Work-a-day Open Thread.

Update: I have retitled this Open Thread formerly known as the Weekend Open Thread the Work-a-day Open Thread. Have at it, at will!

Well! Sorn’s Open Thread sure filled up fast! I’ll leave you with a fresh new one for the weekend, should anyone be interested, with the reminder that I won’t be around to moderate until Shabbat ends tomorrow night (about 9:00 pm, CST). Please feel free to carry conversations over from previous threads, etc, etc, etc, and have a lovely weekend!


For an explanation as to why I’m hosting an Open Thread, click here; for rules, click here and/or here; for the mothership, click here. If you started a conversation in the recent Open Threads and want to continue it here, please do so.

And don’t forget: If you’re a new commenter or using a new email account – I have to moderate all first comments. If it doesn’t show up immediately, it will as soon as I can get to it! I promise.

Dear President Obama – Please address the Ground Zero mosque incitement.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “a mosque at Ground Zero” – quelle horreur ! Newt Gingrich went so far as to suggest that we must meet this threat by undermining everything this country stands for, saying

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

Because, you know, that’s what those crusty old founders really meant when they drafted the First Amendment: Congress should make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion – unless it’s those Mohammadans. Then – legislate away!

But, of course, come to find that it’s not really a mosque (it’s an Islamic center), it’s not “at” Ground Zero (it’s a few blocks away), and its aim and purpose is to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West (the Cordoba Initiative, the organization behind the planned center, “brings together leaders across the Muslim-West divide to speak out for innovative, proactive, and positive solutions to challenges we share”). Oh and did we mention that one of the Initiative’s advisers is Christian?

So, it seems clear that this is not about a mosque being built on the ashes of this country’s most horrific terrorist attack (though frankly, I would be fine with that, too) — no, this faux dust-up is nothing more or less than anti-Muslim hate speech, an exercise in stirring up fear and anger in the easiest, cheapest way possible.

Because Americans still fear Islam. Not extremists who claim to represent Islam, not nihilists who have twisted Islam to fit their own needs, but Islam — writ large across the hearts and souls of 1.5 billion human beings spread around the globe — in no small part because we, American society, have still not done enough to counter and correct that fear.

Some people are trying to be heard above the madness. We’ve heard from New York Mayor Bloomberg, who feels the center should keep building, because government

“shouldn’t be in the business of picking” one religion over another.

“I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try, on that piece of property, to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming,” the mayor said.

“And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

We’ve heard from some pundits and columnists, such as Matt Sledge, who rightly pointed out that

[B]y the same logical leap you can call the Cordoba Center a “mosque,” you can also call Ground Zero as it already exists a giant, open-air mosque. Muslim prayers are already taking place right on the edge of the construction site, and not for world domination. Families are going there to pray — for the souls of the dozens of innocent Muslim victims who died on September 11.

But do you know who I’d really like to hear from? The President.

Why on earth should President Obama say anything at all about the question of a piece of real estate in Manhattan?

Because he’s the President.

The status of Ground Zero, and how Americans talk about Ground Zero, is a national issue. Those who attacked New York City that day would have been just as happy to see 3,000 more die in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Omaha and Terre Haute the same day, if they could have only swung it. The attack was on this country — my country. The country of millions of Muslim Americans who have to hear these loathsome attacks on their faith (and themselves) on a daily basis.

The person who represents my country and all its many citizens to the world, the person who stands over the ashes of Ground Zero as we continue to try to make sense and find resolution, is Barack Obama. It is surely his business to discuss how this country continues to respond to that atrocity. If it’s not his business, frankly, then I don’t know who’s it might be.

Once upon a time, I wrote in the Detroit Free Press that I really, really wished that candidate Obama would stop working so hard to duck the Muslim “smear.” Sometime shortly after my piece appeared, his approach to the issue shifted somewhat, and when Colin Powell endorsed him for President, he did so with a powerful statement of support for Muslim Americans. I like to believe that adding my voice to the conversation helped push it even the wee-est bit in the direction it needed to go — so, as is my wont, you’ll find that piece (chock-a-block with information about Muslim Americans, by the way) after the jump.

