Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Day in the Life

Long ago, back before I had a cute little [brand and model withheld] phone, I used to make rather dramatic statements such as "Cell phones should make calls, not play music or take pictures!" Well, that was then and this is now. I love the camera feature on my phone. Don't get me wrong, I have a very cute, very nice digital camera which was a great and unexpected Christmas present from one of my cooler friends, and I take great pictures with it. I just don't carry it all the time. (If I did, chances are it would have been lost or taken a dive off a pier, knowing my life.)

So, for everyday purposes I snap pictures on the phone. They aren't the highest quality, as I've said before, but they do the trick and it's so easy to share them.

Here is one of my favorite downtown sites. As Luke and I headed out to the park yesterday we snapped the clouds drifting over Greenwich Street. I love the way they reflect in some of the more new and shiny buildings (the most prominent one is 7 World Trade Center).


We headed into Washington Market Park, passing the newly planted Sweet Peas (ok, that's a guess, I'm not sure what kind of plant they are, but it's a flowering vine-y thing). I told Luke that it will be fun to watch them grow and climb up the fence. Surprisingly, the idea didn't seem to thrill him all that much. He was more interested in ripping his way out of the straps tethering him to the stroller.


We also snapped some pretty pansies (those I'm certain of) just inside the park entrance. We're working on learning the color purple and we've already nailed the concept of yellow.


And, finally, behold: a little slice of heaven. Coffee and mini fruit pastry from Ceci-Cela enjoyed by the sandbox's edge.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Overheard In New York

I love the site Overheard In New York and I've always wanted to be the observant type of person who has their ears to the ground enough to hear the little gems of conversation that make the site. Like this one:
Pregnant woman to 3-year-old son: Do you remember what happened last time you licked the subway? That's right. You threw up.

--4 train

Unfortunately, I am often in my own little world, having conversations in my head, and I miss the hilarious things that the New Yorkers around me must be saying.

Yesterday, however, I had the earbuds out of my ears and I was tuned in to the world around me. It was perfect timing.

I was getting a chocolate milkshake to go at our friendly neighborhood soda shop (the pictures are from my camera phone, so they don't really do it justice). It's usually a zoo, so I don't bring the kids here alot, but it's fun to peruse the candy counter.


While I was waiting for my order I couldn't help but listen to the conversation being had by three women (mothers, I assume) who were talking rather loudly in order to be heard over the 7 or 8 kids they had with them. One of the mothers was talking about two girls who were available to babysit. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.) "They've just moved to the city, one wants to be an actress, the other's into some kind of fashion design. They just graduated from Brown and they're from wealthy families, but they just don't have their own money right now. So, they're desperate for work."

"Great," one of the other mothers said, "so they'll steal my clothes."

It was weird. She said it like it was a simple statement of fact, one of the negatives to consider before hiring these girls, like finding out they aren't First Aid certified or English isn't their first language.



Should I not be surprised to find out that it is an accepted fact that one of the drawbacks of hiring college educated girls from good families to care for your children is that they'll steal your stuff? Should I list on my resume: I have excellent written and verbal communication skills and I will not root through your closet. Or, should I just chalk these mothers up into the "Nanny Diaries" type women who I'd never work for in the first place.

For now, I'm going to go with the latter.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I have this intense fantasy about the library I will design for my own child. There are so many books that have been special to me, and believe me, they will be special to my child. Let me say that again for emphasis. They WILL BE SPECIAL TO MY CHILD. Ok, that felt good.

I found a site today as I perused the mommy blogs I came upon the widget that I'm now sporting (look left). Library Thing is a personal online catalog of books--the books you're reading today, the books you own, all the books you've ever heard of, whatever you'd like to use it for. One could, say, start a catalog of all the books they will eventually read to their child.

The site features are quite fun. The search engine pulls info from over 45 Libraries and the Library of Congress (in addition to Amazon for a little of the $$, of course). And users "tag" each book with category markers such as magical realism, dirty books, political theology, animal literature, etc. There are all the obvious features as well, like reviews, rankings and a truly entrancing zeitgeist. I'm working on my catalog as we speak--it's almost like an iTunes like grouping of all the literature that matters to me.

Little Drew-or-Frankie-or-Phoebe-or-Jack-or-Abbey-or-Seymour will be so set literature-wise.


Edit 5/23: No, not really.

