintrest board where I’m collecting line drawings that suit my vision. The temporary tattoos in more visible spots, like my forearm and wrist, have been met with universal enthusiasm. My new assistant has even come up with a handful of tattoos all members of #TeamGallery can get together – “we can each get one of the women in Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon! And then when we stand next to each other, we’ll be a masterpiece! Or you can get a hammer, and we’ll each get nails!”

I’ve listened to the stories and meaning people imbue into their ink. People with tats get incredibly excited when they hear someone is thinking of getting their first. I’ve picked up willing moral-supporters who will go with me when I get mine done. I’ve racked up a long list of artists I should work with. I’ve heard people tell me they’ve made their appointments for laser removals. I’ve shared my own idea with people, including my mother, who said: Aww, that’s nice (it’s about my family), but it could be ugly. Can’t you come up with something better?

All of this sounds like I should be leading to an ending of this post where I share a photo of my new tattoo. I haven’t quite bitten the bullet yet. I’m getting there. In the meantime, I still have a sheet of temporary tats to work through…

Confessions: The Chair in the Bedroom

Honestly, I can deal with messy, I said. But not dirty. I abhor dirty. My last serious boyfriend, he was dirty. I always thought his dresser was grey, until one night, when he was sleeping, I took a Swiffer to it. to get rid of a few strands of dust that had been driving me craaaazy. Turns out the dresser was brown. The grey was dust! Took 4 Swiffer sheets to restore it to the original color…

I didn’t know why I felt the need to tell him all this, but once I started I just couldn’t put it back in, so of course, I kept going…

He’d have me over to cook dinner and the sink was piled high with old dishes. He’d leave the condoms on the floor by the bed for a few days, so that I wasn’t sure if they were from us or from someone on the side. Yea, I didn’t jibe with that. Yuuccck-o. But a little mess, now, that’s OK. My desk, if you saw it, you would knooooow I’m a creative type. Totally belies all the spreedsheets I make to organize my life and office. I go on clean-up sprees almost weekly – you know, attack some tiny corner of my life – but I have this chair…

There are moments in your life, decisions you make or things you say when you’re grateful you had too much to drink, because you can always blame the alcohol for whatever you said/did. I didn’t have that excuse.

So this chair, it’s piled high with clothes. It could probably be a pretty comfortable chair, if I could only find the seat. I’ve never sat on it. But my closet has. The clothes on this chair, they’re not my good clothes. So, like, that makes it okay. My good clothes go on a hanger or in a drawer at some point before I go to bed at night. These clothes on the chair are mostly lounge clothes. And they’re on the chair because I don’t wear them – they’re out of season. So yea, I say I don’t date messy guys because I guess, I’m messy and I can only imagine what kind of chaos would ensue if I ended up living with someone who had a chair or desk like mine.

I took a sip of my iced tea and finally shut up. That was a long-winded answer to a simple question: how do you feel about a guy with a messy apartment. I tried to make my eyes all big and doe-like, but much like “cute,” I’ve never done naïve convincingly. He laughed and proceeded to tell me about his collections of pop-culture memorabilia that had yet to make their way to a shelf or drawer.

I used to have a chair like that in my bedroom, too. He confessed.

Oh? Yea?

I got tired of seeing the mess every morning when I woke up. So I got rid of it.

That’s what I need to do. Just get rid of the “easy way out!” I thought he had just uncluttered my life with one swoop. My hero!

I moved the chair into my hallway. With the clothes still on it. They’re at least 3 seasons old by now…


Out of the Bell Jar and into the Mason Jar: Considering a Literary Classic and my Teenage Years

“That’s the most depressing book.”

A tall, swim-suit sporting man shouted at me as he sauntered over to the pool’s towel stand. He clearly cross-fitted. #ThoseAbs. I paused and looked up from the book in question which was Syliva Plath’s “The Bell Jar.”

“It is. I clearly have terrible taste in pool-side reads.”

This is one thing I love about California: you don’t need to have a “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit model body to get attention at the pool (that’s because, thanks to cross-fit, botox, and boob jobs, everyone has a SI swimsuit model body). No, to stand out at the pool, you just need some socially progressive modernist literature.

He winked. Suggested I switch to something like Cosmo, and was off before I had a chance to exchange room numbers (it’s entirely possible that the toddler toddling behind him was, in fact his, but then again, at hotel pools it’s so hard to tell which parent belongs to which child… oh, well.)

