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Dear Boys,

Some really horrible things happened to someone who could be one of your friends, and it was done by some people who could be your friends. You’re 11 and almost-8 now, so the incident that made me write this letter isn’t something you’ve heard about, but this stuff keeps happening, unfortunately. So I need to talk to you about it.

First of all, I know we talk all the time about how special your bodies are, and how you’re the only one who gets to decide what to do with your body. I’ve never made you put anything in your mouth that you didn’t want to, or touch anyone you didn’t want to, or talk to anyone you didn’t want to, because I wanted you to understand that you and you alone control your boundaries. We worked on blowing a kiss so you could show that you liked someone without having to touch them, and high fives if you were ok touching them but only with your hand. We talked all the time about not letting people tell you that what you wanted was wrong or that they knew better, and that you should always always tell your dad or grandma or me if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable.

And we talk all the time about making sure that if you’re touching someone else that they want you to be touching them. That if they say “No” you have to stop right away (even if it’s just fake-punching your brother) and that even if they aren’t saying “No” you need to make sure they’re still enjoying it. You know how sometimes you like to be tickled and sometimes you don’t? Well, everyone’s like that, so even if they liked it when you did it yesterday, you should still make sure they really want you to today, whatever kind of touching it is.

Now I’m going to talk about sex. I know you know “how it works” because we’ve been talking about it ever since you two were little, since before you could read, and you know all about sperm and eggs and penises and vaginas and vulvas and orgasms and condoms and all that. And I know I told you it feels good and you had a hard time seeing how that could be true but took my word for it. Well, the thing I didn’t tell you is that it feels unbelievably amazing when you’re doing it with someone who really wants to be doing it with you. Like, better than popcorn followed by ice cream, or a Supah Ninjas marathon, or two snow days in a row. You know how excited I get when I get a new pair of shoes? It’s like 500 times better than that, when the person you’re doing it with is so excited to be doing it with you that they start asking you for it.

This is what I want you to wait for. I want you to wait to have sex until the person you’re with asks you for it. Tells you they need you now, and that they can’t wait, and they want it. Calls you by your name and asks for it.

If you’re ever in a situation in which someone is asking you for it and you don’t want to have sex with that person, don’t do it. And if you’re ever in a situation in which you want to have sex but the other person doesn’t ask you for it, don’t do it. It’s only good if you both want it, and can tell each other you want it, and are sure you both want it. Otherwise someone’s going to get hurt. And romance is weird enough without hurting other people when you can stop yourself (and you can always stop yourself–that goes along with having opposable thumbs).

This letter is almost over but this next part is super-important: Not everyone you know has been taught all the stuff we’ve talked about. You are going to know people, and maybe even be friends with people, who think it’s ok to hurt other people in a lot of ways. One of those ways is sex. I know you’re going to hear other boys say things about girls, or sometimes about other boys, that means they don’t care about those girls’ feelings or bodies. When you do, I need you to step in. All you have to do is say something like, “Dude, that’s not cool” or something that lets the person saying something nasty know that it’s not ok. Remember that everyone wants to fit in. If you can take control of the mood in the room by letting them know nasty talk isn’t ok, they’ll stop so they don’t look like an idiot.

Remember how we talk all the time about how we’re the people who help, who fix things when there’s a problem or someone’s in trouble? You may get the chance to do that someday. Because those boys who say nasty things about girls may actually do something to those girls. If you are ever anywhere where boys start hurting a girl, or touching her in any way that she doesn’t want, you need to step in. If she’s asleep or drunk or passed out or drugged and can’t say “no,” you need to step in. Remember, it’s not good unless both people can say they want it. If a girl isn’t saying anything, that doesn’t mean she wants it. If she isn’t saying specifically that she wants it, then it’s wrong.

Here’s how you should step in:

1. If it’s safe for you to say something, say something. In a loud, commanding voice, tell the guy who’s doing it to stop, and make sure he knows it’s not ok and he can’t be an asshole (sorry to curse, but by the time you’re in this situation you’ll be cursing, too). Then help the girl get to someplace safe, and call her parents. (Even if she thinks she’s going to get in trouble, call her parents. If they’re mad at her, I can talk to them and take care of it.)

2. If it’s not safe for you to say something, leave the room quietly and calmly and call me. I do not care if you’re someplace you’re not supposed to be, or not the place you told me you were, or in Canada or someplace that would normally get you in a lot of trouble. You get immunity if you’re calling for help. My phone is always on, and it does not matter what time of day or night it is. If I don’t pick up right away, call your dad, and the same immunity rules apply. Call one of us and give us the address of where you are and we will come help. Then hang up and call 911. Tell them the address and that there’s an assault going on. They might want you to stay on the line with them until the police get there.

