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NOT Covering Birth Control: Don’t Blame Obamacare

So we read once again that women of childbearing age are not getting the care and coverage they need to remain healthy and to avoid pregnancy (“Insurers Flout Rule Covering Birth Control, Studies Find,” NYTimes. National section, this morning). Seems the federal requirement that insurance companies cover all approved methods of birth control for women–without co-payments or any other charges–is largely being disregarded. So is the free education to all women–many of whom truly need it because they are so young.

Young? Very. Whether politicians approve–whether WE approve–young girls have entered a never-before world of casual sex. Sex without marriage, without commitment, without promises, without exclusivity, without intimacy, without love, without strings: sex just for fun. You know, the sex young boys have had forever, and without censure. Unthinkable? The most recent Kinsey report says that ten percent of 13-year-old girls are having sex. Twenty-five percent of boys and twenty-six percent of girls have sex by the time they’re 15. By 17, that number doubles.

This isn’t about what we want or what we believe or what our particular church advocates. These are the real numbers from real, legitimate, national studies, and so this is about caring for our girls, among other things. Not lecturing, punishing or shunning them–caring for them. So when we form the various committees to figure out why this piece of Obamacare is falling through the cracks (a “disappointed” Senator Patty Murray of Washington has asked Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of health and human services to investigate….so you can well imagine how long this will take, and how many people will be “looking into it”–and how Obamacare will take the blame for the problem.

Besides the truth of what girls and women are experiencing, there is another truth: We as a culture seem unable face the fact that all women need good medical, gynecological preventive care. All women need protection against having unwanted babies. It’s at this point that I wonder why there isn’t a bill that requires men to raise and take care of all babies born by the women they impregnate, if those women don’t want those babies. I’ve never seen anything that remotely approaches such a  radical bill. Or such a radical thought. Because on some level we believe two things, deep in our cultural bone marrow: That young girls and women who have sex should have babies, and that women who don’t want babies shouldn’t have sex.

If we believed otherwise, insurers would be honoring the law. But they know, on some level, we kinda approve of their disregard for it.

 

 

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Dalma Does Liquid Lunch with Tessa Smith McGovern

I was interviewed recently on a new online show about writers, for writers, called Liquid Lunch. The brainchild of Tessa Smith McGovern, founder of eChook digital publishing, and Eileen Winnick, founder of The Winnick Group, this unique show gives writers the chance to speak about their work, and their thoughts and advice about writing, all the while concocting a cocktail in Tessa’s own kitchen and being interviewed by Tessa herself.

Tessa, who teaches at Sarah Lawrence, publishes (and pays for!) short stories (she and her authors just won, respectively, a gold and silver medal in this year’s eLit Awards). When she wears her Liquid Lunch hat, she becomes that rare interviewer, one who knows her guest’s work and audience; and she asks unexpected questions. Did I see a connection, she wondered, between my nonfiction work—three serious books about women —and the more lighthearted novel I co-wrote with my husband? I hadn’t considered any connection, since my nonfiction work starts with surprising facts, unexpected statistics; while the fiction started with a man and woman who might or might not fall in love. But of course they are deeply connected: even if genres are disparate, facts and character are always related. To be asked serious questions like this opened up so much that was fun to share and, best of all, didn’t require me to come armed, as I have on many television and radio interviews, with facts and stats and proof.

I had a wonderful time, made a delicious cocktail, (called, after our ebook, “A GODSEND,”) and hope you’ll take a look at and enjoy both. As always, I welcome feedback.

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Shades of Women’s Power

I’m late on weighing in on this, but I wanted to get past the din of everyone’s ridicule of the book, Shades of Grey; to move beyond the predictable bewilderment and hostility that accompanies monster success like this. That it’s terribly written. That the heroine is silly, dumb, ignorant, naive. That the book isn’t even “real” porn, it’s pretend porn– “mommy porn,” which, apparently, means soft stuff for silly mothers who wouldn’t know good hard serious porn if their bodices were ripped by it. 

These assaults are not new. Erotic books are easy targets, but for hundreds of years the target was literary fiction– if written by women, that is. (I don’t see E.L. James has yet been accused of being “shrill” and “strident,” words historically used to belittle women with a voice, labels that deny women writers a right to power. I suspect Ms. James opted to let her heroine and herself be accused of idiocy, lousy writing and silliness over shrillness and stridency, due to the demands of Mr. Grey.)      

Women are eating  up copies by the hundreds-of-thousands. Why? It doesn’t matter; no one will believe their reasons anyway!  Freud’s contention that women don’t know what they want lives on, leaving critics and experts to jump in to guess. We’re tired of being the boss at work; we want to be bossed in the bedroom!  We need to be submissive because that’s our inherent nature! We miss the masterful man of yesteryear! We’re masochists at heart! The old “Dark Continent” idea about women’s desires prevails. As the late Carolyn Heilbrun wrote in her masterpiece, Writing a Woman’s Life, “It is hard to suppose women can mean or want what we have always been assured they could not possibly mean or want.”  