My pool-side view in Silicon Valley. A little 20th century feminist lit didn't make light reading

My pool-side view in Silicon Valley. A little 20th century feminist lit didn’t make light reading

I had committed to reading such heavy literature at the pool side for two simple reasons: 1. I don’t do fluffy chick-lit, and 2. It was research for the gender-identity/femininity exhibition I’m in the process of curating.

For those that haven’t read Sylvia Plath’s one canonical novel, it was to the 1960s what Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” was to the 1890s. If you’ve never read “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and have no idea what I’m talking about, “The Bell Jar” reads a lot like “Catcher in the Rye.” If you’ve never read “Catcher in the Rye,” well, shame on you and your grade school English teacher.

Here’s the mega abbreviated cliff’s notes run down: Esther Greenwood is a successful and attractive 19 year old college girl who lands a great summer internship at a mega lady’s magazine in New York City. But just when the future looks bright and full of possibilities, Esther hits a wall. She breaks down, crashes, and bottoms out.

The story is dark. The writing, superb.

But as much as I was engrossed in and enjoying such wonderfully, honestly crafted prose, I’m glad I didn’t read it was I was 19. I think it would have felt too familiar… even more familiar than it already does…

Digging around my bedroom this weekend, I found a notebook with the jottings of a frustrated young story writer. Most of the scribbling came from ages 16-20, and they all raged with a kind of loneliness and angst. I think I felt that stories about breakdowns and being misunderstood where what you were supposed to be writing about if you wanted to be considered a good writer. Melodrama seemed to be a prerequisite for the Pulitzer or for making the American English classroom curricula. I don’t think any of what I was writing was reflective of what I felt or of my mental state because I never got very far with them (try like, 3 pages, max.) But then again, I don’t really remember how I felt about life or school at 16. I was just kind of doing rather than feeling. Feeling came in college.

But I did find one piece of writing that was troubling to me, because it was the one piece that wasn’t an attempt at fiction. It was an attempted personal essay and the only thing in the book that was typed, with blue-ink edits.

In it, I rattled off my string of accomplishments, concluding with “I was considered mature and well-round, well cultured and intellectual. Yet something was missing.”

The punchline, of course, because I was 18, was that I needed a boyfriend. Reading it, while I admired her self-awareness and vulnerability, I hated that teenage version of myself for defining happiness in terms of being attached to someone else. I couldn’t go to college without being someone’s girlfriend! I wrote. “The fact I had never been kissed seemed small in comparison.”

Flash to Esther:

“Instead of the world being divided up into Catholics and Protestants or Republicans and Democrats or white men and black men or even men and women, I saw the world divided into people who had slept with somebody and people who hadn’t, and this seemed the only really significant difference between one person and another.

I thought a spectacular change would come over me the day I crossed the boundary line.” 

This was how I saw the world — a simple division between lovers and loners. Reading on, I saw that 18 year old me hated me for feeling that way too. What a relief. As I got older, while the idea of a companion was and is always intoxicatingly appealing, there was another feeling I had — a fear of being tied down.

Flash back to Esther:

“That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored around from a fourth of July rocket. “

There’s a lot of vignettes in the “Bell Jar” I could relate to at 19 and even now. Ones that are in many ways more meaningful to me than the ones about men, about the double standards for the sexes, about marriage. Esther has a moment when she compares her moment in life to standing under a fig tree. Each fig represents a possible path — marriage and a family, Olympics, famous writer, famous editor, and so on. But she can only pick one, and once she does, all the other will fall, spoiled. The tree of possibility can get you down — knowing you have so many options but can’t really have them all. I remember sitting alone on my university quad one cold late autumn night while I was grad student, feeling overwhelmed by possibilities and crying a bit at a fear of achieving non of them, of mucking it all up. But unlike Esther, I didn’t let the fear of failure or indecision win. I learned that with a little cunning, and fast feet, you can grab as many fruit as you can before they all go rotten. Maybe you won’t get them all, but you’ll get enough to make a decent pie… sharing optional.

In life, you can have your pies and eat them too.

In life, you can have your pies and eat them too.

Changing Decades: I’m OK with not Turning 29 Again

“Are you terrified of turning 30?” my lovable Gallery Coordinator asked me when she realized by birthday was a few days away.

