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I was going to publish a list of books for you to give as gifts. Here are some ideas:

Tromelin, the Island of Lost Slaves A true story of slaves and captors shipwrecked together on a tiny island. The author says he’s “an archeologist of distress.”

The Radical Reader, A Documentary History of the Radical Tradition U.S. history laid out by protest topics rather than by wars or Presidents.

But I didn’t read those books. So I’m going to tell you instead that I don’t like books. And I don’t read books. And I have dyslexia.

I would have never known I had dyslexia except that a mother brought her twelve-year-old dyslexic son to my apartment for a full-day coaching session. Her son had the beginnings of an online publishing business. He had kids his age writing for him, and he had sponsors. He wanted me to help him write a business plan and then work with him over the next year to execute it.

My first question was, how is he doing this if he can’t read?

The kid’s explanation of dyslexia blew my mind: dyslexia is not necessarily an inability to read.

This boy could read everything his contributors sent him. And he could read ESPN all day long, which he did. But he gets a headache when he reads new or challenging material. Or he falls asleep. In his case, dyslexia is an inability to process what he’s reading.

I looked for a test to give to my kids. They both get headaches when they read pages of unfamiliar material. Or they fall asleep. Which means I had to go back six years to get the photo up top, but I have a million photos of my sons reading that look like this:

Of course I gave myself the test first. It was a multiple-choice reading comprehension test, and the last choice for every question was “I’d be guessing.” Which made me realize that I always guess when it comes to reading comprehension.

Then I had all of us tested, and I was literally speechless. At first. Then it was like everything in my life started fitting together like a puzzle.

I learned to read when I was three. My grandma saw me starring at the pages and she told me enough so I could decode the rest. I remember the moment it clicked. I remember thinking I never want to stop decoding words. But I also remember in first grade, when I refused to do the reading curriculum. I said, “I have been reading since I was three.” The teacher said, “You don’t understand anything you read.” I thought that was irrelevant, which I let her know, every single day.

I read nonstop as a kid. But I read easy novels. Stories about kids my age, or younger. I couldn’t keep track of stories in long novels written generations before me. Reading about unfamiliar people and places is way more difficult. I just thought I didn’t like the authors. I thought I was opinionated. But actually, I’m just a bad reader.

I’m well read. Because most famous writers have written at least one short story, which I can always get through. I can talk about literary history and I can talk about good writing and bad writing. And I held my own in graduate school for English without reading anything. Believe me, it’s not that difficult. It’s all theory and criticism, not story. I discovered you can be affected by the revolutionary nature of a book without reading it.

I read non-fiction constantly. But that’s because I love the feeling of reading. I love looking at words and I love ideas. But I don’t read each line, beginning to end. I skim for the important parts, skip to the conclusion, and if I still don’t understand, I start scanning Wikipedia to get the main idea.

I got all A’s in college. But I never even bought the text books. I made up a shorthand for myself and I took transcripts of the course lectures. Then I used a fountain pen to copy my shorthand into a neater page of shorthand. And I memorized the course material that way.

Then I became a writer. So I joined a long list of people who launched writing careers without knowing they had dyslexia: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Yeates, Flaubert, and Umberto Eco, who said, “I don’t read. I write.”

When my son was three he was with other kids who were also autistic. And all readers. The teacher removed all the books in the classroom because, she said, the kids were hyperlexic — they love reading —  but they are not understanding what they are reading because they are dyslexic.

Hyperlexia and dyslexia are genetic, (and both are autism spectrum). You can love to read and be bad at it; sometimes people love to read just because it’s calming.

I often think about that boy I coached who read   ESPN. What is my ESPN? I think it might be suffering. I could read about that all day, because it doesn’t feel like reading so much as picking a wound.

Have I told you about The Children’s Blizzard ?  In the 1800’s the US wanted people to move west so the weather bureau didn’t report impending storms. One  bright, warm day a huge snowstorm smothered the midwest in just a few hours. Kids were at school with no heat and no warm clothes. Each chapter tells the story of a group of children and their horrifying effort to survive the cold.

So maybe you need your own version of ESPN and childhood suffering. And as for the rest of the books, you can love a book you don’t read; like falling in love with someone without having sex. Here’s an example:

I read the table of contents of the Radical Reader to learn the vocabulary of social disturbance. The words I didn’t know, I looked up online: monkeywrenching (eco-tourism for radicals) and culture jamming (deconstructionism for consumers) and Lysistrata protest (sexual empowerment for the disenfranchised). I realized my penchant for protest is limited by my narrow understanding of what it is.

I skimmed the introduction for a big idea, and I get stuck on, “Radicalism is as American as apple pie.”  I realize that the ubiquitous-as-apple-pie smilie always feels a little anti-Semitic to me, because American Jews — even the most assimilated — have no history of cooking with lard, because it’s not kosher, which means the pie crusts of the Jews are always sub-par.

But that’s ok. I like a book where someone works to unhinge my assumptions. I felt like I read the book because I learned something, and I formed a new opinion of my own. That’s all I need.

You can process every word of a book and not let it change you. That’s finishing the book – something competitive readers might measure. Reading a book is making space for a new idea in your heart, and it might merely be a page or a paragraph or a turn of a phrase. Reading is letting sparks flight where they might catch, there is danger and recklessness, and god I love reading so much, even though I rarely read a book.

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I had a friend in high school whose mom wrote her papers. At the time I thought: messed up family.

Then I became a mom who practiced cello three hours a day with my son. And I thought: messed up family.

When we added two hours a day of piano practice I thought: I need to own who I really am. I’m a person who teaches my kids to cut corners. Here are my six principles of cutting corners:

1. Link your goals to your moral code so you know what rules you can break. 
I surprised myself when I was surrounded by music moms, but then I realized it’s like belonging to synagogue that also recruits Asians. I surprised myself when I embraced the mantra of “music is not about speed,” but then I realized we were all racing when no one was watching.

