Monthly Archives: November 2006

smart and awkward

It took a trip to a safe haven to make me realize that I never shook off feeling smart and awkward. Even if I’m aware of not being as smart as I would like to be.

Most of my closest friends carry some measure of both characteristics, though they mask the awkward incredibly well. Some of it is done by keeping a tight circle of friends, finding people of like ideas and notions. In that mini-world, not unlike my gang of eight that used to wait in the HS lobby before the bell rang, smart was good – and presumed.

I thought I was over it, though my 20th HS reunion made me aware I still has a measure of anxiety and awkwardness. Benjamin saved me that night as my literal shield. He was strapped to my front in a Bjorn, facing the crowd. Lesson learned: No one talks trash to an infant.

The grownup version of this is what I face in the town where we live. It is compounded by gender, money, and race; where it’s less ok for a woman to be smart than to be a good showpiece. Or, at least, to have money. For example, women – especially women whose confidence comes from competence and not assessed value of real estate – aren’t welcome in town governance, but they are encouraged to get together and help with the service league. The service league does great work, but it’s clear what the town view is of women’s roles.

Back at MIT, I still have the reputation of being the friendly beautiful girl (! yes, I did say girl. I was the “girl from athena” for more years that I care to say), the one who looks you in the eye and asks you about things that matter to you.

In my 20’s, I found that judgment frustrating, and embarassing. Rarely did I feel as though I didn’t have to fight to prove my intellectual mettle which, while it wasn’t enough to be Course 6, was still non-negligible. You know it’s a problem when the admin in your group, in an effort to assert her intellectual superiority, refers to you as the “pretty one” in work settings. In that case, I didn’t even get the credit for smart. Just awkward.

I’ve since learned that a little kindness goes a long way at MIT and other geeky environments, and that having a recognizable face has helped me get things done, or make connections. I’ve learned the awkwardness of being a XX manager in international meetings where XX’s make the coffee, not the decisions, and found workarounds to get things through, even if it meant passing the ball, with my directions, to an XY. This at least felt a little like progress – working around the rules of a culture that was not my own.

How much more isolating and crazy-making it is to find yourself facing that same problem in your own culture, when you’re much closer to menopause than the prom.

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Filed under 40th Birthday, aging, anger, awkward, boston, cambridge, civility, confessional, Friends, personal, socially awkward, WA-08, women

Say it with me: Madame Speaker

I often find myself in a funk when I think of the paths to success for women in politics stateside. My homestate doesn’t reward women who are leaders; instead, it seems like only the enabler behaviour gets rewarded, so when the woman gets in reach of the big prize, there’s no way to win. (And in MA, misogyny has bipartisan supporters). I talk with my in-laws and lament that it may be that the first woman to be elected to high office would have to be thatcherlike.

But then I look at where I’m living now, and I snap out of it. WA has a triuxorate of Democratic executive and national leadership. They can play the game and get things done for the state, though I’d admit some are better than others. (Maria got my vote yesterday, but Patty gets my money too.)

But today, oh, today. To read and hear that Nancy Pelosi will serve as Speaker of the House?! No wonder the rain stopped. Madame Speaker.
Now, Madame Speaker-to-be, get to work and make us proud. Drain the swamp of all its muck, D and R, and let’s get back on track.

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Filed under Politics, US Congress, Voting, WA, WA-08, women

november 7

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to take a holiday from work, please consider taking off 7 November. I am. I’ll be working as a poll observer for the first time outside of Seattle, while my mom works the polls in my hometown on the east coast. Work on an issue that means a lot to  you; help a campaign get out the vote; make a few phone calls; babysit some kids so someone else can canvass the neighborhood. An engaged and informed electorate is the best kind. Read the LWV pamphlet you got in your mail slot or box, and get out there.

And if you go to the polls to vote and you  have a little one, consider bringing him or her with you. Not always possible, I know, but a nice example of what grownups do that can be very cool.

Lady Miss Kier said it best: “Vote, baby, vote!”


Filed under Voting, WA, WA-08

the blue room, cambridge

Anytime I’m in Boston for more than 4 days, I try to have at least three meals at the Blue Room. Why?

1. It’s the only place with a varied brunch with multiple veggie options

2. I can eat at the food bar and learn cooking from the professionals at the stations

3. It’s my local! Less than 10 mins walking from CSAIL, and everyone is nice, even if they don’t know me.

Number 3 came into serious play on my last trip for missed trains and special events. Blue Room staff turnover was pretty large; I only recognized two of the servers and one of the grill men. Luckily, Nick is still an owner and Jorge is finally owning up to the fantastic meals coming out of the kitchen.

So how about that food? Imaginative without being poserly. Generous portions. Lots of local ingredients. Fast turnaround if you’re hoping to catch a movie at the Kendall; easy service if you’re there to enjoy the evening. Menu changes with the seasons, including some playful wine options in the summer months. Very amenable to questions and requests.  What’s not to like? Check out the menu if you’re planning to visit.

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Filed under 40th Birthday, appetizer, boston, Food, The Blue Room

a meal on the red line: South Station, Boston

South Station: The joy of Rosie’s, the lipsmacking satisfaction of a cheese slice from Pizzeria Regina. My lowbrow dinner consisted of a half-dozen Rosie’s thumbprint cookies, a cup of coffee and a cheese slice. Coffee was the only miss. For those looking for food as metaphor for romantic experiences, I’ve got two.

The thumbprint cookies are the understated masterpieces of the Rosie’s case, just like the guy who really loved you. Not flashy, no floral embellishments. A simple cookie. But it’s all the best stuff – fresh butter, just enough sugar and flour to keep it bound together, and a zing of raspberry jam. And don’t let the diminutive size fool you – the thumbprint has more fullness and staying power than cookies 5 times its size. The flavor that lingers is warm, full, satisfying. Love in all its aspects, as the tarot reader says.

Now for the za. I’m sensitive to the fact that people have strong opinions on pizza. I’m one of them. But in my advanced age, I’ve learned enough about “authenticity” to know that what I like is what I like. If what I like is some bastard hybrid of what finds in Sicily and someone’s kitchen in Revere, so be it. Kind of like what you find attractive in a person. In my youth, there had to be a natural beauty, humor, and sharpness. Some bite. That’s what I like in my pizza, to this day.

Regina’s had at least two expand and contract periods in my memory, but luckily for me the last contraction left the ovens at South Station in tact. I ask for a simple slice of cheese, and sit down to a salty wedge with decent sauce and a near-grail crust. I like a thin pizza, with the crust nearly overdone. I like to hear a little snap on the first bite, and Regina consistently delivers. Easy on the oil, decent if not gourmand cheese, and a nice mmmmm. Like a memorable first kiss from a date in my teenage past; delicious and not always good for you. Now I know to keep it to one slice.

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Filed under 40th Birthday, aging, appetizer, autumn food, Baked Desserts, Birthdays, boston, bread & pastries, cake, cambridge, coffee, cookies, Cooking and Baking, cooking and food, dedham, dessert, Desserts, filene's basement, Food, fruit, jam, Love, MIT, Panera Bread, personal, Pizzeria Regina, Red line, restaurant, Rosie's Bakery, vegetarian, women