“Terrified! Try ecstatic!” I replied with a little skip. “I mean, you only get to change decades once every 10 years…”

It’s my birthday. My 30th birthday. And while many of my friends have found it difficult, nay, painful to leave behind their 20s, I’m stoked.

So, this is 30...

So, this is 30…

Birthdays, are often a time of reflection, and as I look forward to the new decade ahead, I can’t help but notice how much things have changed…

When you’re turning 20, a night out with your best girl friend involved your highest, most uncomfortable heels, perfectly coiffed hair, high hemlines and low necklines, and at least one bar you can’t afford and two you can. Your important question of the night: Are we cabbing or taking the subway?

When you’re turning 30, a night out with your best girl friend, is most likely a night in, at her place… making soup. You know you’re not going anywhere where anyone is going to see you, so you don’t even bother with mascara. Your most important question of the night: Can you find your pasta maker, or should I bring mine?

When you’re turning 20, your social media feed is littered with your friends uploads from parties, semesters abroad, backpacking trips, weekend campus hops, house parties, and dive bars. You think: Oh, god! Everyone is having so much fun! I’m having fun. Wait. Let me take a selfie.

Let me take a selfei

Let me take a selfie

When you’re turning 30, your social media feed oscillates between wedding news/pictures and baby-bump shots. You think: Oh, God. That guy I had a crush on when I was 20 looks so hot in that gray suit… too bad he’s the groom. And gee whiz! Didn’t anyone read that “Your Body, Your Birth Control” pamphlet in the GP’s office? Seriously. I get it. You’re “preggers.” All your BFF’s are “preggers.” You’re all one, big, happy “preggers” family. But do I really have to watch this for 9 more months. Oh! Look! A “hide” feature on my timeline! Thanks, Facebook.


When you’re turning 20, you celebrate your birthday by lining up as many (semi-illegal) shots are you can stomach, and you keep the party going as far past sun up as you can. Two days later, you’re still wearing the same dose of mascara, expect now it’s eyeliner, and you think the valet still has your car... where did you park your car???

When you’re turning 30, you decide you’ll invite your friends to brunch. Not since spring break 200X were you all able to day drink, and Brunch is classy day-drinking… because, you’re real adults now, and real adults do classy things, like brunch. Plus, all your married-with-children friends prefer brunch because they can get home in time to put Junior to bed and you can get home in time to binge-watch season 3 of “House of Cards” on Netflix… and still make your 10PM bedtime, without fear of a hangover the next morning.

When you’re turning 20, you order $5 margaritas at happy hour, when they don’t card, because that’s all you can afford.

When you’re turning 30, you’ve figured out how to get someone else to pay for your $15 top-shelf martini, with a twist.

When you’re turning 20, everyone asks what you’re going to do when you’re done with college/grad school/your internship. You have some kind of lofty, made-up answer because you only half know.

When you’re turning 30, you get to lead with a business card. You’ve had a promotion, or two, and while you still may not know where you’re going, at least you know where you are and where you’ve been. You’re still a little green, but you’ve earned some color round the edges. You were smart. Now you’re savvy.

When you’re turning 20, your heart gets broken by a “player” and your best friend says: don’t worry! You’ve got plenty of time to find someone else. Players gonna play.

When you’re turning 30, your heart get broken by a “player” and your best friend says: Players gonna play, but you’re getting too old for this. Have you ever thought of trying I hear that’s where all the serious guys go.

When you’re turning 20, your idea of “dressing to seduce” involves showings as much skin as is legally permitted. Hemlines go up, necklines go down. Your crop-top barely covers your nipples and when you bend over the whole world can see the top of your very tiny panties.

When you’re turning 30, your idea of “dressing to seduce” is still “less is more,” except your less is, less skin, and your more is “more designer labels” and “more butt coverage.”

How Crop Tops look in different decades...

How Crop Tops look in different decades…

(Note: Summer 2015 is the summer of the crop top. Of the 6 shirts I brought with me to my birthday celebrations in Napa Valley, 4 are very tiny….)

Turning 30 can be scary, because it’s crossing a threshold. You have to leave behind excuses of youth and naivety and take responsibility. You’re accountable to something — to a boss, to a dog, to a spouse, to a family member. You’ve hit significant milestones and most of your first are behind you. It’s exciting because it’s the start of your prime.