But while we’re still all here on the front page, I’ll just finish up by saying this:

Mr. President: Please step in. In words as ringing and true as those you once used in Cairo, please tell those who would spread anxiety and hatred that this country is not served by religious bigotry and blind prejudice. Please step in, and defend both the Cordoba Initiative, and the rights of Muslims to pray wherever they may choose to seek their Maker. Please step in and remind us all that we will achieve a more perfect union only when we stay true to the bedrock of the American Idea: Liberty, and justice, for all.


For Sorn: A new open thread!

Sorn just left a comment in the last Open Thread asking if there would be a new one today. I’d been leaving them to get to about the 50-comment mark, but the last one is fairly buried at this point, and it’s at 42 or something — and Sorn asked so nicely! So: New one it is!

For an explanation as to why I’m hosting an Open Thread, click here; for rules, click here and/or here; for the mothership, click here. If you started a conversation in that most recent Open Thread (or any of the others before it) and want to continue it here, please do so.

And don’t forget: If you’re a new commenter or using a new email account – I have to moderate all first comments. If it doesn’t show up immediately, it will soon! I promise!

Things you can’t put on your resume.

(Looking for the Open Thread? Click here).

I may have mentioned that I am bereft of work. You know, a time or two. Ahem.

This is not, however, a post about that! No, it’s a post about resumes, or rather: the things I can’t put on mine, now that I’m thinking about it so much.

Like most people, I have skills — not to say skillz — that are finely honed, often unparalleled, and frequently dead handy. But useless on a resume.


  1. I can collate a messy pile of papers faster than just about anyone you might meet.
  2. I can likewise tap a messy pile of papers into a neat and presentable pile of papers right quick, without benefit of one of those automatic paper joggers (that I am not making up) with which I used to jiggle reams of paper into shape back when I ran a printing press in my youth. (Really).
  3. I have a freakish ability to divine from nothing but a movie’s trailer whether it will be good, or, in fact, suck. With, like, 80% accuracy. (Though I totally blew it, apparently, with Airbender. I declared it would be awesome. It is apparently most decidedly not awesome. I think I was blinded by my own fervent hopes).
  4. On rare occasion, I will have absolutely no idea what the time is, but for the most part, I can tell you the time, without access to a time piece, within roughly 5-7 minutes of the actual-factual time.
  5. I can measure a half teaspoon or teaspoon of salt, cinnamon, what-have-you, name your ground spice or herb, into my hand with stunning accuracy.
  6. Set me down in any building on earth, and I will find the bathroom.


How is that the job offers aren’t rolling in? I ask you.

Shirley Sherrod and our need for a sociological imagination.

(Looking for the Open Thread? Click here).

Since we heard from Jeffrey Lord — with whom, I am happy to say, I was entirely unacquainted until he lost his damn mind and asserted that Shirley Sherrod is actually a dirty no-good liar because her family member who was murdered by the Klan was not “lynched” because he was only beaten to death while handcuffed and not by a “mob” because three people don’t constitute a mob (No. Really. I’m loathe to link to the man, but on the other hand, some things must be seen to be believed. Here and here) (and don’t get me started on his effort to equate himself with Atticus Finch) — I’ve been thinking a lot about something that I read a couple of years ago on The Root.

Using the relationship of Thomas Jefferson and his slave/lover/mother of his children Sally Hemings as her starting point, author Kim McLarin discussed the fact that the individuals (particularly white individuals) who make up American society need to move beyond personal experience when they discuss this country’s ongoing struggle with racism. What she wrote was so profoundly true that it has remained solidly in my head, rattling around, shaping and sharpening my thoughts ever since. I constantly haul it out (literally — I have hard copy of the piece in a tray on my desk) and quote it in conversation and across the internets (and in fact did so just yesterday over to Ta-Nehisi’s place).

And dude. If the Shirley Sherrod case has proven nothing else, it has proven the absolute rock-bottom Truth of what McLarin had to say, so I’m just going to cut-n-paste a big old piece of it right here (emphasis mine), because it needs to be said, over and over and over again.


