Monthly Archives: August 2014

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt on having a kid on her own

Has your writing changed since you’ve become a mother?

My writing has changed. In the past I’ve been driven to write by painful experiences I needed to work out. Even DIY Mom began as that. But after the birth of my son, I’m driven to write by much more positive feelings and inspirations. I definitely don’t feel like I have as much time to get into the zone I need to be in to do my best work, and I’m not sure what I’ll write next. It feels good to float for now, and see what this next phase brings. My life has become much more routine as a mother, so it’s exciting not knowing what will happen next for me creatively.

What prompted you to write DIY Mom?

After my first book, In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love Commitment and Motherhood, I got a lot of letters from readers asking what happened to me next. I figured I owed it to them to tell that story. I also really wanted to dispel some of the myths about modern single motherhood, and be a positive role model for women who are considering this choice.

Have you had any negative reactions to becoming a single mom by choice?

I haven’t really gotten any negative reactions, but then again I live in San Francisco and there’s very little judgment about the kind of family you choose here. One former friend did say she thought it was “weird” when I expressed the idea that I might want to contact other families who used my same sperm donor. But then again this was coming from someone who constantly complains about and criticizes her own more conventional life, and once told me she thought it “weird” that “two dudes shack up.” You’re always going to meet someone who doesn’t support your choices, and the way to deal with it, I’ve found, is to gracefully let that person and their negativity go from your life.

What advice do you have for other women considering becoming a DIY mom?

My advice to other women who are considering having a baby without a partner is not to make the decision in haste, and to make sure they want it in the deepest reaches of their heart because there’s no going back. If you have the right kind of social support — and this does not mean that you have to be rich — it could be the best decision of your life. I really can’t imagine life without my son now, and in hindsight the torture over the decision seems like too much. But maybe that was part of the process. Just do it; it’s truly amazing.

What are some other books about single motherhood that you’ve loved?

I loved Operating Instructions by Annie Lamott, and I loved Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman as a light read. I honestly don’t read that many books about parenting or motherhood.

DIY Mom

Elizabeth Geoghegan: On Accidental Cocktails, Cities & Sweethearts

“Shebooks editorial director Laura Fraser was drinking a Negroni with some Italian women when one told her that everyone in Italy–tutti quanti–are talking about Shebook’s The Marco Chronicles, by Elizabeth Geoghegan. It’s creating a sensation in Italy–try it! As delicious, and slightly bitter, as a Negroni. Can you resist a book that starts, “If Rome were a woman, she’d be a whore”??? (To make a Negroni, shake equal parts red vermouth, gin, and Campari over ice and serve in a martini glass with a twist of orange).”

“How perfect,” I thought, when I saw Laura Fraser’s remarks about The Marco Chronicles. The night beforehand, friends had gathered to toast the publication of my 2nd Shebook Natural Disasters. Traditionally, August in Rome means most inhabitants have high-tailed it to the seaside or mountains for the summer holidays. In case you didn’t get the memo, in Italy, summer vacations are compulsory. At this time of year, Rome can have an almost post-apocalyptic feel. A sultry hush falls over the city, favorite cafes are shuttered, tourists trudge in circles, stunned by the heat. And yet insiders know August is the best time of year to be here, so when could be better to raise a glass and celebrate a new book? But at “casa mia” we do things with a twist, so my friends chose to “cin-cin” with a Negroni Sbagliato instead.

In Italian, “sbagliato” means mistaken. Legend has it the Negroni Sbagliato was born when a bartender accidentally splashed white wine in the place of gin. My Roman pals love anything bubbly, so we dash in Prosecco in the clear component’s stead, rendering the colorful cocktail effervescent and laced with the bitterness of Campari that Italians so favor. But why do Italians crave bitterness? Do they prefer an aperitivo or espresso “amaro” to remind them that life isn’t always sweet? Do they just like extremes? Can you only appreciate the richness Italy offers when it is paired with something tart? It seems so. And does the penchant for all things bitter explain why Italians embraced The Marco Chronicles? It might. In Italy, there is a saying, “Ciò che è amaro alla bocca è dolce al cuore” or “what is bitter to the mouth is sweet to the heart.”

When The Marco Chronicles came out, Italians and expats alike seemed to feel a kind of kinship with certain (admittedly outrageous) pronouncements I made about my adopted city and its inhabitants. But they implicitly understood that I meant no harm; if I was making fun of them, I was also ridiculing myself. It was the wink of “we get each other” not the raised eyebrow of indignation. Perhaps the Italians get me in the same way I presume to get them because we are all of us in love with the same thing: Rome. Besotted though we may be, we are also ever on the verge of divorce—albeit “Italian style,” meaning it may take years. Possibly forever! As glorious as it may sound, living in Rome (or living with Rome) is no picnic. It’s a rite of passage hard won that even the locals suffer. I’ve learned you cannot love the sweet heart (or is that actually the sweetheart?) of the matter unless you first earn it with a touch of bitterness to the tongue. In The Marco Chronicles I may never get the guy, but I most definitely get the girl. I get “La Grande Bellezza.” And in August, I get her all to myself. Like a Negroni Sbagliato, Rome sparkles but lets face it, she’s got an edge.

The Forum in Rome

Read Elizabeth Geoghegan’s latest stories with an edge in Natural Disasters.

 

4 lessons about sex from a woman who’s seen it all

Jane Juska, bestselling author of A Round Heeled Woman and a new Shebooks memoir The Last Thing to Go, shares a bit of hard-earned bedroom wisdom.

Men are not repelled by imperfect bodies.

When I was 67, I placed a personal ad in The New York Review of Books. I got many responses, then met some of those men, waiting for each one to be repelled by my not-so-young body. Never happened. Men, I discovered, are far less troubled by imperfect bodies than are women.

There is no justice when it comes to breasts.

I first became acquainted with my breasts in 1945 and have had a difficult relationship with my saggy, outsized bust ever since. “Well,” said the ob-gyn “she won’t have any trouble nursing.” “Wrong,” said my huge post-partum breasts and dried up. My boobs failed the single test that would have rendered them legitimate. When it comes to breasts, life’s not fair.

Marriage is not a particularly good alternative to birth control.

In the 1950s, boys and girls didn’t talk to each other before, during, or after sex. Nor, at any time did my boyfriend and I discuss marriage, which I considered automatic, or birth control, which I never considered, because I didn’t know where or how to get it. I never told him that every single month I spent five days terrified of being pregnant, the rest of the month relieved that I wasn’t. How could I have been so foolish? The answer is simple: I was starving for sex. I got pregnant during a time when legal abortion wasn’t even around the corner and I got married. There is something to be said for marriage, even a minor one, even an unhappy one. Marriage resolves an important problem: celibacy.

Looking older is not a sin.

“You don’t look like you’re in your 70s,” I have been told. I answer, “Yes, I do. This is what it looks like.” What they mean is “You don’t look old.” Looking old is the sin. Being old is okay because then they can ignore you, but looking old? That stares them right in the face and says, “Not long from now you’re going to look like this and then you’ll die.” Without tampering, nearly all of us reach an age when we look interesting, when we are interesting. The marks of living a full life are right there for everyone to see if they’d only look. Want to read more?

The Last Thing to Go

Check out Jane Juska’s The Last Thing to Go, only from Shebooks.