No, this isn't Jane Austen's century

Quick question.  What do these writers have in common -- aside from the fact that they are all great, and all women?

 Jane Austen.  Willa Cather.  Katherine Mansfield. Carson McCullers. George Elliott.  Charlotte Bronte. Emily Bronte.  Eudora Welty.  Virginia Woolf.  Edith Wharton.  Sarah Orne Jewett.  Harper Lee.  Flannery O'Connor.  Iris Murdoch.  Oh, I could add more.  Deborah Eisenberg. Barbara Pym.

Image result for jane austenI'll stop there. Yup, you guessed it, they're all childless. Several were terrific when writing about mothers and kids.  No one calls them shallow.  No one calls them  "incomplete." 


But as actress Jennifer Aniston notes,  our culture's stuck in another century where women and kids are concerned.  Sure, the world's changed since Jane Austen wrote about the Bennett girls' dubious marriage prospects.  But women are expected to want the same things that Elizabeth did.  

Some of us didn't.   

This month, the U.K.'s Andrea Leadsom made the "child" issue front and center in her race with Theresa May to become the U.K.'s next Prime Minister.  To quote Ms. Leadsom:

Yes. I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn't have children so I don't want this to be 'Andrea has children, Theresa hasn't' because I think that would be really horrible, but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. ...She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next."  
Wow.  So now I lack a stake in the future?  Apparently, if I don't have those nieces and nephews, I can just sit back and relax, and not give a damn.  If a man said that, we'd boo him off the stage.  I'm thrilled that Ms. Leadsom was give a thumbs down.  (For the record, Ms. Leadsom doesn't trust male nannies either.)

The reality:  about one in five American women ends up childless (18% to be precise.)   We don't have kids for lots of reasons.   To start with, I did not think I'd make a great mom.  And I never wanted kids.  I'm happy to pay taxes to support schools, and other people's kids, but no thanks otherwise.  

That's what we mean by choice.  More and more women across the globe are making that choice.  Deal with it.
   




No, it's not Jane Austen's century

Quick question.  What do these writers have in common -- aside from the fact that they are all great, and all women?

Image result for jane austen Jane Austen.  Willa Cather.  Katherine Mansfield. Carson McCullers. George Elliott.  Charlotte Bronte. Emily Bronte.  Eudora Welty.  Virginia Woolf.  Edith Wharton.  Sarah Orne Jewett.  Harper Lee.  Flannery O'Connor.  Iris Murdoch.  Oh, I could add more.  Deborah Eisenberg. Barbara Pym.

I'll stop there. Yup, you guessed it, they're all childless. Several were terrific when writing about mothers and kids.  No one calls them shallow.  No one calls them  "incomplete." 


But as actress Jennifer Aniston notes,  our culture's stuck in another century where women and kids are concerned.  Sure, the world's changed since Jane Austen wrote about the Bennett girls' dubious marriage prospects.  But women are expected to want the same things that Elizabeth did.  

Some of us didn't.   

This month, the U.K.'s Andrea Leadsom made the "child" issue front and center in her race with Theresa May to become the U.K.'s next Prime Minister.  To quote Ms. Leadsom:

Yes. I am sure Theresa will be really sad she doesn't have children so I don't want this to be 'Andrea has children, Theresa hasn't' because I think that would be really horrible, but genuinely I feel that being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. ...She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next."  
Wow.  So now I lack a stake in the future?  Apparently, if I don't have those nieces and nephews, I can just sit back and relax, and not give a damn.  If a man said that, we'd boo him off the stage.  I'm thrilled that Ms. Leadsom was give a thumbs down.  (For the record, Ms. Leadsom doesn't trust male nannies either.)

The reality:  about one in five American women ends up childless (18% to be precise.)   We don't have kids for lots of reasons.   To start with, I did not think I'd make a great mom.  And I never wanted kids.  I'm happy to pay taxes to support schools, and other people's kids, but no thanks otherwise.  

That's what we mean by choice.  My happy ending looks different from Andrea's and other moms.  More and more women across the globe are making my choice.  Deal with it.
   




About Brexit and the virtues of uncertainty

I'm a market researcher by training-- and it's taught me many things that aren't strictly about research.  A respect for truth and precision. An acceptance of the limits of knowledge.  The need for intellectual modesty.  It taught to know when I do NOT know, and WHAT I do not know. So many times that I wish I'd known the answer, but I didn't-- better to admit that than to pretend.    

It taught me that complex problems never have simple answers-- just as complex characters never have simple motives.