I see the same confusion about privilege and the same belief that all you need is love in the students I teach, students who are, for the most part, white, suburban and well-to-do. They believe, bless their hearts, that racism and the inequality it creates, is an individual thing. They believe that if they are personally nice to any black person or Latino person, etc., who crosses their path, then the problem of racial inequality in America will be solved soon enough. It’s a lovely notion and utterly ridiculous. Not to mention ironic as hell.

Ironic because the young people of today do, in fact, carry less baggage about race than the Americans of my generation and age. They are not baggage-free, nor are they colorblind, as many would like believe; still, there is no doubt they encounter the issue in a different way than their predecessors, and this is both exciting and heartening to see.

But that didn’t happen because their grandparents went around smiling at black folks on the street car. It wasn’t niceness that launched the Civil Rights Movement or passed Brown vs. Board of Education or the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act. It wasn’t some kind of inactive, casual non-animosity that created a world in which my students could reasonably look around and believe that progress on racial inequity was not only possible but inevitable.

These young people are deeply well-intentioned and just as deeply in need of what sociologist C. Wright Mills called a sociological imagination—the ability to link individual experience with greater societal patterns and with the course of history. If they had that, they would know that personal niceness, no matter how pleasant it makes buying groceries at Trader Joe’s, will not end inequality in juvenile justice or health care or housing or public education, or anything.

Niceness will not, for example, change the fact that black children—regardless of income—are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than the children of poor whites, even though the rate of serious rule infractions between the two groups is virtually identical (see Tim Wise). Nice mortgage lenders didn’t stop black and Latino homeowners from being nearly twice as likely than whites to receive high-cost subprime mortgages at all levels of income. Kindly-smiling judges don’t change the fact that although black Americans make up roughly 14 percent of monthly drug users, were present 37 percent of drug arrests, 53 percent of convictions and 67 percent of those imprisoned for drug offenses, according to The Sentencing Project. More-pleasant white doctors won’t keep black babies from being 2.5 times more likely than white infants to die before their first birthday.

“A sociological imagination—the ability to link individual experience with greater societal patterns and with the course of history” — that is what we need, if we are to continue the work of perfecting this union. We need it with regard to women’s rights, gay rights, poverty, global warming, law and order, terrorism, the protection of the Constitution — and we absolutely, positively, sure as hell need it with regard to racism, in all of its many and glorious forms (political fight over immigration? I’m looking at you).

A sociological imagination. Or, in other words: The understanding that it’s not about me.

Clarification re: The spectres of feminism and egalitarianism

(Looking for the Open Thread? Click here).

Yesterday, in keeping with the finest of blogging traditions, I cut and pasted some short sections from an article to which I wanted to respond. Among these bits and pieces was the following comment by Rabbi Shai Held, dean of Yeshivat Hadar:

Rabbi Shai Held, dean of Yeshivat Hadar in Manhattan [said] “There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety among religious traditionalists that when you take one step toward egalitarianism, the floodgates are open and everything that seemed self-evident will no longer be. Men go to work, and women raise children. If you undermine that, you have lost your whole universe.”

When I decided to include his comment in my post, it was clear to me that Rabbi Held was describing the attitude of others, not one he shared. I felt that the language he chose put the extreme black-and-white, do-or-die opposition to egalitarianism in a very stark, and thus useful light.

And in the meantime, Rabbi Held has himself found this wee blog and commented on the post!

The Rabbi wanted to make sure that his position on the issue was clear, and I can absolutely see that in the process of lifting a short passage out of a long article, I may have caused it to lose its moorings — so I decided to put his comment on the front page.

Here’s what he said:

Just to be clear: my comment, quoted above, about traditionalist opposition to women’s ordination, was intended as a descriptive analysis of how many scholars of religion understand the depth of opposition many feel towards the very possibility of women taking on positions of leadership. It was not in any way an articulation of my own position. On the contrary, I am completely committed to the full inclusion and equality of women in all aspects of Jewish life, and the yeshiva my colleagues and I founded and run, Yeshivat Hadar, is the first-ever full-time egalitarian yeshiva in North America. To my mind, evolving public roles for Jewish women are a crucial piece of what it means to take seriously in our time the idea that each and every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore infinitely valuable. Egalitarianism in this sense is not only not forbidden; I believe it is a religious imperative.

