Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Study tries to Deny Boys will be Boys

Trying to work, getting caught up in all the reasons why I should have started earlier on my book and not procrastinated! Like bumping smack into a study that makes me crazy with AARRGGHH! A women's studies prof at U of Wisconsin, Madison--Janet Shibley Hyde by name--has gotten oodles of publicity for supposedly demonstrating her groundbreaking "Gender Similarities Hypothesis," offered to contrast with the prehistoric traditionalists who assert that the genders are actually different. Imagine that.
Feminists, the group no one wants to admit to joining anymore, are stuck defending their dying university departments, and so have to come up with something novel to prove we ladies, er women...er, wimyn are completely equal to men. Unfortunately, that means denying reality--not that women are in any way inferior to men, but that women are physically hard-wired to be different. From an evolutionary point of view--and certainly these wimyn are pro-evolution and NOT pro Intelligent Design--gender roles make efficient sense. You'd think that over millennia, the fittest survived because the baby-bearers could tend to the young, and the non-nursers could go out and use their brute strength to club some animal for food. And while the Big Guy was out, the ladies could perfect their nurturing skills and communicating skills and the guys could refine their grunting about sports.
The proud and loud feminists don't care for such roles. Because the evolutionary explanation implies that somehow there's a reason other than acculturation and discrimination for why fewer women choose mathematics as a career, and why so many decide to derail their CEO aspirations to coo to infants.
Certainly Prof. Hyde and her cohort have gone to great lengths to support the feminist thesis. They played a few statistical tricks by taking a wide range of apples, oranges, nectarines, bananas and other fruity outcomes and applying a meta-analysis to them. That means the professor didn't tease out the methods of the studies she examined, or rate their quality, or separate out potential underlying factors such as varying goals of researchers--instead she took their outcome numbers and divided results into male and female and compared them, in big hunks. When you mish-mash together piles of studies--which were already conglomerated analyses of OTHER studies--you're sure to lose significance as everything regresses to the mean in a tired heap.
So she found that the differences in outcomes were not so very large. Surprise.
And then, oh yes, an aside--despite her glomming everything together, men STILL showed themselves significantly more agressive, more sexually oriented, and physically stronger. Shockeroo.
Naturally, the American Psychological Association made a big press release titled "
Here's an excerpt of the APA press release for her Sept. 2005 article: Over-inflated claims of gender difference seen in the mass media affect men and women in work, parenting and relationships, said Hyde. Studies of gender and evaluation of leaders in the workplace show that women who go against the caring, nurturing stereotype may pay for it dearly when being hired or evaluated. This also happens with the portrayals of relationships in the media. Best-selling books and popular magazine articles assert that women and men can’t get along because they communicate too differently, said Dr. Hyde. Maybe the problem is that they give up prematurely because they believe they can’t change what they mistakenly believe is an innate trait, she added.

In other words, the research on brain structure, and the thousands of studies that do show gender differences are, oops, the CAUSE of the problem. Thank you, doctor. Now we know that women and men are interchangeable, and therefore, well, I guess same sex marriage is now unavoidable, and women who hate math should just up and take Trig. It's those durn authors of best-selling books and popular magazine articles who are holding us down, because they've had a malevolent agenda to make us "give up prematurely" in our communicating.
I see. I'm afraid her meta-analyses haven't convinced me that there are no innate differences between men and women. Certainly both genders have many similarities--both are human, both share goals, both strive to create together an integrated, harmonious life. But though men and women are in many ways similar, there's no denying their differences. Thirty years post-Gloria Steinem we've had plenty of practice being non-sexist. And somehow, girls still want dolls and boys still use their sisters' Barbies...as guns.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Happy Anniversary to ME

