Do you want to know what makes me nuts?

And if not, what are you doing here?

Here‘s what makes me nuts: as best as anyone can tell, for most hunter-gatherer groups, the large majority of the calories taken in by the group was from women’s gathering, not men’s hunting.  Hunting was a sporadic and infrequent activity for most groups, and not a great source of calories, because while meat is tasty and full of fat, it is not easy to get, not even for big manly men with spears.

And yet evolutionary psychologists persist in publishing studies that assume that early human society was just like ours (just like our upper-middle-class, sixty-years-ago society, that is), except where we have (had) money, they had food.  In case you didn’t read the link, here’s the basic sum-up, and the part where I had a problem.  Apparently they ran a study about dating and determined, more or less, that pretty people prefer that their dates pay for their food.  This tendency was stronger in females than in males.  Also, people prefer to pay for the food of pretty people.  This tendency was stronger in males than in females.

Rather than assume that the reason for these tendencies was 1) pretty people value themselves more highly as sexual partners than non-pretty people, and are valued more highly than others, and 2) people have been raised in a culture in which men are supposed to pay, the evolutionary psychologists had this to say:

Early human feeding ecology organized human family units into systems where a man provided food sources, particularly meats, to a woman and the woman cooked the food and maintained the household and family (Carmody, Cone, Wrangham, & Secor, 2009; Carmody & Wrangham, 2009; Wrangham, Jones, Laden, Pilbeam, & Conklin-Brittain, 1999).

But that’s simply not true.  Early human feeding ecology – assuming that that means “hunter-gatherers” mostly got way more of their food from women’s labor than from men’s.  (Also, I think non-food-supply-related maintenance of the household and family was a much smaller job among hunter-gatherers than it is today.  I could be wrong, of course.)  The effort to naturalize certain features of our social interactions would be annoying even if it were based on solid premises, but it’s not.  Why is it not?

This is related, although not well, to this thing I’ve always had about The Taming of the Shrew.  See, I always think that I like The Taming of the Shrew, because I like modern “takes” on it, such as Kiss Me Kate or 10 Things I Hate About You. So I do things like buy tickets to productions of The Taming of the Shrew and then I sit and seethe because, instead of a totally hot Heath Ledger playing paintball with Julia Stiles, there’s this horrendously abusive asshole brainwashing an unreasonably nasty bitch into being a compliant servant.  Why do I want to watch this?

But there’s this thing that gets me.  In her final speech about why a woman owes obedience to her husband, Katherine says  it’s because husbands work so hard to earn the living that keeps their wives in such luxury.

Except that, in The Taming of the Shrew, they don’t!  Certainly Katherine’s husband doesn’t; the whole plot is that he’s looking to marry for money.  SHE (indirectly) provides the funds that support HIS ass.

I can’t tell if Shakespeare knows this and it’s all meant to be played for laughs, or if Shakespeare is just an asshole male who thinks women do owe their husbands obeisance just because the husbands have penises and the women don’t.  I’m kind of hoping it was meant to be played for laughs because I know Shakespeare can write an awesome (if hideously anti-Semetic) speech for a woman to triumph over the men around her.  And also it’s a pretty glaring error if he wasn’t aware of it.

But if Shakespeare was aware of this, most current producers of this play do not seem to be.  The show I saw years ago at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater didn’t play that speech for laughs; neither did the Elizabeth Taylor movie.  And this same thing is going on when evolutionary psychologists say, “Oh, well, our social patterns are set up this way because women are looking for a man who can provide them with all the food they’re going to eat.”  That was not the pattern.  The pattern was, women worked their asses off on a daily basis for relatively boring shit like berries and nuts and naturally occurring starches, which frequently required much labor to be made edible, and when men brought home a big animal carcass once in a while (depending on where they lived), everyone had a party and told these guys they were the most awesome guys to ever awesome.  And men typically distributed their kills widely among the tribe; they did not typically reserve the most or the best for their own families.

Sometimes, when I’m willing to buy the very basic premise of evolutionary psychology, which is that the social groups in which humans evolved affect our behavior today, I think that possibly both the distribution of labor between men and women and the lying to ourselves about it are constant features of our lives.  Sometimes I think it’s all bullshit.


slept in her own bed last night.  Of her own volition.

I could say it’s because she wanted to sleep with her new Rapunzel Barbie (we went to the Disney store yesterday.  I know I objected to the first round of Disney Princess Barbies, but in for a penny, in for a pound, right?) and she knew I wasn’t going to let it in my bed.  But I’ve tried that before, with her other Princess Barbies and various other objects.  She always chose Mommy and Daddy’s bed over the toy.  Last night I didn’t even really set that up as a choice; she ASKED to be put (with the Rapunzel doll and a variety of other Tangled-themed paraphenalia) in “Zoe’s bed and the iPad.”  So I put her in her bed with the iPad and she watched Toy Story 3 until she fell asleep.  And she stayed there all night.  (There were some instances of waking up – but each time she asked to be put back in Zoe’s bed.)

So what else has she been up to lately that is awesome?

