fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: health and beauty

where the rubber hits the road: a closeted prude listens to modern sex advice

by nikki meredith

I have a new secret pleasure. It’s not actually secret — I’ve mentioned it to a few people – and, though it involves sex, it’s not exactly pleasurable for reasons I’m about to explain. Come to think of it, it’s not even very new.

Every Tuesday, for the past six months, I put a leash on my dog, ear buds in my ears and head out the door to my local gym and on the way to that gym I listen to the Savage Lovecast, billed as love and sex advice from America’s sweetheart, Dan Savage. I kind of love Dan Savage. I say kind of because a while back he would occasionally go on fat people rants that I found offensive and not consistent with his generally compassionate approach to people. He doesn’t do it any more but I haven’t quite forgiven him. He is, however, an ardent advocate for LGBT rights…actually for lots of rights, gay and straight and, with the fat exception, I agree with him about 99 percent of the time when he’s not talking about sex. When he’s giving advice about sex, I agree with him about 97 percent of the time. Maybe it’s actually 95 percent or possibly 90. Sometimes it’s closer to 50 percent of the time or 20 percent. Perhaps, it isn’t his advice I disagree with. It’s the whole premise of the show. Read the rest of this entry »


rice sock: pretty weird, sometimes useful

by caitlin meredith

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 9.12.18 PMI just opened a better-forgotten drawer at the bottom of my dresser and a flutter of tiny moths burst from dark to light. Though I should’ve just shoved the drawer closed and deleted the event from my working memory so as to not have to launch counter warfare (which we all know is impossible – my favorite line from an article about how to eradicate moths from your home: That said, it is possible to defeat moths. You could, for instance, burn your house down.) I peered into the drawer to see what piece of clothing I’d be dumping in the bin. Instead of cloth, however, I saw….rice. What the fuck? There were tufts of pastel pink and blue threading surrounding the main pile, with a nicely tied twine bow laid to the side. I’ve been accused of moderate hoarding (I say it doesn’t count if your favorite childhood bathing suit is in a box labeled “can’t throw away for some reason”) but pantry supplies in the bedroom were never my weakness. Finally it hit me: The fucking rice sock.

Did you know that you can go your whole life without hearing the term “rice sock” and then all of a sudden have it rain down on you like bird poop in a bad parking spot? Read the rest of this entry »

we’ve come a long way, baby. or have we?: is women’s sexuality a substitute for women’s equality?

by nikki meredith

vintage pornI’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately and it all started when I read an account of an all girls circle jerk in a Manhattan Upper East side apartment.  Okay, to be fair, as far as I know, no one but me is calling it a circle jerk.  Jenny Block, a columnist for The Huffington Post, attended a masturbation party…or, more precisely an orgasm party — after all, the former without the latter wouldn’t make much of a party. Again, to be fair, and I’m trying to be, sort of, it wasn’t a party it was a workshop though it had many aspects of a party, or a kind of party. All of the participants were naked and there was lots of sex, and booze.  Okay, actually, I don’t know about the booze.  I can’t seem to stop myself from trying to make the event sound ridiculous as though I don’t trust that the participants can get there on their own. And, speaking of getting there on their own, or, rather, not getting there on their own, a traditional young boy’s circle jerk, as far as I know, doesn’t involve a teacher. (If it did, someone would call the authorities.) The teacher of this, uh, class, was 85-year-old artist Betty Dodson who, in the buff, pranced — okay, maybe she didn’t prance –  she floated from woman to woman administering hands-on instruction.

It may not sound like it, but my purpose here is not to ridicule the workshop but rather to sort what it is that offends me about the whole enterprise.