Britney--Way Beyond the Need for a Nanny


Yesterday, as G. and I walked to the new the new Red Hook Fairway, I got to talking about certain mistakes I'd made long, long ago in my first incarnation as a Manhattan office girl. Long story short, I was fired from this particular job and I carried around the guilt and shame of the experience for quite some time. I told G. as we got spattered with intermittent rain, that I'd finally realized that I was 22 then. While I still wished things had gone differently, I now know that I was very young and I really did the best that I could.

Luckily, that job did not require responsibility for another human life. If it had, and I'd screwed up in some way that caused harm, that would follow me for the rest of my life. Which brings us to today's topic . . .



Poor Britney! I mean, I really do feel for her. Honestly, I'm not sure if I was 24 I would be able to cope much better than she seems to be. (Although, I would love to think I wouldn't be in that situation in the first place.) Clearly, at that time I was the type of person who did get in over my head, allow my problems to pile up, employ denial and make pathetic attempts to cover my tracks once I'd made a mistake. I was not good at asking for help and that hubris was my biggest downfall. Britney seems to be in a similar place--except she's doing it in front of the paparazzi and to a living child.

All the blogs that I read lately about the Spears-Federline family recommend that Britney get a new nanny--PRONTO! And while this sounds like a good idea, I really think she needs to go one further. She needs a Baby PR Firm, if there is such a thing. She needs someone to look at her as she's about to head out the door, someone who can diplomatically but firmly say, "Why don't you hand me the baby or the drink. There are alot of people with cameras outside."


The Baby PR person can say things like, "Why don't I look up the California state car seat laws before you head out in your convertible." Or, baring that she could say, "Don't have Sony Music executives make any kind of statement about California car seat laws before we actually know what they are. They might make you look foolish."

The girl, young and stupid though she may be, has money. Money, although it may not buy love or fidelity, will buy you someone who's job it can be to make sure you don't look stupid and child services doesn't take your kid away.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More Cuteness



From the pet store window on 10th St.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Oh please don't go -- we'll eat you up -- we love you so!"

Back, oh so long ago, when I was being wooed by my good friend J. (that term "good friend" should be a clue as to how successful he was with that task) he had an interesting way of dealing with my preoccupation with children. "Do you like babies?" I must have asked at some early point in our relationship, because his response became a running and much belabored joke: "Yes. Grilled."

It's true, young love can make even cannibalism funny.



I couldn't help thinking about J. when I read today's entry on Dooce. Now, I say the following with this caveat: postpartum depression (like many specific forms of cancer) is NOT FUNNY. That being said, I was very amused to hear her thoughts on the idea of giving pregnancy and all that it entails another go.
Only recently have I started to have that baby itch again, have I wanted to put the shiny, bald heads of infants in my mouth. I think that'’s a good sign because it means I've been able to forget a little bit of the sting of those first six months and am now at a point where I would even consider going through it again. I'm the one at the neighborhood party grabbing the babies off their mothers' laps because the urge to bite their nubbly ears is too overwhelming. Wanting to eat babies is a good indication that I have healed.
Isn't it, though?

The honest truth of the matter is that I didn't love babies when I first met J. I liked the idea of babies. I liked the hopefulness inherent in the fact that we, as a species, still have them. My preference for children, however, leaned more toward the walking, talking, reasoning varieties you find in models over the age of 5. (BTW, according to J. children over the age of 5 are considerably too tough to even contemplate eating, grilled, steamed, sauteed or by any other method). It has only been over the past 19 months that I have fallen head over heals for babies and all their wonderfully edible ways.

But what is it that makes the idea of just gobbling up a baby such a universal idea (to women, at least)? When Luke does this little stompy dance he's gotten into doing lately whenever he feels he's not getting 100% of my attention I can hardly contain myself--his cuteness is absolutely edible. It's so common to hear people coo over him and say things like, "I could just eat him up" and it makes perfect sense--but why? Most people don't say that over other cute things like kittens or Tucker Carlson.

Trying to make sense of this by going to the mommy blogs was such a bad idea. They're (as with most things) black and white, either saying the phrase is creepy and stinks of Hansel & Gretle imagery, or gushing over their own children's oral fixations. The best thing I found was the following musings by writer/mom Melissa Lipscomb
Maurice Sendak knew what he was doing when he had the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are tell Max, "Oh please don't go -- we'll eat you up -- we love you so!"

