Last Updated 08/16/03   

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Illustration by Lindsey Perry

Airbrush Not Included
I am ten years old and heading to the first day of fifth grade. Puberty hit over the summer. When I walk into the classroom I am horrified to discover that I am not only the tallest student in class, but I also tower over my teacher as well. I suddenly become even more aware of my newly developed breasts and hips. And yes, these also surpass those of my teacher. They seem to stick out in all directions. I feel awkward as I...(more)

Angel In the House
In an essay titled "Professions for Women" read to the Women's Service League in 1931 Virginia Woolf discussed two impediments in her work as a professional woman writer. The first was the torment she endured at the hands of the "Angel in the House," a personal phantom named after the heroine of a famous poem. This phantom continuously attempted to convince her that women should not deal freely and openly with questions of human relations, morality, or sex. Rather, "they must charm, they must conciliate, they must - to put it bluntly - tell lies if they are to succeed." Whenever Woolf began to write, the phantom appeared...( more)

Are We Dating Yet?
A San Francisco appellate court recently did something the rest of us have been unable to do since the dawn of time: it defined dating...( more)

The hard beat of techno music pulses through the air and hits my body with transforming force. Multi-colored lights flash, beams refract in the hovering smoke. The warm summer air clings to my skin, mingles with beads of sweat that drip down my arms, the insides of my legs.

All around me young bodies gyrate to the beat, bumping and pressing into one another. I'm in a dance club. They're easy for a young girl like me to get into. The right smile will get me into any club I choose. This night, however, is teen night. I am safe from the lusty eyes and casual groping that I've become accustomed to. I dress down to avoid it but it still happens with disconcerting frequency...
( more)

Caramel colored flesh
white mother, black father
Blonde hair,
blue-green eyes,
small, thin nose,...

My father owned a second-hand store. There was not a lot of pride in being pragmatic in the heart of this nine-year-old, just shame, thinking that we could not afford what everyone else could. Our furniture was never new and neither were our cars. Being the only kids in the neighborhood with a horse-drawn carriage for playground equipment diminished the sting somewhat, but not enough...(more)

Beyond Killing Us Softly
When my daughters were small, I lived in France where commercials portrayed women as sex objects and not much more. In reaction, I got my girls "Free to be You and Me" in the hope that they would realize women do not have to look like the actors on TV. Despite my vigilance, the images must have sunk in, because my elder daughter became anorexic in high school. I wish I had known how better to counteract the onslaught of images that made her decide to starve her body. I must admit, though, I...(more)

Born of a Capitalistic Womb
Driving over to visit friends one October evening, I was wondering where my inner peace and quiet had gone. As I pulled into the driveway, I found myself asking, why can't life be simple? That night I found myself engaged in a conversation with a woman who appeared to have...(more)

Close to Motherhood
It's a cold night, and I am leaving the theater where I just watched The Cider House Rules. I am smiling and nodding politely at my date in an effort to hold back the sob that is lodged in my throat. This is one movie I didn't watch through the eyes in my head. I watched it through the eyes of my heart. I didn't know I was going to. In fact, I had no idea what the movie was about when I went into the theater, but within minutes, I felt the eyes of my heart spring wide open... ( more)

Cold Milk
Today I'm craving milk in a way I haven't ever before, not even as a young girl. Everyone knows you don't desire something until you can't have it. An interesting corollary is that you will suffer exquisitely, once it's almost close enough to grab. I am in a bus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with friends, people I've known for a year and a half. We are in an old '78 Cacciamalli bus, the only decent thing the Italians left behind before...

There's this thing I have about immersing myself in cool mountain water on a hot summer day. The idea is to find an area of water where no one else can be found. A bend of a creek or an inlet of a lake where I can celebrate my communion with God in absolute blissful silence. No machinery, no voices, no music or car engines. Just the sound of...

I am being danced with. Alcohol takes my fear away, and the loud music lets us avoid talking. I let myself acknowledge my attraction to this boy I have only just met, and for a few moments, I allow myself to give in, encourage the interest he has taken in me. As the base of the music thumps we twist toward the floor, legs intertwined, arms around each other's bodies, faces dangerously close. He nuzzles my cheek, my ear, my hair, and I don't pull away. I feel the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rise, my stomach clench, my heart speed up. I feel his mouth moving toward mine and I pull away quickly, evading his kiss by a millisecond. My lips sting, knowing they've been teased, cheated. I don't dance with anyone for a long time after that...

Cry of the Wolf
I was sitting at my computer one cold winter's eve, when I heard a howl off in the distance. Although I live in the woods, I hear the neighbor's dogs barking every once in a while, so I really did not pay it much mind. After surfing the net for bit, I realized that sound was still coming from the woods...

