Second best

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oh, what a week, including one daughter home from school yesterday, a second one home today. What I think they need most of all is sleep. School, away games, late-night practices, and even later-night homework, and it's not yet October. And, in our case, it's not yet high school. But it reminded me of a New York Times interview with Debora Spar, president of Barnard College and author of a new book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, which came out this week.

In the interview, Spar says Barnard women are "coming out of high school exhausted," after years of fighting for perfect SAT scores, working to get into AP classes, and trying to balance all those many, many sports and extracurriculars. In her book, Spar advocates "satisficing," or settling for second best. "Sometimes second best is really good," Spar says, "and second best is much better than fourth best or worse."

She gives an example of coming home from work, saying a quick hello to her 8-year-old, and rushing back out the door. "Where are you going?," her son asked. To a PTA meeting at your school, she said. "Why?," he asked. Because I want to be involved in your school community, she told him. "But I want you here," he said. And after that, she never attended another PTA meeting.

During late-night homework sessions this week, I finished The Art of Fielding, a book I resisted for too long, thinking I had enough baseball in my real life. And if I'm completely honest, I also resisted because I tend to prefer books written by women. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this - it's ridiculous - but it's true. After reading this book, I hope I've learned a lesson. This is a story about baseball, yes, but also about relationships, home, fear, failure, and love. It paints such a true picture of college life and the friendships formed there, particularly male friendships:

"Schwartz held out his fist and Henry bumped it with his own, and Pella could tell from their somber, ceremonious expressions that their feud, or whatever you'd call it, had ended. Men were such odd creatures. They didn't duel anymore, even fistfights had come to seem barbaric, the old casual violence all channeled through institutions now, but still they loved to uphold their ancient codes. And what they loved even more was to forgive each other. Pella felt like she knew a lot about men, but she couldn't imagine what it would be like to be one of them, to be in a room of them with no woman present, to participate in their silent rites of contrition and redemption."


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