The Threat — and Thrill — of Stereotype


For a time, I was often the only woman in a room full of men. This was a previous job where I essentially ran a non-profit that rated roofing materials. Our members, stakeholders and board conformed to your likely stereotypes about roofers: they were almost all men, two or three times my age, mainly with pot bellies. I was young (twenty five) and female with little roofing experience. They saw me essentially as a secretary, and on several occasions expressed a great deal of surprise when I actually understood technical issues. I played sweet and friendly with everyone, using this as a way in to get things done. When our board chairman’s term was up, for example, I approached the candidate that I thought would be best for the organization and talked him into running. I gathered a few supporters for him, and the board elected him unanimously, thinking the whole thing had been their idea. (read more…)

An Angel Investor, Part 2

Egyptian jugglersI wrote “An Angel Investor” as a standalone piece without intending to explore the story from other sides. It provoked a lot of interesting discussion in the comments, on Facebook, and in private conversations.

Many people I spoke to expressed an interest in hearing about the experience from the perspective of the parent – in this case, Tim’s dad, Philip. This interview shares Philip’s side of the story of their family’s relationship with Paul. If you haven’t already, please read Part One first.

Some additional background for the reader is that Philip has three other sons and one step-son; Paul contributed to all of their college fees.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Tell me about your relationship with Paul. How did you meet?

Paul ran a big corporation that came to our small town. My wife had recently died, and a well-connected friend of mine – who knew Paul – was worried about me and my family, because I was a single dad to four kids. She arranged to throw Paul a birthday party where one of my sons performed a juggling act. Paul and my son met that night and made a connection – and that, eventually, is how I met him.

Were you aware of Paul’s “sponsorship” of kids prior to meeting him?

No, I wasn’t. But his interest in supporting and helping my sons happened very quickly. Within six months of Paul’s birthday party, he told me he wanted to give my son, the juggler, a car for his birthday. I said “thanks, but no thanks.” But he was not one to take no for an answer and pressed me, so I said, “it’s not fair to his older brother, my other son.” So Paul said, “well that’s not a problem. I’ll give him a car too.”

That’s how our complicated relationship began. (read more…)

The Bad Habit I Don’t Want to Break

self-portrait-with-arm-twisting-above-head-1910 copy

When I was young, maybe around 7 years old, my father told me and my brother about the Triangle of Death. It’s the area that spans from the top of one’s mouth up the bridge one’s nose. An infection in this perilous zone can travel straight to the brain and kill you.

How do you get an infection there?

By squeezing pimples. Never, ever do it. (read more…)

Learning On The Job

Eliza's Notebooks - croppedI’ve started rereading my journals by looking for today’s date one year ago, two years ago, even three, four years ago.  This means I’ve been keeping a journal, sporadically, for a long time now.  (This might also mean that I think I’m pretty interesting).  

When I first moved to San Francisco three years ago, I wrote a lot about moving, about writing in coffee shops, and the sounds of this fogged and hilled and palm-shaded city, and how they differed from the sounds of New York.  My journal was a notebook, like what you might buy in the hot still days of August, before school started, along with a pencil case and some new gel pens.  I guess, after all, that I’m in the freshman year of life. (Me, September 2012).  

(read more…)

What Happens When a New Yorker Moves to California?

I grew up in New York City. Even though I haven’t lived there in over ten years, I still have a lot of New York pride. Growing up in New York endowed me with some special skills, like knowing where to stand on a train platform for the optimal exit and recognizing a real bagel.

anatomy of bagel
As a shy child, it also allowed me to not just avoid strangers, but take pride in it. I learned to walk quickly and with purpose. I was suspicious of anyone who wanted to talk to me. It made me feel street smart (or as street smart as an eleven year old on the Upper West Side can really be). (read more…)