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Posts Tagged ‘People’

The comfort of community

In aging, behavior, cities, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, religion, urban life, US on November 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm
English: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881, ...

English: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881, Pierre-Auguste Renoir) housed in The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past weekend, shaken by the hurricane and our renewed sense of vulnerability — knowing the next power outage is inevitable — Jose and I instinctively went to be, in person and face to face, hug to reaffirming hug, with two of our long-time communities.

They are certainly distinctly American: softball and church.

I started playing co-ed softball about a decade ago, on a suburban park field in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, joining a group of men and women, ranging from their 20s to over 70. It was founded by Jon, who then worked for the commuter railroad, and who soon adopted two small children, a Chinese girl and a tow-headed boy named Dakota, who used to sit in their strollers behind the batting cage.

The years since then have been a parade of deepening friendships. When Ed’s Dad died, we drove into the city to attend his wake, much of it in Spanish. When CJ fell and shattered his leg, Marty, an orthopedic surgeon who also plays with us, was able to do a quick, if sobering on-field diagnosis. When I went onto the DL list in November 2009, unable to play for the next three years with a damaged left hip (fully replaced Feb. 6, 2012), I kept coming out for after-game lunches to stay in touch with this group I love so well.

At lunch last week, as one of only two women among 20+ men, I felt — as I always do — completely at home, teasing Sky, the handsome young man sitting to my left who’s become a personal trainer, with his Mom, a newly retired teacher, sitting to my right. We now feel like family, laughing and teasing and hugging. Ed, a tall, thin lawyer my age, has the same last name as Jose, so I call him “el otro Lopez.”

In an era of almost constant job and financial insecurity, some of us shifting careers in our 50s or beyond, having a group of people who love you, sweaty and dirty, injured or healthy, employed or not, is a wonderful thing.

Here’s part of an essay I wrote about them for The New York Times:

One unspoken rule of Softball Lite is that men don’t help the women — who usually make up roughly a third of about 20 players each time — or tell them what to do. We know what to do, and after a few games, our teammates know and trust our skills as well. If we goof up, well, it’s not fatal and we’re quite aware that we goofed. I usually play second base, and I didn’t appreciate one new male player who marked a spot in the dust and told me where to stand.

Off the field, too, we cherish our longstanding ties. When one player had a multiple organ transplant and spent many long months in the hospital, teammates went to visit. (He’s now back to running the bases full tilt.) We’ve attended friends’ parents’ wakes, celebrated their engagements and weddings, applauded their concerts.

And, after every game, a group heads to a cafe where — like some sweaty version of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” — we gather green metal tables in the shade of a spreading tree, with stunning views of the Hudson River, and settle in for lunch.

We’ve watched Jon’s kids grow from toddlers to grade schoolers and cheered when Joe’s author made the best-seller list.

Jobs and homes and friendships have come and gone.

It’s said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. This dusty little one is mine.

The other place we went back to, after about a six month absence, is our church, St. Barnabas in Irvington, NY

I rarely blog about religion because it can be such a divisive issue; I’m Episcopalian (Anglican) but not super-religious, another reason I don’t blog about it. I began going there in 1998 after I became the unwitting victim of a con artist, a man I dated, a convicted felon whose predatory behavior terrified me.

His ability to so effectively dominate me psychologically proved to me how terribly lonely, isolated and lacking in self-confidence I had become, allowing him access to me, my home and my property. He stole a credit card of mine, forged my signature and committed other crimes — but the police and district attorney were derisive and dismissive, making me feel even more alone and scared.

I needed to repair my fully broken spirit. Two of the women I met my first week at church, Niki and Barbara, married women a bit older than I, are still friends. We’re still in touch, years after they have moved away, with our former minister and one of his assistants.

On our visit back this week, I was worried we might be snubbed for having been away for so long, but people were lovely. One older man, much more hunched over his cane than we had ever seen him, stopped me to say, with joy: “You’re walking so well!” They had seen me suffer 24/7 pain for 3 years with my damaged hip, on crutches for three months to relieve it, seen me through three prior surgeries.

