How Far Can You “Lean In” If You ARE Pretty?

May 28, 2013 § 3 Comments

Katie Couri Sheryl Sandberg

Tracy Thompson wrote a great piece on the The Broad Side today, entitled, “How Far Can You ‘Lean In’ If You’re Not Pretty?” It laments the universal inequity of the role of attractiveness between the genders. Men can soar in their careers being merely average-looking, but in order for women to soar, they must be drop-dead gorgeous. A quick look at some Forbes’ “Top 20 CEOs” lists confirms her suspicion.

We all know this is true. It’s played out (of course) in entertainment to the nth degree. It drives me bonkers. How many TV/movie wives/girlfriends are gorgeous, yet paired with an average-looking/dumpy man? Let me think. ALMOST ALL OF THEM. How many TV/movie husbands/boyfriends are gorgeous, yet paired with an average-looking/dumpy woman? Hmmm. Let me think. Hold on…I’m still thinking…um…could it be… NONE OF THEM? (Seriously. If you can think of even ONE, I will eat kale.)

Something else has been bothering me, though. It involves reports this month of a British woman named Laura Fernee, who claims she is too pretty to have a job. Hilarity around the interwebs ensued, mostly on social media, in the form of “Wah, wah, wah. Poooooor baby.”  She was also ridiculed for what she is doing instead, which is living in her parents’ flat, and enjoying the primping/shopping lifestyle at their expense.

I have trouble with this, not just because I’m envious of her current lifestyle, which I am (Mom and Dad? Hint, hint?) I have trouble with this because everyone’s attitude seems so dismissive of the reasons she stopped working.

Fernee is a scientist. A researcher. She holds a Ph.D. and is an academic. Despite these heavy credentials, it seems she felt hounded by male colleagues for dates and resented by female colleagues for her looks. She’s being ridiculed as a self-centered, conceited, spoiled brat. Perhaps that is exactly what she is.

HOWEVER, and this is a big however, is that reason to pay no attention to the treatment she alleges to have received? I understand office (or laboratory) romances are commonplace, and oft-pursued. Yet, has anyone denied that she was pursued by multiple male colleagues on a regular basis? Has anyone contradicted the implication that regardless of how she dressed (scrubs or suit, make-up free or not) she was regularly left romantic gifts and love notes that made her uncomfortable? Can anyone – especially based on the nastiness of the reaction she’s received since her pronouncement – say with a straight face no female colleague might resent and/or bully her for the unsolicited romantic attention she received?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I completely get that announcing to the world you’ve left your £30K/year research position to live a £75K/year lifestyle at your parents’ expense leaves one open to massive ridicule. Maybe even deserved, when you’re claiming the reason is that one is “too attractive” for employment. The possibility that she’s a leech with an ego problem doesn’t for me, though, wipe out the likelihood that her male colleagues acted unprofessionally and created an environment in which it was difficult for her to face work every day. It doesn’t preclude the reality that attractive women are often resented by their female colleagues. Professional women, it seems, can be as stuck in Junior High School mode as easily as professional men can. Of that I have no doubt.

Of course, I wish she had stuck it out, stood up to the aggressive men and resentful women and had the benefit of a supportive HR team behind her. However, I’m unfamiliar with the professional culture of scientific research laboratories, and know little about her psyche, so I’m loathe to pass judgment.

I also wish this case could be a lesson on how the academic elite – and people in all fields, really – should behave in a professional setting, rather than an opportunity to mock and smear. It’s a bad idea to openly (or secretly) romance a colleague. If a woman is sending a clear message that she wants and expects to be treated professionally, RECEIVE that message. Take it as a directive to follow, not as a challenge to overcome.

I imagine that someone who studies science to the doctorate level and pursues a career in research has got to have more depth and better intentions than Fermee is being shown to have. She is someone who “leaned in” and is attractive, like Thompson asserts is often necessary. If what truly prompted her exodus is the way people reacted to her looks, rather than her research, instead of feeling hostility and derision towards her, I just feel sad.

For as much as we scream and clamor that we need female scientists, another one bites the dust. For as much as we urge our girls to be powerful intellectually, while embracing their natural beauty, our culture screams at them how sexy they should be, how slutty they shouldn’t be, how attractive they should be, how threatening to other women they shouldn’t be. Speak up! Be quiet! Lean In! Lie back! It’s enough to make me want to tell my daughter, “F&*%  it. Just be yourself.” Which might not be bad advice. It might even be the advice Laura Fermee’s parents gave to her.

This piece originally published on The Broad Side on Tuesday, May 28, 2013.

Image via


Silver Bullets? I’d Rather Have Chocolate Ones.

May 26, 2013 § 3 Comments


A seven-year-old boy named Myles wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden with his solution for gun violence. Chocolate bullets. The Vice President is completely on board with this idea, because, as he says in his letter back to Myles, “People love chocolate.”

