The American Girl Doll catalog arrived every season in all its over-sized, elegantly-laid-out, colorful glory, featuring three dolls, each of whom had a unique wardrobe, sets of accessories and a book series. The dolls represented a different point in American history, as reflected by her story, period clothing and accessories. I would spend hours poring over the catalog, marveling at each girl’s school lunch, bedroom set, play clothes and formal wear. The dolls themselves were displayed like Playboy centerfolds–spanning two pages, you had to turn the magazine ninety degrees to behold her full, upright glory, the artificial gleam in her eyes, her glossy hair and sweet smile, replete with two tiny front teeth poking out. I wanted one. I needed one. I suppose you could say the American Girl catalog was porn to my elementary school sensibilities. I spent hours alone in my room with it, engaging in endless fantasies about possessing the dolls. Continue reading
My first question was where he first learned about sex and from whom. He wanted clarification—did I mean the concept or “the intricacies and what to actually do”? Oooh, good point. I wanted both, now that he mentioned it. We started at the beginning, when he learned about human reproductive systems and development in school, as a nine year old. I wondered if his parents had added any information, or initiated conversation on the topic. “Not that I can remember. I remember coming across my dad’s prescription of Viagra about four years ago. That’s the extent my family spoke about sex.” Was there any conversation at the Viagra find? “After I found my dad’s Viagra, I high-fived him. He said, ‘you don’t think this is weird or gross?’ I was like ‘no, lack of sex is a leading cause of divorce, I’m glad my parents still do it’. I was the sex-forward one in the family.”
A recently engaged, early thirties man, he had generously offered to be interviewed to continue Candid Uprising’s exploration of how what we learn about sex as children influences our sexuality. It was immediately clear that I was speaking with an open (or sex-forward, in his words) individual. Continue reading
The “Sex Ed Fail” series Candid Uprising featured in December and January (a progression of posts about my experience of working at Planned Parenthood) were the most-read content on the site yet, peaking with “Sex Ed Fail: The Interview“. I found myself wanting to trace sexual attitudes through the generations, to talk to a parent about their perception of responsibility for educating their child about sex, and how that may have been shaped by their parent. Out of the woodwork came a woman in her mid-forties, a mother of two, open to filling in the picture for me.
As a kid she moved a lot, never settling in one place long enough to make a close group of girlfriends. Later, she would point out that a lack of girlfriends made her vulnerable, often times sexually. She grew up in a family that was comfortable with nudity around the house, parents who were honest and forthcoming with her about sex and sexuality. Her earliest memories of learning about sex involve a conversation between her and her mom when she was eight. “I asked my mom about kissing, and she told me it was something that people did with each other when they loved each other.” Any question she had, her mom answered with medically accurate information. What seems to have made the strongest impression was her mom’s ability to talk to her on her level, in a developmentally appropriate way. It increased her comfort level so that asking her mom questions about sex felt natural as she grew up. In lieu of girlfriends (or “the playground” where so many of us learn backwards mis-information, legends, really about sex), she had her welcoming mom. Continue reading
I’m an obsessive reader of all things relating to drug addiction, be they memoirs, ethnographic studies or public health reports. Addiction and its effects on individuals and communities fascinates me, and so when my dear friend Kyle posted the following facebook status about his hometown, I knew I had to find out more:
“Podunk please stop sucking out loud…There hasn’t been any growth in thirty+ years other than the amount of DUI’s and deaths from heroin, coke, etc. Statistics that no one is proud of. Stop looking at the police blotter as your high school yearbook. Change comes from within, or we’ll all be left without.” Continue reading
(Continued from Tuesday)
When our teen patient showed up for her counseling appointment the day after we cancelled her abortion procedure (after a battle of wills between her mother and I over her attempt to force her daughter into the appointment to terminate her pregnancy), I wondered why she had returned. I had left our previous session feeling like a total amateur (which I was) and bully. Nevertheless, she was coming back in, and I resolved to listen and respond to her needs, rather than my own this time.
“I don’t know what to do next,” she told me upon her arrival. “I mean, I know I’m going to have a baby, but, like, what do I do?” We both knew she meant that she hadn’t secured the support of her mother around her decision to become a teen parent, and that she needed resources. Naturally, the first resource that came to mind was having a medically accurate, clinical discussion of sex and birth control methods. Unlike some of our teen patients, she had a correct understanding of sex–the definition and mechanics. Like most of our patients, regardless of age, she didn’t understand how she became pregnant using the withdrawal method, after receiving basic sex education at school, but never discussing the subject in detail with her parents. I began my explanation of pre-ejaculate, survey of available birth control methods and assessment of which would work best for her in the future, given her lifestyle and needs (as she described them). She had been having sex with her boyfriend, another young teen, for a period of several months and this was her first time being pregnant. She needed adult support and guidance desperately, and I racked my brain to figure out how to help her on that front, given her mother’s disregard and stubbornness. “Do you have a relationship with your father?” I asked, clutching at straws. Continue reading
I was talking with my dad about Candid Uprising, telling him about our mission and purpose and encouraging him to read. While I knew he’d be proud to hear that I’m exploring a passion project, I was also concerned about how he might react to some of the opinions we’ve put forth. While he is socially liberal, and overall of a progressive mindset, he was raised in the Midwest in the 1950s and has some closely held traditional values. My dad is a rather reserved, reticent person, but he came alive when I told him I had written and published a couple of posts on not wanting children. “Right”, he said animatedly, “people have kids to fill the void. Things get stale. People’s lives plateau and they tell themselves, now it’s time.” He continued to expound upon the subject as I frantically scribbled notes. “Kids fill up the room”, he continued, “they take all your extra time, all your extra money, all your extra love and affection. Kids are all consuming. Being a parent is a bitch, and the most responsible thing you’ll ever do. You fuck up someone elses life, and it’s terrifying”, he finished. “Dad”, I exclaimed, “then why in the world do people do it?”
“It’s biology, for god’s sake”, he cried. Continue reading
At the Thanksgiving table there were eleven people crammed into a space for eight. The conversation was spirited, opinionated and loud. At the head of the table sat Bobby, an elderly man in poor health, a walker at his side. Often his voice could be heard above the din, and I caught words like “Israel”, “Washington” and “Muslims”. Rolling my eyes to myself, I dismissed him as another conservative, closed-minded old man, good for not much more than espousing his bigoted beliefs. Without hearing his words in context of any sort, not even a complete sentence, I took this leap, assuming the worst about him. Because, you know, the Greatest Generation, while I respect them tremendously for what they lived through as young people (the Depression, WWII, the Korean War) and how they made do in a way my generation will never understand, they display a complete lack of perspective. They don’t contribute anything worthwhile. Yep, I’m the open-minded one. Continue reading
Divisive conflicts in the workplace, where intergenerational politics are involved seem to capture my notice more frequently of late. Especially those in which I’ve been involved. The represented generations have different ways of dealing with the perceived contrasts between groups, with a fixation on who’s right and who’s entitled, which informs responses, management style, hiring and firing decisions. It’s especially apparent between the Baby Boomers and the Millenials, and it’s both fascinating and frustrating to participate in and watch. Continue reading