The Hillary Clinton Interview
Out of Print: June Jordan
Doreen St. Félix
My Queer Wedding
Is My Period Weird?
Tracing a Trend: Denim Explosion
Greetings, and welcome to Lenny!
Lena and Jenni here, and we are pretty darn excited. We have been holding Lenny close to our chests like a locket, and now we can finally open it up to you.
Let us start by saying you’re the reason for this project. Last year, when Lena traveled the country on her book tour, she met an unbelievable range of passionate young women and the men who love them (define woman and/or love as you wish). She was struck by the energy that filled the rooms where we gathered — a church in Texas, a public library in Montreal, a college lecture hall in Chicago where Jenni joined the party. We talked about gender and race and religion, local and national politics, and how to maintain the perfect shade of sherbet-orange hair. Millennials are often accused of incredible solipsism that manifests as a desire to Instagram their own belly buttons rather than engage with the world around them. But that’s simply not true — and you’re the proof.
Lena came home from tour permanently changed (albeit still the same weight). You told us about the kind of life you want: connected, empowered, inspired, and fucking funny. We heard you.
We have been lucky, as creators and as women, to have had our voices heard. We began making our television show, Girls, in 2010, and ever since we have had a regular outlet for our hopes, fears, deeply held beliefs, and ill-fitting shorts. This has been a gift. But having your voice heard can also be frustrating, full of moments where one is willfully misunderstood, sees misogyny in action, or feels attacked for telling their truth. We wanted to create a space where new voices were safe to speak loudly about issues they care about. We want those voices to inspire you, envelop you, and even anger you. Mostly, we want a snark-free place for feminists to get information: on how to vote, eat, dress, fuck, and live better.
There is no better way for us to start Lenny off than by interviewing Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s no secret we have been “in the bag” for HRC for quite some time. It started in 1992, when Lena wrote her third-grade term paper on Hillary’s controversial “tea and cookies” comments. That’s when Clinton told a reporter, during her husband’s presidential campaign, about why she kept her job as a lawyer while he ran for office: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.” Even nine-year-old Lena was scandalized by the twisted gender politics and Stepford expectations placed on a First Lady with a career and vision of her own. So much of what we aim for in our work is to push back against the unreasonable demands placed on women — a demand for perfection and likability above all else. Hillary Clinton’s entire career has flown in the face of those pressures. To sit down with her and talk about the personal and the political was a surreal honor.
But we aren’t just here to talk about Hillary. We have collaborated with our beloved Planned Parenthood on an ongoing column, Rumors I Heard About My Body, in which our editor in chief, Jessica Grose, will address health questions and misconceptions that even the most sexually educated women might have. In Tracing a Trend, our associate editor, Laia Garcia, explains how certain garments make their way from the runway to the mass market and onto budget-conscious bodies. Doreen St. Félix, our editor at large, is reintroducing the brilliant architect and artist June Jordan, whose vision for a new Harlem was ahead of its time. And then we have contributor Kira Garcia reflecting on what her recent marriage means to her as a queer woman and how love is the great equalizer. Speaking of love, we are in love with the original illustrations by Meryl Rowin and Jordan Sondler that are in this issue.
So, back to you. You have already surpassed our wildest expectations by sparking energy and a community around Lenny’s writing and art before we even launched. The love you showed Chenai Okammor, Sandra Bland’s friend and mentor; the excitement you had about our original fiction; the support you lent to our #AskYourMother campaign by creating a new dialogue around abortion; and the creativity and passion of your every move on social media let us know we didn’t make a mistake embarking on this project.
We aren’t here to tell you how to think. We are pro-choice liberal women who recognize that “feminism” means many things to many people. But whether you agree with Hillary’s politics or not, she represents something beautiful and all too rare: a woman choosing to say “No thank you” to societal expectations. A woman who gets up when she’s been knocked down, attacked for not just her politics but her marriage and her body. A woman attempting to claim a historically male space and saying, without a trace of apology, “I can do this, and I deserve this.” A woman who gets what’s so cool about a suit. That’s what excited Lena in the third grade, and it’s what excites us now. Almost as much as getting to know you.
Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner
The Lenny Interview: Hillary Clinton
By Lena Dunham
Lena: We’re going to start early in your life. You went to college a Goldwater girl and emerged a staunch Democrat. Tell us a little bit about that transition.
Hillary: In my household, my father was a conservative Republican, and my mother was a real social-justice Democrat. They used to cancel each other’s votes out in every election. We had some amazing conversations, and arguments, around the dinner table. For the longest time, as a young girl, I thought that my father’s views were really the ones I wanted to follow. I had some teachers, one in particular, who were very adamant about being conservative. So I worked for Barry Goldwater when he ran for president. I was a Goldwater girl, which meant I got to wear a cowboy hat, which I thought was really cool.
Then I got to Wellesley, and I began to meet many different kinds of people, and we continued to talk about what we cared about and what we thought the country should be like and the world should be like. I found myself really evolving, moving toward a different set of beliefs. I think that’s part of what your late teens and 20s are all about. You have to decide what you really believe. You can certainly carry with you some of the values that you’ve inherited, but you have to make them your own or you have to add or subtract from them. And that’s what I did.
We’re all very curious at Lenny about what your passions outside of the political arena are. And we brought with us some very Instagram-worthy photographs of you during that time in your life.
Oh my gosh! Look at that!
Here, if you want to look at them, they might bring up some memories.
I will! Oh, they do. Well, this is me at one of my favorite places in college, which was the lake that we had on campus. I just adored it.
I would swim illegally every chance I got. It was just a real center for my experience in college. This is me and two of my friends, who were debating some of the issues of the day.
We had lots and lots of vigorous debates back in those days. Civil rights, women’s rights, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy — the campus was often in turmoil because of things that were happening in the larger world. And we were talking here, as I recall, about what we needed to do to really address racism amongst us, which was something that people didn’t want to necessarily believe, but we had to recognize we were part of a larger society. We had to do our part.
Here, we were having a rally, as I recall, to do away with limited visiting hours by men.
[Laughs delightedly.] No way!
Yeah. Yeah. Curfews and visiting hours by men. That was what this was about. And you can see the crowd that it drew! These were people who really knew what they wanted. We were vigorously contesting the administration that wanted to keep doing things the way they had done them for a hundred years.
So that counts as a nonpolitical interest.
Well, it was a personal interest. But we had to go political to get them changed, and we did get them changed. Turning the personal into the political is sometimes the only way to stay true to the personal.
So, so many of our Lenny readers are women in their 20s who are in that hazy space between college and the real world. They’re not sure what they want to be, how they’re going to be that. And we wondered how you felt when you graduated from college. For example, I worked at a children’s clothing store, which I was terrible at. I read that you went and worked at a salmon cannery in Alaska, which sounded like a fairly post-collegiate move. I wondered what inspired that and whether you ever had that moment of indecision.
Absolutely. I don’t trust anybody who says that they didn’t have some questions in their 20s. That’s a period of such exploration and often torment in people’s lives. And so, when I graduated from college, I had made the decision I was going to go to law school, but it was a hard decision. I wasn’t quite sure that was exactly the right thing to do, but I thought I would give it a try.
But first, I went off with some friends on this jaunt. We drove all the way up to Alaska, went up the then-unpaved Alcan Highway, and we took odd jobs. I washed dishes. I did end up working in a fishery, where the salmon were brought in, and we had different jobs. My first job was to gut the salmon. That meant that I had a pair of hip boots and a spoon, and there were some gentlemen from Japan who were experts in taking out the caviar. But then they would throw the carcass in the pile, and I had to take each one and clean out all that was left. I was trying to do a good job, so I was scraping and scraping, and they’re screaming at me in Japanese, and somebody else is screaming at me in English. I didn’t last long then.
Then I was kicked upstairs to do packing, so I was packing the salmon. You had to pack head-tail, head-tail, head-tail. And I noticed that some of them didn’t look really healthy to me. So I raised it with the guy who was running the plant. He said, “What do you care? They’re gonna be shipped overseas! Nobody in America’s gonna eat them.” I said, “Well, I don’t think that’s right. We shouldn’t be sending salmon that’s gonna make anybody sick.” He said, “Oh, just don’t worry about it.” Anyway, I go home that night, I go back the next day, and the whole operation has disappeared.
