The Hairpin
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Who We Tell When We Watch Our Parents Die

I’ve spoken to very few people about what it was like to be in a room watching my mother take her last gulps of air. It was dinnertime, dark. We’d just had pizza. We’d been taking turns sitting by her side when there was a change in her breathing. All the oxygen drained from the room. When my mother died, it was just my family in a semicircle, alone together with what moments ago had been “her,” but in the span of seconds had become “her body.” She was 63.

When I read that comedian Laurie Kilmartin was live-tweeting her father’s dying days, I recoiled as though from an uppercut [...]

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The Definitive "True Detective" Recap

[N.B. I have never seen True Detective.]

EPISODE 1

Camera pans over a bayou or maybe a wooden shack. There's a dead body inside the shack. Still warm.

WOODY HARRELSON: It's incredible that they got us two mega stars to be in this TV show.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: All right all right all right all right.

HARRELSON: We also look alike.

MCCONNAUGHEY: True.

[VOICEOVER: But which one of them will be—the TRUE detective?]

Roll credits.

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Talking About Homeschooling

Heather Doney and Rachel Coleman are co-founders of Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, a site that documents abuse under the cover of homeschooling. Recently, they launched a new organization, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, which raises awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, provides public policy guidance through research, and advocates for responsible home education practices.

How did you two meet?

Rachel Coleman: Heather and I both do academic research on homeschooling, and we were both in a Facebook group that dealt with spiritual abuse and some other negative aspects of conservative Christian homeschooling culture.

Heather Doney: Both of us were eldest daughters of families raised in [...]

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In Praise of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I first discovered the existence of Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled album this past December, I dissolved into a fit of grateful, relief-filled screams usually reserved for for grad school admissions letters. That is to say, I reacted like most people did. And when I saw the words, "Feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche,” I screamed again. (Never mind that her name is actually spelled "Adichie.”) By now, you’re likely familiar with the snippet of Adichie's Ted Talk, "We Should all be Feminists,” that 'Yonce sampled:

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: 'You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim [...]

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Lessons From a Family Lawyer

Darlene was a pretty, blond 19-year-old with a 10-month-old baby girl whom she wheeled into my office in a ragged umbrella stroller. Darlene, the baby, and the baby’s father, Keith, had been living with Keith’s parents in a row house in northeast Philly. Keith and Darlene apparently argued a lot, and one day, during a fight about Darlene’s wanting Keith to watch the baby so she could go out with her girlfriends, Keith put his hands around Darlene’s neck and tried to choke her. Darlene had filed in court for and received a protection order to keep Keith away from her and the baby. Keith, in response, had turned around [...]

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Saying Yes To Everything

"You know, I’m just really coming from a place of yes,” I confessed out loud to the table, knowing exactly how I sounded, and also that no one would blink in this group of Los Angeles girls who all seemed to be successful in a certain way: the way where jobs were creative, everyone seemed to have free time (the most creative job is no job), and somehow still have money for cheese plates, cigarettes and lots of daytime rosé.

I had moved back to LA after being in Santa Barbara for five years, and I was trying to reestablish a life for myself. I’d never been any good at [...]

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The Twelve Days Of Female Vengeance

BAMcinématek's "Vengeance Is Hers" film series is happening in Brooklyn, and if after reading the useful synopses on their site you'd like some more-superficial guidance for picking which to watch — here you go.

Kuroneko ("Black Cat"), Kaneto Shindô (1968, 99 mins.) Oh, my god. Cat fans, here is one for you! And for everyone else, too. I guess the lesson here is that you should think hard about it now, because you never know when you might get offered the opportunity to turn into a vengeful blood-drinking cat ghost. (And those are apparently stylized cat eyebrows.) So good.

Keywords: Cats, eyebrows, sex, ghosts, love, trees, [...]

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The Unglamorous Life of a New York City Private Eye

Alexis Tabak does not fit with the expected (and outdated) profile of someone in her former profession: she’s a 25-year-old Vanderbilt grad with sharp features, a soft smile, and a passion for Soul Cycle. The day we met, she had just come from a class and was dressed accordingly in black spandex and a sweater. Although Tabak now works as an investigator for the city of New York, she freelanced for established PIs for over a year.

What drew her to the field? “I wanted to see how extraordinary I could make life for myself," she said.

After cold-calling over 40 agencies, Tabak landed some meetings, including one with [...]

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Romy And Michele Are 45. So Is Heather Mooney.

 

This is part of a week-long series celebrating the 45th birthdays of characters from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.

Heather never told the Cowboy about the abortion. As he slept, she sat up and listened to the hotel’s air conditioner turn off and on until morning. She knew immediately, but didn’t make an appointment for two months. There’s a dull pain of something like regret but mostly like sadness that resurfaces at night, just before bed, but it’s never enough to keep her awake. It’s just there. A decision. A memory. She should have told him. All she would have done differently is make a phone call, but [...]

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This Is Sober Sex

It was the night of my sister Kelly's 30th birthday party, and I was anxious. We’d encouraged guests to come in costume to fit the 1920s theme, and before anyone showed up, I helped my sister into the incredible flapper dress she’d found, beige with sheer paneling and sequins in all the right places. She set her black bob-cut wig and sparkling headband in place, swiped a bold rose color across her lips. I wanted Kelly to love the way she looked, because it was her party, but secretly all I could think about was if I’d look better: he was coming.

We'd been having sexless sleepovers for a [...]

