Mellencamp, the Game


As I mentioned a million years ago (OK, it was five and a half months, but in blog time, that is the equivalent of a million years), my friend and colleague Dr. Sweet Baby Jesus introduced me to this game we call Mellencamp (if you want to know why, you have to read the original post), where you take two basically equal and/or frequently paired things, and decide which one you prefer.

If you're playing this game properly, you wouldn't ask someone, "Which do you prefer: a full-body massage, or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?" Rather, you'd ask, "Which do you prefer: Swedish massage, or shiatsu?" Opting for one does not necessarily mean that you are dismissing the other as thoroughly vile. For instance, I prefer raspberries to strawberries, but that doesn't mean I don't like strawberries--I love them, in fact. I just love raspberries a teeny bit more.

I prefer

sunset to sunrise
questions to answers
the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
skirts to trousers
pedicures to manicures
mountains to the ocean
the west coast to the east coast
the desert to the tropics
Arizona to the other 49 states
Tucson to Phoenix
saguaro to any other cactus, though I also really like those purple prickly pears
Jane Austen to the Brontes
Emily Dickinson to Walt Whitman
meticulously produced rock music like Pink Floyd to punk
new wave to grunge
Christmas to New Year's
baths to showers
water skiing to snow skiing
aisle seat to window
raspberries to strawberries
chocolate to any other form of candy (though I like a heck of a lot of candy)
wild berry skittles to regular
pecans to walnuts
Mexican food to Italian
tortilla chips to potato chips
Coke to Pepsi
vodka to gin
beer to wine
margaritas to martinis
sobriety to drunkenness (I grew up a teetotaler, and while I have learned to appreciate the occasional, decent booze buzz, I'd still rather have my thinking unclouded and my motor skills sharp)
coffee to tea
decaf to regular (because caffeine really screws with my sleep)
hyacinths and crocuses to chrysanthemums and asters
maple leaves to the leaf of any other tree (having lived in someplace that has sugar maples, I can now understand why the Canadians put a maple leaf on their flag--they're just really cool)
deep colors--especially greens, reds and blues--to earth tones
cats to dogs (I really love dogs, but I find cats require less maintenance, so I prefer them as pets)
solitude to crowds
jacks to tiddly winks
jump rope to hop scotch
seeing my acupuncturist to seeing my MD
Elizabeth Tudor to Mary Stewart
Gene Kelly to Fred Astaire
Bette Davis to Joan Crawford
Buffy the Vampire Slayer to its spinoff, Angel
Spike to Angel
People who call themselves feminists to people who, for whatever reason, don't
Curious skeptics engaged with the mystery and even godless heathen to the religiously devout and orthodox of any ilk
holly to ivy

OK, there are a few pairings where one choice is obviously right and the other is obviously wrong--like ANYONE actually prefers Angel to Spike, or tiddly winks to jacks? (I really used to love jacks. Someone with children between the ages of, say, five and 11, tell me: do children still play them? Can you even buy them?)

I tag any and every blogger who reads this to make and post a list of your own.


Austen vs. Brontes. In I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, the heroine says that she would never want to choose between the two, and truly, I feel the same. I wouldn't want one without the others. But if forced by such a game as this, I would, as you very well know, choose the Brontes. (I'm Marianne in Sense & Sensibility, not Elinor).

Spike vs. Angel. I just don't know if I could appreciate or adore Spike as much as I do if Angel hadn't come first. Angel is the perfect puppy love, but best left in childhood.

Cats vs. Dogs. Dogs, definitely. I just can't have a conversation with a cat. I have tried, but they ignore me. They tell me to get back to them when I've got something significant to say. Dogs, on the other hand, find my dialogue fascinating. They make for a much better audience.

Yes to Chocolate and Coke! Yes to Mountains! Yes to Deep Colors! Yest to Emily Dickinson! Yes to Sobriety!

Hurray for Elizabeth Tudor!

And people who call themselves feminists!

questions to answers
baths to showers (esp. Japanese ones)
pecans to walnuts
Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Any Other TV Show
Spike to Angel (though my feelings are complicated).
cats to dogs

ocean to mountains
the tropics to the desert
Punk to Pink (Floyd). I have a preference for more carefully crafted punk.
grunge to new wave—though I like both
tea to coffee
crowds to solitude

women to men (esp. for friendship and conversation)
trains to planes
cherry blossoms to any other flower
encouragement to criticism
Steve Jobs to Bill Gates
tolerance to dogmatism
doubt to certainty
green to every other color, however lovely
spontaneity to deliberation
commenting on blogs to work....

Okay, the thing about this game… It’s pretty straightforward when it comes to most preferences, but when we have to choose between two fictional love interest characters I think it all becomes a whole lot more complicated.

Dr. Sweet Baby Jesus’ Official Rule is that the respondent is not allowed any qualifying questions. i.e. He says “Who’s better, Aidan or Mr. Big?” and I am not allowed to ask “Better for whom, Carrie or me? Who would I be more attracted to in real life? Who would make a better lover? Who should Carrie end up with? Or is this about which one is a better person in general?”