Nevertheless, I say it’s about power. Not power over (who is bigger, who is more dominant, who is richer, who is male), but power to….power to have her own narrative; to tell her own story of her own pleasure. She isn’t just chosen; she chooses; she does what she wants and she writes it. Here’s a woman who chooses to have sex that thrills but scares her. She chooses excitement, not marriage, as traditional dead-end plots would have young women do. She chooses to take very good care of herself too, which in this case happens to mean allowing herself to be very well cared for. She chooses to depart with the conventional, to go with her gut on some of Christian Grey’s sexual demands, and to reject those that repel her.  She negotiates her own desires carefully, and knows how to assure that they’re honored. (Whether we like her pleasure choices is beside the point, as is whether she signs that contract. It’s her story, not ours.) If power is “the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action, and the right to have one’s part matter,” and I’m quoting Heilbrun again, then the awkward little Anastasia Steele has, in choosing excitement and pleasure, wielded sensational power. 

Stories about women having power and control are pitifully few. Most—in porn as in life– are about pleasing, and the price paid for failing to please. Here is a woman’s story about mutual pleasure, which in my experience is how women define power in the first place.     

 

 

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Introducing A Godsend Cocktail: Publishing With a Twist

I didn’t think of turning my husband’s and my ebook, A Godsend: A Love Story for Grownups, into a cocktail of the same name, but two friends, Eileen Winnick and Tessa McGovern, suggested I do so. They’re creating a series about writers, for writers, called “Liquid Lunch,” which will soon air on Tessa’s site for short-story writers, eChook.com.

The idea is wonderful: Writers talk about their work in Tessa’s Connecticut kitchen while concocting a drink….so viewers take home not only the personal story of the writers’ books and experience, not only Tessa’s interviews with them about all things writerly, but also, a wonderful and innovative cocktail as well.

Both Richard and I wanted our cocktail to reflect some important aspect of our two protagonists. We wanted character-driven drinks! We also wanted it to be a truly grown-up drink—one with character (there I go again) and a long, illustrious history. A sophisticated cocktail for lovers who might have tasted everything and want something a little old and a little new.

As it happens, our hero, Evan, and our heroine, Eve, meet in Manhattan. As it happens, too, I adore Manhattans. So: We now had the basis for the drink, but now wanted to improve it, update it, snazz it up a bit. So we did.

Eve is the owner of a Vermont maple sugar farm; Evan is an outdoorsman and nature-lover from California. We’ve taken the basic ingredient in the Manhattan—bourbon—and added a few ingredients indigenous to Evan’s and Eve’s lives and locales, which we think make the traditional drink even more delicious. On any evening before or after dinner, we think you’ll find the combination of good bourbon, pure maple syrup, lemon and bitters nothing less than…a Godsend.

A GODSEND

    • 1 oz. Maker’s Mark or other fine bourbon
    • ½ Meyer lemon or one whole lemon
    • 1 T. pure maple syrup
    • Angostura bitters to taste
    • Chipped ice

 

Pour ingredients into a shaker, and pour into a Martini glass. (The above ingredients serves one….so you’ll definitely want to make more, even if you’re alone! I like mine very lemony, so I usually add more lemons and then, of course, more maple syrup. And I like dark maple syrup, but it’s not necessary.) Garnish with a lemon peel.

Cheers and good wishes!

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My Bobsledding Adventure

When I think of where I’ve been all my skiing life, it hasn’t been Utah.

Alta, yes; but somehow I’ve never associated Alta with the beehive state. Rather, its iconic status always seemed to stand alone, stately but stateless; the purists’s place, as Wildcat is the daredevil’s place or St. Anton, the ritzy one.

I can only attribute my ignorance to the kind of deprivation that leads to tunnel vision—I grew up in the east, went to school in the west. The questions were always, “Which do you like better, Vermont or Colorado?” “Stowe or Aspen?” Silly me: I just found a better question: How about Deer Valley, Canyons, Park City and Snowbasin—all of them, each one more wonderful than the next, all on the front of the Wasatch range (Alta, Snowbird and Solitude are on the back) and all close by–next week?

You fly into Salt Lake City and are on the slopes of any of the above in less than an hour—and that’s with no connecting plane deterred by cranky weather to frustrate you. I did the trip last month, and took advantage of Ski Utah’s celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Winter Olympics by going down on the bobsled—on the same track that Olympians go down. That’s me in the picture in fact, second from the front.

