Saturday, November 22, 2008

High school memories

Since I've joined Facebook, I've gotten a bunch of friend requests from people I haven't seen since high school. Some are people I'm genuinely excited to hear from, people I have occasionally thought about over the years and wondered what happened to them. Some are people I wasn't all that close to and/or didn't know well (i.e., I haven't thought of them since graduating) but I don't really mind 'friending' them because I have generally friendly feelings about them. But a small handful have been people I didn't like then and can't really imagine why they would even ask to be my 'friend' now, other than they just want to have as many 'friends' on Facebook as possible. I generally just ignore these requests but for some reason, they nag at me. Some part of me feels bad, partly because I suspect they don't have the slightest clue why I'm ignoring them.

I'm a big cliche
The problem is, I hated high school. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way, but my guess is that anyone who knew me in high school would be slightly surprised to hear me say that. Back then, I was the poster girl for well-rounded over-achiever: straight-A's, choir, student government, mock trial, you name it. And of course, I was a cheerleader dating a football player (though not the quarterback, thank god). What did I possibly have to hate about high school?

Well, as anyone who has seen Can't Buy Me Love knows (yes, I loved Patrick Dempsey long before he was McDreamy), the only high school cliche more persistent than the cheerleader dating the football player is that the kids who are all friends in grade school go their separate ways in junior high and high school, forming stereotyped cliques that all have their own table in the cafeteria. And for reasons that I still don't understand after years of therapy, I was not accepted into the "cool" clique when we hit junior high. I spent most of 7th grade being a tagalong, trying to figure out how to fit in with girls I had been BFFs with just the year before. By the start of 8th grade, I mustered up the self-respect to find some real friends and tried to get comfortable with my new group but a part of me never really let go of what happened. Then junior year, I made it onto the varsity cheerleading squad and suddenly people who hadn't talked to me in four years were asking if I wanted to get together. But I was always so aware of the shallowness and two-faced-ness of most of the "in crowd" that I just never trusted them. At the same time, me being a cheerleader seemed to make my smart friends (with whom I still had a bunch of AP classes) less comfortable around me. So other than my football player boyfriend (who I still think of as probably the most decent guy I've ever dated), my last two years of high school were pretty lonely.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I don't have some great memories of high school, and I like to think that my experiences then made me a much more compassionate person today. And I know that it was all twenty years ago and I'm sure most people have changed (though would it be terribly snarky of me to say these are not people who ever struck me as the type to be very introspective so I sort of think there's also a good chance they have not changed all that much?). But even if they are now the most amazing people in the world, if the only thing we have in common is shared memories of a time I don't even care about remembering, am I obligated to let them back in my life?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reflections on the election

[The following is an email I received yesterday from a dear friend from college. Adam lives in Los Angeles with his family and I asked if I could post his email because he expresses so well what is in my own heart but does it far more eloquently than I could.]

Dear Friends and Family,

Aman and I awoke this morning with unfortunately heavy hearts. We found ourselves unable to fully enjoy or celebrate Barack Obama's historic win, because of the heartbreaking passage of Proposition 8, which enshrined discrimination against gays and lesbians into our California constitution. We found ourselves thinking of our two beautiful children and of our own marriage, which 45 years ago would not have been possible in much of the country because of very similar ignorance and fear.

Proponents of Proposition 8 do not like it when parallels are drawn between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage. But the similarities are too overwhelmingly obvious to be ignored. Forty-five years ago, in much of the country, Aman and I would not have been allowed to marry and have a family. We would have been denied these rights because so many folks felt that interracial marriages were unnatural, contrary to tradition, contrary to how marriage has always been, and against God's will. Sound familiar? These same arguments were all heard from Proposition 8 supporters. The Yes on 8 campaign advertisements focused on allegations that children would be taught about same-sex marriage in the schools and that free speech rights would be limited because individuals and churches would be forced to officiate and accept marriages that they believed were ungodly. These were also arguments that were regularly voiced with respect to interracial marriages.

As we sat with our two kids early this morning - they got us up at 5:00 a.m. again - we found ourselves wanting to fully celebrate what President Obama's incredible victory represents for this country. But we found ourselves unable to fully do so because of the heartache of knowing that yesterday Californians enshrined discrimination into our Constitution by denying certain Californians the right to marry the person of their choosing.

For those who think that the same-sex marriage issue was pushed too fast and too soon, I would point you to the poetic words of Langston Hughes who said:

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Our hearts ache this morning for all our gay and lesbian friends and family members who last night were told by the people of California that they can not marry the person that they loved -- that they can not fulfill their dreams in the same way that the rest of us can.

Our hearts ache for the gay and lesbian boys and girls who are struggling, as all young people do, with who they are and what their place is in the world. Last night, the people of California once again told these young people that they were unnatural and deviant, and that they are not entitled to the same rights as the rest of us.

Our hearts ache for our two children, whom we love more than anything. Last night the American people helped to make the world a better place for our children by electing Barack Obama. But last night, the people of California said not so fast, there is still much work to be done.

Just like the struggle to allow interracial marriage, the struggle for full marriage equality for all will not be won overnight. These fights began with individual couples who refused to give up on their love and their dreams just because others said that such love was unnatural and wrong. They spread to friends and family who become allies in the cause. As they picked up strength, political leaders began to speak out, the courts came around, and eventually the general public did as well we are obviously still working on this last step with respect to same-sex marriages.

What we learned from last night is that we still have a lot of work to do especially in low-income communities and communities of color. At root, I believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in fear and ignorance. Fear of something that for generations we have been describing as icky and unnatural. Ignorance of the love and commitment that infuses so many same-sex unions. We can change these things. We will change these things.

There is hope in the exit polls from Proposition 8, which found a massive generation gap: the under-30s voted for marriage equality by 67 to 31 percent; the over-65s voted for discrimination by 57 to 43 percent. I have no doubt that there will be many other struggles that we will bequeath to our children. But this will not be one of them. It will take longer than we had hoped, and that makes us sad. But, make no mistake about it -- this is a fight that we will win.

Although we feel much anger and sadness, Aman and I are still hopeful. Barack Obama is correct when he says that much of America's genius lies in its ability to change. In his speech last night -- which was as inspiring as he so often is -- Obama used many lines that were used by Martin Luther King. At one point Obama referred to "the arc of history." After the famous march to Selma, King was asked how long it would take to achieve justice. His answer is well worth remembering at times like this:

How long? Not long. Because the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.

In solidarity and love,

Adam Murray
Executive Director
Inner City Law Center

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Please vote! If you aren't sure where to go, Google makes it easy: go to and enter your address. I'm actually a permanent mail-in voter but I'm taking my ballot to a polling place today so I can get an "I voted" sticker to put on my Obama pin!

As a Californian Democrat, my vote in the Presidential election won't mean much (other than being able to tell my nieces and nephews that I voted for Barack Obama), but fortunately, we have all those lovely Propositions to keep us on our toes. Prop 8 is pretty much in a dead heat, which I just find sad. I don't know if it's the appalling ads that are freaking people out but in my mind, even if you don't approve of gay marriage, discrimination just doesn't fit with the California culture of 'live and let live'.