Given the high dudgeon in which I found myself yesterday, I am particularly grateful to get this response. This sentence, in particular, sums up what I was trying to get to in my froth yesterday: To my mind, evolving public roles for Jewish women are a crucial piece of what it means to take seriously in our time the idea that each and every human being is created in the image of God and is therefore infinitely valuable.

Thank you, Rabbi Held!

To learn more about Yeshivat Hadar, the yeshiva at which Rabbi Held serves as dean, go here; to learn about the Mechon of which the Yeshiva is a part, go here.

The spectres of feminism and egalitarianism

(Looking for the Open Thread? Click here).

Back when I first announced that I would try, in my own wee way, to create an alternative for folks who like hanging out on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Open Thread, carlos the dwarf linked to an article about a man I surely should have heard of before, Rabbi Avi Weiss, and his recent ordination of a female Orthodox rabbi: The Rabbi and the Rabba.

It took me some time to read it, but now that I have, I don’t want to just reply in the open thread — because I found it profoundly disturbing, in a way that kind of snuck up and surprised me.

My initial reaction was: Yay! Female Orthodox rabbi!

My second reaction was: Huh? How’d that work? Which is where the reading came in.

In short: Rabbi Weiss, a man known for his vigorous and constant involvement in all manner of Jewish activism, took it upon himself to give a woman, Sara Hurwitz, the necessary education to become an Orthodox rabbi. Because the word translated from Hebrew as “rabbi,” rav, is by-definition male, Weiss then invented a complicated title for her, since calling her a “rabbi” (or a female version of that word) would lead to huge controversy — and Hurwitz’s ordination went largely unnoticed.

Weiss then turned around and gave Hurwitz a new title, calling her “rabba” (the female version of rav) — and the controversy blew up. (As, I’m sensing, he hoped it would).

I admire Rabba Hurwitz for her sheer courage and dedication, even if I’m not sure how I feel about Rabbi Weiss — I’m made uncomfortable by people who appear to rabble rouse of the sake of rabble rousing.

But the thing that really stuck out for me — struck me, actually, in an almost physical sense — were the reactions of the broader Orthodox community.

There’s this:

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a revered scholar at YU widely known as the foremost authority on Halacha in the United States, raised eyebrows… when he reportedly put the ordination of women in the category of yehareg ve’al ya’avor, a tenet that literally suggests one should opt for death before violating the law, used by rabbis when referring to acts that are absolutely impermissible.

… The main culprit, many Orthodox rabbis agree, is feminism. (Indeed, Agudath spokesman Avi Shafran has called Weiss and his allies “rabba-rousers,” writing that “their master seems to be feminism, not Judaism.”) … Rabbi Shai Held, dean of Yeshivat Hadar in Manhattan [said] “There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety among religious traditionalists that when you take one step toward egalitarianism, the floodgates are open and everything that seemed self-evident will no longer be. Men go to work, and women raise children. If you undermine that, you have lost your whole universe.”

And then there’s this:

Weiss, never a favorite among the hard-liners, was accused of sabotaging his community. Steven Pruzansky, a rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey, wrote on his popular blog, “Those who seek to infiltrate the Torah with the three pillars of modern Western life—feminism, egalitarianism, and humanism—corrupt the Torah, cheapen the word of G-d.”

I was, I will admit, left somewhat breathless by this last comment. Sucker-punched and without oxygen.

So much of why I am a Jew is because of the fact that feminism and egalitarianism are Torah based! We’re the folks who planted the seeds for those things!