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'MFA vs NYC': False Dichotomy vs Who Cares

Chad Harbach's new book is here! MFA vs NYC, an elegant, troll-to-fit title for the ages, identifying and reifying the Two Paths for the Writer in our time. But, Harbach's wonderful brain in The Art of Fielding and the likely excellence of every essay in this book (Emily Gould on debt!) notwithstanding, everything about this discussion leaves me cold.

Everyone deserves a room of her own and I have one thanks to both MFA and NYC: the fact that, as Harbach writes, the university system is "offering steady payment to more fiction writers than, perhaps, have ever been paid before" as well as the fact [...]

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Our Clif Bars, Ourselves

WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT First name John, last name Gacy, middle name Wayne.

PEANUT TOFFEE BUZZ My, you sure are grumpy today, aren'tcha? Didn't have time to get your iced Americano today, didya? Better take this fiber-enrobed shit nugget to the face.

OATMEAL RAISIN WALNUT Just eat a cookie chased by a hardboiled egg.

MAPLE NUT It's the dead of winter and you can hear the satisfying crunch of snow beneath your feet as you journey deeper into the woods, fiendishly in search of sustenance. A winter bunny bounds past, but you are too slow to catch it. A reindeer with a meaty looking flank makes direct eye contact, but [...]

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Talking to Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer, "Story Architects" for Young Adult Literature

Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer are the co-founders of Paper Lantern Lit, a boutique YA book studio they call a "literary incubator." 

Let me see if I've got the concept of literary incubation right? You guys are the "architects," so you come up with YA concepts you think will do well, then match the concepts with writers; the writers finish a manuscript, you sell the manuscript to a publishing house, the writers get a cut. This is a similar model to book packagers like Alloy (Gossip Girl, etc): what are the differences?

LH: We really admire Alloy’s model and yes, there are definitely some similarities in [...]

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Gertrude Stein, Guardian Angel

You probably haven’t heard of Michelle Sutherland (yet). At the end of last year, she directed Gertrude Stein SAINTS!—one of the weirdest, craziest, coolest stage performances of the year. The work combines two texts by Stein—Four Saints in Three Acts and Saints and Singing—into a sort of opera-musical showcasing a multitude of American music styles, from doo-wop to Shaker music to rap. It was the only show to win more than one award at this year’s New York Fringe Festival, and it’s returning to New York soon for a three-week run at the Abrons Art Center. For a good idea of just how strange and glorious [...]

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When Will A Woman Win The Iditarod Again?

This was supposed to be a very different post. When I went to bed last night, it was almost a sure thing that for the first time in over twenty years, a woman would win the Iditarod. But when I woke up…alas. My dreams of a matriarchal utopia of ice and puppies had been dashed.

The Iditarod, as you may know, is an annual sled-dog race through more than 1000 miles of Alaskan wilderness, from Anchorage to Nome. The event it commemorates—several mushers relaying medicine to Nome in time to quell a diphtheria epidemic—took place in 1925, but the race itself didn't come into [...]

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Rom-Com Relationship Therapy

Any woman who’s ever fought with a guy after the kind of movie where Katherine Heigl finds love may be shocked by the findings of a new study. A report published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that watching a romantic film with your spouse and discussing it afterwards lowers your likelihood of divorce as much as going through couples therapy does. Researchers analyzed 174 newlywed couples who either went through therapy or merely watched and discussed romantic movies, and after three years, both groups had equal divorce rates. Here’s a transcript from one couple, who watched the romantic movie “Her,” about a mustached man named [...]

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The Madewell Museum of Human Curiosities, Year 2143

Welcome to the Madewell Museum of Human Curiosities. I am your tour guide, Jornts. If you are descendant from human, please step through this scanner to cleanse your sub-level hybrid body of its hazardous germs. If you are an alien, here is a complimentary Leopold Scone, made from the blood of a Leopold serpent and the essence of DW-40. Slurp it up with your fifty tongues. We won’t watch.

Today on our tour we will be looking at selections from the Madewell store, a pre-Alien Revolution establishment that sold clothing to young human women, and whose name appears as the 428th lie in the book of Lies Humans Told, as [...]

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Ask a Psychic

Pat Bruckmann is a professional clairvoyant in Tucson, Arizona whose client list includes celebrities and other psychics. When I met her, I couldn't resist getting a reading, and as someone whose prior experience with psychics consisted solely of $10 readings in dingy storefronts, I must say that the experience was pretty great. Pam told me specific things about my personality that were right on the money. She predicted a few events, one of which has already happened. She advised me to get a Twitter account.

Pat’s office is neat and nondescript. Aside from one small pink crystal on the bookshelf, there are almost no clues as to what [...]

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Interview With A Pregnant Porn Star

It seems like some people might have a hard time with the whole porn-star-becomes-mom thing.

Yeah, they kind of don’t mesh well. I remember when I first met porn stars, I was like, “You have kids? How do you do that?” But being around it, I got used to it. I mean, I was shocked when people started having kids just in general. People I went to high school with. You hear about it and you’re like, “Are you old enough for that? Is that OK?”

Obviously there are gong to be things. Like, I’m not going to want her to dig through certain boxes in the garage. But [...]

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“Love Coupons” Kill Relationships: Science

In a groundbreaking new study at New Jersey University, scientists have determined that the death of 99% of human relationships can be traced back to the exchange of “love coupons.”

Love coupons (also known as love discounts, love IOUs, or love gifts with purchase) are slips of paper, usually homemade, that act as gift certificates for acts that people in relationships previously gave of their own will, such as hugs, sensual massages, or emptying the goddamn dishwasher for once without complaining. They’ve gained popularity on Pinterest and in countless women’s lifestyle magazines as a means of resparking a dying relationship. Love coupons are not legal currency.

“The simple truth is, [...]