How Vanity Fair Tricked Me (Why Women Want Dirt on Gwyneth)

Long story short, I think Gwyneth scared the crap out of Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair.  I’d read that Gwyneth sent a mass email to her network, forbidding them to talk to VF, who she’d heard was trying to dig up dirt to expose her in some way.  Now this was sort of delicious scoop.  Who doesn’t enjoy a little gossip, and who doesn’t enjoy a little gossip on someone as perfect as Gwyneth?  I haven’t looked forward to reading Vanity Fair so much since before Dominick Dunne passed away.

At Penn Station, I spied the Gwyneth headline on the Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair and scooped it up to savor on the Acela.  To my dismay, the Gwyneth “story” was just an editor’s letter from Graydon Carter, explaining how the story came to be, and how it was eventually squashed.  I stand by my statement that Graydon is afraid of Gwyneth’s wrath, and aside from being unpleasantly surprised that the magazine didn’t have a lengthy feature on Gwyneth’s dirty secrets, I was unpleasantly surprised that Graydon made me feel bad for wanting to read the dirt in the first place.

According to Carter, at an editor’s meeting: “Half the female staff admired her for creating a healthy family amid the maelstrom of modern-day celebrity- and with a handsome rock star husband, no less.  They thought she was a great actress who deserved the Academy Award she received for Shakespeare in Love.  And they envied her abs, her legs and the fact that she had built a business of being a lifestyle guru.  The other half seemed to dislike her for pretty much the same reasons.  Some had kind words for Goop, her Web site.  Others criticized it both for its privileged Just get your butler to whip up a batch! tone and for what its perceived as a blatant, My life is better than yours thrust.” 

I subscribe to Goop, and I love it and hate it at the same time.  Yes, I am jealous of Gwyneth.   I wish I had the money and time to edit and produce blog of such quality.  I am jealous of Gwyneth’s willpower to eat clean and work out twice a day (with a trainer who comes to her house).  I am jealous of Gwyneth’s hair and how she looks in clothes.  

I am annoyed by Gwyneth’s seemingly holier-than-thou approach to clean eating, going gluten free, etc.  But she’s no different from Oprah, with her megaphone-proclamations about dieting or some other fad, with the star power to amplify the maybe a little overzealous message.  But I love Oprah, and she can do no wrong in my eyes.  Of course no one is more judgmental and perfect than the original lifestyle guru, Martha Stewart, but I can laugh at Martha because Martha can sort of laugh at herself in her own, rigid way.  

I think Gwyneth really gets under my skin because she is around my age, with kids around the age of my children.  

Women always measure their own worth against other women: especially other moms.  I hear myself and other women:  “She works too much, she never sees her kids”/”She needs to get a life outside of volunteering at the elementary school”/”What does she do all day? She doesn’t volunteer at the school, she doesn’t work?!” and “She lets her kids play Call of Duty!”/ “She doesn’t allow the kids to watch TV at all!”  Part of it is being too critical, part of it is being critical of ourselves.  

As I recycled my Vanity Fair at the local library free magazine pile, I thought- women can’t win sometimes, even Gwyneth.  Although she was stronger than Dick Cheney when it came to scaring Graydon Carter.  

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Using the F-Word: Sharing Feminism with the Next Generation

I haven’t blogged since July, for many reasons, the primary reason being that I had about 10 regular readers. Well, Barnard College thought I was important enough as a “feminist thought leader” and gave me inspiration to write about feminism.  I loved hearing Barnard President Debora Spar’s interviews on her book:  Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection and spent a lot of time on Facebook and in person discussing the messages in the book when it was released last year.  Essentially, what holds women back now is the quest to keep a perfect house, raise perfect children, be a perfect wife and a perfect worker.  Luckily, the quest for perfection doesn’t hold me back, as I just had to move a bunny cage and shovel random clothes, toys and boxes away from our boiler so our oil serviceman could service our heating system.  I spent the morning on conference calls for my business, picked up my 3 year old from preschool and am writing away on my sectional sofa with dirty dishes in the sink.  If I cared about perfection in the home, I wouldn’t be able to get my work done.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am more proud to use the F-word (as in feminist) than ever before now that I am over 40.   When I was younger, I thought being a feminist meant I couldn’t be feminine, and I love clothes and makeup and hair and having a man open a door for me.   I still like these things, but have the perspective of realizing how recently women didn’t have the same rights as men, I’ve been dismissed at cocktail parties by men having business conversations, and am seeing how young women are starving themselves and removing their pubic hair to be more attractive to men.  I’m prouder than ever of women who are elected to public office and find my common link with women of all ages, colors and economic backgrounds who are giddy with the thought of Hillary Clinton running for president of the United States.

