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May 2012

Another False Dichotomy: Social and Physical Pain

Images-1Recently, I've heard several neuorscientists talk about the biological link between social and physical pain. Closeness with others, these researchers maintain, not only help us cope with social and physical pain, but also helps us live longer. I especially enjoyed the beginning of this  excerpt in Salon from a new book coming out by Leonard Mlodinow ("Sublimation: How Your Unconcious Mind Rules Your Behavior"). Why? Because he hones in on the mother-son bond, of course!

 "I came home from work late one evening, hungry and frustrated, and popped into my mother’s house, which was next door to mine. She was eating a frozen dinner and sipping from a mug of hot water. CNN blared on the TV in the background. She asked how my day had been. I said, “Oh, it was good.” She looked up from her black plastic food tray and, after a moment, said, “No, it wasn’t. What happened? Have some pot roast.” My mother was eighty-eight, hard of hearing, and half blind in her right eye—which was her good eye. But when it came to perceiving her son’s emotions, my mother’s X-ray vision was unimpaired."


Why The "Mommy Wars" is a False Conflict

Check out this great column in the New York Times by Amy Allen, a Dartmouth College philosophy and women's and gender studies professor. She perfectly cuts through the false construct of pitting women against each other while arguing over parenting style. I particularly like what she says about third wave feminism, which questions the binary distinctions like reason versus emotion, mind versus body, male versus female. This is so important. It also reminds me of an old joke: There are two kinds of people in this world: those who feel the need to divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't.

More Men Enter Fields Once Dominated By Women

Men-articleLargeInteresting piece in today's NYT about men entering traditionally "pink collar" jobs like nursing and teaching. In The Mama's Boy Myth I talk about how mothers who keep their sons close tend to impart skills sets - like communication, team work, the ability to be more nuturing - that will help them in an economy where the growth is in the social service sector. 

As The Times puts it: "The trend began well before the crash, and appears to be driven by a variety of factors, including financial concerns, quality-of-life issues and a gradual erosion of gender stereotypes. An analysis of census data by The New York Times shows that from 2000 to 2010, occupations that are more than 70 percent female accounted for almost a third of all job growth for men, double the share of the previous decade."


"Dictators With Mommy Issues"

120511_StalinOh for Heaven's Sake. "Dictators with Mommy Issues" is the headline for an article this week on the Foreign Policy website. The subtitle: "Some of the world's most ruthless leaders have had surprisingly close - if deeply troubled - relationships with their mothers. This piece brings Mother Bashing to new heights, with all kinds of crazy spurious connections. Here is just one example, about Joseph Stalin: 


Country: Soviet Union    

Mother: Ekaterina ("Keke")

"Relationship: Stalin, like Hitler, was fond of his mother but had a tumultuous relationship with his father, an alcoholic who savagely beat him and Keke ("Soso," as Stalin was called, once arrived at a police officer's house in the Georgian village where he grew up with his face covered in blood, yelling "he's killing my mother!").

Keke worked hard as a laundress to enroll Stalin in a church school and later a theological seminary -- even fighting to send him back to school when his father, who had since left the home, briefly kidnapped Soso, and set him up as an apprentice cobbler. But she too meted out corporal punishment and grew angry with Stalin when he misbehaved at school. And while Stalin installed his mother in a palace in Georgia during his rise to power, he rarely visited her. His letters to her included lines such as "Dear mother, please live for 10,000 years. Kisses, Soso" and "I know you're disappointed in me but what can I do? I'm busy and can't write often."

Let's see....Stalin and his mother were savagely beaten by his alcoholic father. She fought the father to try to keep her son in school. Yup, must have been that close relationship with him mom that made Stalin the monster he was. Sheesh.


Mother-Son Mother's Day Tradition

ImagesGot an email yesterday from one of my fellow former-soccer moms. She was remembering our Mother's Day soccer tradition. Our boys usually had a game on that Sunday, and we moms would prepare a pot-luck brunch. We also held a brief scrimmage: moms against the sons.

This is why we have children when we are young: it's not that I'm in bad shape - I go to the gym regularly - but the thought of chasing a soccer ball down a field now, let alone contesting my son for that ball, makes me realize how far away those days of mud-caked cleats, sweat-soaked 5th graders and sideline cheers really are. 

And I do miss those days. Then again, on Friday I was up in Boston doing a book event, and then got to watch My Son teach a math lesson to his second grade class. For this mom, just as priceless as watching him run up the field.

Gender Reveal Parties

This has been a trend for awhile, but I still find it kind of appalling. In "Gender Reveal" parties, the results of a woman's pre-natal sonnogram are sent to a baker. The baker makes a cake with either pink or blue custard or food dye in the cake batter. The expecting parents invite over their friends and family, cut in the cake, and voila - the baby's sex is revealed.

It's not just the public nature of the revelation and the lack of focus on simply hoping for a healthy baby (as someone who had several late miscarriages, I would worry about tempting fate) but also the focus on the pink or blue. The infant hasn't been born, and now we are going to have a party to start building on our preconceptions about just how different that child will be, depending on that x or y chromosome. Because baby boys will be aggressive and curious, and baby girls will be sweet and delicate, and blah blah with the socially-created and then fulfilled expectations.

Clearly feeling a bit cranky this morning. Anyway, here's a video of such an event. 


Top Chefs Still Love Mom's Cooking

ImagesFor Hugh Acheson, the acclaimed chef-proprietor of three Georgia restaurants, it was his mom's signature chicken piccata. For Jose Garces, a James Beard award winner who presides over six restaurants in Chicago and Philadelphia, it was his mom's empananadas, cheesy and hot, usually served at half-time during a Chicago Bears game. "These foods gain their power on us based on associations with primary caregivers, usually moms," Shira Gabriel, an associate professsor at the State University at New York at Buffalo, told the Associated Press. Gabriel, who co-authored a 2011 study on comfort foods added, "These foods that moms make for us give us a little ability to bring up that love whenver we want. They're really powerful."

Or as Garces says simply, "It brings me back to a good place, to a good time in my life."