On My Nightstand: Eats of Eden*

Alternating Current cover art, amazon.com

Tabitha Blakenbiller and I might be long-distance, separated by geography and years, sisters.

I read her essay and recipe collection, Eats of Eden, over the last week and marveled at our similar experiences. I first talked to Tabitha a year or two ago when I emailed her about contributing to her blog. My husband had suggested I look her up, given our shared sadness that Walmart bought Modcloth, beloved Modcloth, purveyor of funky vintage-style clothes and accessories. Little did I know that Tabitha and I shared much more than just Modcloth misery. Over the last winter break, stricken with a brutal cold and laryngitis, I watched an entire season of the Great British Baking Show–as did Tabitha, afflicted with strep a year or two prior. We both love going out to eat as much as eating in, and we share a teenage devotion to the Titanic–movie, history, finer details, though as you’ll read, she took that obsession to its furthest extent she could as a 13 year old kid. 19 year old me just went to a local museum.

More significant than our shared particulars is Blakenbiller’s ability to tap into bigger themes that will resonate with many readers, particularly women.

When I began reading the book, I had just started calorie counting–again–to lose ten pounds I’ve lost and regained a number of times before. Blakenbiller’s own experience has been with Weight Watchers, and she masterfully discuss the internal battles that often ensue with the lose weight/gain weight cycle. For example, the dilemma of wanting to be smaller (often, just to stay in clothes one already has) while also feeling like a hypocrite to one’s own feminism by not being content with one’s body. The sense that as an adult, one’s entitled to enjoy whatever food and drink one might–and then feeling guilty that one . has done so. I usually follow that kind of thing up with ridiculously detailed food intake logs and rigid insistence on MyFitnessPal’s numbers. Tabitha gets that, has been there, and writes eloquently about those experiences.

The thread that runs throughout many of the essays is of a collapsed friendship, and trying to figure out how to process that friendship through writing.

Many of us have been down that road. While Tabitha’s particular approach of exploring that friendship in story, essay, and novel forms–none of which, initially, succeed as she wants them to–is distinct, the mess of feelings involved, which she explores so beautifully, is a shared one. Replaying the collapse over and over in one’s head. Figuring out what one did wrong–or, as in my own case, knowing I didn’t and thus trying to find alternate explanations–can often be all-consuming, as Tabitha well shows. Her conclusion at the end of the collection–which I’m not going to share, obvs–shows depth and growth from the very young woman she describes in the text to a mature, self-aware adult. We should all be so lucky.

And then there are the recipes.

At one point Tabitha discusses the shitty first apartment she shared with her husband, and the crappy kitchen it contained. The first apartment my husband and I rented was equally awful, down to the mold on the windows and the lack of kitchen space. I’d learned to cook from my mom, since childhood, but cooking on my own was a different beast. One night I tried to get fancy and make chicken piccatta, utterly unaware that one needs to drain the capers before adding them. I made a disgusting, briny mess. As Tabitha often reflects, it’s through these kitchen wrecks that we grow, and we ultimately hold even our failures as dear memories, down the road. She shares with us, the readers, some of those memories and the vastly improved recipes that followed.

Once I stop counting every damn thing I put in my mouth, I’m going to cook my way through them. I think she’d share a sisterly eye rolling at that sentence.

Eats of Eden is published by Alternating Current Press. You can buy the book from them or the other usual suspects.

*As always, this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Purchase this book from them, and I get some money to put towards hosting fees. Thanks!


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Score yourself a TF sticker!

When I first started Tenacious Feminist, I wanted to sell stickers and use the proceeds to fund my hosting services and then donate the remainder to Planned Parenthood. Alas, I only sold a few. I think I put the proverbial cart before the horse–trying to sell merch, even for a good cause, before I had much going on on the site or even a Twitter following.

In honor of TF’s coming first anniversary at the end of April, I’d love to get stickers out wide and far. They’re outdoor-grade, though I’ve learned the pink fades in about a year (the one on my car gets a lot of sun) and about 3″ tall. If you’d like one, either email me at admin@tenaciousfeminist.com, DM me on Twitter or send me a convo on Facebook with your name and address and I’ll pop one in the mail. First dozen or so get a precious Wonder Woman stamp on their envelope, too.