I am no longer surprised by my particular brand of tiger mom parenting (with a healthy does of Jewish-mother martyrdom and  Gen-X reverence for cynicism.) I’ll do whatever my kids need as long as I’m not doing something they will need to do for themselves in order to be a successful adult. So I write biology flash cards but I won’t make beds. Because people who make their bed every morning are happier people.

2. Work backwards to find the fastest way to meet your final goal.
My son decided he wants to do research. I started with the gods of high school science,  kids who won the Siemens prize, and I worked backwards – what did she do junior year? Sophomore year? Freshman year? How did she get to where she got to?

Every kid I investigated was working with a lab. I looked into high schoolers working in labs, and the consensus was that it’s a total pain in the butt for the professor.  My scientist professor friend told me it would be a six-month Festshrift to get legal clearance for a kid to work a lab. She said, “How about if he just comes in for a tour?”

3. Look for patterns among the winners.
I started looking more closely at the contest winners. Nearly all science competition winners have a parent who is a scientists. I should have known. This title is entirely representative of all the entries: Developing a computational model of blood platelets with fluid dynamics applications.

This is not baking soda and vinegar. This also is not particularly controversial. Even Science Buddies advises, “Most kids have a parent helping them, and often it’s a parent who is a scientist.” It hit me: this is the equivalent of moms writing a paper or moms practicing every note alongside the kid. Dads who oversee every tennis practice or dads who build their kid a lab.

4. Yes, the system’s unfair. Life’s unfair. Work with it to get power to change it.
Music is the same as science — at the top, it attracts kids who are privileged and then kids with musician parents have a big advantage.  String instruments and privilege are so intertwined that Harvard doesn’t even make note of an applicant who has been playing cello or violin their whole life because such a huge percentage of accepted candidates are in that category.

Overachievements in high school are just another way to separate kids who already have advantages from everyone else. The list of kids who placed in top competitions is also a list of the top twenty high-schools in the US.  It’s not just that kids who have parents who went to college are more likely to go to college. Kids who have parents who play and instrument are more likely to play an instrument. And kids who have a parent who’s a scientist are more likely to be a scientist. The lack of class mobility is deep.

5. The rich are different from you and me; they don’t seek change or challenge.
And we are not even talking here about the kids of the super rich: there are few kids of super-rich who are committed and driven in a way that dominates life like string instruments and science labs. Intense commitment is boring, high-risk, and all-consuming. Why would anyone do that who is super rich?  The super-rich are so entrenched in their  jet-setting, ski-sloping, island-owning lives that they don’t even worry about having high achieving kids.

6. Self-knowledge is the scissors of the corner-cutting class.
For my kids, their best hope of inherited privilege is cutting corners. So I was researching yesterday, trying again to figure out a way to cut a new path to the Siemens competition. And I discovered that the competition is canceled as of 2018. An announcement on the site explained:

Over the last few years we’ve taken a close look at changes in the U.S and the people, programs and expertise we have to address those needs and adjusted our investments accordingly. The growing momentum around our investments in workforce development, including through career and technical education, apprenticeships, and more, has affirmed our belief that moving forward in this direction provides the best opportunity for us to serve those in need. Addressing inequalities in economic opportunity and the vanishing middle-class of America is an area where we believe we can be an important part of the solution.

This is one of the most radical, disruptive, and life-affirming statements that I’ve read in a long time. Siemens is calling BS on the idea that we need to celebrate privileged kids leveraging their privilege. And Siemens is calling a spade a spade: it was a competition that reinforces a static class system.

The whole problem with our education system is that we celebrate achievements in systems that are rigged. Siemens is pulling the rug out from under all the people trying to leverage our lack of class mobility in order to benefit their kids. I am one of those people. And I confess to clicking Siemens’s list of alternative competitions.

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To figure out whether or not you really want to meet a goal you’re not meeting, clear fifteen minutes a day in your calendar. Tell yourself one very small thing you can do in that fifteen minutes to move toward meeting that goal. And see if you do it.

Why this tactics works:

1. You can’t meet big goals without breaking them down. A to-do list works best if it’s full of specific, manageable things you can do to move one, small step toward the very big goal. After breaking down the goal into items on a todo list, you notice that worthy goals require sustained focus over a very long time.

2. Self-discipline is what creates change. And self-discipline snowballs. For example, people who write lists end up using lists, and people who use lists get more done. But also, if you balance a book on your head for ten minutes a day, you are more likely to do pushups for ten minutes a day. Because self-discipline begets self-discipline — even if it’s something silly.

3. People don’t want to accomplish the goals they set and don’t meet. I set aside fifteen minutes every day for a week and did nothing. Each day I told myself to do something different with the fifteen minutes. And each day I did not do the something different. So I decided I’m revealing to myself my true goal: to be depressed.

So I laid on the sofa with the dog for 15 minutes a day. And remember the part I told you about snowballing? Well that snowballed into two hours. That’s about as long as I can be in the mode of sleeping on the sofa in the middle of the day before the kids start to worry I’ve lost my ability to function.

I wonder if other people’s kids would start to wonder much earlier. I wonder if maybe it’s a litmus test of one’s parenting to see how long you can sleep on the sofa in the middle of the day before the kids think something is wrong.

Forget it. There’s no measure to tell if you’re a good parent. Which is why I’m obsessed with meeting goals. I want to accomplish something. I meet goals with my kids but it’s not like then I’m a good parent. Because meeting goals is not even what parenting is about — loving kids is what parenting is about. Not that you don’t know that. But I need to keep writing it to remind myself.

