Good morning, William,
First, to my fellow Rosemary Clooney fans, White Christmas really only makes sense if you understand that Danny Kaye's character is gay. Not only is he in a swivet over the advances of that nice Vera Ellen, but he tells Bing that the reason he's so eager to marry him off is that with Crosby off minding the kiddies, he'd have time for a massage.
One friend e-mailed to say she was nostalgic for the days when girls with hips, like Clooney in that movie, were considered luscious. (She said she had seen Kim Cattrall in a nude scene recently and noted sadly that she seemed to have dieted her breasts off.)
Yeah, my sister, who owns a clothing store in Los Angeles, says she regularly has to minister to traumatized refugees from stores where clerks have suggested liposuction for the purpose of fitting into size 2 pants. Even in Joane's more "relaxed" establishment, I don't think I've ever seen a size 12. She wouldn't know where to buy them, she says—probably, they are illegal in California—and they wouldn't sell.
(Once, right after our twins were born, I went to Neiman's to buy myself a snappy new post-pregnancy something and, finding that I couldn't fit into a thing, wound up in one of those "big girl" shops instead. They were actually serving glazed donuts and talking in the dressing room about how haggard thin women look! The salesgirl told me I was too little to be there—a sales tactic, no doubt.)
Anyway, my answer to our friend who's worried about Kim Cattrall is: Move to Italy. First, you are surrounded by images of beautiful, filled-out madonnas—and when was the last time you saw a skinny baroque babe? Yes, women here (and men, too, for that matter) place a high value on looking good at all moments. I swear the other mothers at our kids' school must put in hours of prep time before appearing to collect their children at the end of the day. (At least, I hope they do.)
Recently, though, I was at a lunch with a bunch of American women living in Rome, and the hostess asked us to go around the table and name our favorite discovery about life here. And the top vote getter, ahead of the art and the shopping, was the frank appreciation for women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. There is an ad campaign here right now—sorry, I have no idea what they're selling—but on big billboards all over town there is a perfectly aerobicized 19-year-old in a bikini, pouting because the guy next to her can't take his eyes off a maybe 60-year-old woman in an orange knit dress who has never had botox and clearly enjoys a good meal. The tag line says, "Don't Stop Now."
But I had better get on with the news, hadn't I? OK, glad to see that Bush has finally decided to call a voucher a voucher, and why not? The New York Times story today about his speech on the subject in Cleveland says that with the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of voucher programs, the president "now felt he had the opening to push aggressively on the issue."
I personally do not fear that the wall separating church and state is going to crumble because some low-income families who want to send their kids to a parochial school are given the means to do so. (Although if we keep hearing about pedophile priests it's going to take more than a little voucher money to keep the Catholic schools open.)
Unlike all our friends who send their own children to private schools but think poor kids have to be protected from exposure to Sister Theodosia's catechism lessons, I think that's the least of their problems.
The whole voucher debate seems ridiculously skewed toward political, rather than educational, outcomes. I take Teddy Kennedy's point that it's risky to take funds away from already struggling public schools and certainly do not argue that vouchers alone will save those schools, which need more than incentives to improve.
But voucher programs would help some of the kids who now have no choice but to attend failing schools. We can all agree we should do whatever it takes to fix the public schools, but after years of debate on educational reform, it just hasn't happened, under either party. So it seems time to give vouchers a try.
Over to you,