3. Even if you don’t like the girl, step in. Even if she’s been mean to you or snobby, or someone told you she did something you think is gross. No matter what she did, no one should hurt her. If you step in, the next day you can go back to hating her. If you don’t step in, well, how are you any different from the loser who’s hurting her? You know who you are. Step in.

4. Do not worry that everyone will hate you if you stop the cool kids from doing something. Stopping someone from hurting another person makes you a hero. This is what you’re here to do. And if there are people who don’t like it, screw them. Your dad and I will do anything it takes to make sure that anyone who doesn’t like your being a hero stays away from you and keeps their mouths shut.

We have been practicing for this for a long time, for being the ones who help. Remember when we were in the middle of the knife fight on the subway and we got the other mom and kid out of the way? Remember when we helped my friend move away from her scary husband? Remember all those times we took pictures of those freaky dudes staring at the little kids at the playground? We’ve been practicing to step in and help someone else. You can do it. I have faith in you.



My friend Valerie sent me a link to this very fun page of interviews with children, which inspired me to interview my son Gabriel.

We had such a good time that I think I’ll do more of these in the future. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask him, please leave them in the comments.

Gabriel interview and free jazz by antelopeballoo

Transcript of interview:


I want the beat part.

Hold on we’re going to do the interview now. Are you ready?


Okay. What’s you name?

My name is Gabriel.

And how old are you?

Two months.

Two months old? Are you sure it’s not two years old?

I’m two YEARS old.

Are you only two years old?


Are you two-and-a-half?

Yeah, I’m two-and-a-half.

Okay, tell me what is your favorite animal.

My favorite animal is a lion.

And can you make the sound that a lion makes?


Why do you think lions roar so much?

Cuz there are tigers! [Keyboard is hit for emphasis]

Are lions scared of tigers?

Yeah. [Jazz improvasations under next three questions and answers]

Is that why they roar? Because they’re scared?

Yeah. Yup.

What’s your favorite color?


Gray? Can you name some things that are gray?

[Plays keyboard]

What are some gray things?

I want one of those! [Points to mother’s hand containing cookies. Takes cookie from mother and begins to eat it.]

What’s your favorite food to eat?

[Chews cookie] Cookies.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

Chocolate Chip.

Why do you think bats only come out at night?

[Chews cookie some more.]

Why do you think bats only come out at night?

Because the moon is out! Because the moon is out! Because the moon is out!

Graggle! Graggle! Graggle!

I want to hold the microphone. [Grabs microphone.]

Okay, say a few things.

Oh no. Oh no. Cuz. Cuz. Lions are scared of tigers! Can you read me this book?

Do you like reading?

Can you read me this book?

Sure. Do you like reading?

[No answer.]

Gabriel, where do you think babies come from?

They come from tummies!

How do they get inside of tummies?

I want a brownie!

maggie shae

Magdalena Shea Scholar Adair was born June 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm in Los Angeles, Calif. She weighed 8 lbs., 12 oz at birth and was 20 inches long.

Shosho’s labor was just about 15 hours, in some ways easier than her first and in other ways harder. For various reasons, it became necessary for her to go through the final stages of delivery with no pain relief, so if her superstar nature wasn’t already apparent, it should be now.

A few words about the name:

Magdalena is the Spanish version of a Hebrew name that means, simply, someone from Magdala, an ancient village on the sea of Galilee. “Magdala” meant “tower” in Hebrew, “elegant” and “magnificent” in Aramaic. Magdala is mentioned a few times in the Talmud, but of course its most famous reference is Mary Magdalene, a powerful force within the early Christian church, revered today as a symbol of feminine strength, beauty and wisdom. She was also Jesus’ wife whose coupling founded the hidden royal bloodline that dominates global governments, high finance and drives most current events. That is, if you believe the Da Vinci Code.

We chose Magdalena because we like the name and we like how it ties together Shosho’s Mexican and Jewish heritage, paying special tribute to the “Hidden Jews” in her own bloodline.

Shea, the internet tells us, is an Anglicization of a Gaelic name meaning “admirable” or “hawk-like,” there is also the shea tree, whose seed gives us shea butter, but neither of those are why we chose it.

We derived Shea on our own from “acacia,” a type of tree spanning the globe’s temperate regions — Africa, Australia, Central America, etc. The acacia has a strong, durable wood, sometimes very prickly thorns and magical properties. It’s also a wishing tree, one with which Ben has had direct experience during his own travels.

Like her big brother, Scholar Adair is her (non-hyphenated) last name.

gasa vs mssa

Magdalena gives itself to many nicknames, among them Magda and Lena. We are calling her “Maggie.”

