Pelvic exams are awkward enough when they’re just you and your family doc, making small talk about STIs. So I was revolted to learn, courtesy of a recent story in the Globe and Mail, that Canadian med students routinely perform them — as educational exercises — on women who are under anesthesia for gynecological surgery. Without telling them. Ever. Worst of all, it’s because if they did tell them, they wouldn’t consent.
The story discusses a recently published study by Sara Wainberg (download a pdf here). It describes what I would think is obvious – that most women (seventy-two percent) expect to be asked before their pelvises are turned into props.
I prefer how the Globe’s Andre Picard put it: “You don’t probe, poke or otherwise invade the orifices of a patient without their permission,
regardless of how educational it might be. Period.”
- Vanessa Milne
Scientists in the U.K. have released a new study on human sexuality that claims the g-spot is a myth.
Frustrated women (and their partners) everywhere heave a sigh of relief; women in The Secret G-Spot Society smile to themselves knowingly; anti-climax jokes ensue around the world.
My friends, it is once again that time of year, when temperatures plummet, festive music blares from every available speaker, and journalists clamour to prove both their expertise and their proficiency with numbers by offering you an array of best-of lists. Now, a confession: I hate cold weather — give me a hazy, humid August scorcher any day. And, with apologies to our resident crafter and Christmas fanatic Katie Dupuis, I really dislike festive music. However, I adore a good best-of list. I like them for all the terrible, obvious reasons — here’s some order in our chaotic world! hey, I loved that movie, too! gee, that was easily digestible! So shoot me. I know I’m not alone on this one.
It is in that spirit — get ready to wrap your mind around the meta! — that I present to you my best-of the best-of lists. Like all true best-of lists, it is entirely arbitrary, based on what I happen to enjoy and what I happen to have happened upon, after a fair-but-by-no-means-exhaustive amount of Internet clicking. It is also a tad premature, given that all sorts of media outlets (I’m looking at you, Globe and Mail) have yet to release their best-of lists. But no matter! Let’s call it a work in progress, and let’s begin:
This is the list that kickstarted the blog post, and you’ve got to give Time points for sheer comprehensiveness — when they say everything, they mean everything, with 50 very specific lists over 4 broad categories. My favourite, though, has to be the Top 10 T-shirt-Worthy Slogans, mainly because I am a child and I find Kayne’s “Imma let you finish” endlessly amusing.
The New Yorker’s Judith Thurman is bang-on with her choices, though it is criminal — CRIMINAL — that this came in at number 7, rather than number 1.
You may have caught wind of the fact that we’re not merely counting down the year — we’re counting down a decade, folks. New York magazine has therefore put out its issue of the aughts, which includes a look at the last ten years in culture. Critic Sam Anderson’s essay on the decade’s defining literature is well worth a read, not least because it devotes considerable space to Junot Díaz’s phenomenal novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which several best-of-the-decade book lists failed to do. (Seriously, if you or anyone you know hasn’t yet read Oscar Wao, please go pick it up. Look, it’s available on Amazon! And if you order now, it’ll even ship by Christmas!) But I digress. While all the essays boast interesting stuff, my heart belongs to the slideshow Rust in Peace, about everyday items rendered obsolete by the passing decade. So long, answering machine! Fare thee well, paid pornography! Nice knowing you…Hydrox, precursor to the Oreo? Apparently so.
Oh, man, remember when that doctor from Moosejaw posted all ten ink blots on Wikipedia, along with the most popular responses? And then remember how the entire medical community went nuts? And remember how this happened in July, when the sun was shining and the weather was sweet and life seemed generally more manageable? I miss those times. Sorry, wait, what was I talking about?
Ah, that’s better. Book design prettiness.
Tip: Don’t buy a Cadillac Escalade, or else suffer the consequences.
Tip: Don’t actually read this list, or else suffer having Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” stuck in your head FOREVER.
And, finally, I’d just like to wish all our Jewish readers a very happy first night of Hanukkah (however you choose to spell it). A brief personal aside: As a half-Jewish girl growing up in an all-Jewish neighbourhood, I — much like those Gosselin kids — learned early on that Santa was not real. It’s a cruel and sobering moment for a child, but happily, children can be distracted from their pain quite quickly by the promise of fried food. And it is in that spirit, my friends, that I leave you with my top three latkes recipes. Sevivon, sov sov sov — and enjoy the potatoes.
Chatelaine’s lacy latkes
Gourmet’s potato latkes
Mark Bittman’s guide to potato pancakes, complete with video.