I'm sure that's what Alec would say if he could talk. He's taken to biting with alarming frequency and great glee. He has four teeth on the top and three on the bottom; my legs and shoulders are covered with asymmetrical teeth prints. When [he] bites me, I say, "No biting," and he assumes a look of utter confusion. I imagine he's thinking, "But I love you!" Clearly he derives great satisfaction from sinking his teeth into me.
So, sadly, despite it's seemingly universal usage, I suppose the impetus behind the impulse will remain a mystery for now. But for those of you who might worry, yes, I never ever leave J. alone with Luke.



Here's a link I found on my "edible baby" search with pictures even I found too disturbing to actually be funny. I include the link despite that fact mainly for my mother. It's right up her alley--she loves Halloween, complicated recipes and cutting open baby dolls. Enjoy Mom!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How I Screwed Up my Sisters or How Sam's Bound to Screw Up Luke

Like one of my favorite journalists, Slate.com's senior editor Emily Bazelon, I am endlessly fascinated by birth order in families and how it affects behavior and personality (as I mentioned last week). Last week Emily wrote a piece on Slate about a few recent studies that delve into the effects of birth order on children. Prior to reading this article I had thought in ways similar to Ms Bazelon:
Birth order is one of my favorite explanations for behavior. It's the rationale for why I'm bossy (I'm an oldest) and for why my older son Eli tends to be assertive and rule-conscious while my younger son Simon veers toward mischievous. Older children are supposed to be more aggressive and domineering, younger children more rebellious.
But apparently, the new findings suggest that outside of the family environment, these birth order personality tags fade away.
In one study, researchers watched siblings play and observed how the older ones run the show, "often by playing aggressively," as Judith Rich Harris recounts in her new book No Two Alike. Then they watched the same children playing with peers. The older siblings didn't dominate their peers more, and the younger siblings didn't dominate less. Similarly, studies of the effect of birth order on test scores, education, and earnings have collectively failed to account for differences in children's achievements.
So, sadly, both Emily and I seem to have been duped by yet another misconception of common wisdom.

But--that is not to say that birth order accounts for nothing at all, in fact, quite the opposite. According to the results of these studies, younger siblings are considerably more prone to "risky behavior" such as drug and alcohol use/abuse, playing with guns, premature sex, and crime. Why? There are two theories. First,
older siblings make their mark by introducing their younger sidekicks to smoking, drugs, sex, and guns. Forget about older siblings as positive role models. What's far more prevalent, apparently, is premature exposure--pointing out the best spot to sneak a cigarette or buy beer underage.
Then, of course, there are Mom & Dad (you really didn't think you'd get out of this without being blamed for something, did you).
Parents may also contribute to younger sibling delinquency, wittingly or unwittingly, by cracking down on firstborns but running out of the energy to do so when the later-borns hit their teens.
As an oldest child (who was an absolutely perfect example for her younger siblings, mind you!) I think that the latter explanation is much more to blame (that is, until I have my own children, then I reserve the right to change my mind).

Luckily, this phenomena is only observable in early life. By around the age of 30 older and younger children are pretty much indistinguishable from one another in the realm of risk behavior. The major exception to this, however, is cigarette smoking, which speaks not to any family influence, but rather to the seriously addictive nature of nicotine.

When all is said and done, however, I simply don't buy it. Of course the anecdotal evidence I've gleaned in my short life wouldn't stand up to these scientific studies, but Iconsistentlyy observe character traits in people thatcorrespondd to their place in the family. Is it all in my head? Perhaps, and I guess I can handle that. In some ways even if it's completely disproved, I predict we will still hold onto the concept. In a way similar to how some of my friends insist on calling themselves "left brained" or "right brained" despite the fact that the idea that the two hemispheress of the brain play different roles in thought was disproven long before they were born, I believe we will go on applying these misconceptions to our daily lives. Things that help us order and classify people in simple ways are soooo hard to let go of.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spatulatta: Mother's Day Sunrise Salad

For the first time since we entered the much talked-up twenty-first century, I finally feel like I'm living in the home of the future. Well, at least the kitchen of the future. Remember the promises of Epcot's Future World and the Jetsons? Well, we're one step closer, and just like the Bible has always led us to believe, a little child has led us there.

Actually, two little children.

