Every year there’s a perennial between-the-holidays story to be written, at least here in Michigan. It’s about the unclaimed property office in the Department of Treasury, and how to search and claim what might be yours. And every year I try, because there’s a $50 gift card from Lands End waiting for me there. I have zero memory how it got there. Maybe it was a Christmas gift I never redeemed, or store credit for a sweater I returned, or something else, but there it sits, year after year, with my name on it, mocking me.
It mocks me because I can’t seem to claim it. One year it required a notarized statement, which was probably more than I could get around to that year. But every time I see it in the database, I fill out the form, and at some point the form asks me to submit proof the unclaimed property is really mine. I have said, over and over, that I don’t have the gift card, so I can’t do that.
This year, I wrote a more detailed letter. I explained the concept of Catch-22, and said it several ways: If I had the gift card, it wouldn’t be unclaimed, but I don’t, so it is. And I asked, politely, that if I was going to be denied again, I would appreciate the Department of Treasury using the card to buy clothing for a poor child, and just delete it from the database.
Most years, I never hear back at all. But this year, I opened it, and the first word was Congratulations, so it’s a 2023 miracle.
And it gets better: They’re not sending me the gift card, but a $50 check, and that’s good, because Lands End quality has really slipped over the time I’ve been angling for my phantom gift card. So I guess I should donate it to a clothing bank, or something, because I already sent that intention out in the universe. Or I could combine it with the $180 that Michigan Democrats want to send me as part of their policy package this year (“inflation relief checks” is what they’re called), and have a nice dinner with Alan somewhere.
Oh, and I should add: This year’s stories about the unclaimed property office notes that the biggest single piece it has is a $2 million life-insurance payout, so if you’ve lost any relatives in Michigan lately, might want to search that database.
One of the irritating things about Madonna, to me, is how thoroughly she has snowed people who should know better. (I’m not talking about her music – even I have a playlist on my Spotify account. It’s called “Tolerable Madonna” and is about 40 minutes long. I use it on short bike rides.) As long as she’s been around, she’s been bullshitting academics, critics and others with the idea that her “reinventions” are thoughtfully calculated, thick with carefully considered details, cultural references and other frippery that makes her, basically, a walking/talking PhD dissertation in pop-culture studies. She used to tell interviewers about how well-informed she is, and that her IQ was 140, so obviously, y’know, this is all real.
When it was pretty obvious to anyone who pays attention that what Madonna does well is scan the outer regions of pop culture, the place where her soccer-mom fans don’t spend much, or any, time, and import them into her routine. Also, that she is a narcissist without peer.
This has been going on for decades now. Camille Paglia, I’m looking at you.
Now the torch has been passed, in this case to Jennifer Weiner, who takes note of Madonna’s new face, which has been there for a while but got its widest exposure yet at the Grammys:
All of Madonna’s features looked exaggerated, pushed and polished to an extreme. There was her forehead, smooth and gleaming as a porcelain bowl. Her eyebrows, bleached and plucked to near-invisibility. Her cheekbones, with deep hollows beneath them. The total effect was familiar, but more than slightly off.
…Beyond the question of what she’d had done, however, lay the more interesting question of why she had done it. Did Madonna get sucked so deep into the vortex of beauty culture that she came out the other side? Had the pressure to appear younger somehow made her think she ought to look like some kind of excessively contoured baby?
Perhaps so, but I’d like to think that our era’s greatest chameleon, a woman who has always been intentional about her reinvention, was doing something slyer, more subversive, by serving us both a new — if not necessarily improved — face and a side of critique about the work of beauty, the inevitability of aging, and the impossible bind in which older female celebrities find themselves.
Oh, pfft. Madonna is 64, and can’t stand it. So she fell into a trap many people, most of them women, have fallen into already. She’s probably had dozens, scores of procedures already done to her face and body, most of them good; until recently, she looked great. But at some point the body says, “Girl, it’s time to stop,” and she ignored it. This is not a critique of “the work of beauty.” It’s a sad woman grasping for relevance.
Has anyone noticed that Madonna always wears gloves, and has for years now? I’d bet plenty that it’s because the veins on her hands bulge, a common side effect of exercise and vigorous physical activity: Exercise delivers lots more blood to the muscles, and veins return that blood to the heart. Athletes have larger veins than non-athletes, and that’s okay.
Madonna has always been proud of her commitment to fitness; she was trained as a dancer, after all. You’d think she’d display her hands without shame. And she’s going around these days talking about how the most controversial thing she’s ever done was to “stick around.” OK, then! Look like someone who’s been sticking around for a while. Patti Smith is almost aggressively old and gray these days, as she continues to make music and write. Most of the older female musicians at the Grammys that night, like Bonnie Raitt, looked their age. What’s so terrible about being old? (Other than knee pain, she said, wincing.)
OK, enough. I’m going to wait by the mailbox for my $50.