Did we perfect them? No (indeed, neither is particularly perfect, yet). But we got the ball rolling, and, I would submit, every Jew who acts to further the goals of feminism (“the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men”) or egalitarianism (“asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life”) are acting on the Divine imperative “to do justice and to love goodness and to walk modestly with your God.” (Micha 6:8)

I can understand the hesitation of people seeped in religious faith with humanism: “a. the doctrine that humanity’s obligations are concerned wholly with the welfare of the human race. b. the doctrine that humankind may become perfect without divine aid,” and won’t try to tease that out here.

But egalitarianism? Did not each and every prophet tell the Israelite and Judean kings that they were as subject to the Law as anyone else? That no one is above or below anyone else in the eyes of the Holy One, Blessed be He?

And feminism? Was not Deborah good enough to be a Judge for all the people, and will not Messiah come from the loins of Ruth (a convert, it must be noted, and it’s anyone’s guess what that beit din looked like)?

No, I would submit that these men have created false idols — call them Anti-Feminism and Anti-egalitarianism — and bow before them, enshrine them, hold them up before their followers as talismans of power and fear. That these things, these Refusals written in stone, are now more important to them than remaining open to revelation, or the health of the people they claim to serve.

I’m going to be delving into Torah on this, looking for a clear path and learned answers, and am likely to come back to post about it — but for right now, all I can think is this: These people have no more to say to me.

They may claim the monopoly on the faith all they want — but they are blinded by their gods, idols who are “the works of men’s hands,” as Psalm 115 puts it. “Eyes they have, but cannot see; ears they have, but cannot hear.”

Give ’em enough thread.

We’re at the magical above-50 mark in the latest Open Thread, so here I stand before you, opening a new one.

For an explanation as to why I’m hosting an Open Thread, click here; for rules, click here and/or here; for the mothership, click here. If you started a conversation in the last Open Thread or the one before that and want to continue it here, please do so.

And don’t forget: If you’re a new commenter or using a new email account – I have to moderate all first comments. If it doesn’t show up immediately, it will soon! I promise!

The narrative.

(Looking for the Open Thread? Click here).

I’ve been observing Israel for more than a quarter of a century, and I’ve noticed a thing or two.

Last week, a handful of these noticed-things suddenly knit themselves together in my cluttered mind and I realized: This refusing to admit that the Palestinians are a people as worthy of a home as the Jews? And this assumption that Israel can set the parameters of Judaism for every Jew every where?

They’re the same thing.

Or, rather: They stem from the same cultural attitude.

Before I returned to the states in 1998, I had lived in Israel for 14 years, and been obsessed with it for 16. In that time, I got my bachelor’s degree from Tel Aviv University, battled the bureaucracy of the Interior Ministry on the regular, absorbed the heat and humidity into the very center of the marrow of my bones, and fell in and out of love with a short list of men (one of them Palestinian) born and raised within its narrow green lines. Which is to say: I was of the place.

I think I’ve already established that I love Israel and still feel the Jewish State to be my one true home. And I think that I’ve further established that my peace advocacy comes not just out of burning sense of shame over the injustice handed the Palestinians, but from a bottomless longing that Israel might one day be truly free of the dysfunction that characterizes it now. Free of fear, free of falsehood, free of responsibility for the disaster of other peoples’ lives. Free to finally, truly, flourish.

But dude, I’ve always known that the place wasn’t perfect.

What place is? No place is. But one of the Israeli imperfections that most plagued me, all 14 years that I actually lived there, is something that I see in virtually every news-cycle these days: a powerful, almost frantic urge that Israeli society in general and Israeli individuals in particular have to label everyone.

Americans are this, Germans are that, European women one thing, mizrahi women another, Tel Avivis are such-like, Jerusalemites something-else-again. On and on and freaking on. And if you argued? You were told that you were wrong. About yourself.

It occasionally drove me to absolute, teeth-grinding, tear-shedding distraction. I remember writing about it in my journal, saying something to the effect that we were all constantly being “put into these boxes all the time!!” I don’t remember what set me off that day, but I can imagine.

