The Day My Kids and I Ran Away From a Man With a Gun

We were only two blocks from our home, about to pass my son’s school when a woman ran around the corner screaming, “He has a gun! He has a gun! Run!”

I was pushing my three-year-old daughter in the stroller while my five-year-old son walked next to me in Greenwich Village in New York City. We were only two blocks from our home, about to pass my son’s school when a woman ran around the corner screaming, “He has a gun! He has a gun! Run!”
So, I started to run, except my son ran in the opposite direction, back towards the threat. I was terrified to let go of my daughter’s stroller because people were stampeding towards us but I desperately needed to get my son. I caught his eye and shouted, “It’s okay, it’s okay. Come to me, now!” I stretched out my arm and finally he darted to me and grabbed it. Then we took off, pushing the stroller with one hand, pulling my son with the other.
I scanned all around us for a place to hide. The stores were all shoebox size and I thought if someone found us in one, we’d have no chance. So, I kept running. I didn’t stop to look if anyone was coming, didn’t register gun fire or lack thereof, just the continual pounding thought in my head, that my actions could save, or lose, my children’s lives.
The day before we had just learned about the shootings in Orlando, about the massacre in a gay club, that 49 people dead, and scores wounded, were primarily people of color. My husband is transgender and I identify as queer, and while we’re white and relatively privileged, it had still hit particularly close to home. We read news stories and cried before deciding we needed community so we went to a rally at Stonewall in Greenwich Village, a few blocks from our house. I explained to my son that sometimes people hurt people because they think something about them is wrong, be it color, religion, or who they love. I said people were coming together to remember those who got hurt, that putting love into the world is stronger than bad guys and that collectively we have the power to change the world.
He sat on my husband’s shoulders waving a rainbow flag and shouting “Stop hate, stop hate!” I hugged and cried with strangers and went home thinking that our world is so, so, sad but we can’t let fear win.
Then the next day I hear “He has a gun!” and think that we might die.
As I looked for a safe place to go, my thoughts were far from rational. I dismissed place after place. It was only after I’d run close to 10 blocks that I stopped. I crouched down next to my son on the pavement, hugged him, and told him he was brave. He was sobbing, hysterical, “We can’t go home. What if the bad guy’s in our house? What if he kills our cats?”
I did what any parent would do in that situation: assured him that we were safe and that our cats were safe and tried to hide the shock that reverberated through every one of my cells. I called my husband on the phone and tried to tell him what happened in an oddly sing-song voice, and told him not to worry the kids.
My husband left work, saying he’d meet me somewhere and walk us home. In the meantime, I searched for somewhere, anywhere to sit, something to distract the kids. I spotted a McDonald’s across the street and 10 minutes later,the kids were scarfing down hot-fudge sundaes, surrounded by people for whom this was just an ordinary day. I searched for news on my phone, trying to figure out what happened but find nothing. In shock, I texted friend after friend, trying to ground myself back to the world. My son, who happened to be wearing head-to-toe camouflage said, “I probably saved our lives because those bad guys couldn’t see me.”
“You probably did,” I said, kissing the top of his head, questioning my decision to let him believe it’s that easy. He will end up wearing that outfit every day for two weeks because he’s scared to take it off.
When my husband met us to escort us home, I sunk into his arms. I suggested we take a detour back, but he insisted we walk past the spot where it happened, the spot where a woman screamed and I thought, “What I do in this moment could save my children or get them killed.” I took deep breaths and gripped the stroller too hard.
“This is where we were, right mom?” my son asked. “Where the bad guys came?”
“Yeah, the bad guy had a gun,” my three-year-old daughter added and I realized she’s been taking it all in too, that she had not been as oblivious as she seemed.
I told them we don’t even really know if there was a bad guy or a gun. I said it’s possible that someone made a mistake, that there was nothing there at all.
The next day, I found out it wasn’t a mistake when a friend sends me a link to an article about the event. An off-duty cop pulled a gun during a confrontation with a bike delivery man –  something about the bike hitting a car mirror, an ice-pick that may or may not have been there. But what’s clear is the cop retrieved his gun from his car and didn’t once identify himself as police. A video shows him waving this gun, shouting directly in front of an elementary school. There’s no video of us around the corner, frantically running and running.
When my son woke up the next morning, he curled into my body for a kiss and asked, “What do I do if the bad guy comes back?”
“He won’t,” I told him. “He won’t.”
But how do I know this? The fact that this is the first time my children have run from a gun is disturbingly a relative privilege – many children grow up knowing how to run and hide. No one walked into that Orlando club on Saturday night and thought a “bad guy” would come and weighed the risk-reward ratio between freedom and love and death.
The day after the gun incident, my son left a sign in front of the Stonewall Memorial that said, “No more bad guys, no guns, only love.” I took a picture of it and posted it to Facebook, proud of his sensitivity and my progressive parenting. People “liked” away.
But part of me knew I had it all wrong. The idea of a bad guy is way too simple and we’re far beyond just needing gun control. Violence has become a reflex in our country and it needs to change, for our sake and for our children’s sake. I carry my experience with me, like altered DNA, and a shot wasn’t even fired. For so many others, “Run, they’ve got a gun,” is the last thing they hear.

This Is a Love Letter to the Sisterhood

This a love letter to the sisterhood. This is an homage to all the women who hold us up.