Nine-year-old Isabella Gerasole and her seven-year-old sister Olivia are the hosts of the vlog Spatulatta: Cooking 4 Kids Online. They are the first ever webcast recipients of a James Beard Award, and believe me, it is well deserved. The website is wonderfully easy to navigate (designed literally for children to use) and the recipe demonstrations done by the two girls and their "helpers" are simple, informative and incredibly easy to follow. This site has made my laptop one of the greatest tools we have in the kitchen these days. Check out their Mother's Day section.

Luckily the G. children are not picky eaters, but they're kids, so they each have their own food aversions that vary from day to day. The likelihood that they'll eat a particular meal is increased a huge amount by the simple act of participation in making the meal. Spatulatta makes things fun, so tech savvy (which makes everything taste better, don't ya know), and simple enough for the most kitchen-clueless kid to follow. And it's a great site to peruse just to get in the mood to cook. Check out their outakes--so cute!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Freakonomics

I am a sucker for drawing connections between things such as birth order and personality. Often, if I'm being frustrated by someone who seems to be acting blind to those around them, I'll think (or say) something like, "Only child, I bet." And, as I spend all day with a truly adorable little clown, who just happens to be the youngest of four children, I'm acutely aware of the ways in which he seems, day after day, to be more of a glutton for attention.

Other correlations, however, also really get my blood flowing. Once, in my dorm room, I made a group of friends sit through a reading of 200 adjectives. The words were all descriptors of the 12 zodiac signs, and I instructed my subjects to mark "agree" or "disagree" when I read each word. Consistently each one of them "agreed" with the words that described their sign more than any of the 11 other signs. Is this proof that your birth month directly affects your personality or just proof that if you grow up thinking that you're an Aries and so you're "daring" and "impetuous" you might, in a dorm room under duress, agree that you are both "daring" and "impetuous"? Who knows, maybe.

Or perhaps, the solution is even more obvious and unmystical.

If it is, one day it will appear in the NY Times' Freakonomics column. Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt are self proclaimed "rogue" economists who take seemingly mystical coincidences and, both in their bestselling book and their Times pulpit, reveal amazingly simple explanations. This week they tackled "The Birth-Month Soccer Anomaly", which, honestly, I'd never heard of before this article, but is fascinating nonetheless. Apparently, a huge percentage of elite European soccer (football) are born within the first three months of the calendar year.
On recent English teams, for instance, half of the elite teenage soccer players were born in January, February or March, with the other half spread out over the remaining 9 months. In Germany, 52 elite youth players were born in the first three months of the year, with just 4 players born in the last three.
Weird, huh? Does this mean if I eventually give birth to a bouncing baby in January I should shell out the big bucks at Models, but not bother if I pop one out in November?

Apparently, no.

As an explanation the Stev/phens site the work of Anders Ericsson, "a 58-year-old psychology professor at Florida State University" who began his career in "nuclear engineering until he realized he would have more opportunity to conduct his own research if he switched to psychology". I highly recommend you read the article, it's very interesting. For the purposes of brevity I will sum up Mr. Ericsson's work this way: Remember when your mom said you can do anything you put your mind to? Now there is scientific proof that she was correct.

Next month Ericsson & his colleague will publish a 900-page book that attempts to debunk the commonly accepted idea of talent. "Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. " The rogue economists are quick to point out
This is not to say that all people have equal potential. Michael Jordan, even if he hadn't spent countless hours in the gym, would still have been a better basketball player than most of us. But without those hours in the gym, he would never have become the player he was.


So what does all of this have to do with soccer players birthdays? It's so simple, it's almost funny. Youth soccer teams are organized in age brackets, and, especially in Europe, the age cut off for each bracket is December 31st.
So when a coach is assessing two players in the same age bracket, one who happened to have been born in January and the other in December, the player born in January is likely to be bigger, stronger, more mature. Guess which player the coach is more likely to pick? He may be mistaking maturity for ability, but he is making his selection nonetheless.
I love things like this. It's so obvious when you know it, so seemingly mystical when you don't.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Everything Old is New Again: Lip Syncing

Some of you, I'm sure, remember my fear that teaching the G. children to sing along to Outkast might endanger my job. Well, luckily, both G. parents were kind of amused by their children's new found hip-hop sensibility (although, it's so sad that they're forced to cull this sensibility from me, a little white girl who grew up listening to musicals). It seems that my employers are not as square as I might have imagined. Mrs. G. likes there to be music playing practically at all times in the house, but she's apparently not at all concerned about what kind of music. This was such great information to discover!

