The Hairpin
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An Interview with Ann Wroe, Obituaries Writer for The Economist

I am not embarrassed to admit that the obituaries on the back page of The Economist make my week. They’re thought-provoking and written with energy. Each column is a window onto another world, where genocidal SS captains escape to Argentina and open a deli with best cold cuts in town, and where British men create Tibet’s communications network and end up imbibing Maoist propaganda in order to escape life in Chinese prison.

The woman who writes these obituaries is Ann Wroe, a stalwart of The Economist since 1976 and the author of nonfiction books on topics as diverse as the Iran-Contra affair and Pontius Pilate. She [...]

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The Best Time I Lubricated My Chicken's Vagina-Butt

About six months ago, my husband and I decided we hadn't become insufferable enough. Sure, we had abandoned the east coast to find ourselves in Tucson, Arizona. We were living in an adobe house, taking daily shots of apple cider vinegar, and attending yoga workshops featuring the progress mantra music of Blue Spirit Wheel. When a coworker mentioned she needed to find a home for her four chickens, we thought our next logical step was urban chicken farming.

We have a love-hate relationship with our chickens. To put it bluntly, our chickens—Miley, Joan, Denise, and Kanya—are assholes. They have destroyed our backyard, their disgusting fly-magnet poops are everywhere, and they [...]

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What’s Essential: A Conversation with Nona Willis Aronowitz About Her Late Mother’s Work

Ellen Willis was born in 1941 in the Bronx, grew up in a middle-class family, and, for a while, did what was expected of her: she married “a nice Jewish boy from Columbia while majoring in English at Barnard,” writes her daughter, journalist Nona Willis Aronowitz, in her introduction to her late mother’s recently published compendium of essays, The Essential Ellen Willis. At 24, though, Willis divorced her husband, got an apartment in the East Village, and started writing about rock, politics, culture, feminism, and sex. She went on to become the first rock critic for The New Yorker, an editor and columnist at the Village [...]

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"To Survive in Women’s Sports, You Need to Be Somewhat Closeted": An Interview With Kate Fagan

From 1999 to 2004, Kate Fagan played Division I basketball for the nationally-ranked University of Colorado Buffaloes. She's now a reporter for ESPN. Her book, The Reappearing Act, out this week, chronicles her two-year coming-out process at Colorado, when she was a starting guard and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Your book covers a lot of ground. Can you break it down for anyone not familiar with your story?

It’s really a coming-of-age tale. It has the backdrop of big-time sports, Christianity, and sexuality as well. It’s about a two-year period in my life when I'm participating in the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and going [...]

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Vagina Facts You Didn't Know

Here’s a biology pop quiz question. What is the average size of a clitoris in a human female?

A. the size of a chickpea

B. the size of a mini pickle

C. the size of a medium zucchini.

Unless you’ve been paying particularly close attention to the gynecological literature, you’re probably not going to say C. And yet that is the correct answer. Sure, the externally visible part of the clitoris is puny, but that is literally the tip of an iceberg that extends deep beneath the pubis, five inches down either wall of the vagina, consists of six separate parts, and carries more nerve endings than the [...]

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Talking To Misty Copeland About Race, Class And Ballet

Misty Copeland took her first ballet class at age 13 and performed as Clara in the Nutcracker eight months later. Four years after that, she joined the American Ballet Theatre as a corps member, and in 2007 she became the company's only black female soloist. She was also the first in decades, only the third in the company's history, and has for years been the only black woman dancing in the company at large. 

You came to ballet late, at age 13; the first time you came to the barre, you were wearing gym clothes. What did those first experiences feel like?

I initially felt like a fish out of [...]

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Anthony Lane Profiles James Franco

"Would it be construed as trespass, therefore, to state that Johansson looks tellingly radiant in the flesh? Mind you, she rarely looks unradiant, so it’s hard to say whether her condition [pregnancy] has made a difference." —The New Yorker, March 2014.

