Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kathleen Parker - Obama: Our first female president

Now that's kind of funny for a column title. For decades, women have complained that men are not communal enough, sensitive enough, gentle enough . . . . And after having a renegade, go-it-alone, cowboy in the White House for the last 8 years before Obama, America seemed to want a president who was not reactive and unilateral in his communication, decisions, and actions.

But Kathleen Parker seems to think that is bad thing. In her recent Washington Post column she suggests that Obama is too womanish (or more precisely, suffering from "rhetorical-testosterone deficit") - just as many traditionalists thought that Hillary Clinton was too mannish in her campaign (which resulted in her little crying jag about how tough it is to be a professional woman, which is true enough).

It's worth noting that Parker is the author of Save the Males - a book in which she argues against many of the goals of radical (and not so radical) feminism and their impact on men in terms of health and on boys in their education. Some of what she says is spot on, some not so much. But her overall view is a conservative traditionalist view - men with emotions and who are not hair-trigger in their decisions seem to be too much for her.

She says this, which I liked:
Obama displays many tropes of femaleness. I say this in the nicest possible way. I don't think that doing things a woman's way is evidence of deficiency but, rather, suggests an evolutionary achievement.
OK, so what's the problem? It seems the problem is that he does this and it violates cultural norms of masculinity. She immediately follows the above quote with this passage:
Nevertheless, we still do have certain cultural expectations, especially related to leadership. When we ask questions about a politician's beliefs, family or hobbies, we're looking for familiarity, what we can cite as "normal" and therefore reassuring.
My sense is that when Obama fails to lead, which is more of what happened around the BP disaster, that is when he fails as a president. But it won't be because he has a more feminine (gender role, not sex role) way of communicating and problem solving. On the other hand, he had given several press conferences in the days following the explosion and spill, so it wasn't as though he did nothing.

More to point, in my view, the problem with the BP issue is that we NEED them to fix it - they and the other companies have the technology to do so, not the federal government. AND, BP is taking directions from the government, in terms of what they can and cannot do, so Obama has not just ignored the situation.

But that's politics, not gender studies.

I think Parker is correct that Obama (and maybe Clinton before him) has a more traditionally feminine communication pattern - but I disagree with her assessment that this is a personal failure in his leadership. She simply does not like him and does not (it seems) feel comfortable seeing a man behave in non-traditional ways.

Here's the beginning of the article:

Obama: Our first female president

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If Bill Clinton was our first black president, as Toni Morrison once proclaimed, then Barack Obama may be our first woman president.

Phew. That was fun. Now, if you'll just keep those hatchets holstered and hear me out.

No, I'm not calling Obama a girlie president. But . . . he may be suffering a rhetorical-testosterone deficit when it comes to dealing with crises, with which he has been richly endowed.

It isn't that he isn't "cowboy" enough, as others have suggested. Aren't we done with that? It is that his approach is feminine in a normative sense. That is, we perceive and appraise him according to cultural expectations, and he's not exactly causing anxiety in Alpha-maledom.

We've come a long way gender-wise. Not so long ago, women would be censured for speaking or writing in public. But cultural expectations are stickier and sludgier than oil. Our enlightened human selves may want to eliminate gender norms, but our lizard brains have a different agenda.

Women, inarguably, still are punished for failing to adhere to gender norms by acting "too masculine" or "not feminine enough." In her fascinating study about "Hating Hillary," Karlyn Kohrs Campbell details the ways our former first lady was chastised for the sin of talking like a lawyer and, by extension, "like a man."

Could it be that Obama is suffering from the inverse?

When Morrison wrote in the New Yorker about Bill Clinton's "blackness," she cited the characteristics he shared with the African American community:

"Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."

If we accept that premise, even if unseriously proffered, then we could say that Obama displays many tropes of femaleness. I say this in the nicest possible way. I don't think that doing things a woman's way is evidence of deficiency but, rather, suggests an evolutionary achievement.

Nevertheless, we still do have certain cultural expectations, especially related to leadership. When we ask questions about a politician's beliefs, family or hobbies, we're looking for familiarity, what we can cite as "normal" and therefore reassuring.

Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.

Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.

Read the whole article.

Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. - Hungry Ghosts: The Wanting Mind of Depression - And Equanity as a Solution

Men suffer depression in much different ways than do women - but aside from those who have serious neurochemical issues, depression is very often connected to a sense that we don't have whatever it is we want - a phenomenon Buddhists refer to as Hungry Ghosts.

In the second article, below, Gil Fronsdal talks about developing equanimity as a way to balance our lives. Often, it is the lack of equanimity, a lack of balance, that is connected to depression. And it is our struggles with the "eight worldly winds” - praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute - that send us off balance.

Hungry Ghosts: The Wanting Mind of Depression

By Ronald Alexander, Ph.D.
Posted: June 23, 2010 08:00 AM

As a therapist in Los Angeles, I've seen more than my share of patients who are dealing with various forms of depression and unhappiness. One common personality trait I've found with them is their unwholesome thoughts and beliefs that come from what I call the "wanting mind." In wanting mind, we feel that our current state of unhappiness can only be cured if we have more money, recognition, fame or power. Often we cause ourselves needless suffering when we ache for something that lies out of our grasp such as a better job, relationship or recognition, or cling in vain to something that has already passed away. Wanting mind can also keep us tenaciously holding on to something negative: an unwholesome belief about how things ought to be or should have been, or an unwholesome emotion such as anger, sadness or jealousy.

When we're in a state of wanting mind, we're never satisfied, no matter what we have. If we attain the object of our longing, we simply replace the old desire with a new one. If we achieve revenge, we feel worse than we did before. The problem is that wanting mind is rooted in the incorrect belief that something outside of ourselves is the key to lasting happiness, so we look there for the solution. The reality is that no emotion or state of being, however strong, is permanent and that happiness can't be found outside of ourselves -- only within. Buddhists call this phenomenon of endless wanting and dissatisfaction the "hungry ghost."

Now I realize that one can never completely avoid the wanting mind or any other hindrance. Desire is part of being human. It causes us to strive toward bettering our lives and our world, and has led to many of the discoveries and inventions that have provided us with a higher quality of life. But there's a danger in thinking that by ridding yourself of this quality of wanting, you'll lose the motivation to better your life. The unhealthy side of the wanting mind is that despite all that we can achieve and possess, we become convinced that we won't be happy or contented unless we acquire even more. This unwholesome belief can lead to competitiveness and feeling resentful toward, or envious of, those who seem to have an easier life.

This leads to the unwholesome habit of comparison. Some people look at others' successes and feel deeply envious. They may be angry that they haven't achieved what they feel entitled to, start to diminish all that's working for them in their lives, and obsess over what seems to be lacking.

