Sign of a person who, in the night, decided to have another growth spurt

She woke up outraged at 5:40 and immediately ate

  • a pancake
  • a container of yogurt
  • a container of applesauce
  • a serving of oatmeal
  • two more pancakes
Every time I asked, "Aren't you all done?", she'd say, "No," and then tell me what she wanted next.



Oh, look, a feminist post!

Back in the day--May, I think, before I came to realize how incredibly busy May and June were going to be for me--one of my funny, thoughtful friends asked me what I do when men on the street tell me to smile.  She wanted a good feminist comeback.  She wrote:

I've actually said once--this was in a bar, way back when, "it's not my job to smile for you." But that didn't have the impact I was looking for. The person followed up with "but you have such a pretty smile." Which, of course, he couldn't have possibly even known having never seen me smile....so annoying.

When I've talked to male friends about this--none of whom would ever say such a thing--they insist that the guy is just trying to "cheer me up." I've even gone so far as to speculate that I have a naturally turned-down mouth and it can look like I'm in a foul mood when I'm really not....but no, I don't think that's it because too many women have this same experience.  And what stinks is that these men actually think they're being nice with this comment! Ugh.

If you do come up with any interesting comeback, let me know. And of course, feel free to blog about it.

Let me just assure you that this person doesn't walk around looking like she's in a foul mood.  And she's right that many women have this experience.

Sadly, this is an area where I have little advice to offer.  It may be that because I'm so tall, I get this sort of comment less often.  And I'm such a Southern woman that sometimes when I do get told to smile, I smile!  Damn training.  I mean, I'm not opposed to smiling.  But it is an annoying phenomenon that men in the world think that women should be smiling, and that they--the men in the world--have the right to encourage them to do so.  It's a clear double standard.  How often do women in the world walk around encouraging men they don't know to smile?

Perhaps that's what we should do:  start asking men to smile for us.  Although that strikes me as quite creepy.  Okay, readers:  if you have great responses, share them!


Architectural Digest

Oh, look, the latest issue of Architectural Digest. That's cool. It has Elizabeth Taylor on the cover, so that's creeping me out a little, but it's such a reputable magazine, with beautiful stuff inside.

Well, I'll flip through and see what there is to see.
Hmm, the daybeds and coffee table pictured here are gorgeous. And they look awfully familiar...because I saw them being constructed piece by piece in the wood studio at the back of our house.

Biffle made them! And they're being featured in Architectural Digest!

Sadly, he isn't listed by name. Apparently in Architectural Digest, they only name the designers. Rest assured that as the maker, Biffle played a significant role in the design of these pieces. Not being named doesn't make this any less a cool accomplishment.

Congratulations to Biffle! On this blog we're all eager to say how cute Maybelle is, so for a change of pace, I'd like us to give a little nod to how beautiful Biffle's furniture is.


Alison at Girl w/Pen

Yo--check out a post (again, on time!) I wrote at Girl w/Pen.

Update from Alison:   Quick feedback over at GWP and in my inbox made me reread my post with new eyes, and I've added an addendum.  Please go back and have a look.


Aligned vulnerabilities

New backpackBiffle is responsible for the very useful concept of complementary neuroses.  He advises that, when you're seeking a partner, you try to find someone with neuroses that complement your own.  In other words, if you're an anxious, controlling person who is very effective at managing the various components of your life, you might not want to pair up with someone like that.  Far better to have a partner who is--to quote a friend's father--high thrill, low anxiety:  someone who might not be so good at keeping the bills paid, but who has a good time and can seduce you into doing the same.  Same neuroses = overwhelming anxiety (or no bills getting paid).  Complementary neuroses = balance.

I'd like to complicate this concept by adding the notion of aligned vulnerabilities.  Although I think it's great if one partner is calm while the other one is freaking out, I've also learned that it's often a real gift if both partners can share moments of vulnerability.  This can add additional depth to the relationship. 

Here's an extended story that will lead to an example:  Maybelle has started camp this week.  She's at Camp Baker, which is a great kids' camp noteworthy for the fact that they have trained Red Cross swim instructors, and the kids are in the pool twice a day.  You can see Maybelle here, sporting her new frog backpack.  (As a completely unrelated side-note, when we gave her the backpack, she immediately knew what it was, said, "Backpack!", put it on, and then said, "Go to work."  Her mother, as it turns out, wears a backpack when she goes to work, and Maybelle is paying attention.)