Some fellow writers at The Broad Side had very strong reactions to this story. Danielle declared “If someone shot me with chocolate…they would be my new best friend.” Karen insisted “must be milk chocolate. Dark gives me migraine.” It did strike a nerve, though, with Rebekah, who claimed that “…now I’m all bitter that my son never got a response when he wrote to Obama saying we should have ‘no more guns in this world.’ Also, I want chocolate.”

This conversation took place right before I rushed out the door to pick up my youngest at elementary school. My newly found mad reporter skillz kicked into high gear, and I wrote out a few questions to ask fellow parents at pick-up. After giving them the low-down on this new gun control development, they agreed to answer a few of my questions.

  1. What flavor chocolate do you think the new ammunition should be?

Parent #1 – White chocolate (she doesn’t like regular chocolate.)

Parent #2 – Dark chocolate (she is lactose intolerant.)

Parent #3 – Didn’t like the idea of anyone shooting anything at her. Even chocolate bullets. Was adamant it would feel like an assault. Even if it were shot through a Nerf Gun. Upon further questioning, she did admit that if someone handed her a chocolate bullet, she would, in fact, eat it.

  1. Do you think there should be child-proof safes for this chocolate ammunition?

Parent #1 – No.

Parent #’s 2 and 3 had no comment.

  1. If someone shot you with chocolate, could you see pressing charges against them?

Parent #1 – Yes. As she stated earlier, she doesn’t like chocolate.

  1. Can you see global application for chocolate bullets?

Parent #2 – Carnivals? Feeding the hungry?

It was at that point the little ones began to spill out of school and no one wanted to talk about chocolate ammunition with the children around. Also, I got the sense they were all beginning to think I was insane, so I thought it best to cut the interviews short.

When I got home, however, I decided to conduct an interview with a friend of mine who is an extremely knowledgeable gun enthusiast. Chris Cataudella is one of my token Republican friends. (I must have Republican friends, or else my street cred as an “open-minded” liberal is seriously compromised.) He, completely coincidentally, this very afternoon published a blog post about his proposal for common sense gun laws.

Anywho, I posed the same basic questions to Chris, with some follow-ups, of course. Because his answers were so…rich. (ba dum bump)

1. What flavor would you recommend for chocolate bullets?

With today’s advances in bullet construction and bullet manufacturing, milk chocolate coating with peanut butter in the center would be the most logical choice for general purpose ammunition (GPA). Bullets can be named “Death by Chocolate.”

2. Do you think there would be a need for child-proof safes for these chocolate bullets?

Absolutely – can you imagine if a child got into that ammunition cabinet? The rise in obesity would bring a whole new round of medical and legal questions.

3. If someone shot you with a chocolate bullet, could you see pressing charges?

What if there was a peanut allergy? Of course I would press charges. (We just established there would be peanut butter in the bullets.)

3a. What if it was a York Peppermint Patty bullet? Dark chocolate on the outside with minty cream on the inside?

I would “Get the sensation!”

4. Can you see global application for chocolate bullets?

The Dutch would be way ahead of us. Would lead to a whole chocolate arms race. Chocolate-tipped ICBMs? Then the government would have to pay off Hershey to not sell to our chocolate secrets to other countries.

Think about Belgium – Germany’s chocolate isn’t nearly as good, and they would want to invade Belgium all over again!

  1. What would be the domestic implications for chocolate bullets?

This raises many questions. For example, would candy sellers at malls and other places be required to have a Class III Firearms License?

Another issue might be that California requires lead-free bullets, to protect the wildlife who didn’tget shot by the bullet from eating the bullet which, if it contained lead, would be harmful. (He said that without the slightest trace of irony or sarcasm.) So, if you go duck hunting with chocolate ammunition, there are serious implications for health problems for wildlife in the future. Not to mention, no one wants to hunt ducks that can’t fly because they’re out of shape from eating so much chocolate.

On the plus side, if you’re hunting in the woods and no deer come around, and you run out of munchies, you can always eat the chocolate bullets. On second thought, though, the object of hunting is to hunt an animal in its natural environment where the odds are equal for both hunter and wildlife. If a hunter is loaded with chocolate ammunition, the animals would come running. The scales would tip, and hunting would become baiting.

So many chocolate questions, so little time!

This post was originally published on The Broad Side on Friday, May 24th.  

(Photo Credit: Guy J. Sagi/Shutterstock.)

So, Then I Covered the President…

May 20, 2013 § 3 Comments

Yeah, so I’ve been fortunate enough to have some of my writing published on The Broad Side lately, and the fabulous Joanne Bamberger (publisher and editor) added me to the Facebook group of contributors where she and others leave fodder for potential pieces for the site.

Last Wednesday, she posted a press release about President Obama visiting a manufacturing plant in Baltimore, and asked if anyone would like to cover it.  And I’m all, “Hey!  I live in Baltimore!” and “Hey!  I’d like to cover it” which I conveyed to her, and “Hey!  What the hell do I know about covering an event of any kind, let alone a Presidential visit???” which I did NOT convey to her.  Not until after she agreed to let me cover it, anyhow.