Often, I've found that younger people put tremendous pressure on themselves to succeed in their careers at a very early age, not allowing themselves to venture out and explore, take risks, make mistakes, discover their talents and passions and slowly begin formulating a plan for their personal mandala. Others often have unrealistic expectations rooted in the narratives spun by popular culture. In movies and television shows for example the difficulties of maintaining and nurturing relationships are often minimized in favor of a more engaging and unlikely story of couples who meet, fall in love immediately, have great sex as well as an unwavering long-term commitment, and rarely disagree. And if they do, they quickly resolve all their issues. The amount of effort and time that must be invested to foster a healthy relationship is often surprising to people with little experience of such relationships.

One remedy to addressing these underlying, and distorted beliefs of the wanting mind that contribute to the complexities of depression is through a mindfulness meditation practice. I had one client, in particular, who dreamed of being a successful novelist and became deeply envious of a talented writer who'd written several best-selling novels that had defined a genre and made her famous. This client, who was only a year or two out of college, had already managed to procure a scholarship to a prestigious writing program but felt disappointed in her inability to find a publisher for her novel.

Through meditation, the conflicted young woman was able to explore her belief that she should have as much skill and success as someone who had spent many years honing her craft and building her profile among booksellers and readers. By becoming mindful, she recognized that she'd been repressing unwholesome feelings of low self-worth. I helped her see that the passion she was devoting to envying this best-selling author's success could be redirected to more productive activity if she would apply a positive antidote of satisfaction to her wanting mind, which had created a grandiose expectation completely out of proportion to a reasonable level of achievement for a writer just starting out.

By cultivating satisfaction one can end the suffering marked by the quality of wanting by being able to experience and enjoy each moment, exactly as it is instead of trying to achieve a temporary panacea. Additionally, in order to truly feel satisfied we need to nurture unconditional love for ourselves and self-acceptance. Only through self-love and being in the moment can one open themselves up to the type of creativity they need to improve their circumstances. Again, a mindfulness meditation practice will help one develop the capacity to see clearly exactly what they're attached to so that they can let go of it and end their misery.

By dropping out of wanting mind and negative comparison, you can then drop into an acceptance of what's ordinary as well as what's extraordinary within yourself. Each of us has the potential to do something no one else has ever done before, and you open yourself to discovering just what that is when you replace wanting mind and its negative feelings and thoughts with a mindset of satisfaction.

Meditation, as mentioned, is a great way to combat the hungry ghosts. Another great way is to cultivate equanimity. This article from Gil Fronsdal at Insight Meditation Center talks about how to cultivate equanimity.


adapted from a talk by Gil Fronsdal, May 29th, 2004

Equanimity is one of the most sublime emotions of Buddhist practice. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.”

The English word “equanimity” translates two separate Pali words used by the Buddha. Each represents a different aspect of equanimity.

The most common Pali word translated as “equanimity” is upekkha, meaning “to look over.” It refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught by what we see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.

Upekkha can also refer to the ease that comes from seeing a bigger picture. Colloquially, in India the word was sometimes used to mean “to see with patience.” We might understand this as “seeing with understanding.” For example, when we know not to take offensive words personally, we are less likely to react to what was said. Instead, we remain at ease or equanimous. This form of equanimity is sometimes compared to grandmotherly love. The grandmother clearly loves her grandchildren but, thanks to her experience with her own children, is less likely to be caught up in the drama of her grandchildren’s lives.

The second word often translated as equanimity is tatramajjhattata, a compound made of simple Pali words. Tatra, meaning “there,” sometimes refers to “all these things.” Majjha means “middle,” and tata means “to stand or to pose.” Put together, the word becomes “to stand in the middle of all this.” As a form of equanimity, “being in the middle” refers to balance, to remaining centered in the middle of whatever is happening. This balance comes from inner strength or stability. The strong presence of inner calm, well-being, confidence, vitality, or integrity can keep us upright, like a ballast keeps a ship upright in strong winds. As inner strength develops, equanimity follows.

Equanimity is a protection from the “eight worldly winds”: praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. Becoming attached to or excessively elated with success, praise, fame or pleasure can be a set-up for suffering when the winds of life change direction. For example, success can be wonderful, but if it leads to arrogance, we have more to lose in future challenges. Becoming personally invested in praise can tend toward conceit. Identifying with failure, we may feel incompetent or inadequate. Reacting to pain, we may become discouraged. If we understand or feel that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the eight winds, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst.

One approach to developing equanimity is to cultivate the qualities of mind that support it. Seven mental qualities support the development of equanimity.

The first is virtue or integrity. When we live and act with integrity, we feel confident about our actions and words, which results in the equanimity of blamelessness. The ancient Buddhist texts speak of being able to go into any assembly of people and feel blameless.

The second support for equanimity is the sense of assurance that comes from faith. While any kind of faith can provide equanimity, faith grounded in wisdom is especially powerful. The Pali word for faith, saddha, is also translated as conviction or confidence. If we have confidence, for example, in our ability to engage in a spiritual practice, then we are more likely to meet its challenges with equanimity.

The third support is a well-developed mind. Much as we might develop physical strength, balance, and stability of the body in a gym, so too can we develop strength, balance and stability of the mind. This is done through practices that cultivate calm, concentration and mindfulness. When the mind is calm, we are less likely to be blown about by the worldly winds.

The fourth support is a sense of well-being. We do not need to leave well-being to chance. In Buddhism, it is considered appropriate and helpful to cultivate and enhance our well-being. We often overlook the well-being that is easily available in daily life. Even taking time to enjoy one’s tea or the sunset can be a training in well-being.

The fifth support for equanimity is understanding or wisdom. Wisdom is an important factor in learning to have an accepting awareness, to be present for whatever is happening without the mind or heart contracting or resisting. Wisdom can teach us to separate people’s actions from who they are. We can agree or disagree with their actions, but remain balanced in our relationship with them. We can also understand that our own thoughts and impulses are the result of impersonal conditions. By not taking them so personally, we are more likely to stay at ease with their arising.

Another way wisdom supports equanimity is in understanding that people are responsible for their own decisions, which helps us to find equanimity in the face of other people’s suffering. We can wish the best for them, but we avoid being buffeted by a false sense of responsibility for their well-being.

One of the most powerful ways to use wisdom to facilitate equanimity is to be mindful of when equanimity is absent. Honest awareness of what makes us imbalanced helps us to learn how to find balance.

The sixth support is insight, a deep seeing into the nature of things as they are. One of the primary insights is the nature of impermanence. In the deepest forms of this insight, we see that things change so quickly that we can’t hold onto anything, and eventually the mind lets go of clinging. Letting go brings equanimity; the greater the letting go, the deeper the equanimity.

The final support is freedom, which comes as we begin to let go of our reactive tendencies. We can get a taste of what this means by noticing areas in which we were once reactive but are no longer. For example, some issues that upset us when we were teenagers prompt no reaction at all now that we are adults. In Buddhist practice, we work to expand the range of life experiences in which we are free.