I congratulated one woman on a 60-pound weight loss, saw another get baptized and heard about a friend’s move.

They knew me single, knew me when dating and living with Jose, and know and value us now as a married couple. We were asked to carry the elements — the Communion wine and wafers — down the aisle in their gleaming silver containers, cold to the touch. I feel deeply honored to be, however briefly, a part of the service, and in such an essential way.

Jose and I are not much like our fellow parishioners, many of whom are wealthy and live in large houses, the women staying home to raise multiple children, when we have none. But his parents are decades in their graves; his two sisters live far away and my father is a 10-hour drive north in Canada.

Like all of us, we need to know we are appreciated!

And, while I obviously value on-line connections, I most crave being in a room with people I know.

It is deeply comforting, especially in times of such fear and insecurity, to be known, loved and accepted by community.

Where  — in person — are you finding this sort of community in your life now?

Being alone is an art

In aging, behavior, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, women on May 7, 2012 at 12:11 am
Tattered Trunk Sadly this major oak in a pastu...

Tattered Trunk Sadly this major oak in a pasture North of Abberton Manor has given up the ghost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 8th. most popular blog post — with 578 views so far — offers 12 tips on how to travel alone as a woman.

For me and for many women I know, of all ages, it’s just no big deal. For others, going to a movie or concert or eating a meal in public, certainly at a good restaurant likely filled with couples or groups of friends, remains a prospect so intimidating they refuse to even try. They feel conspicuous, lonely, out of place.

Pshaw!

If you fear doing things alone, you’re always going to be clinging to others, seeking the comfort or validation of their company, like a small child with a tattered blankie. Or, as many women do, choosing to hang onto any man with a pulse because then they’re not single and alone anymore.

(So not true. I was the loneliest of my life when married to my first husband.)

I think it also depends on the friends, family and community you live in, and your ability to ignore or withstand peer pressure. Not to mention housing costs!

I’ve spent many years alone, living alone, no man in sight , or certainly none who would be around for very long. I grew up an only child and grew accustomed to amusing myself — with books, art, music, friends, stuffed animals or Legos.

I left home at 19 and lived alone in a very small studio apartment. I did that until I moved in with a boyfriend at the age of 21 or 22 and lived with him until I was 25 and moved to France for a year. I returned to Toronto and we broke up and I lived alone til I was 30 and met the man I would marry. He and I divorced when I was 37 and someone else — seriously! — proposed to me within the month, a much older man who’d been lusting after me (who knew?) for decades.

I said no thanks, and lived alone until I was 43 when Jose moved into my apartment.

I never hated being alone. But it’s not easy.

Living alone costs a fortune, especially in the United States where, if you are self-employed or out of work, you must buy health insurance for yourself and it’s insanely expensive; in the late 1990s I was then paying $500 a month.

It can get really lonely, certainly as you age, if your pals are booked solid with caring for their husbands or wives and kids and grand-kids and work. Finding, creating and nurturing your own communities is essential to your mental and physical health.

Being alone, for older women especially, can mean descending into terrifying and degrading poverty, a very real issue for those who earned little, saved little and/or spent many unwaged years (without earning Social Security) to bear and raise children.

Being alone is apparently the new norm. From a recent issue of Time magazine:

The extraordinary rise of solitary living is the biggest social change that we’ve neglected to identify, let alone examine.

Consider that in 1950, a mere 4 million Americans lived alone, and they made up only 9% of households. Back then, going solo was most common in the open, sprawling Western states–Alaska, Montana and Nevada–that attracted migrant workingmen, and it was usually a short-lived stage on the road to a more conventional domestic life.

Not anymore. According to 2011 census data, people who live alone–nearly 33 million Americans–make up 28% of all U.S. households.

Here’s a fellow blogger who thinks this is a sad trend, especially for older people.

And here’s a new book on the subject.

Do you live alone?

How do you like it?