The Date
I don't date often. My friends say I'm too picky. They tell me I find fault with a man before I know him. They tell me no one is perfect. "You need to give a guy a chance," says my friend, Dee. I don't agree. "Why should I settle for less than what I want?"...(more)

The first time I heard of solo camping it was like a revelation to me. I had hungered for so long to escape, somehow, the ideals of the people around me, the preconceived notions forced on my by society, gender, age, ethnicity, and even by the many masks that I had worn. I longed to escape these expectations... (more )

Eye to Eye
In the mirror's depths
My other self is waiting.
Come to me, you who are
Imprisoned by glass
And obscured by cultural shame...

Fat Girl
I've always been fat. I'm not one of those fat girls that have stories about when I was thin - because I was never thin. And I grew up with the knowledge that I was fat. When I was three years old I was playing outside with my friends and I got hungry. I came inside and asked my mom for a piece of cheese. I've always loved cheese - still do. She cut off a slice and handed it to me saying, "I'll give you a piece of cheese if you want it but I want you to know if you eat it you'll blow up as big as a house and no man will ever want you." ..(more)

The Favorite Part of My Anatomy
The sound of my long, acrylic fingernails on my keyboard was reminiscent of the click of my heels on my hardwood floors. Both exceedingly female, both characteristic of the pin-up girl image I tried to emulate. I sought the online personals, not out of loneliness or desperation, but to

Female or Fantasy
When did everybody else's fantasies become my business? I'm not talking about pornography. Pornography is great. It's well labeled, it has a purpose, and in general everybody can get what they want. The best part is, I don't have to know about it. The imagination is a beautiful thing...(more)

A Figure of Modeling
I thought I was fearless when it came to my figure. I'm comfortable in sports bras. I lounge in lingerie, and I've engaged in a game of strip poker or two. But, as I anxiously anticipated my first nude modeling session, I felt as vulnerable as a mythical maiden chained to a rock. On the eve of my session, I

Frilly Girlish Things
The Millennium. The Millennium. What's all the fuss about? Little is different for most of us, as far as everyday things, except the date's been starting with a 2.
Certainly shopping for essentials, like women's panties, has been just as tedious. And it isn't about

From Fear to Speaking Out
On a spring Saturday in the mid-1970s, my husband John and I were home alone in a modest, brick colonial house in a Washington, D. C. suburb when one of our son Ed's closest friends came to break the news that 16-year-old Ed was gay. The friend could see that we were shocked; he didn't stay long...(more)

Gina in Me
In love and hate, as friends and rivals, Joey and I fought puberty together through summer heat and rustling shade in the only public park in Bethel, Alabama. Sweat-soaked from a fierce afternoon of tennis, we took our positions at one end of the trampoline, under the oak-leaf canopy that sheltered the new attraction provided by the Lions Club...

Gotta Run, Gotta Go
"Gotta go. Really, gotta go."
We run like gingerbread cookies. Talk is cheap...

I promised to write about resentment, greed, lust, and mayhem when I got to New York. Who did I promise? Not my readers, because I don't have any yet. I promised myself and the shadows of literary agents and book doctors and editors who have told me over the years that I write nicely, but who wants nice? No more Ms. Nice Guy...(more)

Half Full or Half Empty?
Life changes perceptions. What shocked once is barely worth noticing now. Dislikes become likes, and fashions-well, we won't even go there. Points of view change as you get older too, and sometimes, when you look back, you realize someone was a friend and you never even knew it.
Seventeen years ago I earned a good portion of my living as a...

Heavy Metal Suit
Even when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a knight. I lusted for action, and bravely holding up my garbage can lid shield, I hacked away at the neighborhood boys with a home-made sword. I didn't realize at the time that suits of armor contained only men. With the helmet on and the visor down, who's to tell? One day...

I Fought Back
Terror controlled my life as much as my lover did.
For every breath I took I was punished, for every word that escaped from my mouth I was disciplined. A threat followed my every action-and for this, I am now grateful...