This a love letter to the sisterhood.
This is an homage to all the women who hold us up.
The ones who walked before us, leaving behind a trail of wisdom crumbs for us to follow in the dark.
The ones who walk at our side, whispering those two sweetest words, like a salve to our tired soul:
“Me, too.”
The ones who walk behind, not there yet, who look at us with big eyes and remind us of where we have been and how we have grown and what we have conquered.
This is for the women whose hearts split into a thousand pieces as they give small pieces of themselves to their family, their job, their friends, and their neighbors.
The women who see suffering and resist the natural impulse to shrink away, who meet it instead with an ear, a shoulder, an embrace, a meal.
The women who carry themselves and their babies through a world that still sometimes scares them with heads held high and shoulders back because they are warriors. Because they are afraid and they do it anyway.
The women who learned to stop apologizing for what they are not sorry for.
And for the women who love themselves enough to say no.
This is for the women in the trenches and on the ground and in the schools and in the hospitals and in the community centers and serving in the government buildings.
The women who marched and the women who cheered them on.
This is for the women who work because they have to or because they can.
And for the women who stay home because they have to or because they can.
This is for the women who have taken their bodies back and learned to love the soft places.
The women who wear what they want and let themselves be comfortable or sexy or modest or whatever the hell they want to be because it is theirs to choose.
The women whose scars and stretch marks map a story of survival and strength across their bodies for them to consult whenever they are feeling lost.
This is for the women who dance, alone or in a crowd, and let themselves remember what moving felt like when it was for nothing else but the raw joy of it.
And the women who sing unapologetically in their cars or in the shower or on stage, faking out simply for the freedom of hearing their voice.
This is for the women who create: babies or art or sustenance or beauty or words, worship, a testament of our feminine belief that yes, still, even now, the world is worth making better.
This is for the women who love fiercely, without restraint, and forgive the same way.
The women who don’t forget, not once, not for a minute, how far we have come, and how far we have to go.
This is for all of us who stay a little bit on fire inside.
This is for my sisters.
I love you.
I see you.
Thank you.
This was originally published here.

No, Dads of Daughters Don't Need Shotguns

You’ve heard it a billion times in reference to our girls. “Oh, better get the shotgun ready!” It’s time to think about what we’re actually saying.

There was an announcement on a friends’ group text recently. “We’re having a baby girl!!” gushed the mom-to-be.
What followed was a flurry of congratulatory messages.
“We’re so happy for you.”
“Can’t wait to meet your bundle of joy.”
“Get that baby registry going! I looove shopping for baby girls.”
Then came one that made me stop in my tracks: “Time for your husband to buy a shotgun.”
Sure, I’ve heard it a billion times. I’m sure I’ve said it myself, casually, like it was expected of me to perpetuate the idea of the overprotective father needing to shelter his helpless daughter from her bevy of suitors.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of dads wanting to protect their kids. But there is something wrong with the idea that only girls need protecting, and that they need protection from boys who are going to be wooing them.
The gender stereotyping behind the statement didn’t really strike me until recently. Somehow, through repetition over the years, the comment has gained a certain credibility, as though it can’t be questioned.
But we should question things. Especially when it disenfranchises our young women.
First off, shouldn’t we be empowering girls to protect themselves? Maybe their weapon of choice won’t be a shotgun (at least, I hope not!).
Instead we should be inspiring our young women with weapons of self-confidence – knowing their own worth so they don’t settle, never being apologetic for saying no, developing the grit to pursue their goals and the resolve to set their own indisputable boundaries.
Instead, we’re inadvertently sending them the message that, when it comes to relationships, they fall squarely in the hapless category.
We’re sending an archaic message to our young men, too: You’re the one going to be winning her over. And you’re going to be met with resistance in the process.
We’re telling the next generation of young men that it’s somehow cool to be the bad boy chasing down the girl, circumventing the hovering dad looming large on the front porch. Just maybe it’s okay to entertain the idea that a young man is capable of winning the dad (and mom) over, too, with his politeness and hard work and commitment to their daughter.
Or, maybe, it’s the young lady who will be ringing his doorbell.
Then there’s the other line we dash off when we see a handsome little fella. Truth be told, I’ve typed out the cliché on Facebook more often than I’d like to acknowledge: “He’s going to be a real heartbreaker.”
I don’t know how that line has become a compliment. Like, really? We want someone’s kid to grow up and break hearts? And that’s going to happen because he’s good looking?
I don’t think we’re giving the next generation enough credit. Yes, young men will break hearts. So will young women. Hopefully, it won’t be because they’re eye candy, but because they’re in a loving relationship that happened to end.
Both these cultural clichés, one tailored to little girls and the other to little boys, have long outlived their “cuteness.” It’s time to build up our kids, whatever their gender, for things that truly count: their kind heartedness, not their ability to break hearts; their confidence, not their propensity to cower in the shadows.
The next time I’m tempted to recommend that a new dad purchase a shotgun, I’m going to hold that thought and dig a little deeper. I’m going to replace clichés with a genuine compliment about making the world a brighter, lovelier place with their new unique addition.

What My Daughter Taught Me About Addiction

No parent ever wants to think that drug use might explain their child’s upsetting behavior. If only I had known how to spot it and what would help her most.

“I don’t want to come to dinner. I’m not hungry. Just leave me alone!” She slams her door in my face.
I lean against it, listening to her cry. I don’t know what’s gotten into my bright, sociable teenager, besides the fact that something is very wrong. No parent ever wants to think that drug use might explain their child’s upsetting behavior. If only I had known how to spot it and what would help her most.
In a nationwide survey of parents of high schoolers, most said they would know if their kids were using drugs, yet failed to recognize most of the warning signs. Nor did they know that young women are at high risk.
In fact, girls 13 and up is the fastest-growing group of illicit drug users, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It’s more important than ever for parents to know the signs.
 