The only Proposition that I'm actually voting FOR is Prop 11, the redistricting measure. I've been meaning to write a post about it - maybe I still will - but the short version is that my time in Sacramento made me a much bigger fan of term limits and convinced me that the current system is seriously messed up. Everyone up there talks about people's terms as if every incumbant will be re-elected for the maximum terms possible (i.e., a new Assemblymember's term isn't considered to be two years, it's assumed to be six). Maybe that's not a bad thing but then why don't we just change term length to six years and at least let them focus on governing instead of spending so much money on campaigns that don't really mean much?

At any rate, whoever or whatever you are voting for, today is going to be an historic day. Get out there and vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crazy cat lady

I've always been a dog person. I've never actually owned a dog but when I was growing up, I SO wanted a dog and I was always bummed we couldn't have one because of my mom's and sister's allergies (though I actually found out many years later that apparently the real reason was my parents couldn't agree on what kind of dog - my mom being a small dog person and my dad being a big dog person - but that's a whole different post). When I was finally living on my own, I kept thinking that I'd get a dog as soon as I got settled somewhere; I distinctly remember that when I got my current job eight years ago, I thought that I needed to find an apartment that would let me have a dog, or buy a house as quickly as possible so I could have one.

So although I've never owned one, I've definitely always thought of myself as a dog person. I definitely was NOT a cat person. Cat's have never liked me and I've never particularly liked them. What's to like about these weird animals that seem to think they are doing you a favor if they deign to look in your direction? But five years ago, I somehow became a cat owner. I'm still not quite sure how it happened. Well, I mean, I know how it happened - my sleeping partner at the time was going on sabbatical and couldn't find anyone to take care of his cat and was about to take her to the shelter so being a complete sucker, I said I'd take care of her for the six months he would be gone. And at first, it wasn't that big a deal. The upside of cats' notorious aloofness is that they are incredibly low maintenance. You pretty much just feed them and scoop out their litter box once a day (and if you have an outdoor cat, not even that). I didn't really pay much attention to her. But slowly, day by day, she began to grow on me. She would come sit on the couch with me while I was watching T.V., and then she started sleeping on my bed. She would bump my legs as I was sitting at my computer until I'd pick her up and then she'd just sit there in my lap. Somehow, by the time her former owner came back to town, she had become 'mine'.

What's particularly weird is that other cats seem to know that I'm now 'a cat person'. It used to be that if I encountered cats in other people's homes, they ignored me, just as I ignored them. Now, it's like they can sense something - if I walk into a house with cats, they will make a beeline for my legs. And my cat is curled in my lap as I write this, purring away.

So given my cat history, I loved a recent post from Bella DePaulo, about the stereotype of singles and their cats:
I wonder why it is that single people - women especially - are so often cast as cat-crazy. Is it a way of attributing a cat-like caricature to singles - say, aloof and unsociable? Or maybe even a more flattering portrait of cool and unruffled independence? By itself, the perception of singles as cat-people (or pet-people) doesn't bother me. What does rub me the wrong way is the interpretation that is sometimes offered for the supposed link between being single and having a pet - that singles have pets as "compensation" for not having a spouse.
In the comments, Becky points out that dogs simply require a lot more time and work: "So it's not a crazy lonely cat lady, it's a person with a full time job and social obligations without kids to keep them home... if you have control over it, a cat is often a more practical and humane choice in a pet if you are a busy single." That is certainly the view I have come to have. I love that I can go away for the weekend and not worry about what I'm going to do with my cat. If I get caught up at the office, or decide to spend the night somewhere at the last minute, I know my cat will be fine. She's still happy to see me and still keeps me company when I'm just hanging out at home but there's no guilt when I leave either. I still love dogs and I stop to pet every dog I see on the street. But I've come to think about dogs the same way I think about kids: they're adorable and I love to play with them at other people's homes, but I certainly don't want to give up my life to have one of my own. So go ahead and call me a crazy cat lady - I'll just take a lesson from my cat and ignore you...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Children as 'investment goods'

Two Italian economists have a new study that asks why birth rates are falling in more developed countries. They look at an Italian policy change that decreased expected pension income for a lot of people, and found that couples with a bigger drop in future income prospects were significantly more likely to have a child. They conclude that children are more likely seen as "a source of future financial support for their retired parents, as opposed to the traditional 'consumption' motive which suggests that a reduced pension income should lead to a reduction in parents' consumption and, therefore, fertility." In other words, one way to see kids is as a future source of financial support (investment) or a drain on one's budget (consumption). I assume that the connection to lower birth rates in developing countries in general is that as people have higher incomes and better standards of living, there is less of a concern about having that future financial support.

Even if this makes sense, I have to say that it's stuff like this that makes people think we economists have no heart...

Friday, October 10, 2008


I know I've been neglecting this blog the last several weeks but I hope you will forgive me and read on because I could use your input. Tonight I find myself deeply troubled, and I'm wondering if I'm not alone. It's partly the financial meltdown, which I have been following closely, probably more closely than the average person, trying to understand what's going on and why. But even with a Ph.D. in economics, I'm not really sure I get it and it's gotten to a point where I'm not sure I even want to know anymore. The headlines are starting to feel unreal and if I let myself think about it too carefully, I'd probably panic, which is exactly what I know we all need NOT to do.

Another part of my feeling troubled is the presidential campaign. I've been following that pretty closely too, watching the debates and reading a lot of the spin. For a while now, I have been really disappointed in John McCain, a man I once considered voting for, because I feel like he is just not the same man he was even a year ago. But the nastiness that has been evident at his (and even more, at Sarah Palin's) recent rallies, goes beyond disappointing - it's just plain scary. David Gergen was on the Colbert Report last night and I think he summed it up well when he said (of McCain): "He needs to rein it in. He is a better man than that." I know there are plenty of nut jobs in this country, not to mention perfectly sane people who happen to be racist bigots; but the truly scary thing is that "leaders" like John McCain are condoning their hate.

Utlimately, maybe that is what's at the root of my troubled heart tonight: a fundamental lack of leadership, and therefore a lack of trust in our government. I am praying that Obama, who inspires me more than any politician has since Clinton in 1992, will be able to stop this downward spiral but given current rhetoric, I also fear for his life if he actually wins. The thing is, for the last eight years, Americans have seen our civil liberties eroded and our standing in the world deteriorate. I think many in my particular socioeconomic class have not been personally affected and so we have watched it all with a sort of detached horror - intellectually, we know all the things Bush has done are awful but it's not clear what we could/should do about it. But if Obama loses, or is assassinated before taking office, I honestly wonder if we are all aware of how bad it could get...