But — one begins to wonder — why on earth did this surprise me? For as long as I’d known Israel, it’d been telling the Palestinians that they weren’t a people; the Arabs that they were an undifferentiated mass; and the Jews who weren’t Jews like them that they were not very good Jews at all. It’s a country, for heaven’s sake, which calls its-teeny-tiny-self Ha’Aretz — The Land — and everywhere else on the globe Hootz La’Aretz — Outside Of The Land.

The through line appears to be that Israel as a society, and many Israelis as individuals, believe that they can write the narrative. I’m sorry: The Narrative. Not just for themselves, but for you, too. Oh – and you.

I can only venture a guess as to why this is such a powerful characteristic of the entire nation’s character, but I think it’s a pretty good guess: Back in the day, when some Jews began to take on this newfangled notion of “nationalism,” they saw that their people shared the characteristics of a modern nation state: language, culture, and land (if only in memory).

But the way that these things had long been handled was as relics. They bound the people as a people, they kept alive the memories of all that had been lost and lost again, and they gave people joy and identity — but the culture, the language, and the memory of the land had not yet been seen as a doorway to something new.

Judaism’s pioneering nationalists had to look at the old texts, the old stories, the old rituals, and find new meanings. Judaism is eminently suited to such new readings of old materials (it’s not for nothing that we say HaTorah sheevim panim la, the Torah has 70 faces), but I can imagine that in those early days, the newness was of such a magnitude that it had to be very forcefully argued.

They were, after all, bound and determined to build a new Jew — one who farmed and fought, one who read scripture as history, not holy writ, one who based a democratic and egalitarian ethos in the very same Scripture that led their brethren to keep women behind a wall at prayers.

And they were doing so while millions of people continued to think them beneath contempt, or even worthy of slaughter “because of their peculiar noses.” The narrative had to be written hard, and fast, and it had to be powerfully felt.

Please don’t misunderstand: I don’t believe there’s anything more imagined in Jewish nationalism than in anyone else’s (including the Palestinians).

Nor do I think that Israelis are the only ones to play Subject to their Other, to tell an oppressed minority or conquered citizenry that they are not who they think themselves to be. Men have been telling women who they are through the ages; American whites have long been telling American blacks; the Chinese today tell the Tibetans — on and on.

But nations do manifest certain characteristics more than others, and having spent more than a quarter of a century watching Israel, I’ve finally seen what I believe to be the genuine through line in its most recent — indeed, its most enduring — controversies.

Israel thinks it can tell the world the way the whole story goes. In working so hard to establish its own story, it has forgotten that it’s not the only one with a narrative — and that more often than not, the Other knows him or herself better than the Subject can ever hope to.

It’s not, as so many in Israel believe, that no one understands them — it’s that they have no idea how badly they’ve misunderstood everyone else.


Just as I was pulling all this together in my head last week, Yediot (one of Israel’s rather-less-leftie dailies) ran this commentary: “The tragedy of arrogance: Israel’s troubles rooted in belief that we are better, wiser than Arabs, gentiles” — what can I say? Other than: Yup.



Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.

Always my baby.

I have some ideas pulling themselves together in my head about Israel/Palestine, Israel/the Diaspora, Subject/Other, the power of narrative and who gets to determine narrative and, and…

I just don’t have time to actually write them down. It’s possible that I will later, but who can tell — because it’s my baby girl’s birthday! She’s 7 years old today, a fact I find fairly gobsmacking.

Seven years ago right now, give or take an hour, she was flipping her 9 lb 3 oz body around inside me — having been head down for weeks and weeks and weeks — necessitating a C-Section and freaking my cute male nurse out just a smidge bit. Pro Tip: Here’s a word you don’t want to hear your nurse using when he goes to the wall and punches a button to communicate with the nurses’ station: “mumble garble STAT!”

But in the end, the girl came along, one way or ‘tother, and the trio of the husband, the boy, and me became the family we’d always been meant to be. One of the kids asked me once where they were before they were in my belly, and I just looked at them and said “In my heart.” She and her brother have always and forever been in my heart, and I am so grateful that I get to have them out here in my life, too.