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Know the signs

Of the dozens of tip-offs to possibly risky drug use in teens, two especially set off warning bells about young women. Is her hair unwashed or messy, her clothing rumpled or stained? Has she switched her group of friends? Do you know who she is hanging out with?
Adolescent girls who lack concern about their appearance and stop seeing their friends tend to be depressed and isolated, which puts them at risk of using drugs.

What you can do

Use the experience of other parents of girls with drug dependency. We all wish we’d trusted our intuition that something significant was wrong sooner. If she won’t talk to you, find a therapist trained in adolescent behavior.

Know the why

Depression goes up for both genders when puberty hits, but it’s nearly three times higher in girls, according to Anita Gurian in the study “Depression in Adolescence: Does Gender Matter?”
A major factor: Estrogen levels spike during her menstrual cycle and cause dopamine, a mood balancer, to plummet. That’s when she’s more likely to self-medicate, and if she does, she may feel better – for a little while. But if she continues to self-medicate with illicit drugs, she’ll feel worse.
This is partly because serotonin, another feel-good chemical, decreases with the input of artificial highs in the brain. She’s left feeling worse than ever and needs more of the substance just to feel “normal.” It turns into a vicious cycle.

What you can do

Use carrots, not sticks. Suggest stress-busting activities that stimulate feel-good brain chemicals, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, creative expression, and physical exercise.
Trauma can occur after a deeply disturbing or distressing experience. As many as 80 percent of women seeking treatment for drug abuse report histories of sexual and/or physical assault, including young women who’ve undergone date rape – a significant risk for young women.
When highly stressed, her brain produces more of the stress hormone cortisol, which lingers longer in women’s bodies than men’s and leads to the depletion of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone.” Her altered brain chemistry tends to pull her away from relationships, leading to isolation and the risk of self-medicating.

What you can do

Again, find a good therapist. Experts say it takes time, in particular for women, to be able to open up and talk about trauma. But therapy can help rebuild her sense of safety and trust and reach out.

Know the talk

Talk to her when you’re both calm. Not, for example, at the end of a long school day or three in the morning when she’s broken curfew. Approach her with kindness, but be firm.
Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?”, try “What’s troubling you?” Give her choices to get help: “Do you want to go to a therapist or outpatient treatment?” But allow her to face the consequences of her actions: “Do you want to give up your cellphone for a week or miss the party next weekend?”
Don’t stop talking to her. Young women who are stressed, depressed, and/or using drugs can be masters of manipulation and denial. Know that these are symptoms of the brain disorder of addiction. The goal is to get her healthy, so stick to your bottom line.
Mine came when I found drug paraphernalia in my daughter’s room after I thought she had stopped using. I knew that relapse is especially frequent for young women, and it can take more than one try. I framed my ultimatum as a choice: You can go to a recovery center or I’ll help you find a new place to live.
She chose treatment again at a women-centered program, and after a lot of help from addiction counselors, therapists, a peer recovery group, and Medicine Assisted Therapy, she became the vibrant, sociable, productive young woman I knew she could be.

Know the walk

Practically the first thing I learned about dealing with addiction in a child was to lock up medications or dispose of them safely. Many parents also remove alcohol from the home while their child is abusing it or in new recovery.
It was suggested that I needed to model a healthy lifestyle for my children as I am their main female role model. Or, as another mom put it, if we want them to get healthy, we have to walk the walk.
That’s when I heard the phrase “extreme self-care.” During the years of my daughter’s addiction, I came to see that I needed “me time” more than ever: bubble baths, chocolates, old friends, walks with my lug-head of a dog, quiet moments to focus on what I was grateful for – this precious life.

Know you don’t have to do it alone

I never imagined that I’d become part of a very large club that nobody ever wanted to join: the legion of parents of children with addiction, some in recovery, many not yet.
Between 1991 and 2015, the last year official figures are available, over 61,000 young people from 12 to 25 died from a drug overdose (Centers for Disease Control, 2017). The number of parents and other loved ones who have joined together to share support and resources to fight the worst health epidemic in our nation’s history is growing exponentially.
Being with other people who are dealing with a loved one’s addiction cuts down shame and emotional pain. Being able to talk honestly without being judged is a huge relief. I have met so many good, loving parents struggling as I did to accept, understand, and effectively address their children’s disease.
I take comfort now in being part of the solution, of being one more advocate for those who suffer indirectly from the chronic mental disorder that is addiction. Our children deserve nothing less.

The Swedish Preschool Practice That Makes Kids More Successful

New research into practices at some Swedish preschools suggests that a gender-neutral environment has far reaching benefits for children.