Wait. An aside: if my kids look back on these posts and think I was a bad parent, they should know that I do understand that the purpose of parenting is love. To the future daughter-in-law, twenty years in the future, who is telling my son that his mother fucked him up and she is not coming to Passover anymore because of family dysfunction: this is a record to show I understood what my job was and I did it. And also, wait until you have kids and see how hard it is to express love in a way that is not overbearing.

One of the ways I learned how to see the goal I’m not meeting is by coaching so many people who want help with the goal they are not meeting. Which is, like, almost everyone.

Probably the most common goal not being met is career advancement.  Many people think their careers should be advancing no matter what. But in most cases the person doesn’t really care if their career advances, they just think they should care.

The second most common goal not being met is having a meaningful career. Many people think their career should have meaning. But in most cases the person doesn’t really believe that careers give meaning to life, they think jobs support what is meaningful in life.

The other way I learn how to see the goal I’m not meeting is to look at people who are not meeting the goal I want them to meet. Tonight that is Melissa.

It used to be that she took all the pictures for the blog. Then she moved and I emailed her pictures I take, and she edited them. Or deleted them if she didn’t like them. She was incredibly slow, but she was the best at it. We did that for a long time.

Then I moved to Swarthmore and she stopped doing it. She told me to use all the pictures she edited that I didn’t use. But I do not view this as a tongue-to-tail thing where we are eating the whole cow before we butcher a new one. I view this as a one-pancake-left thing where it doesn’t feel good to eat when you know you’re taking the only one that’s left. People like a choice of pancakes. That’s why restaurants serve a stack.

But the real problem is I don’t want to look at all the pictures of our life at the farm. I get sad every time, and then I never write. So I don’t care that there are a lot of photos I did’t use.

At first I was pissed that Melissa isn’t hearing how upset I’ve been. But the goals I set for Melissa should not be goals if she’s not meeting them. Just like the goals I set for myself should not be goals if I’m not meeting them.

So I am posting all the pictures of our move from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania. I had no idea we would never go back to the farm. I feel ill and anxious every time I look at these pictures. I want the whole day out of the photo queue. So I’m putting it on the blog. I’m taking steps to meet my goal. This is the way I can move forward.

Melissa will tell you these pictures are evidence that she is right and there are plenty of pictures for me to choose from. But I see it as evidence that O’Hare is a patchwork of memorable ceilings that all make me sad.

And what is this picture? Even if you can’t identify this as the floor in Terminal C, you can identify this as the face of a dog that portends ominous doom.

If only I had paid more attention to the dog.

But really what would I have done differently? Probably nothing. I’m not the type to second-guess my decisions. One of the only times that still happens is when I flip through photos to add to my post. Now there are no more photos that makes me sad waiting in the queue. I used them all right here.

It’s my small specific step to move forward. And I’m taking acton, because not being sad about what we lost when we moved is a goal that’s important to me. All the other goals; I guess I don’t want them as much I want this.

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That’s the phrase I searched last December. All the time.

A month earlier he said to me and my older son, “I have an announcement to make to the family. [Pause for dramatic effect.] I’m gay.”

My older son said, “What the fuck! I knew it! Melissa called it!”

I said, “You’re gay?”

He said, “Are you surprised?”

I said, “No. I’m not.”

The first person we called is Melissa. She said, “Oh. Didn’t we already know that?”

When he was six he asked me if people kiss each other’s penises. When he was eight he asked where people put their penises if it’s two boys. When he was ten he started wearing makeup.

I was surprised to hear he had not been sure.

I figured not much would change. Outside of where we used to live, in very rural Wisconsin, I didn’t think I knew anyone who would care one way or the other if someone is gay.

He told his best friend, and she said, “That’s fine. I don’t care if you are gay or straight or whatever. You’re the same person to me.”

I stopped her mom the next day and relayed the conversation. I said, “Her response was perfect. Thank you so much for raising a kid like that.”

At another friend’s house he announced he’s gay at the dinner table. The dad said, “Congratulations!”

I never would have known to say congratulations, but what a lovely thing to say. I texted the dad to thank him.

Everyone he told was supportive except for one adult. My son said, “I have something to say. It’s big news. And it’s important: I’m gay.”

She said, “Are you sure? Are you just saying this to get attention?”

It’s hard for me to even write this. My stomach gets tight and my eyes water. I can remember my son looking over at me, and I knew I had to say something. I said, “That is not a good response.”

I had no idea what else to say. Even now, I don’t know what to write. She said more things, to defend her comment. Which made the situation worse.

But I learned something from my son after that. He knew it was a terrible response and that she was showing that something is wrong with her, not him. He made an eloquent speech to me about people expressing themselves through their discomforts.

I said, “Where do you learn this stuff?” And it turns out he’s been watching YouTube videos about coming out for months. He prepared himself so well.

But then one night a few weeks later he called me into his bedroom. He was crying. He said, “I’m scared of being different.”

How did I not notice that?

I hugged him.

He said, “I don’t wanna to be an outcast.”

I felt so stupid for thinking everything would be fine. Of course he wants to fit in. He’s a joiner. He’s a rule follower. He always wants to make everyone feel comfortable.

I started noticing more. He had always been the fun goofy kid on the basketball team. But now he was a wreck at basketball. He looked like what I’d expect twelve-year-old boy to look like in a roomful of girls. Even though it makes sense, it’s so striking to see the opposite happen. I had never thought of that.

And all his best friends are girls. So he is around lots of girls a lot of the time. But there was a party that was mostly girls and they played truth or dare and one of them dared him to kiss her… he didn’t want to. So he announced to the whole party that he’s gay. And the girl still wanted to kiss him. So he did it. And when he told me this he said, “It was terrible and I didn’t know what to do.”