The Case For Courage

In behavior, business, culture, domestic life, life, love, politics, the military, war, women on October 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I gave this pin to Jose on our wedding day. (Copyright Marie de Jesus.)

I think courage is, these days, an under-rated quality.

People who encourage us aren’t merely hissing “Great job!” for every breath we take.

When we truly need to find our inner strength, we need someone to encourage us — to breathe some of that holy fire into our shaky lungs.

We think of the courageous as those fighting in war (they are) or those facing very bad diagnoses or anyone stepping off the cliff of the known and familiar and secure.

A courageous woman is someone who, however reluctantly, her vows shattered by years of abuse or neglect, leaves a terrible marriage, maybe with nothing ahead but weeks or months on a relative’s sofa or a homeless shelter or a women’s shelter. A courageous man decides to marry after years of bachelor freedom, aware of his new responsibility to his bride, her family and to himself.

A courageous teenager steps up when s/he sees someone being bullied and, whenever possible, puts an end to it.

A courageous teacher sees the pilot light of potential in a struggling, sullen or silent child.  A courageous politician is willing to take a stand, take a hit, take a fall for making the right choices, not simply the easiest or those guaranteed to win media attention or large donations.

I am hungry to learn more about men and women of courage. I am weary of a culture that far too often celebrates, rewards and deifies cowardice and greed.

Here’s a lovely post by Canadian blogger Josh Bowman about a fellow Canadian who inspired him as a teenager, and who still does. In it, he talks about Craig Kielburger, who at the age of 12 decided to create an international campaign to end the use of child labor.

He didn’t do it to burnish his resume or to get into the right college; (Canadian universities don’t use essays anyway, just good grades, to decide whom to admit.) He did it out of a blazing sense of compassion. He makes me proud to be a Canadian.

So does this little girl, who I’ve also blogged about, Alaina Podmorow, who did the same for girls when she, too was very young. She still is!

In 1957, the late President John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer prize for his book, Profiles in Courage, about political leaders he admired. I was thrilled when three women recently won the Nobel Peace Prize:

The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award was split three ways between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, peace activist Leyma Gbowee from the same African country and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen — the first Arab woman to win the prize.

Role models!

I hate the overused word “hero”. I dislike its bombastic pomposity. I doubt many of us want to be, or feel we are, heroes.

But we can all, every single day, be courageous.

Who do you look to as examples of courage?

Here’s a video of a wonderful song by Greg Greenway that sums it up, “Do What Must Be Done.”

Women Too Busy To Die?

In behavior, business, culture, Media, news, women, work, world on September 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm
New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York T...
Image via Wikipedia

If you read The New York Times obituary page — which I do daily as it’s my hometown paper — you’ll soon notice (maybe) an odd detail.

Women never die!

Here’s a post from nytpick.com, which delights in poking at the Gray Lady:

And for the year 2010 to date, the NYT has chronicled the deaths of 606 men, and only 92 women.

Bear in mind that the population of women in the U.S. exceeds that of men, and is nearly neck and neck worldwide.

This disparity in coverage has gone on for years, virtually unnoticed in a society that decades ago granted full equality to women, and has seen huge strides in the prominence of women in virtually all fields of endeavor.

And not only does it show no signs of getting better — it’s actually getting worse.

In a September 2006 “Talk To The Newsroom” interview, NYT obituaries editor Bill McDonald (pictured above) was asked about the lack of what a concerned reader referred to as “gender parity” in the section. His stunning response somehow slipped by unnoticed.

“Ask me in another generation,” McDonald replied. “Really. The people whose obits are appearing in our pages now largely shaped the world of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, and the movers and shakers in those eras were predominantly white men.”

If you’re  a Lithuanian lute-maker (no offense meant, specifically, to either category) — and male — hang in there. Your time for posthumous glory will come. Men doing the most unlikely and obscure things end up in the Times obit pages every day.

I know for a fact that women do die, women who have achieved extraordinary success and influence in business, the arts, science, medicine, public service, education. But you’ll never hear about them in the Times. (Or The Wall Street Journal or USA Today or The Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times. You know the “papers of record.”)