At any rate, she's going to camp.  And the first week of camp is transition time for everybody--including the adults.  On Monday, when Biffle and I went together to pick her up, he got teary, wondering how her day was for her.  On Tuesday, when I was taking her to camp, I got teary (and by "got teary," I mean, "Anybody looking over to my car would have seen me crying"), wondering how her day was going to be.  Since then, I've been reflecting on how nice it is to have a partner who sometimes shares your vulnerabilities--even goofy ones.  Biffle and I didn't have to worry that our partner would think we were being ridiculous, or would tell us to suck it up, or would comfort us while kindly rolling their eyes.  We got to share a moment of connection through our vulnerability.

The important ending to this story:  Maybelle is having a great time at camp.  She's not eating at all while she's there, but rest assured there'll be another blog post about that.

More from the Berks

Here's my final post about the Berks.  It was a great conference, but actually--and I know this is a controversial point to make*--I think NWSA is better.

Here's the breakdown, as I saw it:


  • Really white
  • Old school (they had a softball game!  Along with debates about whether we should be Women's and Gender Studies or just Gender Studies, or what about Women's Studies?)
  • Striving for interdisciplinarity, but not with 100% success.  It was definitely a history conference.
  • Very few men.
  • Really, really reputable.  As Astrid pointed out, the only feminist historian who wasn't there was Gerda Lerner.
  • Somewhat multi-ethnic, with institutional structures in place to support this.  Many more people of color than the Berks.
  • Newer school (no softball, no dance, and a growing body of new scholarship)
  • Truly interdisciplinary
  • A few men, but not as few as the Berks.
  • Getting more reputable.  And it should be!  It's a great conference.  And have I mentioned that our presidents are Beverly Guy-Sheftall (immediate past president) and Bonnie Thornton Dill?  And because of their work, folks like Angela Davis come to our conference.  For fun.
Here's Astrid hanging out in front of Emily Dickinson's house.  As it turns out, although the conference is called the Big Berks, we weren't actually in the Berkshires.  We were in Amherst, MA, which is a totally different part of the state.  We admired Dickinson's house from the outside, but we didn't go in, because we had to go to Northampton and have a fabulous brunch.  Priorities.

*You know, controversial if you're a feminist scholar.  If you're not a feminist scholar--if, for instance, you're someone who teaches college and has an office next door to a feminist scholar, you'd be likely to say, "What?  Berks?  NWSA?  What are you talking about?"


LH mercy, she keeps blogging, doesn't she?

Here's another update from today.  Our "third wave" panel (with scare quotes around "third wave") went well.  Some great panelists with really interesting observations and arguments.  In particular it struck me that much of the conversation with the audience was about teaching, and I reflected that "third wave" is something that often comes up in my classes, but not necessarily in other professional or personal contexts for me.  Has it become a teaching tool more than anything else these days?

After a day of thoughtful conferencing, Astrid and I went out and ate delicious Nigerian food with some conference friends.  One of the friends--an editor at a university press--is also an organist, and she'd heard of Stefan Engels, our famous organist friend!  I always enjoy soaking up other people's fame. 

After dinner, Astrid and I had a brief fraught moment of feeling like we should go to the Sojourner Truth opera, but we decided instead to have ice cream with Keira Williams, soon to be the recognized national expert on Susan Smith.  We will soak up her fame when the time comes.


Here's a quick middle of the day post, loosely related to the conference--in particular, to one comment made at the conference.  Here's what I would have said, had this been a conference all about me:

Stop talking about the biology of parenthood, about the fact that giving birth to a child changes things, changes your perceptions of the world.  

I have a biological connection to my daughter, in the sense that thinking about her while I'm here at the conference sometimes makes me tear up a bit, in the sense that I wake up in the middle of the night if she makes a noise in her crib, in the sense that her giggles physically alter how my body feels.  These biological connections do not come from the fact that she is a person who was cooked up in my body.  They come from the fact that she is my daughter, and that's a status, a position, a location, a lived experience.

Why is this important to me, so important that I started fuming, silently raging this afternoon?  It's important for several reasons:

  • If we ever have a Biffle-Piepmeier #2, that person will be adopted, and s/he will be absolutely as much a loved and valued child in our family as Maybelle is.  That person won't be "the adopted child"--s/he'll be our child.
  • One of the most beloved people in my world--someone, by the way, who I'm not biologically related to--is going to adopt a baby, and I'll bet good money that she's going to be waking in the night, tearing up, getting all gushy over the giggling, etc.  Motherhood is going to feel to her a lot like it feels to me.
  • Some of the most important people in Maybelle's life are people that she's not biologically related to, and if anything were to happen to the people that she is related to, she has other folks who would be a family.  Not a fake family, an actual family.
  • There are people whose biological origin points are so shitty that they get family someplace else. 
Biologically constructing another person doesn't make you an actual family.  Pretending that it does is both harmful to the folks who don't biologically produce kids, and to the families that do a lot of work to be a meaningful family.


