Little Girls Swear Like Truck Drivers To Make A Point About Sexism (GRAPHIC LANGUAGE)

An ad that features little girls spouting the F-word while wearing princess dresses has the Internet buzzing -- and the response isn't all sugar and spice.

T-shirt company FCKH8 has the kids colorfully making statements about sexism, such as “Women are paid 23 percent less than men for the exact same f-----g work" and "My aspirations in life should not be worrying about the shape of my ass.” The premise is that inequality is far more offensive than profanity.

The shocking video ends with grownups pointing out the company's feminist-themed T-shirts available for purchase, with $5 of the $15 price going to charities that deal with discrimination.

WARNING: This video contains strong, uncensored language.

Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by from on Vimeo.

Mixed feedback appeared on the retailer's Facebook page.

"This is disturbing," one visitor wrote. "What are you really teaching these girls? You're teaching them to use a foul mouth instead of an educated one to get attention. Sad."

"I'm all for equality but I think most people won't see past the swearing children and just close it in disgust after a few seconds," another penned.

"My eyes are bugged mouth is hanging open...and I LOVE IT!" said another in approval.

Jezebel's Kelly Faircloth chided the site for its merchandising objective. "If this were the D.I.Y work of some scrappy feminist and her obscenity-spouting Girl Scouts troop, I'd likely be charmed," she writes. "But it's not. It's a slickly produced piece of viral marketing."

The video's producer, Mike Kon, defended the provocative strategy, telling AdWeek: "Some adults may be uncomfortable with how these little girls are using a bad word for a good cause. It is shocking what they are saying, but … the big statistic that one out of five women are sexually assaulted or raped is something society seems to find less offensive than a little four-letter word."

H/T Uproxx

Scene City: Sofia Vergara, Ryan Reynolds with Blake Lively and Kris Jenner Attend the Angel Ball

A black-tie benefit draws out celebrities like Sofia Vergara, Ryan Reynolds with Blake Lively and Kris Jenner on Monday night.

Browsing: Over-the-Knee Boots; Gap Collaborates With Jack and Kate Spade; a ’70s-Inspired Denim Collection, and More

For fall, try over-the-knee boots; Kate Spade and Jack Spade will release a collection for GapKids; MiH Jeans designs a denim collection for Net-a-Porter and more.

Postscript: Oscar de la Renta Remembered by the Fashion World

A good friend, an eager dancer and a true professional are some of the ways the late designer is described by his colleagues and associates.

Your Afternoon Man: Clive Owen

Clive Owen

T Magazine: In Los Angeles, a Design Pop-Up Gets Philosophical

“If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now,” inspired by a canon of thinkers and opening tomorrow at the boutique Tenoversix, features pieces that combine classical beauty with new modes of production.

Utah State University Defends Response To Vile Threat To Feminist Speaker

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Facing faculty concerns about guns on the campus of Utah State University, the school's president is responding to accusations that the institution acted irresponsibly after a threat against feminist speaker Anita Sarkeesian.

President Stan Albrecht said USU immediately started working with police and communicating with Sarkeesian's staff after receiving the email threatening a mass shooting. In a letter to faculty and students, Albrecht said USU had to follow a state law prohibiting universities from taking away concealed weapons from valid permit holders, but he expressed concern about a new push from state lawmakers to allow open carrying of weapons on campus.

The president's statements came in response to a letter signed by about 200 faculty and students saying guns on campus pose a threat to free speech.

"There are a lot of us that aren't happy to teach at a university that allows guns on campus," said English professor Jennifer Sinor, one of two instructors who wrote the letter last week. While Albrecht said he was proud of how the university handled the Sarkeesian threat, Sinor said one other nationally known speaker has expressed security concerns about a speech scheduled for next spring.

Sarkeesian canceled her talk on women and video games last week, calling it mindboggling that guns would be allowed despite the threat. She did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

The university has said it determined the threat wasn't credible and called its security measures adequate, but Albrecht said allowing the open carry of guns on campus would be bad.

"This action would have chilling implications for us, making it more difficult to attract outside speakers to our university, to hire and retain faculty, and to ensure a comfortable academic environment for our students," Albrecht wrote.

Utah is one of seven states that allow concealed carry on college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but it is the only state that has a separate law prohibiting universities from not allowing concealed weapons at events. Republican Utah lawmaker Curt Oda of Clearfield said the law also allows people to carry guns openly on campus.

"There is no restriction on open carry," Oda said, though "we encourage people to carry it discreetly as much as possible."

In the wake of other campus shootings in the U.S., Sinor said Utah's existing concealed-weapon rule already has a chilling effect on professors who scale back on challenging topics to avoid controversy, which ultimately limits what students learn.

"They're the ones that lose," she said. Sinor said she's previously had a plainclothes police officer posted outside her classroom after one creative writing student violently threatened another in journal entries.

She argued Wednesday for what she called a middle path, with some prohibitions on guns in residence halls, in classrooms and at large events.

Dads Are Just As Stressed As Moms, According To A New Poll

Parents with children who live at home experience more stress -- and more joy -- than non-parents and parents without children in the home, according to a new poll by Gallup. But there isn't one parent who experiences a greater stretching of emotions: On average, both dads and moms go through the same extreme highs and lows.

"People should take pause at that," Dan Witters, author of the Gallup study, told The Huffington Post. "They should take caution around assuming that they've got it worse than their spouse or their spouse is skating through the parenting experience more easily than they are."

The findings are part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which surveyed 131,159 adults across the U.S. After analyzing the responses, Witters and his fellow researchers found that parents with children in the home are almost 10 percent more likely to be stressed than non-parents and those who don't have children living at home. These parents were also more likely to smile or laugh on a daily basis, but that margin was smaller, only about 5 percent.

Translation: Children do more to contribute to a parent's stress than happiness.

Things like teen rebellion, school pressures, emotional issues and substance abuse can make parents worry, according to Witters, and these issues are particularly impactful when you're the parent of the child going through them.

"Those are things that are going to hit you in ways that it's not going to hit you if it's your niece or your nephew or the kids of your best friends," he said. "They become palatable."

But Witters also said that these results don't mean that parents in general are miserable more often than they're happy -- even the data analyst himself argued that there's a qualitative side to parenthood that can't be tallied from survey results.

"Yes, there's a negative aspect to parenting that's very real," Witters said. "But overall, if you looked at the full portrait, the full landscape of the experiences, not just the two metrics that we look at here, for most people, they'd argue that it's well worth it."

He added, "And kids are just fun."

What parents should take away from these numbers, according to Witters, is that there's a good chance that their child's father or mother is experiencing just as much emotional yo-yoing as they are. That realization alone can help them become more effective -- and perhaps happier -- parents.

"It can afford us an opportunity to act with greater unity and a more common purpose as a couple raising children, rather than just two individuals raising children," he said.

The Day I Met Oscar de la Renta

2014-10-22-FirstLadyVogueCovers_Blog02.jpg Credit: Vogue

I first met Oscar de la Renta in 1998 while flipping through the December issue of Vogue.

On its cover, Hilary Rodham Clinton sat gracefully on a great manicured chair wrapped head to toe in the most exquisite wine colored velvet gown I had ever seen.

I was 14 years old and from that moment on, I knew that whatever I chose to do in life, it would involve beautiful clothing.

Looking back now, I find that it was quite the big dream for a young girl whose parents had just uprooted her from Nairobi, hoping to forge a new life in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. For most of the year, I was subjected to baggy khakis, flannel shirts and puffy coats -- hardly the stylish one in the room.

Over the years, I would meet Oscar de la Renta again and again.

A few more gorgeous gowns in Vogue, snippets of his collection via CNN during NYFW and of course, that delightful scene in The September Issue where Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour happily remarks "fabulous color," as a bright orange ball gown comes waltzing down the room during a preview with the designer.

Then there's that iconic moment in season six of Sex and The City that changed the life of every fan girl. The brooding 'Russian' Alexander Pretrovsky begins reading a poem to his beloved on a lazy afternoon, to which Carrie responds by then reading an excerpt from Vogue about a dress designed by de la Renta, blissfully concluding "now that is poetry."

This act ultimately leads to what can only be described as a fairytale: to be presented with a gorgeous hot pink Oscar de la Renta gown moments before being whisked off to the Met to see an opera.

I recount these moments to say that Oscar de la Renta created beautiful clothing for women of purpose. With each design, he instilled a sense of strength, resilience and romance. Whether you were falling in love with a Russian on TV, accompanying your husband to an inaugural ball on his first day as President or sitting for the cover of Vogue, de la Renta was always by your side.

Dinner for two

I was seated across from a handsome gentleman on Monday night discussing the current state of political affairs over a few glasses of wine when his iPhone buzzed.

Interrupting him mid sentence I said, "I think you have a message from the New York Times."

He looked over at the screen and quickly replied, "Oscar de la Renta has died at the age of 82."

"No! It can't be true," I gasped almost knocking over my wine.

I quickly started rambling on about how de la Renta was an icon, an artist, clearly a talented man who inspired so many people. There was absolutely no way he could be taken so suddenly!

The expression on his face was one of confusion and empathy. He admitted that fashion was not his thing, but he was happy to oblige my moment of disbelief patiently -- the mark of a true gentleman.

For the remainder of the dinner, he asked me many questions about Oscar de la Renta. Where was he from? What were the highlights of his career? Why did women fall so in love with his wedding gowns? Touched by his curiosity, I pulled out my phone and started Googling images of de la Renta's work, proudly showing them off as if I had been part of the journey.

And in a way, I had.

A Legacy Remembered

My father believes that the most important thing a man or woman can do in life is to leave a legacy.

Whether it is your work or your family, leaving a legacy is less about being remembered for your accomplishments, and more about being remembered for how you influenced others to make changes in their lives.

My father tells me daily that in order to leave a legacy, one must first live a life of purpose.

Oscar de la Renta lived a life of great purpose creating clothing that worked for women.

He has since left a legacy of passion, hard work and tenacity.

He was proud to be a Dominican American designer and a member of the 'garment district crew' as I like to call them, dressing household names like Reese Witherspoon, Michelle Obama, Jackie Kennedy, Diane Vreeland and yes, those Clintons.

Oscar de la Renta's legacy will be to encourage his fellow American designers like Nanette Lepore, Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford and Carolina Herrera to raise the torch and continue creating clothes that work for women. To continue to enhance their strength, support their resilience and always, allow them a little romance.

At least for that 14-year-old flipping through Vogue, this is the legacy of Oscar de la Renta.

Credit: Joan Erakit

Rest in peace, dear sir.

T Magazine: Piercing New Ways to Wear Diamond Drop Earrings

Doubled up, combined with punk piercings or even worn backwards, classic silhouettes take on a subversive new mood.

The Real <em>Orange Is The New Black</em>: Six Experts Speak Out About Women in Prison

While female incarceration has been part and parcel of the criminal justice system for decades (and, in fact, is on the rise), misconceptions have been perpetuated and complicated by the recent influx of pop culture fodder like the show Orange is the New Black or the film Monster.

These depictions of the female incarcerated have served as a dubious catalyst; female imprisonment has finally entered the national discourse. But often lost in the chatter are legitimate questions: What's the most effective path for rehabilitation? What reforms are necessary to improve the system for women? How do misconceptions about female imprisonment hurt actual female prisoners?

To address these and other issues, six experts entrenched in the system--from the executive director of a prison reform organization, to a forensic psychologist, to a prison arts teacher--were asked this question:

What can we do to affect systemic change for women in prison?

Here's what they had to say.

Gloria Killian

Former prisoner and current prison reform advocate


I spent 17 ½ years in prison for a crime that I did not commit--and I faced the death penalty twice for that crime. Following my conviction I was sentenced to 32 years to life, and I fought this case for a total of 23 years before my conviction was reversed and I was finally released. Despite the devastation that my wrongful conviction wreaked upon my life and my family, my most important experiences really had nothing to do with my case.

Prior to being sent to prison, I knew nothing about incarcerated women and, like most of society, I couldn't have cared less. I assumed that all people in prison belonged there, and that they deserved whatever happened to them.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I learned that women in prison are just people like you and me. Their experiences may have been very different from ours and they have clearly made some bad choices, but these women are not monsters. Instead they are our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and cousins. They have the same wants, needs and desires that we all do, and they very much want to do better. It is criminal for society to turn their backs on the incarcerated and treat them as if they are irredeemable, for most are not. They just need some help from others--as we all do at some time in our lives.

Donna Leone Hamm, Judge (Ret.)

Executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, nearly one-third of all female

One Night In Fuggis: Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton

Watch The Harrowing Story Of A Yazidi Woman Fighting Back Against ISIS

As Islamic State militants led a brutal attack on the Yazidi minority in Iraq's north this past August, tens of thousands of villagers fled into the Sinjar mountains, hoping to escape the extremist fighters.

Rojbin was one of the refugees who climbed the mountain to seek safety. While she managed to escape the militants, many others were rounded up. In the massacre that followed, IS fighters reportedly murdered hundreds of Yazidis. Rojbin believes her family was among those killed.

Now, in a harrowing video by Kurdish journalist Khazar Fatemi, Rojbin explains how she has taken up arms with Syria's Kurdish YPG militia and is determined to fight back against the Islamic State. "I have promised myself I will return to Shengal!" Rojbin says, referring to her former city, "I will stay there, take it back, or get killed."

Watch Fatemi's report in the video above.

An Appraisal: Oscar de la Renta’s Legacy

Mr. de la Renta believed in beauty, not for beauty’s sake, but because he understood that elevating the outside could help elevate the inside.

American Business Should Take the Lead on Paid Parental Leave

The state of parental leave in the U.S. sucks. As these charts show, the U.S. is one of only three countries (the other two are Oman and Papua New Guinea) to not mandate some level of paid parental leave at the federal level.

It's time for us to close that gap, and businesses specifically should realize the power they have to provide fair and equal leave for their employees. As we at announce 18 weeks of fully-paid leave for all parents, the challenge to other U.S. companies is this: business leaders should step up and offer paid parental leave -- for all parents -- at least at the FMLA minimum of 12 weeks.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act passed by President Clinton provides 12 weeks of job protection so parents can take time off for the birth of a child -- but no guaranteed pay in that timeframe leaves expectant parents in a weird limbo. On top of this low baseline, a few states (CA, RI, NJ) have passed legislation to offer some paid parental leave, but even in those states, there is still a looming shortfall: there is no guarantee new parents will be "kept whole" while on leave. In some cases, employees are only paid 50 percent of their annual salary, forcing parents to consider how much leave they can really take, and if one parents should take more than the other.

Far from more U.S. companies making up this shortfall, since 2008 employers have become significantly less likely to provide full pay during maternity leave. Furthermore, only 14 percent of spouses/partners receive any portion of paid time off following the birth of their child (down from 16 percent in 2008).

In many instances, this trade-off between taking time off or getting paid will perpetuate the trend that women take more leave and therefore the problems they face in the workplace after having children.

The challenge for CEO's and HR leaders is deciding whether to wait for the government to mandate full pay for parental leave, or to lead on leave themselves. Should your employees be penalized with reduced pay for taking protected parental leave? From both a practical and emotional level, I believe the answer is no. It's time for U.S. companies to set policies that do right by their employees and reflect the evolving notion of family.

Why We Decided to #ChangeLeave
When I started at in June, there were two compelling trends swirling around the tech industry: 1) a number of stories were emerging around company self-disclosure of diversity metrics and how women, in particular, are treated in the industry; and 2) U.S. tech companies were making a push to provide more generous parental leave benefits amidst stagnant progress at the political level.

After internal discussions on each issues, we decided that we could make a real difference with a new parental leave policy that ensures full pay for all parents during the 12 weeks of federally protected leave and then for 6 additional weeks.

We firmly believed that an inclusive and equal policy for paid parental leave would enable a more successful company. One that tangibly supported families. But first, we had to assess the likely financial and organizational impact of making that decision:

Cost (Real vs. Theoretical vs. Opportunity)
Every company asking the question about whether to "foot the bill" for protected leave will first ask themselves how much it will cost them. We started with some basic assumptions:

1. Real Costs

If, as a company, you subscribe to the basic sentiment of FMLA and simply say that someone's leave is "unpaid" and they need to use accrued vacation/PTO in order fund their leave, then the company recoups that budgeted opex (the individual's salary) and burns off liability cost (the accrued vacation/PTO) at the same time. This is a penalty for the individual.