I started searching again, trying to figure out what to do. Almost everything online was places for kids to go whose parents don’t support them. Then I found a place in Philadelphia that had stuff every day of the week after school for LGBTQ kids: The Attic Youth Center.

I knew it was a big deal to go because my son said to his older brother, “Will you come with? I don’t want to go alone.”

He said, “No! I’m not going, I’m not gay!”

I said, “You are going to support your brother.”

The three of us walked in. I paused. The kids were SO gay. Like, get-beaten-up-at-school gay. I had never seen such young kids being so obviously gay.

My son did not pause at all, so I followed.

One kid introduced himself immediately. Then another. Another kid said he’d give a tour. Other kids joined the tour. They offered him snacks. My son motioned to me and his brother to get lost, and then they all disappeared.

Thirty minutes went by. Forty five.

He came back glowing. Self-confident like I had never seen him before. Then he asked me if we could go to a cupcake shop: “To celebrate!”

He gushed about how great the kids were. He said he felt so comfortable, and understood. He said, “They walk and talk like me, and they care about what I care about.”

He said they asked him what his preferred pronoun is.

“Really?” I said, “Do you have a pronoun?”

“I didn’t even know what a pronoun is. But they told me. So now I know my pronouns are he and him.”

While he was telling his stories he had way more affect than I had ever seen him have. The visit to The Attic freed him, and I hadn’t even known he needed freeing.

He wanted to go back the next day. So we did. But as soon as we got there they told us he is too young to be there. The laws in Pennsylvania say he has to be 14.

That was a very bad day.

I got the name of a therapist from a friend of a friend.

My son said no.

“Just go once,” I told him.

From her my son learned how to tell girls he doesn’t want to kiss them. But he also learned that it’s okay to want to kiss them. Everything is okay if it feels okay.

From the therapist I learned that everything I know is outdated. For example, I’m pretty sure kids don’t “come out” anymore, because it’s too binary. And “you’ll change when you get older” is a disrespectful response because we can know our sexual preference for right now and that’s all that matters. I learned that kids are coming out younger and younger because, as said, “Being gay is not about sexuality — it’s an outlook.”

“What?!” That’s what I said when she told me that.

And she said to my son, “I can understand why that doesn’t make sense to your mom. Does it make sense to you?”

My son said, “Yes.”

Now my son goes to the therapist alone. Once every week.

He told some basketball players, and nothing changed. Just as he hoped.

And this morning he said, “Mom, you should write a post. I don’t care who knows I’m gay. And maybe it’ll help someone.”

I worried about telling his story poorly. But actually, I’m telling you my story, of finding out my son is gay. And the story will change. Because that’s what stories do.

Other people have learned the infinite versions of one life lived from stories by Mark Twain or interviews with Susanna Kaysen. From writing resumes, I have learned that the idea of one, true story is a myth. A resume is only one snapshot of your life, and you actually have infinite ways to tell the story of your work.

The best story writers realize that no matter if the story is true or not, it’s a real story for the writer. That relieves an author of pressure to tell “the true story” or “the right story.” And the best resume writers realize that what you leave out may change the arc of the story but does not make it untrue.

I have left so much out of this story. More will come later, when it matters, perhaps. Other characters will emerge. Some will feel not so important. But for now, this is the story of how to have a son who comes out at 12 years old. How to help him. And how to leave a story behind for another mother to add to when she is searching like I did.

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Around 20% of the people I coach are black, and race usually comes up in conversation, but not in a very interesting way. However, recently I coached a black guy who was so interesting that I stayed on the phone with him an extra hour.

I used to think transactionally: you pay $350 I talk for an hour. Then I announced a temporary discount to $150 if people call at 7am or 10pm, and I thought I’d be annoyed talking for so low an hourly rate, but I have to admit that I talk to more revolutionaries at 7am and 10pm than I ever did in the hours in between. And this black guy is a great example of that.

His perspective on career management for black people is smart and fascinating, but if he wrote it candidly he’d kill his career. So I’m writing what I learned from him.

1. Go to a college where people will see you as a high performer. White kids don’t need to do this because white kids have people everywhere who can guide them, mentor them, write a letter or two. Black kids need credentials and a network of high performers who will support them in their adult life. Because people in the US have so much guilt about racism, people love helping high performing black kids. It’s so much easier than helping poor, low performing, probably destitute black kids.

2. Know what you want. As a high performing black kid, singled out by a college for high-performers, you make it easy for white people to help you. They will talk with you about your major, ask you what you want to do, and help you get that job. But you have to know what you want. You need help as early as possible and people can’t help you early if you don’t specialize early. Saying you want to try a lot of things means no one can help you.

White kids don’t have to know what they want as early. Part of being white is being able to make missteps, because people aren’t so fast to label you a failure. But as a black kid you could be labeled a failure with one wrong step.

3. Say yes when someone influential asks if you need help. Say yes first and then figure out how they can help you. They want to feel good about helping a black kid. They are looking for a way to help. You have to find the way, though, because they don’t know what you’re up against. So be sure to start by asking for help that’s easy for them to give. Then they’ll come back to help again. Keep in touch. Show them they’re making a difference. You’re their project.

Remember: I am not saying this is nice, or the way it should be. (And I’m not even sure it’s funny to create a Richard Scarry parody of the situation like Tony Ruth does in the picture above.)  I’m just saying this is an effective way to manage your career.

4. Expect Jews to be more helpful than other people. Most Jews in the US feel isolated in a Christian world. People who are biased against blacks know to shut up when there is a black person in the room. But people who are biased against Jews often have no idea there is a Jew in the room. So while there is more racism against blacks than Jews, the Jews are very conscious of being treated as an outsider.

