Three Women

three_women_coverWhile on vacation this summer I read Lisa Taddeo’s new book, Three Women.  To say it was arresting would be an understatement.  It is a striking non-fiction work about women and desire, women and sex, but most of all, women and loneliness.

Taddeo spent eight years researching this book, covering the lives of women across the U.S. in their most intimate spaces.  The result is a portrait of three women in very different places in life, but all desirous, lonely, empty and fulfilled by turns.  Lina pulls away from a loveless marriage and begins an affair with her high school sweetheart.  Maggie endures a statutory rape trial while mentally reliving the relationship she shared with her high school teacher.  Sloane is a happily married woman whose husband enjoys choosing other men for her to sleep with.  All of their swirls of emotion are painfully familiar despite their varied situations: an ache for acceptance, a reckoning with the past, isolated loneliness and attempts to escape it, lusty desire, self-doubt and self-examination in equal measure.  Taddeo does a masterful job of creating something far beyond journalism; she paints the lives of these women in a way that is both personal and universal, and she makes sure to give each agency over her own story in the process.

Three Women is a must-read.  Add it to your summer reading list if you haven’t already, and prepare for a book that will affect you profoundly.

Women’s rights are human rights

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A 1977 demonstration in New York demanding safe legal abortions for all women. Peter Keegan/Getty Images

The last couple of weeks have left me full of rage and despair as I have watched politicians pass draconian measures to control a woman’s body, with zero concern for health or well-being.  Women’s rights are human rights, and by making abortion illegal, those rights are being stripped away at the most basic level.

Making abortion illegal is not “pro-life.”  Women have been dying throughout the course of history from unsafe abortions, and many, many more will if we take away this right.  Why is it that the life, the health, the autonomy, and the well-being of women are so easily disregarded?  And the well-being of families certainly is not being considered either: politicians condemn women for seeking abortions, but they also condemn the same families for seeking government assistance programs.  Where will they be when that child needs formula, needs childcare, needs food and shelter?

Making abortion illegal will not stop abortions, it will only serve to legislate who can have access to safe abortions.  Rich politicians will always find ways for their mistresses to get rid of unintended pregnancies.  POC and the poor are the ones who will suffer the most.  They will either die getting an abortion under unsafe circumstances, or be forced to have children they cannot afford.  Banning abortions equals an enforced continuation of the poverty cycle, point-blank.

Here are some excellent articles, with food for thought, resources, and things we can do:

A brief primer on Alabama’s abortion ban, plus suggestions on ways help.

A new way to think about men and unwanted pregnancies.

How to help women in states with extreme abortion bans.

“a few good (woke-ish) men,” or vulnerability as an act of courage

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On this beautiful sunny Friday, I’d like to take a minute to talk about vulnerability.  It is perhaps the bravest act one can take, to be vulnerable with someone else, is it not?  To open up, to show someone something real and deep and true, and risk rejection or ridicule when all you desire is to be seen.  Seen and loved.

I watched Brené Brown’s Netflix special The Call to Courage the other night, and I am still thinking about it days later.  Her research on shame, vulnerability, and courage is amazing, but her humor and compassion make it that much more poignant and powerful a presentation.  Brown is witty and insightful, bringing her research together with anecdotes from her own life to show us that we are in it together, we need each other, and we can only forge those connections by being brave.  Highly recommend.

With that in mind, I found Melanie Hamlett’s excellent article to be especially timely.  Hamlett discusses toxic masculinity and the ways it forces women to take on a hugely unequal amount of emotional labor.  This is certainly not news, per se, but in her take, she explores a new wave of men’s groups that are encouraging vulnerability, communication, and mutual support.  Our #MeToo era of “wokeness” seems to have more men thinking hard about their own emotional needs.  Drinking, trying to “get laid,” ogling women, and playing contact sports have traditionally been the only socially-sanctioned ways for men to connect with each other, all of which reinforce painfully toxic tropes about “being a man.”  Furthermore, the idea that men should only be emotionally open with women, and that they should find “their one and only” to connect with, left many female partners shouldering far more emotional work than they could handle.  These small, intimate new men’s groups offer the opportunity for healthy emotional connections, and have the side benefit of easing some of the emotional labor burden off of the women they love.  Win-win.