We looked at this closely and ran some hypothetical assessments on how many positions we would really need to temporarily backfill. The number was low.

For a company composed of a mixture of operational, professional, and senior team members, only a fraction of your staff would be temporarily backfilled while on leave. One estimate is between 25 percent on the low-end to 50 percent on the high-end. Senior team members and professional staff, where expertise and significant decision making responsibility are centralized, would rarely be backfilled while on a parental leave. And these roles are typically going to be the higher cost roles. Operational roles would likely be backfilled while on leave but the cost assumptions for these backfills are much lower.

To put all this into perspective: the current annual birthrate for childbearing adults in the U.S. is about 6 precent (and dropping each year). Thats a mere 6 percent of your total staff population that would potentially be seeking parental leave each year.

2. Theoretical Costs

But what about the theoretical costs? For revenue generating roles, does the company lose out because the Account Executive is not generating revenue during that time you're paying them to be on leave? Or does the product feature assigned to the Engineer suffer because they are not here? The reality of this theoretical question is that the work does not simply vanish. Accounts do not simply go untended and R&D work rarely outright stops because a professional role is vacated. Instead, the likelihood is that the work is temporarily redistributed.

3. Opportunity Costs

The last question to ask is about the cost of not keeping your staff whole while on parental leave. In other words, if employees are forced to come back early because they cannot afford to take too much unpaid leave, is the employee fully engaged at work or are they distracted and resentful? In short, our realization was that we did not want a team member to have to make this tradeoff. Just to emphasize the obvious here: the first few months after the arrival of a child is both an important and stressful time for parents, and a period where they should be permitted to focus on their newborn. Indeed, there is a growing body of research that shows not being able to take the leave has detrimental effects - both for the parent and the child.

So, if you assume that the theoretical and opportunity costs offset each other, it boils down to backfilling a fraction of positions (certainly under 6 percent) for a few months each year. And in some states -- including California -- the individual can even recoup part of their salary so making them whole would cost even less. In other words, you would only be covering the part of their salary that they can't recoup from the government.

Policy Blueprint
We're a small company with just ~200 employees globally, but we believe it's better to be on the higher side of paid parental leave.

A simple blueprint for FMLA-covered companies (roughly businesses with more than 50 employees) is to provide 12-weeks of fully-paid parental leave as your "global floor," on an equal basis for all parents, recognizing that some staff outside the U.S. will already be entitled to more than that. Have a mantra that your parents should not be "penalized" - with reduced pay, burned PTO, full benefit premiums etc. - for taking the protected leave afforded to them.

Take Action
There's no telling when we'll see mandated paid leave at the state or federal level, so if you don't already have a policy that ensures full pay for protected parental leave, your choice is to wait or to be on the leading edge. Your opportunity is to take tangible action to value the role of parents at your company. We strongly believe the ROI is in your favor.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at

Join us in offering paid and equal parental leave It's time to #ChangeLeave.

Why Your Sales Presentations Are Bombing

By Debbie Flay, Founder and President, Bespeak Presentation Solutions LLC

Every day in boardrooms all over the country, innocent prospects and clients are being subjected to lousy, sometimes even torturous sales presentations. The perpetrators of these presentations are walking away empty-handed, befuddled and dispirited. Both sides have lost time and opportunity. Let's put a stop to this wasteful, useless practice, shall we? It's easier than you think. Simply stop doing the following:

1. Beginning with "All about Us": Are your sales presentations beginning with slide after slide of your organization; your executive team displayed in an awesome hierarchy graphic followed by the dots on the map boasting all of your locations? Do you then explain your mission, vision, overall awesomeness? Uh-huh. Well, I hate to break this to you, but you're boring the heck out of your audience. No kidding. They don't care about the depth of your executive branch, or how many offices you have nationwide. They care about one thing: themselves. You've just spent precious time doing absolutely nothing to show them that you know and care about them.

Instead, turn your focus 180 degrees, as we say at bespeak. Begin your presentation by outlining their world, their problems (specifically the ones that your product or service can solve) their goals (which your product or service can help them achieve). Now they're listening. Now they want to hear more. Now they're ready to hear your proposal. But be careful not to slip into the second common bombing phenomenon.

2. Babbling: Please do not undermine an excellent beginning by drowning them in industry and/or company jargon. You may think you're showcasing your knowledge, but in reality you're only confusing them. How can they buy your product or service if they don't understand what it is? Worse, speaking language your audience doesn't understand makes them feel stupid, and feeling stupid has a lethal ricochet effect. It goes something like, "I don't understand what the speaker is saying. That makes me feel stupid. Feeling stupid feels bad. I don't like feeling bad. Who made me feel bad? The speaker did. Now I don't like the speaker."

Remember, your goal is to connect with your audience. Speak in language they can understand. And one more thing, beware of -

3. Being in love with your sausage-making: I know, I know. It took years to develop your product, hours and hours to perfect your service. You want your audience to know. Call your mom instead. Audiences simply don't care about anything that doesn't directly relate to themselves and their own pressing issues. You may be enamored with how your product is made or whose research you studied, but your prospect only cares that their problem will get solved, that their goal will be met. The history of how you came to provide them with this solution is of no interest or relevance to them.

Remember to keep your presentation completely focused on them. Ask yourself; does this audience care? Be brutal in your assessment. If it's not important to them, leave it out. Instead, talk to them about the great things your product or service will do for them. Back up your claims with examples of other clients whose problems you've solved or goals you've helped achieve. These are the things that will convince them.

Bomb no more! Begin your presentation with your audience's picture rather than your own. Speak in language they can easily understand. Tell them only about your product or service as it has relevance to them and their problem-solving and/or goal-conquering. You'll be heard. (And you'll get the sale.)

Eight Things I Wish I Had Known As an 11-Year-Old

Eleven. The age of transition. The pinnacle of insecurity. The antithesis of elegance. An age I surely do not miss.

Often, through my nonprofit and advocacy work, I find myself speaking to and mentoring young women and girls at middle schools and high schools, predominantly on body image and self-acceptance. Recently, I spoke to a group of fifth graders, one of whom raised her hand to ask, soft-spoken and hidden behind glasses and a mop of long hair, what I wish I had known at her age.

Goodness gracious, I said, as visions of 11-year-old Christina, clad in Limited Too and full on braces, flashed across my eyes. One of my favorite sayings is, "A seed must crack and break to grow," defines my life well, and my eleventh year was full of cracking. But eventually comes the growth. And as I have grown, I have learned the following lessons:

1. Don't be so damn hard on yourself. Self-criticism has always been my Achille's Heel. But as I have grown older, I have come to learn that 99 percent of the things I fear about myself, or about the future, are not real, and do not happen. Just do the very best you can, and be gentle with yourself.

2. The opinions of others' do not define you, good or bad. We are not our grades, our looks, or how quickly we can run the mile in gym class. We are what we are, and what we say we are. We are self-defined. Opinion can be incredibly arbitrary, but there is great power in knowing oneself. Find your core self, and stick to it.

3. Nobody is exactly as they seem. In this digital age, we all have the ability to curate a persona via our social media platforms that embodies everything that is going right with our lives. I cannot imagine growing up with access to social media not realizing that behind every selfie are 96 other, nearly identical photos that were carefully edited before choosing "the one." No matter how pristine one's life may appear, everyone struggles with something. Everyone trips at some point, but that's how we learn.

4. High school hotties often peak at age 18. Late bloomer? Me too. Don't fret. The nerds and the band geeks and the rare birds somehow end up most successful, and the rest, well....Just wait until your next high school reunion.

5. Perfection is uninspiring. What is inspiring is acceptance, and how we deal with our perceived imperfections. Chin up, shoulders back. I have watched too many people waste an entire lifetime trying to fix what isn't broken; a vicious cycle that only leads to misery and pain.

6. Be yourself. Written on my mirror are the words, "You are you for a reason." I am a firm believer in the idea that every freckle, every curve, every scar, every quirk is there for a purpose. Trying to fit a certain mold - literally or figuratively - only elicits pain and further dissatisfaction, but through living harmoniously with our idiosyncrasies we bring nuances of color and meaning into the world.

7. Kindness is beauty. Let's be real, kindness in middle school comes around about as often as a Pokemon Charizard card. As I have gotten older, I have come to value kindness, even in the smallest gestures, about all else. People do notice, people do appreciate it, and the irony is that it will also make you feel better about yourself. Giving of your own heart is a two-way gift. Kindness can make you an exquisitely beautiful person, no matter what you look like to the eye.

8. It gets better. Somehow, year after year, life continues to get better and better. That is not to say everything is always hunky dory (Spoiler alert: It's not). With age comes experience, and the wisdom that our struggles have the capacity to yield character and endurance to transform us into the best version of ourselves -- a self that may even be grateful for a less-than-graceful youth.

Love, Fuggie: Lily Collins in Pamella Roland

Lily Collins

I’m a Single Mom, and This S*** Is Hard

Months after leaving my daughter's father, I confessed to him that I was having a hard time adjusting to being a single mom. I was having a hard time with my four-hour daily commute -- an hour on the bus across the Bronx to upper Manhattan to drop her off with my grandmother, then an hour on the train to get to work, then the reverse in the evenings -- five, sometimes six days a week. Then I had to feed my little girl, bathe her, read to her, and coddle her. By the time I put her down for the night, I was utterly exhausted but still had to bathe and get myself ready for the next day. I had to read, and I had to write. I am a writer, after all.

His response went something like, "Give me custody. I'll take her." As if that were what I was saying.

That was my entry into the shame imposed on us single moms. We can't say it's hard. We can't cry over the pressure. We are supposed to grin and bear it. It's no wonder so many snap, so many are depressed, so many take this pent-up rage and resentment out on their kids. I'm not saying it's right. I'm saying I understand, carajo.

* * *


When my girl was 3, I started working for a nonprofit in the South Bronx. I worked five days a week, and my commute was four hours a day. I remember once talking to my co-workers about how hard it was. One of the women in my office had also raised her now-adult children alone, and the boss, a man, had been raised by a single mother, as had the head college advisor, so I thought I was in the company of people whom I could commiserate with, who would understand why I felt so overwhelmed. I wasn't looking for pity. I wanted -- needed -- to hear, "Me too." I wanted to hear how they'd survived it, how they'd made do.

The older woman later said, "Don't say that in front of bossman." She said his mother had raised three kids on her own and had never complained. She'd been a strong black woman who'd held it down by herself, raising her kids in a notoriously violent housing project in the north Bronx, so if she could do it, so could I. I was expected to mother my daughter alone in silence. Not doing so proved that I was weak.

So many people crack under that pressure. I didn't want to be one of those people then. I don't want to be one of those people now.

My mind goes to an essay I read earlier this year, "Writing the Wrongs of Identity" by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, published in Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression:

In these lies [of history] black women are strong. Strong enough to work two jobs while single-handedly raising twice as many children. Black women can cook, they can clean, they can sew, they can type, they can sweep, they can scrub, they can mop, and they can pray. ... [B]lack women are always doing. They are always servicing everyone's needs, except their own. Their doing is what defines their being. And this is supposed to be wellness?

I imagine how many times so many of us have stuffed pillows in our mouths and screamed loud and cried hard because we're so desperate and alone and feel so broken, but we can't let anyone hear us because doing so means we are weak and incapable and self-absorbed.

* * *

Following the recent publication of my essay "I Understand Why Some Women Stay," published by xoJane, a commenter told me I wasn't a single parent. I'm a co-parent, she insisted. My daughter needs her dad, and I shouldn't use my daughter as a chess piece in my war with her dad. This person even left a link to the child support and custody bureau. (Yes, I know I should stay away from the comments. Obviously, I could not resist.)

Let's pause for reaction.


Es que la gente tiene cojones!

To be clear, my baby daddy never put his hands on our daughter. He was violent with me, but he was (and still is) very tender with her. No one is all of one thing. I've never felt like my daughter is in danger with him. When we broke up, I never denied him visitation, and he's always paid child support. We came to an arrangement together without going through the courts.

So, yes, he is present, but, no, we do not co-parent. "Co-parent" is a verb. By definition, to co-parent is to share the duties of parenting a child.

Let me say this in no uncertain terms:

I am a single mother. I am the one who takes her to her doctor's appointments. I'm the one there on the first day of school. I go to the parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school nights. I take her to dance class and get her ready for recitals. Last year, when my baby girl cut herself deep while cutting a bagel, I'm the one who held her and cried with her, wrapped up her finger, and took her to the ER. I'm the one who knows how she likes her frozen yogurt (with tons of sour gummy worms and a few chunks of mango). I know that her favorite meal is my spinach linguini with sun-ripened tomato Alfredo sauce and chicken. I taught her to ride a bike. I take her to the park to howl at the full moon and have woken her up in the middle of the night to witness a lunar eclipse. "Mommy, it looks like a ball of red clay," she said. She was 5 years old. I've done all these things alone. I am a single parent. I live this life. It is mine.

* * *

My baby girl turned 10 in August. A month ago, while I was sitting on the Low Library steps of my alma mater, Columbia University, mulling and feeling nostalgic, my phone rang. It was my daughter's school. I heard my little girl's voice, in almost a whisper, say, "Mommy, I got my period." (Note: I read this portion to my daughter and asked if I could include it in my essay. She gave me permission. Bless her heart.)

She knew what to do. I'd drawn a diagram of ovaries and the uterus on unlined paper. Shown her diagrams on the net of her reproductive system. Told her what menstruation is, why we get it, how it's part of every woman's life. She was mortified at the idea of getting it at her dad's house. Her big brown eyes got even bigger when the thought hit her: "Oh, my God, Mom, what if I get it at Papi's?"

"You call me, and I pick you up."

"And if I get it at school?"

"You go to the nurse, then you call me."

I thought I had more time.

* * *

I think back to when I got my period when I was 10. I woke up to blood on my mint-green shorts. I was the first one up. I knew what it was, though no one had really talked to me about it. I put the pad on wrong, with the adhesive side facing me and not the panty, like it's supposed to. I didn't discover this until I went to the bathroom and pulled down my underwear. I think they heard my scream on the other side of Brooklyn.

I told my mom when she woke up. She said, "Ahora vas a ver el sufrimiento de la mujer."

That was it. That was how that rite of passage was marked.

* * *

My girl's 10th birthday hit me hard. She had a huge growth spurt this summer. She's wearing women's sizes now. She fits into my shoes. When I look at her, I don't have to look down anymore. (Yes, at 5-foot-2, I'm a shorty myself, but still, she's 10!) She's curvy like her mama. I've seen men's eyes linger on her.

Recently, an old man of at least 60 threw kisses at her and said, "Tú sí estás linda, nena." I pulled her to me and demanded, "¿A quién tú le dices eso?" His face fell when he saw me. He insisted it wasn't to her. I was going crazy, he said.

I wanted to claw him. Instead I crossed the street with my girl.

I cannot protect her from this or from so much else, and that shit is hard to come to grips with. I have no partner present to help me navigate this. Yes, I have a village that helps out, but in the day-to-day, it's just my girl and I.

Single motherhood is hard, coño!

* * *

I watch my girl and I think about how lost I was as a girl because of the antagonistic relationship I had with my mother. I had to become a woman alone, through trial and error. I did it. I don't know how. I'm still adding up the repercussions of that. I'm still picking up the pieces.

"You can be bold and still be broken."
--Roxane Gay during a talk at Book Forum during the Brooklyn Book Festival

I am terrified of failing my girl. This terror is like white-knuckled hands tightly gripping my neck. Some days I am more terrified than others. I don't want to be scared, but I am. It's fear that's fueling this essay.

* * *

After my girl told me the news, I hung up and cried. I fretted over how I'm going to raise this girl in this world that sometimes feels like it's so hell-bent on breaking us. I imagine a horse being broken in. The violence of it.

I know I will raise her. I know I will continue to put my all into it. I know because in so many ways I raised myself. I know because this is who I am, and I am relentless, and I refuse to let my fear paralyze me.

I walked to Broadway and compiled a care package for my nena, complete with pads, painkillers, and a little bag to carry in her bookbag so that she doesn't have to put her business on display when she goes to the bathroom. I bought her chocolate and a card with a note from her mama reminding her how much I love her and how proud I am of her. I wrote, "Don't grow up too fast!"

