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Relationships (107 posts)
It was every writer’s dream, followed immediately by every writer's nightmare. The phone call: You’ve been nominated for the National Book Award! I imagine my response would be the same as Lauren Myracle’s: “You’re f***ing kidding me!” The best-selling YA author told Vanity Fair that when she watched the live stream of the announcement of the nominees her “heart was so happy.”
Then a few days later, she was told that there had been a mistake. A clerical error. The intended
nominee was not actually her book Shine, but another novel titled Chime.
(As an aside, how on earth does this happen? Does the National Book Foundation
communicate via tin can?) She said she “felt gutted. I felt embarrassed, and
ashamed that I had the gall to believe that this book was worthy.”
In the end, Myracle stepped down herself rather than forcing
the National Book Foundation to revoke the nomination. It was an undoubtedly
classy move, and letting go of
anger and hurt with such an open spirit sets a good example
for the kids reading Myracle’s work (and the rest of us). As she put it, “I guess I would have to say, just like any bad breakup or any
awful thing you go through, if I could go back and have it not happen, I would
have it not happen. But some really good things have come of it.”
Actually, she's the one who made sure that some good came of the whole debacle. Since her book is about a violent hate crime against a gay youth, Myracle asked the National Book Foundation to make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation. She described this as "the one unsullied good thing that’s come out of this for me. And that’s more tangible good than a shiny gold sticker any day.” Doesn’t that give you chills? I’m trying really hard here not to make a terrible “myracle” pun, but this lady’s generosity of spirit seems like a bit of a...okay, fine, miracle.
Let's try a quick exercise. Think of everything you've done in your professional life for the last three years—every question you've asked, every problem you've solved, every discovery you've made, every breakthrough you've had. Now explain all of it aloud in a way that's understandable and engaging. You have three minutes, starting now. Go. What's that? You're finding this project a bit difficult? Well I said it was quick, I never said it was easy.
The 42 graduate students who participated in The University of Queensland's 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in Australia last month know just how challenging it can be. 3MT asks candidates for advanced degrees to present their thesis ideas to an audience of non-specialists in 180 seconds. The contest, says the mission statement, "is not an exercise in trivialising or 'dumbing-down' research but forces students to consolidate their ideas and crystalise their research discoveries."
Videos from the winning presentations are available to watch online for free, and they're inspiring—not only because they offer anyone an opportunity to educate themselves fascinating subjects in three short minutes, but also because they celebrate a grossly under appreciated skill: communicating the ideas we're most passionate about. It doesn't only apply to big presentations or speeches; whether you're in a job interview, on a date, pitching your big idea or just trying to persuade your friend that Revenge is a really good show and she should give it a chance, passion is an attractive quality. If you want a role model for using yours in your favor, just watch Matthew Thompson, a psychology student, who managed to turn "Structure and Features of Complex Visual Stimuli: Assisting Identification in Forensics" into "Suspects, Science, and CSI."
How to find your passion
Oprah's advice for talking to a crowd
The most useful communication technique of all time
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* For toy-lovers: The mother of all Hot Wheels tracks. (Devour)
* NPR investigates how we become sports fans, and even if you're consistently getting your heart broken by the team your father saddled you with as a child, take comfort in the fact that "sharing a team with your dad is a point of connection for both sons and daughters." (Krulwich Wonders)
* If sports never caught on with you, but you still want your dad—or uncle or brother or husband—to open up, here are nine easy ways to connect with the men in your life. (Oprah.com)
* "Picture the coolest brasserie in your hometown, that’s what this is. It’s the hottest-looking restaurant in this town. We have to get rid of a few stigmas attached to the word volunteering and making a difference."—Jon Bon Jovi on the pay-what-you-can restaurant his foundation has opened in Red Bank, New Jersey. (Grub Street; Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation)
My husband recently met a couple at an event
and complained, “They had this cool last name”—we’ll say "Darling," although it’s
actually even cuter than that –“but it turned out they’d made it up.” This,
we agreed, was cheating. As people with awkward and difficult-to-spell last
names, we have a certain chip on our shoulders. Why should a couple
get to breeze through life saying, “Darling!”, just because they feel like it?
