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Relationships (107 posts)
I still keep a journal, and I don't think I want anyone to read it. And yet I gasped when I read the first line of Dominique Browning's thought-provoking piece in the New York Times: "I just burned 40 years’ worth of diaries."
An admitted snoop, Browning writes, "I didn’t want anyone else reading my diaries, ever," and, "Diaries are irresistible." She makes it sound so simple. She doesn't want her grown sons to read her private papers. So she destroys the papers. Easy. Done.
Why do we keep writing these things, if we really, really, really don't want anyone to read them? Browning astutely describes the act of keeping a diary as a form of "self-soothing." And I think there's another, sneaky motive hiding there. When most of us think of someone reading our diaries in the future, we don't really think of our children; we think of some blurry person of posterity, some spectral version of ourselves, our legions of imaginary unborn fans. In a way, maybe I was writing my childhood diary for the same reason I was keeping it locked—the invented idea that someone, somewhere wanted to read it.
More on journaling:
Another writer considers burning her diaries
A peek into Oprah's journals
Susan Sontag's hidden diaries
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.
* Over at The Man's Guide to Love, Glass the Tramp has some hilarious and true dating advice. (The Man's Guide to Love)
* Need a gift for the brainy sports fan in your life? This collaboration between McSweeney's and Grantland not only contains essays about Hoosiers, the World Series of Poker, and fathers, but the cover looks and feels like a basketball. (McSweeney's)
* Surprising scientific discovery of the day: Women make men eat more. (NPR)
* "I spent the majority of my life in daycare, after school programs, summer school programs. Having gone through what I had gone through as a child...there were no real male role models in any of these places. There were never any dudes."—Jon Hamm, on why he used to work at a daycare center (because you needed another reason to like him). (E Online)
It is a strange side effect of today’s constant streams of texts, tweets, and G-chats that we are now survived by our daily conversations. It’s a phenomena Rebecca Armendariz understands all too well: as she wrote about in Good, she often searches her own Gmail account to reread her chats with Clark, her former boyfriend.
This young couple hadn’t even been together a year when Clark was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and given a bleak prognosis of 4-14 months to live. About a year later, he was dead at 33. As Armendariz writes, “My Gmail is a priceless hoard of us making plans, telling inside jokes... This is a history of our relationship that we didn’t intend to write, one that runs parallel to the one authored by his uncontainable illness.” (If you're not already misty, the last line of the essay is a total heart-breaker. )
It’s not the eloquence of the exchanges that makes them so poignant. These are not exactly the love letters between John Keats and Fanny Price. Actually, what's so moving about these exchanges is precisely this, that they aren’t love letters. The chats reveal two young people arguing, making up, teasing, flirting, bantering about the mundane, calling each other pet names, dealing with Clark’s illness, and above all, living. Seeing the words through the filter of loss serves as a reminder treasure these tossed-off exchanges, the casual back-and-forth that creates the fabric of each day. After all, these are the archives of our lives here on Earth.
More about dealing with loss:
How to handle losing a mate
Searching for meaning in the mysteries of death
Heal your grief
When it comes to sex, do you think you know everything you need to know? We thought we did, until we took this quiz developed by Salon.com’s relationship columnist, Tracy Clark-Flory (a smart, insightful writer who was recently given her own sex advice column). We were pleasantly surprised to learn the percentage of married adults who are largely satisfied with their sexual partner, but chagrined to hear about the fastest-growing group of people with HIV in the U.S. (find out the answers to both questions by going to Salon.com). This test, which incorporates key knowledge that sex experts think most adults are lacking, will probably take you less time to complete than it takes the average couple to have sex (8 minutes -- and that's the only answer we're giving away).
The cover story of this week’s New York magazine gets personal with a group of women whose definition of someday is totally outside the norm. They’re older moms who waited to have children, and then were lucky enough that reproductive technology (egg donors, egg freezing, surrogacy) enabled them to become mothers at 49, 50 and 54. Writer Lisa Miller, who had her own baby at age 40, explores why the sight of gray-haired, post-menopausal women chasing toddlers around the playground (or holding a pregnant belly, or breast-feeding, as in the photos that accompany the story) make other people--doctors, younger parents, grandparents, new moms under 50 but still considered to be of "advanced maternal age"--express almost hostile disapproval.