These two forms of equanimity, the one that comes from the power of observation, and the one that comes from inner balance, come together in mindfulness practice. As mindfulness becomes stronger, so does our equanimity. We see with greater independence and freedom. And, at the same time, equanimity becomes an inner strength that keeps us balanced in middle of all that is.

Uncommon Knowledge: Sebastian Junger

Excellent. Sebastion Junger offers a better insight into how war and battle create incredible bonds between men than anything I have ever seen in academic writing. His first hand experience, on the lines with the soldiers, offers a perspective to which we do not usually have access.

This is not to say that I support the idea of war, only that I have a better appreciation for what soldiers go through in being thrust into battle at such a young age - these are essentially kids in many ways.

I do not like that we, as a culture, see young men as disposable in the pursuit of political goals and economic interests. But until we can outgrow the need for war, we MUST try to understand what we are subjecting our kids to, and why they come home so damaged - and most importantly, how to help them heal when they do come home.

A contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, Sebastian Junger is the best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, A Death in Belmont, and Fire. Between June 2007 and June 2008, Mr. Junger was embedded with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, making five trips to the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan, a location that saw more combat than any other in the Afghan theater. Mr. Junger describes what he experienced in his latest book, War.

From this close-in vantage point, Junger discusses the universal themes at play in the experience of all soldiers, ancient and modern, who experience combat: fear, killing, and love, that "intoxicating" bond formed by the men who wage battle together.

Junger also takes a step back to reflect on his own (the journalist's) experience covering war. "Pure objectivity ... isn't remotely possible in a war... Objectivity and honesty are not the same thing, though, and it is entirely possible to write with honesty about the very personal and distorting experiences of war." Finally Junger addresses the one question that cannot be avoided: "Is the war in Afghanistan worth it?"

Sebastian Junger - A contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine, Sebastian Junger is the best-selling author of The Perfect Storm, A Death in Belmont, and Fire.

Between June 2007 and June 2008, Mr. Junger was embedded with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, making five trips to the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan, a location that saw more combat than any other in the Afghan theater. Mr. Junger describes what he experienced in his latest book, War.

Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits Hoover's quarterly journal, the Hoover Digest, and hosts Hoover's television program, Uncommon Knowledge.

Robinson is also the author of three books: How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life; It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP; and the best-selling business book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dana Glazer - Should Dads Be Allowed in the Birthing Room?

My first question (and my girlfriend's as well, as she read over my shoulder) is why the hell wouldn't they be allowed to see the birth of their child? Men are stepping as fathers in ways men in my father's generation couldn't or wouldn't - that should be praised, not questioned.

Should Dads Be Allowed in the Birthing Room?

Dana H. Glazer
Posted: June 29, 2010 08:00 AM

Should dads be allowed in the birthing room? This question has arisen lately in the blogosphere and, frankly, I'm just as mystified as other "dadvocates" like Brian Reid from Rebel Isn't it just a given at this point that dads should be allowed to attend the birth of their children?

Watching a rerun of Mad Men the other day -- the episode where Don Draper is stuck in a hospital waiting room while his wife gives birth -- reminded me once again of where the state of the delivery room was only a few short decades ago. My own father was not permitted at my birth and, after I was born, he had to adhere to "visiting hours" just like everyone else. The message about my dad being a "visitor" is something that most fathers of his generation had to contend with and, in some cases of divorce, still do.

From my view, one way to pinpoint exactly where we are in the "evolution" of fatherhood is to notice how most of today's dads are now present at the birth of their children. Most also accompany their wives to birthing classes and learn how to coach their wives on breathing; very often, they will be given the opportunity to snip the umbilical cord. The typical dad of today proudly wears his involvement in the birth as a badge of fatherhood... as well he should.

And then I read the comments to a recent posting on about this subject, where a number of people expressed that a father's presence in the birthing room is "distracting" to the process. Of course, it should be up to the couple to decide what is best in their situation, but to read about how some people would like dads to once again not be permitted in the birthing room is, in my mind, reflective of how far we still need to go to get everyone on board about the importance of fathers becoming more involved with their families.

I'm not an alarmist by nature, nor do I do I really believe we are going to regress to the point where my father and countless other dads were in generations past. We've come too far for that to happen. However, I bring this issue up to point out how fragile the "evolution" of dad truly is, and that as dads and parents we must really work hard to keep moving forward.

One way to progress would be to make the pre-baby process more inclusive of dads-to-be. It might help many men to be educated at this stage about fatherhood in general and, more importantly, that their value should not be based solely on the size of their wallets- as is still, more often than not, the case. Among so many things, dads should learn about the importance of parental leave and see how it's most beneficial to their children, as well as themselves, to be involved as early on as possible. The next real step in our "evolution" is what happens immediately following the birth, so the more dads can understand about this the better. Lastly, dads should become aware that work/family balance is as much an issue for them as it is for their wives, and that discussing it early and often can avoid problems down the road.

I can't wait to see how fatherhood progresses in the years to come. Educating dads on their role and keeping them engaged in the delivery room and beyond - can make sure that fatherhood continues to grow to its fullest potential.

~ Dana H. Glazer is the award-winning director of the feature-length documentary film, The Evolution of Dad. To learn more about the film, please visit

Monday, June 28, 2010

Michael Chabon - Excerpt: ‘Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son’

KOSU radio posted an excerpt from Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs - very cool book that is now out in paperback. There are more excerpts ("bonus tracks") at the website for the book.

Excerpt: ‘Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son

Filed by KOSU News
June 24, 2010

The Hand on My Shoulder

I didn’t play golf, and he had never smoked marijuana. I was a nail chewer, inclined to brood, and dubious of the motives of other people. He was big and placid, uniformly kind to strangers and friends, and never went anywhere without whistling a little song. I minored in philosophy. He fell asleep watching television. He fell asleep in movie theaters, too, and occasionally, I suspected, while driving. He had been in the navy during World War II, which taught him, he said, to sleep whenever he could. I, still troubled no doubt by perplexing questions of ontology and epistemology raised during my brief flirtation with logical positivism ten years earlier, was an insomniac. I was also a Jew, of a sort; he was, when required, an Episcopalian.

He was not a big man, but his voice boomed, and his hands were meaty, and in repose there was something august about his heavy midwestern features: pale blue eyes that, in the absence of hopefulness, might have looked severe; prominent, straight nose and heavy jowls that, in the absence of mirth, might have seemed imperious and disapproving. Mirth and hopefulness, however, were never absent from his face. Some people, one imagines, may be naturally dauntless and buoyant of heart, but with him, good spirits always seemed, far more admirably, to be the product of a strict program of self-improvement in his youth — he believed, like most truly modest men, in the absolute virtue of self-improvement — which had wrought deep, essential changes in a nature inclined by birth to the darker view and gloominess that cropped up elsewhere in the family tree. He didn’t seem to be happy out of some secret knowledge of the essential goodness of the world, or from having fought his way through grief and adversity to a hard-won sense of his place in it; they were simple qualities, his good humor and his optimism, unexamined, automatic, stubborn. I never failed to take comfort in his presence.

