Let’s Dish: What Are You Reading?

rosieSeveral readers have expressed an interest in sharing information about books. In fact, I’ve received requests for a HUS Book Club – we could all read the same book and then discuss it here!

I thought I’d start by sharing what I’m reading now, and what’s in my pile:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. 

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. 

I adored this book. I devoured it last weekend. The characters are delightful, flawed but earnest. I had many laugh out loud moments reading this book, and I believe Mr. HUS was not unhappy to see me close the cover, as my outbursts were not complementary to his reading of Bully Pulpit. :)

Highly recommended! Right now the Kindle version is only $1.99.

Foodist by Darya Pino Rose

In Foodist, Darya Pino Rose, a neuroscientist, food writer, and the creator of SummerTomato.com, delivers a savvy, practical guide to ending the diet cycle and discovering lasting weight-loss through the love of food and the fundamentals of science. 

A foodist simply has a different way of looking at food, and makes decisions with a clear understanding of how to optimize health and happiness. Foodist is a new approach to healthy eating that focuses on what you like to eat, rather than what you should or shouldn’t eat, while teaching you how to make good decisions, backed up by an understanding of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting is filled with tips on food shopping, food prep, cooking, and how to pick the right restaurants and make smart menu choices.

I wrote about the food blog Summer Tomato earlier this week, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s full of great tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle without feeling deprived, and without wasting time on exercise that isn’t all that beneficial. She’s young and hip too – here’s her list of Tips for Drinking Less Without Your Friends Knowing:

  1. Altnernate drinks with water.
  2. Drink clear liquids and leave some in the glass – it will mix with melted ice.
  3. Order drinks that look like alcohol, but aren’t, e.g. vodka soda with lime.
  4. Be forgetful – abandon the occasional half full glass.
  5. Drink light beer.
  6. Master the shot spit. (This is kinda gross, it’s spitting a whole shot into a beer chaser.)

A few women have asked me how to handle this social situation, and Darya’s advice is far more comprehensive than mine was. (I suggested alternating clear drinks with water.)

Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman

Let Scent and Subversion take you for a whiff on the wild side of 20th century perfume.

Perfume has been — and continues to be — subversive. By playing with gender conventions, highlighting the ripe smells of the human body, or celebrating queer and louche identities, 20th-century perfume broke free from the assumptions of the prior century, and became a largely unrecognized part of the social and style revolutions of the modern era. 

In Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume, Barbara Herman continues her irreverent, poetic, and often humorous analysis of vintage perfumes and perfume ads that she began on her popular blog YesterdaysPerfume.com. The book features descriptions of over 300 perfumes, starting with Fougère Royale (1882) and ending with Demeter’s Laundromat (2000).

I decided to read this after hearing a fascinating interview with the author on NPR. She has studied perfume changes and fashions as they relate to political change throughout the 20th century. This book is next up. By the way, the novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind (2001) is one of the most memorable novels I’ve ever read. In it a man with an incredible sense of smell strives to bottle the scent of a virgin in 18th century France. 

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth–Middlemarch–and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece–the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure–and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.

I only read Middlemarch a few years ago, and loved it. I also enjoyed the PBS dramatization. I just got this book today, and look forward to digging in.

For the record, I get almost all of my books from my local library. It’s easy peasy – read reviews on Sunday, get online and request desired books, wait for email telling me they’re in. I estimate that I’ve saved hundreds of dollars per year since I started doing this. This is a sound financial strategy for you 20-somethings!

What are you reading? What’s in your pile? Share the love. And let me know if you’re interested in the book club idea, and any book suggestions you have.


Do Less Attractive Guys Make Better Boyfriends?

One very common misperception I see among women is the belief that character is strongly correlated to looks. In particular, women tend to assume that a very good looking guy is bound to be a douchebag, while his far less attractive buddy is potential boyfriend material:


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Beware the Exception Fallacy

Reader Mary H expresses concern about having children in modern society. As an example of how bad things have gotten for parents, she cites the case of New Jersey teenager Rachel Canning, who is suing her parents for college tuition and a monthly stipend. After getting into trouble repeatedly with alcohol, she refused to abide by household rules relating to curfew, chores, and a boyfriend the parents found unacceptable. Four months ago, she moved out and now lives with a friend’s family.

“All her parents must have tried to do is raise her (with rules), and the girl sues them! Because apparently we live in the generation of selfies and entitlement.”

