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3. What experiences have made you reckon most with gender?
Travels with Charley, volume three
Thanks for subscribing to Travels with Charley. I send these dispatches around once a month, writing on four different fronts: where I’m living, what I’m reading (lines I’m adding to my commonplace book this month), what I’m wondering (questions for future stories), and what I’m writing. If you feel moved to write back, the questions are genuine! I’d love to hear from you.
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Where I’m living
Hello from Oakland, where I’m visiting family and reveling in an unbelievably lush spring. I can’t remember ever seeing California like this: the hills are electric green, rather than brown; the rains washed away the dust to make way for fields of orange poppies and purple lupine and blue dicks and yellow fiddlenecks. One block smells like honeysuckle; the next like jasmine. After a winter of white, I feel like the world is in technicolor.
What I’m reading
Jane Austen on when your friend gets a significant other and ghosts you (Emma):
Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known how much of her happiness depended on being first with Mr. Knightley, first in interest and affection. —Satisfied that it was so, and feeling it her due, she had enjoyed it without reflection; and only in the dread of being supplanted, found how inexpressibly important it had been.
Tessa Hadley with a masterclass on how to convey emotional tenor through physical description. Feel the anxious mood crawling through the page! (Late in the Day)
The copper beech beyond the window was a tawny purple, sinking into invisibility against the dusk; something outdoors was conscious, restless, scratching along the gutter, raking the pavement. Fallen leaves from the plane trees, drifted into heaps, stirred up skittishly in gusts of wind; ragged scraps of blue cloud hunted across living orange in the west.
I was at that point in life at which sharing a situation, albeit a poor one, even with a fictional character was pleasure enough for me.
You know that feeling at the end of the day, when the anxiety of that-which-I-must-do falls away and, maybe for the first time that day, you see, with some clarity, the people you love and the ways you have, during that day, slightly ignored them, turned away from them to get back to what you were doing, blurted out some mildly hurtful thing, projected, instead of the deep love you really feel, a surge of defensiveness or self-protection or suspicion? That moment when you think, Oh God, what have I do with this day? And what am I doing with my life? And how must I change to avoid catastrophic end-of-life regrets?
What I’m wondering
What experiences have made you reckon most with gender? (Puberty? Marriage? Childbirth?) How?
What’s the first national news you remember? (The moon landing? The fall of the Berlin wall? Monica Lewinsky? 9/11?)
What age do you associate with yourself in your mind? (from Sari Botton’s excellent Oldster Magazine Questionnaire)
What I’m writing
Five years in, The New York Times for Kids is tackling puberty. I got to interview preteens about the cringey stuff: misadventures in shaving your legs, painful growth spurts, getting rejected by your crush, figuring out your gender identity, teaching your dad that pads and adult diapers are not the same thing. Check out kids being brave and me being eternally grateful I’ll never be twelve again in the print NYT tomorrow.
Also, one of my recent Kids stories was republished in Internazionale Kids. Grab a copy for your favorite Italian bambini!