How important is a gender-neutral approach in kindergarten? Does it really matter if boys are dissuaded from playing with dolls and domestic toys, or girls are expected to love hair and beauty? New research into practices at some Swedish preschools suggests that a gender-neutral environment has far reaching benefits for children.
A study into the effects of different preschool teaching practices, carried out by the Uppsala Child and Baby Lab in collaboration with researchers from UK and US universities and published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, indicates that gender-neutral preschools turn out children who are more likely to succeed.
When researchers compared children who attended kindergartens with gender-neutral practice to children from other pre-schools, they found that those who had attended gender-neutral preschools had a reduced tendency to gender-stereotype and gender-segregate, which researchers say could widen the opportunities available to them.
Compared to children from other preschools, children from gender-neutral preschool were:

  • more likely to be interested in playing with children of the opposite gender
  • equally likely to notice another person’s gender
  • less likely to make stereotypical assumptions based on gender

 
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Researcher Ben Kenward told the Quartz website that children from gender-neutral preschools, “seem more open to certain experiences than children from more typical schools. Given that children develop through play and through interactions with peers, and that many play activities (like playing with blocks) that promote development are traditionally gendered, then it would be reasonable to assume that this is likely to improve these children’s development and future success.”
There are often misconceptions around the term “gender-neutral” but in this context it refers to an awareness of how cultural norms around gender are created and reinforced. Gender-neutral kindergartens are inclusive. They don’t divide children by gender. Words like “people,” “children,” or “friends” are used in place of “girls” or “boys” and, in Sweden, the pronoun “Hen” is used instead of “He” or “She.
In gender-neutral preschools, toys are not segregated into typical boy/girl sections, children can take part in any activity they like without being told that some activities are more suited to one gender, and teachers are trained to avoid any behavior that would be seen as gender specific, such as complimenting girls on pretty clothes, or referring to “big strong boys.”
The Upssala research is a relatively small study, because gender-neutral schools are rare, even in Sweden. Eighty children aged three to six were interviewed; 30 of them were enrolled at a gender-neutral school, while the other 50 attended two other typical preschools.
Although the sample size was small, researchers say they have statistical confidence in the effects’ existence. One issue that was raised was whether differences in family background caused the effects, but when parents who reported choosing their preschools based on gender-related teaching methods were removed from the sample, the effects remained.
A wealth of previous research, books, articles, and websites on the topic of gender stereotyping in childhood support the conclusion that gender stereotypes negatively impact on all children, regardless of gender. Previous research from the The National Association for the Education of Young Children showed that access to a wide range of toys helps children to develop different skills. A 2010 paper published in Child Development said that children were less likely to play with children who were not their own gender when their teachers took pains to highlight differences between girls and boys. Finally, 2013 research from the University of Kent revealed that negative stereotypes about boys hinders their academic achievement.
It might not be easy to find a preschool that overtly markets itself as gender-neutral, but a few prepared questions about gender issues on visits to prospective kindergartens should give parents an idea of how inclusive the practice is, as well as highlight the fact that many parents want to see gender stereotypes challenged. Gender-neutral practice in preschools aims to reduce differences in the opportunities available to children of different genders and from the evidence so far, it seems to work.

Six Ways Dads Can Help Raise Feminist Sons

Dads need to teach boys that men and women should be on the same side, and men should be vocal advocates for women to have the same privileges they do.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” offers a guide for raising our girls to be feminists. It’s a slim but powerful read, and I gained insight from the book and will likely read it many times throughout my life.
While Adichie’s advice can work to help moms raise their daughters and sons as feminist, it’s equally important for dads to be partners in raising feminist sons. Setting an example is powerful, and I’ve seen that since my husband is invested in teaching our son that men should be feminists. The six most powerful moves he’s made to help steer our son that direction are simple but have a major impact on a boy’s view of women.

1 | Don’t accept praise for “women’s work”

My husband stood carrying one of our identical twins in a Moby wrap, patting her bottom and bouncing her to sleep. The people around us swooned, showering him with praise for his hands-on parenting and his willingness to get out of his seat and comfort his child.
I stood less than five feet from him carrying our other twin in a Moby, except I was discreetly breastfeeding at the same time. Not one word of praise found me.
Apparently that’s because I’m the mom, and our boys live in a world where moms are expected to cook meals, change diapers, and calm babies. Dads are bona fide heroes if they join in to help.
My husband could have basked in these kind words and acknowledged all the work he was doing to be super dad. He didn’t. He never does, and he is quick to explain to our son that dads shouldn’t receive praise for doing what moms do every day.
Dads need to explain to boys, and the adults offering these accolades for a man doing “women’s work”, that parenting is parenting. Cooking is cooking. Cleaning is cleaning. None of it is gender specific, and men should not expect or receive special rewards for doing it.
 
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2 | Expose boys to female super heroes

DC hero Wonder Woman, “The Force Awakens'” heroine Rey, and resistance fighter Jyn Urso from “Rogue One” are leading the pack when it comes to strong females on screen. While these characters are beloved examples of empowered women, some male fans complained via social media when writers and directors chose to continue to make movies with female leads, implying that they couldn’t be as rich or engaging as males. Product vendors were even told not to focus on Rey toys because boys wouldn’t want a girl action figure.
To counterattack these hugely ignorant, damaging beliefs, dads should put girl action figures in boys’ hands. Teach them when they are partaking in imaginative play that it is fine for a boy to play a girl’s part. We don’t panic when our girls pretend to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, good guys with admirable skills. Why should we panic when our boys express a desire to use a light saber like Rey or lead the resistance like Jyn?
Grab autobiographies of women and share them with boys. Read through A Mighty Girl with them and teach them about girls and women who are making a difference in the world.

3 | Don’t differentiate between hobbies

Letting the aisles at a store dictate a child’s interest is a mistake. Manufacturers seem to believe boys can’t play with dolls and girls never want to build anything but their wardrobes.
Dads need to present all options to boys when it comes to hobbies, and not let the default response be that girls’ hobbies are different and therefore lesser. Boys can be in ballet. Boys can design clothes. Boys can collect cars and play with blocks. So can girls.