We live in a world where most of us dwell among the unknown.  Physics, economics, geology, they're distant realms of knowledge, learned by a few "experts."   We're watching TV, and some folks, somewhere, are gazing at moons through telescopes or measuring climate change.

The problem is that schools and, to a different jobs, reward us for taking a stand.  We're forced to express strong opinions about diet, exercise, immigration, poverty, taxes, climate change, branding-- and so we pretend that we have a wealth of data to back us up (there's a poll, however flawed, for every topic to help.) We're swimming in oceans of opinion. 

Now, consider: Few Americans have relatives living in the U.K. Few of us travel there on a regular basis, and when we do, we stick to London and say, a few castles or picturesque villages.  We're hard pressed to name five cities outside of London, the prime minister of, say, Scotland or why David Cameron chose to have a referendum. We know even less about the E.U.-- what its member states pay, how those fees are calculated, or what restrictions are imposed on the member states.  OK, maybe you've read a bit in the past week, but before?
     
If we were given an exam on the U.K and the E.U., we'd flunk. But still, we broadcast our very strong opinions about Brexit.  We demand they vote again  (imagine if British citizens demanded the same of us!)

It may very well turn out that Britain regrets its exit, or that the E.U. implodes for other reasons (like the Greek bailout.)  Or it may work the other way.  I have faith in globalization and free trade, but those are abstract, economic concepts  removed from the fates of workers in the U.K.  I have no idea of how those men and women are faring.  But one thing I can promise-- I'll be learning more. 

Savoring surprises as we travel by Sunny Lockwood

Today's guest post is from writer and traveller, Sunny Lockwood, who together with her husband Al, has authored CRUISING PANAMA'S CANAL. This intrepid duo has now written, CRUISING THE MEDITERRANEAN. I'll let Sunny take it from here:


Wanderlust flows through our veins like a river that's sometimes slow and dreamy, and sometimes rushing and insistent.


My husband, Al, and I regularly thumb through travel magazines, read newspaper travel articles aloud and search the Internet, whetting our appetite for unseen places near and far.  While we love our home, we're always talking about our next trip. We're either planning it or we're on it, eagerly exploring the wonders of somewhere new.  


But there are always surprises that greet us-- each one different from the others.


In 2015, we built a European trip around a 12-day Mediterranean cruise. We added four days in Amsterdam. That's where we tried Airbnb for the first time, choosing a room in a 17th century house not far from Central Station-- and, in the Red Light District!


"Window shopping" in our neighborhood exposed us to edible underwear for him and her as well as sex toys we'd never seen. Nor could we imagine how they would be used. A full breasted bronze statue named "Belle" stood in the courtyard of the Old Church, as a tribute to all sex workers. Despite our vintage moral convictions, we were more amused than offended.


Displaying IMG_1819.JPGDisplaying IMG_1819.JPGIn Athens, our surprise was the Acropolis lift. I'd been to the Acropolis decades earlier and remembered the stairs as steep and difficult. With Al's arthritic knees and our limited energy, I doubted we could climb them. I was thrilled to learn that there is now a lift.

But when we saw the tiny, open-sided cage, we knew it would take more than courage to ride it. Rickety is an understatement. Yet, we climbed aboard and rode it haltingly up the 260-foot cliff. And when we stepped off, we felt totally energized by the fear-fueled adrenaline coursing through our veins.


On the beautiful island of Santorini, we were stunned to learn about the Greek Genocide. We came upon a monument to the millions of Armenian, Assyrian and Greeks killed between 1914 and 1923 by Ottoman Empire elimination programs aimed at Christian minorities.


In Ephesus, we were surprised at the beautiful cats among the ruins. Like sophisticated models, they stretched out purring on marble posts, unimpressed by us humans. We learned they're encouraged to make their home among the picturesque ruins because they keep less appreciated varmints away.


But the sweetest surprise of all was Turkish Delight. This melt-in-the-mouth confection, created centuries ago as a royal delicacy, was served to us during a dinner cruise on Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait. Little squares of jelly infused with fruit and nuts and covered in powdered sugar-- it’s soft, tender and sweet.


Our trip was so wonderful we've written about it: Cruising the Mediterranean. It's available as an ebook and a paperback from Amazon.com. I invite you to check it out here

For Father's Day: "Dad Takes Flight"




Dad Takes Flight
Carla Sarett

My father had not flown for a decade or so – perhaps even longer, certainly long enough so that he had no concept of the nightmarish array of security measures, police and bizarre check-points introduced since 9/11—as indeed who could?