There is no qualification allowance, I just have to pick one and that’s that. He says that if I prefer Mr. Big because he reminds me of some guy I was once in love with and happens to be the type that I’m perpetually attracted to, even though I know that Aidan would actually be better for me (and Carrie too), then that is as telling as the choice itself.

I have to admit that I’m still not sure exactly what anyone learns about me if I decide to go with the Who’s Better for Carrie angle instead of Who I Would Be More Attracted To or Who’s The Better Man.

I’ve never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I imagine the Angel vs, Spike question raises similar questions. For Felicity fans, it’s the ole Noel vs. Ben conundrum. There’s just so much to consider when we’re choosing between the love interests of other people. It’s not so simple as one or the other. Thus, the Official Rule bugs me.

On a different note- I would agree with your preference of people who call themselves feminists to people who don’t, except that I recently spent more time than I should have with a guy who called himself a feminist but whose idea of feminism honestly extended only as far as his righteous refusal to open a door for a woman or pay for her dinner or walk her to her car in the dark because, as he says, women can take care of themselves. In other words, being a feminist means he gets to feel good about being a shitty date.

That's a pretty silly example- there are much more serious variations on that theme- but I guess it reminded me that I generally prefer people who don’t call themselves feminists to people who do but aren’t.

Frankengirl: I wonder if there's a quiz out there where you figure out what Austen heroine you are?

I used to have a good dose of Marianne in me when I was in my late teens to early 20s, but it's that getting older thing--I've become more and more like Elinor, and not only that, I'm GLAD to be more and more like Elinor.

I'm more Elizabeth Bennet than Jane, more Anne Elliot than Emma Woodhouse, more Mary Crawford than Fanny Price.

John: Green is my favorite color, deep forest green being my favorite shade. But I also like the soothing green on the background of my blog.

Tammy: OK, you're right about the guys who use feminism as an excuse to be a shitty date--and they usually use feminism as an excuse to treat women badly in general. Instead of feminism being an ideology that requires them to treat women like people, it becomes a justification for exploiting and mistreating them even more, because instead of being sex objects that must be wooed, won and taken care of, they're now just sex objects, period.

I really like john's choice of "doubt to certainty." Yes.

And I agree with tammy on the ambivalence of the label "feminist." Is it a way of live, a creed, a state of mind?

I've always called myself a feminist, but I don't admire those who use feminism as a sort of "club," asking: Are you a member?


I wouldn't say I prefer doubt to certainty, because doubt is a painful state of mind. Furthermore, I hate it when people try to prolong doubt for someone else, try to keep you up in the air, as in "Are we going to declare war on Saddam Hussein? Gee, even though we've got this huge military complex in operation, it's just not certain. Maybe we'll start a war, but maybe we won't."

Instead, I would say that I prefer skepticism to certainty, which is what I was trying to get at in that next-to-last long pairing.

Frankengirl and Tammy:

one reason I included that pairing about "feminist vs. non" is because I recently had a conversation with a man very important to me about why he doesn't call himself a feminist. He talked about the ways that feminism functions particularly in academia, and all the bad scholarship that is done in the name of feminism. Since he generally treats women pretty well and has politics I respect, I am still willing to cultivate a relationship with him.

But I guess my time as a Mormon and my experiences as a missionary have shaped my views on certain "clubs," and the ways we just ARE in or not in them. People have walked away from me in mid-conversation when they've found out that I was raised Mormon--never mind the fact that I'm not a practicing Mormon and haven't been for 16 years. It hasn't happened that often, but it has happened.

There's also the way that clubs often piggyback on each other: if you're in the Mormon club, you're probably in the Republican club too, but probably NOT in the feminist club. Declaring myself a feminist was one of the steps in declaring myself not a practicing Mormon, and it utterly flummoxed most Mormons when I did it. They didn't run off in mid-conversations; they just had no clue what to make of me, and avoided me fairly assiduously after learning the terrible truth about me.

I don't know. I suppose it's complicated. But at the root is the fact that I want people to openly avow their belief that sexism has negative consequences in the world, and their commitment to doing something about it.


Ah, yes, I admire Elinor tremendously. Oddly enough, I believe I was more like Elinor when I was younger (the embodiment of sense and responsibility). Then I rebelled belatedly and my inner-Marianne burst out of me. And thankfully, Alan Rickman was there to console me after my impetuous fling with Willoughby ;)

I do wish I were Elizabeth Bennett, but if I must choose a sister, I would have to be Mary, who still believes the whole world may be found inside books.

I'm more Anne Eliott than Emma, but more Fanny than Mary Crawford (although I appreciate that you would choose her, since she doesn't get a fair shake in the story!)

Yes, there probably is an Austen-Character test! Oh, but Marianne would dislikes tests, wouldn't she? Yes, she would much prefer to write a very long essay!

(Oops, I see you just commented - I'll have to read that later!)


Holly, quickly, I want to note that I totally support the "I am a feminist" stance. I don't understand (and grieve) when people announce that they are "not feminist" because technically that means that they don't support equal rights for women.

I also grieve when people say we don't need feminism anymore, as if it's old and out-of-fashion, because, to me, this belittles the incredible work women have done before us (giving us the freedoms we enjoy today!) and the immense work that lies ahead.

