Important Day in History / Bateson on Homemaking / The Kids Are All Right - 8/26/10
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Thu Aug 26 17:05:39 EDT 2010
- SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
- FIRE WHEN READY!!
- AT HOME WITH MARY CATHERINE BATESON
- THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. HARDLY!
- SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER
I have one last hotel shopping trip. I will return on Sept 3rd. I hope, with
a contract in hand. I¹m trying to find a place we can afford with good hotel
room rates and with a contract that will mean we will NOT have to increase
conference registration fees or exhibit fees. Or if prices have to go up,
only a little bit. - Diane
- FIRE WHEN READY!!
(From the Writer¹s Almanac, August 26, 2010)
It was on this day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment was formally incorporated
into the U.S. Constitution. It said: "The right of citizens of the United
States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by
any State on account of sex." It ended more than 70 years of struggle by the
Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation that morning at
8 a.m. at his home. There was no ceremony of any kind, and no photographers
were there to capture the moment. And none of the leaders of the woman
suffrage movement were present to see him do it. Colby just finished his cup
of coffee and signed the document with a regular, steel pen. Then he said,
"I turn to the women of America and say: 'You may now fire when you are
ready. You have been enfranchised.'"
- AT HOME WITH MARY CATHERINE BATESON
New York Times
August 26, 2010
WHEN Mary Catherine Bateson was a freshman at Radcliffe, she and the man she
was dating went to hear her mother, Margaret Mead, lecture on the future of
the American family. Afterward, back in her beau¹s room, Dr. Bateson averred
that the future of the American family would surely not include her, because
with role models like her parents Dr. Bateson likes to say that her mother
was thrice divorced while her father, the British anthropologist Gregory
Bateson, was thrice married she would never, ever marry.
³How could I possibly know how?² she said.
Yet by the end of that conversation, Dr. Bateson, who went on to have
careers as an anthropologist, linguist and author, and J. Barkev Kassarjian,
now a professor of management and a business consultant, found themselves
Fifty years later, Dr. Bateson and Dr. Kassarjian are still married turns
out, Dr. Bateson is very good at domesticity and still living in the same
New Hampshire woods . . .
. . . Yet, as her mother did, she is still hashing out the particulars of
what she calls ³homemaking² with a new book, ³Composing a Further Life: The
Age of Active Wisdom,² out next month from Knopf.
. . . ³It¹s critical that home not just be a place that you use whatever is
there, but that it be a place you are truly responsible for,² she said.
³It¹s not just your home and you get to mess it up.²
Homemaking, she added, is also a metaphor for longevity, a way of looking at
the second stage of adulthood that precedes old age what she calls
³adulthood II² which is the subject of her new book.
Yes, it¹s a sequel to her 1990 meditation on the stop-and-start nature of
women¹s lives, except that this time she has invited men into the
. . . The big questions are explored: What makes work satisfying and
worthwhile? What does it mean to be married? How do you find a spiritual
practice? . . .
. . . ³Home is a very important metaphor for me,² she said. ³When I was
working on Composing a Life,¹ I referred to it as my homemaking book.¹ How
do you make a home when there is discontinuity? You are a single mother,
there is a bad marriage, a job change. I started to define the word home¹
as an environment in which one grows and learns, rather than just a refuge.
Think about where you started out as a little kid and you learned to walk.
Sometimes there were things you tripped over. There were people who loved
you but also made demands on you.²
You can read the whole thing here with lovely pictures of the home they
built. I would love to know if, or how much, she knows about Marriage
Education. - diane
- THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. HARDLY!
I know you love movies. Have you had time to see The Kids Are All Right?
It has been so well reviewed. Maybe I am crazy but I found it very
troubling. I am upset. I am guessing that if you saw it you would have
commented to the list.
I did see it. And, I know what you mean. After I saw it, I had a hunch that
Elizabeth Marquardt would have seen it and, if so, that she would have
written a commentary. I was right and I found her observations comforting.
I thank you for reminding me that I did not remember to share Elizabeth¹s
commentary with the list she pretty much covers the bases and I am
guessing that you and others will be reassured by what she wrote. Here is
what Elizabeth, author of Between Two Worlds and a frequent presenter at
Smart Marriages, had to say. - diane
The Kids Are Not All Right
Jul 28, 2010
A scruffy man, tanned and good-looking, dressed in an old leather jacket and
snug jeans, is on a motorcycle zipping through a neighborhood near you. He¹s
a restaurateur into ³local² everything, a man whose produce vendor is one
among many sexy women who want to hook up with him. He was also, years ago,
a sperm donor who, unbeknownst to him, achieved reproductive success.
Meet Paul, who is about to encounter the California lesbian couple who each
became pregnant with his sperm. In a moving, at times ambivalent and,
despite its attempts at realism, largely fantastical exploration, the new
hit movie The Kids are All Right probes the emotional fall out after
eighteen-year-old Joni makes a phone call that results in a first-ever
meeting between the two teenagers, their biological father (played by Mark
Ruffalo), and the mothers (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who raised
The movie is rich on particulars and complexity; there are no stock
characters here. The lesbian mothers are sympathetic, funny, and attractive,
but have their faults. The daughter is a classic overachiever who wants to
protect her mothers. The fifteen-year-old son is a jock with feelings, at
ease in a world of women but not one of them. If you came looking for a
heavy-handed defense of gay marriage or a commercial for gay families, all
happy-go-lucky behind their white picket fences, you won¹t find it here.