Uh-huh. They disappeared. I guess they worried that some of us would have said something to someone. So I didn’t get paid for that work. But it was called “sliming.” That’s what I started off doing. And I’ve often said it was a great experience for being in politics. You get the connection.
To be a practitioner of sliming!
Being a slimer, so to speak. Right?
To be slimed, or slime. So, then I did go to law school. And it was a very tumultuous time. We had a lot of very serious concern in the school about what was happening in the world, and there were demonstrations of all kinds and protests. It was confusing. It was a tough time. And I met my future husband in law school. I started dating him, but I wasn’t sure that that was the right decision. Because he was definitely going home to Arkansas.
My 20s were very formative but by no means a clear path. I ended up after law school working for the Children’s Defense Fund, which I loved. Marian Wright Edelman is one of my personal heroes. And then I went to work for the impeachment staff that was investigating Richard Nixon. Then when he resigned, I had to decide what to do, and that’s when I took this big leap and said, “Okay, I’m gonna go try to find out what Arkansas is like and what it’s like to live there.” So I got a job teaching at the law school, and I just picked up and I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas.
When you married your husband, President Bill Clinton, I wondered whether you had any fear or anxiety. You were a woman with so many accomplishments and so many interests, and you were uniting with someone who was clearly headed toward the public eye in such a specific way. Did you have anxiety about that? About the concept of losing your own identity in the process of joining forces with someone who clearly had political ambitions?
I was terrified about losing my identity and getting lost in the wake of Bill’s force-of-nature personality. I actually turned him down twice when he asked me to marry him.
That was a large part of the ambivalence and the worry that I wouldn’t necessarily know who I was or what I could do if I got married to someone who was going to chart a path that he was incredibly clear about. My ideas were much more inchoate. I wasn’t sure how to best harness my energies. So I was searching.
When I taught at the law school, I set up a bigger legal-aid clinic. I sent students to represent prisoners. I did a lot of poverty cases. I loved doing that. And I wasn’t quite sure how everything I cared about might fit into a marriage with him. So eventually, I said yes. It was a big leap of faith, and I think most marriages are. You really do just sort of say, “Okay, I think I know what it’s gonna be like, but I don’t know for sure. Let’s find out.”
And it was great. We were both teaching at that time. He had run for office in 1974, but he lost. We got married in the living room of the house we had bought. I was excited about it but still somewhat apprehensive. Then he did get elected, to be attorney general, about a year after we were married. We moved from where we were living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Little Rock, Arkansas. And I switched gears to practice law instead of teach law. At every step along the way, I never could have predicted what I would have ended up doing. If somebody had said when I was 20 or 21, “Are you gonna marry somebody from Arkansas? And you’re gonna teach law school at the university there, and you’re gonna move there, and, you know, that’s where your daughter’s gonna be born ...” It would have never been in my mind. It’s just not something that I had ever imagined.
So many of our Lenny readers are graduating [from college and graduate school] and want to move into jobs, into internships, start their own businesses, but are crippled by the amount of debt that they’ve accumulated. I wondered what you think that we can do about this college debt that follows so many people through their lives and makes it impossible for them to take career risks that they might have hoped for.
It’s one of our biggest problems, and I talk about it everywhere I go around the country. Here’s what I want to do. We have $1.2 trillion in student debt, and this is an enormous problem. I want to give everybody a chance to refinance their debt. Bring the interest rates down, because oftentimes in crowds, I will say, “Who has student debt?” And so many hands go up. I’ll say, “Does anybody have an interest rate of eight percent?” Hands stay up. “How about over eight percent?” I had a woman in Iowa the other day, 12 percent she’s paying on her loans. I want to just compress those. Drop those. I want to get more young people with debt into programs where they pay a percentage of their income as opposed to a flat rate. That will make it a lot easier to save some money and not be so stretched all the time.