Poised on the edge of adulthood, James Franco is somehow all things at once, hard and soft, weathered and barely able to grow a beard, famous but quotidian, like a dumpling. Sitting by the fireplace in the Bowery Hotel and listening to the scruffy actor/ writer/ poet/ teacher/ artist/ intellectual provide meta commentary on his own celebrity, the intense glow on his face accents the sharp cheekbones [...]

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True Summer

Last summer, I found myself dead broke. I’d had a wild spring, horribly mismanaging my healthy grad school stipend, and came out of the whirlwind with just enough money to make rent until the fall. Following panicked and useless attempts at finding a summer job, I resigned myself to scraping by on credit cards (and, shamefully, borrowing money from my parents). All this made me feel terribly dumb (I was twenty-five, for chrissakes) and a little scared. But! I was newly in love, and that, along with all that impoverished time on my hands, made it a magical, if twisted, summer. I wandered through the streets, lovesick and feeling vaguely [...]

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Being Maleficent

We were a motley band of homeschoolers, playing on a sunny back porch while our mothers had a Bible study inside. We had been warned against coming in and interrupting, so we scuffed our Keds against the floor boards and broke sticks into little logs. Most of the girls wore ankle-length skirts or jumpers. They all had long hair, except me. I had mine cut short because I wouldn’t let my mom brush it, and she wanted it out of my face.

One of the older girls, her hair pulled up in a large bow that matched the trimming on her socks, glanced over us. “Let’s put on a [...]

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The TMZ Style Guide

1. HEADLINES: Font size in headlines should be completely arbitrary. Sometimes the name is emphasized (JAY Z) sometimes the event is emphasized (SUFFERS SEIZURE AT REHAB) sometimes a random phrase (MERCIFUL JUDGE) is emphasized. Whatever is emphasized is not as important as the fact that something is emphasized.

2. PUNCTUATION: Whenever possible, ellipses should be used instead of periods and commas. Two dashes (–) can be used in exactly the same way an ellipse might be used. Both an ellipse and a dash can be used in the same sentence, like here: "In the photo … Willow Smith is in bed — fully clothed and on top of the covers — and an actor [...]

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The Best Time I Took a Rescue Cat to a Pet Psychic

Imagine if The Nothing from Neverending Story coupled with a bumbling cartoon bear forever getting its head stuck in pots of honey. That’s Milo! Born of the dumpsters, he spent three years living in a well-appointed cat rescue shelter in northeast Portland, passed over (they guessed) because of his age and because he’s black. Superstitions die hard, and more than one shelter volunteer has told me black animals don’t photograph well, their personalities don’t come through so easily. It’s true. In his most expressive photo from the House of Dream’s Instagram account, Milo is mid-silent-meow, and looks not unlike Sloth from The Goonies—which is to say, disoriented and asymmetric.

He [...]

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What I’ve Learned About the Weddings I Remembered

In April of 2012, Edith published an essay I’d written, “All the Weddings I Have Ever Been to, as I Remember Them,” about, well, precisely that, here on The Hairpin. I’d written the essay the previous fall as a kind of memory exercise related to the big moments in our lives, specifically, weddings—What did I wear? Who did I bring? What did I give? What happened? —and also as a structural way of thinking about the many weddings we inevitably go to in life and what they mean to us depending on our different life stages and circumstances. When I wrote it, I did have a foggy idea [...]

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Mad Men: “I Know How I Want You to See Me”

If we know one thing, it’s that Mad Men episode titles are not subtle, and they usually apply to not just one character, but many of them in slightly different ways. “Field Trip,” episode 3, is about things that go beyond the everyday. Sometimes they’re just fun, or seemingly fun, like a trip to a farm, and sometimes they’re a disaster, like showing up to work without any (metaphoric) clothes on. Field trips have a lot of potential, but they are full of unknowns. They don’t happen every day.