Wise Ana immediately replied:

“A good daughter who pays for her own college education with hard work and thanks parents” doesn’t make the news.

Mary extrapolated from this terrible family feud to conclude that young people today are awful – so awful she is afraid to have children! It’s a common mistake, known as the Exception Fallacy:

The exception fallacy occurs when data about an individual is used to draw conclusions about a group of people.

We are always in a hurry to classify people and groups and, when we have limited data about a group, we will often use what information we have, even if it is not statistically valid — and even if it is a single data point.

We’ve all heard stories that make us wonder “What is wrong with people?” But bloggers often deliberately fuel misimpressions by featuring tabloid stories about people whose lives are a wreck.

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The Male Biological Clock

male bio clockA recent study finds that the degradation of sperm quality over time carries sharply increased risk of mental illness for offspring of older fathers.

Men have a biological clock of sorts because of random mutations in sperm over time, the report suggests, and the risks associated with later fatherhood may be higher than previously thought.

Jeremy Dean summarizes the implications at PsyBlog. 

A new study has found that the children of older fathers have a much greater risk of serious mental illness.

The findings come from a huge number of people: everyone born in Sweden between 1973 and 2001 (D’Onofrio et al., 2014).

The researchers included over 2.5 million people, representing almost 90% of the population.

They found associations between older fathers and psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism and ADHD.

When they compared fathers who were 24-years-old with those who were 45-years old, they found that children of the older fathers were:

  • 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder,
  • 13 times more likely to have ADHD,
  • 3.5 times more likely to have autism,
  • 2.5 times more likely to have suicidal behaviour.

Children born of older fathers also struggled more with academics and substance abuse.

Brian D’Onofrio, the study’s lead author, was skeptical of the results and ran many sub-analyses controlling for variables:

The researchers controlled for every factor they could think of, including parents’ education and income. Older couples tend to be more stable and have more income — both protective factors that help to temper mental problems — and this was the case in the study. But much of the risk associated with paternal age remained.

“We spent months trying to make the findings go away, looking at the mother’s age, at psychiatric history, doing sub-analyses,” D’Onofrio said. “They wouldn’t go away.”

“We were shocked by the findings. The specific associations with paternal age were much, much larger than in previous studies.”

Dr. D’Onofrio stresses that not every child born to a father of 45 will have these problems, but he suggests that the research should “inform individuals in their personal and medical decision making.”

As we know, women tend to be anxious about delaying childbirth too long, given the realities of the fertility timeline. In thinking about when to begin a family, a woman should consider both her age and the age of the father to minimize complications and risk. 


Slut, Prude or Tease. Is There Another Option?

someecards teaseYoung women today feel very boxed in by the way guys perceive their sexual behavior.

Women who have casual sex are called Sluts by the men they hook up with.

This is not a label most women aim for. They get a lot of male attention, but no respect. While a few women wear the Slut label proudly, most women hook up in hopes of getting into a relationship. That strategy is rarely successful.

Women who avoid the hookup scene altogether or make it explicitly clear they don’t do casual are derided as Prudes.

They are summarily dismissed as a waste of time by most socially active males.  Twenty year-old virgins are shamed for being unsuccessful in sustaining male interest, but mostly they are ignored once the word gets out. 

Tara Texts 

Note: This is a real screenshot from one of the women in my focus groups.

Women who enjoy being social, hanging out in groups and flirting with guys must choose between Slut or Cock Tease.

A woman who won’t go to a guy’s room is a Prude, but a woman who wants to stop at making out is a Cock Tease. 

“Why did you let me come up here if you didn’t want to have sex?”

It’s a challenge, and an accusation. It’s often followed by an attempt to induce guilt by playing the dreaded Blue Balls card. The implication being that the woman has not played fair. She deceived him into thinking it would be worth his time to come up after the bar closed. Of course, she is suffering from the hopeful delusion that he would be pleased to get to know her better. Maybe make out, then snuggle and talk for hours. (That’s what girls really like best early on with guys they are into.)

USC freshman Arianna Allen has penned an article depicting her frustration with being labeled a Tease.

A “tease”: a female who entices you into thinking you have a chance.

In other words, a girl who flirts with you without the intention of “hooking up.” This has been my label for, well, as long as I can remember. 

…I’ve never intended on falsely leading someone on. Does the fact that I value substance over sex make me a tease? Or does the concept that I’d like to hang out with a guy outside of his bedroom constitute as teasing? The fact that I’ve chosen not to partake in the hookup culture does not justify my classification. 