But it was my niece’s bat-mitzvah and so we were off to California from Philadelphia.  My mother had not lived to see it but my eighty-five year old father had. I’d promised to get him there, one way or the other.

I cautioned him about the strange New World of Flight.  “Dad, the airports are different now.  There are lots of new rules --no shampoo, no lotions, no nail clippers.  You need to be careful.”

My former engineer father said, “You’re joking.”

“It’s not a joke, Dad.  The government doesn’t allow liquids on board.”

Dad eyed me as if I were slightly insane. “You worry too much, honey,” he said.

I had reason to be concerned.  My father had lost his left arm in a cancer surgery.  While he never labeled himself handicapped, he was.  The airport requirements of removing jackets and shoes while keeping one’s balance would be daunting—or so I feared. 

At Philadelphia Airport, we faced the long hostile security lines.  “This is what it’s like, now—it’s ridiculous,” I said as I helped him with his driver’s license.

“Country has to do what it has to do,” Dad reminded me.  
“Not such a big price to pay to be safe.  I think the line moves pretty quickly.”

Dad’s luggage triggered the airport security system.  “Dad, what did you put in there?”  I asked.

“Sue me,” he said.

We marched over to a tired security inspector.  Sure enough, he’d packed huge bottles of lotion and shampoo and shaving cream and about anything liquid he could think of.  He might even have packed mouthwash.    

“That’s not allowed sir,” the stout woman informed my one-armed father, dumping all of it in the trash with little fanfare.

“Really, you’re wasting all this stuff?” Dad protested.  “Do you have to throw it out?”

“Yes, sir,” she announced.

“He hasn’t flown in a while,” my husband informed the agent.  The woman shook her head in disbelief.

She continued to rifle through Dad’s luggage. Out came a comically huge pair of scissors. The agent dangled the scissors in front of him.  “These are definitely not allowed, sir.  Scissors are illegal to take on a plane.  Are you aware of that, sir?”

“Dad, what are you doing with scissors?” I almost screamed. 

Dad addressed the agent in a soothing voice. “I am so sorry, miss.  But I do need those scissors.  I hope you understand, but I need them.”

The stout agent softened.  She measured the scissors and allowed them to remain in his luggage.  “You should follow instructions,” she told him, amused.

“Thank you. I will next time,” he lied.

The airplane itself was over-crowded and not so clean.  My 
husband and I settled in – discontented, filled with ire at airport security and ill-disposed towards one and all. All of the passengers looked woebegone and disgusted at the prospect of the six hour flight to California, unrelieved by free airline food.

Alone in this den of misery, Dad enjoyed himself.  About an hour after the plane had alighted, he poked me. “Listen to how quiet this airplane is.  What is this, a Boeing or an Airbus?”

All I heard was ceaselessly chattering passengers. By that time, I was about to clobber whoever was in the seat across from me who would not shut up.  I dug out the airline magazine, and identified the aircraft for him—whether it was Boeing or Airbus, I detested it. 

“Actually, it’s a Boeing 767.”

Dad took this in.  “In early days of aviation, airplane engines were so loud it shattered ear-drums—it made flying unbearable.  Flying was dirty and dangerous and noisy. And now, listen, just listen.”

We listened together—and I saw clouds outside.

“Those engineers, they know what they’re doing.  And we’ll be across a continent in less than six hours.  Centuries, people slogged across the continent—think how hard that was for pregnant women.  Now, we’re just sitting here doing nothing, and we’ll land in San Francisco, safe and sound and snug in a few hours.  You can’t do better than that, can you?”

“I guess not,’ I admitted.

When we arrived in San Francisco, Dad said, “Smooth landing.”

We trekked to the car rental- which first required an airport shuttle trains.  Having left Philadelphia ten hours before, I feared my father would be exhausted—I certainly was. 
Once aboard the airport shuttle, an automated voice announced the terminal name and came to a stop.  My father’s bright eyes went wide.  “It’s like the future,” he said.  “This is so cool!  The train even talks to you!”  He was flying high. 

My father’s joy was infectious – and even my tired husband laughed.  Our fantastic shuttle reached our destination and Dad came gently back to earth.  For his sake, I wished our journey had lasted longer.

At dinner, we sat at a table overlooking the moonlit Pacific, but my father’s thoughts were still in the air.  “Such a fantastic trip,” he said.  “So smooth and quiet, and in less than a day, we’re in California looking at the ocean.  It doesn’t get much better than this, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t,” I said.  “But please, no shampoo on the way back.”

He smiled and filled his glass of wine.  “Honey, you just worry too much.” 


This piece appeared in Airplane Reading.
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