Category Archives: relationships


This Chicken Tasted So Much Better Before It Was Full of Hate

Like many people, I spent my summer vacation with my large and fiercely loyal extended family. Unlike many people, my family is mixed. No, I don’t mean mixed race or mixed class, although we are that too, but mixed politically. There are plenty of lefties among us; there are also plenty of conservatives. During the Bush years, I often found it incomprehensible that these people whom I love and respect could vote for a man who got this country into wars they didn’t believe in and cultural battles…


Advice to a Student Who Didn’t Like His First Year of College

Dear —–,

Thanks for your note today; your mom told me you’d be writing to me to get some advice about how to make your second year at college better than your first.

Let’s begin: The best way to get off to a good start with your professors is to call them “Professor,” and, if they’re women, not “Miss” or “Mrs.”; “Ms.” is preferable to either of those, but I’d stick with “Professor” since you know the person whose advice you’re asking happens to be one of those.

It’s also good to spell that perso…


20 Funny: The August Version (Part 2)

11. “Have you ever wondered about the stupidity of the term ‘o’clock’?  Americans have happily incorporated into our everyday speech a term that makes us sound like leprechauns.” Gene Weingarten, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post, from The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death.

12. Voice-mail prompt: “After the tone please leave your I.Q. or your blood pressure, whichever is higher.” Lewis Frumkes, author of How To Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children.

13. On health f…


It Takes A Cooperative to Raise a Child

More than 30 years ago, Elisabeth Landes and Richard Posner provocatively observed that a “glut” in black babies exists in the United States foster care system. Their controversially framed assessment attracted ardent criticism, including charges of racism. Nonetheless, Posner and his colleague touched on urgent and yet unresolved problems, including how to (a) provide more meaningful life opportunities for child wards of the state by transitioning them into permanent home placements, (b) re…


20 Funny: The August Version (Part 1)

George Carlin (HBO photo by Paul Schiraldi on New York Times site. Click to get to source page.)

1-3. “Regardless of what other people say, my tendency to overreact and lose all perspective makes me a theatrically interesting person”; “Because I unfairly demand too much of myself, today I will allow myself to act in distinctly untrustworthy and irresponsible ways”; “I take pride in the fact that my personal power comes from my innate sense of insecurity.”

–Ann Thornhill and Sarah Wells, from Tod…


Hope Emerging From Despair: HIV/AIDS in South Africa

Gail Johnson with a portrait of Nkosi


For the past three years, one stream of my work has involved extensive field research on the sexual trafficking of girls in the Philippines, South Africa, and India.  For some years, my research has involved trafficking generally, including that of organs, children, and even body parts such as human tissues.  However, this project examines trafficking beyond the exploitation and kidnapping women and girls taken against their will and under false consent …


6 Things Your Dissertation Director Wishes You Knew

(photo by Drew Coffman via Flickr/CC)

1. Only you can figure out how to manage your personal and emotional life; as advisers we can listen, challenge comfort, and offer guidance. The guidance we can offer most effectively is of the professional sort.

You must handle your domestic conflicts in the appropriate arena while keeping a check on how they affect your productivity.  Please don’t ask us to assist you with anything apart from your work too often, too regularly, or with too much of an empha…


Disney Honeymoons Are a Symptom, Not the Disease

In a post on Disney’s wedding industrial and ideological complex over at Bitch, Michael Braithwaite writes about weddings and how to make them good. For instance, Braithwaite writes that weddings with themes are good since

Themes are an excellent way to incorporate some imagination and a little wonder into adult life, which is maybe why theme weddings have become a bit of “thing” in the last couple of decades, with people getting married on the ocean floor, while rock climbing, etc. I’ve had fri…


Does Good Mother = Miserable Woman?

A few years ago one of my daughters, who had not yet fully claimed her feminist card, told me that if I were a good parent, I would be there everyday after school to greet them with a snack and homework help instead of being at work.  Outwardly I laughed at her ridiculous mid-century ideas of parenting, but inside the worry that I am not a good enough mother continued to haunt me.

Now recent research by Miriam Liss, Holly Schiffrin and Kathryn Rizzo published in the Journal of Child and Family S…


When Teaching Goes Well, Life Is Good

Dear PK,

Your letter about how amazing it was to talk with your graduate student–the one who really GOT what you were saying and changed the direction of her plans–and then asked me why I recognized earlier in life the pleasures that teaching provides made me incredibly happy.

I’m not saying that only because it’s incredibly generous to me. You’ve always been that. But I’m saying it because you helped to remind me why teaching–good teaching– matters.