“After all,” I said, “a family name is about your family, not about sounding cool.” My husband proceeded to clear his throat for the next half hour or so. As he didn’t need to point out, I hadn’t taken his name. I had very good, semiotically sound reasons for this that had to do with identity and feminism...and not wanting to fill out name-change forms.
In Anne Peterson's great essay on the Huffington Post, she muses over how much she's always loved “the distinguished tradition of a name like Peterson: a moniker for mustachioed Vikings and meatball connoisseurs with blonde braids.” She never thought she would change her name when she married—the very idea seemed retrograde. And significantly, she was not exactly in love with the sound of her fiance’s last name. “Saying it is like eating a handful of sand. It gets caught in your throat like a partially chewed piece of flank steak.”
Is it wrong to pick and choose a married name based on whether you like it or not? So maybe your husband’s name seems a little awkward, or doesn’t really go with your first name. How do you think Lauren Bush Lauren feels? Should the unity of your family be held above paltry matters like aesthetics? I admit that the idea of creating a new name altogether appeals in a way, eschewing issues of identity and awkwardness and starting fresh, the way our ancestors did at Ellis Island, only on purpose.
Anne Peterson decided to change name after all, though she notes, “A piece of my identity is gone.” For the record, this is why I haven’t changed my name, even though it doesn’t match the family’s and causes the doctor’s office to think I’m the babysitter and makes addressing mail to us baffling. It’s an identity thing. Even if my darling were a Darling, I swear my choice would have been the same. I think. Probably.
As it turns out, siblings may have a larger effect on our personalities and lives than any of us suspected. Jeffrey Kluger, author of the new book The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, recently told NPR, "siblings are the longest relationships we'll ever have in our lives. Our parents leave us too soon, our spouses and our kids come along too late." Assuming everyone lives long enough, our siblings are the only people who know us our entire lives.
So what if you never knew your siblings, only meeting them as adults? Do they have the same effect on you as if you'd grown up together bonding over great games such as "Why are you hitting yourself?"
Mindy Kaling’s laugh-out-loud (in an actual laughing way, not in a typing LOL way) piece in this week’s New Yorker parses the archetypes of romantic comedy chick flicks. For example, The Klutz, a "hundred-per-cent-perfect-looking female is perfect in every way except that she constantly bonks her head on things." Or "The Woman Who Is Obsessed with Her Career and Is No Fun at All," or "The Forty-two-Year-Old Mother of the Thirty-Year-Old Male Lead."(The entire piece is pretty hilarious—read it for Kaling’s spot-on dissection of “The Ethereal Weirdo” and the truth about architects.)
While it’s true that these movies can be pretty silly, Kaling’s piece got me thinking about the (admittedly, equally unrealistic) aspects of romantic comedies that we can all learn from. And I don’t just mean emulating "the gorgeous and skinny heroine is also a ravenous pig when it comes to food."
And what about those who veer off course? Kate Bolick’s thought-provoking and wide-reaching cover story, "All the Single Ladies" in this month’s Atlantic Monthly explores what happens when you discover the truth about yourself, and the truth is that the marriage plot is not the one that works for you.
Bolick examines the ways in which the institute of marriage is changing, noting that the "Leave it to Beaver" model of the nuclear family was only ever a flash in the pan. People are getting married later than ever; more and more women are having babies later or not at all. In her own life, after a breakup at age 36, she had a dream-fueled epiphany: "now that 35 had come and gone, and with yet another relationship up in flames, all bets were off. It might never happen. Or maybe not until 42. Or 70, for that matter. Was that so bad? If I stopped seeing my present life as provisional, perhaps I’d be a little ... happier. Perhaps I could actually get down to the business of what it means to be a real single woman."
As it turns out, being a single woman is not so bad. Bolick writes eloquently about the joys of living "off-script," and asks, in a
world where a woman can financially support herself, has an emotional support
group of peers, and can theoretically have children (whether biologically
or not) without a mate, who needs marriage? As she puts it, "There are many ways to know love in this world." For this writer, accepting the truth that she is probably not going to be one of those
people who follows the traditional Life Path for a Lady set her free to find her bliss.