I hate to be such a downer (those who know me know that this is not my usual m.o. at all). So help me out - am I being too pessimistic? Or do you feel the same frustration? How are you dealing with it?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In praise of singletude

I started the week with all kinds of good intentions to write something about it being Unmarried and Single Americans Week. Unfortunately, this semester is seriously kicking my butt so the week is over but I still wanted to take at least a few minutes to pay tribute to the fact that according to the Census Bureau, over 40% of the population 18 and over is unmarried (that includes never married, widowed or divorced). I thought it was interesting that the week was originally National Singles Week, intended "to celebrate single life and recognize singles and their contributions to society" but the Census website says it is now generally known as 'Unmarried and Single Americans Week' to acknowledge that "many unmarried Americans do not identify with the word “single” because they are parents, have partners or are widowed." Which leads me to ponder once again: what does 'single' mean to you?

I've also been thinking about the term single because I've come across some twists on the word that strike me as cool attempts to de-stigmatize singlehood. There's obviously Quirkyalone, the inspiration for the title of this blog. I also like Singular, which is the name of a new magazine for singles in L.A. But my favorite is singletude, as in Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles. The rest of the tagline reads: "a positive, supportive blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live." Amen to that.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Well put

At the risk of sounding like part of the 'intellectual elite', I really liked this post from Russell Korobkin at the Volokh Conspiracy:

The problem with Palin on a national ticket is not her lack of experience, per se. Few governors have much, if any, direct foreign policy experience, and we elect them President quite often. Specific experience can be quite overrated, and if you blindly use it to reinforce rather than challenge your prior beliefs and prejudices it can be downright harmful. The problem is that it isn't clear that she even pays much attention to the newspapers or has had, prior to this week's airplane flight to Alaska with McCain staffers, any in-depth conversations or even in-depth thoughts about the critical issues that have faced the country over the last several years. The Palin interviews with Charlie Gibson over the past two days have provided definitive proof that she lacks the intellectual heft that she will sorely need if she ever were to find herself having to weigh and choose between competing arguments made by advisors about complicated policy questions.

She's in way over her head. Worse, if you believe what she told Gibson about her lack of hesitation when McCain offered her the position, she doesn't even know it.

Add in McCain morphing from someone I once considered voting for to someone who flat-out lies, and I just donated money to a politician for the first time in my life.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Random thoughts about Palin

I've been completely caught up in my classes for the last couple weeks but like a good little feminist Democrat, I've been accumulating some links about Sarah Palin that I want to share so here are some worthwhile links and a few thoughts: Alaskans' Opinions on Sarah Palin
This email, from a woman in Palin's hometown, has been making the rounds but when I first got it, I thought it must be fake. However, when I checked (which I encourage everyone to do before sending on any kind of chain-y emails!), it turns out that it's real. The letter is critical but not in a scathing way - the author originally sent it just to friends and family, a couple days after Palin was announced, simply to give them more information.

Mixed Race America: Post convention thoughts
This is one of my new favorite blogs (and not just because it's written by a 30-something professor named Jennifer). She just says a lot of stuff I wish I'd said, like: "I would like people to recognize that women, just like men, are complex creatures. And that just because you are a woman does not mean that you can speak for all women or are in favor of what, politically, we refer to as "women's rights." Same thing goes for being African American--Barack Obama does not speak on behalf of all African Americans. He does not "represent" black American. He is not running for president of the American "black diaspora." He is running to be President of the United States."
I agree 100%. But what bugs me is that the McCain campaign seems to want to use Palin to get the support of women but then anytime someone actually mentions she is a women (in a negative way), they jump all over that as sexist. Can't have it both ways...

The Daily Show: Sarah Palin Gender Card
That hypocrisy is really what bugs me most about the coverage of Palin, and I'll admit Democrats are engaging in it too - people on both sides are saying things about her that they would never say about someone in their own party. Not that this is anything new in politics but for some reason, it seems more obvious this time. And Jon Stewart makes that point brilliantly!

The Volokh Conspiracy - Should We Hold Belief in Creationism Against Candidates for Political Office?
Given my tendency to over-analyze everything, I feel like it's becoming increasing rare for someone else to make a reasonable point that truly makes me go, "hmmm..." but this post really did. The author wonders why we (i.e., the media and liberals) make a bigger deal about someone believing in creationism than believing other, equally unprovable religious ideas (like the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc.). I will say that I think part of the difference lies with what people do with those beliefs - you just don't see people pushing to teach the virgin birth in sex ed classes or the resurrection in history or biology classes - but I think it's a good point.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When does 'dressing the part' become simply 'dressing'?

Classes start next week which means I've started my annual August ritual: staring into my closet wondering, "What am I going to wear when I teach?" Before anyone thinks that this really should be the least of my worries right now, let me point out that I've been working at my computer for the last three weeks, pretty much straight, stressing about getting my classes put together, so taking a break to stare at my closet isn't me being shallow, it's me trying to avoid carpal tunnel and the need for bifocals!

Actually, I hadn't really started thinking about my wardrobe until I saw a post on Stepcase Lifehack about work and style that is part of their summer giveaway. Part of the reason it caught my attention is that this IS something I think about every year. I've always 'dressed up' to teach; of course, in academia, 'dressing up' could mean simply not wearing a tee-shirt and flip flops, but for me, it usually means wearing nice pants or maybe a skirt, shoes with at least a little bit of heel, and a tailored sweater or top. I'm a Banana Republic/Ann Taylor kind of girl anyway, so it's not like this is a big stretch, but given my druthers, I'd still rather wear jeans or capris.

However, by some point in the semester, 'nice pants' does usually mellow out to include my dark jeans (note to any guys who are confused reading this: dark jeans are still dressier than regular jeans), and I get a little less anal about what I wear. What I've realized is that each year, that point - the point where I decide it's OK for me to dress a little less nicely - gets earlier and earlier. And this year, I'm not really sure that I even care. That's not saying that I intend to go to class next week in shorts and a tank top. But the main reason I've always dressed up to teach is that I think it helps me to establish my position of 'authority'. That is, since I look younger than I am, I've always worried about students not taking me seriously as a professor, and dressing up is one way I can make it clear that I am not 'one of them'. But as I get older, I seem to be worrying less about that. Duh, you're thinking, that only makes sense, since as I get older, I must look older so there's less to worry about. But I think it's more that as I get older, I am more confident and more comfortable being a professor. I feel less need to 'dress the part' because it's no longer a 'part' I'm playing, it's simply who I am. The upshot is that what I wear isn't about looking older or more authoritative, it's about looking like the competent professional that I am. Who happens to wear a lot of Banana Republic...

Related posts:
When do you become middle-aged?
Managing social media and multiple personalities

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hirabayashi lie

I'm going to depart from the usual content of this blog to comment on something that is extremely important to me. In my profile description over there in the right-hand sidebar, I mention that I am 4th-generation Japanese-American, or yonsei. That means my great-grandparents came to the U.S. from Japan (in the JA community, 1st-generation, or Issei, refers to the generation that come over, not the first born here). For those who can do the math, my grandparents were born well before World War II and yes, my family went through the internment (and if you don't know much about the internment, I've written a short summary here). I've often thought that the ironic absurdity of the internment is exemplified in the fact that my mother was born in Mississippi, where my grandfather was doing his Army training. When he went off to fight with the 442nd in Europe, my grandmother went back into camp, since she didn't really have anywhere else to go. It's simply beyond comprehension that there were men fighting and dying for a country that was essentially treating their families like prisoners.

