Category Archives: General

Pre-Existing Condition

DeniedI was thinking of going to the dermatologist. Should I tell my provider that I have skin? This was my reaction to a dizzying fight over the bill I received for the delivery of my baby and our hospital stay. We’re lucky to have insurance, I know that. But imagine my surprise when my provider wanted me to pay a penalty of several hundred dollars for not clearing it with them when I arrived at the hospital at 2:30 a.m. to have a baby.

“You must have known at some point that you were pregnant, and that’s when you should have told us.”

“You’ve been paying for my pre-natal visits. Isn’t that–?”

“With your doctor. This is a hospital bill. It’s completely separate.”

“Why exactly? Never mind. I did pre-register with the hospital, and we did call you to find out what would be covered months ago.”

This is really nothing compared to the nightmare my friend is facing. After severe back labor at her home for 14 hours, she went to the hospital and was advised to get an epidural. Now she’s got a bill of a few thousand dollars for using an anesthesiologist who wasn’t in network. Evidently she was supposed to ask in the thirty seconds between contractions. They would have told her that he was the only anesthesiologist in the hospital, so I’m not sure what she was supposed to do after that.

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Vote for Courtney as Next Great American Pundit!

<a href="martin_145x100Our very own Courtney Martin is up for Next Great American Pundit at the Washington Post, and she would love your vote before tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 9) at 3pm EST!

Courtney’s blurb about her latest entry in the contest:

I may not have a Nobel Prize, but I did manage to work the phrase “inaugural orgy” into my column. Vote for the next Great American Pundit at the Washington Post now through Mon. at 3pm:

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A Woman AND Man's Nation?

I contributed to the recent media darling of a report: A Woman’s Nation (co-produced by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress). After speaking on a great panel with Michael Kimmel and Stephanie Koontz last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the need to reframe this issue so that men feel like they can really own their own stake in making work policy more flexible, family-friendly, and generally honoring of the fact that we are all more than drones. Here’s an excerpt from the column I penned on this topic:

For all of our progress on framing the issue, however, one challenge remains largely unmet. We have yet to figure out a way to tag these issues as critical to both women and men. We have to stop using “work/life balance” as coded language for “working-mom stress.” Despite ample evidence that men are served by investing more time and energy outside the workplace and “coming out” as fathers while in it, there are very few men who are taking on this issue in a substantive, political way.

I’ve been getting lots of emails from men, in particular, who are excited about my argument, but no one seems to be suggesting a new framing, new language. Any ideas from the CM audience?

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Brag Round-Up for Monday, October 26

The first brag round-up since August! Our Crucial Minutiae writers have been busy.

Jennifer Gandin Le

Courtney Martin

Cristina Pippa

  • In August, Cristina gave (calm) birth to Francesca – the first Crucial Minutiae baby!

Kate Torgovnick

  • Kate’s book CHEER! will be made into a TV show for Warner Bros. TV. Read about the show at Variety.
  • “Is Your Friend Toxic?” on New York Post.

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For the Show

I know, I know. You’re tired of reading about Balloon Boy. I just wanted to take a moment and ask: Remember when you were that trusting? Someone older and supposedly wiser told you to do something and you went along with it because you yet hadn’t accumulated years of experiences, good and bad, to give you insight as to when to follow directions and when to say, “Are you kidding me?”

I remember. It was when a freckle-faced girl named Alice told me that I should eat the “blue Hawaiian ice” from the toilet in our pre-school bathroom. This was back in the days when you had to go to the potty with a buddy. While mine was a year older, she wasn’t much of a buddy– inasmuch as she nearly poisoned me with toilet freshener. Luckily, a teacher was suspicious about how long we were in there and saved me from an early death before I took that first bite.

It’s been a few years since I’ve taught theater to young kids, but I’ll never forget the discussions we had about the difference between make-believe and lying and between a show and real life. Some parents had clearly put deep-seeded fear into their children about the dangers of deception. Other kids found story-making and trickery to be second nature. I wonder what will become of Balloon Boy. Will he decide that he likes the limelight and continue to do things “for the show”? Or will he realize that he was manipulated by his own parents and never be able to trust anyone again? The trust of a child is so freely given and so easily lost.

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The Millennial Muddle

Check out this fascinating article from the Chronicle of Higher Education the millennial generation and all its critics and champions. As many of you know, I write and speak quite frequently about generational issues, so I’m fascinated by the tension between pointing out trends and making over-generalizations. It’s not an easy sweet spot to find, as I often learned working on my upcoming book on this generation’s relationship to activism:

Figuring out young people has always been a chore, but today it’s also an industry. Colleges and corporations pay experts big bucks to help them understand the fresh-faced hordes that pack the nation’s dorms and office buildings. As in any business, there’s variety as well as competition. One speaker will describe youngsters as the brightest bunch of do-gooders in modern history. Another will call them self-involved knuckleheads. Depending on the prediction, this generation either will save the planet, one soup kitchen at a time, or crash-land on a lonely moon where nobody ever reads.

The article essentially analyzes the analyzers, a whole crew of folks who have created an industry out of: “the idea that people in a particular age group share distinct personae and values by virtue of occupying the same ‘place’ in time as they grow up.” But sometimes it seems like we have less in common with individuals within our own generation than the media makes it sound, doesn’t it?

Do you identify with your generation? Do you see yourself as fitting the generational trends (social justice-oriented, compliant, visionary, distracted) that these experts describe? Or do you think it’s all a bunch of stereotyping dressed up as social science?

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That Elusive Balance between Critique and Action

I guest lectured at the New School today in the amazing Ann Snitow’s class. The crew of about 80 students asked amazing questions–How do you see perfectionism playing out in terms of gender? What advice do you have for current gender studies students about post-graduation life? How can we heal the rift between different generations of feminism? etc. etc. It was inspiring to be around such thoughtful, diverse students who are really engaged deeply in the questions and actions that I’m passionate about.

One of the dynamics that I left thinking a lot about is the tension between critique and action. A particularly savvy student asked about the nonprofit industrial complex, a concept popularized in an amazing book by INCITE! titled The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. She waxed poetic for a few minutes about the difficulty of removing oneself from globalized corporate conglomerates while doing any kind of institutionalized social justice work (i.e. philanthropic wealth is often a direct result of abusive practices in third world countries that a foundation then ends up funding nonprofit organizations to eradicate…so twisted.) In any case, I understood where she was coming from. She was in that very alive moment when you are discovering these critiques, making some of your own, feeling really powerful and visionary.

But the flip side of that is paralysis and a lot of precious energy being spent on tearing down rather than building up. I think all thoughtful activist-minded people are put in a position to find some balance between merciless, eyes-wide-open critique and imperfect action. I’m sort of on a lifelong quest to find that balance, as I think many folks are. Meanwhile, the older I get, the more convinced I feel that critique is only as valuable when tempered with moving forward on some flawed but progressive path.

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