I am lucky to have been raised by a feminist mother, and I don’t mean a perfect feminist mother- she is a hard worker, an advocate and a community leader but she still does my dad’s laundry.   Feminism was passed down to me and is being passed down to my daughter, but not just by me, by my husband. 

What gave me hope for the future of feminism was watching my fifth grade daughter and her spelling bee team cheering for their female classmate on stage with her team of boys.  The girls said that A. was the smartest in their class, they were so proud of her.  This made my heart swell with pride for this smart group of young feminists.  And I clapped harder.  

Debora Spar’s Dare to Say the F-Word podcasts can be found here


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Slowing Down: In Paris, Sunday is a Rest Day, and No Yapping on iPhones in Public

In June, I went to France for a work trip.  My husband joined me for the first leg, a weekend in Paris.   We were both so busy with work following up to the trip that we didn’t plan anything, except our air travel and hotel stay in a residential neighborhood in the 7th Arrondissement.  We spent the weekend walking around the city and stopping at restaurants or cafes that looked good.  I needed to check my email often for work, and had difficulty finding WiFi much of the time.  I started to realize that I was the only one on the street or in a café with my iPhone by my side.

I didn’t see any French men or women talking on the phone as they walked down the street.  No one was checking in to Foursquare at restaurants.  Kids weren’t texting or playing handheld games.  It was refreshing to see, and it was civil.

On Sunday, we read books in Luxembourg Gardens as we watched Parisian children launching boats in the water.  Shops were closed on Sunday, so families had little choice but to have a quiet day with their families.  I thought about how in my Boston suburb, Sundays are filled with errands to stock up on groceries, a run to Home Depot and prepping for the week. 

Another thing that caught my eye (maybe because I have a 10 year old girl), were the elementary school-aged girls walking hand in hand with their parents and often carrying dolls or other toys that most American kids would deem too babyish after preschool.  It was sweet to see, and I wondered if French children get to enjoy being a child longer that American children.


Paris is Paris and one could argue that their economy isn’t what ours is, however- the French know how to live.  If only we all put our smart phones away and slowed down a bit.  Let’s bring a little France to America.

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Modeling Social Media & Technology Behavior as Parents

Children observe us from day one, which is why my babies held the remote control to their ears and babbled into it while pacing.  I gab on the phone a lot.  I gab on my house phone and my iPhone.  I don’t text and drive but I talk on the phone and drive.  Recently on the Today Show they showed segments from AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign.   They interviewed the parents of a recent teen fatality due to texting and driving.  I thought:  I wonder if those parents used to text and drive too.

I should have been aware of how I am using my cell phone and social media from day one, but now that I have an almost 10 year old girl who is asking for an iTouch, I am thinking about how I need to practice what I preach.  And model better behavior.  More appropriate for a 41 year old mom of three.

Which brings me to kind of a rant, which is about me but also about many observations on bad judgement by parents that goes beyond talking on a cell phone while driving.

On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (these are the main channels I use), women and men who are over 30 (giving some leeway here)

  • Complaining about their jobs, their child’s teacher, bus driver, cafeteria lady, neighbor, etc.  

Do you not know that your boss may not be your friend on Facebook or following you on Twitter but someone they know is?  Do you realize you could get fired?

Do you want to show your child to respect authority or to broadcast disrespect? 

  • Posting photos with alcohol. 

Sure, we are of legal age and like a few glasses of wine or a few beers or maybe even a cocktail or two,  but there’s something to be said for discretion.

  • Showing too much skin.

I salute any woman who can rock a bikini over 35, but do you want your teenager to text photos of herself in a bikini or post on social media? 

And while we are at it, let’s put down our iPads and Blackberries during dinner and during kids’ games and school activities.  If work is so important, stay at work.  Show your kid that they deserve your attention, and maybe you will deserve their attention when they are teens.  Or at least they won’t be able to use “you do it too” against you.