I only meant to suggest that feminism takes many shapes and forms. Not all of us can march in the streets. Some of us put pen to paper. And for others, speaking up in a class full of 99% men is an incredible act of courage.

But you are right - if we dodge the word feminism, we are running backward, not forward. And that's the wrong direction altogether.


First of all, I'm just so grateful that you read my blog. Having complained recently about not having a vast readership, I want to say that I feel lucky that my readership, whatever its size, includes people like you and Tammy and the Happy Feminist and John instead of that nasty Richard guy who is complaining about feminists being "churlish."

Now that I've got that moment of gushing out of the way, let's move on to other things:

The grieving thing you mention when people don't want to call themselves feminists--that's it, that's exactly what I feel: grief. I think, "What, you're not willing to announce a political stance that states that I and all females deserve to be treated with fairness, compassion and respect; and that systems that inhibit that fairness, compassion and respect deserve to be dismantled?"

And I also agree that we need to allow people to be feminists in different ways. I am a pen-to-paper, speaking-up-in-groups kind of feminist. I am not much of a demonstrator--as I've said, I hate crowds. The only time I've ever marched in a demonstration was in the spring of 2003, when I felt obligated to voice my opposition to the war.

Re: Austen stuff--wasn't Alan Rickman a fabulous Colonel Brandon? Wayne is sometimes told that he looks like Alan Rickman, which bothers him. I think it shouldn't--I love AR not only for his Colenel Brandon but his role as the dead guy in "Truly, Madly, Deeply."

I like to live in books too, but I'm too lousy a pianist to be Mary Bennet. :-)

It's interesting to me that you admire Elinor--I didn't, at first, or rather, I admired her in this annoyed, obligatory way, because she's so GOOD. I was a lot like her in the way I behaved, but in my heart I sympathized with Marianne: I believed love was so terribly, terribly important, and I wanted to FEEL. But then I kind of started thinking serenity and enlightenment were the way to go.... I am sometimes tempted to revise that decision.

I don't really relish saying I'm like Mary Crawford, because she is BAD, but the fact of the matter is, I have always been extremely outspoken and I could no more behave like Fanny Price and be silent, patient, longsuffering, than I could play Mozart on the piano.

Yes, I adore Alan Rickman! Even when he's contemptable (Love Actually) or dead (Truly, Madly, Deeply). I think there's something rather lovely about his voice and pronunciation of words...

As for admiring Elinor - I was quite determined (as a girl) never to be foolish in love. (What little did I know!) And I think Mary Bennet may hold a similiar attitude?

Hmmm, I don't recall Mary B's piano playing being widely admired. (However, after many tedious lessions as a child, I'm quite sure I nailed the song: "The Woodchuck Chucks Wood" - :)

I'm afraid I don't find Edmund all that appetizing (so I would really like to pass on both Fanny and Mary Crawford.) If I want a brotherly fellow, I'll take dear Henry Tilney - and yes, I can be every bit as silly as Catherine Moreland!

Perhaps it's possible to be different JA characters on different days? (btw, isn't Anne Elliot a bit long-suffering? But perhaps - in her case - you believe the very virile Captain Wentworth justifies her wait...)

I'll play:

Garcia to Weir
Coltrane to Mingus
hugs to kisses
dogs to cats
blue cheese to swiss
spam to scrapple
stairs to elevators
Jefferson to Adams
Nabakov to Tolstoy
Borges to Fuentes
my daughter's giggle to my son's laugh
short stories to poems
cummings to rumi
rumi to plath
plath to dickerson
cookies and cream to rockie road
swimming to running
fall to spring
sleeping in a cold room to sleeping in a hot room
hot monkey sex to making love sweet love
hamburgers to hot dogs
football to baseball
women willing to sweat to prissy women
out of the shower look to makeup look
Maurice Sendak to Eric Carl

Will: I agree with you on "stairs to elevators" and would add, "prefer opening a door with my own hand to hitting one of those buttons meant to allow handicapped people to open a door." I actually hate it when able-bodied 20-year-olds use those things: it wastes power twice, in that electricity is used to open the door, and that the door remains open for a long time, so more heat is lost in the winter and more cool air is lost in the summer. Plus it's just one more sign of how lazy we are as a nation and one more reason we're fat.

Frankengirl: re: Anne Elliot--see, this is where I'm a romantic (or a fool, or a realist, depending on your take) like Marianne (and Jane Eyre, and Heathcliff), and how I think Anne is like Marianne, because in my own experience, sometimes when you fall in love, you just know you're going to love someone forever, and that's that. So I don't see the fact that she still loves Wentworth after seven years as any kind of longsuffering--it's just how things are. And I guess I could call the way she deals with her lot after refusing him a kind of longsuffering, in that she accepts she has made the wrong choice and then goes on and tries to make the best of it.

But that's different to me from how Fanny behaves: Fanny just puts up with cold rooms and nastiness, and she does it very meekly, because she's afraid to speak up. I've learned to like her well enough after trying VERY hard and reading "Mansfield Park" eight or nine times, but I can't find very many ways that I'm like her.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on January 31, 2006 9:01 AM.

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