The meaning of divorce will elude us as long as we are blind to the meaning of marriage, as I think at the start we must all be. Marriage seems — at least it seemed to an absurdly young man in the summer of 1987, standing on the sun-drenched patio of an elegant house on Lake Washington — to be an activity, like chess or tennis or a rumba contest, that we embark upon in tandem while everyone who loves us stands around and hopes for the best. We have no inkling of the fervor of their hope, nor of the ways in which our marriage, that collective endeavor, will be constructed from and burdened with their love.

When I look back — always an unreliable procedure, I know — it seems to have been a case of love at first sight. I met him, his wife, and their yellow beach house all on the same day. It was a square-pillared bungalow, clapboard and shake, the color of yellow gingham, with a steep pitched roof and a porch that looked out over a frigid but tranquil bay of brackish water. His wife, like him in the last years of a vigorous middle age, had been coming to this stretch of beach since early in her girlhood, and for both her and her daughter, whom I was shortly to marry, it was more heavily and richly layered with memories, associations, artifacts, and stories than any place any member of my own family had lived since we had left Europe seventy years before. Everything about this family was like that. My future mother-in-law lived in the house in Seattle where she had been born. My father-in-law had grown up down the road in Portland. They had met at the University of Washington. Everyone they knew, they had known for longer than I’d been alive. All the restaurants they favored had been in business for years, they were charter members of their country club, and in some cases they did business with the sons of tradesmen they had dealt with in the early days of their marriage. A journey through the drawers, closets, and cabinets of their house in town yielded a virtual commercial and social history of Seattle, in the form of old matchboxes, rulers, pens, memo pads, napkins, shot glasses, candy tins, golf tees, coat hangers; years and years’ worth of lagniappes, giveaways, souvenirs, and mementos bearing the names, in typefaces of four decades, of plumbing supply companies, fuel oil dealers, newlyweds, dry cleaners, men and women celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.

God, it was a seductive thing to a deracinated, assimilated, uncertain, wandering young Jew whose own parents had not been married for years and no longer lived anywhere near the house in Maryland where, for want of a truer candidate, he had more or less grown up. They were in many ways classic WASPs, to be sure, golfing, khaki-wearing, gin-drinking WASPs. The appeal of such people and their kind of world to a young man such as I was has been well-documented in film and literature; perhaps enough to seem by now a bit outdated. But it wasn’t, finally, a matter of class or style, though they had both. I fell in love with their rootedness, with the visible and palpable continuity of their history as a family in Seattle, with their ability to bring a box of photographs taken thirty summers earlier and show me the room I was sitting in before it was painted white, the madrone trees that screened the porch before two fell over, the woman I was going to marry digging for geoduck clams on the beach where she had just lain sunbathing.

Of course, they were more than a kind of attractive gift wrap for their photographs, houses, and the historical contents of their drawers. They were ordinary, problematical people, my in-laws, forty years into a complicated marriage, and over the course of my own brief marriage to their daughter, I came to love and appreciate them both as individuals, on their merits and, as my marriage began so quickly to sour, for the endurance of their partnership. They had that blind, towering doggedness of the World War II generation. I suppose it’s possible that with two daughters, they’d always wanted a son, my father-in-law especially; I do know for certain that I have never been one to refuse the opportunity to add another father to my collection.

He offered himself completely, without reservation, though in his own particular, not to say limited, way (it is this inherent limited quality of fathers and their love that motivates collectors like me to try to amass a complete set). He took me down to Nordstrom, the original store in downtown Seattle, and introduced me to the man who sold him his suits. I bought myself a few good square-cut, sober-colored numbers in a style that would not have drawn a second glance on Yesler Way in 1954. He introduced me to the woman from whom he bought jewelry for his wife, to the man who took care of his car, to all of the golf buddies and cronies whose sons he had been admiring from afar for the last thirty years. He was a bit barrel chested anyway, but whenever we went anywhere together and, as was all but inevitable, ran into someone he knew, his breast, introducing me, seemed to grow an inch broader, the hand on my shoulder would administer a little fighttrainer massage, and I would feel him — as first the wedding and, later, the putative grandchildren drew nearer — placing, for that moment, all his hopes in me. He took me to football games, basketball games, baseball games. He let me drive his Cadillac; naturally, he never drove anything else. Most of all, however — most important to both of us — he let me hang out in his den.

As the child of divorced parents, myself divorced, and a writer trained by five hundred years of European and American literary history always to search out the worm in the bud, I have, of necessity, become a close observer of other people’s marriages. I have noticed that in nearly all the longest-lived ones, if there is space enough in the house, each partner will have a room to flee to. If, however, there is only one room to spare, it will always be the husband’s. My in-laws had plenty of room, but while she had her office just off the bedroom (where I would sometimes see her sitting at a Chinese desk, writing a letter or searching for an article clipped from Town & Country about flavoring ice creams with edible flowers), my mother-in-law’s appeared to serve a largely ceremonial function.

My father-in-law, on the other hand, sometimes seemed to live down in the basement. His office, like him, was mostly about golf. The carpet was Bermuda-grass green, the walls were hung with maps of St. Andrews and framed New Yorker covers of duffers, and the various hats, ashtrays, hassocks, cigarette lighters, plaques, novelty telephones, and trophies around the room were shaped like golf balls, tees, mashies, mulligans, and I don’t know what. In the midst of all this sat an enormous black Robber Baron desk with matching black Captain Nemo chair; an old, vaguely Japanese-looking coffee table on its last tour of duty in the house; a cyclopean television; and a reclining armchair and sofa, both covered in wool patterned with the tartan of some unknown but no doubt staunch, whiskey-drinking, golf-wild highland clan.

It is for just such circumstances, in which two men with little in common may find themselves thrown together with no other recourse than to make friends, that sports were invented. When my wife and I visited I went downstairs, flopped on the sofa, and watched a game with my father-in-law. He made himself a C.C. and soda, and sometimes, to complete the picture, I let him mix one for me. Like many men of my generation, I found solace when unhappy in placing quotation marks around myself and everything I did. There was I, an “unhappy husband,” drinking a “cocktail” and “watching the game.” This was the only room in the house where I was permitted to smoke — I have long since quit — and I made the most of it (a man’s den often serves the same desublimating function in the household as Mardi Gras or Las Vegas in the world; a different law obtains there). We spent hours together, cheering on Art Monk and Carlton Fisk and other men whose names, when by chance they arise now, can summon up that entire era of whiskey and football and the smell of new Coupe de Ville, when the biggest mistake I ever made came home to roost, and I briefly had one of the best fathers I’ve ever found.