I'm planning a red dinner for her. Women in our village will wear red, eat red velvet cake and red beans and share stories of our first times. We will commemorate this rite of passage with my girl. We will celebrate womanhood, because such things need to be celebrated.

I will remember how hard it is to be a single mom, and though it's so very isolating sometimes, when it's most needed, the village gets together and reminds us that we have support, that we have love, that we are not alone.

Motherlode Blog: Pregnant, With ‘No Plans to Have Another Baby’ and No Ready Options

“I am a long time poster, but am here now under a different identity as it is much easier to ask for OB/GYN recommendations for having babies rather than terminating a pregnancy.”

Scene City: Singing for Their Supper (and a Cause)

Alicia Keys, Ludacris and Jamie Foxx perform at Denise Rich’s Angel Ball for cancer research.

The Fugry of Everything: Felicity Jones in Elie Saab

Felicity Jones attends 'The Theory Of Everything' New York Premiere at Museum of Modern Art in New York City

5 Amazing Reasons Not To Care About Renée Zellweger’s Face Today


Admit it: You're a tad disappointed. There's not one photo of Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger here. Not one.

Tragic. Or, as the hipsters say: tragique.

Well, just breathe. Trust me: We'll all be fine here without looking at Renée. And for those of you who have been spiraling upward over the last 24 hours and, say, focused on something entirely different than how a celebrity looks, you may be so disinterested to know--and I have to tell you now any way, because you have arrived at this sentence: The media has given birth to a bevy of big, bold headlines about Zellweger's appearance at a recent Hollywood outing. Google it if you must, but be forewarned: It's just another glaring example of how women, especially those who are in show business, are subjected to the bright and manic glare of scrutiny and judgment over their appearance.

Perhaps Zellweger had some "work" done. Does it really warrant a savage news cycle about how distinctly different the actress looks? Probably not. Well, actually, no. Let's face it, media and culture doesn't care as much about how Mickey Rourke's face has transformed--or Sylvestor Stallone's or, and this is surprising, Bruce Jenner's. But alas, here we are at the tail end of 2014 and, just as I had reported in my the book I co-authored several years ago, "Shut Up, Skinny Bitches!", we now live in a seemingly imbalanced culture where more attention is given to how we look on the outside than to how we feel on the inside.

True, it might take a little more effort to stay grounded what with that Kardashian brand swirling around out there, but it can be done. To that end, let's turn our attention of five notable humans and issues that are, dare I say it, more important than how the face of an actress looks. As one agent of change recently quipped: "We all just need to focus on our own face."

Read on: The karma points will be good for you.


Courtesy: Daryl Roberts

Cali Linstrom
Last year, this triumphant teenager from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, boldly addressed Abercrombie & Fitch's top titans in person in the aftermath of a rekindled media brouhaha revolving around company CEO Mike Jeffries. Jeffries' remarks from a 2006 Salon article, in which writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis wrote, in part, that as far as Jeffries was concerned, "America's unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere." The article quoted Jeffries: "In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong." A great deal has transformed since Linstrom met with Abercrombie & Fitch. With the help of documentary filmmaker Daryl Roberts, the company, to the surprise of many souls, opened its corporate eyes a bit wider and launched an anti-bullying campaign. The company also announced that it would offer a college scholarship to "promising high school students who persevere academically in the face of bullying." The scholarships, which were planned to be overseen, in part, by the National Society of High School Scholars Foundation, will also be offered to students who lead anti-bullying efforts. All it took? A brave teenager who said: "Enough!"


Williamson (left) and Rose. Courtesy "Two Bipolar Chicks"

Wendy K. Williamson and Honora Rose

According to a report, approximately 2.4 percent of humans on the planet have had a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder at some point during their life. That may be sobering, but take note: The United States boasts the highest lifetime rate of Bipolar disorder--4.4 percent. Meanwhile, India has the very lowest with 0.1 percent. So, it's a refreshing surprise to find these two women further advancing what we know--and debunking what we don't--about the disorder. In their book, "Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living with Bipolar Disorder," the reputable authors cull from their own unique experiences and surpass expectations--Williamson, in fact, also penned "I'm Not Crazy, Just Bipolar" and blogs for HuffPo. However, their book isn't just for individuals with Bipolar disorder--docs, psychologists, and friends and parents of those affected by the illness, have taken notice. The result seems to be helping create a significant sea change in the way we all view mental illness. The "chicks" take on Chicago this week at the National Network of Depression Center's annual conference. Onward they go ...

Jennifer Houston
There's so much to relish about this unique entrepreneur and performer. Years ago, she co-launched the NYC-based This Chick Bakes, one of the city's more delicious endeavors. But it's her vlog "365 Songs in 365 Days," that has been capturing attention lately. You heard that right: A song is performed every day for an entire year. From upbeat anthems like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" to more soulful outings, such as, "Listen To Your Heart," this spirited and "real" woman offers a daily one-stop drop of entertainment that's not only uplifting, but also one that reminds us that we can all live out our dreams--one melodic day at a time.


Courtesy: PBS

Anna Deavere Smith
If you haven't experienced what this amazing woman, it's time you do. The Nurse Jackie costar--and playwright-professor-MacArthur Award-winner--has been fiercely exposing new ways to look at a variety of deep cultural issues. She captured attention back in the 1990s with "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992." The one-woman show brought to life real characters--based on 300 subjects Smith interviewed revolving around the Rodney King case and its aftermath. She further marveled in a notable Ted Talk and was a triumph in "Let Me Down Easy," a shrewd, jaw-dropping endeavor that mirrored her "Twilight" template but focused on the country's plagued healthcare system. Dive into a recent PBS outing of which she was at the helm here: America After Ferguson. This year, she also debuted a new work, "Notes From The Field: Doing Time In Education." With so much of our attention being pulled toward the inane, Deavere remains one of the most vibrant, thought-provoking creative forces of our time.


Courtesy: Blue Mind

Water And The Thirst To Remain Blue
Water is a feminine quality. Think back to the old spiritual teachings--male energy in the form of the sun; female properties in the form of Earth, moon, water, feelings. If there ever has been a valiant agent of change for the planet's water issues, it might very well be Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. The bestselling author of "Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, Or Under Water, Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected And Better At What You Do," has spearheaded a phenomenal global movement. Dubbed Blue Mind, the idea is to assist those working with and for this "blue" planet we're on, primarily by allowing them to offer deeper insights and new questions about the science of what Nichols says is, "our brains on water." Each year, Nichols and his team hold a Blue Mind Summit, which unites top neuroscientists, oceanographers, explorers, economists, psychologists, educators and various artists to consider new questions about the "human brain on water." The bottom line: by shifting the focus onto water, Blue Mind attempts to expand the ecosystem services conversation to also include a wide array of, as Blue Mind puts it, "cognitive and emotional services, values, and benefits offered by clean, healthy waterways." Yes--healthy waterways. Take a look around, some of the world's oceans are in environmental peril and, closer to home, here in America, such blatant environmental rapes--Mountaintop Removal for one--drastically alter the ecosystem. In essence, Blue Mind attempts to nudge the focus from "green" issues to "blue" ones. And those are big issues worth confronting.

Needles in a Haystack

A follower of mine recently sent me this very nice message on Facebook:

You're a guy I really look up to. You stand up for yourself but you're not mean about it, you have a lot of strength to put up with all the hate that surrounds us, and you and Dirk really love each other. It makes people like me want to keep going and never give up on ourselves even if at times it seems impossible to find a perfect match like you did. Thank you for being yourself and being an awesome guy with your head and heart in all the right places.

It's a beautiful compliment, and to know that I give other people hope really buoys me through some difficult times of my own. There's one important observation I'd like to make, though: My husband and I are not a "perfect match."

I don't really believe in the whole "Ms./Mr. Right" thing. While there's a certain romance in the idea that each person has a single ideal soulmate out there just waiting to be found, I don't think that's accurate. A more realistic approach is to understand that there are five, or 50, or 500 really good fits out there -- not perfect, mind you, but really good -- and you only need to find one of them. When you look at it that way, the odds of that happening are actually pretty high, especially in today's globally connected world.

No relationship is perfect. Dirk and I clash sometimes, just like any other couple. We're both extremely stubborn people, and our arguments can be real doozies. We don't typically share with the world the challenges we face, so you'll have to trust me when I say that it's not all porn and roses. But we love each other, and we make each other happy. It was a long and winding journey that took 40 years, but we eventually found each other -- our one in five or 50 or 500 -- and picked up a lot of amazing friends along the way.

So how do you find one of those 500 people, now that you know you're no longer looking for the proverbially perfect needle in a haystack? You work on improving yourself. Dan Savage nailed it in a recent Savage Love column:

The idea that there are millions of single people seeking romantic relationships with train wrecks is a fantasy promoted by Hollywood. People generally look for partners who are in good working order. No one is perfect, of course, and no one who wants to be partnered seeks perfection. But you do need to have your shit together to attract someone who has their shit together. If your shit isn't together, get it together. You don't have to be an Adonis or financially secure or without challenges; you just have to be on top of your problems and working to overcome them. Turn yourself into someone you'd be open to dating -- not a perfect person, but a person in good working order, a person with his shit together -- and then you'll be datable.

Think of it this way: Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, be more like a magnet. To increase your magnetic attraction, you need to keep polishing yourself.

Part of that effort includes self-care -- grooming, clothing, and fitness have been shown to be important components of attractiveness -- but Savage is right when he says you don't need to be an Adonis. A 2010 study at the University of Manchester suggests that physical attraction is strongly influenced by non-physical factors like openness and honesty. "A positive personality can alter perceptions of an individual's attractiveness for the better," the authors conclude. "In this sense, beauty really is more than skin-deep."

So instead of searching for the fictitious Mr. Right, concentrate on making yourself a better person. You'll be so focused on that that you won't even think about the needle hunt. You won't need to! While you'll never be perfectly shiny, the more you work at it, the more attractive you'll become. And eventually, what you'll find is that the needles start finding you.

Oklahoma Judge Allows Law Banning Abortion Pills To Take Effect

By Heide Brandes
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oct 22 (Reuters) - An Oklahoma judge said on Wednesday he will allow a law that bans abortion-inducing drugs to take effect as planned on Nov. 1, over the objections of abortion rights advocates who said the measure is poor public health policy that could put women at risk.
Oklahoma District Court Judge Robert Stuart turned down a request by abortion rights groups to halt the measure from taking effect. Stuart also allowed a provision that would limit liability claims against physicians due to the law.
According to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Reproductive Services in Tulsa and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Services this month, the measure would lead to increased use of surgically induced abortions for cases where drugs can be used.
"This law is contrary to protecting women's health and will force doctors to use an outdated and less safe medical procedure," said Autumn Katz, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The defendants said the use of the drugs could cause harm to pregnant women because they can be used for procedures not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Earlier this year, lawmakers in the heavily Republican state approved new restrictions on abortion clinics they said were aimed at protecting women's health, but abortion rights advocates said were actually intended to shut clinics. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)

How I Dodged Barbies and Boy Bands

Though I never finished reading Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye, the character Henry still haunts me, with visions of his horrible acne and his sweating body beneath a wool army school uniform. But I will never know what happened to Henry, because like religious freaks who burn books, I have older brothers who would steal them when deemed inappropriate for their little sister. My brother Seth lent me his copy of Ham on Rye and he immediately took it back, after I started asking questions about the sexual nature of the book. This is what brothers do, and for this, I am grateful and semi-illiterate.
Because I was "reading" Charles Bukowski at 11, my friend from middle school is positive that I was the coolest girl in school.  I've tried convincing him, that not only have I still not finished Ham on Rye, but it was only because of my older brothers that I dodged boy bands and Barbie Dolls and turned out relatively "cool." No matter my insistence that my "hipness" was unintentional and due only to three heavily influential siblings, he still maintains that I was always an original.
Thin walls and a loud stereo forced me to listen to my brother Fred's Country music. Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard were blasted in my ears, and eventually my soul. I tried to fight the love, but it didn't work. I was almost embarrassed to admit the adoration, and then like everything else, Country music became "hip." Being able to discuss country music legends, and know specific songs most didn't know much about, only reinforced my pop cultural intellect. Once again, an older brother's good taste had caused me to appreciate something beyond my peers. Fred had also made me sit down and listen to a young Colombian singer with one name, Shakira. I was in love from the moment I heard that voice and listened to her years before her Stateside debut.  Fred's interest in sharing his music (i.e. blasting it so loud, it had to be appreciated) enabled me to develop a wide musical repertoire at a young age. 
My oldest brother Andrew's cosmopolitan taste in culture ensured I was highly educated in all things artsy and cool. He even flew with me to Boston when I started college, and hung Andy Warhol posters all over my dorm room, to make sure his little sister had a good start. When we were really young, he introduced all of us to Woody Allen, The Smiths and Peter Sellers. One of my favorite films is The Party. I remember watching it for the first time, and crying from laughter. And who doesn't love to laugh? With hardly any dialogue and shot in the late 1960's, it wouldn't be a film a young girl would pick on her own, but because of my brother's good taste, I was able to benefit from the comic genius of Peter Sellers.
So now the baton must be passed, and my boys get to benefit from the influence of my unique and very cool brothers. On a recent plane ride back East, I planned ahead of time and downloaded The Party. The kids settled in, and I pressed play on my Mac - - the first scene opens up, and Peter Sellers ties his shoe, and manages to blow up an entire film set. Neal and Liam sat, cackling loudly for the entire plane to hear and I didn't even shush them. I stared at my kids faces, how they looked at each other to share in a laugh, how they got hysterical when Peter Sellers accidentally lights a woman's wig on fire, and it was one of my happiest moments. And I owe it all to my brothers.
So being the only girl of older brothers afforded me a grand entrance into mature worlds. And the irony is, my brothers usually allowed my entrance, but quickly created boundaries when they felt it was inappropriate.  My diverse taste in music, art and film is due to their influence, and my natural sense of style created out of these components. It wasn't intentional, but my big brothers made me pretty darn cool. I'm not even sad that I dodged Barbies and Boy Bands.

T Magazine: A Hotel on Wheels

In response to the renaissance of vintage campers, Shasta reissues (and updates) a design introduced in 1961.

If You Want to, You Should Totally Chop Off All Your Hair

Like many, I've got a Pinterest board dedicated to hair and hairstyles. Although I don't personally have enough to braid, I pin braids and

Intersection: Style in Corona, Queens

Solange Monegro looks to Pharrell Williams for style inspiration.

T Magazine: A Sugar Artist Leads a Cake Walk Through Central Italy

Margaret Braun, whose grandiose designs have graced a royal wedding and lit up a Brooklyn foodie festival, takes pupils on a culinary tour of Marche next month.

New Pan American Health Organization Report Reveals Stunning Suicide Statistics

More than seven people die from suicide every hour in the Americas, according to a new report released by the Pan American Health Organization.

Using data from 48 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere, researchers found that nearly 65,000 people take their own lives in the region each year. The research also revealed that suicide is the third-leading cause of death in 10 to 24-year-olds. More than 800,000 people die by suicide globally every year, according to the World Health Organization.

The report highlights a public health problem often clouded by stigma. Research suggests that mental illness could be a factor in as many as 90 percent of deaths by suicide, according to the release. While many regions are trying to address the growing issue through awareness and community efforts, only 28 countries report having a national suicide prevention strategy.

Some other findings in the report include:

Adults over the age of 70 are more likely to die from suicide than any other age group
Men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide
Women make more suicide attempts than men
Guyana had the highest suicide rate, followed by Suriname, Uruguay and Chile. The U.S. has the sixth-highest suicide rate in the report

"We need to detect early and treat mental disorders like depression and alcohol abuse," PAHO director Carissa F. Etienne said in a statement. "In our communities and in our primary care services, we must identify, monitor and provide care for those at risk. We must be especially vigilant for those with previous attempts. But preventing suicide is not just the responsibility of health care workers; communities, families, churches and social groups must become involved."

Researchers suggest interpreting the report with caution, due to the varied nature of data quality, cultural, religious and legal factors across the countries. Because of these influences, the authors suggest there may be a large underreporting of suicide rates and that the data may even understate the prevalence of suicide and suicidal behaviors.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Fugs and Fabs: The Foundation Louis Vuitton Opening

Michelle Williams

5 Habits We Need to Break Now

1. Holding Grudges

Grudges suck. They suck when you hold them. They suck when they're held against you. And they TOTALLY suck when you're trying to be friends with someone, but your other friend has a grudge against them and then you forget who you can and can't be friends with. They're just the worst.