— Danielle Groen
I love the opening of this article about children’s books and parenting that was published in The New Yorker a month ago:
Anxious parents — the midnight Googlers who repeatedly seek advice from experts — learn that there are many things they must never do to their willful young child: spank, scold, bestow frequent praise, criticize, plead, withhold affection, take away toys, “model” angry emotions, intimidate, bargain, nag. Increasingly, nearly all forms of discipline appear morally suspect. The educator Alfie Kohn, writing recently in the Times, condemns the timeout — the canonical punishment of recent decades — declaring that it is more honest to say you are “forcibly isolating” your child. Even an approach as seemingly benign as awarding gold stars, Kohn warns, is a manipulation that “teaches children that they are loved” only when they perform a “good job.”
I’m not a parent, but many of my colleagues — and many of our readers, of course — are, and I’ve heard enough parenting stories over my three years at the magazine to totally freak me out about one day raising my own offspring. Usually, though, the stories that freak me out aren’t about the children themselves; they’re the stories about what the New Yorker writer, Daniel Zalewski, touches on in his opener: the scads of conflicting advice, contradictory studies, quarrelling experts and the parents who pledge their allegiances and then chide everyone else for doing it “wrong.” (My colleague Rachel wrote an excellent story about “parenting by panic,” in our Holiday issue.)
I’ve never given much thought to the parenting that can take place through children’s books. It’s funny because, if you were to look through my bookcases, you might be surprised that I don’t have a kid or two hiding in my teeny rented apartment, on account of all of the Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Dennis Lee, dozens of fairy tales (my favourite souvenirs from traveling), and the book that I could recite from memory long before I could read, Madeline. (“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines lived twelve little girls, in two straight lines…”)
But Zalewski points out that the heroes of today’s children’s books aren’t quite what you might expect. One fairly new character he describes as, “a surly schoolgirl whose beady eyes, encircled in red orbs, suggest a legacy of refused naps, Constance is a manipulator of demonic proportions.” This little girl gets away with everything, while her parents apparently stand by, helplessly. And Zalewski seems to think that this portrayal pretty closely resembles real life: “The parents in today’s stories suffer the same diminution in authority felt by the parents reading them aloud (an hour past bedtime). The typical adult in a contemporary picture book is harried and befuddled, scurrying to fulfill a child’s wishes and then hesitantly drawing the line. And the default temperament of the child is bratty, though often in a way so zesty and creative that the behavioral transgressions take on the quality of art.”
I fondly remember Madeline, who was written to life in 1939, as being willful and a little hell-raising, perhaps making her the great- great- great- great-grandmother of Constance. And it isn’t a leap to suggest that today’s parents are harried. But I wonder how the parents in the room feel about introducing their kids to Constance.
— Jacqueline Nunes
First of all: Just look at Mavis Gallant. She’s adorable.
More importantly, she’s a damn fine short story writer — every bit as extraordinary as fellow Canadian Alice Munro, though Munro tends to show up more on the Can Lit canon. (Please, if you haven’t read Gallant, go immediately to buy her tremendous collection Paris Stories, and find in it great humour and pathos, and intimately revealed truths.)
But most surprising for me — since I knew Gallant through her stories, not her interviews — is that she’s a fabulously independent woman. Moved to Montreal on her own at 18. Moved to Paris on her own a decade later. Married in her 20s, divorced soon after, and was never tempted to try it again. Says Gallant: “I didn’t like being half a person with half of another person attached. As a couple you only ever see other couples. It was so boring, I was so bored.”
Not that she hasn’t had her fun. In a wonderfully candid interview with The Guardian,
“[H]er chat is scattered with recollections of flirtatious exchanges, as light and colourful as confetti: giving bothersome Italians the slip by vanishing into art galleries; going gambling in Monte Carlo; even being asked out to dinner over the coffin at a funeral by the brother of a Jewish poet who had killed himself.”
I want to give bothersome Italians the slip! I want to be asked out in the most inappropriate way ever!
My other favourite moment from the interview:
“She recalls how, reading one of her stories, ‘The End of the World,’ to a group of bored schoolchildren, she started to cry because she had forgotten the ending and suddenly realised one of the characters was going to die – and her eyes, just a minute before creased with laughter, fill with tears across the table. ‘I could only stop myself by saying: It’s only a story, pull yourself together.’”
It’s a lovely article, and well worth a read. As for me, I’m off to move to Paris and publish nearly 100 stories in The New Yorker and leave a trail of heartbroken men in my wake — just like my girl Mavis.
— Danielle Groen
Photograph: Paul Cooper, The Guardian