I think it’s a toxic combination of two issues: male editors who don’t see women’s achievements as worth this level of honor  — and women, and their families, colleagues and employers who don’t make a (big enough) fuss about them and their value to the larger world, either when they’re alive or after they have died.

Women who vaunt themselves and seek public attention are often derided for their egos and glory-seeking, while men who do so are considered…normal.

Every single obits column that ignores women ignores half the nation’s population.

And newspapers wonder why they’re dying?

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When I Grow Up, I Want To Be An Old Woman

In behavior, women on July 27, 2010 at 6:14 pm
The United Colors of an Old Woman

Image by pedrosimoes7 via Flickr

I live in an apartment building that is, frankly, something of an old age home — filled with people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. There are days I weary of gray hair and halting gaits, but I have also learned to appreciate the deep value of role models, especially of older women living, well, alone.

My theme song is this, a rockabilly anthem to feisty female old age, from a 1988 album by Michelle Shocked.

I’m thinking of this because one of our building’s two cool 96-year-olds, one of whom lives on my floor, was taken to the hospital by ambulance yesterday. She’s got brilliant blue eyes, thick white hair, and a spirit so lively and outgoing we all love her. I’m praying for her.

The other, on my floor, is wealthy, a bit of a grande dame. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment with a live-in helper. (Money is a wonderful, necessary adjunct to a decent, solitary [even shared] old age.) She wears fab clothes, keeps a fresh manicure, comes down to the pool, even with a walker.

Most women, statistically, will outlive their husbands or male partners. We have to be ready, in every way, to survive — and thrive — on our own.

But I also treasure Marie, 80, on my floor. She’s still married. She wears an immaculate bouffant pompadour hairdo, dresses with style and had a male stripper for her 80th. I asked her in the elevator one day — she’s OK with this sort of directeness — “How old are you, anyway?” I thought, maybe, late 60s.

I feel too fragile these days because of my aching, injured hip. When I watch these women soldiering along, finding new beaux, slapping on the mascara and nail polish and a smile, heading out for dinner with their girlfriends, I’m glad I don’t live surrounded by 20 or 30-somethings, slick and invulnerable.

These ladies are survivors. I hope to be one, too.

When Your Husband Wants His Brain Frozen After Death — But You Don't

In behavior on July 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm
The skull and crossbones, a common symbol for ...

Image via Wikipedia

So turns out there a number of men who want their bodies or brains preserved after they die — so they can later be thawed out for a whole  new life…later.

Is this weird? Is this what you plan?

My sweetie, being a devout Buddhist, thinks about death a lot and wants to be cremated and has told me where to spread his ashes. I live in terrified denial of mortality (see, can’t even type the words “my mortality” without my stomach hurting) and figure no one would visit my grave anyway so probably best not to have one and where would my ashes go? A favorite spot like…France. Or the Saks shoe department.

Read this and tell me what you think:

Premonitions of this problem can be found in the deepest reaches of cryonicist history, starting with the prime mover. Robert Ettinger is the father of cryonics, his 1964 book, “The Prospect of Immortality,” its founding text. “This is not a hobby or conversation piece,” he wrote in 1968, adding, “it is the struggle for survival. Drive a used car if the cost of a new one interferes. Divorce your wife if she will not cooperate.” Today, with just fewer than200 patients preserved within the two major cryonics facilities, the Michigan-based Cryonics Institute and the Arizona-based Alcor, and with 10 times as many signed up to be stored upon their legal deaths, cryonicists have created support networks with which to tackle marital strife. Cryonet, a mailing list on “cryonics-related issues,” takes as one of its issues the opposition of wives. (The ratio of men to women among living cyronicists is roughly three to one.) “She thinks the whole idea is sick, twisted and generally spooky,” wrote one man newly acquainted with the hostile-wife phenomenon. “She is more intelligent than me, insatiably curious and lovingly devoted to me and our 2-year-old daughter. So why is this happening?”