We came back from the hospital on Wednesday evening and are looking for signs of our new normal. It’s clear to us that Gabriel loves his little sister but he gets confused about how to show that love and affection. Lucky for us (and him), his Abuelo and Nana are here showering down attention and giving him some stability and fun in a very uncertain time.

thumbs up!

Some of these come via the wonderful iphone app Hipstamatic. …

I was chatting with a friend a few hours before last week’s seder about how I really don’t go in for the religious stuff.

“These dogmatic ceremonies aren’t really a part of who I am,” I told him. “I wasn’t raised with any religion, so I don’t really have much of an appreciation for the ritual or the subtleties of the motions.

“It’s all,” I said, not quite believing the words coming out of my mouth, “just kind of boring.”

On the ride out to the Valley later that evening, I thought about what I’d said and just how untruthful it all was.

To be honest, I’ve always been fascinated with religions and ceremony. I’ve read everything from the mainstream texts — the Qur’an, the Bible, the Nag Hammadi, the Tao Te Ching — to the more obscure scrawlings of discredited monks, unauthorized apostles and twirling, whirling mystics. I find it all interesting, to say the least, if not inspiring.

There was a time in my life when I drove to churches hundreds of miles apart trying to find something that I still can’t place my finger on. Communion? Fellowship? A glimpse of something greater?

In my early-to-mid-30s I settled down into what I call a “joyful nihilism.” I came to accept that there’s a profound liberation in disbelief. And it can be a real trick to wrap your head around it.

With no god to answer to or anyone to hold me accountable, the only moral compass I’m left with is … me. Untether yourself completely from the enforcement mechanisms of morality — both the agents and their consequences — and you get neither bankruptcy nor ambiguity. Instead, all you’re left with is yourself. And it requires a whole lot of deliberate living to make sure that you’re fulfilling the ideals in your own head and heart.

In other words, yes, this all is for naught. Now, what?

Now that said I do have some mystical beliefs and I do think there are things tying us together as a species; I’m not one of these “science says there is no god,” guys and I recognize that there’s a lot in this life that I’ll never have access to. My “known unknowns,” to borrow a phrase, are already book-length. I can’t even imagine the volumes of “unknown unknowns” in print.

I always forget how beautiful the story of Passover is, from beginning to finish, and I always cry during the seder. This year was no different.

The ritualistic washing of hands and tasting of foods. The symbolism of the table. Importantly, the passing down over the generations.

The readings are usually what get me. Definitely true this year. I’ve transcribed a few from our hagadah below.

If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were only necessary to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The experience of camp life shows that man does have a choice of action. We who lived in concentration camps remember the men and women who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a human being but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
— Viktor Frankl

The ultimate measure of a human being is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Will a person risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others? In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, will he lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life?
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

An old Hassidic tale goes like this: the rabbi asked his students, “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when night ends and day begins?

One of the students suggested, “When you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep from a distance?” “No,” answered the rabbi.

A second student said, “When you can distinguish between an olive tree and a grapevine?” “No,” said the rabbi. The students pleaded, “Please tell us the answer.”

“It is,” said the teacher, “when you can look into the face of any human being and there is enough light to recognize him as your brother. Until then, it is night and darkness is still with us.
— Marshall Meyer

I was part of a meeting with a very high powered financier yesterday and he had an interesting take on things — this economic crisis of the last few years is not what it seems.

What’s happening now, he said, is actually a structural readjustment that began in the 1990s and officially started with the 2001-2002 recession. The “Great Recession” is the end game — the torch of economic leadership for the next 20 years officially passed to China, India and Brazil.

He actually said, and I quote, “The US is Rome in 400 AD,” which is remarkably similar to what some friends and I were joking about at lunch last week.

Of course he also believes the US is still going to be a “really cool place to live” — he doesn’t see barbarians at the gates. And doesn’t factor any sustainability issues into his various calculations. He thinks the US is still going to be a very strong niche player but will lose it’s amazing clout over the next 10 years or so.

Interestingly, none of this bothered him at all.

As he put it, of course there are winners and losers; there always are. And now the winners and losers are changing. As an investor, though, there’s still lots of money to be made, just with new (and exciting) companies and nations. And more international travel.

It makes me think that people like Simon Johnson are a bit naive about how all this is going down.

Really, the economic crisis only matters if you’re still invested (mentally) in a sort of economic patriotism. But if you don’t care about the United States or the West more broadly, then the economic crisis is not a crisis at all — just a monumental shifting of the sands. Money has already rapidly changed hands. Now, the global economy is adjusting.

If you’re still holding on to notions of USA#1, then this is a HUGE problem. But if you think, for example, India is number one, then it’s an amazing opportunity.

If you don’t care about nations at all, then it’s just business.

Needless to say, I’m adjusting my 401k.

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