4 | Don’t blame a female for a man’s thoughts or actions

The conversation about how women should dress and act has been around for years. Preventing men from sexually harassing or ogling a woman’s body is often cited as the major reason women should embrace modesty. Though obviously unfair, both men and women parrot this belief, passing on to boys that a woman can be blamed for a man’s thoughts or actions.
Teach boys to deal with their own feelings and actions, and never use a woman’s attire to justify their thoughts or behavior. Teach them to scrutinize their own impulse to treat a woman like an object, rather than assume she wants to be stared at or subjected to cat calls just because she is wearing a pair of shorts or a bikini. Why are they looking for an excuse to view her as less than a person? Why are they demoting her to eye candy?

5 | Encourage coed friendships

It’s great for kids to have friends who are the same gender, but it’s equally important for them to have friends who are the opposite sex. Boys learn from friendships with girls that females aren’t the weaker sex and have great ideas of their own. They may also be less likely to tolerate other males labeling girls as dreaded, different, or cootie carriers.
Dads should also talk about their female friends, female bosses, and important females in their lives. Boys need to understand that reaching out beyond the boys’ club is much better than drawing boundaries and keeping women out.

6 | Teach boys that feminism is not male bashing

People who fear feminism often don’t fully understand the term. They believe it is women desiring a world without men, and using their voices only to tear down males. Not one male or female feminist I know actually feels this way.
Feminism is just the belief that a woman is equal to a man and that she deserves the same rights. It’s simple. In our house full of feminists, we don’t male bash. When my oldest daughter was gifted a shirt that read “girls rule, boys drool” it immediately found its way to the trash. Boys don’t have to drool for girls to rule, or vice versa. We can coexist, equally empowered.
Dads need to teach boys that men and women should be on the same side, and men should be vocal advocates for women to have the same privileges they do. Feminism is not a threat to men, but boys who are scared of empowered women are a threat to us all.

The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Manopause

it is high time men of a certain age come to terms with their new status as “elder statesmen” and drop the game.

Men of a Certain Age
Volume 2 (of 3)

 
Aging piles on changes that need to be met with gradual (and sometimes dramatic) changes in our approach to life. We need to begin the process of letting go of youthful ideas and pursuits. We need to turn inward to examine our life choices. We need to change our diets to reflect different metabolic needs. We need to change our exercise regimes to be more restorative and less depleting.
What is demanded of us, then, is a redefinition of ourselves within the context of our personal lives, and our culture. More problematically, aging forces us to redefine ourselves to ourselves. We need to do the painful work of dispelling our own delusions about who we are. The funny (read tragic) part is that we are often the last to know.
Men are fierce protectors of our egos, which do not allow us to see or show weakness or admit the diminution of our skills or status. What might be painfully obvious to everyone around us we often refuse to admit to ourselves. This is the emotional and psychological impact of Manopause.
I had this revelation when I was being playful… okay, I was flirting, with a young woman who works the counter at the local coffee shop. She, I realized (because I am incredibly astute and emotionally aware) did not find me at all attractive. This should not come as a surprise to a 47-year-old man. She is at least half my age, and much closer in age to my teenage son than to me. It occurred to me that when I was her age, perhaps 23, people my age seemed ancient!
I’m sure young women in service jobs, or any job, have oodles of stories to tell about gross older men being inappropriate with them – not that I was being disrespectful or insinuating that our interaction should be anything other than the transactional process of buying a cup of coffee. The disconnect I experienced, though, was one of imagining myself as the handsome young man of my 20s, who might have turned her head back in the day. But the dude she saw in front of her looked like her dad.
Some older gents never lose that flirtatious side. At some point, it can become cute again, as long as it doesn’t stray into lasciviousness. I have seen younger women accept it and even play into it. This must be standard for waitresses, who make their bread and butter on tips and know how to deal with all types of weird male behavior.
For the most part, I think it is high time men of a certain age come to terms with their new status as “elder statesmen” and drop the game. We are in a new era of feminine awareness and empowerment, and men have to wake up and contribute to the rising consciousness. These are our sisters and our daughters. Respect them for the autonomous beings they are, with their own ideas and agency.
That is not to say there isn’t a place for gendered roles and the biologically hardwired signals that we send and receive as sexual beings. We just need to be conscious of our biologically triggered thoughts, feelings, and emotions and be mindful of how to handle them when we experience them.
Our society victimizes young men (and consequently women of all ages) by teaching us to disconnect our bodies from our emotions: “Man-up! Don’t be a pussy!” As a result, we decouple our own emotional sensitivity from the feelings and agency of others, especially women, who become viewed as objects of desire and conquest, without the burden of attaching a mind and a spirit to those bodies.
This is a violent process; it abuses not only women but the male psyche as well. Men are discouraged from connecting with ourselves emotionally and, at the same time, encouraged to appraise the female bodies around us as parts and pieces, like fruit in a market. This is the legacy of our cultural evolution, the vestiges of deep biological and sociological programming rearing its ugly head.
We need not be slaves to our biology or our history. We have minds as well as bodies, and we need to use our minds to make choices about how we present and represent ourselves. The things that we’ve become, the ways we identify ourselves in the world, start to matter less. The solid ground of meaning has shifted beneath our feet. We also start to take on things, that require a different set of skills.
My best buddy and I have been processing these emerging truths together. He recently said to me, “I’ve become overwhelmed with what I’ve taken on and overwhelmed with what I’m losing, with what I’m letting go of. I’ve taken on some huge responsibilities – a family, a mortgage, a place in an institution where a lot of people depend on me. To make room for these things, other things have to give way, things I really care about such as friendships, creativity, spontaneity.”
When you’re young, the universe pours energy into you. You’re a vessel of potential. As you age, you need to work, hard, just to maintain what you have. At some point, it slips away anyway. The trick is to train for longevity – to prepare yourself to still have some vigor, flexibility, and, hopefully, also a little bit of money when you’re 80.
The hardest part of this transition is coming to terms with the fact that you have limitations. You have to accept that you don’t have unlimited energy anymore. Instead, you need to attune yourself to the energy you have to work with.
By the time we’re 40, most of us have come to an understanding of who we are, psychologically, sexually, physically, and emotionally. We have some understanding of our place in society. We may not be happy with it, but we are no longer pubescent teens discovering these things about ourselves for the first time.
Men have fragile egos. (Big secret REVEALED!) The male ego balances precariously on a delicate structure of our imagined status (where we think we belong in the social pecking order) and our actual status, which is an ever shifting social construct. Status is dependent on what others think, believe, feel, and understand about us.
A man may believe himself to be strong, good looking, and powerful and have those images of himself reinforced in a certain social milieu – let’s say at the gym, for example. That same man, put into a different context where different traits are valued more highly – say at a mathematics conference at M.I.T. – may find himself in the uncomfortable position of not getting the attention he’s used to. His status is dependent on each social situation in which he finds himself.
As we age, it becomes difficult to maintain strength and good looks due to our body’s natural aging processes. Men who spent a good deal of time and energy investing in those aspects of youth that bring one power, prowess, and status may have to work that much harder to redefine themselves when nature starts to take it away.
So basically, aging sucks. But it’s better than the alternative.
Check out Volume 1 (“Manopause: Yep, It’s a Thing. Sorry, Dude.”) and stay tuned for Volume 3, in which I leave you feeling enlightened and enjoying a deep sense of spiritual harmony that will last til the end of your days.