So, let's talk some Buddha:

"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."

Wow. That's pretty powerful. And with grudges, not only are you drinking metaphorical poison, but you're also keeping something that belongs in the past, in the future. Yeek. Major faux pas.

To sum it up: Grudges aren't healthy for anyone. If someone sucks as a friend, then don't be friends with them. Be friends with me. Hi!

Unbuttoned: The Branding of Julian Assange

WikiLeaks now has a commercial arm with licensing deals around the world.

Couples Draw Each Other From Memory, Hilarious Difficulties Ensue

No matter how long a couple has been together, there's a base level assumption that they at least know what one another looks like.

But when the lovebirds in the video above were asked to draw each other from memory, replicating their partner on paper proved a lot harder than expected.

"I look like a mean, trashy woman!" one participant says to her boyfriend after seeing his drawing.

"I didn't realize it," a man confesses to his girlfriend, "but you look kind of like E.T. here."

Despite the hiccups -- plus a couple cases of misconstrued eye color -- the way these couples laugh through the experience is downright adorable. Watch the video and see for yourself.

Lily Aldridge Was Totally Unimpressed That Her Mom Was in ‘Playboy’

Elle - Found 6 hours ago
Photo: Nadav Kander/ Victorias Secret Angel Lily Aldridge may be one of the worlds most sought-after models (what with Sports Illustrated swimsuit

Motherlode Blog: Diwali, Once Hidden, Now Lit Large

When my family and I immigrated in 1977, to be an Indian-American meant replacing curry with bologna and saris with sweaters, and celebrating Diwali invisibly. My daughter’s life is very different.

Fugs and Fabs: CFDA Fashion Fund Event

Reese Witherspoon

Robyn Lawley Is Pregnant!

Congratulations are in order for Robyn Lawley and Everest Schmidt on the announcement of her first pregnancy!

One of our favorite models in the business announced to Australian Women's Weekly that she is about six months along with the pair's first child.

Lawley has become known not only for her modeling chops but also her advocacy for healthy body image and distaste for labels (like "plus-size"). She admits to the mag that "with modeling, it's never a good time to fall pregnant," but that her and Schmidt were planning on starting a family eventually anyway.

We're not sure we agree with you there, Robyn. We'd love to see you rock your bump for a photo shoot. Perhaps even for Sports Illustrated? Guess we will all just have to wait and find out.

Twins Aren’t Hard

The four of us were close in college: Tina, Lisa, Jill and me. If we could have looked into a crystal ball, how shocked we would have been to see ourselves at 40: three of us with twins, and one of us diagnosed with a rare uterine cancer.

Tina and Lisa had twins in their late thirties. I had mine at 40, with IVF.

Then there was Jill, who also wanted a baby. She went for a fibroid removal and the doctors found something else. Cancer.

They biopsied the tumors and found traces of leiomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer that affects 1 in 10,0000 woman. A week after that first procedure, which was supposed to enhance fertility, she was scheduled to come back for a hysterectomy.

Of all my friends, Jill was the most obvious candidate for children -- or at least compared to me she was. She had that magic touch with young people -- all people, actually -- knowing how to spark a laugh, how to connect, how to comfort. She was the kind of person who picked up fourth and fifth languages on a whim, and formed lifelong friendships on airplanes.

Jill had worked in orphanages in Nepal and in international adoption, escorting American couples to China. She acted as translator when parents met their children for the first time, cradled babies on transatlantic flights and changed diapers in Chinese hotels. She stayed in touch with the families she helped create. In contrast, I was literally clueless about infants and children until suddenly, I had two.

I spoke to Jill two weeks after her hysterectomy, when my fraternal twin sons were eight months old. She looked gaunt on Skype, had a wry smile.

"They took all of it, Kath, everything."

"I'm so sorry."

"The nurse was really matter of fact, wanted to get right into how I'd have to give myself injections. I'm in instant menopause."

"You must be in shock."

"I feel like I'm supposed to be keeping a stiff upper lip, like everyone here." Jill lived in London at the time.

"I think it's pretty natural to have huge emotions about this." We talked about how it felt to cry in front of people, and how surprising life kept turning out to be.

Jill said as soon as she recovered, she and her partner wanted to sack out on a beach somewhere. We talked about abdominal incisions, needles, doctors and blood, joking in a grotesque way, and laughing at ourselves. This was classic Jill -- finding the funny, savoring the absurd.

"How is it with twins?" she finally asked.

This was a question I'd accustomed myself to answering in the positive. When you have twins, people love to assume you are exhausted and overwhelmed. Some even go out of their way to mention they don't envy you, or that they were scared they'd have twins, and that they were so relieved to have dodged that bullet with their little Johnny singleton.

Also, I wasn't sure how to answer Jill. She'd just lost her womb. I still felt identified with women in the trenches of infertility, and my friend's situation was extreme. Still, we'd always had a relentless truth between us, and the moment of her cancer diagnosis didn't seem the time to be false.

"It's hard, though I never tell people that, because I don't like the reaction," I said.

Jill laughed her kind laugh. "You think people don't know twins are hard?"

"I don't want to feed the stereotype," I said.

"I think it's OK," she said gently.

We entered a thoughtful silence, free of stiff upper lips. Our love pulsed through the wires and connections and pixels. One of the things about my friends Tina and Lisa having twins was the fact that we didn't have to explain -- the tiredness, the schedule, the feeling of the job never done. But Jill got it too, and said she hoped that somehow, there would still be children in her life, even if not how she had planned.

"There's so much letting go," she said.

"I know," I said back.

She said she might take a trip to California. I was thrilled.

I've thought about that conversation a thousand times, because it was the last time I would speak to Jill. Soon, she'd find that cancer had spread through her entire body. Her plans to hit the beach became chemo, surgery and hospice in her parents' home.

A few days before her death, I heard Jill speak my name aloud. I bolted upright, sweating in my bed. I truly expected her to appear.

The day she died, I still expected to see her. I looked everywhere outside, jerking my head up when breeze ruffled leaves. A cyclist whizzed past me in the street. Did that mean something? Jill and I had taken many bike trips in our vigorous youth, and I wanted to shout at the passing man, "Did you see a woman biking? Perhaps taking off into winged flight?"

I don't talk to my twin mom friends as much as I want to, but I talk to Jill all the time. Admittedly, what I hear back are the words she said as we prepared to sign off Skype that day. "That Buddhist thing about impermanence? It turns out that's real."

I no longer feel my twins are hard. My definitions have changed, and I've grown along with my sons. I know that even the bad days are good days. If there's a burden, it's the largeness of my luck. If there's a challenge, it's the letting go, over and over.

And if there's a heaven, I hope it's the beach Jill was dreaming about. I know she's there helping care for all the children who arrived before their parents, orphans in the beyond, leading them with love on their journey to that shore.

Can Taylor Swift’s ’1989′ Save The Ailing Music Industry?

The following article is provided by Rolling Stone.


In addition to being 2014's probable best-selling album, Taylor Swift's "1989," out next week, could be crucial to salvaging the record industry's holiday shopping season in a terrible sales year. Week after week, the biggest music stars have put out what appeared to be blockbuster albums, selling up to a few hundred thousand copies in the first week, then quickly dropping out of the Top 10. Album sales have been down 14 percent all year, and single sales have dropped 13 percent, according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Taylor Swift Reveals Five Things to Expect on '1989'

"She will be the big fish," says Ish Cuebas, vice president of music merchandising for national record chain Trans World Entertainment. "The overall release schedule this year has been weak compared to last year. The big title last year for the fourth quarter was Eminem — Taylor will more than make up for Eminem."

In Pics: The 10 Best Taylor Swift Songs

In October, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum and Florida Georgia Line were supposed to lead a country stampede into kicking off the crucial fourth quarter — but all have sold fewer copies than expected. "One of the things that the industry was counting on was country," says a source at a major record label. "The early returns are definitely a little disappointing. It does put more pressure on Taylor."

22 Things You Learn Hanging Out With Taylor Swift

One of the key reasons for the sales drop is the industry's shift from selling CDs and downloads to streaming and subscription services such as Spotify and YouTube. Streaming jumped 42 percent by mid-2014, according to Nielsen Soundscan. But album sales still bring in more money than streaming, and it's unclear whether YouTube ad revenue and $10-a-month subscriptions to services such as Spotify, Beats Music and Rhapsody will make up for the sales drops. "The industry is going to go through a rocky couple of years as it makes that transition," says a source at another major record label.

In Pics: Taylor Swift: A History in Photos

That makes "1989" — as well as other likely fourth-quarter hits, including new albums by Foo Fighters, Nicki Minaj and Garth Brooks — a potential lifeline. Retail sources expect sales from 600,000 to 750,000. "How important is it that it's going to be a hit that's going to likely last for a while? It's important!" says Carl Mello, a senior buyer for New England record chain Newbury Comics. "It's better than having a fanbase record, like an Eric Clapton, that'll sell for the first two weeks, then disappear. There are very few records sitting around the Top 10 for months. Taylor Swift is certainly one that could."

In Pics: 25 Must-Hear Albums for Fall 2014

12 Examples: Pew’s Online Harassment Survey Highlights Digital Gender Safety

This morning, Pew Research released the findings of their most recent report, Online Harassment. This is a timely study, coming fast on the heels of hacked photographs of more than 100 celebrities, this month's ongoing Gamergate, and this week's Lewis' Law Twitter welcome to Monica Lewinsky in the wake of her anti-cyber bullying initiative launch.

The report includes a section, "In Their Own Words," that brings life to the data.

Researchers found that 40 percent of Internet users report experiencing some form of online "harassment," defined in the study as name-calling, purposeful embarrassment, stalking, sexual harassment, physical threats and sustained harassment.

When you look at it by gender, however, you get a richer picture:


Many people are inclined to argue in somewhat unhelpful and binary fashion that "men are harassed online more than women," and leave it at that, but the details matter. Women are much more likely to experiencing stalking, sexual harassment and sustained harassment online. Men are more frequently called "offensive names," or be "purposefully embarrassed," and, while men indicate that they are marginally more likely to experience physical threats, stalking and physical threats overlap. "Young women," researchers concluded, "experience particularly severe forms of online harassment."

Gamergate, the most recent example of what misogyny looks like online, illustrates several of the findings of the Pew Report, particularly in the way that it illustrates the seamlessness of online and offline violence and demonstrates the problems social media companies face when they promise to keep users safe.

Many thoughtful people have written about Gamergate, so I won't here except to describe briefly what has happened to Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and Anita Sarkeesian, the three women whose lives have been most negatively affected. There are other women in gaming who have experienced similar treatment and Sarkeesian has been living with incredible levels of hostility for years.

The blog that launched Gamergate was, effectively, a revenge post written by developer Zoe Quinn's disgruntled ex boyfriend. (He accused her of unethical behavior, which has not been demonstrated or verified.) Whatever Gamergate's original intent, or the genuine desires of some participants to address concerns about the relationship between gaming companies and writers, it is impossible to separate it from the fact and nature of this post or from the slut-shaming of Quinn or the escalating violence against her, Wu and Sarkeesian.

A vocal and active cohort of Gamergate's inchoate army latched onto the post and quickly turned their concerns with how games are covered in media into a prolonged campaign of sexist and violent harassment of three outspoken women. The Daily Dot, further inflaming the already enraged, called it The Sexist Crusade to Destroy Zoe Quinn. Quinn has had to leave her home. So Gamergate, while it may have erupted anyway, was catalyzed by act of gendered intimate partner rage.

Brianna Wu, a game developer became a target herself for criticizing Gamergate. After she tweeted caustic commentary about the movement, she was threatened with death and rape and her private information shared publicly. In an interview with The Guardian, Wu explained, "the conversation moved to places that threatened my personal safety," she says. "I made the decision to leave, and law enforcement said it was reasonable. I basically just left the house. I have no idea where I'll be living this week or even next month."

It was into this environment, in late August, that Sarkeesian, a popular cultural critic, released her newest free video, Women as Background Decoration, looking at depictions of women in games. Her usual quotient of threats immediately increased. Three years ago she was targeted by a cyber mob in an attack that included a game where people could virtually bludgeon her face, leaving it bruised and bleeding. Thousands played. Last week, she had to decline a speaking engagement at Utah State University after threats that her appearance would result in "the deadliest school shooting in American history."The threats made direct reference to the Montreal Massacre in which an anti-feminist shooter screamed "I hate feminists," and opened fire on a classroom of female engineering students, killing 14 women.

The FBI is investigating several aspects of Gamergate-related abuse. However, while Internet companies urge users to go to the police if they are genuinely concerned, the police have almost no ability to deal with what is happening online and are, historically, disinclined to take "harassment" of women seriously. Sarkeesian, Quinn and Wu are very familiar with other women, both in their field and elsewhere, who have left public and professional spaces as a result of violent sexism. The harassment spills over to their supporters as well. Many other women, and men who speak in their defense, are similarly treated, although not at this scale. I, and many others, were doxxed just for tweeting support for them.

Just in case it's not clear for some reason, people are threatening to rape and kill women and their families for speaking publicly in defense of women's equality.

A recurring theme, since Kathy Sierra was first hounded offline, is a tendency for media to want to focus on the incident du jour or to home in on a specific sector of the culture. Gaming's an easier one to fathom, because people see violent games and are worried about their influence. However, gaming, while maybe more distilled, isn't special. This gender imbalanced harassment is age old and common, regardless of industry or space. In addition to the three women at the center of Gamergate, here other examples:

1)   Singer Lauren Mayberry of the Chvrches is regularly greeted online with messages such as "You'll know rape culture when I'm raping you, bitch" and "I have your address and I will come round to your house and give u anal and you will love it you twat lol."

2)    Porochista Khakpour was on the receiving end of literary Ed Champion's ire last month -- so he threatened, blackmailed and tried to sexually shame her in a series of public tweets last month.

3)    Adria Richards became the target of an online campaign that included a "a picture of a bloody, beheaded woman with the caption "When Im done." She was fired from her job just after her employer's website was attacked as part of the campaign against her.

4)    Rebecca Watson openly talked about sexual harassment and sexism in the atheist community, so was barraged with rape threats. She described her experience in Slate, "My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape "jokes," threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page."

5)    Caroline Criado-Perez won a small victory for gender inclusive media when she successfully campaigned to get Jane Austen on a UK banknote. She was the barraged by graphic rape and death threats. Two people were eventually arrested and jailed.

6)    Classicist Mary Beard was verbally harassed and sent a bomb threat. Basically for having the nerve to speak with authority about the Ancient World.

7)    Karen Traviss, the only woman writer of Star Wars books, was bullied, through a series of "screaming ranting videos" until she stopped writing them.

8)    Zerlina Maxwell suggested that boys be taught not to rape, so, of course, got rape and death threats.

9)    Activist Trista Hendren was sent up to 500 graphic and abusive comments a day on a page she set up in Facebook to help report content glorifying rape and domestic violence. The comments included those sharing her work and home addresses, making references to her children, displaying child pornography and threatening her with graphic descriptions.

10)Rebecca Meredith, a Cambridge University debater, confronted sexist hecklers only to have, among other things, her rape potential openly discussed.

11)Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action became the focus of intense harassment as a result of lobbying for gun control. " get back in the kitchen and take those damn shoes off! its people like you that are going to destroy our 2nd Amendment right. stupid bitches!" A pro-gun Facebook page was populated by comments calling her called a "bitch," "cock sucker," "traitor," and "liar."

12)Women writers, as a group, very publicly engaged, tend to garner particularly hateful attention. A Demos study of Twitter data showed that women writers are among those most likely to be the targets of abusive speech on that platform. Jezebel writers, almost all women, recently wrote a public letter, about a "rape gif problem," to their employer, Gawker, for failures to address the effects that readers posting violent rape pornography was having on their ability to work.   Imani Gandy, a legal expert and writer, recently wrote in RHRealityCheck about the daily "litany of racist and sexist slurs that usually await me from anonymous keyboard warriors whose only purpose on Twitter is to disrupt, harass, and abuse." Earlier this year, after Jessica Valenti documented responses to an article she wrote about women's health and soon after an editor at the Guardian wrote more extensively about sexist public treatment of female writers.