It’s my way of thanking all of you for reading in the last 11 months. I appreciate each and every reader, each commenter, each convo we have on twitter or facebook. Show the world your tenacity!

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Hope Hicks: Babysitter to the Chief

Today we’re going to talk about Hope Hicks. She’s yet another outgoing part of the rapidly-imploding presidential administration, announcing her resignation a few days ago after being interviewed by a congressional committee. While Hicks was, arguably, in a very powerful position (especially at her very young age), the administration turned her into a mother-figure to the president, doing emotional labor on his behalf rather than letting her do her actual job. This, I think, is yet another window into the creepiness, the backwardsness, of this administration.

Who is Hope Hicks?

Hope Hicks was born and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, child of a man who served as VP of communications at the NFL. That’s her ticket, right there, to instant high-powered connections. After a stint as a teen model, she worked for a NY communications group she met at the Superbowl. She met the Trump family through that link, as Ivanka was one of that group’s clients. Inside a couple of years she was working for the Trump organization, and then she became part of the campaign team. She was 26 and had no political experience. Inside the next year or so she became the official White House Communications Director.

And now she’s leaving

After confessing that she told “white lies” on behalf of el presidente, Ms. Hicks is on her way out. The Washington Post included this charming bit in a piece on March 3:


In contrast, Wikipedia* describes the  White House Communications Director’s job as helping support and communicate a president’s agenda and serving as a chief speechwriter.

These two things–the WaPo description and the one from Wikipedia–do not go together.

Women do the emotional lifting

There’s been a lot of talk in the last year or so about the concept of emotional labor: in a nutshell, even when housework, in one example, is evenly divided between a heterosexual couple, it’s usually the woman who is the manager, making sure the paper towels get put on the shopping list and the laundry gets started. She is often the one to tell her partner what needs doing, and he does it. It’s a lot of work that often goes unnoticed by members of the household. To some degree, women accept doing emotional labor accepted–the argument is that we’re raised to do that stuff, automatically.

Another element of emotional labor is sustaining other people by tending to their feelings, without expecting reciprocity. Assumptions about women’s nurturing instincts are deeply embedded in those expectations. Included, too, is the assumption that women prefer to be caregivers, whereas men are bad at it.

It looks to me like that pattern is repeated here in the current administration. Hicks’s position is allegedly one of serious power and authority, when described in its official capacity. Hicks’s actual position as lived appears to be one of neither, truly, as her job seemed to be that of babysitter to the chief.  ‘Tending to his moods and whims’ is not communications work, it’s coddling. And it’s exactly the kind of coddling our society–and him in particular–expects women to do. And while she might have been paid, and likely well, she was paid to be the communications director–not the babysitter.

Masculinity, power, exploitation

Given the makeup of his administration, even as it rapidly changes, this phenomenon isn’t all that shocking. Few women hold any positions of equity with the men in there, and people of color barely exist. What the president wants is a clique of sycophants, and the job of women in that circle is to make sure he’s happy. Wikipedia* suggests most of her job was taking tweet dictation and screening him from unpleasant encounters. A beautiful woman, she was both a set piece–an object for a man who has told all of us many, many times about his delight in objectifying women–and his source of comfort. She kept him managed and fed his needs, as well as his ego. This is creepy as hell as well as patriarchal in nature.

In this administration, all actual power goes to men, who are expected to exploit it for personal gain (the EPA leader, Scott Pruitt, is a great example of this phenomenon). Exploitation of people and resources is a key indicator of virility for el presidente and his ilk, as the press recently has discovered. Women, on the other hand, receive largely symbolic power. Their chief job is to protect the baby president at all costs, whether it’s from questions, the television, or what have you.

Without Hicks, the WaPo surmises, the president is likely to become increasingly unstable. Without a mommy, he’s going to throw tantrums whenever TV reporting is unfavorable or he faces disagreement. So buckle up, friends.


*I don’t love Wikipedia, as its easy editability also makes it ripe for inaccuracy.  It’s a useful primer on a variety of topics, tho, and when it’s done well, contains lots of sourcing.

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