The Future of Science Needs Our Daughters' Perspectives

There are surprising benefits to giving a girl an extra push into STEM – and it starts at home.

When she was in high school, my mother-in-law took an aptitude test. She had an exceptional mind for engineering, the test said, scoring in the 99th percentile for math and science. As a woman who excelled in science, her guidance counselor told her, she would make a perfect librarian.
It’s a moment that changed her life. When the door to a career in science was closed on her face and she was told to pursue a woman’s job instead, she listened. She never became an engineer, but every time she tinkered with a broken household appliance, she would wonder what might have been.
Today, women have a lot more opportunities than our parents’ generation did, but that doesn’t mean their prospects are completely equal. Even with laws that promise equal careers, women have to struggle against the weight of history.
There are still far more men in STEM jobs than women, and that’s not just because of sexist hiring practices. Women still aren’t going after those careers in the same numbers as men, even when they do have equal opportunities.
That might not seem like a problem. After all, why shouldn’t a woman go into whatever career she wants? The fear of STEM subjects has a lot more to do with tradition than most people realize, and it’s affecting female equality.
There are surprising benefits to giving a girl an extra push into STEM – and it starts at home.

Men’s Jobs Pay Better

There are jobs we think of as “a man’s work” and jobs we think of as “a woman’s work”. The jobs women had in the past, before they had the same opportunities as men, still hold a place in our minds as jobs for women – and it affects the jobs women choose.
Even today, 97% of kindergarten teachers and 83% of librarians are female. Those women’s jobs from older generations are still dominated by women, even when they have the opportunity to choose something else. Likewise, traditionally male jobs are still dominated by men. More women have been taking them, but 80% of engineers of 92% of computer programmers are still male.
This is a huge part of the reason women still don’t make as much money as men. All those jobs that have historically been dominated by women still don’t pay as well. A woman who goes into a traditionally female field simply won’t get paid as much as someone working a so-called “man’s job”.
Of all traditionally male jobs, STEM pays the best off the bat. Elementary school teachers today – 80% of whom are women – have an average starting salary of $34,891. Engineers, on the other hand – 80% of whom are men – have an average starting salary of $64,891 – nearly twice what a teacher makes.

Women Pass Math Anxiety On To Their Daughters

So why don’t women go into STEM? A lot of it has to do with tradition. There used to be panicked talks about why girls didn’t do as well in math as boys. Some wondered if women were just inherently inferior at math – but hardly anyone ever pointed out the obvious. These women didn’t even have the option of getting into a STEM career. What was the point of trying in math class?
This still affects women today. They might be told they have the same opportunities as men, but their education – 97% of the time – starts with a woman who was raised to believe she could never be good at math.
This affects girls a lot. Studies have shown that, when a woman with math anxiety teaches an elementary class, the girls become less confident in their math ability. The girls see a woman struggling with math and start thinking it’s part of their gender and there’s nothing they can do to change it.
Meanwhile, the boys, if anything, feel more confident than ever. They just start to accept that math skills are in their biology. The boys will succeed, the girls will fail, and there’s no reason to try to fight it.