My ex-wife and I — I won’t go into the details — had good times and bad times, fought and were silent, tried and gave up and tried some more before finally throwing in the towel, focused, with the special self-absorption of the miserable, on our minute drama and its reverberations in our own chests. All the while, the people who loved us were not sitting there whispering behind their hands like spectators at a chess match. They were putting our photographs in frames on their walls. They were uniting our names over and over on the outsides of envelopes that bore anniversary wishes and recipes clipped from newspapers. They were putting our birthdays in their address books, knitting us socks, studying the fluctuating fortunes of our own favorite hitters every morning in the box scores. They were working us into the fabric of their lives. When at last we broke all those promises that we thought we had made only to each other, in an act of faithlessness whose mutuality appeared somehow to make it all right, we tore that fabric, not irrecoverably but deeply. We had no idea how quickly two families can work to weave themselves together. When I saw him sometime later at his mother’s funeral in Portland, my father-in-law told me that the day my divorce from his daughter came through was the saddest one in his life. Maybe that was when I started to understand what had happened.

What was I now to him? How can it have felt to have been divorced by someone he treated like a son? These are not considerations that comfort me or make me especially proud. I try to remind myself that in the long course of his life, I occupied only a tiny span of years toward the end, when everything gleams with an unconvincing luster, moving too quickly to be real. And I try to forget that for a short while I formed a layer, however thin, in the deep stratigraphy of his family, so that some later explorer, rummaging through the drawers of his big old desk, might brush aside a scorecard from the 1967 PGA Pacific Northwest Open signed by Arnold Palmer, or an old pencil-style typewriter eraser with a stiff brush on one end, stamped queen city ribbon co., and turn up a faded photograph of me, in my sober blue suit, flower in my lapel, looking as if I knew what I was doing.

~ From Manhood For Amateurs by Michael Chabon. Copyright 2009 by Michael Chabon. Published by Harper. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What Turns Men On? - Look Beyond the Obvious

WebMD thinks they know what turns men on, and some of what they have to say, based on talking to men, is that arousal is less about lust and more about intimacy. Like one of the men in the article, when I was younger, some nice lingerie was cool, or better yet, just plain nekkid.

Now that I am older and in a long-term, honest-to-god relationship, intimacy rocks my world - which is not to say that seeing (and being with) my girlfriend in the buff isn't a slice of awesome. But we have busy schedules between her work, my work, me being in school, yadda, yadda, yadda, so spending time cuddling, taking walks with the dog, or whatever, is very nice. And when we have time to have sex, we have the emotional connection established already.

Oh yeah, a little romance helps, too, a date night, some candles - men like to feel seduced sometimes, too, rather than always being the one who has to do the seduction.

One last point - we tend to like when women tell us what they like, sexually and otherwise - so we can learn to tell our partners what we like - so they don't have to guess. That's true intimacy.

Surprising Turn-Ons for Men

Look beyond the obvious and think sweet, not just racy.

By Matt McMillen
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

What's the best way to get your man in the mood? You won't find the answer in the Victoria's Secret catalog.

Sure, sheer lingerie and scantily clad models will do on most days. But there are a lot of sweeter, PG-rated, and not so obvious turn-ons that also work, especially if you are in a relationship that has a future beyond that first night together.

As a younger man, Richard, a professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville who asked that his full name not be used, went for the sexy, racy look with lots of skin. Now 40, he and his wife recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. His tastes have matured, mellowed.


“We have children, so there isn't a lot of turning on,” Richard jokes. “Actually, my turn-ons are a lot more pedestrian these days. Just getting to spend time alone together is a turn-on.”

Richard and his wife try to have a date night every week: dinner and a movie and holding hands.

“It's the intimacy, period,” Richard says. “Cuddling has become more precious.”

After a moment's prodding, an admission: “I am into shoes, high heels. But it's a minor turn-on. I don't put them on. Let's just be clear about that.”

Minus the shoes, John Horner, 53, finds himself turned on in much the same way. Married for 25 years, the Richmond, Va., drafter puts emotional closeness and intimacy far above the sexual.

“Early on, it was the physicality, the clothes, that turned me on," Horner says. "Now, just sitting near my wife while we read is a turn-on. There's an emotional depth there.”

Neither man's wants are unusual.

“Men want more affection as they get older,” says Irvine, Calif.-based sex therapist Stephanie Buehler, PhD. “When they're younger, they can dispense with that and get right down to it. But especially in their 40s, 50s, 60s, things don't happen as automatically. They need more time warming up.”

Ask Him

What will warm your guy up? Whatever it is, don't expect him to tell you, Buehler says.

“Men rarely ask for what they want,” she says. “A lot of men don't like asking for small signs of affection, but they like getting them.”

She says her husband is a perfect example. He likes to be hugged firm and close. Easy enough. The only problem was he never said anything about that until recently.

“These things are easy to fulfill, but a man has to ask,” Buehler says.

And if he doesn't ask? Buehler advises making the first move.

“Ask him to kiss you, or just go up to him and give him a real kiss, not a peck. Taking the initiative is a turn-on.”

Old-School Ways

Not all men are too shy to say what they want. Jeffrey Kelly, a bartender and student in Portland, Ore., is up front about what turns him on.

“I like being able to be gentlemanly,” says Kelly, 26. “I like opening doors for a woman, paying for dinner, being romantic in an old-school sense. Everyone is so independent these days, and that's awesome, but sometimes I don't want to go Dutch. It's as much for me as it is for her.”

Being a Priority

Men like to be put first sometimes as well, Buehler says. That can be hard when kids are in the picture, but making that effort every once in a while can pay off romantically.

“Ask him, 'Can I put you first this weekend?'” Buehler says.

She also recommends keeping in mind that men are, above all, very visual. So boost your intimacy in general -- from how you relate to physical closeness -- but don’t overlook the obvious: Although men like sweet and subtle turn-ons, they also want to see a little skin.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dr. Brian Mustanski - Is bisexuality the same in men and women?

Recent research suggests that men have more rigid boundaries in their sexual arousal than do women. While straight men tend to be aroused only by images of women, and gay men by images of men, women do not tend to show a bias one way or the other in arousal, not matter how they identify.

Dr. Brian Mustanski looks at this topic in his Psychology Today blog, The Sexual Continuum, and discusses it with male sexuality researcher Dr. Brian Dodge in the video below.

Is bisexuality the same in men and women?

Video answers: is bisexuality the same in men and women?

