One of my favourite ethics – and Joe Morgenstern – stories regarding an engineering mistake made in building the Citicorp tower in New York: “‘I had information that nobody else in the world had,’ LeMessurier recalls. ‘I had power in my hands to effect extraordinary events that only I could initiate. I mean, sixteen years to failure–that was very simple, very clear-cut. I almost said, thank you, dear Lord, for making this problem so sharply defined that there’s no choice to make.’” (The New Yorker via Duke University)
Here’s confirmation to what you were probably thinking this Monday: According to Cambridge academic Dr. David Bainbridge, middle age is when those of us whose skin may be sagging just slightly but whose brains are still in pretty top form transmit essential cultural knowledge.
In “crazy things people say” check out this video on menopause and…err, death. Because really – I’m kind of speechless.
But it does remind me of a childbirth class I attended when I was pregnant with my first child. An over-enthusiastic second-time father described the pain of contractions in great detail, complete with hand motions for the opening of the cervix. His wife, surprisingly enough, still went home with him at the end of the evening.
Associate art director Shelley Frayer is celebrating a milestone birthday today. Happy birthday Shelley!
The celebrating led to a staff discussion of birthdays, especially surprise ones. Which birthdays stick out in your mind?
Mine is going to have to be, despite the cliché, my sweet sixteen — a massive surprise party at a friend’s. I like the more sedate ones since, but that one stands out in memory. Maybe you always do remember your first!
In a waiting room recently, a mom and her teen daughter were sitting beside me, with the mom chirpily pushing instructions on her daughter.
“Shut up!” the daughter said to her.
I probably couldn’t have been more surprised if the daughter had said it to me instead. Shut up? Really?
Now, I’m not trying to make a case for how woefully uncouth or degenerate the youth of today are compared to “when we were kids,” because I’m of the opinion every generation says that about young’uns. I just want to know what you think is the correct response as a parent.
Because this mom totally took it in stride, and kept rattling out instructions and questions like nothing happened.
Just when I resolve to quit talking about pregnancy…I have a More moment.
I was at the obstetrician’s in the waiting room and some of the women got chatting and sharing vitals – you know, due date, sex of baby (if known), other kids and…age. I said I’m 39. To which I got the response: “Oh, so you’re going to be a granny mama!”
Here’s my official writerly, editorial reaction: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’d've liked to go on a rant about how common it is these days to have kids in your late 30s — these days; a phrase that probably only those of us about to enter our golden years use. Many women wait because they are building careers or waiting for the right relationship or just plain waiting. And so what? Isn’t that what choice is all about? Trust me, having met so many women who are heading off to climb mountains or go motorcycling around, I’m not exactly worried about having young kids in my 40s.
As someone who’s faced reproductive challenges, I know that it’s a luxury to even start to discuss the pros and cons of having kids earlier or later in life. There are advantages and disadvantages to every stage of life and every configuration of family. I’m glad to be having kids when I’m stable and have a strong sense of myself – but I also admit that I occasionally have twinges of envy of people not that much older than I am who are about to empty their nest and get cracking on goals that don’t involve avoiding humiliation at snack day. I do worry a little bit about how my kids will handle issues around my husband and I aging when they are still young adults – but that is one reason we’re saving money, working on our health, and basically trying to make sure we think things through; something that comes with maturity.
All that said, what gives a younger woman the right to call me that anyway? Seriously, back off.
I might have uncharitably commented on teen pregnancy (although to be fair, the woman who dropped the remark was in her early 20s.) Fortunately we were interrupted by the cattle call for the next round of women getting weighed, and I let it go. But now I want to know: Have you come across this attitude? What would a good snappy comeback be?
I am now in that stage of pregnancy where it’s pretty hard to miss and I’ve been reminded that some men behave weirdly around pregnant women. That is, they flirt. Eye contact, compliments and even, in one case, picking up the tab for my decaff latte.
In my first pregnancy at 33, it didn’t stand out quite as much, but I did notice a pattern in my next pregnancy. This time, it seems overwhelming – probably because the last few years of my life have been pretty flirt-free (unless you count a bit of banter at the bouncy castle birthday party). I’m guessing a big part of that is having traded in nights out downtown for the chance to be home for preschooler bedtime, but it may also be related to age. (Not that people can’t convey age-appropriate come-hither looks – but I generally don’t.)
Whatever the root cause of the lack of flirting, suddenly it’s ramped up again. Is it that being pregnant with a wedding band makes me an obvious “no” so men feel more relaxed about joking around? Is it some kind of vestigial tribal urge to stake a claim on clearly fertile women? Or is it maybe a kind of caring-pity-move that really says “at this swollen, bowling-ball-like point in your life where you are confined to whatever you can find in maternity wear, I will compliment you as a way of ensuring the survival of the species?”
Here’s a discussion that’s hitting the blogs this week: Former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch had what some people are taking as pretty harsh words for women looking to take time off to care for kids or family, in his remarks for the Society for Human Resource Management at its annual conference. Via the Wall Street Journal, here’s the quote that’s got people talking:
“There’s no such thing as work-life balance,” Mr. Welch told the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans on June 28. “There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”
Mr. Welch said those who take time off for family could be passed over for promotions if “you’re not there in the clutch.”
Some of the response:
“Perhaps if we stopped viewing these jobs as what we’re aspiring to reach, and begin seeing them as fool’s gold largely sought by folks with too narrow a conception of ambition, men and women who never reach the C suite would better count their blessings.” – Conor Friedersdorf at the Daily Dish
“For many people though, they are willing to take that middle ground between workaholic and homemaker. There just has [sic] to be more opportunities to take that route.” – Laura at 11d. I particularly wanted to also note commenter stranger’s remark on that post: “Life-work balance, as an issue, becomes more important as you age, particularly if you have a family. College graduates, though, usually have no idea how miserable they will be in their mid- to late 30′s, if they choose the wrong career track.”
“I regularly interview women for my show Give and Take who do have it all — they are mothers with high powered careers. These women are resolute, dedicated and supreme multi-taskers.” – Julie Menin at the Huffington Post
What’s my take? That it’s very individual and dependent on the industry and corporation involved – which is exactly why we need to share our stories, as women, of our ongoing reinventions through various stages of our life as we struggle to “have it all.” So don’t forget to comment or share your story in our View from her section.
Remember Elizabeth Wurtzel’s 1994 tell-all memoir Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America? Well the author’s 41 now and recently published an equally eyebrow-raising piece in Elle: “Failure to Launch: When Beauty Fades.” Here’s a quote:
“Age is a terrible avenger. The lessons of life give you so much to work with, but by the time you’ve got all this great wisdom, you don’t get to be young anymore. And in this world, that’s just about the worst thing that can happen—especially to a woman.”
Oh, girl. We have got to get you a subcription to More. First piece on the list: Kim Pittaway’s A lady never tells.
It’s not that I don’t get mourning the freshness of youthful beauty – I’m still not at peace with my post-pregnancy body. But there’s so much more to life. What do you think?
So what does make us happy? Dr. Valiant has been a long time director of a Harvard research study that has examined this question for 72 years, following men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage, divorce, parenthood, grandparenthood, and old age. Read the full article on Atlantic.com here, but a video of the director speaking about happiness is below. (Hat tip to Laura at 11D.)