Archive for the 'childhood' Category
I don’t want to spend the day crying, but here are two interesting articles on gun culture and family responsibility that you might find interesting. First, sociologist Randall Collins says in Lessons from Newtown for Gun-Owning Parents what I was trying to say in this post, only with actual knowledge and a sociological perspective. He writes about the murderer and his mother:
How could she be so blind? Everything her son did, she interpreted as a manifestation of his illness. The windows taped shut with black plastic were to her just a sign of sensitiveness to light—even though he could go outdoors when he wanted to. The possibility that he was hiding something in the rooms she was forbidden to enter was masked in her own mind by the feeling that she must do everything possible for her son. He had drawn her into his mental illness, building up a family system where he was in complete control. She may have felt something was wrong, wronger even than having a mentally ill son she loved. Though it seems unlikely that they quarreled in an overt way, some signs of tension came through. According to the report, “a person who knew the shooter in 2011 and 2012 said the shooter described his relationship with his mother as strained” and said that “her behavior was not rational.” He told another that he would not care if his mother died. As usual, when one person loves the other much more than is reciprocated, the power is all on the side of the less loving.The mother entered into and supported his obsession with weapons, while carefully staying out of his clandestine world. In this, as in the rest of their arrangements, they tacitly cooperated. The mother lost her capacity to make independent judgments. This is very close to the classic model of the mental illness shared among intimates, the folie à deux.
Next, Joan Wickersham buys three gun enthusiast magazines and analyzes what they’re selling their readers–mostly fantasies that combine total powerlessness (due to end times, the collapse of civilization, or maybe Barack Obama’s evil stormtroopers) with the belief that a lone gunowner can offer heroic resistance: Continue Reading »
For the past twenty years or so, I’ve been a semi-regular donor to my private undergraduate college.* I write some pretty big checks in reunion years, and while I sometimes miss a year or two, I’ve given that institution between $1000-1,500 in the past four years. On the other hand, the pleas from my graduate institution go right into the recycling bin, as does their monthly alumni magazine. (Honestly: what a waste of paper and fuel!) When I get mail from this university, I am disgusted that this large, private research university (which benefits from all kinds of government contracts, including morally objectionable work for the Pentagon, etc.) dares to ask me (me!)for a share of my modest income.
But let’s think about which institution has done the most to help me earn that modest income: clearly, it’s my graduate institution, which granted me the Ph.D. that made me eligible to work as a tenure-track historian in the first place. Besides: my undergraduate college charged me and my parents thousands of dollars a year for the honor of matriculating, whereas I went to grad school for free! It’s true: I had a T.A.ship and two years of dissertation support, so I not only didn’t have to pay or even borrow a dime, they paid me! So why do I react with such disgust and resentment when my graduate institution asks me for money? That seems pretty unfair, doesn’t it? But the fact of the matter is that I was happy in college, and I was (mostly) unhappy in graduate school, at least in my first year there. Continue Reading »
After reading Cristina Nehring’s breathtakingly nasty review (described in the previous post) of Rachel Adams’s Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery (Yale University Press, 2013) I just had to read it myself. So, a borrowed copy from our in-state interlibrary loan system arrived this week, and I’ve spent the last few days in my head with Rachel Adams and her family as they adjust to the surprise of having a child with Down syndrome. I found the book smart, funny, and incredibly moving. I also ordered a copy of it for our university library, as I hope it finds a wide audience of readers among parents, teachers, therapists, and people who work in medicine.
Raising Henry is also very self-deprecating–so many of the scenes that Nehring pretended to be offended by are clearly moments in which Adams is holding herself up for criticism or even ridicule. One of the things I really like about Adams’s style is that she doesn’t brook any false piety about motherhood. She doesn’t want to be informed that Henry is an “angel” sent to her by God for a special purpose. She’s a secular (and highly successful) academic: before becoming a mother, she loved having an entire room of their apartment as her office, where she could “work in pajamas and screen my calls, surrounded by piles of books and notes.” (Isn’t that the fantasy of every humanist you know? Those of us who live outside Upper Manhattan, where third and fourth bedrooms are much cheaper to come by, are frequently living that dream, Historiann included!) When she and her husband move into a two-bedroom apartment of their own upon the birth of their first (non-disabled) son, she confesses to “imagining what it would be like to write in his big sunny room, my research spread out in the space that now held a crib, a changing table, and growing numbers of brightly colored plastic toys,” (82). Like youth, expensive real estate is sometimes wasted on the young.
Adams is also the author of Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2001) and a scholar of disability studies, and she incorporates insights from her decades of research in this field into her book about her younger son, Henry. Continue Reading »
My own boys, at 8 and 10, are too young for Axe. . . or so I shall insist to myself until they are about 40. But after a single day at the beach this past August, when they shared a bathroom with their big hockey-playing Axe-scented cousin-slash-hero, even the 8-year-old was smearing his small hairless self with the body wash, the deodorant, and, in case he still couldn’t be smelled from the next pier over, the spray cologne. I decided to handle this olfactory terrorism like a mature adult: several days of merciless teasing. Dinners quickly became unbearable, with three Axe-drenched young people fogging up all tastes and smells until your pasta simply tasted like the painful ache at the back of your tongue that occurs when every boy in the house sees a daily Axe dip as part of his grooming. On it went, until the final weekend at the beach, when I found myself trapped in the shower with only a bottle of three-in-one Axe ™ product (shampoo, body-wash, and conditioner). So I broke down and used it.