Last week I was inspired by a piece on Slate.com by Sam Anderson called The Fab 4 Million: YouTube and the Neglected Art of Lip Syncing. For those of you who aren't familiar with YouTube, here is how Anderson describes it:
it's like the largest talent show in the history of the world crossed with your boring uncle's home video collection. You can see virtuoso guitarists playing TV theme songs, college guys pretending to be repulsed by ice cream, a robot dancer who might actually be a robot, and (for some reason) a girl eating an apple. There are kids' bands covering inappropriate songs, James Lipton reciting bad rap lyrics like they were Keats poems, and endless footage of George Bush's awkwardness at press conferences. If you like home video of iguanas, you have about 70 choices. The site has no organizing aesthetic or agenda. It's a kind of anti-TV-network: an incoherent, totally chaotic accretion of amateurism--pure webcam footage of the collective unconscious. It can be a little overwhelming. And its users add 35,000 videos every day.
His article went on to talk about how YouTube can be used to chart the rise of pop phenomena, such as, in this case, lip syncing.

The article points out several of the great lip syncing clips to be found on YouTube, such as
upside-down chin syncers, a guy channeling a Counting Crows song through his homemade Kermit the Frog puppet, and at least five different people re-creating, move for move, Tom Cruise's underwear sync from Risky Business.
But the penultimate lip syncers on the web today, according to Anderson, are two Chinese boys who call themselves . . . wait for it . . . Two Chinese Boys!
They've posted a handful of popular videos, each of which follows the same rubric: The boys sit side by side in a dorm room, channeling bubble-gum pop while someone works obliviously behind them at a computer. Their coordination is impeccable, especially during harmonic call-and-response, and they are unparalleled at creating the illusion of really feeling a song's high moments. They're a classic comic duo: The guy on the right is streetwise, fluent in hip-hop hand gestures and facial expressions; his partner is wistful and sensitive (he occasionally pretends to cry).
Here they are, for your viewing pleasure:



I've shown Sam & Jill these videos in hopes that they might be inspired, and it did the trick & then some. So far, with my iTunes collection and Mr. G.'s video camera, we've put down to tape Istanbul (Not Constantinople) originally a They Might be Giants song--now a G. Family EXCLUSIVE! (very EXCLUSIVE, as I won't ever be uploading it to the internet) and we're working on their version of Fall Out Boy's Grand Theft Autumn/Where is your Boy Tonight?.

Granted, their routine is not as smooth as Two Chinese Boys, but they're young, we've got plenty of time to hone their skills. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but nothing in the world, I repeat, nothing in the world is as funny as watching yourself "sing" your heart out on TV when everyone knows that's not your voice, but it looks like it is. Such a simple premise, really, and yet, so powerful.

This is gonna keep us busy for weeks!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

DIY

I was the recent recipient of a great DIY gift this weekend. I own an iPod Nano (in pristine white, 'cause I kick it old school) and one of my former charges gave me a cover he'd made out of an Orbit Gum Box.


I love this kind of project and apparently this one isn't so difficult to recreate. Just download the template and follow the instructions. Creative kids can probably think outside the gum box and come up with some pretty cool cases.


(None cooler than my Bubblemint Pink, though--thanks A.!)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Minding our P's & Q's

Luke is talking up a storm these days, and while his most entertaining conversations are still the ones he has with himself--that kind of stream of consciousness babble that so closely mimics adult speech that you almost think he's saying something interesting and not just random syllables--he's getting much better at actually "using his words" to get what he wants.

So, of course, now that he's achieved this great milestone, what do we go and do? We change the rules on him. I feel for him, I really do. A month ago we thought it was so wonderful to have him say, in his baby lisp, "ap-a-ju" when he wants apple juice or the insistent "Ou! Ou! Ou!" when he wants to be released from the stroller. But that was a month ago, and now that he's got simple demands down pat, we've thrown in the wrench of PLEASE and THANK YOU.


This has led to some pretty silly exchanges, and since I don't frequently indulge my impulse to tell "cute Luke stories" in this forum, I don't feel bad about doing it today.