Coming to the profession as someone who has a…


Top 20 Smart & Witty Lines for July 2012

1. “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” Mark Twain

2. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Mark Twain

3. “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner

4. . “Why are they called illegal immigrants? They’re undocumented workers. If someone broke into my house and vacuumed my rug, I might be puzzled. But mad?” Wanda Sykes

5. “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for …


MacFarlane’s ‘Ted,’ Waugh’s ‘Sebastian,’ and Betjeman’s ‘Archie’




Grown men with teddy bears? A new movie with Mark Wahlberg? The 1981 Granada series with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons? A heartbreaking poem about a teddy bear– mentioning Adler, Jung and Freud in its final stanza?

Okay, so my first thought, when faced with grown men and furry toys, is of the terribly well-groomed Aloysuis belonging to Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.”

Then I think immediately of Archie, a.k.a. Archibald Ormsby-Gore, the strict Baptist teddy bea…


A Friend’s Letter, Written Right Before Her Death

Dragon sculpture photo via Flickr/CC. JJ loved dragons.

I just returned from a week in the west. It was, as always, beautiful.

And it reminded me, as it always does, of a friend from my days as a student in England who, after getting her M.D. and Ph.D. in pharmacology at Cambridge, moved to a place she loved in the western U.S. only to die of cancer in her early thirties.

JJ was a remarkable woman and I think of her in the way you inevitably think of a friend who dies before her time; she still …


Does Anyone Really Need to Have It All?

By now everyone and their mother is discussing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article for the Atlantic claiming that women can’t really have it all: a high-powered career and a happy home life. Slaughter would know. A law professor and then dean at Princeton who got a great gig being the director of policy planning at the State Department, she also had a husband willing to keep the home fires burning. In other words, by Slaughter’s own admission, she  had all the privileges in the world and still couldn’…


‘The Longest Dusk’: a Poem About Longing in Summer

I picture this boy taking my hand
and then pulling me towards him, of his hands in my hair,
of his mouth hot against mine.
I think of nights when I was seventeen in the long backseats of cars
with one-night-stand boys, never going below the waist dictated by morality and a need not to have to bother: who needed to be that busy on those July evenings?
I remember hands on my breasts and kisses that went on for hours and the deep hunger for tongues and sweat and breaths that
were as shallow and as…


When Did People Stop Whistling?

Remember Harris Mackim from Catcher in the Rye? You probably don’t remember his name. I didn’t either and I spent years of my adolescence reading and re-reading Salinger.

But if you read the book even once, you probably remember Mackim as ”very intelligent and all, but … one of the biggest bores I ever met. He had one of these very raspy voices, and he never stopped talking, practically. He never stopped talking, and what was awful was, he never said anything you wanted to hear in the first pla…


Last, First, Best, and Worst of Sins: Pride

Pride, say the sin scholars, led to our being expelled from Eden; Eve was flattered and ate.

Adam didn’t want to bother making his own meal and since there was no fast food in Paradise, he ate, too. It was downhill from there, leading to depravity, mortality, and Popeye’s-to-go.

Pride made Lucifer into the bad guy. Declaring in Milton’s version that he’d rather rule in hell than serve in heaven, Lucifer went from being merely head chef in paradise to owning the first barbecue franchise. As much …


Flawed Sociology on Gay Parenting

Many people think that sociologist are all like me, a bit to the left of Karl Marx. But in fact sociology has always had some deeply conservative roots. Emile Durkheim, one of the field’s founders, was wedded to a highly gendered order, something that would enable “conjugal solidarity” (unlike the feminists of his time who saw companionate marriage as a much better idea). In the 20th century, Talcott Parsons dominated U.S. sociology in a way that limited critique to the periphery and described 1…


The Joy of Cooking and the Malleus Maleficarum

Photo by Flickr/CC user daniellehelm

Why is gluttony a sin? Because we associate gluttony with incontinence and rapacity. Anything that blurs the clearly delineated boundaries between self-indulgence (giving in to your own desire) and self-denial (giving up on ever getting your desire) is frightening to us as a culture.

We view self-indulgence with contempt and often confuse self-denial with discipline. “Look at how it’s presented to us: Fat is bad and skinny is good; spending is bad and saving …


What, Me Angry?

(Flickr/CC photo by Ricardo Liberato)

Today I am angry about everything. I started off the day by getting mad at myself. I forgot to put gas in the car yesterday, which meant that I need to go to the service station, which meant I’d be late for my first meeting.

I’m mad at the foolish woman I was yesterday who didn’t plan for the efficient and considerate woman that I woke up as today. I’d like to go back and yell at me. (When this wish to tell myself off in different voices becomes too frequent…