When women believe, they succeed at STEM

Girls’ math scores are not written in their biology. Women have the potential to do as well as men on math tests – they’ve just been slowed down by a lack of opportunity. In the past, math wasn’t supposed to be a part of their future, and so they didn’t ace their tests – and they passed that anxiety on to the next generation.
Times are changing. Women are starting to catch up with men’s math scores. In 1972, women’s scores on the SAT trailed men’s by 38 points. As time has gone on, though, and women have started feeling more confident in Math, they’ve started catching up. Today, they trail men by 31 points. There’s still a gap – but it’s getting smaller.
If they believe they can do well in math and science, they actually will, and all those jobs that pay so much more money don’t have to be dominated by men.

Female Scientists Make The World A Better Place

It’s about more than just money, though. When women become scientists, they bring a new perspective into how our world works. It gives us people like Marie Curie and Jane Goodall who looked at the world from a different angle and brought about some incredible discoveries.
It starts at home. We can wish our daughters had better teachers or that traditionally female jobs got better wages, and we might even be able to make those changes happen – but they won’t happen today. It’ll take years before these social problems are alleviated and while those years are passing by, our daughters are getting older.
We can give our daughters confidence right now. We can nurture their interest in math and science and build up their ability before they walk into their first classroom. We can ensure that, when their teachers introduce math and science, they never have to doubt their ability to do everything the boys can do.

The Importance of Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Girls

Why the focus on girls? Because, statistics.

The messages are good and confusing and start from a surprisingly young age.
“Don’t cry!”
“You’ll be fine”
“Don’t be such a drama queen”
Our culture is not known for its tolerance of emotion. After all, emotions can be loud. Emotions can be messy, and emotions can be challenging. Look no further than your neighborhood park to observe the overt discomfort parents’ display in response to a small child’s feelings. If you are a young female, odds are, you are caught up in this crossfire of contradictory messages in more ways than one.
Why the focus on girls? Because, statistics. We have reason for concern that the chronic avoidance and minimization of feelings is of particular detriment to our girls as research has long indicated that girls are significantly more likely to develop an anxiety disorder and have rates of depression in adolescence that are two times greater than males. They also struggle with a myriad of complex dynamics in their social development.
Rachel Simmons, author of the bestselling book ‘The Curse of the Good Girl” writes,

“We have long assumed that just because girls have lots of emotions, they must be good at managing them. If we allow myths about their emotional aptitudes to influence parenting and teaching, we overlook a gaping hole in girls’ development.”

Gaping hole indeed. We continue to observe girls struggling to identify, accept, and properly cope with challenging emotions, and in fact, many times actually see them ignoring, minimizing, and devaluing their feelings.
Emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and manage our emotions, is a strong predictor of future success and well-being. It’s time to start laying the groundwork for our girls’ emotional competence.

There are no bad feelings

There is perhaps nothing more universal among humans than emotion. Our feelings are a part of us, and to shut ourselves off from certain emotions is to shut off a part of ourselves, creating a dangerous recipe for stuffing (or internalizing) our feelings.
Yet from a young age, girls learn that complicated feelings such as anger and jealousy seem to be off limits and looked at as negative by adults. This leads to patterns of denying and avoiding our emotions, which is a slippery slope for our girls toward anxiety and depression.
Parents can turn the tides of this pattern by affirming that all feelings are normal and helping their girls gain mastery in the language of emotions. When our daughters are given the language to identify all their feelings, they are given the power to understand and manage their complicated inner lives. We know that when we verbally acknowledge an emotion we’re experiencing, it actually sets off a series of neurotransmitters which act as a calming agent to the nervous system.
Parents have a massive amount of influence when it comes to teaching acceptance and identification of emotions.

  • Stay calm when your child is in the midst of an emotional storm, you are the lifeline they desperately need to get back to shore.
  • Remain present throughout their outburst, demonstrating to them that you are there to support them with intense emotions.
  • Use books and visuals to help identify and label emotions accurately. Doing so helps girls to develop a wide emotional vocabulary to express themselves with.
  • Point out how a powerful feeling is manifesting physically or behaviorally. This helps to cultivate emotional self-awareness, “your eyebrows look so mad!” “Your fists and muscles are very tight!” “you don’t want to clean up when you’re angry!”

Emotions come and go

If we were asked to list out our go-to coping strategies when stressed or overwhelmed, the list might range from binge eating our child’s stale Halloween candy all the way to yoga and meditation. The more we know ourselves and how we function under stress – including tendencies, both positive and negative to manage it – the better we can learn to take care of ourselves.
Starting from young ages, girls can learn to tolerate a wide range of emotions by using beneficial coping strategies to help them ride out the wave of overwhelming feelings. We know from research that when girls are able to problem solve and access an arsenal of healthy coping tools, they are less likely to engage in unhealthy means of coping: i.e. food, self-harm, drugs to name just a few.
The list of coping and calming techniques is endless and is only limited by what soothes and comforts your daughter’s body, mind, and senses.

  • Listening to music on headphones
  • Journaling
  • Journaling via art in a sketchbook
  • Reading
  • Calming scents
  • Soft blankets or stuffed animals
  • Stress balls, figets or putty
  • Warm bath, warm drinks, heating pad
  • Quiet time
  • Talking
  • Exercise

Providing the space, materials, and encouragement to your daughter in an effort to help her learn what grounds her while she is young will serve her emotional well-being for life.

Modeling

Hands down, the most powerful lessons our daughters will learn about coping with their emotions will come from watching the adults in their lives. If parents aim to model healthy coping strategies for their daughters, they must come to terms with their own beliefs and personal narratives around girls and the expression of strong emotions.
Spending time reflecting on the following questions can help to bring subconscious patterns to light:

  • Was open expression of emotion tolerated from females around me when I was young?
  • How were expressions of anger or sadness met in my family?
  • Am I unintentionally passing on unhealthy messages about emotion?
  • Am I modeling the coping skills I aim to teach my daughter?