We've gotten to the point that when he runs into the kitchen yelling "zip-ee" over and over (translation=sippie cup) he will, when prompted to "Say please", say "peeze." But he will not say "zip-ee, peeze". I'm not sure where the disconnect comes in, but he frequently can only repeat the last word that I've said to him. Yesterday we sat on the floor together and had this exchange:

Luke: Zip-ee! Zip-ee
Me: Say sippie, please.
Luke: Peeze
Me: No. Say SIPPIE, please.
Luke: PEEZE
Me: No. Say SIPPIE, please.
Luke: PEEZE!!
Me: No, say both.
Luke: Boff

(For those of you concerned, that little bout of cuteness did get him the sippie cup with no further coaching.)

Today, at snack time, Luke scarffed down the cheese stick I'd given him and began to insistently chant "Drape! Drape!" (grape) This time, instead of saying (the kind of played-out) "Say please." I decided to take things up a notch. I said, "What's your magic word?" and suddenly I had this kids attention like never before. I don't know who taught him to recognize the word magic, but clearly his expression said that finding out that he, Luke, in fact has a magic word was a pretty big deal. I've never felt so disappointed in myself when, sheepishly, I had to admit to this sweet faced child, that his magic word was nothing more than that meaningless syllable we've been making him repeat over and over again for the past few weeks. Honestly, it was as if I were watching a piece of his innocence just chip off and float away.

Then he threw grapes at me.

The Rabenmutter and the Consequences of Choice

The rise to power of Angela Merkel, the woman at the head of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Party who recently ousted Gerhard Schröder to become Germany's Chancellor, has highlighted the little discussed but very real hostility the Germans have for working mothers. Ms. Merkel is not a mother herself, but she has appointed Ursula von der Leyen, a physician and mother of seven (the whole family is pictured above in all their blonde glory), as minister for family affairs.
To her critics, many of whom belong to her own conservative Christian Democratic Party, Dr. von der Leyen is Germany's latest incarnation of the Rabenmutter--a driven creature determined to impose her own superhuman lifestyle on women who can neither deal with it nor afford it.
(Despite the fact that birders will tell you ravens are excellent mothers, the imagery of the phrase is pretty potent, I feel.)

These critics argue that German women understand the importance of motherhood and shouldn't want to leave their children for personal fulfillment outside the home. It is Dr. von der Leyen's viewpoint, however that seems to be supported by the facts. She is quoted in a recent NY Times article as having said:
The question is not whether women will work . . . They will work. The question is whether they will have kids.
And the answer German women have been giving to that question for the past few decades is a decided "NO".
[Germany] now has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. The number of children born here in 2005 was the lowest in a single year since 1945. If the trend holds, the population will decline 17 percent by 2050--hobbling the economy and an already-strained social system.
Those numbers speak to a new trend in feminism, it's not the militancy of our mothers that drives women of the twenty first century, but rather a practicality that says to the patriarchy "If choices must be made, we will make them. Just don't expect them to be the choices you'd like us to make."

Recently Anna Quindlen, in her back page column in Newsweek, eulogized the way things were in a world before there were so many choices for the women of the western world. She did so through a review of the book The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. Of these girls who went away, Quindlen says
I knew instantly who they were: the girls who disappeared, allegedly to visit distant relatives or take summer jobs in faraway beach towns, when they were actually in homes for unwed mothers giving birth and then giving up their children. They came back with dead eyes and bad reputations . . . And they came back riddled with pain and rage and an unspeakable sense of loss.
She contrasts this with the choices that face girls who find themselves in the same situation today
A pregnant 16-year-old might . . . have the abortion. Or she might have the baby and raise it with her family's help, or give it up for adoption after handpicking the adoptive parents and drawing up a contract allowing her to visit the child from time to time. It's a whole new world, in which female sexual behavior is no longer a moral felony.
As a child of the eighties and nineties, I can hardly wrap my mind around the ways women must have lived their lives in the pre-Betty Friedan, pre-Roe v. Wade, pre-bra burning era. The overwhelming emotion seems to have been resignation. Beyond choosing a husband, what decisions did these women take responsibility for? I'm sure there were a myriad of daily responsibilities, but overall there must have been such a feeling of helplessness and anxiety.

Ok--here's the quantum leap in my argument, ready?

That's what I observe in my friends today, that overaching anxiety about a world where they have little responsibility, little choice, little role. Which friends, you ask? Those would be my male friends. Maybe it sounds like a crazy observation, maybe I just have very anxious male friends, but honestly I feel that what I once took to be character flaws in an isolated few, is actually an epidemic among the men of my age group.