We begin with Don in a nearly empty theater, smoking. He flicks his ashes to the side and I’m reminded of [...]

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How To Order A Shake

I work in a co-working space. (For all of you who ask me what that is,  I say, "a co-working space is a place where you pay a few hundred dollars a month to share an office space with people, and also, how are you such a genius that you have thus far managed to avoid reading the annoying publications in which you would have learned this annoying term?") In said co-working space, I share a small room with two other writers. We have recently taken to calling our little room The Suicide Suite, because off of it is a beautiful balcony on which we are prohibited from standing [...]

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A Beta Male Journeys Through the Femireich

You find yourself drinking alone after work, seated at a wine-stained oaken table, deep in the Reconstruction District of Dworkonia. A long day of picking up heavy things and setting them down left your muscles sore and your brain numb with tedium, but you comfort yourself with the knowledge that your punishment is building towards a better future for the Femireich.

You start at a small scraping sound. Looking around—but carefully, so as not to Male Gaze anyone by mistake and extend your sentence further—you notice that a small trap door has opened in the Bikini Kill concert poster on the wall beside you. You peer closer, and [...]

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Better Chipotle Cups

"Starting Thursday, VF Daily can exclusively reveal, bags and cups in Chipotle’s stores will be adorned with original text by [Jonathan Safran] Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Lewis… 'I selected the writers, and insofar as there was any editing, I did it,' Foer said. 'I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles. I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought provoking.'" -VanityFair.com

Some additional suggestions for Foer's consideration below.

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A Chronological List of Things Men Said to Me After I Told Them I Had Herpes

When I was diagnosed with herpes on my 23rd birthday (happy birthday to me!), I was devastated and thought no one would ever want to have sex with me or date me ever again. Six years later, here is a chronological list of what each of the people I’ve dated have had to say when I told them.

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“What,” my upstairs neighbor said when I pulled his hands out of my underwear, “I’m clean.” It felt like someone had put an icicle through my stomach. I slid out of bed to cry in the bathroom. The next day I knocked on his back door and crawled into his bed. [...]

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Mad Men: In the Land of the Lost

One of the recurring themes in Mad Men involves lost children, children who have lost their parents, parents who have lost their kids. We see characters who were abandoned, orphaned, or simply didn’t get enough love (Don Draper included) who go on to pathologically treat their own offspring the own way, often without much awareness or self-reflection about doing so. Don was a lost kid who became a lost adult, though he's kept it covered it up with bravado and a good sell over the years, albeit with a few cracks emerging.

This “lost” storyline goes well beyond Don, though. Pete lost his mother, in part because of Bob Benson. [...]

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The Lost Art of Dress: A Conversation with Historian Linda Przybyszewski

In The Lost Art of Dress, historian and dressmaker Linda Przybyszewski explores how American women's fashion went from floor-length dresses to bloomers to shirtwaist dresses to, yes, flour sack dresses. Before ready-to-wear and before fast fashion, American women created affordable clothing for themselves and their families with help from the Dress Doctors—the thrift experts, home economics professors, and fashion guide authors who advised women how to craft the most appropriate looks for less. Style changed with every step forward for women: gaining the vote, entering the world of work, heading academic departments. Recently, Przybyszewski and I talked about the evolution of American style, the fraught subject of home [...]

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Consensual Comedy With Heather Gold

Heather Gold is a comedian living in Oakland. She’s shared the stage with (among others) Patton Oswalt, Maria Bamford, Margaret Cho, Bill Irwin, and Judy Gold. She’s best known for her one-woman hit show “I Look Like an Egg, But I Identify as a Cookie”, an “interactive baking comedy” that’s made the rounds in Austin, New York, and most recently played to sold-out audiences in Berkeley. So far she’s baked over 50,000 cookies with audiences.

She also co-hosts the weekly web series Morning Jew with NYC-based comic Katie Halper.

I asked her to talk with me about she’s messing with the hyper-masculine conventions of traditional stand-up [...]