When Your Co-Worker Wears A Low-Cut Top, Is It OK To Stare?

In business, Fashion on July 7, 2010 at 9:57 am
Cleavage

Image via Wikipedia

A new column over at Salon is offering advice on women and work, and this question — can I stare? — provoked 163 comments after the writer weighed in:

Look, is it cool that the woman you work with wears tight things that may or may not be appropriate for work, depending on what kind of office you work in, how the clothes fit her and other things that have to do with the context of her culture, general style and, frankly, body type (thank you, Lane Bryant for making an issue out of that banned ad and its reflective bias)? Maybe, I don’t know.  What I know is definitely uncool is for you, a young, straight man in the workplace — not a minority unless it is Opposite Day — to take umbrage with a female colleague’s apparel choices. Because, frankly, what Perla in accounting wears to work so she can cover her bits and feed her family is really none of your business — even if your erection disagrees. If she’s violating a dress code rule that she’d been briefed on at the time of her hire, somebody in H.R. will talk to her, and she’ll probably be embarrassed and start wearing a scarf.

I don’t think so.

If you insist on displaying your cleavage, why wouldn’t men stare? Isn’t that the point? Why should women dress so provocatively yet whine when they — provoke — attention?

Your colleagues, let alone your customers or clients, don’t need to see your breasts.

Do they?

Divorcing? There's An App For That — But Are Guys Now Oversharing?

In business, Media, men on June 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm
Un divorce heureux

A happy divorce? Must be a movie...Image via Wikipedia

Getting divorced? Beware of overshare!

Here’s a Village Voice post on the issue:

The fact remains that regardless of scale (Time vs. Tumblr), it’s peculiar and makes a splash when adult men play this game. Maybe it comes from our own generational or technological biases. Our fathers didn’t grow up with feelings to be shared, let alone computers. Men shouldn’t whine or feel pain and they certainly shouldn’t fucking cry, according to left-over cultural expectations lodged in the heads of even social progressives, feminists, children of the liberal arts. And there’s a certain self-consciousness that comes with being a male online. Where have all the cowboys gone? What would our grandfathers think of us, pining for a partner or “Why me-ing?” about health concerns to strangers? And who do we look to for proper example? There are only so many words written by Dan Savage, and we’ve been told to avoid Tucker Max. I don’t have the answers.

“We’re learning how to draw the line” between extremes when it comes to oversharing, Johnson concluded in Time, “and it’s a line that each of us will draw in different ways.” For adult males, the line seems extra shaky, probably drawn lightly, in pencil. Examples are spare, critics come from every angle. Maybe it’s the job of boys then, growing up online, to become men in public, feelings and all, examples on the internet. It’s cheaper than therapy, but maybe we need both.”

And from True/Slant writer Elie Mystal at abovethelaw.com, about the new app to help you calculate the potential cost of ditching your spouse:

You can see where this is going. There will always be the high-level, contentious divorces between wealthy individuals that will require the expert advice of counsel. But a lot of divorces just involve two people who didn’t take “until death do we part” very seriously. Why should they have to hire expensive lawyers? Just upload your tax returns and pictures of the homewrecking hussy onto your phone, and bang, you’ve got yourself an iDivorce.

It could happen, which makes you wonder: What kind of person would start the lawyer haterade flowing? An attorney, of course.

I got divorced in 1995 and the only reason it was affordable was having a pre-nuptial agreement in place that laid it all out in advance. My lawyer, then, charged $350/hour and $50 for a phone call. I finally told him I couldn’t even afford to talk to him (fairly crucial) and he capped his fee.

I think an app giving you some idea how much it will cost to end a marriage is fair. Talk about sticker shock! I only had some idea because I’d hired the same lawyer to do my pre-nup and build right into it a few grand for his divorce fees. Most people spend  lot more time, energy and attention to cupcakes versus wedding cake — and have no clue what undoing the marital duo can cost. A little knowledge is worth a lot down the road.