Happy Anniversary to ME! I've been married for as many years as...well, as I've been alive. Though my marriage has been wonderfully vivifying, that is not a testament as much to its liveliness as to the fact that I can scarcely believe that I am more than 22 years old. That time can zip in such a blink has been lamented by just about everyone, including my--what? 14-year-old son (!?) who recalls the births of children for whom he now babysits. Well, I recall HIS birth as if it were the proverbial yesterday, and I recall each of my three children as if they are, oh, 7, 5 and 2, even as I talk to them on their cellphones trying to pry out some crumb of what goes on in their lives.
Twenty two years of marriage. Sometimes I get frustrated with my husband, and then he turns around and gives me "that look" and I melt. I don't get frustrated much or for long; he brings me flowers on his way home from work, whether that's at 4 pm or 10. The checkers at the supermarket know him because he's always zipping in to buy a little bunch of flowers, and when she comes through the door with them outstretched in their plastic Albertson's bag, I am always surprised. He chose them; he always tells me why he chose those particular flowers. "I thought those yellow ones looked particularly perky." "I haven't brought you irises in awhile." "I know you love peonies" Well, that one is true but I really don't get many peonies. They don't appeal to his male eye because they usually come, when they do for two weeks in May, as little balls stuck on stems, awaiting their new home before unfurling.
So, you ask, aside from graciously receiving flowers, to what do you attribute twenty-two years of happy marriage? Here are the rules that come to mind:
1. Take it easy. That means go with the flow; don't let things bug you, just be easy. Not much is worth anybody getting upset. Let it go. Just do it, even if you think he ought to. Just forget it. A friend of mine wrote a book a long time ago. You don't need the book, but the title was essential: Winning by Letting Go.
2. Be his/her biggest fan. I just came across a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (no, I don't subscribe; it was covered in a New York Times article) from about a year ago. It said that the way couples respond to good news determines the quality of the relationship far more than the reaction to bad news. The part I highlighted in pink said that "in most relationships, positive events outnumber negative ones by at least four to one." That means you have four chances to cement the relationship for every "poor baby" opportunity. One thing that I think of is that there are lots of people--ladies--out there who would jump up excitedly to know that my husband was going to be coming through their door. So, every time my husband DOES come through my door, I jump up excitedly. His coming home is good news. And when he gets some CDs (ie classical music) in the mail, that's good news; I get happy for him. If he writes something, just about constantly, I praise him for doing it. After all, he IS doing it; he IS accomplishing. I'm much better at procrastinating. This is not a strategy on my part. Long ago I decided that we are a team, one unit, and if he succeeds, I succeed.
I don't always love everything he writes. But I always love something about everything he writes. I don't always agree with everything he wants. But if I disagree, I try to put it in a way so that he knows I'm on his team, and not trying to undermine him by feeling differently. And I try to explain why what I want is better. He's reasonable. One of his many strong suits.
3. Clothes don't make the man. Speaking of strong suits, he doesn't have any, sartorially speaking. He's a walking fashion disaster. While being religious, he's also holey. Usually at the elbows. You know the old one about having ties older than you are? Yep.
Truth is, looks don't make the man, or the woman, either. As I get older, I hate it. But while denial isn't just a river in Egypt, and denial is my specialty when it comes to aging, sometimes you can't avoid looking in a mirror and at your spouse. I think a happy marriage is about doing what you can outwardly and latching onto that so-called "wisdom" that comes with age--which is just another way of saying that as you get older, you realize that intangibles are more valuable than tangibles, and that the connection with your other half is not about what you see but who you are.
I hear my other half calling, saying it's time to get to bed...he's got another early work call, and, after all it IS our anniversary. Maybe I'll think of more items to add to my list later. In the meantime, it's fun being 22.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The State of the Union is Strong