Jews say they understand prejudice. And Jews try hard to help black people, but they don’t recognize black people try hard to help them.  In terms of career advice, this means pay close attention to the Jews. They are likely to give a lot of help.

5. Be open to envisioning yourself in the middle class. When white people talk about black people and work, so often it’s either dirt-poor people or bankers, lawyers or other super-high performers. And the white mentors are enthralled with shepherding more black people to this echelon. Few role models of the suburban dad are black, and the prototype soccer mom is white. But for many white people the middle ground is right for them, and that’s true of black people as well.

You can aim for stability and sanity of the middle class instead of always having to prove to everyone how great you are. But don’t tell that to people when you’re getting help from them — because when they mentor a black person they want to think it’ll be grand and special and they’ll look really good.

6. It’s OK to not respond to everything offensive people do. Sometimes people may need you to be something to make themselves feel better. Like the woman who grabs her purse when a black man walks by. That woman imagines she has something much better than that man has, and he wants what she has. You don’t have to buy into that story.  That’s her baggage, not yours. Other people’s racism is so heavy. Don’t pick it up, because having baggage puts you at a competitive disadvantage in the market place.

7. Be patient with mentor racism. Someone sees you’re a high performer and they want to help. But they put themselves on the line to help. So they want to know you won’t fail, and the mentor has not seen black people in the jobs he can get you. So he’ll test you.

The mentor for a white person will say, “I have a job for you.” The mentor for a black person will say, “Do this, it’ll be a good first step to a job. And I’ll check back with you.” Check back is white people language for I don’t trust you to be successful so I can’t let you get too far away.
“That sounds a lot like what it is to be on parole,” is what the guy told me when I said that to him.

Yeah. I actually said that to him – after he taught me so much about the world – I said to him what his next step is and to get back with me.

Ugh.

This is how I know that everything he said is true. And smart. And while he was telling me about how black people manage their careers, he was teaching me about white people as well.

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Men do a lot more housework today than they did ten years ago, but they do the same amount of housework regardless of whether they are single or married. This means men are more self-sufficient than they used to be, but also that they are only doing what women would call “the basics.”

Women do more housework when they are married than when they are single — even with no kids. Which means women are doing more than the basics because they want to make a nice home for the marriage. And that men already thought they had a nice home. Men don’t care about the extra housework women are doing: the genesis of unpaid, unappreciated labor.

Forget the wage gap. Let’s talk about the emotional labor gap. Parents have to decide who runs to the emergency room when the kid is sick, who goes home when the living room when the ceiling falls in, who remembers the dietary preferences and food allergies when the extended family comes into town. You can’t outsource everything. So one person has to have a job that has fewer time demands.

And I’m so sick of telling you that men and women are not the same so we can’t treat them the same. Women keep their marriages together by saying yes to sex even though they don’t want sex. This would have helped me a lot in my first marriage, where we had sex three times in six years (I tracked ovulation every time — one miscarriage. Not kidding. I’m a very focused girl.) You don’t need to tell men to say yes every time in order to keep their marriage together. No sane woman in the history of the universe is badgering their husband for sex while they are breastfeeding and recovering from a vaginal tear. Ok? It’s just different.

There is no way that I believe that society forces women to focus on kids. Here’s why. Because women do better than men in school. Across the board. In preschool, in elementary school, in high school, in college. And women earn more than men in their 20s. So how could it be that women feel pressure to suddenly start acting like men own them?

I think it’s the opposite. Women hear all the time how smart and capable they are. And then women get showered with cash for competing effectively with men. So why would women stop? No one is encouraging women to dump everything they achieved and wash baby bottles. Women choose it. Because women have choices. And they have a different list of life goals than men do.

And don’t tell me about the women who don’t have choices, okay? This is not a blog post about Syrian women in relocation camps. This is not a post about women in homeless shelters. Stop derailing my argument with discussions of women who are powerless because it’s insulting to women who are educated and in control and have time to read blog posts.

I’m so frustrated that the conversation about women is not shifting faster. So fuck every single woman who is still talking about how women need equality at work. Men and women aren’t equal and it’s totally ridiculous that we are still talking about this. Did you know that the reason women don’t negotiate as much as men do is because women have a better intuition about when they will get something and when they won’t? That’s right. Men negotiate because they are not as intuitive as women and then men penalize women for not acting as dense as men during negotiations.

You know why I’m really pissed off? The BBC asked me to do an interview and I said yes. They did a segment on the Prime Minister of New Zealand and everyone’s asking her if she’s gonna have children and there is outrage. So the BBC asked me what my opinion is, and of course all the other people they contacted said boo hoo hoo women should not suffer for having children. And I said why are people even asking – of course she’s going to have children. And if she doesn’t have children, then it’s further proof that only Jacinda Arden and Angela Merkel and other women who are childless can run countries.

So I can’t do any more talk shows. I can’t stand it. I can’t stand how far behind the world is in the discussion of women. We have so much data to get us to the next stage, and no one is moving.

But this blog is moving on.

Instead of gender equality we should focus on gender priorities, to support people in whatever choices they make. Instead of defining people as male or female, how about defining different types of people by what they care about — those who care what the house looks like and those who don’t. Those who care about getting the best basketball coach and those who just book whichever guy has the right time slot in their schedule.

Then you don’t need to make your family schedules a political platform. Instead everyone can push most in areas they care about most. And there will be a gap. For sure. Because we don’t all care about the same stuff.

And then we can talk about how I don’t care about being on BBC because it interrupted lunch with my kids. And that I care more about making grilled cheese than being a pundit. Because I’m a girl. And I bet I’m not alone.

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Penelope Trunk Blog by Penelope Trunk - 3M ago

This course runs May 7 – 10 at 8pm Eastern and includes four days of video sessions and email-based materials as well as a weekly meeting with special guests for four weeks. The cost is $195 but you can save $50 if you use this coupon code in the next two days: SMARTAF. Sign up now.

