Writing Paradox

This might sound paradoxical but the essays my students submit in Spanish are better in terms of grammar, the use of vocabulary and the correctness of the sentence structure than those they submit in English. I think this happens because in the Spanish courses we get to teach them how to create a good sentence from scratch. Nobody seems to do that for them when they write in their native language.

What is it that they do in their English classes in high school?

How Often Do People Think About Sex?

Since people are writing in to ask, I will answer right here: no, I’m not planning to blog about this so-called “study” on how often people think about sex and what this means in terms of gender. I’m also not planning to link to it or analyze it. And I’m not going to do those things because the study is stupid. And the attention it’s getting from bloggers and journalists is evidence of deeply unhealthy attitudes to sexuality in this society.

I’m very interested in how people think. For years, I’ve been bugging everybody I know with questions as to how their thinking process is organized. I discovered that most people don’t think in complete sentences. Often, people’s thoughts take the form of images. Instead of telling themselves, “I need to go to work now”, they have an image of themselves going to work. Some people have a sort of a movie playing in their heads all the time.

Other people think in fragments of sentences and images. Some, like myself, think in the form of dialogues. I always choose somebody I’m speaking to in my head and orchestrate conversations with them. This can be a person I know, a character from a book, the readers of my blog, my students, etc.

There are people whose thinking is based on associations. They see something that reminds them of whatever that immediately reminds them of something else. Breaking down such a rapid process of generating associations and calculating its ingredients is next to impossible.

I’m sure there are many other ways in which people generate thoughts. However, it is really hard for me to imagine that the majority of people on this planet have complete, identifiable, easy-to-count thoughts of the “I need to have sex now” or “Sex is good” variety.

Physiological drives that this “study” attempts to quantify (food, sleep and sexual desire) are, by their very nature, not quantifiable. I couldn’t count how many times a day I think about these things because I can’t say that I have separate, concrete thoughts about these needs that could be counted. When I’m sleep-deprived (like I have been this week, for example), I can’t say that the number of “thoughts” I have about sleep increases. I slow down, my reactions are less sharp, I get irritable and drink too much coffee. I also have less thoughts about anything because my energy is low.

Only a very profound fear of sexuality would suggest to anybody that the number of sex-related thoughts is evidence of anything. An even more profound terror of sexuality is required to believe that you can quantify those thoughts and use those numbers as basis for any sort of analysis.

This obsession with quantifying the unquantifiable is really getting to me, people.

How to Provide Emotional Support for an Unemployed Partner, Part I

As I shared on this blog recently, my husband was unemployed for two years. During this period of protracted unemployment, I can honestly say that I was the most supportive partner anybody could hope for. I really did myself proud on this one and N. agrees that I was a bedrock of unwavering support to him.

Many people are finding themselves unemployed nowadays, which is why I decided to share my principles of how to offer true support to an unemployed partner (UP, for short).

1. When your partner tells you s/he has been fired, the first impulse is always to say, “I will support you for as long as it takes for you to find a new job.” As understandable as this impulse is, I suggest you resist it. It will be highly counter-productive to make any spur-of-the-moment promises that you might not be able to keep.

So take a moment to consider things rationally and calmly. Evaluate your psychological and financial resources. It’s easy to promise support for “as long as it takes.” But have you really considered how you will handle the situation on the practical level if your partner’s unemployment lasts for 2 years? How about 5 years? How about 15? What if they never find a job? Are you sure that you will not start feeling resentful and overburdened?

Believe me, it is much more honest and helpful to tell your partner that you will be able to support them for a set number of years or months instead of making wild promises based on nothing but emotions of the moment.

2. There will be days, weeks or even months when the UP will not be looking for a job. This does not mean s/he has given up and will never look for a job again. All this means is that your partner is trying to preserve his or her sanity. Job searches are difficult and stressful. Most people can’t face getting rejected and failing at something so important on a daily basis for a long time. If your partner needs to take breaks from active searching for a job, this means s/he is doing what is needed to preserve him or herself psychologically.

3. It is neither helpful nor encouraging to pester the UP with questions about what they have done today in their job search. Sometimes, the UP will want to talk about the job search but sometimes s/he won’t. That’s perfectly normal. If the UP needs a few days, weeks or months when the job search is not discussed, then that’s what they need and you should just accept it.

4. Unemployment is bad. However, it is not the end of the world. The UP will still want to laugh, have an occasional good time, go out, and treat themselves to something nice. This is a lot healthier than sitting around with a tragic face and depriving oneself of anything pleasing.

(To be continued. . .)