Besides, who exactly is going to have the information you now need? Your divorced friends likely fall into a few typical categories:

1) burned, bitter, don’t want to talk about it (male version) 2) female version 3) starting the process and still hopeful for “victory” however they envision it 4) halfway through an embattled divorce and bleeding money and wondering if it would have been cheaper to just gut it out and stay together 5) freshly done and wounded 6) freshly done and on the market, baby! They know, or soon learn, that *any* discussion of “that greedy bitch” or “that lying SOB” is likely to ensure that a first date is a last date.

Someone calm, lucid and knowedgable? That would be….a divorce attorney.

If you think a wedding is expensive….

Extra! Extra! New Agency Opens To Sell Celebrity Gossip. Now I Can Use Lady Gaga In My Headline

In entertainment, Media on June 18, 2010 at 11:36 am
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 26JAN06 - FR: Angelina Joli...

Moremoremoremoremoremoremore!!!!!Image via Wikipedia

Here’s some deeply comforting news for anyone — anyone? – who still cares more about boring shit like the economy or healthcare or job loss or the BP spill, a new celebrity news agency!

Because, you know, we really don’t get enough news about celebrities.

From mediabistro.com’s blog FishbowlLA:

We began testing the waters and working with experienced U.S.-based freelance reporters, many of whom had either lost their jobs or had had their hours drastically cut back. The results were astounding. While magazines shutter in the U.S. and reduce pay, magazines in Britain and France, for instance, continue to pay rates that are twice the level of ordinary freelance news rates in the US. Average stories sell for $400 to $1,000. Bigger exclusives, such as a story on Tiger Woods, can go up to $3000.

What are some of the stories we have sold? We debunked the rumors about the Angelina Jolie Brad Pitt break up for More magazine in the UK, covered Lady Gaga’s penchant for green tea for Grazia Magazine, and explored the deeper meaning of medications Britney Spears might take for bi-polar disorder for Voici in France.

I can’t decide which makes me want to projectile vomit further: the insatiable appetite for crap about millionaires or the fact Europeans are paying so much better for “journalism” than American publishers.

If you need me, I’ll just be out on the window ledge, tap-dancing.

Newsweek Sexist? Forty Years Ago, Women Staffers Sued For Equal Treatment. Today, Things Aren't Much Better, There And Elsewhere

In Media, women on March 26, 2010 at 11:58 am
Newsweek Cover: Stephen Jay Gould

Image by Ryan Somma via Flickr

Here’s a story that may come as news to any young, ambitious female journalist — or anyone who’s convinced women are equal to men and the F-word is feminism. Old, tired, done.

Not so much, write three current Newsweek staffers, all young women, who discovered a landmark lawsuit, brought by Newsweek’s female staffers in 1970, when women there were called “dollies”.

From this week’s Newsweek cover story:

But by 1969, as the women’s movement gathered force around them, the dollies got restless. They began meeting in secret, whispering in the ladies’ room or huddling around a colleague’s desk. To talk freely they’d head to the Women’s Exchange, a 19th-century relic where they could chat discreetly on their lunch break. At first there were just three, then nine, then ultimately 46—women who would become the first group of media professionals to sue for employment discrimination based on gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Their employer was NEWSWEEK magazine.

In 1970, 46 women sued Newsweek for gender discrimination. Today, three young writers examine how much has changed.

Until six months ago, when sex- and gender-discrimination scandals hit ESPN, David Letterman’s Late Show, and the New York Post, the three of us—all young NEWSWEEK writers—knew virtually nothing of these women’s struggle. Over time, it seemed, their story had faded from the collective conversation. Eventually we got our hands on a worn copy of In Our Time, a memoir written by a former NEWSWEEK researcher, Susan Brownmiller, which had a chapter on the uprising.