Of course, there are many things about the Japanese American internment that are appalling but yesterday I read something that reinforced just what a shameful period that was. Eric Muller has written a paper about Hirabayashi v. United States, a key case in which the Supreme Court basically said that the racially-based curfew imposed on Japanese Americans was allowable because of the severity of the threat of an invasion of the West Coast. Muller presents new evidence that the government lawyers lied to make their case. I'll let the abstract speak for itself:
While the government's submissions in Hirabayashi maintained that the curfew was a constitutional response to the serious threat of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast, new archival findings make clear that military officials foresaw no Japanese invasion and were planning for no such thing at the time they ordered mass action against Japanese Americans. Even more disturbingly, the archival record demonstrates that at the time that Justice Department lawyers filed their brief in Hirabayashi emphasizing a threatened invasion, they knew this emphasis was false.

The Article seeks to understand what might have led otherwise ethical Justice Department lawyers to present such a big and consequential lie, suggesting that the then-prevalent racial schema of the "Oriental" as an invading horde may have overpowered the lawyers' evaluation of the facts. And perhaps more importantly, the Article demonstrates that the Hirabayashi decision - which has never been repudiated in the way that the more famous Korematsu decision has been, and which remains a potent precedent for race-conscious national security measures - deserves to be installed in the Supreme Court's Hall of Shame, alongside Korematsu, Dred Scott, and the Court's other biggest mistakes.

There are many who want to believe that the internment was somehow justified, that the government must have had some reason to believe that the Japanese American community posed a threat to national security. But there is simply no evidence that that was the case; on the contrary, the only people who spied for Japan during the War were all white, there wasn't a single incident of sabotage perpetrated by Japanese Americans, and the 442nd, comprised entirely of Japanese Americans, is one of the most decorated military units in history. For reasons that should be obvious, I think it is particularly crucial that we keep this history in mind today...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Anti-Procrastinator

I have an odd problem: I refuse to procrastinate. OK, I realize that to most people, that doesn't sound like a problem, but let me explain... I am probably one of the only people who made it through four years of college and almost five years of graduate school without ever pulling an all-nighter. The closest I came was the night before my senior econometrics project was due when I went to bed at 3am and got up at 6am (so I did learn what people mean when they say that at a certain point, it's just better to stay up!). Ironically, the night before I was supposed to leave Madison to drive to San Diego, I stayed up all night to pack up my apartment (which I hadn't done because I was trying to get my dissertation turned in), but I feel like that doesn't count because it wasn't work-related and if my boyfriend weren't driving, I could have chosen to just leave a day later. But I digress...

The reason I've never had to pull an all-nighter is because I have a HUGE aversion to doing things at the last minute - for reasons I can't explain, it just stresses me out more than pretty much anything. As you might imagine, I've developed some pretty good time management skills, which is one reason why being an academic works so well for me. But lately, I've been wondering whether my obsession with not doing things at the last minute actually reduces my stress - I suspect it may just move the stress forward in time. For example, classes start in three weeks, right after Labor Day. Given what I need to get done, this should be plenty of time, especially since I know that I don't have to (and even shouldn't) have every single lecture planned out precisely (and really, given that I have my syllabus done and the first couple lectures nailed down, I could pretty much spend the next three weeks at the beach and the world would still not fall apart). And yet, I've been sitting here at the computer for four days straight now (yes, that would mean the weekend), and not sleeping all that well, going over and over my To Do lists, bizarrely worried that I'm going to run out of time.

I know this is partly because I'm basically prepping two new classes but it's also just what I do. I guess the upside is that chances are good that I probably will get everything done that I need to do with time to spare, and then I'll be able to truly enjoy those last few days of summer. And of course, I'm still managing to find some time to blog so I guess I can't be that stressed...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday fun

I don't like clogging up people's in-boxes with random things I just happen to find funny but that's the beauty of a blog - I can post them here instead (hmmm, maybe I need to make my dad set up a blog...). Anyway, here are some things that made me laugh this week:

Garfield minus Garfield - the creator of this site describes it as "...dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb." Some of the best bits are in this RWW blog post that led me to the site in the first place.

Paris hits back - never thought I'd ever write this sentence but Paris Hilton is hilarious in this!

And finally, during the So You Think You Can Dance finale (yay for Joshua winning!), Fox aired a commercial for a new game show called Hole in the Wall (I can't find a clip of the Fox commercial but the linked YouTube clip is from the Australian version).

Happy Friday!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Managing social media and multiple personalities

Problogger's 'social media love-in' has me thinking once again about what exactly I'm doing with all this social media stuff. I have a Twitter account, and I'm on, StumbleUpon and Facebook but I'm not very active on any of them. This is partly because I don't know very many other people who are actively using any of these sites, other than a couple who use Facebook a lot (among my friends, I'm definitely an early adopter). I also worry about what a huge time suck it could become if I actually started spending time finding new people to interact with. But mostly, I think it's that I'm simply not sure how to use these sites effectively to engage with people. That is, I just don't really get it - how does sharing my bookmarks or 160-character blurbs lead to real connection? In contrast, one of the things I love about blogging is that I feel like I can have conversations with people.

Still, I went ahead and added my info to Problogger's love-in*, figuring that maybe if I got to know more people who are on these sites, I could figure out what the appeal is and how to use social media more effectively. At the very least, I figured maybe I could get people to visit my blogs, which I feed through Twitter. But that raised a separate issue for me that I've been struggling with: how to manage my different 'identities'. I have two blogs, this one (obviously) and another that is closely related to my job as an economics professor, where I blog about teaching and economics. When I comment on other peoples' blogs, I usually identify myself with whichever blog fits the context. There isn't much overlap in the audiences for the two blogs and I actually have them set up under two different usernames, because I don't necessarily want my students to be reading my personal blog (I don't think it's a huge issue if they find it, I just don't really want to make it particularly obvious or easy for them).

But on my social media accounts, everything is jumbled together. My Twitter followers see my feeds from both blogs, my Facebook profile (which is the one account where I actually connect with my 'real world' friends) has a bunch of stuff that I don't necessarily want random other people seeing, and my Del.ici.ous account has all my bookmarks. Maybe it isn't that big an issue because people will use tags to find what they want and/or just skip over all the stuff that they find irrevelant. But does anyone else try to keep various aspects of their lives separate, even if those different aspects are all out in the Web somewhere? Any advice for a social media newbie?

* by the way, I don't make money off my blogging, I just really like reading Problogger for ideas about being a better blogger in general.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

OK, maybe I'm not so proud to be a Californian...

