Some Catcalls Offend Me, Some Don’t (and That’s Okay)

Catcalling and harassment are often mentioned in the same breath. That’s because many argue that catcalling is harassment, no matter the intention. A catcall is an unwelcome imposition, a not-very-veiled command: to feel complimented, to smile, to at least say hello or thank you, to “just ignore it if it bothers you” and “don’t dress that way if you don’t want the attention.” It’s an objectification, sexualization and subordination that often prompts fear, intimidation and discomfort. At least, that’s how it’s typically defined. Some, women included, would disagree.

In Milan, a woman walks into a café and orders a coffee and brioche. She notices a group of men sitting nearby. “Ciao, ma come sei bella,” trails her as she walks to her table. She dismisses the comments as part of the Italian culture, where women are often bella, cara, tesoro, and seldom referred to by their actual names. Later, when she leaves the café, the men don’t notice; they’ve moved on. She feels relieved. In DC, a woman walks past a group of men standing by a bar. They try to get her attention with “hello, gorgeous.” She ignores them and walks away uncomfortably. The next week, that woman is robbed. She tells the police that she remembers the men who did it and that before he’d run away with her purse, one of them had said: “you should have said hello.” Both of these stories are true...

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Why Do We Laugh at Sad Things?

The sadness was palpable. My uncle lay in his coffin, pale and strangely lifelike. Suddenly, from the front of the room where his closest family sat, I heard a muffled giggle. I looked over to see my oldest aunt, red in the face and clearly trying to suppress laughter. Her sisters watched, mortified, but it wasn’t long before they joined in — and then the people around them, too, as seismic waves of laughter spread through the room.

“I felt his spirit,” my aunt later explained. “He wanted to lighten the pain we were feeling.” (My uncle was known for his sense of humor.)

Laughter is a great emotional equalizer. We’re often told it’s the best medicine. Deeply stressful or emotional episodes overload our emotional engine and send the needle into overdrive. To release stress, we often respond through inappropriate laughter. It’s not ideal, but it is effective. On top of reducing the stress hormone cortisol and improving short-term memory, laughter has even been found to ameliorate physical pain.

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Why it Pays to Be Vulnerable

Two years ago, during a particularly isolating and low point in my life, I started a project called Craigslist Confessional. Through an ad on Craigslist, I meet with and anonymously speak to strangers about things that they can’t tell anyone else. What I want more than anything is to connect with people on a deeper level, to allow them to be vulnerable and open without fear. I do this because I felt then, and still do now, that there are so many things that we can’t talk about in polite society, so many important things that are shunned, kept quiet or muffled because vulnerability is often met with judgment.

By meeting with over 200 people (even a few from the Man Repeller community!) and listening to their stories, I’ve learned that vulnerability, unfettered communication and fearless oversharing about things usually relegated to the “personal” realm are positive additions to an often emotionally apathetic society. By fearless oversharing, however, I don’t mean the online facelessness that further dehumanizes us and makes easy victims, but rather the in-person connection we make when we allow someone to bear witness to our lives. The stories I’ve heard over the years, and the fact that anonymity is often the deciding factor on whether someone shares her story, only prove how uncomfortable we tend to get with emotional vulnerability.

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The Truth About Phobias and How I Overcame Mine

I have a dental phobia. When I think about the prospect of going to the dentist, my knees get weak, trickles of cold sweat accumulate on the back of my neck and I feel lightheaded.

There’s good reason for this. I grew up in a post-Communist country where empathy wasn’t exactly a dentist’s strong suit. For much of my childhood, I had dental work done without anesthesia. I remember once passing out in the chair during a procedure. When I came to, the dentist was still drilling away.

This year, my resolution was to address my dental phobia. In preparation, I decided to read up on phobias. Why do we have them? Can they be conquered? How?

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Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

I drafted an email yesterday and, before clicking the ‘send’ button, I read, re-read and re-re-read what I had written, scouring the letters for errors that would somehow impart to the destined reader the impression that perhaps I don’t have a basic grasp of grammar. I have a Chrome extension that tells me when I’m using “weak” words and phrases, like I think or I’m sorry or just, words that, according to the app’s creator, “diminish our voice.”

I’m like this — highly self-conscious and sensitive to details — when it comes to basically everything in my life. When I enter a conversation, I immediately pick up on subtle, almost imperceptible behavioral cues. I overthink everything, absolutely everything, often to my very serious detriment. Until pretty recently, I thought that I was just neurotic.

Then a friend who is very similar recommended a book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Dr. Elaine Aron. A self test in the book’s introduction prompts: I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation. True.

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This is your brain on social media

Three years ago, I logged into Facebook for the very last time. I clicked the “permanently delete” button, without uploading any of the memories stored therein to my computer. Right now, the only form of social media on my phone is Snapchat, on which I have a whopping fifteen friends.

I’m not going to tell you that you should do the same and delete most (or all) of your social media accounts. And I’m not going to preach to you about the merits of a temporary social media detox, although Kendall and Gigi did it, so draw your own conclusions. (Tongue, meet cheek). But for the sake of conversation, I will tell you how my social media abstention was received by others, and the clever arguments I’ve heard in favor of staying addicted. Because make no mistake, we’re addicted.

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American millennials aren't that into God. Are you?

Millennials are officially, at around 80 million, the biggest age group in the United States. We are also consistently maligned. Millennials have been called narcissist, selfish, lazy, materialistic, entitled and individualistic by parents, grandparents, researchers, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists alike.

Depending on whom you talk to, millennials are also heralded as risk-takers, tech-savvy rule breakers, dare-to-be-different trailblazers. We are the future. And the future, as far as millennials are concerned, is increasingly godless.

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What your parents' relationship means for yours

On September of 1986, my mother’s aunt set her up on a blind date with my dad. Once divorced, he was almost eleven years her senior. My mom, who was 29 at the time, took one look at him and started running — literally running — away. Had her aunt not lassoed her back and gotten her to go on the date, I wouldn’t be here today. And my parents wouldn’t have an almost 30-year marriage.

By all accounts, this sounds like a success story. In fact, considering that the divorce rate hovers at around 50% (and is higher for second and third marriages), people assume that if your parents are still together, you must have the secret to a good relationship embedded in your DNA.

But just like any relationship spanning 30 years, my parents have had conflicts to which, inevitably, I’ve been witness. The success of their marriage doesn’t hinge solely on their continued partnership, but rather the constant conversations and compromises that keep them on the same page.

Unfortunately, I can't post the whole story on here, but you can read the rest of it on the magical website known as Man Repeller.  Also, subscribe if you want to get these articles, as well as the stories from my column on Quartz, in your mailbox when they come out.