Archive | Personal Essays

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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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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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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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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“So, Georgia, Are Those Flowers Really Vaginas?”

In reading Deborah Solomon’s interesting review of the new book, “My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Steiglitz”in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, I was struck once again by how free literary and artistic men have historically felt to reveal themselves in all their egomaniacal splendor or horror (think Picasso, Hemingway, Styron, Faulkner, Keroac, to name a few) while literary and artistic women have kept silent about themselves (from Austen on).. Steiglitz, the famous photographer and gallery owner, wrote letters that Solomon says “read like an exercise in negative self-salesmanship,” endlessly revealing his hypochondriacal, egomaniacal, wounded self without inhibition to the woman he first hoped to and then did marry.  O’Keeffe, by contrast, throughout their friendship and later marriage “retained her armor of discretion,” Solomon says. She remained silent about her deepest self in these letters–just as she remained silent when critics asked whether those luscious flowers of hers depicted women’s sexual organs.

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The Coming Backlash

Okay, so Treasury Bonds are being grabbed; gold is being hoarded; God is being called upon like never before to save us all from chaos, as He was in Houston a few weeks ago, by tens of thousands of evangelical Christians. Many have written about the problem of harking back to our belief systems, and our superstitions, and our specific faiths , instead of using better means to solve problems, like clear thinking, open-mindedness, conciliation, and negotiation. (See Frank Bruni, “True Believers, All of Us, The New York Times, August 6, 2011.)

I worry particualarly about women, vulnerable now to similar magical-thinking-solutions. I’m hearing young women talk about finding a guy to marry—quickly. I’m hearing older women talk about the futility of trying to reinvent themselves and instead figuring they’ll just hang on for dear life. As with trying to solve the world’s problems with faith and belief systems, trying to stay safe through all the old conventional means is dangerous to our collective psyche. When the economy is tight, and when men get scared, certain things happen like clockwork: There’s more domestic violence. Women tend to retreat; to return to the home, if not literally, then figuratively, as if the homely virtues ever paid off. We imagine that things were so much better long ago.

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Weiner’s Reasons? Schwarzenegger’s Apology? Do We Care?

I mean, what is there left to say but “Whatever”? That’s now the word of choice used by the young when, yet again, some famous, important guy does something weird and inappropriate or bizarre with his libido.  It’s our only remaining response to a morality that these men envision as entirely situational: a way to comprehend why they’re so self-righteous one moment, showing their penises to strangers the next. Situational morality is Anthony Weiner’s “But I’ve never had sex with any woman other than my wife” used as a defense of his honor. Hey, man, just because my privates are flying all over the net, don’t EVER DARE accuse me of infidelity!

An interviewer not long ago asked the creator of “Mad Men,”  Matthew Weiner, whether he felt Don Draper’s fall from power and failed marriage was a result of his basic, underlying badness–a badness like, say, Tony Soprano’s.

Not at all, he replied. Draper, unlike Soprano, “has a lot of admirable qualities and is basically a moral person, and he makes mistakes. His morality is conflicting. It’s situational, which is the disease of the 21st century.”

There it is.

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Women Surfing the Edge of Change

That an entire book has to be written about the way in which the French put pleasure first in their lives–a pleasure gleaned from a lovely long lunch; a good cheese; a natural (as opposed to a creepy or inappropriate) flirtation, makes me sad that our culture comes out so unfavorably.  It’s true that in our culture, “pleasure” seems to be a code word for sex, not a joy we breathe, not the expansive emotion, as the late William Safire wrote in his language column in The Times many years ago, “that suffuses one who has been gratified or stroked; it’s a good feeling, whether physical or intellectual.”

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