For anyone else craving this thrill ride, there’s still time. Public bobsled rides on ice are available through March 17th. You can make your bobsled reservations online at www.UtahOlympicLegacy.com, or by calling 435-658-4206. Bobsled sessions sell out fast, so reserve asap. Once the ice melts, Park City opens summer bobsled rides. The summer rides, on wheels on a cement track, begin the second week of June through Labor Day.

If you can’t make it yourself, here’s the story of my own bobsledding adventure, with a link to full article on Everett Potter’s Travel Report website. Enjoy!

 

Embedded in a Bobsled

By Dalma Heyn

On a chairlift at Park City a few weeks ago I sat between two young vacationing North Carolina businessmen about to take their first ski run of the day. It was a perfect day: Lots of snow; sunny but not too. They were talking about a bobsled ride that afternoon. They and eight other guys from their firm had laid down $200 apiece (as you can, too) for the privilege of hurtling down the same ice track the Olympic bobsled teams did in 2002. (Park City’s track, in fact, is the only one in the world that lets passengers start at the same point as the Olympic athletes do.)

“I did it last evening,” I volunteered softly.

“Omigod,” one of the men said through his blue bandana-covered face: “Was it amazing?”

“Yes. It was.”

“Amazing, like a superfast rollercoaster?”

“No, not like a rollercoaster.” The men were staring at me now, awaiting specific description of what, if not like the fastest rollercoaster in Christendom, it was like.

“Amazing, as in…” I started, and then took leave of my vocabulary, “as in….” I grabbed the only word I could find “…as in intense. More than intense, really. Intensely intense. Intensively intense.”

Read the full article at Everett Potter’s Travel Report.

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Women Mentorship: Helping Each Other Thrive

March is Women’s History Month, and last week, on March 8, we observed International Woman’s Day. What’s new today–not just this one day, but in our lives–is the idea of women helping women. Not just women in trouble; women helping each other thrive. Women mentorship. In honor of helping each other in whatever way we can, I honor someone who has helped me enormously.

Some people fantasize about having a driver, or a personal trainer, or an organic cook. I used to fantasize about having a mentor: that person who would care about my work, nurture me as I set out on my book—take me beyond my own thinking, hang in there with me as I think it through.

Even today, whenever I thumb through a book’s acknowledgments, I wonder who did what for that author. Was the acknowledged person a careful reader, a gifted fact-checker, an acquaintance, a relative, even a stranger who offered a single brilliant insight? Or a mentor?

Mentor himself—there was one—was, as Webster’s Dictionary puts it, “a friend to whom Odysseus, when setting out for Troy, entrusted the care of his house and the education of Telemachus.” Telemachus was the son of Odysseus’s foster brother, Emmaeus, so it was no small thing to hand over his nephew and his palace while he went off to war. Later, the lower-case word came to mean someone with influence or power who oversaw the education and career of a younger protegee or mentee; an influential senior sponsor or supporter. Aristotle and Alexander the Great. James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Batman and Robin. Even now, when used more loosely, as I do, the idea of that wise friend and faithful counselor feels like one of the greatest of life’s luxuries.

I have had a mentor for two decades. She is a contemporary to whom I turn the moment I have a book idea; a writer, like me, and very brilliant, whose thinking is not necessarily a reflection of my own, but complementary and, I sometimes think, essential to its development. “My deep gratitude to Annie Gottlieb, whose inexhaustible intellect and support sustained me,” was my inadequate acknowledgment in my first book, The Erotic Silence of the American Wife, in 1992. I did a bit better with my next book, Marriage Shock: “I am deeply grateful to Annie Gottlieb, on whom I depended not only to help me process, map, and formulate all that I learned, but much more: to bring such intense material to life when its substance and meaning often felt—as it did to the women themselves—too slippery to unearth and articulate.”

You see where I’m going with these condensed tributes: Annie makes it matter to me that I get it right, from the thought itself throughout the thought process.

Annie calls this being “a writing buddy.” Writers do have colleagues and friends who matter tremendously to their work and to them, but Annie is different. The often inchoate expressions from women that I’m privileged to share with them, those slippery, tentative transgressive, angry and fearful thoughts about their lives, their loves, their frailties and failures and regrets and hopes, become magically simplified and amplified when I can process them, over years, sometimes, with Annie. Annie makes my idea matter. She makes how I say it matter. In so doing, she makes what I do matter.

There was a conundrum years ago when women dropped out of support groups, complaining of abandonment. Why would these groups withhold their encouragement not from the woman in the middle of a divorce or a breakdown; not from the one who reentered rehab or remarried the alcoholic; but from the woman who became successful in her work? There were many reasons for thinking such a woman wouldn’t need help, but today, as we flood the workforce, we know better. And we’re getting the once-forbidden hang of empowering her not only in her personal life but in her career.