There has been a lot of scientific and cultural interest lately in differences in the sexuality between men and women. For example, my colleague Dr. Meredith Chivers has been publishing some fascinating research showing major differences in the ways in which men and women experience sexual attractions. She has found that men are fairly specific in what turns them on sexually, whereas women in general have more flexibility. Men who identify as heterosexual become aroused when watching films of women but not men. Gay men tended to be aroused by films of men. This is very different with the women in her research. No matter how they identified in terms of their sexual orientation, they were more likely to show the same pattern of arousal to men, women, and both. Her research was featured in a New York Times Magazine cover story.

To help understand differences in sexual attractions and bisexuality in men and women, I sat down with Dr. Brian Dodge at a recent conference. As a Research Scientist and Associate Director of the Indiana University Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Dr. Dodge has conducted fascinating research on male sexuality, particularly bisexuality. In the video below he answers my question, "is bisexuality the same thing in men and women?"

~ Dr. Mustanski is the Director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can follow his work on the program's webpage. You can follow the Sexual Continuum blog by becoming a fan on Facebook.

Here is the beginning of the New York Times Magazine story referred to above. The interesting finding is that men have pretty clear agreement between their genitals and their brains when it comes to arousal.

On the other hand, women are physically aroused by seemingly ALL of the scenes involving intimacy, whether it's man/woman, woman/woman, man/man, or bonobos. Based solely on this research, it would seem that women are wired to be physically aroused by intimacy in general, no matter what their brains suggest. But the researcher is very clear in her findings - arousal does not equal consent.

What Do Women Want?

Published: January 22, 2009Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She is a 36-year-old psychology professor at Queen’s University in the small city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull — “bonobos don’t seem to make much noise in sex,” she told me, “though the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds” — she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.

While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively. The participants sat in a brown leatherette La-Z-Boy chair in her small lab at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, a prestigious psychiatric teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where Chivers was a postdoctoral fellow and where I first talked with her about her research a few years ago. The genitals of the volunteers were connected to plethysmographs — for the men, an apparatus that fits over the penis and gauges its swelling; for the women, a little plastic probe that sits in the vagina and, by bouncing light off the vaginal walls, measures genital blood flow. An engorgement of blood spurs a lubricating process called vaginal transudation: the seeping of moisture through the walls. The participants were also given a keypad so that they could rate how aroused they felt.

The men, on average, responded genitally in what Chivers terms “category specific” ways. Males who identified themselves as straight swelled while gazing at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while watching the masturbating and exercising women. They were mostly unmoved when the screen displayed only men. Gay males were aroused in the opposite categorical pattern. Any expectation that the animal sex would speak to something primitive within the men seemed to be mistaken; neither straights nor gays were stirred by the bonobos. And for the male participants, the subjective ratings on the keypad matched the readings of the plethysmograph. The men’s minds and genitals were in agreement.

All was different with the women. No matter what their self-proclaimed sexual orientation, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. They responded objectively much more to the exercising woman than to the strolling man, and their blood flow rose quickly — and markedly, though to a lesser degree than during all the human scenes except the footage of the ambling, strapping man — as they watched the apes. And with the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded. Whether straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while staring at the bonobos.

“I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest,” Chivers said, describing her ambition to understand the workings of women’s arousal and desire. “There’s a path leading in, but it isn’t much.” She sees herself, she explained, as part of an emerging “critical mass” of female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods.

Read the rest of this intriguing article.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - Forgiveness Means Giving Up All Hope for a Better Past

My father never wanted kids. He was 36 when he married my mother (who was 32) and was nearly 40 when I was born. My mother really wanted to try again as a mother (she had a son at 19 in her first marriage, then had to give him up for adoption when she divorced her abusive husband - her twin brother adopted the boy), but she was a smoker.

My father said he would only have kids if she quit smoking, probably thinking she could not do it. But she did, and never smoked again.

Growing up, it was pretty clear that my father did not really enjoy kids and didn't really have time for us (my mother insisted on adopting a little girl after I was born - she really wanted a daughter). He worked six days a week as a mail carrier, with an hour-long drive each way to and from work. On Sundays, his literal "day of rest," that's exactly what he wanted to do - rest. And who could blame him, he was up at 5 am everyday and didn't get home at night until 5:30.

Due to a series of heart attacks, he was forced to retire at age 50, so he moved the family to Southern Oregon. For the first time in my life, he had time for me - and seemed to actually want to get to know me. We never played ball, and he never went to my soccer games, but we played horseshoes almost daily, and we worked together in the garden and taking care of the animals.

Then, when I was 13, he had another heart attack - he was taken to the hospital late that night. By the next morning, he seemed stable, but they held him just in case. Then another heart attack, in the hospital, and he died. I was notified by a family friend on my way home from school.

Let's just say, to put it plainly, I was pissed off at the world, and at him. How dare he die when I finally felt like I had a father. So I acted out, got high, crawled into a bottle, and raged for the next five or so years.

* * * * *

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. recently posted an article at Huffington Post called, Forgiveness Means Giving Up All Hope for a Better Past. The title alone is one of the truest things ever said. Too bad no one said that to me when I was young. It took another decade to figure that out - in therapy and on the cushion. Oh, yeah, he got that quote from Lily Tomlin.

When we refuse to forgive, it's as if we're holding onto the past and saying "see past, I'm not going to let you have the pleasure of me letting go of you." Meanwhile, the past is the past, it's not happening right now in the present moment -- or is it?

We keep the past alive by holding tightly to it, so perhaps it is occurring in this present moment. Now, I'm not suggesting we forget the past for the past is our teacher, however, I am suggesting that we loosen our grip on it a bit.

In a past post I asked you to consider this experiment:

"Think of someone in your life right now (maybe not the most extreme person) who you are absolutely holding a grudge against right now. There is no way you are willing to forgive this person right now for their actions. Picture that person, and hold onto that unwillingness to forgive. Now, just observe what emotions are there. Anger, resentment, sadness? Also notice how you are holding your body right now, is it tense anywhere or feeling heavy? Now bring awareness to your thoughts; are they hateful and spiteful thoughts?"
This is what lives inside of you by holding so tightly, so the question is always: who is suffering?
~ Adapted from a publication on Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is Co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. You may also find him at
There's more at Huffington Post or at PsychCentral.

A lot of men I know I have not yet been able to forgive their fathers (or others) for things that happened to them in their childhood. Certainly, this is not just a men's issue, and I don't mean to imply that it is - this is simply a blog for men (and the people who love them), so I am addressing this topic to men.

One buddy has a father who is bi-polar and was not yet on meds for it. He was erratic and sometimes gone for days at a time before his mother divorced him. They have a relationship now, but there is still a lack of forgiveness. I understand how he feels, but I also think he might find some peace if he were able to forgive.

Another guy I knew came out to his parents as a teenager and was kicked out of the house - a common story in the GLBT community. He has no contact with his family, but he also does not hold the anger and hurt anymore. As long as he held onto the pain and did not forgive them, he was tied to them psychologically in a way that he felt as unhealthy. He no longer wishes for different parents, although he misses and mourns the loss of his family.