In countless small ways, each of us has felt frustrated over the years, as if something was amiss. But as products of a system in which we learned that the fight for equality had been won, we didn’t identify those feelings as gender-related. It seemed like a cop-out, a weakness, to suggest that the problem was anybody’s fault but our own. It sounds naive—we know—especially since our own boss Ann McDaniel climbed the ranks to become NEWSWEEK’s managing director, overseeing all aspects of the company…

Yet the more we talked to our friends and colleagues, the more we heard the same stories of disillusionment, regardless of profession. No one would dare say today that “women don’t write here,” as the NEWSWEEK women were told 40 years ago. But men wrote all but six of NEWSWEEK’s 49 cover stories last year—and two of those used the headline “The Thinking Man.” In 1970, 25 percent of NEWSWEEK’s editorial masthead was female; today that number is 39 percent. Better? Yes. But it’s hardly equality. (Overall, 49 percent of the entire company, the business and editorial sides, is female.) “Contemporary young women enter the workplace full of enthusiasm, only to see their hopes dashed,” says historian Barbara J. Berg. “Because for the first time they’re slammed up against gender bias.” [NB: added boldface here mine]

My first New York City job — oh, I had high hopes! — was for Newsweek’s international edition, the skinny, onion-skin-paper version I’d bought in Africa and Europe myself. I was offered a job tryout of a month. I was warned they already had someone in mind, male, with a fresh Ivy graduate degree (I have no graduate degree). I was also competing with a friend, a lower-level employee there.

I opened the desk drawer to find Tums and aspirin. I got an attaboy note on one of my four stories, one per week, but was still shown the door, as foretold, after a month in their hallowed halls. I did get to go out for dinner with fellow staffers to a nearby Japanese restaurant, everyone confidently using only chopsticks. Luckily, I could too. The conversation was competitively smart.

As fellow True/Slant writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen — a 12-year staff veteran of Time — has described here, working in the Ivy-educated, mostly white, mostly male ranks of Time or Newsweek is like stepping into a testosterone-soaked locker room full of shoving jocks.

I interviewed three more times over the years at Newsweek, never hired. I admit, I shrivel in job interviews — even with a book, five fellowships, two major newspaper jobs and fluency in two languages. “Do you write for The Atlantic? Harper’s?” I was asked the last time. Of every smart, ambitious, talented writer, about .0002 percent will ever crack one of those two markets, probably two of the most difficult in American journalism to penetrate.

Naively thinking this was intellectually possible without engaging my sexuality — sort of like trying to drive in neutral, as it turned out — I tried, briefly, to get to know a very senior editor there after I left my try-out, hoping he might take an interest in my work and help me try for another chance there.

To my dismay, and shock, he leaned in close at one of our lunches and said, “I can’t smell your perfume.”

Excuse me? He was older, married. I was engaged and living with my fiance. None of which matters. My perfume?

This was also discussed today between current Newsweek staffer Jessica Bennett and former staffer Lynn Povich, one of the editors who sued the magazine, on The Brian Lehrer Show, a WNYC talk and call-in show:

Bennett, at 28 a “senior writer” after four years there, said:  “We were mesmerized by the descriptions of what went on back then. We just couldn’t get enough!” Thanks to buyouts over the years, the women who’d managed to get in and hang on at Newsweek had left. “A lot of institutional knowledge was gone,” said Bennett.

Said Povich, “It’s hard to be a feminist in a ‘post-feminist’ world.”

I’d write off my own lunchtime weirdness with that editor as something dinosaur-ish, impossible today, but for the Newsweek staffers’ current stories:

If a man takes an interest in our work, we can’t help but think about the male superior who advised “using our sexuality” to get ahead, or the manager who winkingly asked one of us, apropos of nothing, to “bake me cookies.” One young colleague recalls being teased about the older male boss who lingered near her desk. “What am I supposed to do with that? Assume that’s the explanation for any accomplishments? Assume my work isn’t valuable?” she asks. “It gets in your head, which is the most insidious part.”

A recent study  of the top 15 political and news magazines found that their male by-lines (the credit line for a story’s writer) outnumbered those of women seven to one.

Plus ca change, mes cheres…

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