Sooooooo, once I was approved as media for the event, I waited in line here:



Got one of these:



Sat at a table like this:



Then realized it was going to be a long wait, so I visited one of these:






And then I’m all waiting around and trying to look busy like the other reporters around me, and I didn’t think it would look right to play Words With Friends, so I looked up stuff about the facility where we were (Ellicott Dredges – they built the equipment that dug the Panama Canal, dontchyaknow!) and ate my lunch.

So, then someone introduces the guy who’s gonna introduce the President, and it’s Duncan McTaggart!


I’m all, “I know that guy!!!”  I know him from Catonsville – he’s heavy into coaching rec and park sports here, and my kids played sports!  Our kids have also gone to school together!  My friend, Tina told me Duncan worked there, but I had no idea he was doing the big, el presidente introduction!  So, then I’m all SCOOP!  SCOOP!  INSIDE TRACK!  And I’m wearing one of those hats with a press ticket stuck in the rim and I’m chomping a cigar and talking like Jimmy Cagney for some reason…

But I get a hold of myself and make a mental note to find Duncan’s e-mail address when I get home.

Then President Obama comes out and does just a STELLAR job with his speech, I have to say.  The guy is a born orator.



When he’s finished, he does a little bit of this:



And after the crowd thins out, I visit here again:



And I go home totally excited.  I spoke to Duncan the next morning, and felt like I was talking to a great new friend, and decided that if any of his kids wanted to marry any of my kids that would be fine with me, because there wouldn’t be any arguments about politics at the dinner table.

Anywho, here’s the piece I wrote on The Broad Side, which by the way, is a great politics website.  I’m extremely proud of it, and grateful to Joanne for the opportunity to cover this.  I learned a lot and had so much fun!

p.s.  That was the cleanest port-a-potty I’ve ever used.


A Fork in the Grass

May 16, 2013 § 12 Comments


The following is a conversation that really took place last week, with no embellishment on my part.  Allow me to set the scene:

Nicky’s baseball game.  Sunny, beautiful, breezy Sunday afternoon.  I was sitting next to our friend, Glen* – our boys have played baseball together for the last few years, and even though he comments on the articles I put on fb without reading them, I still let him be friends with me, because I’m cool like that.

Anyhow, I had brought a salad with me to the game – one I purchased at Panera Bread.  I was about to eat said salad, when I accidentally dropped the fork onto the grass.  I picked it up quickly, considered it, then stated the following:

Me:  Oh, well.

Glen*:  What?

Me:  I probably have another fork in the car.

Glen*:  You’re throwing that one away?  Why?

Me:  Because it fell on the grass.

Glen*:  Are you kidding me?

I was about to explain that yeah, I don’t know if a dog had peed there, pesticides, bottoms of people’s shoes, etc., etc., etc.  Before I had the chance,

Glen*:  Are you KIDDING me???  Do you have any idea where that FORK has been?

Me:  *blank stare*

Glen*:  You’re gonna throw that fork away because it touched a little grass?  That fork is made outta petroleum.    It’s made of OIL.  It’s PLASTIC.  They pulled the oil from the ground to make that fork!

Me:  um…

Glen*:  Do you have any idea how many CHEMICALS are in that fork you were about to PUT INTO YOUR MOUTH?  You know how many hands probably have touched that fork you were about to put into your mouth?

Me:  I…uh…I guess not…

Glen*:  And you were gonna throw it away because it touched a few blades of GRASS for a FRACTION OF A SECOND???????

Me:  *starting to eat my salad with that same fork*

About 5 minutes of silence go by as I eat my salad, though I was admittedly a little less hungry as a result of this conversation.

Then, Glen* reaches down and pulls up some grass and tosses it to the side.

Me:  What did you do that for?

Glen*:  That grass was no good anymore.  The fork touched it.

*I changed Glenn’s name from “Glenn” to “Glen” to protect his identity and privacy.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 11, 2013 § 12 Comments


Here’s why I love this comic strip very much.

One might read this and think its creators are saying, “Damn teenagers.  They have no vocabulary.  They never talk to us.  They never TELL us anything.”

I see something completely different in this comic strip.

1.  Teenagers are moody.

2.  Teenagers have trouble figuring out what’s bothering them.

3.  Even if they know what’s bothering them, they have trouble articulating it.

4.  Parents should keep their questions simple.  Like, “Trouble?”

5.  Teenagers still need shoulders and hugs, even if their arms hang limp at their sides when their heads are on your shoulder while you’re hugging them.

6.  Teenagers still need their parents to say “Poor Baby,” sometimes.

7.  What parents think is the start of a conversation is often what the teenager thinks is the end of one.

8.  Parents need to do less than they think to be of help to their kids.  I mean, look at this comic.  All the mom says is, “Trouble?”  and  “Poor Baby,” and the teen is smiling and eating an apple again.

9.  As with so many things in life, less is more.

10.  I need to join a chapter of Overanalyzers Anonymous.

11.  Teenagers need their parents.  And so do certain 43-year-olds who live in Baltimore.

Have a beautiful and easy Mother’s Day, from everyone here at The Worthington Pos!t (*cough* okay, it’s just me – I’m the only one here *cough*)

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