Fraternizing with the Enemy

[World, October 23, 1993] I arrived a little early to pick up my 11-year-old son at church camp. It was dinnertime in the long wooden hall, 263 kids noisily banging the cups and wolfing down cherry cobbler. Suddenly a table of boys burst into incoherent song--the words a blur, but the tone tauntingly playful. It was greeted with a mixture of applause and boos. “That's Cabin 44,” Stephen grinned. “Every night they have a battle with Cabin 5. They make up rhymes about each other.” When a few minutes had lapsed another song struck up, this one all in girls' voices. “That's Cabin 5,” Stephen told me. When they finished, I joined the yays (Go, team!) while Stephen went “Boo!” “I had to go 'boo,'” he explained to me, sincerely. “I knew they were making fun of men. I knew it was a sexist joke.”

Generation Why

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” July 8, 1996] When my daughter came home from college she announced she wants to paint something else on her car. It's already covered with daisies. Now she wants to add cartoon depictions of the Beatles, Yellow-Submarine style, on the doors. The tape rack inside is filled with Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. “Everybody I like is dead,” she says. Her brother David is a couple of years younger. His golden hair flows over his shoulders, and he's attempting by sheer force of willpower to generate a moustache and goatee. Wire-rim glasses complete the look. The other day I found him bent over his guitar, picking out the chords to Bob Dylan's “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Men Protecting Women

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” October 9, 1996] When my daughter got a job delivering pizzas, I was a little concerned. Is the neighborhood safe? Do they deliver after dark? I imagined her standing in a shadowy hallway all alone, vulnerable to any sort of mayhem, and armed only with a pizza.

Think of All You’d Miss if Your Reading Skills Weren’t “Enhanced” by Age

[Smithsonian, February 1997] Now that all three of my children are teenagers I've reached the age where, as they keep reminding me, I'm well on my way to being a geezer. Most signs of impending geezerhood involve diminishment: loss of hearing, memory, and I think there was another one. But one I didn't expect was the tricks the eye can play while reading. With increasing frequency I'm running across astounding things in headlines, billboards, and captions--only to find, on closer inspection, that it didn't say that at all.

Clipboard Ladies, Forward March

[Books & Culture, September-October 1997] I was an easy mark. As a comfy-dressed middle-aged lady in tennis shoes, ambling through the mall a little after noon, I clearly was not a lawyer in clickety heels on a tight lunchhour, not a harried mom with a chocolate-smeared toddler. As I rounded the bend by the fountain I walked right into a swarm of Clipboard Ladies, and was snared. “Would you have a moment to answer a few questions?” asked one, zooming up to me with a perma-prest smile.

Men Behaving Justly

[Christianity Today, November 17, 1997] It’s a man’s world, at least around my house. With my daughter off at college it’s just my husband, two teenaged sons, and me; even the dog and cat are of the masculine persuasion. I’ve seen some majority-male households that have slipped toward caveman conditions, where underwear is washed by wearing it in the shower and dishes are washed by giving them to the dog. I’m determined that that won’t happen here. Rather than draw up a long list of rules covering minute aspects of behavior, I’ve found that one general principle covers all circumstances. It’s one my boys actually came up with on their own. The rule is (and this must be hissed in an urgent whisper): “Not in front of the chick!”

Platitudes

[NPR, “All Things Considered,” March 31, 1997] I don't think I want personal advice from gas pumps. The other day, while standing at a self-serve pump, I heard the machine give a peremptory beep. I turned around and, in the tiny screen that usually offers specials on soft drinks, this message was reeling by: “Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm That You Are The Type Of Person With Whom You Would Want To Spend The Rest Of Your Life. Each Day Silently Affirm...” I was moved to some affirmations that weren't all that silent.

Poetry for Dummies

[Books & Culture, March, 1998] Stacks of poetry books are resting on my desk, slim books with shiny covers, like hard little pills of intensity and voluptous emotion. They are the paper equivalent of social x-rays; they exude the philosophy, “You can never be too thin or too rich.” No wonder I'm intimidated. My husband and I agreed to armwrassle a hearty stack o' poetry in preparation for National Poetry Month, and I think we were selected primarily for our ignorance. In my case, it's an ignorance standing in heroic resistance to years of experience. I started out writing poetry, and at the age of 13 won an award for one about a deserted town, I think because of the dead flies on a windowsill. I also got to say “thee” and “nought” and other hoity words you can only use in poems. For ten years I had a ball being a poet. I read and wrote a great deal of the stuff, then gave it up for changing diapers.

The Abortion Debate is Over

[Christianity Today, December 6, 1999] The twenty-seventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade is coming up, and I have some bad news. The abortion debate is over. For a couple of decades there it was the hot topic, the cover story of magazines, subject of television debates, and flashpoint of political campaigns. Many a punditorial brow was furrowed over ”this difficult, controversial choice." Then the public got bored.

The Bitter Price of “Choice”

[Tampa Tribune, December 3, 1989] When I was in college the bumper sticker on my car read “Don’t labor under a misconception —legalize abortion”. I was one of a handful of feminists on my campus, back in the days when we were jeered at as “bra-burning women’s libbers”. As we struggled against a hazy sea of sexism, abortion rights was a visible banner, a concrete, measurable goal. Though our other foes were elusive, within the fragile boundary of our skin, at least, we would be sovereign. What could be more personal? How could any woman oppose it? I oppose it now. It has been a slow process, my path from a pro-choice to a pro-life position, and I know that unintended pregnancy raises devastating problems. But I can no longer avoid the realization that legalizing abortion was the wrong solution; we have let in a Trojan Horse whose hidden betrayal we’ve just begun to see.