From the Sac Bee: Schwarzenegger plans to cut state worker pay to cope with late budget. As several of the comments on the story point out, why the hell isn't he suspending the pay of the legislators who are clearly not doing their jobs? Will someone please, please, please! start a drive for a ballot initiative to reduce the pay of legislators (withOUT it being paid back) for each day they go without signing a budget? This is f*ing ridiculous!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Friendships with parents

It’s a bit of a cliché that parents, particularly new parents, can’t talk about anything but their kids. I feel truly fortunate that my closest friends all seem to recognize this and they make an effort not to fit the stereotype. On more than one occasion, someone has said to me, “OK, I’ve talked enough about the baby, tell me what’s going on with you.” Of course, part of the reason I'm friends with these people is precisely because they are the sort who would say this type of thing and ironically, that also means these are the people I'm most willing to listen to go on and on about their kids (or, if they really are going overboard, that I'm most comfortable telling them straight out that I'd like to change the subject).

But recently, it also occurred to me that there is a big difference between my friends talking about their kid, and them talking about being a parent. To be honest, I’ve only got so much patience for the former because, in many cases, I don’t actually know the kid very well and who wants to hear endless stories about someone they don’t know? It’s not like the stories most parents tell about their kids are all that interesting in their own right (unless, of course, you’re Bill Cosby). But I realized that when my friends talk more about what it’s like for them to be a parent – how they’re coping with the new schedule, whether she wants to go back to work full-time or not, how relieved he is that the kid isn’t a screamer – that means I’m actually finding out more about them.

I should say that, contrary to the common stereotype of women who choose not to have kids, I do actually like kids (I don't think I'm very good with them but that's sort of a different issue). So I may have a higher tolerance for kid-related talk than most single, child-free women. But even if I didn't like kids, I'd like to think that I'd still be interested in talking to my friends about what is going on in their lives. After all, I have certainly not liked some of the people my friends have chosen to date and I've still been willing to listen to them go on and on about those relationships for hours. But I think the key is focusing on my friends, encouraging them to talk about themselves, which will naturally include a lot of talk about being a parent, but doesn't necessarily have to be just about their kid.

Related posts:
Baby boom

Friday, July 11, 2008

When do you become middle-aged?

A couple of posts over on Blogher have me thinking about the terms we use for people of various ages. Myrnatheminx is looking for BlogHers of a certain age who aren't "Mommies" and Msmeta asks Where are all the middle-aged women bloggers? The comments to Msmeta's post include a lot of people trying to define 'middle-aged', and actually evolved into a separate group blog for midlifers.

But at 37, it just doesn't feel right to call myself middle-aged. Yeah, I know, given average life expectancies, I could be technically quite close to the middle of my life (or with the way I've been avoiding exercise, well past it!), but I don't feel middle-aged. But I don't feel 'young' either. So what do you call people in the 30-ish to 40-ish age range? I usually just refer to myself as a '30-something' and leave it at that. But what happens when I turn 40? I guess I could call myself a Gen Xer (which, according to Wikipedia, includes anyone born from 1965 to 1982) but I'm not crazy about the connotations associated with that.

The thing is, all of those terms carry connotations, stereotypes, images in our heads that inform how we think about the person to whom we are referring. That's what labels do, for good or for bad. Calling myself 30-something is a shortcut for all the things I think that means, most of which I usually think are good (that is, when I hear '30-something', I picture someone who has grown past the immaturity of being 'young', who is somewhat more settled, who has some idea of who she and what she wants, though perhaps hasn't attained all of it yet). Actually, as I write this, it occurs to me that maybe the key is that when I start seeing the good things about the middle-aged label, that's when I'll know it fits. Right now, 'middle-aged' feels too old, too over the hill, but I can imagine a day in the future when it will feel more like it means wisdom, confidence, contentment. So I guess that's when I'll become middle-aged...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I know I'm not perfect, I just think I am

My sister, who works in human resources, was recently talking about some of the interview questions she asks prospective employees. One I thought particularly interesting was, "Tell us about a mistake you've made and how you handled that." As she talked about the answers she had gotten from a few recent interviewees, I found myself wondering how I would answer that particular question. It seems obvious that the 'right' answer is NOT, "Hmmm, I can't think of any", and yet, I honestly couldn't think of any example I might relate in a job interview (I'm the first to admit that I could go on for days about the mistakes I've made with guys I've dated but I'm assuming that's not the kind of mistake she was asking about). I'm not saying I'm perfect - I think it's more that I have a way of 're-writing history' in my head. And then I saw an article at GreaterGood about raising optimistic kids and it explained my way of seeing the world much better than I had ever seen it articulated before (I apologize for the somewhat long quote but I think it's worth it):
According to Seligman and other researchers, how optimistic or pessimistic we are amounts to how we explain life’s events, be they good or bad. There are three basic dimensions to an explanation: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. The OPTIMISTIC way of understanding why something GOOD happened would explain:

The cause of what just happened as Permanent (so it will reoccur);
And Pervasive (it will affect many other circumstances, too);
And Personal (I made it happen).

On the other hand, the PESSIMISTIC way of explaining why something GOOD just happened would illustrate that:

The cause of what just happened is Temporary (something short-lived caused it – probably won’t happen again);
And Specific (affecting only this situation);
And Impersonal (I didn’t have anything to do with what happened, other people or the circumstances did).

The reverse is also true when something bad happens. A kid trips on the sidewalk and skins her knee, dirtying her new dress. The pessimist thinks: “I’m so clumsy – I’m always tripping everywhere, and now I look stupid.” The cause of her fall is (1) permanent—she sees it as a personality trait, and therefore it is both (2) pervasive and (3) personal. On the other hand, the optimist thinks: “Dang! Someone oughtta fix that crack in the sidewalk!” She’s thinking that a flaw in the sidewalk, not her own inherent clumsiness, caused her to trip. That crack is (1) temporary; (2) specific to that moment; and (3) impersonal—she had nothing to do with it.

I am not sure how or why, but somewhere way back as a kid, I learned to be a complete optimist when it comes to school and work. When good things happen, I see them as the result of something I did, but when bad things happen, I don't (hence my inability to think of any real mistakes I've made). But what I find even more interesting is that while I think I've always been this way about school and work, it is only recently that I have been able to apply the same mindset to my personal life and social interactions. That is, for most of my life, when bad things have happened in my personal relationships, I have been all too willing to believe that there was something about me, some personality trait (and therefore something pervasive and personal), that was the cause of the problem. It's something I've done a lot of work on in the last few years, and I believe that today, it's probably safe for me to call myself an optimist about my personal life as well, but I just find it interesting that it took me this long to see that this attitude, which comes so naturally in some arenas, can apply just as equally to other areas of my life.