And this married woman finds that to be deeply inspirational.
I love a good miracle—especially when it's the kind somebody took a picture of to prove it actually happened. A few days ago, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins found a way to help a paralyzed man use a robotic arm to hold his girlfriend's hand—just by thinking "I want to hold your hand." A chip in his brain directed the the high-tech limb to operate the way a real one does, by desire and mental direction. The man, Tim Hemmes, and his girlfriend had met after his motorcycle accident in 2004, Business Week reported. He had never been able touch her before.
The pictures published in the San Francisco Chronicle—are astonishing, not just for the contrast of her human hand in his robotic one—but for the expression on her face.
While being interviewed Hemmes added, "I always tell people your legs are great ... but...your arms and fingers and hands do everything else. I have to get those back, I absolutely have to." He also said his goal is is to hug his 8-year-old daughter. "I'm going to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to do that again."
Uh-oh, I thought. Because what if his beliefs don't come true? What if he doesn't get his real flesh-and-blood hands back, no matter how much faith he has in himself and technology? What do we do as humans when we put all our energy and time behind something that might not pan out? I had that horrible feeling I get sometimes when I watch my son try to do something impossible, like build a race car out of paper that will drive—only it was worse because this man's life was at stake.
Which was the phrase that snapped back me out of my dark little mind cave. His life was at stake. I realized something, something I should have realized all along. Hemme's belief is not in the power of robotics or brain chips. His belief is in hope—and this is the quality that is defining is his life. For example, he could have done anything with that hand: scratched an itch, brushed back his hair, shook hands with the doctor. But he chose to reach out to someone he loved—and to show her how he felt.
I don't mean to sound like a middle-aged, significantly less green Yoda, but it's true: Anger is usually not anger. I, for one, am the first to get furious when somebody I love gets really sick (yes, live long enough and your friends get cancer). I yell at their nurse, their acupuncturist, my husband, and—once a month—the poor bewildered Verizon customer representative who has the temerity to suggest that my obscene phone bill is due to my out-of-control texting habit. Let me add: my language can get a bit salty.
Which is why I found this video, staring the likes of Bono, Jessia Alba, and George Clooney so worth considering.
For the rest of the day, I'll be thinking about the 30,000 children who have died (please, I beg you, go to the One website now) due to famine in three months. By bleeping out the celebs, it makes the point that the real dirty word is "famine" and that famine should be—and must be—censored from the future of this planet.
But the video also got me thinking about the more traditional F-word, the one the celebs appeared to be throwing around with reckless abandon to express their outrage about what is happening in Africa. What they really were was upset—that this could happen, that people could stand by and let it continue—and they were using that feeling to try enact some change in the larger world.
Ow. I was forced to realize, once again: My curse-studded fury neither helps others nor get to the root of what is going on with me. It's corrosive, it's immature, and it only results in making customer service representatives hang up on me while pretending to transfer me to pretend supervisors.
So what if we re-think the whole modern language of anger? What if what we said, more closely reflected the emotion underneath or behind or fueling the rage? For example, we could get together as culture and officially exchange the F-word for the H-word. When something when horribly wrong, you could get as mad and mean-sounding as you felt. You could glare at old ladies and scream at puppies. But you could not say "F—you!" Instead you had to say "H—me!"
The H-word comes with certain setbacks, of course, such as that its use may dispel the fury you're trying to express, because—if I may be so crass as to utter our new curse out loud—the fact is that "help!" is a clear admission of being overwhelmed. And unlike the classic F-bomb, it does inspire the listener to do exact as we command.
Shockingly, the evening doesn't unfold in daze of gallantness and rose petals.
Well, the Wall Street Journal has found a name for this: "stress spillover" (and here we just thought it was a mean case of the Mondays). In Putting the Honey Back in 'Honey, I'm Home!', Elizabeth Bernstein looks at "the real Witching Hour, that after-work period when we are tired, hungry, desperate to unwind yet still thinking about work" and offers solutions for avoiding a blow-up (read the storyto find out how a man cave and other stress-relieving outlets can help ).
Dr. Oz's 7 ways to reduce anxiety
Take the stress-detector test
4 sanity-rescuing techniques