Perhaps we’ve been onto something all along with our ladies’ nights and brunches with the girls — and thankfully, many men are starting to catch on.  Emotional support networks are necessary for all of us, and outlets for vulnerability — as brave as one must be to go there — can only make us stronger.

Art by Explicit Design via society6.

You guys! It’s here! A+

Stop the presses, everyone!  Anthropologie has finally expanded their size range to include both petites AND larger sizes.  Their new A+nthropologie items go up through a size 26W, and I could not be happier.  Over 120 new items, including dresses, tees, jeans, blouses… I am thrilled.  The only caveat is that their expanded line is only available in select stores and online, but I am hopeful that Anthro will expand availability in the near future.  In the meantime, I love that they have a great assortment of pants especially — tops can be easier to find, but a good pair of pants can be hard to track down, as can a well-cut dress.

I have to say, I am so pleased with the styling of this collection.  The models look wonderfully confident in their own skin, and they are seamlessly integrated into catalog photographs and ad space.  The clothes can easily be found by size, but they have not been shuffled off to a sad corner to exist in a silo — pieces are integrated well into the existing product line-up.  Bravo, Anthro.  It is encouraging to be seen and included.  A few of my favorites, below:

buttoned top  slim jeans  patterned tee  gingham dress  relaxed chinos  pocket joggers

Women creatives

Happy International Women’s Day!  In celebration of women, the work we do, and the world that we shape, here is a round-up of artwork and ceramics by women makers that I’ve been loving lately.

There is something feminine and strong about these paintings by Bernadette Marie Pascua.  She is a multi-disciplinary artist based in New York City.

Humble Ceramics, created by by Belgian-born artist Delphine, offers artisan pottery made with mindfulness and intention in South Los Angeles, one small batch at a time.  I love their Alder tumblers.

On Society6 you can find art prints by Tracie Andrews, an abstract artist based in the UK.  The considered colors and shapes make me smile.

Bobby Clark is a Scottish artist and photographer who currently lives in Melbourne, Australia.  Her latest artworks “explore the symmetry and balance of shapes, creating minimal studies of shape composition,” which I find both meditative and inspiring.

I covet this small half mesa bowl from OATMEAL.  Elise Birnbaum is a maker and founder of OATMEAL, where objects are designed and made with care in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — ethically and with respect for the material and the people they are making for.

Support women, support artists.  Happy International Women’s Day.

 

The Last Romantics

“We believe in love because we want to believe in it.  Because really what else is there, amid all our glorious follies and urges and weaknesses and stumbles?  The magic, the hope, the gorgeous idea of it.”

–Tara Conklin, The Last Romantics

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This past weekend I devoured the new novel The Last Romantics from Friday night until late Sunday.  Quite frankly, I didn’t want to put it down.  Tara Conklin does a masterful job of drawing us into the lives of four siblings, weaving a story I found both arresting and vividly meaningful.

Spanning from their childhood in the early 1980s through to a slightly dystopian 2079, the Skinner siblings deal with the sudden death of their father, their mother’s depression that follows they call only “the Pause,” and the lives they lead in the years that follow.  Conklin deftly explores what love means, and loyalty — how family ties bind and break, pull and twist us into the people we become.  Romantic love is peppered into the narrative, but the overarching theme is familial love, how it shapes us, and the heaviness and the light which it carries.

Conklin’s writing reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver by way of Lauren Groff, yet with her own voice and style that make for a deeply engaging novel, one that resonated with me long after I turned the last page.  A rich, rewarding read.

On men, power, and a yearning for something better

small_woman_symbolI wrote this all in a rush of words about a year and a half ago, just to get it out of my system for myself.  I think perhaps it’s time I shared it, as it remains as pertinent as ever.  #metoo

  –C.M.D

I’ve got this very particular kind of yearning going on.  Expansive.  A yearning in just about every area of my life, small and large and in-between.  I had an unpleasant epiphany that I am not sure I have the energy to write out, about men and power and women.  I realized that even though I consider myself lucky to have never been assaulted, some of my most embarrassing moments as a young girl were because of men and their behavior — and I finally realized they were not my fault.  Because they were not overtly sexual or “abuse” it never occurred to me to frame these encounters this way, but a great blog post on Cup of Jo and an excellent piece by Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker on how men implicate their victims in their acts made me rethink things.

