Monday, February 16, 2009


Today I was sidelined at home because our daycare center closed for Presidents' Day. It rained most of the day, so Sam and I camped out in the living room, building block towers and listening to NPR. As I always do when I listen to the radio all day long, I learned a few things. For one, it turns out the unemployment rate in California is almost 10%. I knew it was bad out there ... but geez. Unemployment in my fair state has nearly doubled in the last year. If our legislators can't arrive at a budget compromise -- now eight or nine months late -- our governor is threatening to lay off another 20,000 people. But our state's economic crisis feels surreal to me because I have been virtually unaffected. I'm already unemployed, and my job for next year is secure. So far as we can tell, Brian's job is secure too. If anything, we stand to benefit from the mess: real estate is on clearance and gas is oddly cheap. I feel a touch of survivor's guilt.

In other news, last night Brian and I went to a Punch Brothers concert and earlier in the week, we attended an evening event at church. We left Sam with a sitter both nights: his first experience with being put to bed by a non-parent. Apparently, he rose to the occassion reasonably well, so I'm optimistic that it will be possible for me and Brian to go on somewhat earlier dates from here on out. I'm continually surprised that this parenting gig appears to be getting easier and easier. Now that my kid sleeps 11 hours straight at night, gobbles down table food and puts himself to bed when he's with a babysitter ... being a mother is a snap! Bring on the octuplets!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

25 things

I recently stumbled across a list, published in the October 2008 issue of Popular Mechanics, of 25 skills a man should know. It's a pretty sexist list, I suppose, and lots of items on the list are things both men and women had better know how to do, like perform CPR and maneuver a car out of a skid. On the other hand, there are plenty of things on the list that a) I have no intention of ever doing because b) my husband can do them, and do them well. Like fillet a fish. And back up a trailer. And build a campfire. And navigate with a map and compass. Actually, he can do everything on that list, with the possible exception of framing a wall. But I bet if we ever needed a wall framed, he'd be up to the task. His general guy-competency isn't a surprise to me, of course. I like to joke that experimental physicists are the handiest kind of white-collar husband, but my guy is particularly handy, even among his experimental physicist peers. It's something I really appreciate about him.

But this list has got me thinking over the past several days. What are the essentials skills that women should have? I've come up with a preliminary list of 25 and I admit that my list suffers from the same sexism that the Popular Mechanics list exhibits.

1. Make a pie
2. Negotiate a raise
3. Be a gracious hostess
4. Walk in stiletto heels
5. Allocate the investments in her 401(k) with confidence
6. Cook Thanksgiving dinner
7. Flirt
8. Do her taxes
9. Rebuff an unwanted advance graciously but firmly
10. Care for a sick person
11. Comfort a grieving person
12. Entertain a child
13. Travel alone
14. Speak before a group
15. Organize a child’s birthday party, a charitable fundraiser and a funeral
16. Bring order and beauty to a home
17. Run a meeting
18. Speak her mind without apology
19. Chose clothing and makeup that suit her
20. Make her guy feel like a hero
21. Write a thank you note
22. Make small talk that’s interesting and effortless
23. Be the boss without being a bitch
24. Purchase a thoughtful gift and wrap it beautifully
25. Make other people feel at ease at socially awkward moments

I'm very interested to know how other women think about this question. What do the women you admire know how to do? What do you wish you could do?