Praising Girls, Or How to Raise a Country of Smart Folk

Hold on to your hats, folks, because I’ve got an idea that will blow your mind: parents should praise their daughters for more than just their looks. I know, right? Genius.

This wisdom comes from an article I read a while back that suggested parents should praise their daughters for other qualities and accomplishments so that girls would grow up to value other qualities in themselves as well (with the implication that this would lead them to embrace the STEM fields). The article seemed to suggest this like it’s some sort of groundbreaking idea. Encourage girls to consider more than just pretty pink dresses and their little curls? WHAT DEVILRY IS THIS?!

I was shocked that this could be considered eye-opening to anyone because to me it feels so incredibly obvious. Maybe it’s because I was born outside the US and raised in a different culture (for all the things the Soviet Union did horribly, horribly wrong, they did have more gender equality, with women becoming top engineers, physicists, and doctors, and generally being taken seriously), but intelligence was always one of the most valued traits in our household (besides my adorable baby cheeks, of course). I was often reminded how much my male siblings read and encouraged to do the same. So, I want to take a moment to collectively yell at everyone in the U.S. who hasn’t considered that their daughters have other qualities besides being adorable and liking pink: WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? DO YOU WANT TO RAISE AN ARMY OF BORING, SHALLOW HUMAN BEINGS WHOSE SOLE PURPOSE IN LIFE IS TO PERFECT MASCARA APPLICATION?! OR DO YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE RICH, FULFILLING LIVES? HUH? WHICH ONE IS IT, BUD?!

Ok, I’ve calmed down. You can put the tazer away. Where was I? Oh, yes, praise your daughters for other qualities too. Hell, don’t stop there. Encourage both girls and boys to be intelligent human beings. Nourish their sense of curiosity in the world and help them become people with depth and soul.

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And maybe so they don’t become sadistic little dictators.

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Confessions of an Ornery Bookseller

No one was surprised when I became a bookseller.

It makes a whole lot of sense, being that I pretty much grew up in bookstores and would always look on with envy at the folks pushing cartfuls of books from shelf to shelf. It must be awesome, I would think, being surrounded by all these books everyday. And then it makes even more sense once you take the classic personality profile of a bookseller – an introverted, socially awkward avid reader with a mild case of perma-scowl – and compare that to the fact that bookstores have always been one of the very few places in which I – an introverted, socially awkward avid reader with a (tastefully) tenuous grip on reality (I like to think it’s part of my charm) – feel completely comfortable. Books don’t judge, ridicule, or alienate; books don’t hold you to unrealistic expectations; books always end the same way, no matter how many times you read and reread them. And booksellers are their passionate, intelligent, often blundering and bumbling counterparts, eager to match the perfect set of binded pages with the perfect set of hands. The truth is, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

When I got my bookselling job, it was like the Mother Ship was calling me home, saving me from a world of subliterates. I was enamored with the rows upon rows of bursting shelves, shamelessly proud of my ever-growing section of staff reviews, and completely drunk on the fulfillment of sharing with the world something that mattered to me – literature and language.

Booksellers also tend to be just the slightest bit unhinged. But only slightly.
Booksellers also tend to be just the slightest bit unhinged. But only slightly.

And then one day at the bookstore, someone asked, “Is fiction real or not real?”; and after that, someone wanted to know if Anne Frank had written any subsequent “novels;” then after that, someone asked me for a book recommendation, stating plainly, “I don’t really read.” And it was at that point – that point when I was seconds away from grabbing a copy of A Series of Unfortunate Events and committing with it my own unfortunate events – when I suddenly realized why booksellers have a long-standing reputation for being kind of stand-offish, impatient, and sometimes just downright (justifiably! Am I right?!) rude.

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The Week in Review: April 21 – 27, 2014

Jayne is…

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Currently reading: Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman. For the fourth time since purchasing it last year. I have a thing for coming-of-age stories with smart, inquisitive female narrators and Hassman’s Rory Hendrix has fast become my all-time favorite (tied with Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables fame; that fiesty red-head’s been my idol since I was eight). I also consider it the perfect example of how contemporary literary fiction’s obsession with experimental form (Girlchild is told mostly through sparse, punchy chapters – some of which have the majority of the words blocked off, as a tangible illustration of a mental blockage or trauma) can be used to highlight and heighten the readability of the storyline and the relatability of the main character, rather than overshadow and hinder them (I’m looking at you, “Form over content” Poet I Went to College With – I scoff in your general direction!).

Currently listening to: Tom Waits, Tom Petty (haha, the Toms!), and Kansas’s “Dust in the Wind” on repeat (much to the chagrin of everyone around me), which is doing wonders for jolting me out of my year-long writer’s block with the novel I’ve been writing (or trying to write – I doubt seven half-done-and-trashed drafts counts as real progress) for the past four years. I’ve been calling it my magnum opus, which makes me sound so pretentious I should be wearing a beret and beating on some bongos, but fuck it – it is my magnum opus!

Currently wondering: If this week’s Mixtape Friday should focus on songs of ’90s (and I’ll try my damnedest not to make every song a Nirvana song), fight songs (I have a penchant for these), or songwriters (I fear every woman will hate me if I choose this topic, though, since most of my favorite songwriters are men, and I’m extremely picky about female voices). Help me out here, guys!

Recently watched: Every episode of Daria. Purchasing the complete series on DVD was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life.

Recently discovered: How to change the font size on this thing. I’m a whole new woman.

Recently agonized over: How to change the font size on this thing. Many a hair was sacrificed in my technologically challenged quest.

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My Boo’s Got the Blues: What to Do When Your Best Friend is Hurting

Best friendship is not always corn dogs and movie marathons (ok, maybe only like 80% of the time). If you’re true friends, you’ll be there for the bad stuff, too. You’ll be there for the heartbreak and the tragedy and all the different disappointments life likes to spring on you. It can be a very alienating experience when one of you is really hurting about something and the other isn’t sure what to do. Because this situation is (hopefully) rare and because it’s often so dramatic, we sometimes bungle it with our confusion by saying the wrong things or reacting the wrong way. So, here are a few tips to keep in mind next time the other half of your lady bromance is hurtin’.

This helps, too.

1. Be there

Make yourself available. She may not want to talk or see anyone or even leave her room, but let her know you’re there and that she can come to you when she needs to. Assure her that she won’t be inconveniencing you or burdening you in any way, assure her that you you’re really ready to handle what she is carrying–don’t just pay lip service. Let her know that it’s ok to talk or not talk.

Everyone handles pain differently so she may come running and want to drown her sorrows in a pile of chicken strip (is that just me?) or she may need her space. Respect whatever she chooses, but be there in case she needs you. Depending on the severity of the situation, that might mean cancelling plans to just be there with her.

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