Whether we’re influential or powerful, older or younger, whether we can pave the way for her or just help her find her way, we’re becoming I’ve-got-your-back mentors. We support, criticize, clarify, teach, empower. The next evolutionary leap? To move beyond merely pressing for equal pay and equal representation at the top, and insisting on them; assuming them. We take that leap by jumping in the way Annie did, to make what women do matter.

This essay was originally written for Open Road Media.

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Love, Lives and Scare Tactics

A very long piece in The Atlantic this month has pointed out several things we’ve been talking about in my books and blogs for over a decade. Which only illustrates the extreme disconnect between what has been going on statistically in this country for years and what the culture wishes to deny. The author of this piece, “All The Single Ladies,” Kate Bolick, tells us many things, among which are that marriage has changed. That women, who are on the ascent in the workplace, no longer need men to put a roof over their heads, which frees them to choose men for emotional rather than strictly financial reasons.  That many men, who are not on the ascent in the workplace and aren’t earning as much as they once did, are not as traditionally “eligible” as husband material of yore…which means choosing a husband for financial reasons isn’t a winning proposition. That traditional marriage was predicated on the men-as-provider; women-as-nurturer model, and if we still have a yearning for that model, we have a decidedly shrinking chance of getting it.

First, notice how The Atlantic entitled its two major articles this year regarding women’s ascent in the workplace and the shifts in the marriage landscape. The first was “The End of Men?”, and this one, “All The Single Ladies.” Both are Scare Titles, reminiscent of newspaper headlines in the 80s that sent those women hoping to find husbands OUT of the workplace and back into the home, while  recapitulating the preposterous idea that if women do well, men plummet. Continue Reading →

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Coming up Next!: The Weird Fun of Banned Books Week

It’s weirdly fun, on the cusp of Banned Books Week, to look at the titles of books that have been banned: Gone with the Wind; To Kill a Mockingbird; Beloved; The Great Gatsby; The Catcher in the Rye; and, of course, Ulysses.  And the bylines: The authors of the aforementioned, along with Voltaire and Defoe, Chaucer and Aristophanes, Rousseau and Paine, Pascal and Steinbeck and Hemingway and Faulkner and Twain.

Okay, “fun” may not be quite the right word (although Brave New World was banned as recently as 1980 for making “promiscuous” sex “look like fun”). But can’t you just see censorship committee members, one more sanctimonious than the next, poring over page after page to find a “filthy” word or an “indecent” scene? Oh, the outrage these men must suffer in their noble venture! The vicious arguments they must have over the subtle differences between “lewd” and “obscene”;  between “filthy” and “indecent”!  What a responsibility! And all to protect us from…..from what?  Alice Walker’s The Color Purple was banned for its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and sexual relations,” all of which troubling ideas are the reasons she wrote it.

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Who’s Sabotaging Teenage Girls?

     In any story, whether we read it or see it on film or in a store window, we have to know  who  is speaking. Whose voice is telling us what story? Whose point of view is it?  A  great  story at the moment, spoken by the Census, is about women’s increased  power. Women are  now the majority of the workforce; the majority of managers; the majority earners of  undergraduate and graduate degrees; the majority owners of wealth.

So, who is narrating the story of this photo in Victoria’s Secret window in Fairfield, Ct.?  (We added the type to illustrate where it might have been more appropriately shown) Odd  that the moment when women are powering ahead, storefronts and magazine covers  feature skinny young girls not only made  up to look like fashionable adults, but posing in a  way that clearly suggests  subjugation—as  does the girl above. Whose viewpoint is this, do  you think? Who’s telling girls about to inherit a legacy of unprecedented power that their  REAL power lies not in their education and their upcoming careers, but rather, in looking  like baby hookers,  pouting and bruised and with their arms up in their air as if in chains?  Are storeowners telling this story so they  can sell underwear? Perhaps. Photographers,  who want to make their mark? Maybe.

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Goodbye, Goddess!

A few years ago, I stuck my toe in the blogosphere by adopting an avatar: “The Love Goddess.”  Using her name, I’d  see if I liked blogging; plus, I’d be less radical and outspoken than I usually am, but still  help women cope with bad men, weird in-laws, resentful stepchildren, creepy online dating issues, all those relationship troubles and self – diminishing problems that fill my books and my office. The Connecticut artist Miggs Burroughs, one of the producers of my television show,  created the whimsical logo.  Steve Leedom, the talented and patient design and marketing man, and now a friend, helped me create a gorgeous, gentle site that appealed to viewers who might not want to spend the money to go to a therapist, maybe, but who could instead have access to one—me. The Love Goddess offered “the best advice in the universe.” And soon I was asked to blog on other larger, more high-profile sites—Wowowow.com, More.com, Hitched.com., Intent.com, to name a few. and I did so mostly as The Love Goddess. Too, I started a weekly TV show about relationships, The Love Goddess Show, in Connecticut.   

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