I don’t go out with the intention of hooking up; I go out to hang out with my friends and make new ones. At the risk of sounding cliché, I go out to make memories, to have stories that I’ll continue to laugh about for years to come. I go out for the college experience. 

Even as she protests, she feels the need to justify her choices as a rebel who does’t hook up:

“I’d rather avoid the infamous I-know-you looks in the campus center, the obligatory gaps in communication post drunk hook-up and the awkward trips to collect your forgotten belongings on his nightstand. I’d rather dance until the beat drops, talk about the time he went sky-diving, and make fun of his drunk frat brothers. Admittedly, it is much more meaningful to me for a guy to be able to tell his friend one thing about me, as a person, instead of, “oh yeah, I hooked up with her once.” 

I’d also like to know something about him besides if he sports boxers or briefs. I’d rather have an encounter of substance over sex.”

Arianna wants a social life. She doesn’t want to stay in the dorm on Friday night. And yet she doesn’t blame these would-be players, all itching for their pound of female flesh.

“After a long week of classes, these players and the game itself keep life interesting and fun. Players have a great sense of humor, unbelievably reckless stories and, deep down, they usually have the remnants of a heart…In this hook-up crazed culture, oftentimes the only thing we can do is just keep playing on.”

Allen has chosen the “buddy” approach, but she shouldn’t have to. She should be able to go out and flirt like crazy, all in the name of good fun. That’s what young people do. Sarah Jacobson wrote a piece while a student at NYU defending her right to tease.

 I’m at the apartment of a boy I’d been dating for about a month. Things are heating up, so I think it only fair to warn him, before we get too far into the moment: “I’m not going to sleep with you tonight.”

“Okay,” he replies in stride and goes back to kissing me.

The next day he asks me if I’m waiting until marriage.

“Um…no,” I assure him, “Sex is just…kind of a big deal to me.”

“Oh,” he replies, “Yeah. I feel that.”

Well, apparently he doesn’t “feel that” because the next time I ask him to come over he hems and haws before remarking that I am a tease and he has a paper to write.

Sarah consults her good friend Max for a clue as to how to interpret this asshole behavior.

“Well, what, aren’t you attracted to him?” Max asks. “Are you going to sleep with him? Because otherwise, aren’t you just dangling something in front of him?”

One month is clearly unacceptable as a waiting period in college.

“Where do you draw the line? Where do I get to be a normal girl who just wants to know the guy more than “just sort of” before she sleeps with him? What am I supposed to do in this situation—not touch him at all, for fear that he might get turned on and then I’ll end up leaving him all…you know? I don’t know about you, but it kind of feels like anything short of going for the main event brands me with a scarlet “T” for Tease.”

Sarah puts the responsibility exactly where it belongs. Guys, get a clue.

“If I don’t want to sleep with you, it’s not an insult to your masculinity. It’s not even that I don’t find you attractive. And it’s not that I just want to string you along. Maybe my mother taught me to be a good girl. Maybe that lesson took. Get to really know the guy first, you know? Be comfortable with what you do with your body.”

Being a cock tease requires signaling impending sex and then not following through. It requires deception, an effort to mislead a guy with false expectations. Are some women cock teases? Yes. They do it for the male validation, they deliberately get a guy all riled up and hopeful so that they know they’re desirable, when they have no real intention of hooking up with him, and may not even find him attractive. That 180 degree flake at the end of an evening is something guys have every right to resent and call out. 

Flirting isn’t being a cock tease. It’s a normal and healthy form of mating communication that allows people to single others out for attention in an effort to show interest.

Making out isn’t being a cock tease. Dry humping isn’t being a cock tease. Even saying no at the last minute isn’t being a cock tease if you have genuinely changed your mind because you don’t feel ready. Of course, guys are free to peace out and disappear if they don’t want Round 2, but they shouldn’t be calling you a tease if you did not have the intent to profit at their expense.

Sarah says it well:

“If we girls have to choose from the slut at one end, or the prudish princess at the other or maybe some playful teasing in the middle while we think it over, I say teasing is the way to go. No giving it up right away and no sitting at home for the rest of your life with your cats. There is [another] option. Call me “respectable.” I can handle it.”

Do you feel this way? Have you ever been made to feel there was something wrong with you because you weren’t interested in having sex with someone you “sort of” knew?