Does the visual of Dodson’s hands-on work trigger my heretofore undiagnosed homophobia?   Or, does the mere mention of sex and nudity in the same sentence as an 85-year-old woman elicit from me the same bias against old people and sex as expressed by the likes of Chris Rock and Bill Maher?  (I’m just guessing about Bill Maher, but Chris Rock, in a riff about Sex in the City, once declared that the actresses on that show were way too old to be showing their “titties” on camera.) Or is my problem even more primitive?  Does my discomfort put me in the same category as, say, Rick Santorum, who, I’m quite sure would stroke-out if he found himself in the room with all of those masturbating women.  God knows, there are areas of my mind that are more narrow than wide. But, because I find my judgmental self so distasteful, an alarm goes off when it surfaces.  If I find myself rejecting something simply because it wasn’t done in my time or, if it was done, it wasn’t acceptable, I want to know if I’m just lagging behind culturally or if there are reasonable grounds to object. Read the rest of this entry »

Ebola is real. Our risk is not. Protect front line health-workers.

by caitlin meredith

PPE removal.1.1As a field epidemiologist, I have responded to disease outbreaks all over Africa during the past 10 years, from cholera to meningitis to Hepatitis E. Any other year, I’d be in Liberia right now, in gumboots with a map and a spreadsheet, trying to track and contain Ebola’s spread alongside my colleagues. Because of a new baby, however, I’m watching from the sidelines.

So far, what I’ve seen from the bench makes me concerned – not about Ebola’s threat to the United States, but about the mixed messages our leaders are sending and the mob mentality that results when fear overtakes facts.

Though my professional career in international health has been primarily with Doctors Without Borders, I am not speaking on behalf of the organization or my colleagues. I don’t know Dr. Craig Spencer personally, though he worked in Guinea with some of my good friends. I’ve never met nurse Kaci Hickox in person (that I know of) but we corresponded about project data a few years ago. I have e-mailed both of these colleagues messages of support in the past few days, but haven’t been in touch – i.e. I have no insider or personal information about either.  The facts I’m writing about here all come from mainstream news coverage.

Based on my experience as an epidemiologist and aid worker, I offer four main areas of improvement for the U.S. to start getting Ebola management right. Read the rest of this entry »

top ten ways pregnancy and childbirth will drive you crazy: #2 – your personality goes down the toilet

by caitlin meredith

pregnancy symptomsWhen she was pregnant, my friend Carolyn announced that her personality turned off at 8pm. When not pregnant, the usual shut off time trends towards 10pm so the difference is considerable for those spending an evening with her. As it happened, we were pregnant at the same time. While I was impressed with her precision, and felt similarly wilted by day’s end, I had one major question: What personality?

Carolyn is lovely – she has a sharp wit and a daunting intellect so this question was no reflection on who she was, just a mere observation from the pregnancy trenches. As much as I tried to fight it and show my non-pregnant friends just how unlike all the other pregnant women out there I was, constantly talking about weird food stuff and swollen body parts, I failed miserably. Read the rest of this entry »

the mother of my grandaughter’s mother: a grandmother’s quest to find the right name

by nikki meredith

old russian grandmotherWhen my older sister announced her pregnancy, my mother announced, shortly thereafter, that she didn’t want to be called grandma, granny, gran or any variation of grandmother.  I assumed it was because grandmother meant old and my mother, who had always shrouded her age in secrecy, didn’t want any clues to her age. She’d been grappling with the age thing since she became a mother herself at the age of 16.  Her solution as a teenager was to tell people, at least people who didn’t know better, that the baby was her sister not her daughter.   (The implications of this lie are vast and, possibly, the subject of a future blog or two, or two thousand. Fierce attachments indeed!)

After my sister learned to talk, the jig was up. My mother was forced to come out of the mother closet. She may have been willing to lie to strangers but she was not, thank God, willing to lie to her daughter.

When, at the age of 47, she became a grandmother, she didn’t try to claim that her grandson was her little brother but she still saw no reason to advertise her demographic. At least I assumed that was her aversion to being called grandmother. I never actually asked her about it. (There were some topics one did not raise with my mother. My attachment to her also had its share of fierceness.) Read the rest of this entry »

top ten ways pregnancy and childbirth will drive you crazy: #1- trying to use the internet to find out if you’re pregnant or not

by caitlin meredith

woman googling2Ladies and Gentlemen, do me a favor. Do a web search for “signs of pregnancy.” Pretend your period is approaching a late arrival and you don’t happen to be able to think about anything else other than whether or not life is about to get really weird. “Concentrate on something else,” you tell yourself, so you try to get engaged with a New York Times article on the mysterious case of the disappearing bees, you try to lose yourself in the organic gardening tutorial you’ve meant to sit through for a year, you even try to organize your inbox by learning how to use the Gmail filter function. All to no avail. Finally, after the 47th trip to the bathroom to see if there are any new developments, you turn to the internet to determine your fate. Come on – do the search.