Well, as you might be able to tell from the above story, she likes talking about herself in the third person a lot, sometimes even using her full name.  “Zoe Sally Theobald wants chocolate milk!”

She identifies any and all packages that arrive at this house as “a present for Zoe!”

She is kind of frightening me with how she has learned to manipulate certain situations.  My dad visited us last week and at one point we were going out and I told her we could only take one Disney Princess Barbie with us.  She chose Sleeping Beauty, but then looked at my father and said, “Grandpa Lalan is married to her,” and handed him Cinderella.  So now we had to take Cinderella with us, too.

My mother-in-law’s favorite example of this is when we told her she had to finish her milk before whatever she wanted to happen happened, so she started sort of gently nudging her glass of milk to the edge of the high chair, figuring if it seemed like she was going to drop it, we’d take it away from her, and then she wouldn’t have to finish it.

And when she pretends, she usually pretends with a purpose.  When I told her she couldn’t pull the flowers out of the vase because they were Grandma Lisa’s flowers, she told me she’s pretending to be Grandma Lisa.  When I tell her I don’t want her to do something (like have a lollipop) unless Daddy is home (because I don’t want the lollipop anywhere near me) she tells me I can pretend to be Daddy.

Now, when she’s about to jump on me, she screams out, “Boo-yah!”  I can’t tell you with written words how cute her high little-girl voice sounds saying, “Boo-yah!”

My mother and sister got a new puppy.  Zoe has only seen the puppy over FaceTime, but she is very much in love with the puppy and talks about him all the time.  The other morning, she said, “Archie and Zoe are can play ball together.  That’d be excited.”

Those are my two favorite little grammatical “errors” she makes, by the way.  “Are can” and “excited” instead of “exciting.”  Sometimes when she wants to emphasize how exciting something will be, she says it will “great excited.”

Also, she wants you to affirm what she’s saying, but if you don’t, she will.  “That’d be excited, yes?  Yes!  Okay!”

Today was also exciting at preschool – Zoe practically leapt from my arms to Miss Julie’s with a big grin on her face.  I was afraid that the sleeping thing would have ruined that but it didn’t!

She’s become very interested in who and what “are can come with us” anywhere, including another room in the house.  I think this was especially exciting to my dad, because the first morning he got here for his visit, I told Zoe we were going out, and she said, “Grandpa Lalan are can come with us?”  And she checked if he was coming with us for the rest of the weekend.  She also has to bring her objects from room to room, and into the car, and it’s always a discussion.  “Rapunzel are can come with us?”  “Rapunzel can come in the car, but not into preschool.”  “Rapunzel are can come with us in the car?”  “Yes, in the car.”  “Yes.  Okay.”

She didn’t warm up quite as much to my mom when my mom was here.  They had some good bonding moments but for the most part, Zoe was a little stand-offish.  But I’ve been very careful in general to point out who has gotten her what – Grandma Lisa bought you these sneakers, Aunt Kate won you that toy, etc. – and so when I pointed out that GC (my mother) had bought her her favorite new pink dress and also a peace sign headband, she said, “I love GC!”  And now that GC has Archie, Zoe is definitely more interested in her.

Zoe loves to help me cook and actually has some moments where she is, in fact, being helpful.  One of those was when my mom was here and Zoe ripped lettuce with me and then played with the lettuce with my mom, which was a nice little bonding for them.  But, I mean, Zoe ripped all the lettuce I asked her to into workable, bite-sized pieces.  It was great.

I just don’t know how to write about all the awesome she is.  I mean, she’s an enormous pain in the tuchas, too, and I have seen very clear signs that she is going to be an ENORMOUS pain in the ass when she’s a teenager, but so many things she does are so great.  I love the little smiles she gives me through the day.  I love her declaring her love for various people and objects.  She’s great.

Correlation is not Causation

Okay, it’s been gnawing at me all week.  I have to write about Ross Douthat’s column.

First of all, the data I read indicated that this slide in number of teens that have had sex started happening in 1988.  The current conservative values had not taken hold of sex education at that point; in fact (and I remember this very well, as these were the years I was having sex ed), 1988 is around when people started taking AIDS seriously as a public health crisis.  I remember, because when I was in fourth grade (1990-1991), they decided to move our sex ed introduction up a year so that they could talk to us about AIDS.  We then also had our regularly scheduled sex ed in fifth grade, which covered more of the puberty stuff and less of the mechanical stuff, and then again in middle school at least once, and then again in freshman and junior years of high school.

And you know what they talked to us about all the time?


