Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Name Changer: Identity Theft, or is it Just Marriage?

When my friend from college got engaged several months ago, I had one question: what are you doing with your last name?

The answer may reveal through which side of the prism of feminism she happens to be looking, but my motives are less esoteric. I just want to know if I’ll need to update my Christmas card list.

What she does with her last name is none of my business, and I realized after I asked that I actually have no opinion. Change it. Keep it. Hyphenate. Invent. I can see arguments for any choice, and see no harm to the world, her happiness, her career, or womankind, if she follows the traditional route and takes her husband’s last name.

And, let’s face it, what else is a woman supposed to do with all the free time after a honeymoon if not spend it waiting in line at government offices trying to officially change her name? The DMV is a great place to write thank-you notes and there may even be a sixteen year old who’d love to look through the wedding album.

My view on this subject has mellowed, to say the least. I may be cynical; I may be spoiled; I may be part of what Katie Roiphe called in her 2004 Slate Magazine piece, the “shallow, satisfying, lipstick feminism,” which says you can actually use any name you want, whenever you want, and “have it both ways”.

I am definitely part of the stay-at-home-mom revolution; a realm in which taking a husband’s last name is a vocational advantage. Few call me Mrs. Vander Schaaff, though. The five-and- under set has opted for the more biologically blunt title: Heidi’s Mom.

Being identified primarily through one’s relationship to her husband, or children, is one of the many self-abnegating predicaments women have fought to overcome.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Birthday Story

Birthdays in my family are often celebrated with cake and a retelling of the story of the actual birth. In my case, because of a wrong turn, I was almost born in the parking lot of the YMCA.

My youngest, Ava, had her second birthday today and although she’s too young to understand, I kept up the tradition.

“Congratulations on turning two. You were almost born in the back of a minivan, on a road in Trenton, somewhere between a pizza joint and a liquor store.”

I’m exaggerating.

She was actually almost born at the dermatologist’s office.

It’s very hard to get an appointment with my dermatologist and having contractions seemed no reason to cancel. Besides, I was worried they’d charge me for a missed appointment.

The evening before this fateful day I had spent pacing around the bedroom, pausing only to stand next to my sleeping husband and wonder when, if ever, I should wake him. When morning came, I asked him to put our bags in the car, “just in case” and then proceeded with the day as usual. I’d convinced myself that the contractions would take a hiatus for the workday and return again that night. It was illogical but oddly practical.

I had a lot to do.

First, I needed to tie-up an annoying situation with my health insurance company. They’d rejected a claim for lab work. Nine months of prenatal care does not a pregnant lady make, evidently. I still needed to prove a medical necessity for the tests that were needed guessed it---I was pregnant.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'll Take One Kid's Meal, Hold the Cadmium

I think it’s great that McDonald’s is giving folks a generous refund for Shrek glasses it sold that contain levels of cadmium. You wouldn’t want to think that anything from McDonald’s was bad for your health.

Forgive me. Jon Stewart probably already went to town with that, and with better graphics. And, technically, the glasses were not part of the Happy Meals, and nobody is going so far as to say they are, "toxic".

Still, these glasses are just another piece of unnecessary clutter, targeting kids, (or those with childlike tastes) that are coated with what might, in some circles, be referred to has "something" toxic.

I’ll let others debate the source of the evil—was the paint on these American-made glasses made in China? Who gave Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California the anonymous tip, prompting her to request the Consumer Product Safety Commission to check the glasses? And, most perplexing, why would anyone in their right mind spend $1.99-$2.49 for a tumbler with a picture of a green, albeit, lovable, ogre to begin with?

Cadmium, as you might remember, showed up not long ago in children’s jewelry, and prompted a recall. It’s a carcinogenic metal. Not what you want on kid’s jewelry or, say.....things you use to drink milk.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Blog to Remember: Interview with Liz Reitman Waller, podcast #2

I suppose how a person handles the death of someone they love depends as much on the personality of the one who dies as it depends on the personality of the one who lives.

The posts Elizabeth (Liz) Reitman Wallers writes in her blog, 366 Days of Eric, meet somewhere in the poignant middle. We read about Eric, an athletic, witty, loving 32 year old who died suddenly last December, and then Liz herself-- his sister--a mother, physician, and now writer.

I went to college with Liz, but only through Facebook, and now her blog, have I gotten to know her more deeply. I think it’s an act of bravery to confront any feelings of loss and grief on a daily basis. So, here is the second Lunch Box Mom Podcast, an interview with Liz Waller, of 366 Days of Eric.

Liz, her son Sam, and her brother Eric, of whom she writes in her blog, 366 Days of Eric.

As some of you know, my podcasting skills are green, indeed, and my wonderful intern has a better paying job for the summer. So, I hope the ineptitude of my sound editing does not diminish the profoundness of what Liz has to say.

The Lunch Box Mom podcast is just a click away:

Click on the word “Pod” and it should download in a few seconds...

And, to read Liz’s blog:

Have an idea for the next Podcast? Send me an email:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just Hanging the Greenwashing Out To Dry

Sometimes it seems that there have been two versions of BP. One that chronicles the company’s actions over the years, and one that portrays the identity they aspire to hold in our minds. The first is the product of reality. The second is the product of Ogilvy & Mather.

To say an advertising agency can transform and define the corporate identity of the fourth largest company in the world suggests two things: we, the public, yearn for good-news narratives; and, Ogilvy & Mather is pretty good at what it does.

But, the “holisitic” transformation of BP that some in the marketing industry found remarkable is now unraveling. Like the conspicuous reformer who returns to his high school reunion in a hybrid, spouting truisms of Doctor Phil and proclaiming enlightenment, we’ve seen what’s in the trunk: a few million gallons of crude oil and a rap sheet lined with felonies, price manipulation, destruction of livelihoods, and life itself.

But, we need gas.

And, what strikes me and perhaps many other people as we've watched with agony the continuing destruction of life in the Gulf, is that while it’s easy to vilify BP, it’s hard to think of a world in which we did not buy what it sells.

Well, maybe.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the tales it’s been selling--the image of BP we’ve seen in the commercials over the years, and how these may have affected the public’s response to the company’s actions.