29 was awesome — a memorable year with magazine covers and mega successes. An exclamation point to a well-enjoyed decade. Now, I get the fun of starting something new.

30 is the new 20, anyway.

Nuff said

Nuff said

One Dress, Two Women: Or One Size Doesn’t Fit All (Actually and Metaphorically)

My best friend Liz and I wear the same dress size. I won’t tell you what that size is, but we wear it well. Take the same slightly fitted shift dress, hand it to each of us and this is what happens…


Liz and I are physical opposites. My bra is like the equivalent of pasties on her, while her bikini bottom becomes a thong on on me. She has long lean legs, while my lower body turns every dress into a Hevre Leger bandage dress. She’d spend the whole night checking her neckline to make sure “the girls” were in check. I’d probably go braless, but spend most of the night checking the hemline to make sure my butt cheeks were still under wrap.

In short, Liz and I could wear exactly the same dress, but it wouldn’t look like the same dress. We’d wear that same dress entirely differently.

Now, I’m gonna go ahead and make a philosophical and metaphorical leap here…

Just as no two women wear exactly the same dress on the hanger in the exactly the same way, no two women wear the dress of womanhood in exactly the same way. Life presents us with experiences that are ours and ours alone, that shape our individual identities. And yet, as women, there are experiences universal to the Sisterhood.

We’ve all gotten our periods at the most inopportune moment — like on the morning of a big athletic event, or when we’re wearing white, or when we’re on our first sleep-over with the new plus one. We’ve all faced some kind of gender based discrimination at some level — whether it’s in little league (girls can’t pitch!) or in the corporate office (women make $0.70 for every dollar a man makes.) Big girls don’t cry. We’ve all sat on the couch with a friend, and talked trash about the man or woman who most recently broken our heart. Etc.

Some of these shared experiences transcend “Woman” and are universally “human” — like broken hearts, feelings of inadequacy, moments of joy, the euphoria of love, etc, but some are ours and ours alone as women.

While we all wear the dress of womanhood differently, we’ve been growing into it and altering it as our custom piece of couture from the day we were born.

Elinor Burkett was making a similar point in her NYTimes opinion piece “What Makes a Woman?” — it takes a lifetime living as a woman to really BE a woman, because womanhood isn’t just about biology (and that is part of it.) Being a woman is about sets of shared and individual experiences.

About a year and a half ago, I started work on an exhibition about feminine identity. My driving thesis is that femininity, and gender generally, is one big performance art piece — a sort of play within and against socially constructed norms and personas. A battle between self-definition and societal-definition.

I am most certainly a product of a generation raised on the doctrine of inclusivity, to acknowledge and embrace differences. To understand that the world doesn’t exist in simple binaries — straight or gay, black or white, etc. And yet, I am also the product of a society that is built on a system of binaries — us or them, male or female.

Language is surprisingly limited.

In the sandbox on the playground and into the sandbox of my adult life, the Battle of the Sexes was always simple — us vs. them: Girls rule! Boys drool!

So while I’m embracing of the transgender community, and everyone’s right to live as he or she chooses, I can’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with the idea that a born man can, with the help of medicine and performance, transition to a woman and get to be a She in the same way that I am She.

The Monday after Burkett’s piece ran in the Times, we had a meeting with women leaders from my community to discuss how we’re partnering on this exhibition. We talked about the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover and Burkett’s op-ed feature. One of the woman shared an apt analogy:

“If your 4 year old child came up to you and said, ‘Today I am an adult!,’ would you accept that at her word? Or would you tell her she still needs some experience? That she has some growing up to do?”

Caitlyn Jenner is a she, but she wears the dress of womanhood differently than a 65-year-old born woman wears it. Ms. Jenner metaphorically walked into the store, tried on the dress, and bought it. I was handed that dress in the womb… and so was every other born woman. We didn’t get to chose the dress. We’ve spent our lives breaking it in, figuring out which angle is the most flattering, where it should be nipped or tucked so it fits like a glove, patched the holes we’ve picked up along the way…

Ms. Jenner can wear the dress too. That’s okay, and welcome to the club! But I’m not sure it fits her yet, not just yet.

Trying on dresses with the gal pals... we're not sure this one fits Caitlyn.. but it will, eventually.

Trying on dresses with the gal pals… we’re not sure this one fits Caitlyn.. but it will, eventually.