This is tech-enabled, reactionary, gender-based backlash and it is pervasive. This extreme harassment affects people who are, for the most part, not in the public eye. It's the tech manifestations of double standards and everyday sexism.

This list doesn't begin to touch on the everyday sexism of slut shaming, revenge porn, nonconsensual sexting or other types of tech-enabled sex crimes and abuses. There is, for example, a sad, infinitely long line of hashtags about teenage girls, many of whom were sexually abused and raped. Companies should be exploring what it means when girls say they leave online spaces because of "drama." Many cases of harassment are clearly civil rights infringements. It is estimated that there are more than 800,000 cases a year in the United States alone.

Girls and women online, all of us, are either dealing with some level of sexist harassment or are witnessing it and deriving lessons from how society responds. Seventy-eight percent of the Pew survey respondents say they have witnessed harassment. I speak to women who don't speak up, don't support others, change the things they write about, counsel younger women to be cautious -- all so that they can avoid the threat of what is almost always male perpetrated violence rampant in this public space.

The idea that "speech will be the business of men," as Mary Beard herself has so diligently and clearly explained, is ancient and these are just the newest contestations. That idea is also rooted in male domination and violence. Stalking, gendered slurs, slut-shaming, sexually charged, often pornographically-laden, abuse, and sustained daily harassment online or off are the timeless weapons of a global sexist culture.

This harassment should, really, not surprise anyone. Women are harassed this way every day, on streets, at work, in their own homes. There is a difference now, however. Whereas before, a woman might say that she was assaulted, defamed, insulted, threatened or otherwise maligned, very few ever heard about it or, if they did, it was rarely taken seriously. The Internet makes visible what was before invisible, however. What we are seeing now, as Catherine Buni and I recently wrote, is so overt that it is no longer possible for people to easily ignore or trivialize it. And, try as many might, it's also impossible to suggest in the absence of "proof," that women are lying or exaggerating.

So, while the Internet has its abusive cesspool qualities, it also provides a mechanism for positive change. What people choose to do with this information has yet to be seen.

6 Ways To Like Your Spouse More

After pointing out how your husband or wife is very different now compared to how they acted when you first starting dating,  I will now give you six little ways to help you start to like your spouse more.  Don't doubt the Blogapist.  You are about to get schooled.

1. Stop comparing your spouse to other people's spouses.  Here's the worst thing to do:

Your friend: "My husband just bought me a new car!"

You: "Oh yeah, well mine just bought me a blender!  Ha ha! Yeesh, your husband sounds awesome."

Here's what you just did: (a) made your friend feel awesome (b) sabotaged your marriage by making yourself focus on your husband's disappointing qualities (here, maybe he's not Mr. Grand Gesture).  You can make your friend feel awesome by saying, "Wow, that's so awesome!"  You can skip the counterpoint with your own sucky husband.  Believe me, these little comments will add up in your mind and eventually you will think of your spouse as a tremendous black hole of suck.

2. Stop thinking about how your spouse "used to" act.  You know what, you used to act a lot different too.  If you finally read Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples like I keep telling you to, you will see that nobody intentionally acts better at the start of a relationship.  I mean, you do, but you're not like, "Hey, I'm going to pretend to be fun loving and spontaneous and not Type A to really screw with my potential partner, and then once I have ensnared them, I will revert to being shrewish and rigid."  You're more like, "I am so happy!  I'm in love! I'm finally able to relax and have fun, this is awesome and will be the way I am forever in this awesome relationship!"  (Read more about imago theory, that says this, here.) So you and your spouse both acted a lot better, either entirely unconsciously or with the best of intentions, and now you're both annoyed and feel like there was a bait and switch.  So STOP fixating on how they "used to" act.  It gets you NOWHERE.

3. Do as many nice things as you possibly can.  Especially if you don't want to, because it's outside your comfort zone.  So, have more sex, or talk more.  Think outside the box.  Buy your wife a commissioned portrait of her cat if that's going to make her smile.  Or draw one yourself.  Or bake your husband a cake and put tickets to a football game inside it. Or a gift certificate for oral sex. In a ziploc bag, obviously.  You get the drift.  If you do more nice things, your spouse will feel happier, because you seem more committed and invested, and then your spouse is going to be more committed and invested, and then everyone wins.  And you like them more because they start acting better.

4. Spend time together without the kids doing new things.  You say your spouse sucks, but maybe they just suck when you're in the same old horrible rut.  Maybe there are still some new things you can enjoy with your spouse.  Try some, without the kids along. And while you're there, act as nice as you used to when you were dating.  If this doesn't help your spouse to act his or her best, I'd be surprised.

5. Tell your spouse directly how you feel, using "I" statements. Stop saying passive aggressive things like, "Must be nice!" when you see your husband watching his second hour of football while you Swiffer, change the baby, and do crafts with the kids.  Instead, say "I feel upset that you're not helping me out more."  And follow this with....

6. Ask for what you want, pleasantly. "Can you please come here and help Madison finish this pumpkin craft while I start dinner?"  Delivered with a smile.  If your spouse says no, go back to step #5 and give him another I statement, like "I'm frustrated that you're not helping me."  For guys, this can be, "Hey, can we have sex tonight? I love you and I miss you."  Pleasant is key.  It may often be that your spouse has no idea how important something is to you, because you don't directly state how you feel.  Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and see if a response will come if you express exactly what you want and why you want it.

Well, that's it. If you try these six things, you will likely be liking your spouse at least a little bit more by the end of the week.  Baby steps.

Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Thinks That Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Happen in a Blog Post.

For more, visit Dr. Psych Mom, or join me on Facebook or Twitter.

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Victoria's Secret Angel Jasmine Tookes Introduces The New Scandalous Fragrance And Bra Collections

MIAMI, Oct. 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Victoria's Secret Angel Jasmine Tookes unveils the all-new Victoria's Secret Scandalous fragrance and Very Sexy Scandalous bra collection . The stunning Supermodel ...

There’s An Online Dating ‘Tipping Point,’ According To A New Study

The rules of dating are not simple and finite -- they're complicated and constantly changing, especially when you factor in online dating. Now, a new study has unearthed yet another thing you could be getting wrong: Online daters can doom themselves to disappointment if they wait too long to meet prospective partners in person.

A new study published recently in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication describes an online dating "tipping point," when too much online communication before a first date causes a person to idealize someone they're interacting with prior to actually meeting them face to face. This, naturally, leads to a letdown upon meeting someone who doesn't match lofty expectations. That "tipping point" occurs after 17 to 23 days, according to the researchers, so you don't want to wait longer than that to pencil in a get-together.

Lead researcher Artemio Ramirez, Jr., Ph.D., an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida, had some personal inspiration for conducting the study: He met his wife on eHarmony in 2005.

"We actually met face-to-face within that 17- to 23-day window, where we say the impressions and idealizations are at that peak, the most positive level that they'll be prior to meeting face to face," Ramirez told The Huffington Post. "I'm saying this in retrospect, because I had no idea at the time."

If you wait too long to meet, you'll start making assumptions.

Ramirez and his colleagues were interested in looking into how people process information they read in online dating profiles, hypothesizing that most would make assumptions, fill in the blanks and elaborate on the limited, highly curated information they were given.

"For instance, if you say you have a great sense of humor, I start thinking: Not only do you have a great sense of humor, you have a great sense of humor the way that I think of sense of humor," Ramirez said. "There's a difference between the 'pull my finger' sense of humor versus the Monty Python sense of humor."

After conducting a national online survey of 433 online daters who had been on an in-person date within the last year, the researchers were able to support their hypothesis. They found that the longer people waited to meet an online match, the more likely they were to be disappointed when they finally met in person, an effect that was particularly seen after that "tipping point" period.

"That runs counter to what we're taught in face-to-face situations: You should get to know the person and learn a little bit about them," Ramirez said. "We're saying, 'Yes, getting to know them is good, but you're going to reach a point where you really should go meet them face to face, otherwise you're running the risk of thinking that this person is perfect, that they are The One.'"

Not to mention, people lie in their profiles all the time.

The people in Ramirez's sample reported that their disappointment often stemmed from their date not communicating in person the same way they communicated online. Perhaps their sense of humor was a bit different or their pictures didn't adequately represent them. Or maybe the person lied about something in their profile. Someone might claim they're 6 feet tall when they're 5 foot 6 or that they're avid rock climbers when they haven't scaled a wall since college. Hence, the disappointment.

"There's a learning curve in terms of being able to read between the lines on profiles," Ramirez said. "We want people to think positively of us."

Essentially, too much online interaction makes you think you know a person better, Ramirez said. Plus, even if someone isn't lying in their profile, people aren't the sum of their favorite books, movies and music, so there's only so much one can glean from such limited data. But since it's natural for online daters to read between the lines and assign additional characteristics to prospective partners, the "real" person that meets them on that first coffee or movie date may not live up to their expectations, particularly if they've had too much time to craft a "dream" version of the person.

That said, Ramirez cautioned against considering this "tipping point" a hard and fast guideline. He said it's just another thing to consider while navigating the intricate universe that is online dating.

Why You Shouldn’t Apologize For Loving Someone

On our blog, we've received a lot of private messages from broken people. Hurting. This entry is dedicated to them.

To love or not to love is a choice.

We can love, love, love, but sometimes, that love isn't returned. That's not our fault. We chose to love. They chose not to. This does not mean we are unlovable or unworthy of love. We're not idiots, fools or weak for loving.

Rather, we have courage. Because we chose to be vulnerable and self-sacrificing; a requirement for love. And when it was over, though the echoes of the painful experiences reverberate in the depths of our being, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and we keep pressing onward.

I've made it a rule in my personal life to never apologize for loving people, even if that love is never returned. To be unloving is the other person's problem, not mine.

As my grandmother use to tell me, "At the end of your life, the only things you'll regret are 1) Not taking more risks and 2) Not being more loving toward others." She died at 94 years of age, and those were some of her final thoughts.

The following letter is from an 80-year-old grandfather to his son, Clayton Finn Fincannon. After a relationship ends between he and his first love, Eden, during his senior year of college in California, Finn visits home in Tennessee. At night, beside a fire, Finn recounts the story to his grandfather. The next morning, Finn prepares to return to California to finish his last semester of college. The letter awaits him by the door. Whatever feelings arise when you hear the word God, please understand the cultural upbringing of the characters.

This comes from my novel, The Mason Jar. I hope it helps someone.


Dear Finn,

I know right now, all that is visible is seen through the lenses of loss and pain. So, I'm not sure the words I say to you will resonate. But know that feelings just are. Experience them. Don't deny them or push them away. If you do, it will come out through other avenues like short tempers and sharp answers to friends and loved ones who don't deserve to be mistreated.

We do not deny our experiences, good or bad. We must embrace them. They are a part of who we are. The point is to keep from dwelling on the past or holding on to the bad times. This way, we don't lead ourselves into resentment, cynicism and bitterness.

You might believe that you must stop loving Eden, but that's not true. We can love even when we know that love will never be returned. We are allowed to love someone even if that person is gone. What we miss is their presence, but that doesn't mean we must stop loving them. As Maclean wrote, it is those who we love the most who so often elude us. But we can still love them. We can love them completely, without complete understanding.

Loving is not the same as holding on because "holding on" implies that we hope the loved one will come to their senses and return. Love is an action based on free choice despite the consequences. Love only becomes painful when it demands something in return. And though it may take time, you will find joy in loving those who might not even be aware of your love.

We must love people enough to enrich our lives while we have them, but not give them so much power that they impoverish our lives when they are gone. Our grief and pain are directly proportional to our love. The depth and level of pain are proof that we loved. And anytime we choose to love anyone, there is the risk that such love will not be returned. Despite the lies you will tell yourself, life is more fulfilling and worthy of living if we love and lose than if we never love at all.

Understand, son, that we can only help those who have hit rock bottom when we ourselves have seen existence through that same lens. Therefore, you can use the pain you've experienced to ease the pain in others. This does not mean God purposefully inflicts pain or is the author of loss, nor does it mean that every time we experience loss or pain that God is behind the cause. But it does mean that God can take the bad things and turn them into beautiful things. But that takes time. It cannot happen overnight. There are always more questions than answers when it comes to life and the Infinite.

Remember we become what our minds dwell on. It's proven in cognitive psychology that if we dwell on negative thoughts, we become negative people. "A man reaps what he sows." If we live in the past, in a world that we cannot change, we only grow estranged from the present. We stop growing and decay. If the past brings good memories, let them brighten your present day, but do not long for their return or dwell on them. For it is the present day that must be taken care of if we are to expect to live fruitfully tomorrow.

Understanding our past helps us understand ourselves, but remember, we are shaped by our past -- we are not bound by it.

I love you,



Check out The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story told from the male perspective by James Russell Lingerfelt. The novel helps readers find healing after severed relationships.

The Mason Jar movie is scheduled for pre-production in 2015, and will be directed in the same dramatic and romantic tones as The Notebook (2004) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, or subscribe to his email list for updates.

The Truth About Corporate Pinkwashing

Pink products and breast cancer slogans are everywhere in the month of October. But how much good is this "pinkwashing" actually doing?

Not nearly as much as it should, according to a new video from Lucy Cooper Productions.

In just over two minutes, comedian Kenzie Seibert explains that any company can slap a pink ribbon on a product and sell it in the name of "breast cancer support" -- but how much of the money spent on these products is actually funding research for a cure? Not enough.

"Starbucks changes their coffee sleeves to pink every October. So if my morning non-fat vanilla latte can maybe find a cure for my cancer, why not kill two birds with one low-fat scone?"

Watch the video above to find out more.

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When This Mom Couldn’t Find What She Needed To Help Her Autistic Daughter, She Created A Site That Could

marlo thomas"One of the reasons I started my website is that I wanted a place for women to come together and dream. We women need to know that we don't have to hang on to an old dream that has stopped nurturing us—that there is always time to start a new dream. This week's story is about Julie Azuma – a successful designer who found a way to help her autistic daughter’s developmental progress –and ended up helping thousands of other autistic children in the process."—Marlo,

What Julie Azuma remembers most from her baby’s first year is a sense of bewilderment and despair. A successful designer in the apparel industry, Julie was past 40 when she and her husband adopted an infant from Korea.

And things weren’t going well. Baby Miranda would scream and scream, and she couldn’t be soothed. She wasn’t reaching her developmental milestones on time either—didn’t sit up on her own, didn’t walk well, didn’t talk at all.

When it became clear that the issues were ongoing, Julie took Miranda to a series of pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists, and speech-and-language pathologists, all in search of answers that didn’t come. “They said she had speech and developmental delays; they said it was because of the adoption; they said a lot of different things,” Julie says with a sigh. “They never said she had autism.”

Miranda didn’t demonstrate autism’s defining symptom, which is failure to make eye contact. By the time she was six years old and still not talking, however, it was clear to everyone that something was very wrong. Julie and her husband had adopted a second child, Sophie, who was developing just fine. But even at a special-education preschool, Miranda was not progressing.

“Miranda was six and a half before she was diagnosed, and by that time, sadly, it was tough to change her trajectory,” says Julie. Today we know that early, intense therapy can make a tremendous difference in how an autistic child develops, but for Miranda the opportunity seemed lost.

Not about to give up on her daughter, Julie started her research, which was a lot harder in the days before Google. “But I found a book called Let Me Hear Your Voice, which led me to a parent movement that advocated using Applied Behavior Analysis.” Now a standard therapy, ABA was then a largely unknown method for teaching language and social skills to children with autism. “This ABA method was the one thing that gave us parents hope.”

Article Continues Below Slideshow

Armed with that hope, Julie now had to put ABA theory into practice for Miranda. That meant finding the very specific developmental products that were crucial to the therapy’s success—like wooden blocks, but without letters or numbers (which can be frustrating for children who don’t recognize them). And flash cards that showed emotions, actions, household items, and food, but used actual photographs (not illustrations, which may be difficult for children with autism to interpret).

“These products were so hard to find!” exclaims Julie. “I would spend weeks tracking down what I needed. I was a desperate woman; I went from place to place to place.” At one point she even asked a friend who was traveling to London to call a British company while she was there, to get her a product that wasn’t available in the United States.