You’ll find that there are a gazillion web health “articles” on every site from WebMD to the Mayo Clinic with identical lists of early pregnancy signs and symptoms. Their purported intent is to help women figure out whether or not the most important event in their reproductive lives is in fact happening. In reality, they exist only to drive women bat shit crazy. Read the rest of this entry »

i will never understand men: hard-wired attraction and the quest for companionship

by nikki meredith

group of men2My last memory of Jacob was on a bright, February day. The air had a crisp, astringent quality. We had just finished our monthly hike in the woods behind my house and we were having lunch at a local café. My dog, Alice, still panting from the hike, was tethered to his chair. He leaned down to stroke her ears and she swooned. He loved her and loving a dog was a new experience for him. I was urging him to get a dog of his own. He was lonely. At times, howlingly lonely.

“No,” he said, “I’ll wait until I meet someone.”

“So you want a dog to alleviate your loneliness but you want to wait until you meet someone at which point you won’t need a dog to alleviate your loneliness.”

He laughed.

We argued a lot. We argued about many things but one particular argument we’d been having off and on for more than 25 years. He would only date women who were younger, quite a bit younger. I didn’t like it.

If I had known he would be dead in another two weeks, would I have fought with him at all that day? Or would I have fought more fiercely? Would I have been more insistent that he do what he had to do to open his mind and heart to other possibilities? Read the rest of this entry »

Chris Bully Boy Christie: Obesity and Empathy and the New Jersey Govenor

by nikki meredith

Chris Christie snarlingWhen I was in high school, my best friend and I were walking across the parking lot at a southern California beach where my family camped every summer. Three boys our age were walking towards us. My friend and one of the boys, a hefty guy…okay, a fat guy, got into one of those do-si-do routines: each time she stepped to the left, he stepped to his right; each time he stepped to his left, she stepped to her right – neither one could move forward. It’s the kind of situation where someone with good humor, if not much wit, says, “Shall we dance?”  This guy, however, had neither good humor nor wit. He planted his feet in a wide stance, folded his arms, and snarled, “I’m not going to move.”

My friend put her hands on her hips and examined him from head to girth to foot. “You couldn’t move,” she said, “even if you wanted to.”

I was gobsmacked.  On the one hand, I’d been taught by my parents never, ever, to ridicule or even comment on a person’s physical traits.  On the other, I wanted to yell a 1960’s equivalent of you go girl. The guy was a bully and clearly the back-up of his snickering buddies bolstered his bullishness.

I think of that incident and my dual reaction almost every time I see Chris Christie on television and I’ve been seeing him a lot lately because of an incident involving the George Washington bridge where he is alleged to have thrown his weight around with, if not dire consequences, certainly inconvenient ones for a considerable number of people. I’ll get to that in a minute but first let’s review some highlights of the Gov’s bullying tendencies: Read the rest of this entry »

living with chronic pain – someone else’s: part 2

by nikki meredith

chopping vegetablesMy husband walks in the door from work. I’m in the kitchen chopping vegetables.  He kisses me and asks how I am. I shrug and then place the tips of my three middle fingers over my right eye – the sign that I have a migraine.   “Oh no,” he says. “I’m so sorry.” And he does look sorry though I wonder how he can keep feeling sorry when it’s  such a frequent occurrence. But even more than that, I wonder, why do I do this to him? Why do I need to tell him?

It’s easier for me to answer why I shouldn’t tell him than why I do.  I shouldn’t tell him because I assume that the hardest part of living with someone with a painful medical condition is the feeling of helplessness. I know how I feel when he’s suffering from any malady, large or small, especially if there’s nothing I can do to make him better.  When you love someone, you want to alleviate his or her suffering and when you can’t, it’s terrible. And when you can’t alleviate the suffering, over and over and over again, it must be terrible over and over and over again.  So, I repeat, why do I tell him? If I love him, why don’t I spare him this ordeal? Read the rest of this entry »

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