Related posts:

Monday, June 30, 2008

Community for the Single Woman

I've mentioned before that many single women actually enjoy larger and stronger communities than many coupled people and I know that for me, building a strong community is a conscious priority. But I admit that I have also sometimes lamented that doing so requires such a concerted effort; somewhere in my brain, I think couples must have it easier because they don't have to do anything, they have an automatic support system, even if it is only a community of two. Of course, I know that good relationships take effort too, though it's a different type of effort. At any rate, I have often wondered if other singles also struggle with this, with finding the energy to deepen relationships and build stronger ties with people, absent a romantic relationship, or if it's just me. So I found it particularly interesting to read a recent Blogher post asking are academics the loneliest professionals? since part of my 'is it just me' wondering has included wondering if it has something to do with my profession. Academics spend a lot of time alone - even if you have co-authors on papers, much of the actual research and writing is done on your own, and even if you are at a large university, there may be few opportunities to interact with colleagues outside your own department. I have often listened to my non-academic friends talk about their interactions and social outings with co-workers and been a bit envious. On the other hand, I've also listened to their stories about bosses or co-workers from hell and been exceedingly grateful for my job so I do understand that it cuts both ways! But I do wonder if it is easier for people in other occupations to find lasting friendships through work. Anyone care to enlighten me?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What does 'single' mean to you?

I'm always curious about how and why people define 'single' the way they do. That is, I think that for most people, when they meet someone who identifies themselves as single, that means something specific, but what it means varies from person to person. To me, it just means not being in a serious relationship; I guess I equate it with 'available'. But I know that for some, it distinctly means 'unmarried' (so for example, my aunt would be considered single because even though she has been living with the same man for about 30 years, she never married him). To others, it means NEVER married - apparently, Dear Abby falls in that camp, since she told a divorcee that calling herself single would not be appropriate. I'm guessing she'd say the same to someone who was widowed. As with many 'rules' of etiquette that haven't kept up with the times, that bugs me. If someone wants to call themselves single, who in the world has the right to tell that person he or she is 'wrong'?

But what I find particularly interesting about the multiple definitions of 'single' is that it means single women have a choice about how to identify themselves and, to me, that choice can be telling. That is, single is uniquely a state of being, in and of itself, whereas divorced, widowed and unmarried are all associated with states of not being (i.e., they are all states of not being married). And I think that people who aren't comfortable with their singleness are more likely to avoid identifying themselves as being in the single state, choosing instead to associate with the married state. So if you choose to call yourself single, when you could just as easily say 'divorced' or 'widowed' or 'unmarried' or whatever your options are, that seems to convey two things: 1) you are not currently married, whatever your past status might have been, and 2) you are OK with that. Similarly, I think that people who don't want single women to call themselves single are partly conveying their discomfort with women who are OK with being single. Does that ring true to anyone else?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Choice and responsibility: self-help or just good economics?

A recent post on Zen Habits talks about taking responsibility, pointing out that many people fail to take responsibility for their lives; everything is someone else's fault. As a teacher, I see this all the time in my students (the excuses are generally more creative than 'the dog ate my homework' but they are excuses nonetheless). But as an economist, I have a hard time dealing with people who take this too far. Economics is the study of choices and what I try to get across to my students is that economists simply don't believe one can ever say, "I had no choice". Sure, some decisions are so trivial (do you get up when the alarm goes off or hit snooze?) or so easy (your money or your life) that we may not think twice about them but they are still choices - other people (or even you, on a different day) may choose a different option and when you do one thing when you could have done something else, then it's a choice to do what you did, conscious or not.

Usually when someone says they "had no choice", what they really mean is that the consequence of the alternative was so awful that the choice was obvious. But while it may be horrible to consider disappointing your parents or losing your job or even dying, that doesn't mean you have no choice about going to college or working overtime or handing over your wallet. Now I'm certainly not advocating that students drop out of school or employees tell their bosses to to jump in a lake. My point is just that when you realize that all your actions are choices, it's harder to play the victim, to avoid taking at least a little responsibility.

I don't want to sound like an unsympathetic hard-ass. I'm as likely as the next person to bitch and moan when faced with choices that suck. But the upside of seeing that everything is a choice is that although you can't avoid some responsibility, it also means you gain a lot of control, over the good AND the bad. As I like to tell my students: being between a rock and a hard place isn't fun but at least you have options! Making good decisions requires being clear about the costs and benefits of your options but first you have to recognize that you HAVE options. I often think that if I can just get this one idea across to my students, to get them to REALLY believe it, then I will not only have taught them some economics but I will have helped them to become better people.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Do conservatives think women are clueless?

Over on Have Children or Not, Beth asks whose 'fault' is it that women have delayed having children? She quotes an article that essentially blames feminism for giving women so many choices that they don't think about having kids until it is too late. My first thought was, "Who could possibly believe any woman could 'forget' to have kids?" Even as someone who is pretty darn sure that I don't want kids, I still sometimes worry that I might wake up one day and suddenly realize I really do want kids and what if that happens when it's 'too late'? The fact that I can't shake that possibility from my head is what keeps me from saying I'll never have kids. And I just can't believe there are very many single women who don't have similar thoughts - it's simply too deeply ingrained in our society that as women, we are supposed to want kids so it's virtually impossible to make the opposite decision without giving it some serious thought.

Or maybe what the author of that article was thinking was that women don't know that they don't have all the time in the world, that there are women who do want kids but don't know there is a biological limit on their ability to do so and therefore they just go about their single, career-driven lives (which feminism now allows us to do) and then when they do get around to the kids thing, they are shocked to finally be told that there's an expiration date on their eggs? I'm not going to say that's not possible (I am often surprised by the bizarre ignorance of many people about many things - maybe these clueless women see the stories about older women having babies and think that means it's easy?), but again, the idea that every woman has a biological clock that must be ticking down is so prevalent in the media and society that I have a really hard time believing that any woman could possibly get to her mid-30's without knowing her fertility days are numbered.

I guess my point is that whenever one is trying to change the status quo, one naturally focuses on the changes, just as feminism has focused on telling women that they do have options, options that didn't used to be available to them. Feminism doesn't spend a lot of time educating women about the options that have always been available because it assumes we already know all about those and it is obvious that these new options are additions to the choice set. The fact that more women are choosing not to have kids doesn't mean they are clueless - for many, that choice is a very difficult one - but it simply means we are taking advantage of our new options. Maybe there will come a day when there truly is no 'norm', when it is so established that every option is equally valid that women will need just as much education about the kid option as the non-kid option, but even if you live in California, we've got a long way to go before that's a reality...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Multiple dimensions of confidence

I am a pretty direct person. If I'm curious about something, I will usually ask; if I'm upset with someone, I will talk to them about it; and my colleagues know that if I have an opinion at work, I'm not shy about sharing it. I'm not always comfortable doing this but I don't think I'm obnoxious about it (or if I realize later that I might have been obnoxious, I usually go back and apologize). But when I read Zandra's story about striking up a conversation with a guy at the gym, my first thought was, "Wow, I could never do that!" I also recently discovered Holly Hoffman's blog and she's had a few posts in the last month about confidence at work and with guys. All of which has me thinking about why it is that in some situations, I seem to have oodles of self-confidence but in other situations (primarily involving people I don't know but would like to), I might as well be back in junior high. Obviously, fear of rejection has something to do with it - it's easy not to take it personally if a waiter gets annoyed with me for saying my steak is over-cooked but detachment is a lot harder if I say hi to someone and they look at me like I've got two heads. At the same time, online dating has taught me to have a pretty thick skin and I think I've gotten pretty good at handling 'rejection' in that forum. So why does the idea of trying to talk to strangers seem so difficult? And I don't mean just guys - anytime I'm in a situation where I don't know anyone (for example, professional conferences), I find it incredibly difficult to meet people. Once I've been introduced to someone, I can make small talk until the cows come home but there's just some switch in my brain that flips from self-confident to insecure when I have to meet new people on my own. Does anyone else have these sorts of isolated insecurities?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Single-sex marriage is still marriage