I feel strongly about this subject because I am already hearing way too many stories about school-aged kids as young as elementary school making serious mistakes because they are not being monitored or getting the right guidance.

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Trash Pick Up With the Neighborhood Kids: Explaining Cigarette Butts & Natty Light Cans

Something about Earth Week this year got me really motivated.  Motivated enough to coordinate a trash pick up in our neighborhood.   This was a last minute effort and a group email went out to the moms and dads on my street the next streets over.  My only caveat was that the children must be instructed to listen to me to keep everyone safe.   Somehow this effort resulted in me (the only adult) shepherding small children & older elementary school aged children through the streets, barking at them to put down broken glass and stop picking up cigarette butts or we’d never finish.   After what I like to call Phase One (Wednesday) and Phase Two (Friday) of trash pick up , we made a list of the most disgusting items we picked up (with gloves), which included:

1.  Plastic bags of dog poop an inconsiderate dog owner left in the bushes  (this happened during Phase One and Phase Two)

2.  An old Q-Tip and an old toothbrush

3.  A stash of an empty case of Natural Light (Natty Light, I sagely told the kids) abandoned in the woods by a group of what we guessed, teenagers- and found by an over-eager first grader who later found himself caught in a pricker bush.

4.  A few Gatorade bottles with tobacco juice

5.  A lace pair of women’s panties.  Not found in the woods.  Found outside someone’s driveway.

Phase One and Phase Two of Operation Trash Pick Up had some teachable moments:  “Obviously, people throwing cigarette butts out their car windows (on a busy cut through street near our house) don’t. respect. our. town.”  (Kids:  “YEAH! THEY HATE OUR TOWN!”)  “What kind of person doesn’t pick up after their dog?  I wonder how they’d feel seeing a first grader picking up this old bag of poop?!”  Kids: (YEAH!  It’s disgusting!”) 

I didn’t really know how to explain the underwear.  (“It must have dropped from someone’s laundry basket.”)


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At 41: Still not athletic but getting stronger and braver

I thought I was pretty sporty until Field Day in first grade.  I signed up to kick a ball the farthest, and when it came to my turn, it was the closest.  I was a bit humiliated and just remember not enjoying the lack of glory and the crowd of raucous, athletic elementary schoolers.

I could dodge the dodge ball with no problem, but I’d find myself the last person on the team and got pelted pretty fast.  I chickened out on the monkey bars in fourth grade and some big mean girl pushed me to hurry me along and I fell to the ground and got the wind knocked out of me.  In open gym, my gym teacher showed me some rare attention, reserved for the sporty, sweaty kids.  She carried me on her shoulders to a peg board on the wall and I couldn’t lift myself to the next hole.  She gave up.  Everybody gave up on me and I became more and more meek about trying new sports and I sat out games or tried to avoid my turn.

In high school, during roll call when we had swim class I told my poor male gym teacher I had my period.  Again?  He asked, in disbelief.  “Again.”  I said.   I gossiped while I went through the motions of rotating in volleyball.  At the urging of the cheerleading advisor (I think she admired my pep),  I tried out for cheerleading and made it, despite not knowing how to do a cartwheel. I hid this fact throughout practice for our new routine and when it came time to watch her handiwork, our team captain Brandi watched our performance during a time out at an away basketball game.  I remember the look of horror when it came time for the cartwheels and I sort of thrust my body from one area of the floor to the other. (I did continue to make the squad the next few years- I could yell loud and had a lot of pep).

When I pledged my sorority our pledge class had to run to the sorority house from our dorms.  I would wheeze and stop and at one point (or two or three) my pledge class pushed me in a shopping cart.  True story.

After college I tried aerobics but couldn’t really do the grapevine.  I was lazy on the elliptical.  I tried getting workout buddies but I would convince them to abandon the gym and get burgers and beers instead.  I was very persuasive.

When I met my husband, who is very athletic and liked to run, I somehow started running with him around the Back Bay of Boston.  My face would get very red and I would feel like I was going to die, but he was very encouraging.

In my 30s, I tried personal trainers but could chat up the trainer so they would forget what count we were at.   I did some yoga, which I liked, but would often skip class at night because I would rather read, watch TV or drink wine.

Right before I hit 40, I saw a nutritionist who started to freak me out about heart disease, which runs in my family.  My 40-ish female doctor brought up exercise part of my yearly physical.  I knew it had to become a habit.