So! Before I get all weepy n’ shit, and in case I don’t actually get time to do the professional-type thinking I was hoping to do, I thought I would issue a re-run — this time, a piece that ran in theDallas Morning News five years ago almost to the day, in which I discuss the surprising grief that overcame me when I learned, when the girl was only six months old, that I would have to stop nursing her.

And now: Off to bake!


Mother mourns forced end to breastfeeding 04:18 PM CDT on Tuesday, July 19, 2005

By EMILY L. HAUSER / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

In all honesty, I never was a big fan of breastfeeding.

I did it because it is, after all, best for the baby, and I was, after all, physically capable. I just never liked it. I bonded with my babies when I could see their faces, and all that New Age-y spiritual hoo-hah people come up with never worked for me. I especially didn’t like nursing in public. And pumping, well, you know: moo.

Moreover, if I stopped to think about it (which I mostly tried not to) the fact that my entire life revolved around the digestive system of another person made me feel like my skin was on too tight. To add insult to injury, my bust line is Rubenesque to begin with. When I lactate, I feel like a freak of nature.

Yet I breastfed without hesitation. We do things for love, things that have nothing to do with ourselves and everything to do with someone else (especially when that someone else is our child). And so, my now-6-year-old son, Ted, breastfed until one morning, just after his second birthday, when I asked him if he wanted to nurse, and he said no.

When my daughter, Maya, was born, I planned to do the same. As I pulled out the hated pump and sat bleary-eyed night after night, I was reminded that, indeed, I wasn’t doing this for kicks. Nursing bras, leaking on my pajamas, smelling of my own milk – ick. But it was OK, and it would end.

Then out of the blue, I was diagnosed with a nasty, if noncancerous, tumor. The tumor required surgery. The surgery required advance medication. And the drugs meant I had to wean Maya, at six and a half months.

To my enormous surprise, I started to cry. I cried and I cried and I cried. For days and days. I didn’t know, didn’t have any idea, that cutting her off would break my heart. That I would pump two, three, four times a day, obsessively, just so she could get a little bit of my milk for a little bit longer, or that I would literally cry over spilt milk when I knocked over an entire bottle’s worth. One night I kissed the top of her head as we snuggled, and found her hair was salty with my tears.

I knew that she would be fine. Six and a half months of nursing gave her an excellent start, and in fact, my pumping was so obsessive that she got some breast milk every day for another six weeks. (Imagine!)

Moreover, I know that formula is a reasonable source of nutrition. We often act as if the breast-and-bottle comparison is analogous to steak and rat poison; but it’s really more like steak and lunchmeat. One is excellent; the other will do in a pinch. (Of course, in this case the steak is free while the lunchmeat costs an arm and a leg: yet another reason breast is best, but that’s a different discussion).

“Fine” was not the issue, though. Knowing that she would be healthy and strong and well adjusted and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed was just not the issue. As I wept with her in my arms late one night, I realized that quite simply, it felt like they were taking her away.

That the feeling defied all logic, that I wouldn’t even have been able to say who “they” were, couldn’t have been less important. Our bodies had been in the most intimate communion for her entire existence. And though it is obvious that she began inside me, I found it equally true that part of me is inside her.

I suppose it is that same part that will always be with her, but so soon after her birth the feeling was, simply put, raw. Not long before, she had been nestled just beneath my heart, listening to my love beating in her ears, every moment of her existence. Nursing was a kind of approximation of that former oneness without my even knowing it.

And so I mourn its loss. Still. Maya is now almost as old as Ted was when he stopped, and I am deeply, endlessly grateful for the operation that meant I would be here to see her grow. But sometimes still, when I see other mommies nurse, I find I ache and sometimes cry. I wish I could have kept it up, wish desperately that we still had that – yes, I’ll say it – bond. And I’m shocked to realize that I miss it as much for me as for her.

Emily L. Hauser is a freelance writer near Chicago.


PS In looking for this piece online, I found part of it here (sadly, the Dallas link is long dead) and discovered that the blogger, Ali, had cried upon reading it…! This really touched me, and I’m going to try to find her to tell her so, but she hasn’t posted since 2008 so, yeah. I’ll try!
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