And I want to put a time-certain deadline — that after 20 years, you don’t have to keep paying it. Now, if you don’t pay, and there’s no good reason why you couldn’t or didn’t pay, it’ll go longer. But for most kids who get out of school with this debt, they get into their working lives, they really try to do the right thing. They try to pay their debt down. But after a certain point, it’s counterproductive. I’ve met young people that can’t move out of their parents’ homes. They have dreams to start their own business; they can’t afford to do it. They can’t even afford to get married. So we are not only squashing their hopes and dreams, we’re hurting the economy. Because that money should be used for other things besides paying the government to try to retire your debt. This is one of my highest priorities. I’m talking about it everywhere, and I think it would make a big difference for a lot of the 40 million people who have student debt.
I think the question on every Lenny reader’s lips is: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes. Absolutely. I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman, of whatever age but particularly a young woman, says something like, “Well, I believe in equal rights, but I’m not a feminist.” Well, a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights! I’m hoping that people will not be afraid to say — that doesn’t mean you hate men. It doesn’t mean that you want to separate out the world so that you’re not part of ordinary life. That’s not what it means at all! It just means that we believe women have the same rights as men, politically, culturally, socially, economically. That’s what it means. And if you don’t believe that about yourself as a woman, please, go ask yourself: Why? What is holding you back? And it’s not going to be good for you as a woman to be denying the fact that you are entitled to equal rights. And so, yes, I’m a feminist, and I say it whenever I’m asked.
Our first feature for Lenny was an interview with Chenai Okammor, who is a friend of Sandra Bland’s, the woman who died under mysterious circumstances in prison in Texas. That was a story that really hit home with so many of our Lenny readers. So many young women of color — so many people of color — have suffered at the hands of police in the last few years. And I wonder, as president, what you will do to work on this kind of terrible fracture in race relations that we’re experiencing in America right now.
Well, it’s very, very disheartening, because as somebody who did live through the civil-rights revolution, saw the legislation passed that really began to legally end Jim Crow, segregation — all the vestiges that we still live with, it’s very discouraging. However, I will say what I think President Obama has eloquently said: we’ve made progress, but not nearly enough. And we can’t continue to make progress if we’re not even honest with ourselves that we still have problems. One of the areas where we have problems is the relationship between communities of color and the police forces who are to protect them. In those police forces now, we have many more police officers who are from different races, different backgrounds, so it’s not only a question of white versus black. It is a question of how force is used, how our law enforcement are trained, what kind of mind-set they have as they go about their daily jobs.
I think that President Obama’s policing commission, which has issued a report, has some excellent suggestions. For example, after 9/11, we got really anxious to make sure we had homeland security everywhere. And a lot of military equipment was sold to police departments, and those police departments began to look like they were in a war zone, not protecting the family down the block or the neighborhood community center across town. That sent a very dangerous and threatening message.
And also, I would add, it’s important that communities recognize that most of the deaths in low-income communities, communities of color, are not due to police. They’re due to crime and violence and, you know, terrible events that we read about in the paper. But the police have to be held to a higher standard. They are the representatives of our society. Also, a lot of the community policing, community dialogue that we started to have some years ago has sort of petered out. It doesn’t happen like it used to. It needs to be constant. There needs to be a constant dialogue between communities and their police officers. And I think a lot of the training has gotten somewhat lax. I don’t feel like police officers are being as well trained as they need to, to try to prevent problems, to try to make it possible to talk with people to end some of the incidents that are going on. I think their first reaction is one of anxiety and nervousness and they overreact. I think we have a lot of work to do. But I take it very seriously, and as president, I would do whatever I could to see what new laws were needed, what new training was needed, what new resources were needed. But ultimately this has to be between the community. They have to respect the police, and the police have to respect the community.
Our last question is by far our most important question, which is that we need to ask you about this dress.
(Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times/Redux)
That is one of my favorite dresses, can I tell you?
Please tell us!
This is what’s called a cold-shoulder dress. And I wore it for one of our first big events at the White House, in 1993. It was a design of my friend Donna Karan. And like everything I do, it turned out to be controversial. I’m hardly a fashion icon.
Yes, you are!
