Tag Archives: book

Lit Life: Labor of Love & I Kissed Dating Goodbye

17 Aug

LaborOfLove

As I mentioned yesterday in my Citrus Coconut Drinks post, my alumnae book club recently discussed Moira Weigel‘s Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating. I’ve been a member of the book club for many years now, and I love the intellectual banter that arises for the wide variety of books we choose. We’ve read classics like J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (see my book club theme party pics here) and we’ve read feminist texts such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

As graduates of a women’s college — Scripps College in Claremont, California — we enjoy discussing womanhood, gender, and feminism. We talk a lot about our lives. We talk about what’s going on at campus. And we talk about politics. Through the course of a recent catch-up session, we began talking about dating, marriage, and motherhood. Our members span a thirty or forty year age range, with some people in their twenties and others retired. Some got married right out of college and juggle career and babies. Others have not gotten married and wonder about fertility and whether they will quit their jobs — their careers — if they have children.

There had recently been an article about Moira Weigel’s book in The New Yorker that discussed the complexities of dating. It addressed dating not as a self-help book might but in terms of its history and through a feminist lens. We decided to read it and see what we thought.

Through the course of our book club discussion, we discussed: Who pays? Is “going steady” and serial monogamy ruining chances for marriage? Why did some generations go out with a different person every weekend and think of dating more casually while today’s generation is more likely to be in committed relationships? Does this have to do with premarital sex? Slut shaming? Why is the biological clock something only women have to worry about? What happens to men’s sperm as they age? Is marriage warped by consumerism the same as dating is?

Here’s an excerpt from Weigel’s Labor of Love:

At a time of dramatic social and economic change, the ways the biological clock was talked about reinforced old ideas about gender difference. Indeed, it exaggerated them, creating a sense that male and female partners were even more different than traditionalists of the 1950s had imagined. More and more women were breaking into the previously male world of well paid work. Nonetheless, conversations about the biological clock suggested that reproduction was an exclusively female concern.

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and our discussion of it was fascinating and eye opening. In explaining dating’s history, Weigel talks about how men and women met and married through social events in a family home. There were no flowers. No emoji eggplants. No candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants. It was courtship. Dating began when people moved outside the home. The gender wage gap meant that women couldn’t afford their own meals out, so they had to rely on dates to pay for them. Women were sometimes accused by police of being prostitutes just because they accepted free meals from men! This then set up a power dynamic in that women had to rely on men if they wanted to go out and men were never sure if women liked them or just wanted a free meal. Not much has changed today. Women typically can pay their own way now, but there’s a lot of confusion about what chivalry is, what a date should consist of, what one should look for in their partner, and how to go from a monogamous relationship to a married relationship while still young enough to have children — if one so desires.

What’s interesting is that about the same time that Weigel’s book came out talking about how dating put women at a disadvantage, Joshua Harris has been in the news for taking a step back from his influential 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Harris, a conservative Evangelical Christian, preached that instead of contemporary dating, singles should practice “courtship.” You might be familiar with that term from the Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, who are known for their strict rules against even hand-holding. Harris recently told NPR:

But I think one of the things that I’m changing in my own thinking is I just think people – myself included – it’s so easy to latch on to a formula. You know, you do these things and you’ll be great. You’ll be safe and you’ll be protected and you’ll be whatever.

And I just don’t think that’s the way life works. I don’t think that’s the way the life of faith works. And so when we try to overly control our own lives or overly control other people’s lives, I think we end up harming people. And I’m – I think that that’s part of the problem with my book.

It was interesting listening to discussions of both Moira Weigel’s book Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships around the same time. Their perspectives come from such vastly different vantage points, and yet both are critiquing the contemporary dating scene and discussing the idea of courtship. It seems that in the end, when it comes to dating today, men and women need to be upfront about their expectations and desires. Maybe this will scare some people off, but maybe it’s better to know that upfront anyway. Maybe there’s no formula for how relationships work. Maybe each person and each couple has to actually communicate and find out what works best for them.

Quotable: The very thing that connected me…

27 Jun

JamesBaldwin

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

~James Baldwin

Quotable: I can never read all the books I want

20 Jun

SylviaPlath

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.”

~from Sylvia Plath’s The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Quotable: The books that everyone else is reading

6 Jun

haruki-murakami-norwegian-wood-1-638

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

~from Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood

 

A Chance Encounter Leads to a New Book to Read

26 Feb

NewYorkCityInPink

 

I felt a tug on my shoulder. Startled out of my morning fog, I turned around. There was a woman I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We had graduated from the same women’s college but in different years. “How are you?” she asked. Then she asked if I’d read a certain book. I hadn’t and she suggested we read it together and discuss over a meal. It felt serendipitous. It’s moments like this that make me love New York City even more.

