Monday, October 26, 2015

Inside My New House: The Living Room

My living room.
As soon as I walked into my house, I knew it was the one: The grand staircase, the crystal chandelier in the foyer, and the columns surrounding the living room are the type of elegant details I knew I wouldn’t find in a newer build. Constructed in the early 1900s, the house is a late example of the Second Empire style, complete with the characteristic mansard roof. Perhaps in keeping with the architecture, the previous owner had decorated the interior with heavy antique furniture and thick, dark-colored drapes. I decided to forgo historical accuracy in favor of brighter, lighter decor, built around my trademark blend of new pieces and time-worn antiques.

The living room, as the previous owner had decorated it.

I knew I wanted mint-colored walls, but I didn’t want my living room to look childlike or cartoonish. After buying far too many paint samples, I settled on Breezeway, a Behr color that has all the coolness of mint, without any of the confectionary undertones. 

My first big purchase was the chairs. I’d seen spool chairs in magazines, and fell in love with the intricate shape of the legs. I’m notorious for buying uncomfortable furniture, and didn’t want to make that mistake again. So I splurged on the deep-seated Behnaz Chair from Thomasville. Able to choose a custom fabric and wood finish, I selected a sumptuous velvet—a welcome dose of warmth in a cool room—in almost the exact same color as my walls.

Next, I began the hunt for a rug. A classic Oriental rug would be the obvious choice for an older home, but I wanted something a little more modern. Thus the zebra print. It was meant to be: The rug was sold out everywhere online, but I found the same rug, brand new, on my local Craigslist.

Although the rug is advertised as having gray stripes, they’re actually closer to beige. At first, I was concerned—I tend to go matchy-matchy, making sure every pop of color is exactly the same shade. I decided to override this impulse, selecting the slate-gray curtains (made to look like dupioni silk) I’d originally had in mind. To keep this from looking like a mistake, I chose a blue-gray tufted velvet sofa—the color picks up the mint in the chairs and the gray in the curtains, while the velvet material mirrors the fabric of the chairs.

I bought a bolt of geometric Schumacher fabric on Ebay, and made the throw pillows for the chairs. The fringed gray pillows on the sofa came from Pier One, while the geometric-print pillows are Vera Wang (a Marshall’s find!). 

I already owned the final two big pieces: a 1940s cabinet as my TV stand (a Craigslist purchase from college), and an off-white tufted ottoman I’d purchased at Marshall’s for our previous home.   I added the glass and silver side table for a touch of modernity, then flanked the sofa with two tables in a dark-wood finish similar to the chairs. The white ceramic lamps—a thrift-store find—mimic the curves of the tables, while also bringing a sculptural element to the space. 

For the longest time, the wall above the couch remained blank—I was uninspired, and didn’t want to purchase one of those generic “paintings” from HomeGoods. I wanted something with significance that also made a statement. When I found a booth selling vintage postcards at an area antique store, I knew I’d found my answer—I dug through box after box of postcards, searching for twelve that featured places significant to our life (e.g. Lehigh University, where Frank got his M.B.A.; the park in Allentown where I took wedding photos; a bridge from my hometown). 

One problem: Postcards are tiny, and my wall is huge. I like the simplicity of small pictures with large matting, so I bought square silver frames from Ikea—another modern element—and matted the postcards two to a frame. The entire installation cost me under $100. 

A few meaningful accessories rounded out the room: a coffee-table tray embroidered with the courthouse and city hall just a couple blocks from our house; a silver tea set from Frank’s aunt; a white ceramic horse I bought at a market in Thailand; and a wooden box Frank purchased in Egypt. (I like knick-knacks to have a story, which is why I almost always purchase home decor items when I travel.) 

The final result was exactly what I wanted: a restful space where Asa can play, Frank and I can relax and enjoy a movie, or my friends can gather for a Bible study. That is, a space both beautiful and functional. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I'm a Feminist and I'm Pro-Life. That's Not a Contradiction.

My daughter at 20 weeks. At this gestational age, many states still permit abortion.
In the culture of Christianity, “feminism” has become a dirty word—a euphemism for liberalism and lax morals. Yet, even though my faith is central to my identity, I call myself a feminist.

