Masters of Love

Masters of Love (The Atlantic, June 2014)

“There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

‘If your partner expresses a need,’ explained Julie Gottman, ‘and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.’ In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble ‘Uh huh’ and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.”

So many takeaways from this article. I think the most important lesson here is to keep trying. If you care enough to try to be kind, you’re already doing something right.

[Interested in reading more? Check out The Generous Marriage, an excellent article from 2011.]

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Nina Mitchell: The Great Escape

Nina Mitchell: The Great Escape

I started reading Nina’s essays on The Hairpin a few years ago, and I was immediately fascinated by the story of a 26 year old woman who wakes up one morning, realises she’s had a stroke, and knows her life will never be the same. She also wrote a longer piece for The AtlanticWhen I Was 26, I Had a Stroke: The Escape, but the link I’m sending you to here today is actually an audio file, taken from The Moth. It’s Nina telling the story of her stroke, in her own words, and listening to her talk about that time in her life (over 10 years ago now) is both moving and also very, very funny.

Finally, I encourage you to check out her blog, Mindpop, where she still posts regularly.

There’s No Such Thing as a Slut

There’s No Such Thing as a Slut

A new longitudinal study examined how college students slut-shame—and found that the practice is as illogical as it is damaging. The researchers interviewed the 53 women on their floor every year for five years—from the time they were freshmen through their first year out of college.

Their findings about the students’ academic success later formed the basis for Paying for the Party, their recent book about how the college experience bolsters inequality. They found that the women’s “trajectories were shaped not only by income … but also by how much debt they carried, how much financial assistance they could expect from their parents, their social networks, and their financial prospects.”

But in the process, they began to notice that the women’s attitudes about sex were also influenced by their families’ incomes. The rampant slut-shaming, Armstrong found, was only a symptom of the women’s entrenched classism. But more importantly, the allegations of sluttiness had little to do with real-life behavior

This is not really a surprise to me; “slutty” doesn’t even really mean anything anymore. In some way it’s comparable to the word “bastard,” which of course initially referred to children with unmarried parents, and now is just a meaner way of calling someone a jerk.

Unfortunately, even though “slutty” has no real definition, it’s still a powerful, horrible word, because women are still judged on their level of promiscuity. This article sheds light on the fact that different types of women are judged differently for the same behavior, depending on their social standing. I hate the fact that women are still so hard on each other; it’s hard enough living in a society rampant in misogynism & sexism without adding the additional burden of bringing one another down.

On Being an Abortion Doula

On Being an Abortion Doula

Robinson is one of over 20 volunteers for The Doula Project, a New York City-based nonprofit organization. The organization was started in 2007 as a way to provide caregivers to women undergoing abortions. In the words of the project’s mission statement, their doulas offer “all of the benefits of what is typically known to be the territory of birth doulas: pain management and relaxation techniques, information and education about pregnancy, and above all, emotional support and empathy.”

In 2009, the project expanded to encompass birth-work as well, though the majority of their clients are still women terminating pregnancies.

Such a wonderful, thoughtful interview. I am amazed and inspired by Annie Robinson’s wisdom and courage.

Thanks to Sarah for the link, and for understanding me so well.

High School in Southern Georgia: What ‘Career Technical’ Education Looks Like

High School in Southern Georgia: What ‘Career Technical’ Education Looks Like

“In the past, we’ve encouraged all kids to go to college, because of the idea that it made the big difference in income levels,” Rachel Baldwin told me on the phone this morning. She then mentioned a recent public radio series on the origins of success, and said: “The recent evidence suggests really goes back to something like ‘grit.’ I think you are more likely to learn grit in one of these technical classes. The plumber who has grit may turn out to be more entrepreneurial and successful than someone with an advanced degree. Our goal has been getting students a skill and a credential that puts them above just the entry-level job, including if they’re using that to pay for college.”

Being from southern Georgia doesn’t always give me a lot of pride, at least not when it comes to reading news stories. But this piece just made my whole day. I hope other public schools around the country follow suit.

How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood

How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood

“If you use Netflix, you’ve probably wondered about the specific genres that it suggests to you. Some of them just seem so specific that it’s absurd. Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries? Period Pieces About Royalty Based on Real Life? Foreign Satanic Stories from the 1980s?

If Netflix can show such tiny slices of cinema to any given user, and they have 40 million users, how vast did their set of ‘personalized genres’ need to be to describe the entire Hollywood universe?

This idle wonder turned to rabid fascination when I realized that I could capture each and every microgenre that Netflix’s algorithm has ever created.

Through a combination of elbow grease and spam-level repetition, we discovered that Netflix possesses not several hundred genres, or even several thousand, but 76,897 unique ways to describe types of movies.”

I can’t lie; I completely geeked out over this article. I’ve always been amused by the extremely personalized genres on Netlflix, and the analysis here fascinated me.