This is a course for INTJs. It’s not like any course I’ve done before. But before I even tell you about it, I want to say you really have to be an INTJ to enroll in the course.

First of all, the INTJs are ruthless to people who are not like them, and honestly, I can barely cope with being in a course with them. Because even when they are trying to be nice (which they may or may not be trying to be when they talk to me) they can’t stop squashing other people for having weaknesses. Literal illustration: Melissa sitting on me because I didn’t wake up on time.

Usually the best way for me to tell if someone is an INTJ is to put them into the first course I did for INTJs – the INTJs are in heaven and everyone else is like why are all these people such assholes?

But that takes a lot of time, so here’s a shortcut for how to tell if you tested as an INTJ but you’re not:

Do you make decisions based on your values?

Yes? No? It depends?

Do you have hobbies?

Yes? No? What counts as a hobby?

Does it bother you that I am not getting to the point fast enough in this post?

Yes? No? I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated, but I do think you should do more preparation before you start to write.

If you did not answer no to all then you are not an INTJ. You can email me though and I’ll tell you your true type. (Note: those three questions are only for people who tested as INTJs.)

An addendum to my emphatic scaring off of non-INTJs. INTJs are loyal, honest, and high earning, and they make great partners for INFJs and ENFPs. There is no better way to learn how to reel in an INTJ than lurking in a course full of INTJs. Because they mostly hate everyone, they don’t generally talk much, but they talk a lot in this type of course. So we will have an INTJ viewing area, with signs that say things like no talking and please don’t feed the INTJs. If you want to be in the viewing area, send me an email.

Ok. So, moving along, here is what the course is about: What is the difference between super successful INTJs and all the rest? We will spend three nights talking about what INTJs need to do to get the most interesting jobs. The fourth night will be a Q&A. Then we’ll meet for four weeks afterwards to do an interview with INTJs that are remarkable. I’ll interview them and Melissa, my trusty INTJ co-host will edit my interview – in real time, while I’m trying to do it.

Day One: The ideal INTJ work environment. An INTJ focuses on getting things done, which means they live in reality. This also means they don’t come up with big ideas on their own, because big ideas require suspension of reality. The ideas INTJs come up with are all systems and solutions. Like, Amazon sorts products one way so if you add a certain type of product you’ll always be at the top of Amazon. That’s an idea, but it’s a boring one for an INTJ to implement.  INTJs are natural editors of big ideas and even more natural implementers of big ideas. So their work is only as interesting as the ideas that come floating by them.

Day Two: The ideal INTJ co-worker. INTJs can succeed anywhere you put them, but too often INTJs end up somewhere that is not worthy of their natural ability to execute a plan. Because not all CEOs try to solve huge problems, and not all grand thinkers are earthbound enough to actually allow anything to get done.

I once read an article about what VCs look for in CEOs. And there was resounding agreement that the best CEO is just a little bit too sane to be living in an institution. INTJ should look for companies a lot like a VC looks for companies – they see good ideas and then need help sorting and executing on the best ones. To an INTJ, it’s counterintuitive to go hunting for coworkers in the thick forest of mental instability. But this course will show you that you can handle much more than you think you can (and why it’s even good for you).

Day Three: How to attract a big thinker. Yes, this sounds like dating topic. Maybe that’s because work is a lot like dating. (And if you want to know how hard it is to connect with a big thinker, consider how incompetent INTJs are at dating.) Luckily big thinkers adore working with INTJs, so if you can make yourself be known, you’ll be well received. Personality type targets: ENTJ or ENTP if they are the CEO. Or an ENFP if it’s their own business.

Day Four: Q&A for all things INTJ.

The following weeks. A parade of INTJs who caught my eye as especially successful in specific ways. People who have launched startups, joined startups, sold out, cashed out, and been pushed out. Each of these people did something really interesting in a way only an INTJ could. You will hear from them about what they did to get where they are. And note: In true INTJ fashion, most of these people never talk publicly about their careers. So it’ll be unvarnished for sure, and who knows what else.

 Sign up now. Reminder: The cost is $195 but you can save $50 if you use this coupon code in the next two days: SMARTAF.

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A reporter emailed me to set up a call to talk about millennials. There was a time in my life when I would have ignored the email. I’m tired of talking about millennials. But now that I’m home with kids, I say yes to reporters so I have someone interesting to talk to.

This one asked me about how millennials will change leadership. She wanted a quote about David Solomon – quintessential BS-laden story that millennials eat up. He’s the CEO-in-waiting at Goldman Sachs who is also a DJ and walked his kids to school. And then I remembered the other reason I don’t do calls with journalists: I go on tirades.

Walked his kids to school! So devoted!

Really, how do people believe this crap. Here’s what it’s like to be a millionaire and walk your kids to school: someone else wakes them up and gets them ready. And then there’s a car service to pick you up at the school and drive you to work.

In the past you got a gold medal for being CEO. (Or you got a gold medal for being a hot wife who raised kids who became doctors and lawyers.) Now CEOs have to be aspirational for millennials so they have to look like they won a gold medal for work-life balance.

Chelsea Clinton is a great example of commitment to nothing. She was at McKinsey for a year. She fundraises for charities. She wrote a children’s book. For Chelsea, her career is a series of aspirational hobbies because she is too rich to just stay home with kids. She can buy the image of work-life balance. She’s a millennial gold-medal winner!

Gen X revolutionized leadership by leading from behind (because Gen X was always behind the Baby Boomers). The Internet disrupted publishing, Grunge disrupted music, food trucks disrupted restaurants. Then, as fast as you can say Barack Obama’s presidency, the leadership phase of Gen X was gone. And, like all things that Gen X reformed, Gen Y picked up the cause and got all the credit.