Miller stokes the controversy for the first part of the article, but then suddenly switches tack and presents research that shows that, physical and mental exhaustion aside, there may be advantages to having a baby at the same age one's friends are becoming grandparents. This both-sides-of-the-story method of reporting resonated with me. In complicated dilemmas (and parenthood is full of ethical and emotional quagmires), it’s easy to choose sides, but it’s much harder to show why something could be wrong at the same time that it’s absolutely right. I finished the article feeling just as confused as ever about my own baby dilemma—but also enriched from hearing about the complexity of choices.
Can you have it all?
6 things every new mom needs to know
For some women, being an aunt is better than being a mom
In a few days, Rachel Held Evans will finally be able to cut her hair. She won't have to camp out in a purple tent in her front yard during her period anymore, and, thank goodness, she can stop submitting to her husband. No, she's not escaping some weird cult. She's ending her year-long project to literally follow the Bible's every rule for women.
As Evans told NPR recently, she's had plenty of odd moments in her year of living by the book, including standing by the "Welcome to Dayton" sign with a poster board that read, "Dan is Awesome." (Praising her husband at the gates, in accordance to Proverbs 31.) Following the Old and New Testaments to the letter has also involved making her own clothes, learning how to cook, abstaining from gossip, and nurturing a gentle and quiet spirit. Evans kept a blog about this "Womanhood Project" (no word on what the Bible says about blogging), and a few moments spent reading her posts reveal a woman on a sincere spiritual quest, going about things in a good-humored way.
What's so compelling about this project is that while it could easily sound like a way to poke fun at Evangelicals who claim to live by the book, Evans is herself a Christian with a thoughtful relationship to her religion. Also, she learned how to make toffee. And it's hard to argue with that.
Read more about religion and spirituality:
Find the right spiritual path for you.
How to be more spiritual every day.
Eventually she did have a child of her own who at least had the good manners to be a boy (and not hog the fancy dresses). Still, it was my Aunt Mariana that I thought of when I read Kate Bolick's eloquent piece in the New York Times about aunthood. Bolick suggests that as more woman choose to stay childless, the devoted aunt is becoming an integral element of the modern family. And good thing for kids, since, as she writes, "The aunt exists outside the immediate family unit, ambassador to a universe of other options, as well as — crucially — a grown-up who isn’t an authority figure or disciplinarian." After all, how cool can your own parents be? Realistically, not very.
Today's aunt is less Auntie Em and more, as Bolick puts it, "the glamorously madcap Auntie Mame...Holly Golightly with crow’s feet." There's even an online community for PANKs, or Professional Aunts, No Kids, presumably a far more chic and fun personage than the Professional Mom. Still, Bolick argues that this familial role is underappreciated, and the essay diverts into a terrific rundown of aunthood (or lack therof) in mythology and around the world. But to me it also articulates something about what children (and maybe adults, too) crave in their lives: a relationship defined by "not only passionate love but blessed freedom;" a person who actually has attention for them and them alone.
How to be a super-Aunt: One woman's no-fail advice
If you heard that it was National Single and Unmarried Americans week, and the first thing you thought of was a lonely woman crying The Notebook-induced tears into the Ben and Jerry's container she ate her dinner out of (and it probably is, even for the single among us), then the answer might be yes. In a terrific article in The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope, who wrote about the science behind a good marriage (and how hers turned out not to be one of them) for O, examines new research about the unmarried and finds that—surprise!—there are a lot of misperceptions out there. So even if a week-long single-palooza is not the perfect way to recognize the women (and men) who pay more for health insurance and are just as connected to the community at large as their married friends, maybe we can celebrate this made-up holiday by easing up on the spinster stereotypes—for good.
"In a Married World, Singles Struggle for Attention" (NYTimes.com)
10 things you should never say to a single woman
How to enjoy the pleasure of your own company
9 great ways to connect with your world
Today, the MacArthur Fellows were announced, known casually as the "genius" grants, since the winners are recognized for their unparalleled creativity in a variety fields, from medicine to musical composition to law to (this year) silversmithing. Each receives $500,000 to continue doing what they love to do—breaking boundaries.
Our favorite of this year's award honorees is the poet Kay Ryan, who explains in this short video that "only through the manipulation of language...was I able to reach the most interesting places in my mind."
Her happiness at wining the grant at age 65 is lovely, but note that midway through her talk, she mentions that "I'm always just beginning." She is speaking of how she approaches a new piece of writing and how her past writing can't or won't help her in the creation process. But taken out of context (why not?) the line makes a great motto for all of us, if not a poem in and of itself. Consider what your day would be like, if you woke up in the morning and said to yourself, "I'm only just beginning." On tough days, try putting an exclamation point at the end.
7 ways to spark your creativity
Inspirations from a few of the world's most creative people