I Spy
I sit perched on the ledge of the large picture window of our room. My stocking feet rest on the cozy warmth of the radiator, old and thick with creamy paint. My cheek brushes against the clear smooth pane of glass, and I can feel the icy freshness of the air outside. It is dusk, and the huge sky is fading deeper into the gray-blue masses of clouds. The large oak waves at me gently, its crooked branches making black spiderwebs against the sky. I light a candle in the dark room... ( more)

I Was An Activist in the Women's Movement
In the early 1970's the Government office where I worked was shaken by a "youthquake." All the higher echelon managers (men, of course) were replaced by extremely young men. Many of the older supervisors were by-passed for promotion by much younger men. Those that were eligible retired...(more)

Interracial Heritage: Celebrating Our Children
The first time I saw my husband Robert I was sure he was the most striking man I had ever seen, and when he walked into the same night-school class I was taking he reminded me of a painting of an Egyptian god. His body was strong and muscular and his skin was a dark, rich bronze. His eyes were a deep, masculine black with long, curly lashes that gave him a boyish quality. Physically we couldn't have been more opposite...(more)

Is Love Enough?
My best friend, Melanie, just sent me another email wondering where her husband is. He's been gone for four days. Am I surprised? Hardly. He does this all the time. My friend loves her family very much. Sometimes, I think too much. She puts up with stuff that nobody should have to put up with. She's a Christian and doesn't believe in divorce, if it's at all possible to work through it. She tells me that she really doesn't feel like she owes her husband anything anymore, but when she made her vows she not only made them to him, but to God. She wants to make sure she does the right thing...(more)

Just a Baby
How does this sentence, published in a 1956 textbook of surgery, grab you: "Myomectomy is the operation of choice when it is necessary to save the uterus for reproduction, or for sentiment." Even 21st century women are hearing that same condescending comment about having sentimental feelings for an important body part...( more)

Just Say No to Love
Love. I want to talk about this certain four-letter word. A word that is potentially dangerous and can have serious repercussions when it is used. Some of you may have heard about it or seen it on television. Some of your parents may have been in love. You may have be in love yourself...( more)

Letter To My Birthmother

I have thought about you everyday of my life. Before I met you, I thought you would be a famous actress, a doctor, or a princess. I always thought that you were this perfect person who would love to have me find her.

Every time I saw a woman with brown eyes and brown hair, I thought it was you. I thought that maybe...(more)

Looking For Signs
I laugh at how many times in my life I have prayed for a sign to let me know that I was on the right path, or what to do, or which choice to make. In very difficult moments I have begged for skywriting from the universe and just last week I told a friend that I'm still waiting for an envelope from God with my name on it. Maybe I watched too many...(more)

Losing Track of Time
My grandfather Amos, my mother's father, lived most of his life in rural Missouri. He was a farmer, an encyclopedia salesman during the depression, and a man who always took the opportunity to outrun a train. I have heard tales from my mother of how her mother would wail each time Amos raced across the tracks in their jalopy, a gaggle of children perched on laps and bouncing in the back seat. The jury is still out on which screamed louder... ( more)

"Can I borrow your lipstick, Mom?" my daughter asked me last spring. I wasn't sure exactly how to respond. She was six at the time...

Making Peace with Mother Nature
Three summers ago, my boyfriend, James and I took the summer off after our senior year of college, packed his Ford Explorer, and hit route 95. We had decided to take a trip across country before settling down and consigning ourselves to lives behind the walls of collapsible cubicles and spreadsheet-filled computer screens. When you're fresh out of college, picking up and leaving life behind for five weeks is simple. We had a rough idea of where we were going, but felt content to throw caution to the wind and drive, turning onto unknown roads leading to towns not found on maps. Packing was the tricky part. This was a no-frills camping trip, which meant living without lipstick, jewelry, and heels for over a month. I could leave my lipstick behind...but my hairdryer?..

The Marriage Void
When my grandmother was my age her husband was at war, and she had two small sons. She had married my grandfather right after graduating from high school, taken-as family lore has it-by his "Navy charm and handsome smile...( more)

Mashed Potato Mount Fuji
In 1997, my husband was stationed at the Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa is a beautiful place. The green-blue ocean can be seen from almost any place on the island. White clouds rush through a sky untainted by smoke and fog. Flowers and riotous green plants line the streets. Butterflies abound. Even the scenes not so pretty often intrigue. Apartments, condos, and houses crowd together so close that it is possible to hear one's neighbor snore. Small white cars line Highway 58, but no one ever honks during the frequent traffic jams. Miniature, bright-purple bulldozers idle along the single main road. And although the news media like to cover demonstrations denouncing the presence of the American military in Japan, these incidents are rare...( more)

Media Mania
When you see a kid shooting other kids in the cafeteria on TV, you're looking at a crazy kid. When you hear about a cult leader bringing his followers into death, you are hearing about a crazy man. But when you see my picture in the New York Times, and read praise of my work as a producer, you are also witnessing the life of a crazy person. What's the difference between me and them?...(more)

"Okay, now lift the barrel right up there, that's it. Can you see through the scope?"
I'm standing in the pouring rain, my fingers wrapped around the wet, black barrel of a semi-automatic machine gun, trying to steady my hand long enough to center the target-a paper cutout of a man's torso-in the tiny scope. The officer helping me is kind and calm, despite the fact that I've never...

