What are you afraid of?

Giant red eel-like sea serpent on antiquarian maritime map, extendedThe wildest thing I ever did to impress someone was jump out of an airplane.

It was terrifying. I am not, by nature, an adventurous person. But I was dating someone (who I later married) who got deep pleasure and satisfaction from giving himself a rush of adrenaline, and skydiving was a hobby of his — along with watching scary movies, snowboarding in parks and backcountry, and other things designed to induce the sensation of jolting your heart into your stomach.

I’ve spent over ten years not understanding this rather significant part of my husband’s personality. To me, the activities he finds exciting and thrilling are all things to be avoided: they scare, upset, and disturb. But a recent episode of Hidden Brain about the science of fear finally explained some of the reasoning behind it. (read more…)

That Time I Policed a Woman’s Voice

you-mean-a-woman-can-open-it

I recently read an article about “radical candor” in the workplace (the idea that supervisors should give very direct feedback to their team) that contained a shocking anecdote.

While at Google, a woman named Kim Scott gave a presentation to senior management. She was nervous, but overall felt the presentation had gone well and could tell that the owners of the company were pleased. But afterward her boss – who happened to be Sheryl Sandberg – took her aside to give her some feedback on her presentation style. At first Sheryl was gentle with her criticisms of Kim’s public speaking, but could tell none of it was landing. According to Kim, Sheryl finally said, ‘You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word, it makes you sound stupid.’”

At first Sandberg’s comment seemed startlingly direct to me, even offensive. But I realized that I’d done something similar to someone I used to manage. (read more…)

Milkies

Feathers Claire Scully

He wakes up crying from nap. He didn’t sleep long enough. Will he go back to sleep? Not this time. I wait 5, 10, 15 minutes. Still upset. I go in. “Mama up,” he says, big wet tears on his face. “Do you want mama to rock you?” “Yeah.” “Do you want milkies?” “Yeah.” Slowly, his breathing calms, his tears dry. We stay like this, locked together for a while in the dark, glints of sunlight arrogantly streaming through the blackout curtain. And just like that, my happy guy is back, ready to play.

I never set out to be an “extended breastfeeder.” I never thought I would be that type of mom. That was for moms who bake gluten-free zucchini muffins from scratch, not me who picks up donut holes from Krispy Kreme in Penn Station. Before I got pregnant, I remember thinking I definitely wanted to breastfeed, probably for about a year. That’s what my mom did with both me and my sister in the 80s, so I figured that’s what I would shoot for too. When my son, Walter, was born 20 months ago, my milk came in quickly and heavily. I realize in another era, I could have been hired as a wet nurse to a village and I would have enjoyed the work, too. I was blessed with a baby that took to the breast easily and that I was able to nurse with little to no discomfort. I also became a woman with a giant rack. I remember wearing nursing bras in a size J/K. J/K! Which should stand for Just Kidding! Boobs should never be that big. (read more…)

My 12 Spouses

Kerala mural paintingI work for a small, family-owned business that, for many years, was run by a father and his son. They had a loving and close relationship, but would occasionally get into terrifically loud, heated shouting matches in the office. This made everyone else fidgety and awkward, and whenever it happened, my colleagues and I would half-joke that our parents were fighting. While the rest of us who work at the company are not related, my coworkers really do feel like family members, people I’ve come to love because of our relationship – and disagree with hotly sometimes, just like I do with my husband.  (read more…)

Oreo versus Art

Andy-Warhol-32-Soup-CansI recently sang about Oreos in a TV commercial.

I’m part of a band that’s had some recent success, which has been hugely exciting for me. I love music and consider being a musician a core part of my identity (not that I am fully supporting myself this way yet, Oreo commercial notwithstanding).  I genuinely enjoyed producing the Oreo spots, which might horrify some artists. Thinking about why an Oreo commercial might stir up negative emotions for others led me to question my work. Does my participation in this commercial affect the “purity” of my music as an art? (read more…)