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Many years ago, I knew a woman who couldn't wait for her boyfriend to go out without her on hot summer nights. That way, she could stay inside and scrub the floor in her underwear. And by underwear, I mean the genuine female article: white cotton, saggy, stretched elastic. She didn't want her boyfriend to see her like that, I assumed, because it conflicted with the rare but crucial poetic fictions that a couple often needs to survive long term.
These days, I know friends who indulge in all kinds of secret activities: say, smoking a forbidden cigarette or overeating alone. In my case, I wait until a night when my husband has to work really late and watch mindless romantic comedies back-to-back until 1 in the morning, while guzzling Diet Coke and a 2-pound bag of fat-free Twizzlers. Nobody, not even my husband, needs to see me passed out on the bed, mentally wounded (by choice!) from Kate Hudson movies, aspartame and artificial strawberry flavoring.
Then along with 4 million other people, I saw this video of a cat barking.
Here was this cat, in his hour of presumed privacy, barking away like a German shepherd. What was he thinking? Was he trying to protect the house? Did he have some kind transspecies issue, i.e., inside, he was secretly a dog? Or was he barking—like so many dogs do—just for the joy of it? This was what it felt like to me. Then again, I am not a cat.
The important part came when the cat realized that his owner was taping him and began instantly to meow. I wanted to say, "Don't change yourself for anybody! Bark it up! Be different! Be yourself!"
Instead, I thought about my old friend. I called her up. "Is the reason you don't wash the floor in front of your boyfriend, now husband, because you're embarrassed and you think he'll think of you differently?"
The site features a growing collection of thoughtful, pig-centric pieces. Gilad Muth, who grew up eating beef salami in his kosher home, remembers when he learned at the high school lunch table that most salami is actually made from pork. "I tried to reason with myself that there was no way that [my friend] David was right, but his 'Italian defense' ('Trust me, I'm Italian') was foolproof," he writes.
In another essay, Jackie Lilinshtein, who doesn't eat pork for religious reasons, recalls living with a Spanish family as a student. When Lilinshtein's host mother served her a bowl of soup Lilinshtein asked, "Senora, is this made out of pork?" The host said yes, and that Lilinshtein could just eat around the pork, but once Lilinshtein explained that wasn't an option, she said, "I know you don't eat pork; I didn't realize you don't drink pork either."
In today's world of bacon-of-the-month clubs and nose-to-tail eating, Pork Memoirs offers another take.
Given the importance of catching HIV early to get the care necessary to prevent it from becoming AIDS (and to prevent passing it along), I was glad to see the volunteers. Getting tested for something as serious as HIV can be intimidating, and—as many of us know from experience—it can be easy to put off. By approaching all passersby and urging them to take responsibility for their health, these volunteers made HIV tests seem like another ordinary, responsible habit for conscientious adults.
The Black Women's Health Imperative is also trying to get people talking openly about HIV. In honor of National HIV Testing Day, the BWHI's Elevate campaign has organized a "blog-a-thon" to "elevate the conversation about black women and HIV." They've asked popular African-American female bloggers to weigh in on the topic. We especially enjoyed this music video featuring a Lil Wayne look-alike (complete with grill and Auto-Tune). It addresses the elevated HIV risks of the African-American population while cheerfully spreading the catchy message that women and men of all ethnicities should get tested. You'll be humming this tune all the way home...or to a testing center in your area.
Chanel's chic nail polishes generate waiting lists a mile long, and we have a feeling that this intoxicating new shade will be no exception. Since it's named after one of our favorite brunchtime cocktails, we think this is the perfect shade to be wearing at all your lazy Sunday morning meals (and the best way to cure today's 3 o'clock slump).
Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Mimosa, $25 (Chanel.com)
Every Monday, we're rounding up things—small and big—that made us stop and think. Today, we were captivated by a gospel singer's defense of love songs, a comedian's advice to his TV daughter, a therapist coming forward to talk about her personal struggles and more...
* Kim Burrell, influential younger gospel singer, responds to criticism over her new "crossover" album that includes covers of nongospel love songs:
"What is our common ground of love outside of the four walls of the church? What is our conversation of love with people that are not of our fold? ... That's what The Love Album is about."
* Marsha M. Linehan, the therapist and psychology professor who created a now widely used treatment for severely suicidal patients, publicly acknowledges her own mental illness for the first time:
"I honestly didn't realize at the time that I was dealing with myself. ... But I suppose it's true that I developed a therapy that provides the things I needed for so many years and never got."
* Comedian Louis C.K. in the season premiere of Louie breaks down the rules of fairness to his younger daughter:
"The only time you look into your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look into your neighbor's bowl to make sure you have as much as them."
* New York State Senator Roy McDonald, the second Republican to support the newly passed marriage equality bill (after previously expressing opposition), explains his change of heart to reporters:
"You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. ... I'm trying to do the right thing."
* Beyoncé on the value of female friendships:
"I grew up around women; I believe that we can teach each other so much. I'm always thinking about how unselfish we are and the things we need to hear and how much pressure there is being a woman."
[After the jump, meal plans for greenmarket shoppers, gluten-free eaters and budget-conscious cooks]
This morning, MSNBC's The Body Odd posted a story on whether you can die from laughter. (Spoiler: You can in cases of intense overexcitement, plus you can also black out from "overbreathing.")
But I prefer to think about the upside of cracking up. Laughter can lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as reduce the constriction in your blood vessels. It can also help with your mental health. The problem is, we don't do it enough.
Enter psychologist Dr. Steve Wilson, founder of the World Laughter Tour, who trains nurses, doctors, social workers and lay people to run group therapy laughter circles. "Like music, art and certain physical movements," says Wilson, "laughter can help you work through emotional issues or simply help you feel better. But sometimes in life, we're told that our laughter is too loud, or too snorty. We're told to stop doing it. And we do.""
Surprisingly, he doesn't use jokes to help clients refind their inner laugh. Jokes can make the listener feel obligated to respond. "Fake crying doesn't help anybody," he says. "Why should fake laughter?"
Wilson, who formerly worked with celebrated laughter yoga guru Dr. Madan Kataria, uses a series of exercises designed to make you chortle, chuckle and just plain giggle like a fool. For example, there's the Hawaiian Handshake, where you say a rolling "aloha-a-a-a" which turns into a "ha ha" burst of laughter. Or there's the Burning Hot Sand, during which you imagine you're tiptoeing across boiling sand (ah, oo, oo, ah) ending in an ah-ha-ha. Over the phone, he demonstrated the Roller Coaster, ending in a long, sputtering round of ho-ho-hos. It wasn't funny. But I laughed. I couldn't stop, in fact.
"All humans are born to laugh," he claims. "Look at a baby. He lies in his crib, laughing at nothing. He's doesn't even have a sense of humor yet."
Groups, though, are the most effective way to get the laughter rolling. Accordingly, Wilson has been asked to run his workshops at weddings and bar mitzvahs, to bring family members together. I am considering inviting him to my mother's Fourth of July barbecue, sometime before Mom gives my kids their third red-white-and-blue Popsicle for breakfast but after my husband tries to grill on her tiny, toppling, coal grill from the '70s which requires an entire bottle of mind-numbing lighter fluid to produce sufficient flames for one very black hot dog.