Amazingly, though, the new therapy worked. “Within six weeks of starting ABA, Miranda spoke. She was able to say, ‘I want orange juice.’ It was a revelation,” says Julie, who by that time had left her fashion-industry job to stay home with Miranda and Sophie. As tough as the product search had been for Julie, she realized it would be impossible for a working mom. So she began to think about starting her own company to help other families.

“I knew I couldn’t afford a real store,” says Julie. “I didn’t have a lot of start-up money. Then a woman in my class said, ‘Why don’t you go on the Internet?’ It seemed like a great deal: You could have a store for five or six hundred dollars a year, as opposed to paying New York City rents.”

Though it made financial sense, this was 1994, when most people didn’t even have an email address and e-commerce barely existed. To make things worse, Julie says, she was at the time “completely computer illiterate.” Determined to create her store, she found someone to design a website and she set to work learning how to use a computer—even though she didn’t have a lot of confidence in herself.

In 1995, Julie launched Different Roads to Learning, an online store at (“There was a limit then on how long your URL could be.”) The site initially offered about 30 products, but the problem was getting parents to find it. Word of mouth in this close-knit community, along with a simple black-and-white paper catalog, created traction.

Different Roads to Learning grew slowly. “I was still taking all the packages to the post office myself when I got orders—that’s how small we were. But then one day my accountant said, ‘Congratulations! You’re profitable!’ I said, ‘That’s impossible. I thought we were still in the hole.’ That’s when I realized, Wow, this could actually be a good business.”

Julie doesn’t carry orders to the post office anymore. Today, Different Roads to Learning has four full-time employees, carries more than 600 products, and earns $2.5 million in annual sales. The company has also added a book division and four apps—something Julie could never have imagined back in 1995.

“We’re still a smallish company,” says Julie. “But we’ve come so far, and so have the kids. Because of early intervention and enough ABA work, they’re so much more skilled now. A lot of these kids can be mainstreamed by the time they’re five, in kindergarten. That just wasn’t happening before. And because we sell to a lot of schools, I like to think that we’ve been a part of bringing about that change. Sometimes I look back and I’m amazed.”

Miranda is still developing language at 25, and lives in a small group home that provides care, support, and vocational training. It’s not the way Julie hoped things would turn out,
 but she’s glad her older daughter is
 happy and healthy.

Julie becomes reflective when she talks about her own struggles and the emotional obstacles she had to overcome in order to start her business.

“Whenever anybody asks me if they should start a business, I tell them if you have the passion, you’ve got to go for it,” Julie says, “I believe in letting go and not being afraid.”

To find out more about Julie's journey -- and to read 59 other inspiring stories -- buy your copy of "It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over." Click here.

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Prayers for Dana: The Story of a Mother Battling Lyme Disease and Congenital Heart Disease

Pictured: Dana Calloway with her husband and five children.

Twenty-four year old Dana Calloway has been sick for many years. In addition to her late diagnosis of Lyme disease wearing in on her joints, nervous system and, other organs, she has a hole in her heart. The hole in Dana's heart causes both oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix. Her life threatening condition is usually noticed during one's infancy and is repaired during the first couple of years of a baby's life. Dana's heart condition, an Atrial Septal Defect is a type of Congenital Heart Disease. Without having open heart surgery, Dana is at risk for a stroke and heart failure. Insurance doesn't cover the costs for Dana's health expenses, which can add up to $70,000-$150,000 during a patient's lifetime.

While struggling with her own health concerns, Dana is also caring for her husband and five young children. Two year old Carter suffers from Sensory Processing Disorder, while 16 month old twins Leilani and Milena share their mother's Congenital Heart Disease. The twins will require surgery if the holes in their hearts haven't closed within the next year.

A Prayer for Dana (poem)

There's an honest smile on her face
whether she's visiting a dream,
or wide awake.
While we're hiding tears, she's unafraid.
She doesn't complain, she won't speak of pain.

She is what you call love,
forcefully holding her head above
water there are kids to look after.
As the days go by,
they seem to be growing faster
there's no space for arguments
or faded laughter,
just peace.

So, once you've said all the things
you needed to say,
they say, "Let us pray."

Let us pray for the moon to kiss a star,
for the next storm to spread love,
near and far.
Let us pray for light during dark times,
peace of mind, spirituality, and the divine.

Let us share hope
for her healing, for her soul.

The future comes to me
in my dreams late at night.
There is no suffering,
tears of joy are cried.
The word "relief" floats throughout the room.
There is no face in my vision,
but I'm reminded of you.

Once you've said all the things
you needed to say,
they say, "Let us pray."

This article was previously published at

Taking Off the Armor of My ‘Choice’

Publishing a book and blog for the entire world to read means one must be ready for the critics, even the really unforgiving, judgmental and unsympathetic ones.

Sometimes they are strangers on the other side of the world and other times they are your very own loved ones.

I've experienced a few super harsh critics. And, of course their words cut the deepest because they are my greatest shame fears said out loud.

You CHOSE to not have kids.

You were never really pregnant. They were only embryos, not babies!

The scariest part of my work in recovery after infertility has been in owning my story.

Publicly starting the conversation that it is OK to stop IVF treatments before getting the intended result of becoming a mother.
Publicly owning our decision to not adopt.
Grieving the lifelong losses of infertility and the losses of our three never-to-be babies.

Scary because I have ultimately feared these exact judgments.

What if people think I did not want kids badly enough because I didn't do 5, 8, 10 years of treatments? What if people think I did not want kids badly enough because I'm willing to admit that adoption isn't right for our family? What if people don't consider my losses a true loss?

What if people think I didn't want to be a mom bad enough?

Maybe to some, I have chosen to not be a mother.

But I know my truth.

I fought really hard to be a mother. I paid lots of money to be a mother. I endured painful tests and procedures to be a mother. I put my body and my surrogate's through synthetic hormonal hell to be a mother. I put my faith and trust in many doctors and other humans to be a mother.

Does accepting that the battle would never have my desired outcome mean I chose to not be a mom? Does redefining my life and figuring out childfree mean I chose to not be a mom? Does accepting what is mean I chose to not be a mom?

Maybe to some, this is my choice to not have children. But, I know I tried to be a mom. Better yet, I know I am mom in many ways. And, though, I respect your opinion, I will not be defined by it.

I am working every day to accept graciously that I will never be a mom in the traditional sense.

And I know, accepting this as my truth and defining my enough and everything does not mean I didn't want it.

And I know, redefining everything doesn't mean I chose not to have kids.

I have chosen what I can.

I have accepted what is.

And I write about it, to help and heal myself and hopefully others, because we must talk about it, embrace it, practice recovery from it and own all the parts of our story.

And, the only thing scarier than publicly owning all of this as my truth ould be not owning it.

Sometimes, we don't get what we want or what we dreamed of or what we fought really hard for, or even what we feel is meant as ours.

Sometimes, we lose our way, our truth, our dreams and faith along the way.

But, it is through these very never-meant-to-be's that we will find ourselves, our journey and our truth.

No matter the judgments and shaming and misunderstanding, this is my story of owning it, and not just proving it.

So be clear as I clarify for my critics, I will not armor up, I will not shy away and I will not stop living my authentic truth.

Because this is my ever upward.

Purchase your copy of Ever Upward here.

How One Compulsive Eater Deals With the Temptation of Halloween Candy

Trigger warning

"They're his candies," I reminded myself as I rifled through the bright orange plastic pumpkin that held my 4-year-old son's trick-or-treating booty.

The day before, he had agreed to hand over his treats to the "Halloween Fairy" in exchange for a new toy. The Halloween Fairy was the brainchild of my friend Nancy, who had convinced her own 4-year-old that a yo-yo would be better than a month's worth of Hershey's Miniatures and Gobstoppers. I sometimes felt like an inadequate mother compared to Nancy, whose kids ate things like apple and kale salad. My picky son would only eat the apple, and only if it was peeled and cut into correctly sized wedges. There is no way he would touch a leafy green!

Much to my surprise, though, my very particular son agreed to give away his Halloween treats -- well, half of them, anyway. The other half, he declared, he would take to Daddy's house. What a good little negotiator!

So there I was with the pumpkin bucket, trying to tell myself they were his candies, despite the fact that he was never expecting to see them again. For all he knew, the Halloween Fairy was up in Halloween Heaven, gorging herself on the sweet treats of all the little kale-eating boys and girls.

"I'll just eat two Kisses and that will be it," I promised myself. Embarking down that slippery slope known well to compulsive eaters, I peeled the foil off of one Hershey Kiss and let the sweet milk chocolate melt on my tongue. Oh. My. God. That was so good. I could feel a rush as I unwrapped the next one.

I was mid-Kiss when I started unwrapping the Milky Way. I don't remember even tasting it.

Five minutes later, a pile of wrappers littered the table in front of me. It was as if something had possessed me, sending me into an uncontrollable chocolate frenzy.

My stomach felt swollen and achy, but it was my heart that hurt the most. Until that evening, I had gone 25 days without bingeing -- and now, a pile of wrappers and a half-emptied plastic jack-o-lantern were all I had to show for it. Racked with shame, I opened the food diary app on my phone where I tracked the days, and set it back to one.

For the next two days, I binged on everything from chips to pizza -- the "carbier" the better. (Yes, it turns out, you can binge on oatmeal!) I felt awful the entire time. So why did I do it? Don't try to ascribe logic to addiction. There is no logic, only a gnawing desire to feed. It's not rational; it's animal.

I'd been engaging in compulsive eating behaviors since I was 8 years old. Eating was my way of coping with everything in life -- stress, sadness, boredom. It was as if, somewhere deep inside, I believed that an extra layer of flesh would protect me from the big, bad world.

So I ate and ate, and felt fatter and fatter. I ate with a vengeance, like I was punishing myself. I was punishing myself for bingeing -- by bingeing more. During the first week of November, my clothes felt tighter, and I felt worse than ever. It was then that I stumbled into a bizarre epiphany.

I was in yoga class, rolling through sun salutations, when a visceral image came to me. I saw myself standing outside on a balmy summer's day, wearing a fat suit. It was the kind Monica wore in Friends when she portrayed the younger, fatter version of herself -- or the kind Gwyneth Paltrow wore in Shallow Hal. In my vision, I stood there with these intense yellow rays beaming down on me -- until I removed the suit and said, "I'm done." I just unzipped that sucker and walked right out of it, the sun warming my newly revealed, toned, slim body.

Snapped out of the vision, I swan-dived forward into downward dog and thought to myself, "This is it. I don't need this fat to protect me anymore."

Suddenly, I felt a sense of gratitude toward the fat suit, which had made me feel safe, in some dysfunctional way, for so many years. But more than that, I felt committed to getting out of it. It was so hot and stuffy in there; I had been trapped for so long. Now feeling liberated, I saw myself as stronger and lighter than ever before.

I walked home from yoga, inspired by my vision and reaffirmed my desire to eat more healthfully. I wanted out of the fat suit.

That was a year ago, and since then, I've had many ups and downs. The image of the fat suit stayed with me some of the time, but my newfound resolve, unfortunately, did not. As yet another Halloween approaches, I'm already feeling the lure of that plastic pumpkin full of temptations.

Instead of panicking, I'm making plans. The Halloween Fairy will return, but this time, I will give the candy away immediately, rather than letting it linger in my home. I will rely more on exercise, therapy, and my loving support network of friends and family to provide the comfort I usually seek from food. And I'll try, even harder, to remember the power of that vision and shed the fat suit, once and for all.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

A Female Robin Isn’t Just Awesome — It Might Save Hollywood

When the casting was announced, it ignited a potential backlash the likes of which was rarely seen: travesty that a woman should be cast in a traditionally male role. I speak, of course, of Lucy Liu in Elementary, the CBS show that has become an unexpected smash hit with Liu’s female Watson to Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes—the venerable A.V. Club even argued it’s better than rival Sherlock.

Now, the genderflip strikes again, this time with the rumored casting of Jena Malone in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. There’s no reason not to genderflip traditionally male roles, and, in fact, there’s a strong argument for it: Female-driven film and television is doing better than ever before, and women are making up roughly 50 percent of ticket buyers, so they have a bigger say in what breaks box office records than ever before.

Playboy Pinups On Meeting The Male Gaze — The Cut

Issue no. 4 of Playboy magazine, published in March 1954, featured Dolores Del Monte, an aspiring actress from Spokane who agreed to do some “figure modeling” for a calendar. Somewhere between home and the photographer’s studio, she realized it probably meant sans clothing, but it was $50 for an hour of work, so she said all right. She was in relatively exclusive company, having followed Marilyn Monroe’s debut centerfold by only a few months, but Del Monte, who got married and had three children not long after her nude pictures were taken, didn’t realize they had ended up in Playboy. Years later, her college-age son happened to be perusing a 25th-anniversary retrospective issue of the magazine, featuring thumbnails of all the centerfolds to date. He called up and said, “Mom, I’ve got some news about your past.” Her reaction was equal parts embarrassment—he was her son, after all—and pride.

The Perils of Politicizing Breast Cancer

There's nothing to be gained by politicizing women's health, but there's a lot to lose.

Consider this: Two years ago, the Susan G. Komen Foundation walked into a hornet's nest when it did something that was fundamentally opposed to its mission. It jumped into a controversy that was all about politics and nothing about breast cancer patients and survivors.

After years of subsidizing cancer screenings and education in Planned Parenthood clinics, the foundation announced it would no longer fund these programs. The move came at a time when right-wing opposition to Planned Parenthood was exploding in state legislatures and in Congress.

Here's what happened next, according to the L.A. Times:

The decision by the nation's leading breast cancer charity to defund the nation's leading provider of health services to women sparked a predictable uproar, and Komen reversed the decision after only three days.

But the damage was immediate and, plainly, lasting. It turned out that the original decision had been driven by Karen Handel, the organization's vice president for public policy, who had joined Komen after losing a race for governor of Georgia on an extremist anti-abortion platform. She resigned from Komen days after the reversal.

As the leader of a national policy and advocacy organization, I toil in the political weeds, and I can tell you, it's an enormously complex and challenging environment. You can't navigate these waters with a single press release or announcement.

The Komen foundation may have thought they could earn some goodwill from a vocal and powerful segment of conservative lawmakers by signing on to their rejection of Planned Parenthood. They didn't see themselves as transforming into a political lobby. They were just going to be a little bit political for a day or two.

That didn't work out too well. In the wake of the move against Planned Parenthood, the foundation's income from contributions, sponsors and entry fees for events like their signature Race for the Cure dropped by $77 million, or 22% of their income from the previous year.

Frankly, that's a fitting response to Komen's attempt to use the grief and courage of breast cancer patients as a means of scoring political points against a perceived "liberal" enemy. Nobody asks a woman who comes to a reproductive health clinic to declare her party affiliation, and no one who looks to a foundation that promotes women's health for assistance should be made to feel like a player in a political drama.

An editorial by Maureen Shaw Kennedy, MA, RN in the American Journal of Nursing put it this way:

If state efforts to cut all funding for Planned Parenthood and its affiliates succeed, who will provide the safety net for the 3 million Americans, largely women, who rely on these entities for health care annually? Those in the defunding camp claim that these women can get health care elsewhere, but why must they be forced to do that? The real question is, why should women's access to health services be dependent on whatever ideologies currently prevail among legislators?

It wasn't so long ago that women were prohibited from voting or owning property. We laugh now at the ridiculousness of this -- but have we really progressed all that much if women's health and lifestyle choices can still be subject to the approval of others?

Don't get me wrong. I strongly believe in political engagement, speaking truth to power and standing up to anyone who would deny women any aspect of their reproductive health care needs. But the personal isn't always the political -- and that's my message for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. To read all posts in the series, visit here.

Why Young Women Need to Negotiate, Now

2014-09-22-177043951.jpg By Victor_Tongdee, via ThinkStock

By Teju Adisa-Farrar, Head of Engagement and Strategy at Recruiterbox

As a young woman in my early twenties I've been fortunate enough to have amazing jobs and work with several intelligent, driven and compassionate women who are making differences in the world in a variety of industries. As a result of my upbringing and the experiences I've been lucky enough to have, I believe learning certain skills early on helps us to take advantage of whatever opportunities come our way and to learn our value. We often think we'll learn adeptness with age, which is true. However, if we don't start advocating for ourselves at an early age, it will be more difficult to become proficient at doing this later in life, and consequently, we may miss out on opportunities that come our way in the meantime.