The best thing a parent can do to enrich their daughter’s emotional experience is to practice empathy with them. When we aim to understand and share in her feelings, we demonstrate that her feelings are valid, and thus that she as a person is valid.
Help a girl accept her emotions, help her accept herself.

13 Smartest Female Characters From Movies, TV, and Books

No matter their gender, kids will love watching and reading about these female brainiacs.

Move over, Sherlock Holmes! The girl geniuses have arrived.
These days, some of the smartest characters from kids’ movies, TV shows, and books are female. With research published in 2017 indicating that girls start underestimating their own intelligence by the age of six, it’s clear that brainy media role models matter. A lot.
Despite high-IQ heroines such as Princess Leia and Lisa Simpson, female characters are overwhelmingly focused on looks and appearance and often more concerned with love and romance than academic or career goals.
Studies have demonstrated the significant ways that TV, movies, and other media influence body image and gender stereotypes, as do the high percentage of hypersexualized female characters in kids’ media – even in cartoons. Thankfully, though, there are so many awesome female characters out there charting a new path.
We’ve compiled this list of some of the brightest and brainiest female characters from movies, TV, and books. These 13 gals are great examples of positive media role models for girls – and for boys, too. After all, where would Harry Potter be without Hermione?
No matter their gender, kids will love watching and reading about these female brainiacs. When they’re done, they can check out some of our other favorite female role models from movies, TV, and books.

Mulan

Strong, smart, and strategic, this Disney “princess” never lets the boys, or the bad guys, underestimate her. Mulan uses her resourcefulness and ingenuity to stand out in an army full of men and solve seemingly impossible problems, such as saving all of China from invading forces.

Calpurnia Tate

Even as she struggles with the limited roles available to her as a girl growing up in 1899, 12-year-old Callie demonstrates exceptional curiosity for science and the natural world. She rescues animals and aspires to be a veterinarian in two book series aimed at middle-grade as well as younger readers.

Hermione Granger

It’s impossible to imagine the “Harry Potter” books and movies without this intelligent young witch who knows all the answers (or hits the library to figure them out). The ultimate smart girl, Hermione uses her brains and her books to help defeat Voldemort and ace her classes while she’s at it.

Leia Organa

Otherwise known as Princess Leia, this Resistance general uses her strategic mind and unfaltering sense of justice to bring peace back to a galaxy far, far away. She’s as comfortable leading a mission to destroy the Death Star as she is repairing a spaceship. And not to mention, her leadership helped inspire a few other smart “Star Wars” women: Rey and Jyn Erso.

Akeelah Anderson

At only 11 years old, Akeelah studies, works hard, and overcomes personal challenges to reach her goal of being a spelling bee champion in “Akeelah and the Bee”. Not only is she a gifted speller, Akeelah also learns to embrace her talents and passion instead of hiding her intelligence to fit in.

Meg Murry

The daughter of two brilliant scientists, Meg Murry of “A Wrinkle in Time” has an innate knack for math and science, even though her grades don’t always show it. She even helps her older brother with his homework. On top of that, it’s her strong mind that eventually allows her to save her father from the clutches of the evil IT.

Annabeth Chase

It’s no surprise that the daughter of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, would be a genius. Annabeth is clever, brave, and analytical, with a wide variety of skills, ranging from designing buildings to weaving. A master strategist, she frequently uses her intelligence to help her friends in the Percy Jackson book series and movies.

Violet Baudelaire

This mechanically minded 14-year-old uses her sharp intellect to get herself and her siblings out of a number of sticky spots in “A Series of Unfortunate Events“, a book series that has been made into a movie and a Netflix series. Violet is also a natural inventor who creates grappling hooks, lock picks, signaling devices, and more from seemingly random parts.

Elizabeth Bennet

Accomplished and well-read, Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice” uses her knowledge and wit to win people over in a society where relationships are everything. She’s perceptive, self-assured, and, most surprisingly, willing to accept when she’s wrong, proving that she’s more interested in knowledge and truth than in being right.

Lisa Simpson

As sharp as her pointy hair, Lisa is much smarter than the average second-grader, though it certainly helps that she’s been the same age for nearly 30 years while “The Simpsons” has been on the air. Though she’s just a kid, Lisa’s sophisticated views on social issues and world affairs, prodigious talent on the saxophone, and intellectual nature set her apart.

Elle Woods

This sorority girl turned law student rejects the stereotype that being smart and being feminine are mutually exclusive. It’s not only her optimism that gets Elle into Harvard Law in “Legally Blonde“. She’s also a bright, tenacious student, who refuses to change who she is to fit in. She also uses her skills and wit to help others.

Betty Suarez

With an impressive work ethic and loads of self-confidence, “Ugly Betty” is a strong, smart role model who stays true to herself no matter the situation. Betty’s ambition and career as a journalist are all due to her intelligence, passion, and dedication.

Leslie Knope

As ambitious as she is kind, Leslie Knope turns a minor job in a small-town Parks and Rec department into an impressive political career. She’s intelligent, determined, and fiercely organized, and she refuses to stop working until she’s achieved her goal, no matter how many elaborately detailed binders it takes.
Who are some of your favorite smart girls from movies, TV, and books?
Written by Frannie Ucciferri for Common Sense Media