But I am never one to let millennials take credit they don’t deserve.

Because hello? Have millennials changed anything yet? I don’t think so. The only thing they’ve changed is how far someone will go to salve their endless need for external validation. Millennials invented the destination elopement, monthly subscription boxes of stuff, foods made from other foods. They transformed prom by going in a group. They transformed entry-level jobs by quitting in a group. They transformed startup culture by making it group therapy. They transformed social activism by donating to whoever their friends donate to.

So please, let’s not even talk about millennials as leaders, because the only leading they do is from their Instagram feed.  Millennials are so desperate for external validation that they make work-life balance competitive.

So David Solomon is a DJ like Chelsea Clinton is a book author. David has enough money to look like well-balanced guy even though we all know that you have to basically eat the organs out of your competition in order to get to the top of Goldman Sachs.

The millennials will be the first generation since the post-war generation where every household looks the same (all artisanal and bespoke, of course) and every family looks the same (millennial moms trade ambition for kids, millennial dads want to be home for dinner). Everyone wants to own less and share more. And leadership takes place on social media, where everyone looks toward the one with the most likes. Because more than anything millennials like to be liked.

Ten years ago I launched Brazen Careerist, which is now Brazen Technologies, a company name that makes me feel like I’m the parent of a child who just announced their new name is Sam and their preferred pronoun is they.

When I launched the company I was in my 40s. I never saw my kids. My husband demanded a divorce. And I was surrounded by twentysomethings telling me I wasn’t using email right, wasn’t using Facebook right, wasn’t leading right. I remember thinking: I can’t wait til they are in their 30s.

Now the time has come. Ryan Paugh has two kids and is running his own startup, The Community Company.

He sees his kids about as much as I did back then, and when his wife is pissed about their marriage, she calls me. (I scream at her and tell her divorce is not an option.) I hope there is someone telling him he’s not using Snapchat the right way, but there will not be someone telling him he’s leading the wrong way. Because he’s the quintessential millennial leader.

He and his wife, Caitlin, are work-life geniuses. Ryan comes home for dinner. There is no nanny. And Caitlin freeze dries food and makes medicine from herbs. Caitlin knew she couldn’t work full-time and have kids, so she does small stuff on the side, and when people ask “what do you do,” she gets to talk about her interesting work AND her stay-at-home parenting because she’s a millennial winner.

And Ryan just published at book. Of course. Because the business card is to work as the book is to work-life balance. It’s called Super Connector. It tells people to lead by way of a group. Seriously. Blows my mind.

I want to tell him it’s a totally stupid book and people need a real leader. What would animals do without a leader? Eat each other. What would cave men do without a leader? Starve without meat. And what would Steve Jobs have accomplished if he had been likable? Nothing, probably.

But Ryan is likable, and so of this moment. You can tell he’s so this moment is that everyone like me who is too old to be of this moment will not want to read his book. Which is exactly why we should. Because millennials are taking over the workplace, so we should get on board.

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I am so sick of people telling me I don’t have Aspergers. I am also so sick of people not listening to me when I tell them their daughter has Aspergers.

Women who have Aspergers do not look like men who have Aspergers. Men who have Aspergers look like socially retarded men. Women who have Aspergers look like neurotypical men. Of course, this is just a nice way of saying that women with Aspergers are retarded women. But the truth is that neurotypical men still look like social retards compared to neurotypical women.

I am giving you a link for this. It’s Scientific American. Everyone should read this article because it is my Bible. I will keep linking to it until you read it.

So when a woman thinks like a man, we do not think she has Aspergers because we worry that would be gender stereotyping. But WTF, genders do have stereotypes. And most women who have brains like men have Aspergers. This does not mean women who are strong and athletic have Aspergers. That is you misunderstanding gender; women can be strong and athletic and think like a woman. But women whose brains work like men are not likely to be normal. Duh.

Don’t complain to me that there is not a man’s brain and a woman’s brain. Seriously. Of course there is. You know that if a guy loves to go shopping and get his hair done then he’s gay. It doesn’t help anyone to say there are no gender differences. You know where that gets us? It gets Sheryl fucking Sandberg telling women to lean in like women do not care more about staying home with kids than men do. Which they do.

Most women do not notice that they have Aspergers until they are in their 40s. This is because women with Aspergers are smart and good looking and are able to somehow pass as normal in a world even though they care relatively little for social decorum.

Then they get to be middle aged, where men and women separate more than any other time in life. The woman are largely at home, or struggling between kids and home, and the men are largely at work. And while everyone is raising kids, women feel that experience differently than men do.

This means the women who have Aspergers who have been passing as normal among men can no longer pass for normal because the men are pretty much gone. It becomes painfully clear to the women with Aspergers that they’ve been different forever and they can’t handle it any more.

I know so many women who “were fine until they had kids”. What does that mean? I think it means they were fine until they couldn’t hide. I don’t say this critically. I say this as one of those women. I could pass so much more easily before kids.

Because before there are children, it’s possible to spend way more time than everyone else navigating adult life, so no one notices how bad you are at it. But once there are kids, it’s much harder to hide because there is not so much extra time you can devote to doing things that neurotypicals find very simple to do.

A few months ago, I told people I’d discount my $350 coaching fee to $150 if people booked a coaching session at 7am or 10pm. I had never discounted the sessions before, so I didn’t know what would happen.

The first thing that happened is that I was able to keep a schedule for myself. I can’t get up without someone calling me. I used to think it’s because I sleep with the dog and he’s warm and cozy. But it turns out sleep problems are another sign of Aspergers.

