I Stand Quietly

Dirty, Naked & Happy

I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty, you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.

I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer…

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Antisemitism in France: Yes, No, and Maybe

POINT de VUE: PARIS

vu de pompidou

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo/ policewoman/ kosher market killings here in Paris that took 17 lives last January, people have asked when they might expect to see a ‘point de vue’ on two subjects: whether daily life has changed, and whether antisemitism is on the rise in France. The two are terribly intertwined, for Jews and non-Jews alike.  Were these acts ghastly aberrations, media-genic statistical outliers? Or, is antisemitism at their root and on the march? If it is taking ground, then by how much, how fast? By what measure? How much does one, can one know?

I only live here: in the Marais, the old traditional Jewish enclave. I don’t have insider information and I’m not even sure I think what I think. But everyone can have an opinion– and apparently everyone does. President Netanyahu of Israel expressed his when he invited the Jews of France to…

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Living in the Age of Irony

Queerly Different

A couple of years ago, the always-inflammatorySalonran a piece entitled “The 15 Most Hated Bands of the Last 30 Years.” Included on the list were such hate-favourites as Nickelback (hatred of them has become so common as to be ubiquitous), but also many of the bands whose work came to define the sounds of the ’90s. Think Goo Goo Dolls, Dave Matthews Band, and Hootie and the Blowfish. Surprised to hear that they are the most hated band? So was I. But then again, in many ways I really wasn’t. Though I was incredibly annoyed at rediscovering this list a little over a week ago, I saw it as just another sign that we are indeed still living in “The Age of Irony.”

At first, I couldn’t quite figure out why the list annoyed me so much. Was it simply because they had listed the Goo…

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Eight Ill-Advised Reasons for Getting Married

The History of Love

What would you say makes the most solid foundation for a marriage? Trust? Financial security? The sort of profound and death-defying passion that would make Jack & Rose weep with envy? [let’s face it, they are the modern-day Romeo & Juliet, and I’m only moderately ashamed to admit it.]

It was in the latter half of the eighteenth century that the concept of marrying for love began to gain currency in the English popular mindset, and the younger generation expected a bit more say in who their partner might be. Inevitably, centuries of parental tyranny in these matters meant that alliances negotiated in terms of acreage and titles continued to sweep many reluctant couples to the altar.

Here, however, we have a brilliant print suggesting that many people cannot be trusted with such a momentous decision, giving a range of slightly less conventional – but still remarkably unwise – reasons for marriage. Take…

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The Economics of Book Deals

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

moneyWhen I wrote about my own experience going freelance in my Ultimate Guide to Starting a Freelance Writing Business, I mentioned the specific development that allowed me to quit my day job: a six-figure book advance. I didn’t want to get bogged down in the mechanics of book advances/the state of the publishing industry in that post, which was long and involved enough. That said, a freelancer friend wisely pointed out that I might want to explain that further, in case anyone’s reading that and thinking, “Oh, okay! I’ll just get a six-figure book advance then.” There are a number of reasons that I could think this was a reasonable expectation for me at that time (and these reasons, not coincidentally, double as a list of ways I was lucky):

1. We are talking about the lowest end of “six figures.” (I feel like I’m supposed to be coy about…

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Why I’m Not “Good People”

Jenny's Library

I’m not a nice person.

I’m not a good person.

I’m not a kind person.

This isn’t to say that I don’t ever try to be any of these three things.  I do, especially the last two.

It’s more to say that, for me, surviving in this cissexist, racist, ableist, heteronormative, classist, often fucked up world of ours has involved rejecting the idea that “good” and “bad” are static states of being.  I will never be a “good person” because, to me, “good” is not something that you achieve.  It’s an ongoing process that never ends.

It is, in fact, almost impossible not to be doing bad things as well as good when you are human and therefore flawed.  Especially when you are part of a messed up system, as we all are.

This, to me, is why it’s important to call out bad behavior, or hurtful language, or even…

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That’s Why They’re Called Privates

gendermom

Private-PropertyM.’s dad and I toured a new afterschool program this week. M.’s neighborhood pal, Poppy, goes there, and we thought it would simplify things if M. went, too.

We arrived a little early for the tour, and the director looked at her watch and said, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re early.  Let’s sit down and talk.” Great!  We could get our questions answered about the school before the other parents arrived.

We sat in tiny chairs at a tiny table.  She crossed her hands and gave us a serious look.  “So. M. is ‘trans,’ right?  Is that  the right word?  ‘Trans?'”

Huh? I thought we were going to talk about their art program.

Sigh.

“Yes,” I said. “M. is transgender.”

When I called to schedule the tour, I hadn’t thought about the fact that the director’s step-son used to live two doors down from us, beyond the fact that…

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Search and Rescue

candidkay

My mother, when she was dying, said to me, “There are no wrong answers, Kris.”

She was speaking from the vantage point of someone who has nothing left to lose. Someone with the luxury of looking back on a life filled with worry about making the right choices and realizing, in the end, most of those choices become irrelevant.

I was torn between staying at her bedside and going back to Chicago to take care of my kids. I felt I did not have a choice. My kids needed me. I was the glue in our household. But my mother needed me also.

Recently, I was worrying about the right job, the right parenting, the right financial and life decisions. As I’m sure many of you do. Few of us are immune to trying to game the system for the best results.

choices, options, alternativesIn most situations, you can stay put until…

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We Don’t Need No Thought Control

A Buick in the Land of Lexus

we-dont-need-no-thought-contro

Our kids are in CRISIS.

I work with teenagers in an affluent suburban area.

They don’t comprehend what they read. They use calculators to multiply 10 x 10. The average high school junior has no clue what the word “diligent” means.

They write essays resembling those of a 5th grader. About how Albert Einstein discovered electricity.

In tests administered in reading, science and math to 15 year-olds globally, we are behind TWENTY NINE countries in math. And our kids’ performance in reading and science is  not much better. And yet, American investment in education is unrivaled, globally.

Are you scared yet?

We lead the world in the consumption of illegal recreational drugs. And one of the chief sales outlets?

Our SCHOOLS.

Our teenage suicide rate is the highest in the world.

EVERY DAY there are over 5,400 suicide attempts by kids in grades 7 – 12.

NOW are you scared?

The two places teenagers…

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For Girls and Grief

VAGABOND CITY

The first girl I ever kissed had a mouthful of luring words and veins full of Percocet.
I wore the potent perfume of pineapple vodka on my breath and wilted forward into her lap,
all curled up at the edges like a water-logged book.
We were perched on the end of a leather couch in someone’s basement and the television flickered and buzzed to mask the
piercing pounding of my heartbeat against the rib cage.
Her voice lilted softly in my ear, “Do you want to kiss me or not?” but my skinned, purple knees quivered as I questioned what people would think
when they saw me tangled up in the limbs of some Venus,
and not softly swallowing the saliva of a sweaty, calloused boy.
That was how it was supposed to be,
when you were sixteen with red lips and black stockings,
slurring empty proverbs to strangers.
Still, I…

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