I absolutely admit that. But I do love to fool around with fashion and have some fun with it. And so I wore this, and a lot of the political pundits [said]: “What is the meaning of this?” and everything. I thought it would be fun! You’ve got to still have fun in all of these different roles that you’re in or I’m in or anybody is in their life. So this was one of my favorites. It’s in the Clinton library, if anybody ever wants to see it.
It’s extremely chic. I think you should bust it back out.
For a potential inauguration.
Do you think I should? Do you think I should try to get back into it?
I think so. I do.
I mean, like, retro?
Yeah! It’s back. It’s circled back.
Well, you know, Donna always says that no matter your age, your size, your shoulders always look good.
We don’t have a problem here!
Don’t you think we ought to be working on this? I think we should do more shoulder stuff.
Let’s do more shoulder stuff!
I am really motivated, my friend. This is exciting.
Madam Secretary, thank you so much. We value your shoulder stuff.
Thank you! Let’s do it together!
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Out of Print: June Jordan
By Doreen St. Félix
(Courtesy of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate/Schlesinger Library Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University)
There are so many amazing female writers and artists from the past whose work is under-recognized. We want to reintroduce you to some of them in a series called Out of Print. Today we’re talking about June Jordan, a National Book Award finalist, architect, and urban planner.
During the mid-1960s, June Jordan, a young architect whose European education at the American Academy of Rome inspired in her a taste for conical structures and winding roads, reinvented northern Manhattan.
At the time, two life-changing events encouraged the native Brooklynite to redesign Harlem: the riots of 1964 and the birth of her only son, Christopher. She was a young, worried, black mother. Jordan, in collaboration with her mentor the futurist architect and engineer Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, translated her critical theories about the effect of space on families, place, and mood into a blueprint for a new Harlem. She planned green space, sketched longer roads, and lifted earthbound apartment complexes into the sky in wide, cylindrical towers, thereby lifting the neighborhood’s psyche out of depression, her thinking went. The plan rid the area of corners — those junctures associated with drug dealing, inadequate housing, and young girls selling — and introduced curvature.
She sold the plan, which she and Fuller named “Skyrise for Harlem,” to Esquire in 1965. Before the check came on Christmas Eve, she’d had no money for herself and her tiny son. And when it did, she cashed it immediately; she and Christopher walked around the city buying presents, food, and a tree. “That Christmas Eve I was a millionaire in love,” she embellished, “spending 500 dollars before the doors were locked for the night.”
When the blueprints were published in April, the magazine removed her name and changed the article’s title to “Instant Slum Clearance.” “My title had been ‘Skyrise for Harlem,’ ” Jordan reiterates in a letter written to Fuller after publication of the article. “We conceived of this environmental redesign as a form of federal reparations to the ravaged people of Harlem.”
Though her vision for Harlem was never actualized, June Jordan the architect and June Jordan the writer converge naturally: if Jordan’s aspiration as a young builder was to invigorate black life by restructuring black environments, she achieved this as a mature writer and critic.
The professor, poet, cultural critic, architect, and foremother of the racial environmental-justice movement published 27 books during her lifetime. The genres she worked in ranged from poetry to criticism to fiction to what Toni Morrison called “political journalism.” In her poems, Jordan was often “directed by desire,” writing sparse, structural odes to sensuality in the ghetto. In her essays, she watched the 1991 telecast of an emerging Nelson Mandela. She wondered where a young Mike Tyson, both criminalized and criminal, could have learned “the difference between violence and love.” She condemned the enemies of Anita Hill and all black women in professional America.
In her fiction, which included the young-adult novel His Own Where, Jordan created the two young Brooklyn lovers Buddy and Angela, who cooed to each other in their native Black English while making skittish love in a crumbling fort. The book is one of her most lauded yet controversial works; when His Own Where was a finalist for the National Book Award in the early ’70s, many black intellectuals derided her for “promoting” anything other than standard English to young black kids. To their derision, Jordan mounted her rebuttal: “Our culture has been constantly threatened by annihilation or, at least, the swallowed blurring of assimilation. Therefore, our language is a system constructed by people constantly needing to insist that we exist, that we are present.”
