These Boots Are Made For…Beauty

bootsGuest Post by Tania Runyan

I’m washing dishes while my third-grade daughter and her friend blast a One Direction song:  “Oooh oh, you don’t know you’re beautiful,” whines the mop-haired adolescent singer.

“Uh, yeah I do!” I shout, and shake my butt at the sink. The girls scream and scramble from the room.

The song attempts to come off affirmingly: the girl lacks confidence and stares at the ground, but she’s actually gorgeous, so much so that—get this—she doesn’t even need make up!

Who are these boys, who appear on pink pencil cases at the mall, to decide whether a girl deserves to be beautiful? I’d like to discount the whole notion as superficial and sexist. [Read more...]

Sleeping Beauty, Part 2

jan vallone

Today’s post, an excerpt from Pieces of Someday: One Woman’s Search for Meaning in Lawyering, Family, Italy, Church, and a Tiny Jewish High School, is continued from yesterday.

In my twenties, it was Holly Brown I longed to be. We two were medical lab techs then working at UNC. Every morning she’d sashay to her bench, flicking her Farrah Fawcett mane: “Good mornin’ y’all.”

As jasmine-gardenia perfume gusted from Holly’s curly halo, the male techs would look up from their microscopes, dropping jaws to gawk. In my corner, I’d reach for the radio, turn up the volume of Bruce Springsteen: Show a little faith there’s magic in the night / You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright. [Read more...]

Sleeping Beauty, Part 1

Jan Vallone

Today’s post is an excerpt from Pieces of Someday: One Woman’s Search for Meaning in Lawyering, Family, Italy, Church, and a Tiny Jewish High School.

The classroom door blew open as I packed my briefcase to go home. A cold gust of air rushed in, blowing the papers from my desk, chasing red and gold leaves across the threshold so they swirled and settled at my feet.

Kalindah whirled in with the weather. With black-sweatshirted arms, she gave me my daily hug—nubby, slightly dank and fusty—then plopped on the top of a desk, pulling legs akimbo beneath her skirt. “Ms. Vallone, life’s so unfair. All my friends have boyfriends but me.”

Braces, Janis Joplin hair, Kalindah was a freshman when I first began teaching high school English. Another teacher had warned me about her: “Make sure you watch out for that one—she’s a time bomb waiting to explode, bipolar without her medication. You’ll see, one day she’ll draw a knife.”

During my first few weeks, Kalindah sat huddled at the back of the classroom, silent, impassive, gray-eyed. Was she sedated? Not till I scheduled a quiz did I see any sign of life. After class she came up to my desk: “I stink at tests.” Then she walked out.

[Read more...]

Why We Can’t Look Away

The morning I learned about the women in Cleveland, I knew from a single headline that there was more to be said, and horrified by, than I wanted to know: Cleveland Women Rescued From Ten Years’ Imprisonment in Captor’s Home.

As the news poured in, the photos of balloons flapping from Amanda Berry’s porch and family members doubled over in relief, the weight in my stomach got heavier. And despite my attempts, I could not turn myself away from the latest details of their captivity, the grim facts of what took place in the silence of those ten years.

The inability to look away – the paralysis of gruesome, awful news – is something that we all know. We do our best to protect ourselves from stories that draw us in without any relief, accounts of loss or pain that disarm and puncture the illusions we hold about the world being safe, or our days being predictable. [Read more...]

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Well, somebody at Good Letters had to do it: Somebody had to go buy the incessantly-hyped volume Lean In by the stratospherically successful Facebook COO (and mother of two) Sheryl Sandberg, and figure out what’s behind the seemingly endless radio talk shows and online profiles—they have been following me, they have, filling up my car like clouds of incense and dinging on my phone with the book’s mantra-like subtitle, Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

I bought this part-memoir, part self-help book on a gorgeous spring weekday when, because I work part-time, I was supposed to be home anyway. Because the pollen was getting to me and I had woken up groggy, my husband generously offered to take the children to school on his way in to work, something that Sandberg would applaud: husbands who will assume major leadership at home are a major key in enabling mothers to succeed.

I stumbled around the house in my nightgown for a while, then finally got dressed and picked up Lean In at the Target in suburban Largo, Maryland, which at ten on a weekday morning, was as silent as a tomb. [Read more...]


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