I started walking in the mornings with some of my neighbors and friends, and realized that walking while talking was good.  Even though one of my friends said I walked with a limp, I knew that I could walk.  And I was more of a morning person than I realized.  Then I started taking a yoga class at a beautiful, hidden sanctuary in my town.  The Scottish yoga instructor always seems to have to give me pointers, but it doesn’t sound abrasive with her calm demeanor. 

On Thanksgiving, I did something I always thought I’d like: a  Boot Camp class.  Proceeds from the class were going to charity, and that might have been part of my motivation.  The class was hard, but fun.  I signed up for a series.  The magic formula for me seems to be exercising in the morning, setting a routine and being outside as much as I can.  The community in all of my classes and in my neighborhood walks helps, too.

Now that I am feeling braver, stronger and more confident, I think I am ready to tackle something that I’ve been wanting to do but embarrassed to try:  advanced swimming lessons.  I can save myself but don’t have a great technique or stamina.  The smell of chlorine at the YMCA gives me flashbacks to when I belly flopped during summer camp instead of swan diving, but I have kids that might need saving some day. 

I know my mind doesn’t always communicate with my body and I may never do an Ironman, but I may sign up for a 5K.  So what if I have to walk some of it?


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Turning to Faith during Tragedy: Boston Marathon Day: April 15, 2013

On September 11, 2001 I spent a day of shock with my best friend, watching a friend’s TV in the city, then making our way to her apartment to meet our husbands. Before we knew who was responsible, before we knew who we knew who was on the planes or in the Twin Towers, because we didn’t know what to do with ourselves, we made our way to a church. The church was empty and we knelt and prayed.

I’ve been through tragedies without faith in God. When my cousin was murdered at age 30 and I was 19, I didn’t have faith or a place of worship that felt like home. I was lost. I was angry. That’s part of the reason why when I got married, I vowed to give my children faith and religion, no matter which religion it was.

Now when I am lost in grief or praying for hope and peace and health for my friends and family, stopping in to a church and praying gives me peace and strength.

I received this picture of Boston College’s church, St. Ignatius which is on the marathon route and became a sanctuary for Boston Marathon runners and spectators. Seeing the halted runners in their iconic metallic post-Marathon wraps in the pews is heartbreaking, but beautiful and comforting.

I am praying for the families who lost their children on April 15, to the innocent people who have lost their limbs and are scarred by what they’ve seen, for god-like surgeons who have blessed our city of renowned hospitals, for our law enforcement and for our continued love of our almost-holy day, our beloved Boston Marathon.

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I’m More of a Feminist Than I Thought

I’ve been thinking a lot more about what it means to me to be a feminist now that I am in my 40s.  And I never considered myself what I considered to be a feminist: a not-very-girly-girl, a jock, a bully in the boardroom.   When I listened to Caitlin Moran in an NPR interview about her book “How to be a Woman” she described younger women who identified with feminism like I once did.  She posed the question: if you are not a feminist, then does that mean you would you like to not be able to have the choice to work? To vote? 

I hear the lament of women who marched for women’s rights or remember what it was like to not have the choices and respect we have now.  They are worried that the younger generations just don’t remember and will lose what they fought so hard for. 

In high school in the late 80s, my friend taught me to attract men by acting stupid (I had a perm and braces and needed some lessons I suppose).    I didn’t take this lesson far.

I find myself seething a bit when men at parties seem dismissive when I want to get into the business conversations with them.  I care a lot more about feminism now, especially now that I have a daughter.

In a school meeting with our superintendent, I heard women preface good questions with “this may be a stupid question, but…”  Would a guy ever do that?  No.  He’d ask it in a confident way even if was the stupidest question on Earth.

When I ask teenage girl babysitters how much they charge per hour, they are clearly uncomfortable, while the boys who started a leaf raking business are much bolder. 

My 12 year old niece is my mother’s helper on Tuesdays.  I am going to teach her how to negotiate a fair rate when she’s ready to babysit on her own.  I put on Dora TV instead of Diego for my 2 year old son, because Dora is strong and Dora is way cooler than Diego.  When I watched the Brady Bunch with my 7 year old son, I laugh that the Brady women act helpless when trying to build a playhouse: isn’t that crazy?!  I show my 9 year old daughter that you can be fashionable, pretty and fun and have a career.
I believe in working and staying home with your kids and everything in between.  I believe in not giving up what is feminine but being strong.  I believe in all women.  And I want us to move forward, not backward. 