Missed Lessons
You never stop learning, and if you're lucky, you'll have some kids in your life - your own or others - to help you along. For all the good grades I'd gotten in grade school, it wasn't until my daughter Rachel cruised through third grade that I learned how to ditch years of learning to be nobody and to reemerge as somebody... ( more)

More Than Skin Deep
The first time my mother said she was proud of me was the day I delivered my daughter. I was more than a little depressed, and I was also lonely now that the baby was out, so her words carried just the right rosy glow into my quickly darkening corner. Shortly after, though, I decided that 22 hours of hunger and increasing pain was too much work to gain someone's approval and I resigned myself to never hearing those words again...(more)

My grandmother once set a doctor to giggling while he performed a physical. "Are you OK?" he asked. "Yes, why?" she replied. "You have band-aids on your nipples," he said. Grandma blushed and threw on her bra. The band-aids stayed. Keeping nipples under control was once a female requirement. Not now, though. Today's nipples ain't your grandma's nipples...

In my twentieth year of teaching, I spied a quote in my insurance company's newsletter by my favorite columnist, Ellen Goodman of the BOSTON GLOBE. "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it." Ahhhhhhh!!... ( more)

Not Exactly Like A Virgin
I love my gynecologist. These are words I never thought I would utter. But I can't help it. She finally did what no man could. She took my virginity...

On Being an U.G.L.I.T.A. (Unmarried Girl Living in Two Addresses)
I was watching an old black and white movie the other night, and in it was a scene that got me thinking. Picture it: a young woman and her gentleman caller go out for the evening. They take in a movie, share a malted, and at around 9:30 p.m. he takes her home and bids her good-night at her doorstep, nervously pecking her on the cheek. He runs to his car excitedly, and she runs into the house where, with butterflies in her stomach, she brushes her teeth and applies her cold cream....(more)

Party Hat
We are the post-hippie generation. We were handed all of our freedom without ever marching, voting, or getting arrested. We licked ice-cream cones at Baskin-Robbins when Nixon resigned. We...(more)

Pivot This...!
I was one hard-bodied babe...a decade ago. I exercised regularly, consistently craved fresh carrots instead of caramels, and was jam-packed with stamina. Life was lithe. Then something changed...(more)

A Point of View
As a child I had fever-induced convulsions that landed me in the hospital a dozen times. Maybe the experience reconfigured my hard drive, because in those years I looked to the night sky and saw...(more)

Reading Men
If you are going to pick a man up in a bookstore, you should know there is a science to it...(more)

Renaissance Beauty
Is your body living in the wrong century to.appreciated? Mine is, thanks to my daily need for sensuous indulgences - chocolates, cookies, pies, cakes, gooey candies, and breads. Most of you have heard of the Renaissance beauties of the fourteenth century. Do you think they ever worried about ten or twenty extra pounds? You can bet your last dollar they didn't. Imagine...(more)

Ritual Ways to Tame Breast Cancer
When I got to the other side of the surgery, the fear, the doctors' appointments, the drain tubes, it would have been too late to say good-bye to Lola, the name my sixteen year old daughter gave my now-missing left breast. I had to find a way to say good-bye earlier and to ritualize what would become a life long absence. Reconstruction or not, Lola was not returning. We might get a facsimile, even a good facsimile, but Lola was gone...(more)

Sandra's Self Help
Sandra smiled warmly at the bus driver as she threw her change into the slot. She had read the day before in Ladies Home Journal that a positive disposition caused people to wrinkle less. She found her favorite seat, fourth row, by the window, and settled in for...

Setting the Record Straight
More than six million American mothers surrendered children for adoption. In the wake of Oregon's decision to open records, society has a renewed interest in these heretofore invisible women. America has been unwilling to look behind the scenes at adoption practices. After all, adoption is so sacred that it was...

Sixty and Ready for Manhattan
I'm sixty and ready for Manhattan. Ready in the "what am I doing here?" sense. Ready in the "nobody in their right mind moves to Manhattan when they're sixty" sense...(more)

I'm not a fish person. I don't understand the calming effect of aquariums, .n't enjoy the serenity of the lake on an early morning fishing trip, .you will never find me ordering the 'catch of the day' in a restaurant. I did own a goldfish once. He lived for three years even though his bowl was laden with algae and I neglected to feed him. When he finally died I flushed his floating orange body down the toilet and went on with my life. What can I say, I'm not a fish person... ( more)

According to a study recently released by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, while victimization of women is gaining attention, stalking is still greatly misunderstood...