Feminist conference, non-feminist bathroom

Check out this sign.  Astrid pointed out that the woman's legs are tightly together, to show her appropriate ladyhood, while the guy's got his spread apart.  Room for the package.

This is the kind of visual messaging that makes guys take up both armrests on the airplane, and all the available footroom.  I really doubt that your package needs all that space, airplane guy.

Great conference day today.  Astrid and I are briefly back at the hotel before we go out for some dinner, and then head to the conference for tonight's plenary session.

Because I enjoy this form of conference reporting, here are some of the text messages I sent Biffle today (Biffle, sadly, has been mostly silent on the text messaging front, so no quotes from him):
  • Hey, baby!  I have had a full morning.  So many big thoughts, plus early treadmill time and shower. I think I am far more comfortable w institutional power than a lot of feminists.
  • Oh, not all bldgs here have ac.  Quite warm right now.
  • Literally gave myself an arm bruise in the last session to stay awake.  Now going to the book room.
My favorite quote of the day, which I didn't text to Biffle, was from my friend Annalee Lepp, who said, "If I have to have another naming debate I'll slit my throat." (This is in relation to the question of whether we're Women's Studies, Gender Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, or something else.  We've been having that conversation for a long time.  We're ready to move on.)  I might actually use this quote in my presentation tomorrow.


The Berks

Claire informs me that I have to tell people I’m going to the Berkshires, not “the Berks,” but it is the case that the conference at which I’m presenting this weekend is called the Big Berks.  It’s a very cool, triannual conference for women’s history, and since this year’s theme is “Generations,” Astrid Henry pulled together a roundtable on third wave feminism, and I get to take part.  I gotta say, when Rory Dicker and I took the opportunity to include Astrid in Catching a Wave, we made such a smart decision!  Not only because her piece was great, but because she’s been a fabulous professional resource for me, as well as a friend.

At any rate, I’m now in Amherst, MA, for the weekend.  I’m teaching a graduate class this summer on 19th century American women’s writing, and I feel like I should be doing some sort of live tweeting or something for my graduate students, because Sojourner Truth lived here (we just had a class session about her!), along with Harriet Beecher Stowe and Emily Dickinson, who gets so much attention that we aren’t even considering her in my class.  Damned over-publicized Emily Dickinson.

I have to say that motherhood has added some new twists to traveling.  On the one hand, being in a hotel room by myself is so unbelievably luxurious these days that I almost can’t imagine anything more luxurious.  Why would anybody pay for an extra-fancy hotel?  Just the room that’s all mine is fantastic!

On the other hand, as our plane was taking off, a grade school kid a few rows back from me started crying—he was clearly in pain, like maybe his ears weren’t popping or something—and pow!, just like that my eyes were filled with tears, and I had to make a concerted effort to distract myself.

Fortunately, Maybelle does great with transitions, and as I told her goodbye this morning, she cheerfully followed me onto the porch—wearing only her diaper—and said “Bah bah!” in her delightful Southern accent.



My mom has been here this week, taking care of Maybelle in the week between the end of her school and the beginning of camp season.  They have had a great time together.  Maybelle has been quite talkative, saying (and reading) "Nonny" and learning that her grandmother is a person who will do just about anything Maybelle can ask for.  Maybelle's lengthiest sentence in her life so far emerged this week:

"I ready to go walk."  

Five words!  Unprompted!

Although mom has been here since Sunday, we still have no pictures of her and Maybelle together!  Biffle did make a video, though, one which he characterizes as capturing the few seconds right after some incredible cuteness.  We'll post that sooner or later.

In other news, I wanted to let readers know that I revisited the joking comment made using the word "retarded" in my class this week and asked the students to consider what the word does--what power structures it reinforces, and why it's a word that so many professional and governmental organizations have stopped using.  The conversation was quite civil and thoughtful, although I was a tiny bit bummed that there were no evident lightbulbs going off in anyone's head.  I do love some lightbulbs in a class conversation.

This afternoon I'm heading to Baltimore for a National Women's Studies Association Governing Council meeting.  This means I'll have flight time and hotel room time, and my plan for those times/spaces is to write an op-ed connecting Amber's and my prenatal testing research with the 20th 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Wish me much success!