My first full time job after college I did not negotiate. I was given, what I thought was, a generous offer and I accepted. Later that year I read an article that said if a person who is offered the same salary I was offered negotiates $5,000 more, that result in them making more than $150,000 more than me in a lifetime. I also learned, which was not surprising, that 49 percent of job candidates never negotiate for various reasons, and for graduating MBA students half of the men negotiated their salary compared to one eight of the women. As millennials we know that our parents and generations before us worked hard to make our society more just and egalitarian, but that does not mean there is not still lots of work to be done.

Statistics aside, I'm an advocate of young women always negotiating to develop that skill as soon as possible. There are a variety of ways to negotiate; it does not only have to be with salary and benefits from a job offer. As we learned from Cher in Clueless there are many things in life that can be negotiated. To get practice, young women should start negotiating with people around them, like their roommates or parents, before taking on an employer. Once you get comfortable negotiating then you'll already have an idea of what it entails when you get that job offer or when you are ready for a promotion. I've been negotiating since I was 5 years old, with my older siblings, my parents, even my friends. This has certainly served me well and helped me become more comfortable when negotiating job offers and other opportunities.

Here are five reasons why young women should negotiate:

1. The world will not change by itself. The world, specifically society, never has and never will change without people advocating for themselves and others. Women's Suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, The Anti-Apartheid Movement; all of these historical movements were created by and successful because of people who persevered and were bold in the face of ignorance and injustice.

2. Being bold is important. Often in work situations women who are assertive are told they are, or assumed to be, too "aggressive," when in reality they are doing their job effectively and making strong decisions. Being bold allows us to be good leaders, take advantage of opportunities, and recognize our value.

3. Advocating for ourselves is advocating for all women. When women negotiate for themselves, especially in a job situation, they are negotiating for all women. Women get paid 77 cents to the dollar of men, so one more woman making as much as a man in the same position is increasing our average and going against the statistic. When you negotiate, other women will feel empowered to negotiate because they know its been done before. When young women negotiate we are creating a precedent for girls as well.

4. We will only get better with age. People who start negotiating at a young age become more comfortable with the process and become more confident in who they are. The more we negotiate, the more we find the most effective methods. A combination of being assertive, appreciative, self-assured, and presenting a good, well-researched argument.

5. We get enough negative messaging from the media, we need to build confidence. Often women are inundated with messaging from the media that tells us we are not pretty enough or don't smell good enough, or generally that we are inadequate in some way. This increases low self-esteem and makes it harder for women and girls to believe in themselves and their abilities. One important aspect of negotiating is believing that you deserve whatever you're asking for because you have worked for it and have valuable skills and abilities. Negotiating helps us young women build our professional confidence and believe in ourselves.

Teju Adisa-Farrar is the Head of Engagement & Strategy at Recruiterbox as well as the Founder & Creative Director of World Unwrapped. Teju helps strategize around engagement, content, and other ways companies can become more people-focused in their approach.

On the Runway Blog: Kering’s Big Power Reshuffle

All at once, new chief executives were named at Christopher Kane, Brioni and Bottega Veneta.

What’s Really Behind The Ridicule Of Renée Zellweger’s Face

“This Is What Renée Zellweger’s Face Looks Like Now,” “What HAS Renée Zellweger Done to Her Face,” “Stop What You’re Doing: Renée Zellweger Has a Brand-New Face,” “Is That You, Renée Zellweger?”

All of these links reference photos from Elle’s 21st annual Women in Hollywood Awards, which Renée Zellweger, who is now 44, attended on Monday night. Zellweger has not made a film in four years, and yet her name is still a household one — or at least, if you say her name, an image of her probably springs into your head. The cute Jerry Maguire or Bridget Jones’s Diary-era cherubic cheeks, the crinkled eyes, the pursed-lip smile — far more “just like us” than more glamorous contemporaries like Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts.

Which is part of the reason that the photos of her looking so markedly unlikeherself in the photos from Monday’s event are so startling. And yes: She seems to have had some plastic surgery in the eye area, some Botox-like injections in the forehead area.

Disruptions: At Facebook, Creating Empathy Among Cyberbullying

Arturo Bejar is trying to create empathy among teenage users to curb cyberbullying and harassment.

Fugs and Fabs of the American Cinematheque Award Presentation To Matthew McConaughey

Anne Hathaway American Cinematheque Award Presentation To Matthew McConaughey 2014 in LA

Motherlode Blog: Where Are the American Boy Dolls?

At the American Girl store, my 8-year-old son was enraptured by the historical dolls. Surely, there were boys in those times, boys who would have saved the day by using their wits or shown great courage in hard times. Where were they?

T Magazine: Valentino: The Host With the Most

The new cookbook author dishes on dishes.

T Magazine: A Bit of Baja

Because it’s always beach season somewhere.

The Book We’re Talking About: ‘The Goddess Of Small Victories’ By Yannick Grannec

The Goddess of Small Victories
by Yannick Grannec
Other Press, $26.95
Published Oct. 14, 2014

What we think:

Though heavy-handed in parts, Grannec's novel is an important meditation on those forgotten by history, as she shares the insights of a great and troubled thinker's wife.

Not all truths are provable. This is the basic premise of Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, a groundbreaking advancement in the fields of logic and mathematics, but, as a character in Yannick Grannec’s debut novel puts it, such a “lyrical extension” of the theorem would have made Gödel shudder.

Revered internationally within his field by the age of 25, Gödel devoted little thought to metaphorical or romantic interpretations of his work, and instead channeled his energies to topping his early achievements, eventually applying formal logic to philosophy and theistic pursuits. But anyone interested in the mathematician knows that story, which is why Grannec’s novel, which navigates Gödel’s life through the eyes of his wife and eventual caretaker, is a fascinating read.

Adele, an outspoken Viennese dancer seven years his senior, is uninterested in academic pursuits. In Grannec’s version of the couple’s story, the two have little in common, aside from an initial attraction. Adele impetuously rants publicly about politics, whereas Gödel remains disengaged with the topic, even in private. Their relationship is strained by the genius’s disapproving mother, but Adele proves useful to Kurt in “handling the details” of his life -- preparing his meals and maintaining the fragile balance of his mental state -- so that he can focus as intently as possible on his work. The two eventually marry and, after Austria's fall to the Nazis, move to Princeton, where Gödel meets a cast of now-famous scientists, including Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer.

Adele prefers the melancholic streets of wartime Vienna to provincial Princeton, where she scarcely speaks the same language as her peers, and is left with little choice but to devote herself entirely to Kurt’s neuroses and daily maintenance. To make matters worse, the couple begins to attend therapy (not psychoanalytical, despite their nationality and Adele’s interests), where Adele’s hysteria is considered unfounded, and Kurt’s mental health is unduly deemed intact.

These scenes from Kurt and Adele’s life are told in chapters that alternate with a parallel story -- that of a much older Adele who’s been committed to a hospital after Kurt’s death. She shares the details of her marriage with a research librarian, Anna, who’s been tasked with obtaining Kurt’s archives, to which the stubborn Adele inexplicably clings dearly. Too many pages are divvied up to Anna’s portion of the book, and the annals of her troubled childhood, unambitious pursuits and failed relationships are lackluster when read alongside Adele’s passages.

A similar problem arises when Grannec tasks herself with the unenviable job of turning historical figures we uphold as gods, or at least characters, back into real, believable people. What’s left to be said, or imagined, about Albert Einstein? The portions of the book that personify his absentmindedness are cartoonish, especially when bookended by the freshness of Adele’s voice and perspective. Still, those interested in the history of science will find a glut of intruiging tidbits about the figures Grannec brings to life over dinner party debates and meandering strolls around the Princeton campus.

What other reviewers think:
Kirkus: "An intellectually challenging, though occasionally lopsided, deconstruction of the notion of 'the great man.'"

Publisher's Weekly: "Grannec depicts the life of historical mathematical prodigy Kurt Gödel and his mismatched but devoted wife, Adele, in this overly earnest debut."

Who wrote it?
This is Yannick Grannec's first novel. It was originally written in French, and was translated by Willard Wood, an NEA fellow in translation.

Who will read it?
Fans of historical fiction, especially that which focuses on women's stories.

Opening lines:
"Anna waited at the exact boundary between the hallway and the bedroom while the nurse pleaded her case. The young woman concentrated on every sound, trying to contain her anxiety: wisps of conversation, raised voices, televisions droning, the swish of doors being opened, the clatter of metal carts."

Notable passage:
"My husband queried the stars, whereas I already had a well-ordered universe. A tiny one, to be sure, but protected, and on this earth. They left me alone to battle entropy. Thanks a bunch! If men swept the flood once in a while, they'd be a lot less unhappy."

4 Spiritual Practices That Will Get You Through The Roughest Times

The author of The Endless Practice shares some unexpected ways to get through challenges both small and large.

By Mark Nepo

Being opened quietly for moments every day creates a path by which life reaches us, the way rain carves a little stream in the earth by which the smallest flowers are watered. The purpose of a spiritual practice is not to be done with it and the reward for practice is a thoroughness of being.

Given the pulls to be cruel or kind, to be clever or sincere, to hoard or give away, we can explore four practices that, if personalized, can help us turn the task back into wonder; practices that if listened to can help us transform ourselves, one more time:

1. The Practice of Uncertainty

The practice of uncertainty is patience. That is, the only way to move through uncertainty, the only way to listen for what it has to say, is by being patient. The speech of uncertainty is slow. When we move too fast, the lessons are unintelligible. For sure, it’s hard to be patient. Waiting was one of the great teachers that appeared during my cancer journey, the most difficult teacher and greatest ally. In the three-year heat of my medical journey, every step required a different decision which only waiting uncovered. During that waiting, I became more and more grounded in the free fall of uncertainty.

We are born both patient and impatient. While our being is born moving slow, the life that carries it flits like a hummingbird, rapidly twitting even when we hover. Yet when our body, mind, and heart are aligned -- like tumblers in a mystical lock -- something eternal opens.

How then can we learn to be patient? By slowing down when we speed up. By following whatever part of us is moving slow. If your heart is racing, let the calm at the center of your mind slow the rest of you. If your mind is racing, let the tiredness of your body slow the rest of you. Difficult as it is, the practice of patience centers on trying to have our body, heart, and mind pause until they all can move in unison, at the pace of what is real. An ounce of music, silence, or truth can bring us closer.

2. The Practice of Opportunity

The practice of opportunity is trust, which means following our heart. Opportunity always presents itself as an opening that seems a bit smaller than we think we can fit through. Following our heart means trusting that we will fit through the opening we have to go through. It might be the narrow opening back to health, or leaving a life of quiet secrecy to swim into the sea of love, or putting all our weapons down, even the invisible ones, so we can humbly shimmy through the tunnel of now to an authentic life. Trust means dropping closer to the earth so we can inch our way through the one opportunity that is presenting itself.

Though it seems daunting, we never know what we carry or what we can seed until we strip down to meet our opportunity. We never know what is full-born or waiting deep inside our pain until we trust what is under all our explanations and doubts. Opportunity doesn't promise a destination or relief from the press of not being who we are. Opportunity provides fresh water for the fish of our soul to swim in. And it's the swimming in fresh water that cleanses us of all that doesn't matter.

3. The Practice of Courage

The practice of courage is doing small things with love. This was Mother Teresa's anthem. We begin one kindness at a time, one utterance of truth at a time. From the outside, things that require courage seem impossible, but once we begin, we're no longer on the outside. This lets us see more. This lets us feel the current of the situation we have to cross. Any small act of love shows us the next step to be taken. So it's imperative to stop rehearsing the perfect starting point and just begin.

We can practice doing small things with love when we're not afraid, so it will be available to us when we are afraid. You can do this by making dinner for your dog, or getting coffee for your loved one, or holding the door for an elder who's taking way too long to cross the parking lot in the rain. The world is our practice ground.

The word authentic comes from the Greek authentes, which means bearing the mark of the hands. Doing small things with love is how we care for each other, one hand at a time. Doing small things with love releases our courage. And each small act we're led to leads to more. Doing small things with love is the atom of bravery. I tell myself when afraid, "To be courageous, I don't need to become my best self, I just need to open who I already am and courage will fill me."

4. The Practice of Connection

The practice of connection is holding and listening. When we feel disconnected, any act of holding or listening will return us to the larger world. With regard to listening, the difference in being an introvert or an extrovert is mostly the direction of our attention; where we naturally face when we listen, toward the inner world or the outer world. Just as some of us are born left-handed and some right-handed, some of us are born to listen inwardly first or outwardly first. One is a strength and the other is an unused capacity. The practice connection requires that we complete the one that doesn't come naturally.

Our challenge is to do the dishes and pay the bills while somehow stilling ourselves, though there are so many places to go. If we can't stay connected to the stream of life in the midst of the thousand tasks, our frustration and disconnection will begin to hurt others. Tending and being go hand in hand. When we can tend and be in a way that complements our soul, we discover time and again that holding leads to finally being held.

Like everyone, I still struggle with this. My only thoughts, when feeling disconnected, are to stay open to the teachers around me moment to moment. Just the other day, I was drawn to hold some of my father's tools, now that he's gone. I have a chisel, a T-square, an awl. And when I can't really fathom the fact that he died and is no longer here on Earth, I hold one of his tools. I hold something he held. Because we can listen to what we hold. When we touch something that's been touched, it speaks to us. Not in words, but in the felt language of being from which all words arise.

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Matthew McConaughey’s Leading Ladies Stun At American Cinematheque Award Celebration

Matthew McConaughey was recognized for his outstanding career with the 28th American Cinematheque Award, which he was presented during a star-studded gala held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday. The 44-year-old actor attended the event with his mom Kay McConaughey and her date C.J. Carlig, wife Camila Alves, mother-in-law Fatima Alves, son Levi and daughter Vida.


Also there to support McConaughey were his lovely onscreen leading ladies, who dazzled on the red carpet. Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner and Reese Witherspoon, among others, stepped out to honor their friend and co-star and share some fond memories with the audience.

17 Things I’ve Learned From Being Married to a Chef

Everyone eats.

Not everyone cooks.

Some people enjoy cooking and do it well.

Others cook only because they need to eat. If there's a fast and easy way to do it, they will find it.

I love to eat (unfortunately.) But when it comes to cooking . . . let's just say it's not my all-time favorite thing to do.

Fortunately, I'm married to a chef.

Now before all the stereotypes of how amazing it must be to be married to a chef start popping in your head, remember that chefs cook meals for people. That means when we eat dinner and home, he's not here. He's at the restaurant. So if our family is going to eat, I'm usually the one cooking, whether it is my favorite thing to do or not.

Growing up, my Mom cooked so we could eat. She was an average cook and I have no complaints. Our life did not revolve around food. We just ate meals because we were hungry and needed to eat.

My chef/husband grew up in a family that LOVED food. His mom is an amazing cook and food was always presented beautifully. Food and the presentation of it were very important to them. (It's no surprise that he ended up as a chef.)

Over the past 24 years of either dating or being married to my chef/husband, I have learned to not hate cooking. While it's still not my favorite thing to do, I guess you could say it's growing on me.

The times I'm able to cook alongside my chef/husband in the kitchen are few and far between as he's usually in the restaurant cooking for others. But when they do happen, I ask questions about what he's doing, why he's doing it and how I could use the food or technique another time when I'm cooking. I'm sure it probably feels a little like work for him, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Below is a list of 17 things I've learned over the years from my chef/husband. Some of them might seem very obvious to you, but honestly, when we got married, I did not know any of them. (Maybe I shouldn't be admitting that . . . please don't laugh. )

If you are going to cut yourself, it is better to do so with a sharp knife than a dull one.
Use a new piece of Saran wrap each time you put cheese away.
Scoop flour with a spoon into a measuring cup instead of using the measuring cup to scoop it.
When you defrost something in the refrigerator, always do so on the bottom shelf, so if it leaks or spills, it doesn't ruin all the food below it.
Never cook chicken in the crock pot on low.
If the chef suggests purchasing something for the kitchen, buy it immediately. Don't wait 6 months. You'll end up loving it and wonder how you ever lived without it.
Never buy a knife set that contains all serrated knives.
Taste everything before you serve it.
You can leave the salt and pepper off the table. Things should be seasoned properly before they get to the table.
Place a wet towel or wash cloth under the cutting board so it doesn't move around.
You can never have too many knives.
Always label EVERYTHING.
Leave the root on the onion when you are cutting it.
Say, "Behind," "Corner," or "On your right," when navigating through the kitchen.
Not all recipes on the Internet or in cookbooks will turn out. Make sure to run a new recipe past the chef first to make sure there are no obvious mistakes.
Always have a good supply of Band-Aids (waterproof and regular) in the house. You never know when you will need them.
If the chef makes a suggestion when you are cooking, it's best to follow it. He knows what he's talking about.