Here's an anecdote, by way of example: I have a good friend who works freelance and really enjoys the freedom it allows him to have over his schedule and his life. Recently he began working on a 2 month project at a company he'd worked for when he was right out of college. At dinner last week, when I asked how things were going, he slumped his shoulders and sighed. Then he began to relate how all of his colleagues who had worked with him there before had been coming by his cubicle to tell him how glad they were that he was back and how they'd all rallied for him to get this project. "I'm afraid they are trying to get me to come back permanently," he said finally, with real paranoia in his voice. When I informed him that he was the only one in control of where he works or doesn't work he smirked and shrugged, like, "Of course I know that." But at my words the fear had dropped from his voice, and I knew that before he didn't know.

I know that is pretty much an extreme example, but it wasn't in any way an isolated incident. My male friends operate in continual states of assumed lack of free will. They don't steer their own courses through career, relationship or recreation. They are constant critics of other people's choices, but when it comes down to making their own the eyes glaze over and they're ten times more likely to go with what they feel people want them to choose rather than what they want themselves. So they end up in jobs they don't want, doing favors they wish they weren't, going on trips when they'd rather stay home, staying home when they'd rather go on trips, getting a dog they hate, staying in a relationship with a girl they've long stopped caring for, living where they wish they didn't, and not understanding why no one respects the decisions they're not making.

And how did they turn out this way? I'm not sure I have the complete answer just yet, but I really believe it comes down to the politics of choice. In my generation choice was given to the girls and the boys were left out in the cold. It was hammered into the heads of girls that they could do anything, be anything while the boys were taught idiotic phrases such as "No means No" which were meant to give them protection and moral guidance. But those phrases were predicated on lies and halftruths and I don't think it took teenage boys very long to find that out for themselves.

I know I just have to live with the generation of men I've been given, but what about the generation I'm helping to grow up? Maybe I've just frightened myself into seeing it, but I swear that I already feel a sense of angry uselessness from Sam, and he's only 8 now. It's hard to teach things like discipline and control to a child who believes his actions have no consequences.

But I refuse to believe that one of the genders must be sacrificed. There is no reason why we can't have strong women and men grow up together, right? Equality is not a goal that I'm interested in giving up anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Urban Scavenger Hunt, Part Two


Jill has a friend who lives in Brooklyn and on Friday the boys and I took her out there for a visit. While she played Luke, Drew, Sam and I explored one of my new favorite places, the Greenwood Cemetery. I don't have any creepy associations with graveyards, and this one is such a gem!

Once again I used the camera as entertainment and turned it over to the boys with instructions to go out and find their own names on the tombstones (and their "names", which was a little confusing to them, but they embraced it nonetheless). Here are our findings:





There are a great deal of weird things going on at the cemetery, and I'm definitely going to have to go and explore one day sans children. I have thing feeling that, without 3 screaming boys, it would be such a peaceful place. The views of Manhattan are gorgeous, and some of the memorials are wonderfully strange and beautiful. I highly recommend it as an excursion if you're nearby.

Oh Britney!

Here is my favorite Defamer quote from last week, and possibly all time: "Having determined that it would be impractical to fire herself as mother . . . Britney Spears decided to dismiss the baby's nanny." No one likes to lose their job, sure, but I'm hoping that Ms. Spears' nanny knows how much of a blessing (not even in disguise) this is for her.

Now, of course, there is no way to know truth from fiction here, but clearly the child fell and clearly Britney, as a first time mother, was upset about it. Is there really a fractured skull involved? I highly doubt it. Kid's heads are pretty tough, I know this from incredibly personal experience. All the buzz since the incident has been about professional baby-proofers, doctors, and specialists that have been hired to consult on little Sean Preston's security, and from this buzz we've gotten some pretty hilarious (if also dubious) quotes, such as:
The doctor advised her not to leave Preston on any high surfaces where he could roll off," an insider told the ITW, which also reports that Spears was so impressed with the sage advice that she wanted to hire the doctor full time, but he told her that it wasn't necessary.
But somehow, under all of this, there is so much going on that is not funny.

So, I want to personally wish the next Spears/Federline nanny good luck. She's got to not only protect the babe from gravity but also its parents. It's a tough job. I wouldn't do it.