The President has spoken. I watched the State of the Union address tonight, and thought Pres. Bush did a fantastic job. He artfully acknowledged Nancy Pelosi (though of course by doing so committed a sexist act...would he have specially recognized her if she were a man???) who sat behind him distractingly licking, sucking in and otherwise rearranging her lips. He grappled head-on with the Iraq issue, and did so in a way that ultimately got both sides of the aisle on their feet. Even the lip-smacker behind him managed to stand and applaud with poker-faced Dick Cheny nearly every time he rose.
I didn't like Bush's pledge to put even MORE into public education, which should be completely a local affair, and I completely disagree with his insistence on using my tax dollars for African malaria and AIDS programs (let Bill Gates do it) but over all, he confirmed again why I can pray for him every day sincerely--not just as the nation's leader, but because he is a humble servant of our country and God. He's well aware of his poll numbers, but unlike his predecessor in the same position, cares little about his legacy and more about our national security (remember that the first Trade Center attempt was ignored by Clinton). George Bush is a classy guy who "walks the walk" (and I don't just mean Walker...) by treating those around him in private with respect and kindness.
I saw him, briefly, in action this December, receiving, with Laura, hundreds of well-wishers...giving each one a two-handed handshake, personalized words, a response to their comments, and a warm smile as yet another photo was taken. The press--a liberal institution at this moment in history--may have taken to tsk-ing about whether or not Bush will be remembered as the worst president in history, but that isolated Beltway and Manhattan crowd also thinks the New York Times 'Style' section portrays real life.
It may be true that Americans are tired of sending our sons to get in the way of Shiites and Sunnis killing each other off. The Iraq situation at this point looks more like two religious gangs in a turf war where either side winning would be a temporary lull in a permanent grudge-match. And it's true that frustration with this scenario brings all the reaction back to our President. But what ARE the options? To pull out now means ceding that critical nation to the dirtiest fighters--sure to be the most radical Islamists--and thus providing a hatching ground for more potential 911 style perpetrators--or worse.
I'm not particularly political. I'm not especially knowledgeable on these issues. But maybe that's why my perspective matters...it just might represent lots of folks out there who cheered along with the crowds for the President tonight, and know in our heart-of-hearts that, Democratic majority aside, our nation is in good, strong hands for the next two years.
One touching thought for me...what is the "state of the union" but the idea of being united...one nation under God...and in the applause for the soldier, entrepreneur and hero in the stands with Laura Bush, it was clear we are infinitely blessed to BE in a land united by gratitude for our freedoms and our privileges.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Getting a Charge out of Batteries

Batteries, batteries...I've just discovered a brand-new form of procrastination...buying batteries online. A certain daughter was holding her digital camera, well, it was hanging by its leash from her wrist, and when she raised it to take a photo of another of her socially adroit friends, the camera didn't work...and, perplexed, she noted that the battery was missing! Searching the area was futile...and so she appealed to her mother to replace the battery, NOW, since, while she refuses to be in any photos of MINE, even of the most slyly candid type (I have two-hundred fifty "Show Me the Hand" photos to prove it), she cannot go a DAY without a dozen photos of herself taken in the time-honored "extend-the-arm, press-the-button" portraiture style.
And so I enter the wonderful procrastination world of, as Google Search knows too well, "buy Cannon Camera batteries". This after walking into a Kit's camera and finding out that their off-brand Quanteray model was...FIFTY DOLLARS. For the battery, not the camera. Not an Eveready; no, the only one who "takes a lickin'" here is the purchaser.
So, there's Duracell.com, that offers their name-brand battery for $36. with an online 10% off coupon, no tax, and no shipping. But then...I find Batteries.com. THEY have their own house-brand for...do I DARE? TWELVE DOLLARS, THIRTY-FIVE CENTS. The Google coupon for ushering me there says an additional 15% off PLUS free shipping! Do I DARE?
I discuss the ponderous matter with my husband, who, as you may know, has absolutely NOTHING else to do. "It's a BATTERY, for G'd's sake!" he says, exasperated. "It's nothing important! Either the thing works or it doesn't!" OK, there goes Duracell. Hello, Batteries.com. Oh look, they also have watch batteries! Wouldn't it be fun for once to REPLACE my watch battery instead of just buying a new watch (for the same price as a store battery?) I've got a drawer-full of cute little watches with names like "Mudd" (what my name is for choosing it) and "Sweet 16" which, in minutes, is about how long their batteries lasted. But how do I know which ones to buy? And how to change it? Aha. A neat little "tutorial" on how to change a watch battery. This has been quite a bonus for my procrastination.
I type in my credit card number, letting the screen say 'standard shipping, $3.95," wise that on the next page will be the place for my Google coupon. Next page: "Click to confirm." NOOOO! Where do I write in my coupon, and get my 15% and free shipping??? So I write them a "help" email to ask, and meanwhile, another day goes by wherein my daughter is self-portraitless.
And I have successfully wiled away the evening in Internet bliss. At least it charged MY batteries.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My parents in 1943 at the Hofbrau in Los Angeles... a love story that lasted.