Even as a writer, she still had soulful hopes for the black metropolis: “I will not pretend that it is privacy and fame and quiet that I want when what I need is a sanitary, safe, and reliable subway or public bus system, an attractive apartment that I can rent ... And then, as often as possible, at night, I want and I need an ostensible stranger who will lie beside me becoming someone I love at least as much as I love myself.” Jordan did take lovers, men and women, up until her death in 2002, but besides the marriage that gave her Christopher, she more regularly lived and loved and worked alone.
I encountered Jordan’s writing a few years ago, when I attempted to write a book of criticism focusing on black women in pop culture. I experienced an intense amount of joy and a bit of horror to discover her this way, all shining and unfamiliar, when she should have been a part of my and every American’s education. June Jordan is certainly not forgotten; any writer who reads criticism produced by black women will find Civil Wars or Some of Us Did Not Die in the annals. The architects are less likely to know her. But she should be a household name, and that she isn’t speaks volumes about the forwardness of her work and the inability of literary gatekeepers to accommodate such vision from a black woman.
Doreen St. Félix is the editor-at-large of Lenny.
Saying Yes to My Queer Wedding
By Kira Garcia
Last month, I married a beautiful, blonde, butch Jewess who whistles show tunes and makes me laugh until my stomach hurts. I wore a striped jumpsuit made by my sister and did an interpretive dance to Sia’s “Chandelier” while slightly stoned at the reception. In other words, it was a dream. But I wasn’t always sure it would happen.
For much of my adult life, a dizzying array of factors have suggested that I should not want a marriage: my parents’ collegial yet apparently unromantic relationship and subsequent divorce, the atheism imposed by my mother, my distaste for polyester napkins and slow dancing with my dad. Oh, and an (almost) unblemished 20-year record of queerness, as opposed to lesbianism, though lately I’m warming to the jaunty, anachronistic quality of that label.
I’m generally very down for the queer belief system, which as I understand it includes, but is not limited to, the following truths: Our bodies belong to us; our identities are ours to whip up as we fancy and tailor as we see fit. Our freedoms and our struggles intersect. We bear witness to one another’s truths, and one another’s performance art, even when it is really, really bad.
On the other hand, queer people, based on my experience, are generally opposed to: capitalism, gender normativity, body shame, enforced silence, movements that work toward the liberation of one group at the expense of another, and (often, but not always) marriage.
I cannot count the number of conversations I’ve stayed quiet in when the topic has turned to the oppressive heteronormativity of marriage. I can count the number of times I did not stay quiet: two. I regret both of those conversations. They did not go well. I felt a bit like I was arguing in favor of boot-cut jeans. Why bother even trying to explain such an unpopular opinion? Why debate this subject at all? It isn’t that I disagree that marriage can be grotesque; it’s that I also think it can be something else, and it’s every queer person’s right to reclaim it. In fact, I have long felt that marriage was the most radical thing I could do. Here’s why.
1. Visibility. Not long ago, a flirtatious deli guy asked who I lived with, and when I said, “My girlfriend,” the flirting continued without pause. Who cares about the flirting? He’s a lovely man who flirts with basically everyone. It brightens one’s day. But Jenna and I are not “girlfriends.” We never were. We do not go shoe shopping together, and we don’t fix each other’s mascara after weeping about bros who didn’t call us back.
It is hard to articulate the feeling of having been misinterpreted by guys like Deli Guy. It’s more than one thing. There’s rage, sadness, defeat, relief. Yes, I’ve indulged in the satisfaction of passing privilege, when failing to correct a stranger’s assumption that I’m straight will get me a free drink or spare me from having to deal with a creep who “loves lesbians.”
But as a person who thrives on community and common ground, I feel squirmy when I’m miscategorized. And I find it strange that I need a queer-looking date or a “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian” T-shirt to make me visibly who I am. On good days, I have a lot to add to the conversation about who’s queer and what that looks like, and I’d like to make that happen more easily.