The other thing that happened is that 40% of the people who signed up for $150 have Aspergers. It’s incredible, really. Yet it’s so easy for me to see. It’s the person who is 35 and they are scared of getting fired again. The person who wants to get married but can’t figure out how. The person who is an INTJ but working as a receptionist. The person who is single and an accountant and doesn’t date. It’s so easy for me to see that these people have Aspergers.

You are doubting me. I know. Take the last example. Accountants like to follow rules, they like to have clear paths, and they like doing tangible things rather than staring into space or reading a book. That’s just standard personality type stuff. I haven’t even gotten to my renegade diagnosis part.

The thing about an accountant who doesn’t date is that there is nothing else for that person to do. They can’t think of something else to do besides have a family. I mean, there is not actually a lot of other things to do in the world, which is why most people have families, but a lot of people (HELLO ENFPs!!!) hold on to fantasies that they will be doing something phenomenal in life and bounce around from shiny idea to shiny idea instead of having a family. But accountants are not the phenomenal types.

It’s all about patterns. And I see the patterns because I have Aspergers.

I’m hoping that people can start to see how insanely lonely it is to have Aspergers as a woman and that the way to decrease that loneliness is to help girls see themselves more clearly so they can make their lives less lonely as adults.

Maybe this blog post is not politically correct or culturally sensitive or whatever, but we need to start talking frankly about women and Aspergers. And I don’t know how to tell you in a way that is nice. Because I have Aspergers. But I see the patterns and frankly I’m really frustrated by all the people who are oblivious to what’s totally obvious to me.

Even after all these years of ranting about it, I am still not sure why people are so resistant to admitting they have Aspergers. I feel like, who cares? You are who you are — admitting who you are is never going to make things worse.

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For my next career, I decided I want to be a professional gamer. My kids will grow up and move out and I’ll get great internet and stock my apartment with all the food gamers want. And I’ll recruit an awesome team because they can live rent-free and play together in one room.

I will not have good reaction time, but I’ll be team captain and that way we can get AARP to sponsor us.

Also, I might even have a gaming blog. I have a lot to say. For example, did you know Koreans are better at League of Legends than anyone else? And people spend a lot of time trying to figure out why. Like maybe it’s their gaming style (go out strong) or gaming culture (it’s literally ILLEGAL to cheat at videos games in Korea).

But I hear this same conversation about Korean string instrument players. Earlier in life I’d have told you to go to Optilingo and learn Korean because I was convinced it was language related. But now I have come to the unscientific conclusion that it’s finger dexterity. Maybe small-twitch muscles in fingers. Or something like that. You’ll want to come back to my gaming blog for more borderline racist commentary.

The research says that hard-core gaming is a sign of high IQ, ambition, and future success. And kids who climb through the ranks become experts at grit and perseverance. Which is why I let my kids play video games whenever they want.

I read about colleges giving  esports scholarships to gamers. I read about how kids sell their accounts, or they get paid to play on other kids accounts to win games.

I read parents talking about their kids who earn six figures as gamers. One dad took his kid’s computer to work with him every day so the kid bought a second computer. Another family turned off their internet so the kid paid to get his bedroom wired.

Commitment is relative and most of you are not particularly committed to anything. Commitment is about time and energy. Look at what you put time and energy toward. Are you in the top 10% in terms of the time and energy you put into your particular thing? I’d say top 10% is how I would define committed. Top 20% is very interested. Top 50% is paying attention in an average way.

Do you want to do something that matters on the world?  First define “something that matters” and then go find someone else who has done that. Look how committed are they to what they did. Do you want to be that committed? Would you give up what they gave up? If the answer is no then you don’t want to change the world. (Or be Challenger level in League of Legends.)

I have been playing League of Legends with my kids, mostly to see what being committed to gaming might feel like. At first I didn’t know what I was doing and my son would type things in for me: “F U ALL IM TAKING MIDLANE.”

After that I typed, “I’m sorry for that. That was my son. I didn’t mean to be rude. Could I play mid-lane?”

Then my kids would get serious. They’d tell me I can’t type stuff like that. They’d tell me we are going to get our IP banned because I sound like a troll.

An interesting way to divide the world is the super-committed and everyone else. Commitment level is relative. But some things are clear. You can only expect to be with people who have the same level of commitment as you. For anything. At work full-timers hate dealing with part-timers. In League of Legends if you’re Bronze then you only play with Bronze players.

My kids can’t stand when other kids come over to our house and have very little experience playing video games, and they think they’re going to get better while they’re in our den of unlimited screen time.TK “Dude! It takes years!” Is what my son says. The only way you level up in commitment is with time and energy. There’s nothing else.

Similarly, I am sick of people who want to change the world but can’t seem to stay in the same job — because it takes decades to do something that really matters. Commitment. And risk: spending so much time at something without having certain reward. So few people can stomach that. But gamers do.

The correlation between success and hard work is palpable among gamers. It’s refreshing after decades of hearing people talk about work-life balance as something successful people do.

I like when my kids are winning because they have more time to type in the comments.

Tonight my older son says, “Oh my god this guy just said, I got my girlfriend pregnant and I’m trying to get through medical school.”

I say, “Tell him your mom will talk to him if he wants help.”

My son howls with laughter. But then he types that to the kid.

Two blown-up turrets later, the kid types back: “It’s ok. We’re going to Planned Parenthood tomorrow.”

I say, “Tell him to get her flowers when gets home. She’ll like that.”

Younger son: “No! He’s trolling! Don’t write that! MOM. Seriously!”

“So what? So what if he’s trolling. Everyone in the game will be nicer if they know someone who has an abortion.”

My older son types it.

And so does my younger son.

And it’s a small victory for me. Because right now I am not working full time and I’m not parenting full time. I’m doing both just sort of okay. But in this League of Legends moment, I’ve made a small difference. And I’m happy.

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