Dr. Goldstein goes on to say:

There is an understanding at some point that we are all human beings capable of all kinds of atrocities, depending on our genetic makeup, the environment we grew up in and the events that have surrounded and influenced our lives.

This is not a statement meant to excuse or condone an aggressive or violent action committed, however, it is a statement meant to help cultivate understanding and compassion in order for the ones who are suffering to come to terms with the way things are, and slowly let go of allowing the atrocity of the past to still be occurring in this present moment.

We can begin to forgive, even though we will never forget.

This is the crux of it - developing compassion both for the person we have not forgiven and for ourselves is so important. In realizing and accepting that the past can never be any other way than it was (as obvious as that sounds), we can begin to feel compassion for our loss, for our pain, for the past we wanted but never had.

As much as we can know intellectually that the past is done and immutable, accepting that at an emotional level can be challenging. Some part of us was wounded and is living in that past as though it is still happening - part of us is stuck and the only to get unstuck is to release the past.

One last quote:

Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.~ Sara Paddison

C.S. Sloan - Bodyweight Training

Sometimes we can't make it to the gym - the kids need be picked up, we need to grocery shop, the car needs an oil change, or whatever. But that doesn't mean we have to skip the workout entirely. We can stay fit, challenge our muscles, and work up a good sweat with simple bodyweight exercises.

C.S. Sloan recently posted a short article on bodyweight training - I agree with what he says, but I want to add an adaptation for the time-challenged. You can get a good workout in 30 minutes or less by simply not taking rest breaks - keep moving, keep breathing hard, and keep sweating - it'll feel pretty tough after 10 minutes or so.

Here is crux of the post (Some (Very Random) Thoughts on Bodyweight Strength Training):
I'm pretty keen on bodyweight strength training (read some of my early posts on the blog), and tonight I really had a hell of a workout by doing nothing more than squats (about 500 of them), some push-ups (150), and some sit-ups (don't know how many—a lot).

All of which got me to thinking. And so here are some (quite) random thoughts on bodyweight-only strength training:
  • This kind of training should be done frequently. There's no reason that—if bodyweight training is going to be your only form of resistance training—you shouldn't train six-days-per-week for 1 (beginners) to 2 hours (intermediate to advanced) per session.
  • You recover fast from this sort of training. This is good—and bad, I suppose. Not only should you train more frequently, you really need to train more frequently.
  • This stuff is great for conditioning—and getting you in shape fast. As Paul Chek has said, the key to being in great shape is to perform anaerobic exercise until it becomes aerobic. Bodyweight training can easily fit the bill here.
  • Bodyweight-only training is excellent for the athlete who wants to be ageless. You want to live to a ripe old age, and be able to look half your age, have sex like you were half your age, and out train guys half your age? Then these kind of workouts should be the staple of your training.
  • This kind of training is great for mixed martial artists. If you are into MMA, I would advise that you lift weights 2 days per week (HEAVY) and the other 4 days a week should be comprised of bodyweight-only strength training.
  • When performing bodyweight squats, don't count reps during a set, count the time of your sets. You should work up to 5 to 10 minute sets of squats. Then you will be in very good shape.
  • This kind of training teaches you to eat well. You can't do these workouts and eat like a super-heavyweight powerlifting competitor—you'd be winded within 5 minutes of starting your workout. You need lots of lean protein, and plenty of complex and fibrous carbohydrates.
  • Everyone should do this kind of training at least once per week. (Yes, that even goes for your super-heavy powerlifters I was talking about.)
  • These workouts are great as "extra workouts" in your powerlifting arsenal, especially if your workouts in the gym are mainly comprised of "maximal effort" training and "dynamic effort" training.
  • You will not lose your muscle mass if you switch over from typical bodybuilding training to bodyweight-only training. Don't believe me? Try doing 100 push-ups, 50 chins, and 500 bodyweight squats six days per week for the next month. You'll be absolutely friggin' sold.
I'm totally on board with this approach - and this guy knows his stuff.

I've had a should glitch lately that has kept me from benching and doing dips, so I have been doing a lot of push-ups, multiple sets of 25, or even three or four sets of 50 each. My chest has been sore, and my shoulder is healing - sometimes bodyweight is better than barbells.

As an added extra bonus, here is an older article on bodyweight training from C.S.'s excellent blog (check it out - this guy is not only strong, but smart - and integral in his orientation).

Bodyweight Training

About a year ago, my wife (of 12 years) and I separated. Now, apart from the usual angst such a thing can bring about, it was also upsetting because I had a whole slew of weight equipment at our house. In fact, our entire garage I had turned into a gym: squat rack, bench press, deadlift platform, 1,200 pounds of weights—and all that just for starters.

When I moved out, the only thing I took with me (as far as weight equipment goes) was a pair of dumbbells.

I had plans to occasionally go over to our (now her) house and lift weights. (We got along well enough.) However, I knew that most of the time I would just be lifting solo at my apartment with nothing but my dumbbells. And—in time—it got to where I would do mainly bodyweight-only training.

And I—considering the kind of workouts I had performed in the past—was certain that I would lose at least some degree of muscle mass.

Imagine how surprised I was when, six months or so later, not only had I not lost any muscle mass, I was now bigger than I had been in a long time.

My separation from my wife turned out to be a blessing in disguise (at least as far as building muscle mass went). Not only did I gain muscle mass with my limited equipment workouts, they also allowed me to train pain-free. (Due to a surgery I'd had a couple years ago, pain-free workouts had been a real rarity for some time.)

First, here are the rules you need to follow if you plan on performing limited equipment workouts or bodyweight-only strength training:

Rule #1: You must train frequently. And when I say frequent, I mean it. Two, three, or even four days per week will not cut it. Not one friggin' bit. You must train five to six days each week.
Rule #2: You must train each bodypart frequently. In other words, if you train five to six days a week, you can't do any of this one-bodypart-per-workout crap. You need to be training your whole body, or performing upper/lower splits.
Rule #3: Volume Rules!!! A couple of sets per bodypart isn't going to cut it, either. You need lots of volume.
Rule #4: Plenty of Reps. And I mean plenty! Unlike other workouts I've recommended in the past, you have got to do some high-rep training here. As you'll see from the workouts below, 100 reps per bodypart will be a minimum.