So You Want to Be In Publishing

2 Jul

Intern

One of my former interns made this for me on her last day of the internship at the publishing house. Isn’t it so cute? I was really touched. I don’t know that I taught her everything about a career in book publishing, but hopefully I gave her a good foundation.

I thought I’d share a few tips on careers in book publishing and being a businessperson in a creative field:

What’s your favorite piece of advice?

The How-To Books in Men’s Apartments

26 Dec

 

The other day a friend invited me over to his apartment for the first time. As I surveyed the apartment—Christmas lights as everyday decorations, a well-stocked bar, a computer as the focal point of the décor: the essential makings of a man cave—I spotted a bookshelf. When I’d first met him, we’d talked about literature, and I’d been impressed by what he was reading at the time and by his exemplary knowledge of literature. I walked over to the skinny bookshelf, thinking I’d find inspiration for my next read, but instead I discovered a bunch of how-to books related to his profession. It was an interesting insight into who he is.

About a month prior to this, I visited another friend’s apartment for the first time. She’s subletting a furnished place from a guy who had multiple get-your-body-in-shape-without-even-trying books. I’d never met him yet I automatically judged him by the books on his shelf. One book about working out is acceptable to me. Multiple books that make promises of getting a ripped bod without breaking a sweat made me think he’s not only boring but also delusional. I bet he’s the type of guy who orders pepperoni pizza from chains and takes girls to Dave & Busters on dates.

Having snooped around people’s apartments, I’ve noticed that women generally devote more space in their apartments for housing their books. They tend to have kept the books they read in college as well as added new works of fiction, memoir, and photographic cookbooks. Men, more than women, have how-to manuals on their bookshelves. Of course that’s not always the case. The people I know with the most books are men, and they’re men who read fiction, poetry, and criticism. In fact, I know one man who supposedly has a whole apartment just for his books. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but I don’t doubt it. It’s just that these men are fewer and farther between.

Where Is Knowledge Inherent?

28 Nov

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth….”

~ Luther Standing Bear, Lakota tribe

I read this quote in The Sacred Wisdom of the American Indians by Larry J. Zimmerman and thought it was just lovely.

The Books They Gave Me

16 Jan

I stumbled upon the tumblr site The Books They Gave Me via Literary Kicks and was immediately hooked.  I get a lot of books as gifts.  Sometimes it’s sweet.  But sometimes it can get annoying.  It’s kind of an obvious go-to gift for a writer/editor/reader, and I end up with stacks of strange books that leave me wondering what people must think of me for buying me such-and-such book.  That thought-behind-the-gift is why The Books They Gave Me is so brilliant.

I read through the posts and came across a book I edited before coming across this entry for Into the Wild.  I thought it was about me.  The indie rock and post-punk mix tutorial.  The bug-eyed sunglasses.  But I don’t have curly hair, and I wasn’t the one who gave the book.  I was the one who received the book.  I was going to visit my family in Greece, and I had a long plane ride, so a boy gave me this book to pass the time.  He inscribed the title page with a note and a heart.  When my friends who took me to the airport opened it up, they teased me about it.  I’d only gone out with the boy a few times, and I was secretive about my crushes.

He gave me many books, and when we broke up I didn’t know what to do with all the books with handwritten notes on the title pages.  If I kept them on my bookshelf, they would be a constant reminder that the last page of every love story ends with the words “the end.”  I wondered if I gave the books away to libraries or second-hand stores if someone might read the black ink inscriptions and find them the very reason to purchase the book, and if perhaps the new owner would make up his own story of us.  It seems romantic to find a book that isn’t just a book but a love letter.  In the end, I don’t know what I did with the books.  I’m certain I gave away some, and it’s possible I ripped the handwritten notes out of others before donating them.  Others might still be buried somewhere in my closet between other books I’ve received from people.

I hope one day I’ll find a book inscribed from one person to another and give them a second chance at love through the story I make up with my imagination.

Ironic Beach Read

29 Aug

 

Remember when it snowed a lot this past winter?  It’s been such a hot and humid summer that I almost forgot about how much snow was on the ground just a few short months ago.

My dad grew up by the beach in Greece and remembers the wonderment of seeing snow for the first time one winter there.  Although I spent four years out in So Cal, where people put Christmas lights on palm trees, I was born on the East Coast, and it’s hard to imagine growing up without snow.

My summer reading has included Barbara Sjoholm’s The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland.  (Thanks for sending it to me, Merrill!)  I thought it would be ironic to read a book about the Arctic Circle while suntanning* at the beach.  Also, sometimes I like to remind myself that I’m Swedish-Sami.  (*I’m Swedish, I don’t actually tan.)

These hot summer days I’ve been dreaming of moving to Sweden.