What you will find is a sometimes searing exploration of the raw emotions at
stake when women who never intended for their children to have a father
suddenly find a father in their lives. ³The plan was to limit the
involvement,² says one, desperately. ³He¹s their biological father and all
that crap,² says the other. ³And it¹s really sh---. Like we¹re not enough or
The film also exposes the task that confronts children when they meet their
sperm donor father, for the first time, once their childhood is largely
over. On their way to meet Paul, protective Joni warns Laser, her brother,
³I just don¹t want you to have big expectations.² Later, Laser asks Paul,
³How much did you get paid?² Paul admits, ³I got paid 60 dollars a pop.²
Laser flinches, and so do we, at a child¹s bald confrontation with the cold
facts of his commercial conception.
Despite the attempts at realism, the movie is a fantasy. To begin with in
real life, these kids would not have found it so easy to find their sperm
donor father. And it¹s equally unlikely that he would resemble the
easy-going, available Paul.
The movie implies that the children have an identity release donor, a
concept pioneered by the lesbian-friendly Sperm Bank of California in the
1980s. The policy allows children to learn the identity of their sperm donor
when they turn eighteen. Once Joni makes the phone call, in the blink of an
eye Joni, Laser, and Paul are sitting at an outdoor table, bathed in
sunlight, playing get-to-know-you.
For most donor conceived persons, this is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Throughout its long history (the first recorded case of donor insemination
in America took place in Philadelphia, in 1884), sperm donation has nearly
always been an anonymous transaction. Male infertility was a source of
shame, and going outside the bonds of marriage to reproduce with the aid of
modern medicine was thought best kept a secret for the sake of everyone
Even today, with greater societal openness about sexual matters, still most
donor offspring have not even been told the truth by their parents about how
they were conceived, and the law continues to allow anonymous donations of
sperm and egg. If young people do find out they were conceived through sperm
donation, they have almost no hope of finding their biological father.
While lesbian couples and single women who use sperm donation have tended to
be more open about how the children were conceived (the obvious lack of a
father does raise the question), they often use anonymous sperm donors, too.
Some lesbian women fear that a non-anonymous donor might someday challenge
them for custody of their children. Others have other reasons, recently
highlighted in a publication by COLAGE, a support and advocacy organization
for children of gay and lesbian parents and their families.
One lesbian mother says she and her partner chose an anonymous sperm donor
because ³we didn¹t want to triangulate our parenting or form a life-long
negotiated relationship with anyone else but ourselves.² Another says she
had a ³fear that our child [would] at some point wish for a father and
embrace a relationship with the donor seeking this, in ways that harm[ed]
our child or displace[d] our parenting relationship.² Another says, ³we
wanted [our children] to have 2 parents who were moms only.²
Granted, Joni and Laser have an identity release donor. But in these cases,
the sperm banks only promise to provide their most recent contact
information for the donor to the child who has reached age eighteen. It¹s up
to the sperm donor to keep his contact information updated. If you do locate
him, he probably won¹t live a short motorcycle ride away, as Paul does. He
could live in another part of the country, or another part of the world. He
probably now has a family of his own (in the movie, Paul does not) and his
wife might not be thrilled about him meeting his other children. Or he could
The film also implies that Joni and Paul are the only children resulting
from Paul¹s donations. The fantasy depends on his being able to give them
his undivided attention (and so it is also useful that Paul is single). In
the United States, there are no limits to how many children can be conceived
with one donor¹s sperm. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine
offers merely a professional recommendation that one donor father no more
than 25 children.
If a man donates at more than one clinic, there is no way to know how many
children he has. Some donors have discovered they have dozens of children.
One donor in the United Kingdom has more than sixty. If other children
conceived with Paul¹s sperm start coming forward, how much of Paul will
there be to go around?
But for the moment, let¹s accept the premise of the movie. The kids have
found their sperm donor biological father. Now what? Ambiguity reigns, and
it¹s up to the children to make sense of it all.
The COLAGE guide is authored by a young man who was himself conceived
through sperm donation and raised by lesbian mothers. Of the sperm donor, he
says, ³we must decide what this person means to us.² He notes the
³challenging task of defining the relationship with your known donor.² He
reassures the reader, ³It is completely normal and okay to speak up about
the kind of relationship you want with your donor.²
When the institution of something called fatherhood falls apart, this is
what happens. We leave children to define the relationship of themselves to
their fathers. Children must decide what this person ³means² to them. They
should ³speak up.²
Some might be able to do this. But what about the others? What about the
ones who are not gifted with emotional intelligencethe ones who aren¹t
skilled at negotiating ambivalence and speaking up about their own needs in
the face of their parents¹ tender feelings?
And what about those whose sperm donors have no interest in being fathers?
In the COLAGE guide, one young woman says, ³My donor doesn¹t seem to be
particularly into the whole father thing with me, and it caused me quite a
bit of pain trying to get him to be.² Another says: ³I grew up having
certain expectation of what roles my [sperm donor] . . . would play in my
life and when [he] didn¹t fulfill those expectations, I was hurt.²
A recent study of donor-conceived adults, reported in My Daddy¹s Name is
Donor, found that, overall, donor offspring are hurting more, more confused,
and more isolated from their families compared to those who are adopted or
raised by their biological parents. Two-thirds say, ³My sperm donor is half
of who I am,² even though few know who that donor is. They are significantly
more likely than other children to be struggling with problems like
substance abuse, delinquency, and depression.
In The Kids are All Right, the actors benefit from a script. In real life,
there is no script for these kids. It¹s up to them to figure everything out
and make the best of it. The person whom a child rightly considers her
father is a man who might well believeprobably does believethat he is just
a ³donor.² That is notat allall right.
Elizabeth Marquardt, the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at
the Institute for American Values, is co-investigator of the ground-breaking
My Daddy¹s Name is Donor, which reports a large study of adults conceived
through sperm donation. The report is available at FamilyScholars.org, where
she also blogs.
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