2. Righteous indignation. You know what I have in common with a lot of the most vitriolic male homophobes? I like ladies. When I recently tested a city-council candidate’s politics by telling him, "My wife and I are undecided," there was only one word that made an impact in that sentence. Wife. Not partner, not girlfriend, not roommate. He has one. I have one. I love it when indisputable, state-sanctioned commonalities enrage people. I love it when people are forced to deal with you. They can cry and wring their hands and perform sad, childish acts of civil disobedience, but my marriage is as real as anything gets in their world.
3. Joy. My closest friends have wildly different approaches to relationships. I have friends who hook up with new people on a weekly basis, friends who married their college sweethearts, and friends who aren’t particularly interested in sex or romance at all. So I’ve had a lot of room to interpret marriage on my own terms, which is a luxury that isn’t granted to everyone. Rather than conceiving of marriage as a jumping-off point, I think of it as a celebration of hard work: the work Jenna and I have done as individuals, the work we’ve done together, and the work of the queer ancestors before us who fought in big and little ways to survive and be seen. The whole point of our wedding was to experience and witness joy. Which can actually be pretty transgressive.
Having said all this, I want to also acknowledge that marriage is not the end of our struggle for equality. Queer people — especially elders, young people, and people of color — still experience poverty, incarceration, and disease at alarming rates. We have so much work ahead of us. But as we do that work, I believe we should also make room for celebration, for pride, and for the delightful experience of blowing our parents’ minds by choosing bearded, 30-something gay men to be our flower girls. I think we’ve earned it.
Kira Garcia is a writer living in Brooklyn with her wife.
Rumors I Heard About My Body: Is My Period Weird?
By Jessica Grose
Welcome to Rumors I Heard About My Body, a recurring feature in which we answer questions about women’s health in partnership with Planned Parenthood.
Q: How do I know if my period is weird?
A: During some desultory middle-school health class in a room with linoleum floors, you probably learned that your menstrual cycle is 28 days long. Day one is the first day of your period, then the body prepares for ovulation by growing the endometrial lining in your uterus. Around day 14, you ovulate, and if the egg isn’t fertilized, hormone levels go down, and for those next two weeks, your body prepares for your period, which is when that fluffy endometrial lining (which would have supported a growing fetus if the egg had been fertilized) is shed.
The thing is, the majority of women in any given month don’t have a perfect 28-day cycle. And a period can change throughout a woman’s reproductive lifetime. Young teenagers often have irregular cycles. In your peak reproductive years (roughly ages 18 to 35), your cycle will be more regular — but regular to your particular body, which can mean anywhere from 21 to 35 days long. Then there’s the whole perimenopausal period, which is the decade leading up to menopause. Perimenopause typically starts in your early 40s, and it’s within the range of normal to have irregular bleeding at that point.
So when is your period weird enough to get an evaluation from a health-care provider? If you’re in peak reproductive age and your period is outside that 21-to-35-day range or if you experience changes from whatever your “regular” is. That means if your cycles are markedly shorter or longer; the bleeding during your period is heavier; the cramping is more painful and not tolerable even with over-the-counter pain medication; or you have more severe premenstrual symptoms like breast tenderness, nausea, or mood swings. If you’ve just had a baby, you will get your period around six weeks postpartum or whenever you stop exclusively breast-feeding (though some women do have their periods while exclusively breast-feeding, so be careful about birth control unless you want to have two kids reaaaallly close in age).
A lot of things cause changes in the menstrual cycle: eating habits, exercise habits, stress levels, and new medication among them. And there are some disorders, like polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, that can cause irregular or painful periods, so if your period changes drastically in any way, you should get a checkup. If you’re sure it’s not a medical thing and your period is much lighter, or if you miss it entirely and you’re sexually active, get thee a pregnancy test, either at a pharmacy or at your health-care provider (like Planned Parenthood)!
Lenny thanks Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president of external medical affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Have other questions about your body you want answered? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Grose is the editor in chief of Lenny.
Tracing a Trend: Denim Explosion
By Laia Garcia
(Collage by Laia Garcia, images courtesy of Marques’Almeida)
There’s that great scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda Priestly, the ice-cold editrix of a major fashion magazine, explains to her new assistant, Andy, how the fashion cycle works. The frumpy blue sweater that Andy’s wearing, Priestly explains, is in fact the product of a long chain stretching from gowns in beautiful shades of blue seen on the runways in past seasons to the bargain bin in a mall store.