Stop Requested
During the Mississippi River floods of 1882, a reporter from the New Orleans Time-Democrat rode a steamboat packet called The Susie up the river from New Orleans to survey the inundation. Aside from seeing cattle standing impassively in floodwaters up to their nostrils, and watching frantic farmers evacuating hogs from their temporary quarters in a back bedroom to a waiting pirogue or skiff, the newspaper reporter noted with astonishment the cool obstinacy displayed by homeowners along the flooded banks... ( more)

Strippers Need Love Too
I don't know when I first heard the expression, "Never take your work home with you." I do know that it stuck to me like a mantra as I grew up, though I didn't guess it would come to mean so much. As a stripper trying to have a healthy love relationship with my man-did it mean I shouldn't bring home my sexy self? This was a question I could not answer easily for many years. I became a stripper when I...(more)

Such as Earth and Sea and Heavens High
I was free, am free and shall remain free, such as Earth and Sea and Heavens High. Why is it that women who pursue freedom, and the right to equality under the law, are everywhere accused of encouraging immorality, and of cultivating loose morals in themselves? All my life, I have seen and heard such messages flying fast and furiously from nations and cultures throughout the world. For generations, people of my gender have dreamed of freedom, of a time and culture where current ideas of liberty, justice and equality actually apply to them, only to be accused of promoting prostitution, moral chaos and the disintegration of the family. In what way does my pursuit of the birthright of freedom cause the decline of morality?...

Surfaces and Edges
People in Manhattan somehow manage to maintain space around themselves. They've worked out a method for sliding by each other in buses and restaurants and store aisles.
Life is cramped and inconvenient in Manhattan. The first week in my tiny new living room-study-loft on the Upper West Side I...(more)

That Takes Ovaries - Review
Exercise your mind for a moment and consider all the ovarian-charged events that comprise the "female experience" in an average lifetime. If your deliberations circled around the inevitable realm of reproductive health but stopped short of anything more, deem yourself uninspired and out of touch. At least that is the attitude Rivka Solomon dons in her recent book about female bravada and empowerment, That Takes Ovaries...(more)

The Thread of Life
At the not-yet-ripe age of 24, I am of the age my mother was when she brought me into this world. A mother, my mother, knowing nothing of motherhood, except to listen to the whispers of her own intuition, faint whispers to provide and protect, like a lioness of her cub. Now, as I settle into that same not-yet-ripe age, my vision is less hazy, making clear the reality of my mother's story as a woman. Up until now, her presence to me was that of my mother, and wasn't that enough (so I thought)? Yes, she is my mother, though she is also a daughter and a sister, and much more. Our paths have crossed the road of recognition. She was me, and I am now her - at that not-yet-ripe age of 24...(more)

Too Much Information
My friend Vivian called me today to tell me that she was ovulating. Although we've been friends for more than 20 years, I've never had the inclination to share with her what's going on in my underwear. She, on the other hand, gives me...(more)

The Twenty
It was February, 1979, and I was freezing. A childhood spent in the temperate North Carolina piedmont had not prepared me for New Haven's frigid, gusty winters. I had just finished an hour-long jog around the indoor track at Yale's Payne Whitney gymnasium, and the contrast between the steamy, humid dressing room and the bitter late afternoon wind brought tears to my eyes...(more)

Veil of Faith
Our 747 entered Saudi Arabian airspace and a wave of movement swept the plane. A swishing of fabric rustled the air as the unveiled women pulled on long, black folds of cloth. They quickly concealed their hair, and sheltered arms, legs and body beneath the black cloak required of all women here. Taking my cue, I pulled on my abaya, having dreaded what I felt was a symbol of submission that would become part of my daily life... ( more)

What I've Learned About Cancer
Until my daughter's kindergarten teacher was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early part of 1994, I'd never met anyone who had this disease. Three months after her diagnosis, my thirty-six-year-old sister, Val, got the same diagnosis. A specialist had told her that the lump in her right breast was a cyst that would likely drain on its own, but it hadn't...

A Woman of Appetites
I know it doesn't matter how well I dress, how carefully I apply my make-up, or how demurely I carry myself: when others look at me, they see only my size, and my size is substantial. I am the first to admit I have appetites. Hungers. Just like anyone else. I am only human, after all...

Women Who Want Domesticity
She is on the fast track to success. The apotheosis of the young, modern woman, she is fiercely competitive, independent, self-possessed and altogether irrepressible. Never in repose, she misses not a single kick in kick-boxing class, works part time at a marketing firm, snags A's in her classes, has job offers galore, and in her free time, sends off applications to law schools...(more)

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