Sunday night: Week-end and week begins

It's Sunday night, the time when I tend to look back and ahead...back at Shabbat, and how quickly it went by, with two laboriously-prepared meals and our dear friends at our table...and then, with the Northwest light departing as quickly as it can, the day is over, with dishes still being washed and laments that there was not even any time for a quick nap.
Sunday night, when the one day of the week not programmed has passed...has been wasted somewhat by late sleep, and the remainder used for an outing with my one child still reachable, my 14-year-old son, who makes strange noises on the phone with his male friends, and always lifts his shirt to peer at his "six pack" (not from working out but from sheer skinniness) when passing by a mirror. Even he is too old for the child-centered fun that forms the best memories of our family Sundays, and so we snatched another friend and her three little ones and headed for lunch at Noah's Bagels and then to the Museum of History and Industry with its re-created boardwalk streets, enlarged old photos and plenty of buttons to push, tactile examples to feel, and voices from the past to hear. It was wonderful, and the little ones were adorable, and once again I am reminded that they are not MINE and the smiles and joys belong to me only fleetingly and to their mother completely.
The weather is cold; the sky gray; I wore gray today to match.
The passing of time is quite a punishment. Last night I went to the box where I had stashed all the photos, slides and mementos shipped to me when my siblings cleared out my parents' house after my dad passed away. My mother preceded him in death and he was so devastated he did not change the house at all. Her clothes remained on their hangers in the closet, and in her drawers in the dresser. Her glasses remained on her side of the bed. Everything stayed as if he expected her back momentarily. So I was putting back something in the box, and on top saw something in his handwriting. I removed a yellowed multi-page card he had fashioned--a Valentine--in which he had written all the years they were together, and pasted in photos from their past. He put in funny captions and words of love, and after writing out each year from 1939-2000, concluded "I will love you forever."
Cheap trick. I cried like...well, THEIR baby.
Musn't waste time. But on the other hand, I want to keep it from going on...which is why I bug people completely by taking masses of photos. I don't want to lose the moment, and by having photos, especially the digital ones that entertain me as a slideshow on my screen saver, I can savor that time again.
So it's Sunday night. Soon I'll go with my husband to take our daughter back to her sorority for another week apart from us. And I must get productive; I must not procrastinate by blogging, or by doing the REALLY tempting thing--downloading the photos from today--but it's Sunday; can't we just hold onto these moments when our family is almost complete--before the press of a new week begins?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blogging as Procrastination

This is my very first blog posting--and, as a Jewish woman who feels like a Jewish child--or at least a girl--I'm almost giddy with the thought that someone other than the recipients of my copious emails might be read my musings. My husband, who is a rather famous person with blogs that millions of people read, posts ponderous articles every night, and gets paid for his punditry. But me....well, I am on deadline for a book, and instead of writing am persisting in the time honored past-time of...PROCRASTINATION.
Has anyone out there ever procrastinated by going on the internet? To look up things that fascinate or lure you (I don't mean lurid lures, either--I happen to enjoy finding flatware on Crate and Barrel and other such mundane pursuits--or cameras that I am hesitant to commit to but really should just go ahead and buy...) Well, instead of looking up items, leaping from site to site, comparison to comparison, I am now procrastinating by posting my very first blog.
I am feeling anxious about spending time doing this but continue to write. I have a deadline for my book of only a few months, and I am afraid of being judged, and therefore hesitate to even write it. I have written five books previously, one of which actually went to number ONE on the Los Angeles Times best seller list, really. Nonfiction. And yet, now, I want to do anything BUT write my book. So I start this blog, and I will check if anyone has read it, as a means to...shall I euphemize? "take a break" from my "work." I do work; I do write. But avoidance is nearly as consuming. Phone calls that must be made. Errands that cannot wait. Must check email. Must clean the kitchen, do the laundry...oh, I've only got 15 minutes till I have to pick up my son, so I can't possibly start in with something NOW.
Procrastination. Isn't that another word for "BLOG"???