Now, on to the actual workout programs:

Workout #1: The Waterbury 100-Rep Workout
This is one I got from Chad Waterbury (which he wrote about not that long ago on the T-Muscle website). It's really simple.
This is an upper-body specialization program for those of you who just want to look good with your shirt off. It requires only two exercises. (Like I said, it's simple, but that doesn't meant that it's going to be easy.)
For six days per week—for the next 30 days—you are going to perform 100 reps of push-ups and 50 reps of chin-ups each day. It doesn't matter how many sets it takes to get the reps, or how many times you train throughout the day. In other words, you can do all 100 push-ups and 50 chin-ups in the same workout or you can spread it out over 2 or 3 sessions.
Just get the required number of reps.
And don't skip one single day.
Yes, you may be sore the first week—and by day three of the first week you might be having a hard time getting all of your reps—but your body will adapt.

Workout #2: The Upper/Lower Split
This one might be even simpler. And it also requires only 2 exercises. But it's also highly effective.
Train six days each week. (For the sake of this article, we'll assume you're going to take Sundays off—reserve it for plenty of meditation and devotion to Spirit.)
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you will perform 200 reps of push ups. As with the Waterbury workout, it doesn't matter how many sessions it takes to get all these reps. It doesn't matter how many sets it takes. Just make sure that—by the end of the day—you have performed 200 push-ups.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays you will perform 500 reps of squats. These can be hindu squats, bodyweight-only wide-stance squats, or you can use a light pair of dumbbells.
As with the push-ups, it doesn't matter how long it takes you, or how many sessions, just make sure you get 500 reps.
Perform this program for the next 30 days. And get better results in those 30 days than you have in any other 30 days of training before that time.

If you want to—once you have adapted to these programs as they are written—start adding abdominal work and extra dumbbell work. You could start adding several sets of dumbbells, some walking lunges, some calf raises, or whatever it is that you need to improve.

And one more rule—we'll make it the official rule #5: Once you have adjusted to the amount of volume in the above workouts, make sure you add more. Trust me, once you have reached the point where you can do several-hundred push-ups each day for six days a week, your lack-of-upper body gains will be a thing of the forgotten past!
For more ideas on bodyweight exercise (for variety), check out this site - and this article from Mike Mahler.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Marie Wilson & Linda Basch - Is the Marlboro Man Dead? Good Riddance!

Here is yet another take on the article from The Atlantic, The End of Men, which argued that the world is changing and is more favorable to the skills of women than to those of men. Hanna Rosin's premise is that men are becoming obsolete.
The list of growing jobs is heavy on nurturing professions, in which women, ironically, seem to benefit from old stereotypes and habits. Theoretically, there is no reason men should not be qualified. But they have proved remarkably unable to adapt. Over the course of the past century, feminism has pushed women to do things once considered against their nature—first enter the workforce as singles, then continue to work while married, then work even with small children at home. Many professions that started out as the province of men are now filled mostly with women—secretary and teacher come to mind. Yet I’m not aware of any that have gone the opposite way. Nursing schools have tried hard to recruit men in the past few years, with minimal success. Teaching schools, eager to recruit male role models, are having a similarly hard time. The range of acceptable masculine roles has changed comparatively little, and has perhaps even narrowed as men have shied away from some careers women have entered. As Jessica Grose wrote in Slate, men seem “fixed in cultural aspic.” And with each passing day, they lag further behind.
She has a good point here - men have to adapt to the changing cultural landscape or they will continue losing shares in the job market - and there is no reason we cannot do so. It is only a reliance on traditional gender roles that makes these jobs seem "less than" or that prevents men from even seeking them out.

In this new response to Rosin, Marie Wilson & Linda Basch rightly see this as the end of limited and limiting masculine gender roles, not the end of men, which is the position I have taken. Of course, they also feel the need to make this about how women still face an uphill battle for parity - which is a partial truth in that it is still true.

On the other hand, the defend the role of fathers that Rosin seems to see as unnecessary - and they seek to find way to keep boys in school and make them more competitive for college placement.

Is the Marlboro Man Dead? Good Riddance!

Marie Wilson and Linda Basch
Posted: June 24, 2010

Hanna Rosin's cover story "The End of Men" has created quite a stir (The Atlantic July/August 2010). Attention-grabbing title aside, Rosin makes the case that women surpassing men in the labor force and in academic achievement is the tidal wave that will finally change the dynamics of power between the genders and lead women to an exalted place of predominance.

But as Mark Twain would say, the reports of men's death are greatly exaggerated.

What Rosin misses is that this sea change of women's power in the marketplace of ideas is not "the end of men" but rather, the beginning of a transformation of traditional roles that will benefit men, women, families, communities -- everyone.

The bad news is that women really aren't ruling the world. As The White House Project showed in its Benchmarking Women's Leadership report, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place with the numbers of women in leadership stalling at 15-17% in most sectors. The United States ranks a scandalous 71st place among countries in terms of women's political representation, and as Rosin herself points out, there are but a handful of superstar female CEO's in the Fortune 500.

Furthermore, many women in this country and around the world are struggling for basic survival. More women live in poverty than men and they typically have more career interruptions, fewer benefits, lower pensions, pay, assets, and savings.

To overcome these challenges, we need to mobilize all our human resources and ingenuity if we are to move towards a revitalized economy and sustainable future.

Consequently, we need more diversity in leadership, and research, some of it cited by Rosin, bears this out. As the National Council for Research on Women showed in its Women in Fund Management report (A Road Map for Achieving Critical Mass -- and Why It Matters), women and men bring complementary and equally important approaches to risk-taking and decision-making and studies show a correlation between management diversity and economic returns. These findings echo Page and Hong's (University of Michigan) Diversity Theorem demonstrating that heterogeneous groups outperform homogeneous ones across the board.

But greater diversity is not a zero sum game: women's gains do not equal men's losses. That girls are progressing in school and now earn more college degrees does not mean that men have lost their ability to compete. We must, however, tackle soaring high school drop-out rates and provide quality education to boys as well as girls and address the needs of all learners.

As for changes on the home front, Rosin writes that there is "nothing essential" about Dad -- but how about the fact that Dad is now permitted to become a more nurturing and caring parent, and redefining masculinity enables him to play a greater care-giving role? This is not a loss, in fact, most men would call it a gain.

Recently released studies from Sweden illustrate how changing policies around paternity leave has changed how men view their roles as fathers. Other research by the Families and Work Institute have shown that young men today willingly want to play a more active part in child-rearing and are demanding more work:life balance.

NCRW, The White House Project, and other researchers are examining the issue of child care in the US and the policy reforms required to support working women and their families. But ultimately, it is up to policymakers to adopt needed reforms. And we believe that greater numbers of women in our legislatures will lead to these changes within our lifetimes.

Our evolving global economy is demanding new skills and roles for both men and women, the question is not whether the new era favors women over men but how each must adapt to new demands and realities.

As last Tuesday's primary elections indicated, in the next decade, women will increasingly come into positions of power and influence. But these breakthroughs should not be viewed as the end of men but rather as the beginning of a new era of innovation and possibility that combines the finest aspects of all our citizens, women and men, working together for a better future.

Is the Marlboro Man dead? Good riddance!

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