Miranda’s monologue is a response to Andy’s condescending attitude toward fashion. As universal as fashion is (we all get dressed in the morning), few industries inspire such ire and disdain. Fashion is called frivolous, but only because it’s associated with women and gay men; expensive cars are frivolous, but no one thinks less of straight men for reading Motor Trend. Couture is criticized for its breathtaking expense, but no one belittles an architecture buff for adoring a Mies van der Rohe design, even if he could never afford it.
Of course, there are a lot of ways that the fashion industry could improve itself: it could be much more inclusive and body-positive, to start. But at its purest form, when it’s just a designer being inspired and creating something that speaks to you — whether it’s an intricately beaded gown that looks like gossamer or a pair of denim trousers that are the exact reflection of the attitude you’ve wanted to carry all your life — well, that’s magic.
And that’s what we will be talking about in this column.
You may have noticed an increased presence of denim at your mall in the past few years. Before then, you had a selection of skinny jeans, super-skinny jeans, jeggings, and jorts. Then came jeans with a more relaxed leg, jeans with a perfect square cut-out at the knee, and jeans in deep shades of indigo, followed by stylized denim jackets with details like carefully frayed edges or a raw seam. Then, it spread like wildfire: denim dresses, denim tops, denim trench coats. The world gone indigo blue.
The denim explosion is largely thanks to two young Portuguese designers, Marta Marques, 28, and Paulo Almeida, 29, who met at the storied Central Saint Martins design school in London and whose label, Marques’Almeida, is only four years old. “We had never worked with denim before,” Marta said over the phone in August. “We were doing research and came across magazines from the late ’90s, when we grew up, and it really resonated with us. We were teenagers [then].” The pair looked at street-style pictures of ’90s teens and were inspired. “They aren’t wearing designer pieces, they’re wearing their boyfriend’s jeans and a random shirt, and we thought it would be interesting to bring that aesthetic into a high-end catwalk.”
Their first collection, shown during the Saint Martins graduate show in February 2011, featured overdyed, hand-frayed denim pieces: oversize dresses, frayed tops, and pants with rips so wide at the legs that they looked like denim leg warmers. Absolute genius.
Marques and Almeida kept going deeper and deeper into the denim world the following season. Soon there were structured jackets and ample trousers that were strangely upscale despite their down-to-earth origins, jackets and “jeans” made from raw silk and velvet that were still casual and cool. Though they were mostly working in the same fabric, their collections somehow never felt like “Denim, again?”
Many designers talk about their ideal women as dream-like creatures off on a holiday to Greece, being fed grapes by a muscular man while lounging on the deck of a yacht, but the Marques’Almeida woman is more like your older sister’s cool friend, the confident woman you see ordering coffee one morning and become obsessed with. “One of the things that we’ve always said is that we feel detached to the whole world of fashion, it feels so pretend and so Photoshopped; a 14-year-old in heels and a cocktail dress,” said Marta. Their commitment to authenticity is clear in their runway shows. Their models — though they may be skinny — are never waifs, never fragile, and instead have a self-assurance that surely helps sell their clothes. “Fuck, I would look really badass in those weird jeans and that asymmetrical shirt” is a thing I think often when looking at their designs.
It felt inevitable when Topshop came calling for a collaboration; for the store, the brand made little denim T-shirts, shift dresses, and its now-trademark jeans without a waistband and with frayed edges. The collaboration brought Marques’Almeida’s style to a wider audience. A few months ago, they won the coveted LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, which earned them a boatload of extra cash, a mentorship from LVMH, and, of course, a stamp of approval in the fashion world (not that they needed it!). For young, independent designers who are truly doing something different, it can’t get much better than that.
So next time you walk into Urban Outfitters or Zara and see the perfect denim piece that simultaneously reminds you of your best friend reenacting Spice Girls choreography with you in front of her bedroom mirror and also makes you feel like a “cool adult,” give a little shout-out in your heart to Marta and Paulo. They’re making your idealized self become a reality.
Laia Garcia is the associate editor of Lenny.