Sunshine. Harps. It was the most sublimely powerful fragrance experience of my adult life. Truly. After decades of smelling like a flower or a fruit, for the first time ever, I smelled like teen boy spirit. I smelled the way an adolescent male smells when he feels that everything good in the universe is about to be delivered to him, possibly by girls in angel wings. I had never smelled this entitled in my life. I loved it. I wanted more. Continue Reading »
When Tenured Radical wrote a blog post about the “Grafton Challenge” this summer, I was both impressed and completely intimidated by the blistering pace at which Tony Grafton writes: 3,500 words a day! Amazing. Then when she followed up to report that Matthew Gutterl had drafted a book this summer by. . . sitting down to write every day and cutting out distractions like blogging!. . . I thought to myself: how much longer do I really want to live with the book I’m writing now, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright? Isn’t it time to move on?
So, I decided to finish a rough draft of my book this fall, with Christmas day as my drop-dead date. When I finished the second draft of Abraham in Arms eight years ago, the only time I had to myself that was completely free of familial distractions or responsibilities was from 4-6 a.m. So, several days a week I now get out of bed at 4 a.m. and try to write for two hours. It’s not as difficult as you’d think. Caffeine helps, as does a shockingly early bedtime the night before. I’ve had a cold this week, and the high-test antihistamines I’m on also give me a kick. (I think it’s the stuff they cook meth out of, so no wonder.) I prefer the silence of the tomb when I work, and my brain is freshest first thing in the morning, so 4-6 a.m. it is.
(I was reviewing a chapter I had already drafted, and I re-read something I had written last summer about how the Ursuline nuns I’m writing about would rise at 4 a.m. to begin their day. Coincidence? Continue Reading »
Sorry for the radio silence–we’re back to school and I’m up to my skirt in it already. If you’re looking for something to read over the lunch hour, go read Monica Potts’s sympathetic, sad exploration of the life and death of Crystal Wilson in “What’s Killing Poor White Women?” in The American Prospect.
Wilson isn’t anyone you’ve probably ever heard of, but Potts makes her obscure life and death in Cave City, Arkansas, a fascinating case study. The author aruges that the death of opportunity in rural America has hit girls and women without high school degrees especially hard. It also implies towards the end that feminism is at least part of the cure. In the words of the technology coordinator for the Cave City schools Julie Johnson,
“You don’t even hear about women’s lib, because that’s come and gone. Continue Reading »
I’ve been putting the finishing touches on an essay on age in American history, and one of the editors asked me what seemed like a completely reasonable question, viz., “did everyone in early America know their birthdays and their exact ages?” I had to confess that I didn’t even know if birthdays were common knowledge among Anglo-Americans, let alone Native Americans, enslaved Africans or African Americans, or French colonists. I figure that the iced layer-cake with candles on it appeared in the later nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, but I had no clue about colonial North American birthday awareness or celebrations thereof.
A little research on birthdays (or “birth-days,” as it’s more usually spelled in eighteenth-century English-language printed material) suggests that around the turn of the eighteenth century if not earlier, the annual acknowledgement of Anglo-American birthdays appears to have been commonplace. Thomas Foxcroft wrote in The day of a godly man’s death, better than the day of his birth (Boston, 1722) that “The anniversary celebration of birth-days is an ancient custom,” 31. Unfortunately, Foxcroft didn’t leave it at that: Continue Reading »
Judith Warner on “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In:” Why isn’t this story getting all the attention that Lisa Belkin’s “Opting Out” story got a decade ago?
The 22 women I interviewed, for the most part, told me that the perils of leaving the work force were counterbalanced by the pleasures of being able to experience motherhood on their own terms. A certain number of these women — the superelite, you might say, the most well-off, with the highest-value name-brand educational credentials and powerful and well-connected social networks — found jobs easily after extended periods at home. These jobs generally paid less than their previous careers and were less prestigious. But the women found the work more interesting, socially conscious and family-friendly than their old high-powered positions.
. . . . . .
Among the women I spoke with, those who didn’t have the highest academic credentials or highest-powered social networks or who hadn’t been sufficiently “strategic” in their volunteering (fund-raising for a Manhattan private school could be a nice segue back into banking; running bake sales for the suburban swim team tended not to be a career-enhancer) or who had divorced, often struggled greatly.
When Lisa Belkin attempted to reach out this spring to the women she interviewed in 2003, she found a similar mixed picture. Many of the women declined to talk about their lives; a few would talk only if they were not identified. Continue Reading »
Note to all y’all bloggy readers who are mothers of daughters: when they get to be 38-going on 39-years old? And when they tell you to stop riding them like they are fucking teenagers? Listen before they burst into tears. Listen before it becomes a big THING. Because you know what? They will be grown ass women then, and this sort of drama sucks balls. And your daughters really want to spend time with you. They just hate it when you act like motherfucking assholes.
It’s probably a good idea to hold back long before your daughters are 38 or 39, or before they’re even teenagers. Continue Reading »