I’m not the bra-burning, free-loving feminist of generations past (is anyone, really?). Nor do I relate to the particular brand of feminism that celebrities like Lena Dunham preach, which, according to the mission statement of her new feminist newsletter, is all about “keeping abortion safe and legal, keeping birth control in your pocket and getting the right people elected, all while wearing extremely fierce jumpsuits.”

That definition, to me, is both narrow—are women’s issues strictly related to reproduction?—and disheartening. 

My version of feminism is about equality and opportunity. It means seeing female differences as strengths, not liabilities or inferiorities; supporting each other in the workforce and at home, whichever a woman chooses; and celebrating and protecting our bodies.

That last part—the issue of women’s bodies—is where I most starkly diverge from Dunham’s abortion-first view of feminism. Abortion is not a women’s issue. Abortion is a human rights issue.

We live in a world where women’s bodies are abused, devalued, and exploited, yet the cause that our culture most obsesses over is the legality and availability of abortion. In many ways, the debate is over—social-media campaigns like #ShoutYourAbortion signify what is, to me, a horrifying reality: The American majority has decided that not only is abortion acceptable, it’s cause for celebration. To Team Dunham, it’s the pinnacle of female empowerment—something we should all band together to fight for and protect. Women’s ability to exterminate their offspring has become the cornerstone of modern feminism. 

This is despite the global epidemic of sex trafficking, an atrocity primarily committed against women and girls. Around the world, 4.5 million people have been forced into sexual servitude, and nearly 100 percent of those victims are female, according to the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations. 

This is despite the multi-billion dollar pornography industry, which is sustained by young female bodies being offered to the insatiable male masses.

This is despite the rampant rape culture invading college campuses, high schools, and even our homes. Nearly one in five women in the U.S. have been raped, according to a 2010 CDC report, and more than half of those women say their rapist was their significant other. Eighty percent of female rape survivors were violated before age 25.

Yet the funding of Planned Parenthood, an organization built on a model of abortion-for-profit, is what Congress recently spent hours debating. Forty-two percent of Americans now believe that abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances. Nearly a quarter of Americans don’t think abortion is even a moral issue. 

Perhaps this is why feminists have been able to commandeer a human rights issue and rebrand it as a women’s issue, shifting the focus from preserving life to protecting a woman’s autonomy over her own body, as if the child growing inside her is simply a tumor, a cluster of cells she has the right—even the responsibility—to remove if she didn’t plan for it.

This isn’t just a debate about when life begins—even the woman who takes a parasitic view of pregnancy acknowledges that what’s inside her is alive. I think, actually, that we all know a fetus is a person. Perhaps it’s just that women don’t want to be bothered or inconvenienced or told to either use protection or accept the consequences of not doing so. 

In a 2015 study of hundreds of women who received abortions, the average gestational age at which the procedure was performed was 15 weeks, by which point unborn babies have a heartbeat, arms and legs, even fingerprints. A 15-week-old fetus is inarguably alive. But that’s beside the point, because, according to feminists, abortion is about the woman, not the child. Which is why abortion activists—and the authors of the aforementioned study—desperately insist: Women really don’t suffer emotionally after an abortion! Some women even feel happy afterward! After three years, most women don’t feel anything at all! 

In other words, because women don’t feel guilty about killing their children, we should all be cool with the idea. Because women feel relieved that they don’t have to shoulder the financial burden of a baby, we should happily accept the practice of killing for profit.

We’ve become so self-absorbed that ending a life that you created has been successfully twisted to signify female empowerment. We fight for equal wages, tell young women to “lean in,” and work hard to break the glass ceiling for future generations of girls. Yet we're simultaneously killing the next generation—49 percent of whom are female—and we’re doing it in the name of feminism.  

Imagine, instead, if female thought leaders like Lena Dunham banded together to protect the sanctity of all life, fight sex trafficking, tackle the backlog of untested rape kits, shield women from exploitation, and give voice to survivors of sexual assault. That is what we should be devoting our energy, money, and time to accomplish. That is feminism.