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Shut up already about your third kid.

I am very sensitive to not making a big deal about the fact that I have three kids. Not everyone wants a kid, let alone 2 or 3 or 4, but there are plenty of couples out there who can’t have the family they want and they don’t need people going on and on about their 3 kids.

When I wanted to have a second child (and had 2 early miscarriages) it hurt and it really irritated me when women would chirp about their “Irish twins” or “not trying” or whatever. I silently gave them the finger.

I managed to have my second with a 2.7 year spread, which was kind of ideal now that I look back. But I was always conscious of families with one child once I had two kids. No bragging: I vowed to myself.

When I ached to have a third child, it seemed like everywhere I looked, everyone had 3 kids. I think the New York Times did a story on how everyone was having 3 kids, because a woman I know that likes to keep up with the Upper East Side Joneses decided to have a third kid. At school functions, at birthday parties, in the grocery store, it was always, “Wow, the third kid really puts you over the edge,” or “yeah, I can’t even think about scheduling playdates, what with hockey practice every day and our THIRD KID.” (Me: silently giving the finger in my mind).

I finally had my third kid 2 years ago and every day I look at him I am grateful. Even when he paints the couch with nail polish or wakes us up at 3am asking for food or throws my shoulder out because I am 41 and he is my largest baby by far.

So I try not to be like the annoying people that used to annoy me, what with their humble bragging about their big family and amazing fertility. I’ve caught myself and am chagrined after: like when my third kid acts like an animal in a restaurant, I find myself saying, “My first two are so well-behaved. This guy is really different.” Translation: “I am a good parent. I promise. I am just 41 and tired.”

Yesterday I had to leave my Boot Camp class to pee and I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to get out of squats and bicep curls. You see, I was jumping rope and had some leakage. Like the kind Lisa Rinna claims to have, or you just assume she has because why else would she model those ridiculous underpants/adult diapers? As I ran out of the class, I called out, “Wow- didn’t think that third kid did a number on me, but guess he did.”

I could just picture the mom of the only child silently giving me the finger.

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Our Down Syndrome baby that we never met

Today’s Boston Globe featured a story on how the detection of Down Syndrome early and other genetic abnormalities early on in pregnancy is resulting in ethical dilemmas for parents.    

In 2007, the same year the couple profiled in the story discovered their daughter, Julia, would be born with Down Syndrome, I was also pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome.   We found this detail out after I miscarried at 10 weeks and I have not looked at a person with Down’s the same since.

At the time, we had a 3 year old and a 1 year old, but I had suffered 3 miscarriages (the first before our oldest daughter, the next two in between my daughter and son).  I knew how lucky I was to be pregnant again.   I started to show early on, my body knew what to do.   In the midst of this pregnancy, we were working on a fundraiser for a good friend who was in a terrible car accident.

At the fundraiser, we told my husband’s extended family and our good friends about the pregnancy, were so confident about the outcome.  I was so confident, the next Monday when I went to my OB for a routine exam, I didn’t bring my husband.   Despite the fact I threw up that morning from morning sickness, I wasn’t pregnant anymore.  There was no heartbeat. 

We had the fetus tested afterwards.  When we found out it was a baby with Down Syndrome, it made the loss more poignant.  It gave the baby more of an identity.  Later on, we found out it was a girl.  

At the time, we already loved that baby with Down Syndrome.  We talked about how we would have had the baby, how people with Down’s have such a happy outlook on life, how having a sibling with a condition like Down’s could make our other children better people.   Of course, it was easy to say after the fact.  

As I read the story today, I thought: it could have been us and at the same time it could have been us.  

When I went on to have subsequent pregnancies, 4 more times (only one at the end resulting in my son), we chose not to do prenatal testing in the early stages of pregnancy.  We crossed our fingers and prayed during the “big ultrasound” at around 18 weeks that the baby would be “normal.”   This seemed out of the ordinary and a bit crazy for most of our friends and even some of the doctors who eyed us warily.   

The to-test-or-not-to-test is another story altogether.  All I know is that when I look at a child with Down Syndrome, I think of that baby that we lost.  She would have been 6.




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