Two related posts have me thinking about the role of government in privileging certain relationships. On Feministing there is a lively conversation about the fact that gay marriage does not address “fundamental problems of inequality” since it still only bestows benefits like access to healthcare and medical decision-making on those who are married. Bella DePaulo makes the same point, though she specifically calls this out as singlism. The point of both posts is that marriage confers benefits that really should be available to everyone, not just those who are in a certain type of relationship. I have to admit that when I first read DePaulo’s post, I resisted the idea that these laws are ‘discriminatory’. After all, I'm not really disadvantaged since I don’t need to cover anyone else with my health insurance and I could make a living will if I were really worried about who will make medical decisions for me if I’m every incapacitated, etc. But after thinking more about it, I think I agree that there is something problematic about employers and the government privileging certain relationships (spouse) over other relationships (family, friends).

Now, before I get flamed by anyone thinking that I’m somehow saying that marriage is no different from friendship, let me quote a comment on Feministing from Bethany, who expresses my thinking well: “…I do think a formal relationship IS useful for things like hospital visitation and child adoption because it creates a way for both partners to agree about the nature and seriousness of the relationship and its long-term commitment. Maybe we need some other kind of formal relationship that's not tied up in sex, since you don't need a sexual relationship to care for each other or a child together.”
I have no problem with society valuing committed relationships, and I believe that there is some justification for government policies that encourage people to enter into committed relationships, since such relationships have positive externalities like promoting stability and stronger community ties (though it's important to note I say can, not must). But if such externalities are the rationale for these policies, then they apply to many types of long-term relationships, including family and friendships, not just marriage (heterosexual or otherwise). So while I am hoping that California continues to make me proud and does not do anything to jeopardize gay marriage, I also hope that all those who are currently advocating for gay marriage will continue fighting to honor all types of committed relationships.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Academia, parenthood and hard choices

A recent study found that academics are less likely than doctors or lawyers (i.e. other professions requiring years of training) to have kids, and the gap is bigger for women. There are a lot of things that could explain this - professors tend to be more liberal and less religious; although doctors and lawyers require a lot of training, it’s still a longer road for academics since it’s not just grad school but the six years of working toward tenure that tend affect the ability to settle down and have kids; while academia offers great flexibility (which would presumably make it easier to juggle work and kids), that flexibility also makes professors highly independent and we quickly get used to being able to do what we want, when we want (the economist way to put it is that the opportunity cost, in terms of loss of independence, is greater for academics). And having a traditional family and house-in-the-burbs lifestyle is not necessarily the norm for academics so there’s far less pressure to follow that path (which, by the way, is one of the things I love about being an academic!). But of course, as one of the comments over on InsideHigherEd points out, the key question is whether being an academic is incompatible with parenthood, or whether the type of people who become academics are less likely to want kids?

The question of why academics, particularly women, have fewer kids is not trivial because it affects whether we see this as a problem (which implies it needs fixing), or simply an interesting empirical correlation. But even if there is something about academia that makes it harder for women who want kids to have them, does that alone suggest changes should be made? This is one of those areas that I really struggle with as a feminist and an economist. The feminist in me wants to say that women should be able to have it all; the economist in me knows that there are always trade-offs. The feminist in me wants to say that no women should be discouraged from doing what she wants professionally because she also wants kids; the economist in me believes that if having kids is more important to some people than others, then those women should choose jobs that allow them to have the life they want, rather than requiring the jobs (including bosses and co-workers) to accommodate the women. And of course, the idealist in me wants to live in a world where no matter what your decision, you are supported, not judged for it…

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Today is the one-year anniversary of me becoming a homeowner. I celebrated by pruning the bougainvillea that is threatening to cause a short-circuit by twining around the power lines coming into the house, and pulling weeds in my front yard (and once again, vowing that the damn lawn will be gone by the end of the summer). On the other hand, I also walked over to a new coffee shop this morning, and then to the neighborhood farmers' market this afternoon, and am now sitting in my back yard with a glass of wine, admiring how pretty the bougainvillea looks in full bloom.

A few people have asked me if I wish I had waited to buy, given the way the market has tanked, but I can honestly say I don't regret buying one bit - if I had waited, I might not have found a house as perfect for me as this one. So here's to my house!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Single people live in the village too...

Someone asked me what National Foster Care Month has to do with being single and other people’s kids, other than the fact that foster kids are obviously OPKs. I guess I can see why that would be confusing since most people don’t think about singledom and kids in the same train of thought. But as I mentioned in a previous post, the fact that I don’t want kids of my own doesn’t mean I don’t like kids. I’ll admit I’m not all that great with little kids (for that matter, I’m not great with anyone, of any age, that isn’t capable of being particularly rational), but one of the reasons I love my job as a professor is that I get to constantly interact with young people. Given that I don’t want kids of my own but I do like being around young people, I have often thought that doing some sort of volunteer work with kids would be a good way to achieve that. So my train of thought was something like, “I don’t want kids of my own but I like being around young people sometimes. All my friends have kids and I’m looking forward to being a part of those kids’ lives but aren’t there other kids out there that would benefit from having someone like me around once in a while? Hey, there’s an ad about it being National Foster Care Month – I should look into that…”

I’m apparently not particularly unusual in this thinking. Kay Trimberger points out that many happily single women have strong relationships with younger people; indeed, single people tend to enjoy larger and stronger communities in general than coupled people. That certainly makes intuitive sense to me though the economist in me starts wondering how much causation there is, and which direction it really goes. That is, is it being happily single that leads women to build strong communities (i.e., women who have no intention of settling may go out and build strong communities to ensure they still have a support system they can rely upon)? Or is that have a strong community makes women happier about being single (i.e., women who happen to have strong communities are less likely to feel the void of being alone)? Or is it that happy women with strong communities are less likely to settle for a less-than-stellar partner and so remain single? The explanation is probably some mix of all of the above, and different for every woman who fits this particular mold…

Thursday, May 15, 2008

REALLY proud to be a Californian!