This is a penis.  This is a vagina.  Use a condom.  This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.  Use a condom.  This is consent.  This is non-consent.  (Yes, we talked about date rape!)  Use a condom.  This is where the eggs hang out.  This is where the sperm are made.  Use a condom.  Abstinence is the only way to 100% guarantee that you won’t get pregnant or get an STD (I know, they’re STIs now).  Use a condom.  This is the rhythm method.  It doesn’t work.  Use a condom.  This is the pill.  This is Norplant.  This is an IUD.  Use a condom.  This is what childbirth looks like.  Use a condom.  When you go out with a bunch of friends, have a condom in your purse/pocket.  When you go out with the boy/girl you really like, have a condom in your purse/pocket.  Keep condoms in your nightstand.  Here is a banana.  This is an optimistic vision of a penis.  Here’s how you put a condom on it.  Let’s practice.  Blindfolded.  Use a condom.  You’re not ready to have sex if you don’t love the person, if you feel uncomfortable, and most especially, if you DON’T HAVE A CONDOM.  Use a condom.  No glove, no love.  No sleeve, no, Steve.  Anal sex does not protect you from STDs.  Oral sex does not protect you from STDs.  Use a condom.I think the final exam was, “If I’m going to have sex, I should a) use a condom, b) use a condom, or c) use a condom.”

We saw graphic pictures of what untreated STDs looked like.  We got a LOT of information about AIDS, which was particularly frightening.  We got to see the infamous “Miracle of Life” video in which tiny cameras inserted into a woman’s and a man’s body captured both conception and childbirth.  We all vowed to become nuns.  We got a lot of information and some scare tactics, and a lot of, abstinence is the only guarantee, but the next best thing is a condom.

I think my sex education was terrific, comparatively speaking.  Our teachers were usually pretty funny and relaxed and non-judgmental.  They solicited our questions.  They talked about social issues surrounding sex and relationships, not just mechanical stuff.  They neither made us feel like we were asexual beings who should remain so as long as possible, nor like we were just horny dogs who couldn’t help ourselves.  And we watched Woody Allen’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex but were Afraid to Ask. I also have to say, as a sidenote, that it’s a good idea to have co-ed sex ed classes, at least in high school.  That way, at the very least, no female in that class will have sex with any male in that class for the duration.

And it seems to me that, if the drop off in having sex started in 1988, it might be due more to actual, good sex ed than the lack thereof.  Then again, that’s just correlation, not causation.  It’s all just speculation.  But my speculation is no less valid.

I’m also a bit confused by the study – why is the age range 15-24?  Isn’t that a little too broad?  I mean, major life changes happen between 15-24 (like, for instance, reaching the age of consent).  And frankly, I think most people who commit themselves to waiting for marriage to have sex get married before the age of 24. What if the preponderance of 24-year-old virgins is a symptom of massive, generational insecurities about body and sexual performance resulting from our pornified pop culture?  Or what if it is a symptom of a lack of acceptable marital partners for all the teens wanting to wait?  Then this isn’t good news at all!

I am glad that Ross Douthat acknowledges that historically, there has never been a time where everyone waited.  But then he goes on about how much better it was in 1950, where at least, if you were jumping the gun, you were jumping the gun with the person you were going to marry eventually.  Or with a person you thought you could marry eventually.  Ah, rosier times.

Never mind that, for women, the stigma associated with not waiting was rather extraordinary.  Never mind that the couples that got married in the fifties and sixties led to the divorce boom of the 1970s, either by divorcing themselves, or by providing such an unworkable example of marriage that their children divorced.  (I know that’s not exactly why the divorce boom happened.  But it’s part of the mystery to me of how conservatives can idealize the ’50s so much.  It was only a decade.  Lots of people stay married for a decade and then divorce.  Lots of people – most, even – live through more than one decade.  It’s not like it was a whole generation or two living like that for their whole lives; it was approximately a ten-year span, and then it all fell apart.  Rather spectacularly.)  Or that the housewives of the fifties and sixties were responsible for the booming sales of psychiatric drugs.  And their children led a cultural revolution so that they wouldn’t have to have the same lives as their parents.  As long as most people were having sex only in serious, committed relationships, and as long as the women who didn’t, or who were mistaken about how serious and committed their relationships were, were properly shamed for it, things were awesome.

Then there’s the link to happiness, especially for women.  Again, correlation, not causation.  But seriously, Ross Douthat, do you think there might be reasons that women who have fewer partners are happier?  Like, for instance, that women who have sex with many partners are still shamed as sluts?  Could female happiness have drifted downward since the sexual revolution because the feminist revolution is not done yet?  So now women have to simultaneously be earth mother goddesses, perfect sex objects, high earners, and in-charge housekeepers?  It couldn’t be that kind of pressure, rather than having more sex with more partners, that makes women less happy?

I’m also always suspicious of studies about happiness.  What do you mean, happy?  How are you determining it?  Is it self-reported?  Happiness is such a nebulous concept; I don’t find attempts to quantify it persuasive at all.  I have this same problem with studies claiming to figure out whether having kids makes you happier or not.  Like, how can you tell, and why is that a determining factor in whether you have them?

Really, all Ross Douthat says in the column is that conservatives will read all data with a conservative lens, and liberals will read all data with a liberal lens.  There’s nothing really there about teens and sex or women and sex that is all that generalizable.

Just a Quickie

Bill Maher has been annoying me again lately (so why do I watch him? I don’t know. Sometimes I just can’t help myself), but I just had one thing I wanted to say in response to a recent-ish episode. He had Matthew Perry on, and he told Matthew Perry that, since he’s 41 and never been married, he’ll probably never get married. I just wanted to say, Matthew Perry, I would marry you.