I wonder if I'm the only chef wife or girlfriend who needed cooking lessons to be able to survive in the kitchen. Hopefully not . . .

You can read more about combining restaurant and family life over on Jennifer's blog, You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Renee Zellweger Speaks Out: ‘I’m Glad Folks Think I Look Different’

Renee Zellweger is speaking out in light of the barrage of attention her new look has received after she stepped out at the 21st annual Elle Women In Hollywood Awards on Monday night.

"I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows," the 45-year-old actress told People magazine.

The former "Bridget Jones's Diary" star is no stranger to the world discussing her appearance -- a conversation she deems as "silly." She told the magazine that she wanted to address the issue because "it seems the folks who come digging around for some nefarious truth, which doesn't exist, won't get off my porch until I answer the door."

While the Internet has said Zellweger is "unrecognizable" with her new look, the actress says she's comfortable with herself.

"People don't know me in my 40s," said Zellweger, who has taken a hiatus from Hollywood and last appeared onscreen in 2010's "My Own Love Song." "People don't know me [as] healthy for a while. Perhaps I look different. Who doesn't as they get older?! Ha. But I am different. I'm happy."

It's not the first time the actress has addressed rumors about her appearance. In 2013, she told the Daily Express, "When you read reports that you are starving yourself or that you are anorexic, it’s very unfair and disappointing. It’s not very pleasant to read reports which say you’ve gone too far or this or that.”

For more with Renee Zellweger, head over to People magazine.

Are The Mismatched Perspectives On ‘The Affair’ Realistic? We Asked A Memory Expert

Showtime's new drama, "The Affair," presents two perspectives of the same tragic love story. This leads to a series of conflicting accounts most concisely referred to as "Rashomon" moments (named for the famous film by Akira Kurosawa). Are such mismatched perspectives a realistic account of the way we remember our lives? HuffPost Entertainment spoke to "The Affair" co-creator and writer Sarah Treem and renowned memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, who is not affiliated with the show, to find out.

"We do have a tendency to distort our memories in ways that make us look better or feel better about ourselves."

Sarah Treem wouldn't call the two main characters of "The Affair" unreliable narrators. Their memories differ so drastically at times it seems inevitable one or both of them are lying. The way Treem sees it, the objective truth lies somewhere between Noah and Alison's version of the story, a middle ground that is perhaps only available to the audience. Neither is trying to obscure what happened with the two distinct accounts presented across each episode. The reality is simply that both remember themselves as the heroes of their own story.

"The Affair" is, as New York Magazine television critic Matt Zoller Seitz put it, the first show that's "mainly about how we shape life narratives to flatter ourselves." And it's not just a creative rendering of how we retrospectively imagine our lives. In fact, we often distort memories and false ones can be implanted through something as simple as suggestion. As unsettling as this may be, the wildly differing accounts represented in "The Affair" are an accurate representation of the malleable way we form memories in real life.


"It doesn't surprise me that you can get very rich dramatic memories for things that never happened," Elizabeth Loftus told HuffPost Entertainment. Over the past 40 years, Loftus has done extensive work investigating the way false memories can be created. "In the research, either I or others have planted memories about being lost and frightened, about having an accident at a family wedding, of being attacked by an animal as a child, all made up and injected into the mind of the subject for purposes of studying this process."

"I can imagine somebody thinking they saved a child from choking when they didn't."

That process is called "external suggestion," but "autosuggestion" (as in from the self and not a researcher or other outside influence) is another common way that memories can come to reflect things that did not occur. "We can suggest things to ourselves. We draw inferences about what might have happened and these inferences can solidify and feel like memories," Loftus said. "Sometimes, we imagine things that are different from what the truth is and later those imaginings get remembered as though they’re actual experiences."

What struck Loftus from the pilot episode of "The Affair" was the scene in which Noah's daughter is choking. From his perspective, Noah saves his daughter; from Alison's point of view, she is responsible for dislodging the marble from the girl's throat.

"A layperson might say, ‘Wait a minute, how could you possibly think you did it? One of these two people or both of them didn’t do it,'" Loftus said. "But we do have a tendency to distort our memories in ways that make us look better or feel better about ourselves, in a way that satisfies some kind of motivation we have."

In writing the choking scene, Treem received notes saying it should be reversed: each character would remember the other saved Noah's daughter. But she didn't find that authentic.

"They wanted the opposite, almost like a meet-cute, where you could understand why they fell in love with each other in the moment, because they both remember the other person as a savior," she said. "But it seemed to me more interesting and perhaps more psychologically accurate if they both remembered themselves doing it. They basically have an ego in their understanding and remembrance of what happened in that moment."


Treem got that ego element exactly right. "There is research showing we remember our grades as higher than they were, we remember we voted in elections that we didn’t vote in, that we gave more to charity than we really did, that our kids walked and talked at earlier ages than they really did," Loftus explained. "So, I can imagine somebody thinking they saved a child from choking when they didn't, because it might make them feel better about themselves."

Loftus also noted that sometimes creating memories can be based on not simply flattering ourselves, but filling some need. Since Alison's child has died, Treem considered the fact that she might find some emotional fulfillment in saving a child from dying.

"'In a more flattering light' is one way we shift memories, but also if it serves some motivation," Loftus said. "You might not think there would be a point to remembering, for example, that you’d been molested. What’s flattering about that? But it’s serving some other purpose. It’s explaining your problems."

"I was like 'Oh God, I don’t want to think about this, I don’t want to write about this, I don’t want to put myself in the mind of this character. This is insane.''"

It's worth noting that Treem wanted to take out the dead child storyline after she had her son. She added that element to make the audience sympathetic to Alison, but actually having a child of her own changed everything.

"After I had my son I was like 'Oh god, I don’t want to think about this, I don’t want to write about this, I don’t want to put myself in the mind of this character. This is insane,'" she said. "But it was too late because we had already gone down that road, and it becomes the centralizing conflict."

That is one extreme element that affects the different points of view. Throughout the pilot and series, the POV is also altered in more subtle ways, which are revelatory of the way our perception distorts reality, even in non-stressful events. For example, Alison is much less dowdy in Noah's sequences (she even has a spray tan that's missing from scenes where she remembers herself at a time when she was depressed).

By bringing the audience in as participants to think about where the empirical reality lies, Treem was interested in presenting understanding as dialectic. "The objective truth is that no one person is the purveyor of truth," she said. "Everyone approaches the situation through the prism of their own perspective. Therefore, everybody is somewhat subjective in their memory, in the way that they’re telling the story. The objective truth exists in the conversation between the two sides."

The selfishness of all of that -- and the way the ego exerts itself -- is perhaps what stands out most of all in the way we distort memories to turn ourselves into the hero. And that's especially uncomfortable when you're dealing with the romance of an affair.

"Love stories are so much much about the other person, and coming together and sacrificing yourself. But I don’t actually think that is how we fall in love," Treem said. "I think a lot of the times we fall in love with people because of the way that they see us. They see us as the most idealized version of ourselves, and that makes us feel good."

How To Be Happier At Work (INFOGRAPHIC)

Maybe you love your job, and maybe you don't. Either way, there are good days and bad days at work for everyone -- the trick is figuring out how to tip that good-to-bad-day balance in the right direction.

Happify, a website dedicated to helping people build skills for happiness through science-based activities and games, put together an infographic with some tips and tricks for optimizing happiness on the job (and yes, taking a vacation is one of them!).

After all, happiness is contagious. So if you're happy, you could soon be looking at a pretty positive workplace.

happiness work

When Dating Makes Us Feel Undesirable: Confessions Of A Woman In Sweater Boots

I've noticed that a side effect of dating in midlife, particularly post-kids, far too often involves shining a flashlight on all of my perceived personality deficits and physical flaws. When I'm not dating or in a relationship I tend to be just fine with the fact that I'm not a big party person, that I have no legitimate hobbies, that I'm not very outdoorsy (my favorite outdoor activity is coming back inside), that I've never run a marathon, or that my chin is too small. Yet get me out on a first or second date, and suddenly I find myself fretting about every little shortcoming. I really should socialize more, read more, paint more, hike more, ski more, run more, bungee jump more, and really, how much could a chin implant cost?

I'm not sure why, but for some reason dating seems to evoke feelings I thought I'd parted ways with in middle school; that in some indiscernible way, I just don't measure up, I'm less than, I'm "other than."

Last year when I first started online dating with the serious intention of snagging a boyfriend, I had a series of really great first dates, but no second ones. I found this rather unsettling and wondered whether there was something perhaps undesirable about me that was causing this trend. This was before I developed my "online dating/car shopping" comparison theory, where online dating can create a disincentive to settling down with one person, since there's always a newer, shinier model rolling onto the lot. So I called a good friend, whom I've known since high school, and who knows me better than almost anyone else in the world, and asked for her opinion. "Tell me the truth, it is me? Maybe it's me. What's wrong with me? I think it must be me. Is it me?" She assured me that it was most certainly not me, and that she'd had similar experiences with online dating.

Why does dating seem to elicit these middle-school-spawned feelings of being different, less than, or "other than," where unreasonable self-scrutiny so quickly evolves into the slippery slope of thinking if I just had, were, could, was, wasn't...then life would be just grand?

I have a laundry list of rather trivial self-perceived flaws that when I'm in a certain state of mind (or dating) can plummet me into this world of "other than." For instance, I hate my overly muscular calves, which is particularly inconvenient since I absolutely love boots. Yet, despite my love of boots, I can rarely find a pair that fit me (with the exception of wide-calf, stretchy or ankle boots) because my calves are too big. This state of affairs is made even more inconvenient since boots are a staple of every woman's wardrobe in cities with cold-weather climates, such as Chicago.

After getting off the phone with my friend I decided I needed some fresh air to lift me out of my sour mood, so I headed out into the wintery streets of Chicago for some mood-altering shopping (hey, maybe if I was lucky, I could even find a pair of cute boots to wear on my next first date). As I was slipping and sliding down Michigan Avenue in my snow-caked-no-tread-UGG-sweater-boots I pointed my head at a slight downward angle to minimize the snow accumulation on my face, which provided me with a view of every single woman's calves walking within an impressively broad circumferential range. And what I saw only deepened my state of despair -- everywhere I looked, and I mean everywhere, I saw tiny, little, petite calves sporting very cute tiny, little petite boots.

Now, in a city of 2.7 million people one would think there would be at least one other woman in sweater boots. Just one! Not so, as everywhere I looked I saw woman after woman (after woman) wearing beyond cute fur-topped knee-high snow boots, chunky-wedge over-the-knee thigh boots, knee-high pencil-thin shearling boots, and my all-time favorite, two-toned-upper-leather riding boots.

On most days I really don't care about the size of my calves -- what kind of person would I be if I did? We live in a world of ISIS and Ebola, after all, and certainly I am not so superficial as to concern myself with the pettiness of not being able to squeeze my overly-muscular calves into a cute pair of Hunter rubber rain boots. Well, apparently I am because truth be told, regardless of the superficiality of it all, sometimes I am bothered that I can't wear normal boots, and for whatever reason, when I'm in dating mode, it bothers me a lot.

After I got home from my walk I took a deep breath, peeled off my stretchy sweater boots, and curled up on the couch to meditate with a hot cup of tea (or vodka, I can't remember). Why was I suddenly over-focusing on something so seemingly trivial as the size of my calves? I have generally high self-esteem so why was I allowing something so minor to influence my universal self-perception and perceived desirability?

After some time, I realized that it really wasn't about boots (it never is). Rather, it was about feeling different, and not in a good way. On that day it may have been my calves that served as a portal through which all of my "other-ness" manifested, but on another day it could just as easily been something else. And for whatever reason dating in my 50s seems to have amplified these negative feelings.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, as I've talked to many people, especially women just like me -- 50-something, empty-nested, divorced, and dating for the first time in years, who have admitted to similar feelings. They over-focus on one trait, one characteristic, one mistake, one perceived physical flaw, as evidence that they don't quite measure up, don't quite belong, don't quite deserve, are "other than," and if this one trait, characteristic, mistake or flaw could just be fixed (or even well hidden), then their desirability would increase, and life would be just grand.

Well, I'm sorry my friends (and myself), but that's just not the way life works. As soon as one perceived flaw is fixed (or hidden), up pops another one. So I think it's time that we stop this crazy habit of selective abstraction, over-exaggeration, and self-deprecation. In fact, I think we have it all wrong -- maybe, rather than judging ourselves according to some arbitrary list of idealized characteristics, we should start seeing self-acceptance as a pre-cursor to every good thing this world has to offer, including a healthy and loving relationship. Maybe before we can find the love we seek from others, we need to practice loving ourselves first, by no longer allowing our perceived flaws and differences to make us feel undesirable, plummeting us into that world of "other than," and instead see them as examples of our wonderful and treasured uniqueness.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

The Way We’re Talking About Renee Zellweger’s Face Needs Some Major Work

Middlebrow is a recap of the week in entertainment, celebrity and television news that provides a comprehensive look at the state of pop culture. From the rock bottom to highfalutin, Middlebrow is your accessible guidebook to the world of entertainment. Sign up to receive it in your inbox here.


Renee Zellweger looks so different recently that it seemed unethical to even write about the photos. She trended on Twitter on Tuesday, and the comments ranged from salty to cruel. But while Zellweger's appearance may have changed since "Jerry Maguire," the media's cringe-worthy response is nothing new in Hollywood. Whether Zellweger got surgery is not the point -- and she's never admitted to that either. (On Tuesday, she told People Magazine, "I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows.") The way we're talking about this change brings up the sinister reality of aging in the limelight: We push female celebrities to get work done and then criticize them for doing so.

In her piece for Buzzfeed, Anne Helen Petersen touched on plastic surgery shaming. "It’s not that women shouldn’t get plastic surgery," she wrote. "It’s that they should make every effort for that surgery to be invisible, seamless, unnoticeable." But why is this the case?

It can be confusing to say we "encourage" plastic surgery, because it is never done in explicit ways. We don't say someone needs Botox, for example, but somehow it's totally acceptable to relish in the fact that they have "aged miserably." Instead, the push toward making these changes comes from a set of Western beauty standards that defy physical and psychological health. Celebrities are expected to meet these ideals and look approximately 21 for the entirety of their career.

While we subscribe to these standards, getting work done to achieve them is taboo. We treat plastic surgery as though it is meant to be kept secret or even actively criticized. Very few stars are open about it, and more often they speak out about how unnatural it is, despite the fact that it often becomes a necessary part of meeting the Hollywood expectation. (Rene Russo is a rare recent exception: "I've held out on Botox forever," she told the Los Angeles Times. "But I just did some literally last year and I have to say, I love it.") But unless the illuminati has a Dorian Gray-style deal set up with the devil, plastic surgery is the only plausible way to achieve faux agelessness.

So, why do we shy away from acknowledging that the world of "Nip/Tuck" exists? It seems the noticeable effort is what makes us uncomfortable. That stigma extends beyond injections. For example, we also often criticize dieting or excessive working out as "overdoing it" or "caring too much." Plastic surgery only ups the ante. Ultimately, the clash between our ageless beauty standards and the work required to achieve them is irreconcilable. Maybe that's why we'd like to do a whole lot of magical thinking about everything being the result of "I woke up like this" effortlessness.

Put plainly, the double standard at play here is obvious. But that kind of paradox is part of a sexist reality that all women are constantly bombarded with. It's embedded in the architecture of a society that sends up ideals and then makes them impossible to meet. Female celebrities are really just a hyper-visible version of those inherent contradictions. The sad fact is that there's a long way to go before this changes, but it's certainly more valuable to talk about than whatever is going on with Renee Zellweger's face.

Follow Lauren Duca on Twitter: @laurenduca
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