California ban on same-sex marriage struck down

I know it will probably go to the Supreme Court, and there will be lots of horrible, gay-bashing, hypocritical rhetoric from the anti-family idiots that are pushing a November ballot initiative to change the state constitution but for today, rationality has prevailed!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Single Female Homeowner seeks the One

When I bought my house last year, I didn’t realize that I was part of a growing trend but apparently, single women are the fastest growing group of homeowners. That doesn’t really surprise me, since women are earning more than they used to and I think there are more and more quirkyalone-type women who just don’t see the point in waiting for a relationship before setting down permanent roots. And I absolutely love my house – it’s in a great neighborhood where I can walk to restaurants, coffee shops, the post office and library, plus it’s just the right size for me and the dinner parties I like to throw (OK, OK, the dinner parties I keep intending to throw). But every once in a while, I do miss one important thing about my pre-homeowner life: a landlord to call when things go wrong. When a sprinkler head breaks, or I discover that a small lake forms under my house every time in rains, it would be awfully nice to make one call and forget about it. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the feeling of accomplishment and pride when I fix that sprinkler or get the sump pump working. It helps that I have a few people to call to ask for help and advice, like my engineer father or my lifesaver realtor. But I’m still searching for the ONE – that one, reliable, indispensible guy that I can call at anytime, who will tell me no problem is too big or too small, that he’s happy to help me with them all. So if anyone can recommend a dependable handyman in the San Diego area, please let me know!

Monday, May 12, 2008

National Foster Care Month

Since I seem to have both being single and other people’s kids a bit on the brain lately, so it seems sort of serendipitous that this is National Foster Care Month. I’ve been thinking for a while about volunteering to be a child advocate (child advocates work with the courts, advocating for abused and neglected kids who are going through the system) but given my transient existence the last couple years, it hasn’t been possible. Now I’m hoping to be a vMentor through the Orphan Foundation of America (where you email your mentee so you don’t need to be in any one specific place). If you have any interest in helping kids, the Foster Care Month website has some great suggestions for how you can get involved, whether you’ve got just a few minutes, a few hours, or more time…

Baby Boom

Somewhere in the last couple years, I passed the kid tipping point: I now have more friends with kids than without. There are several things I find interesting about that. One is that I passed the marriage tipping point ages ago but somehow never noticed. I think that’s largely because my married friends tend to act the same as when they were single (or they live far away and my primary communication with them is via phone and email so I just don’t see the changes). But while going from dating to married doesn’t necessarily involve a huge lifestyle change, there’s no question that having kids means major changes. Interesting observation #2: I like having friends who are parents. I may change my tune in a few months when my closest friends in San Diego have their first and I’ll have to find other people to go see the new Batman movie with me*, but since I don’t have any intention of having kids of my own, talking to my friends about their experience is the closest I’ll get and I often find it fascinating. Which leads to interesting observation #3: a lot of people assume that because I don’t want kids of my own, that must mean I don’t like kids and/or don’t want to hear about kids. I think I’ll address that in more detail in a future post but for now, I’ll just quote one of my friends (who has a 7-month-old), “I’ve never liked other people’s kids but I always knew I wanted one myself. So why can’t you like kids and not want one? One doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other.” Or as another friend put it (who has a five-year-old), “I don’t like kids, I only like my kid.” Of course, the fact that I have friends who say stuff like that is probably exactly why having so many with children doesn’t seem to be affecting my friendships much…
* Informal poll: Your wife's due date is July 19th. The Dark Knight opens July 18th. She has said you can go. Do you go?

News Flash: 30-something woman is OK being single!

When I was younger, I used to have nightmares about being imprisoned in a mental hospital – you know, that catch-22 situation where there is simply no way to convince people that you are actually sane because everyone expects crazy people to say that they aren’t crazy. I was reminded of this when I saw a recent article in The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb in which says:

“…every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried… all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying.”

So not only does this perpetuate the stereotype that all single women must be desperate to get married, but it conveniently makes it impossible to refute the stereotype because if you even try, you must be lying! I don’t think that Gottlieb sees that her statement that “every woman I know” feels that way is completely self-fulfilling since she apparently doesn’t believe any woman who doesn’t feel that way. On the one hand, stuff like this makes me insanely frustrated because it’s just wrong, not to mention stupid, but for reasons I don’t understand, a lot of people want to believe it and this allows those people to think they are right. On the other hand, I am fortunate enough to mostly be surrounded by people who don’t think this way, let alone spout such nonsense aloud, so hearing stuff like this mostly just makes me feel really sorry for people like Gottlieb. I honestly can’t imagine how sad it must be to believe that the only way to have a fulfilling life with lots of love and support is through marriage. So let me say for the record (and I do hope that somehow, in the crazy world that is the internet, this will find a way back to Ms. Gottlieb): I am 37, single, and pretty much have exactly the life that I want. And whether you believe me or not, I have thought about this long enough and hard enough to be pretty sure I’m not in denial. But in case it seems I doth protest too much, I should say that I’ve also never been interested in having kids so that probably helps, and I don’t try to argue with those who tell me that a relationship with the right person is better than being single (although I’m not sure I know anyone who can really make that comparison objectively). But to any woman out there who is even thinking of taking Ms. Gottlieb’s advice to settle because a mediocre relationship is better than being alone, all I can say is, she’s wrong. Of course, if you already believe she’s right, then she is, since you must already believe being alone has to suck - what I'm telling you is that it doesn't have to. But at the very least, go read some Bella DePaulo, Kay Trimberger, or the many other authors with essays in Single State of the Union before making up your mind…

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Proud to be a Californian

There are many things to love about living in California but every once in a while, I am reminded of some new reason why I really couldn’t live anywhere else. I recently read Single State of the Union: Single women speak out on life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. As the title suggests, it’s a collection of essays by and about single women and with almost every essay, I found something to which I would say, “Yes!”. But there was also a lot to which I said, “Gee, I don’t really have that problem,” and I think it’s largely because I live in California. There’s a reason why ‘alternative lifestyles’ are more common out here; Californians, as a species, tend to be less judgmental than people elsewhere in the country. I simply can’t imagine anyone I know here suggesting that it was odd for me to buy a house without being married (well, I do have a colleague who repeatedly mentions it but it is more “How could you possibly afford it alone?” than anything else). Heck, I can’t even remember the last time someone I know implied that there was anything ‘wrong’ with my single status. I have felt somewhat slighted by a certain coupled friend who doesn’t ask me to do the same things that she asks other coupled friends to do, but given that I am closer friends with her than her husband, I can sort of understand that (of course, on the other hand, I have had little opportunity to become better friends with her husband because of that). But I have never had to endure the kind of crap that routinely happens to a friend of mine who lives in New England – he’s been called everything from selfish to immature to pathetic by “friends” who all think there’s something wrong with him because he doesn’t fit into the pattern they expect. As if I needed a reason, other than the Patriots, to think New England sucks...


I’ve been a quirkyalone for a long time, I just didn’t know there was a term for it until recently when I happened to pick up Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics at the library. I’ve also been an economist for a long time, but I definitely knew that. Economists tend to see the world a little differently from most people – we try to separate value-laden judgments from the objective costs and benefits of available choices. Quirkyalones, by their very existence, seem to challenge the value-laden judgments that permeate the way society has traditionally seen single people. I’m not sure if there is anything unique about being both an economist and a quirkyalone at the same time but hopefully, my posts to this blog will be interesting to those who might be one or the other or both. Besides, it seemed like a good name for a blog…