“…one of the cruellest things about these acts is the way that they entangle, and attempt to contaminate, all of the best things about you. If you’re sweet and friendly, you’ll think that it’s your fault for accommodating the situation. If you’re tough, well, you might as well decide that it’s no big deal. If you’re a gentle person, then he knew you were weak. If you’re talented, he thought of you as an equal. If you’re ambitious, you wanted it. If you’re savvy, you knew it was coming. If you’re affectionate, you seemed like you were asking for it all along. If you make dirty jokes or have a good time at parties, then why get moralistic? If you’re smart, there’s got to be some way to rationalize this.”

–Jia Tolentino

Joanna Goddard mentioned that every woman has these kinds of moments, and that we all seem to consider them “nothing” because they are so pervasive in our daily lives.  Her account of being a harassed and kissed by her boss at only 14 years old made me cast farther back in my memory than I ever have when thinking about whether I have had issues with men being inappropriate (until now I have only considered my life as an adult).  I was so surprised to realize that yes, I have, and that they are some of the most embarrassing moments of my childhood.  That I was sweet and shy was not my fault — what kind of man thinks it is appropriate to tease a 5 year old about having hair on her legs?  Are they already supposed to be hairless, the better to attract?  To be sexy?  I was mortified, petrified, and so, so ashamed of my body, for reasons I did not understand. And I hated every moment that I had to sit in that truck next to that man.  Why is the ability of a man to say whatever comes into his head so much more valuable, more legitimate a need, than the comfort and perception of safety of the woman (or girl) he feels the need to speak to?  Likewise I was uncomfortable and embarrassed to be asked about Morro Bay by a man in Home Depot.  I had never been to Morro Bay — the jaunty hat I was wearing was a souvenir I was given, and I liked that it was a sailor hat.  I hated being approached by a stranger, and hated being put on the spot.  He felt large and loud and looming.  I don’t think I ever wore that hat again.  Typing it out or trying to describe that encounter… it seems relatively innocuous.  But I think there is something to gut feelings, and in hindsight… well, he was certainly not offering to help me find my parents.  And that is not including all the microaggressions that are just “nothing” to us.  The older men who have called me diminutive names.  The harassment I got from boys my age in school.  The boy in 2nd grade who would chase me around the playground, for example, so instead of playing I spent my recesses hanging around the yard duty (who did nothing to stop him from hassling me).  The boy in 5th and 6th grade who would taunt me with ”monkey legs” during P.E., who left me, again, mortified about my body.  But insults and harassment mean a boy “likes you.”  If you complain, you’re told “boys will be boys,” and what’s the harm?  Is it any surprise that we grow into women who don’t speak up?

It is somehow terrible to realize and freeing to consider — that these embarrassments were not because I was too shy, or to naive to get the joke, or too sensitive, or overreacting.  The women I was so sad for in the Weinstein bombshell — those articles that made me feel ill — they are all of us.  I am part of that.  I am a women that blames myself.  It is so insidious and cruel, to turn the best things in us into liabilities, into faults, into reasons why we deserved what we got, what we get. And in a twisted way, it almost makes me feel more helpless.  To know that, albeit in comparatively small ways, men have successfully made me feel small.  And they have made me feel responsible for that smallness.

I don’t know what the answers are. I want so desperately to believe we have come a long way, that things are better than they were, but then I see the way these courageous women are belittled when they speak up.  “Why did she wait so long to say something?” “Why did she accept a settlement?” “She must have been in it for the money.” “She was asking for it.” “Welcome to Hollywood.” I am left with such melancholy, that there is so little regard for half the world’s population.  That I am a part of that half.  I should be respected as a person, regardless of whose daughter or sister or friend or wife I am.  I should not only matter in the context of the men I am related to.  Add this yearning to the rest of the pile.  I am a pile of aching yearnings, big and small.  I am yearning for something better.