I Lived Like Audrey Hepburn for a Week

A year ago, a Cosmo writer lived like Marilyn Monroe for a week, and with May being Audrey Hepburn’s birth month, it seemed like the perfect time for someone to take on the equally-as-famous starlet of that era. And that someone was … me?

To be clear, I knew nothing about Audrey Hepburn going into the experiment. It all started because some coworkers believed I looked enough like her to pull it off, which is possibly the most flattering thing I’ve ever been told. (Seriously, no compliment will ever top “You know, you really do look kinda like Audrey! In the eyes! I think it’s the bangs?”)

Getty/Ruben Chamorro

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Black Dress, HAYLEY PAIGE OCCASIONS, $230; Black Gloves, DAVID’S BRIDAL, $20; Extendable Vintage Style Cigarette Holder, AMAZON, $8; Earrings, CLAIRE’S, $15; Hair Accessory, Thrifted; Necklace, Thrifted. Photo Taken At THE REDEYE GRILL.

I also quickly realized that on top of not knowing any Audrey Hepburn trivia, I had never seen a full film of hers from start to finish. Audrey is one of those people who’s so famous, so popular among dorm-room wall decor and last-minute Halloween costumes that you can feel like you know her — when, obviously, you don’t at all.

So, after finally watching a few Audrey movies, digging through old YouTube interview clips/screen tests/BBC documentaries, and sifting through fan page after fan page, I embarked on a weeklong journey living as the star. Here’s how it went.

Getty/Ruben Chamorro

Black Pants, H&M, $30; Black Long-Sleeve Shirt, H&M, $13; Earrings, Thrifted; Embroidered Flats, Thrifted

Day 1: Lounging à la Audrey

As Audrey grew older, she became more interested in spending time at home, “recharging” on weekends as all classic introverts do.Since I usually use Sundays as a time to catch up on laundry and meal prep for the week, this didn’t feel so different from my own routine — that is, until I decided to tackle not one, but two of Audrey’s own cooking recipes, from Audrey at Home, a combination cookbook/biography written by her son.

The first was a recipe for madeleines — French butter cakes that Audrey typically ate for breakfast on Sundays and that I’ve only ever bought prepackaged from Starbucks.

I’m one of those people who only cooks or bakes for practical, money-saving and health reasons or as a social activity (aka my friends do most of the work). Luckily, the madeleines were pretty straightforward and mostly required hovering near my oven (which is extra hot and has historically burned everything I’ve ever put in there) to make sure those little babies were, indeed, golden.

The Real Anastasia Romanov is Much Different Than the Movie & Musical

Anna Anderson once said in English, “You either believe it or you don’t believe it. It doesn’t matter. In no anyway whatsoever.”


Emotions have always run high when it comes to the Romanov family. Some 50 blocks north of Manhattan’s theatre district is a Russian journey into the past of another kind. As much as a cathedral can be hidden, St. Nicholas Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church is tucked away on 97th Street, between Fifth and Madison avenues. The baroque facade with five onion-shaped domes is not on the route of the tourist buses, the ones that sway past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. John the Divine. Its visiting hours are unclear; if you call the phone number listed on the website, no one answers and no message clicks on. It will ring 20 times without an answer.

And yet, when you push open the heavy doors of St. Nicholas Cathedral, it brings you face to face with ravishing, soaring beauty. Lit by flickering candles and chandeliers, the space is filled with centuries-old religious relics, icons, paintings, and murals. The air hangs with incense so intense it almost smothers the delicate scent of the faded roses gathered in vases that dot the floor.

St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, NYC

Alamy

“It is not a museum, it’s a working church,” says an elegant young blond man lingering after services on a recent Sunday. He is a descendent of first-wave emigres, the ones who poured out of Russia in the chaos of the 1917 Revolution. Fiercely proud of the cathedral where he was baptized, the young man explains the stories behind several Orthodox saints, and points out a painting on the back wall of a crowned and robed man with a beard: Nicholas II, the father of Anastasia.

When the Russian community of New York City wanted to build a cathedral at the turn of the last century, the pious czar donated 7,500 rubles and urged others to contribute. A large wall plaque testifies to Czar Nicholas’s pivotal role in founding this church.

In the 21st century the cathedral has seen a resurgence. A plaque to another benefactor can be found on a wall of St. Nicholas: Vladimir Putin, the man dominating world news right now. He made his own donations and in 2001 quietly visited the 97th Street cathedral. After decades of government mandated-atheism and persecutions—a time when the Romanov royal family and aristocratic class were anathema—Russia has a president who supports the Orthodox faith and has promoted certain aspects of the country’s pre-Revolution history. In 2000, Nicholas, his wife, and children were sainted by the Russian Orthodox church. A survey of Russians at about the same time found that 30 percent of the population felt Czar Nicholas’s reign “brought more good than harm.”

The fascination extends far beyond Russia. When asked about his forthcoming series about the doomed family, Matthew Weiner told The Hollywood Reporter, “I love this idea that these characters believe themselves to be, whether they are or not, descendants of this last autocratic family who are part of one of the great true crime stories of all time.”

TSAR NICHOLAS II OF RUSSIA WITH TSARINA ALEXANDRA AND THEIR CHILDREN GRAND DUCHESSES OLGA, TATIANA, MARIA, AND ANASTASIA, AND TSAREVICH ALEXEI.

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Fine Art Images/Heritage Images

Why do the Romanovs have such a hold? Other powerful dynasties fell in the upheaval of World War One—the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns—but no musicals have been made of their fates. It could be the shock of the execution, which surpassed in horror even the deaths of the French monarchs in the throes of the French revolution. After all, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were tried in a court before being guillotined, and their daughter was spared.

Perhaps we are forever caught up in our feelings for those young children, murdered in Siberian exile. Who knows what else they could have become if they made it out alive?

A Nudist Resort Promised to Liberate Me But Objectified Me Instead

Women’s objectification masked as liberation is nothing new. It’s an oft-quoted saying that women’s desire is for the desire of men. Accordingly, efforts to cater to our “desire” have instead focused on our desirability. Sensuous curves and seductive O faces illustrate articles and books about female sexuality. “Freeing the nipple” and wearing sexy lingerie are said to liberate us. Our sexuality remains defined by what we look like, not what we look at.

Hedo courtyard

Leethan Grandison (Hedonism II)

Whether they’re the objects of women’s desire or other men’s, men are rarely portrayed erotically, lest they be feminized. Pop songs like “I Kissed a Girl” and “Cool for the Summer” celebrate woman-on-woman hookups, while male bisexuality remains taboo. We’re taught women just don’t like looking at men, belying the popularity of Magic Mike and the status of “gay men” as women’s second-most popular category on PornHub. Of course, some women find joy in traditional modes of female sexuality, but the problem is that patriarchy encourages those choices while shaming us for enjoying anything else.

This notion that men are programmed to look while women are designed to be looked at is totally alienating to me. I don’t get off on being watched, but I love watching men. So, many attempts to liberate my sexuality have instead repressed it—including Hedo.

When I tried to express my authentic sexuality there, I was punished. I entered the playroom, where couples go for public sex, and a man having sex with a woman got my attention. As my gaze lingered on him, a staff member told me that if I wasn’t going to “play,” I had to leave. It’s what women are constantly taught: We must cater to someone else’s desires, or we can’t participate at all. We can’t be sexual without being sexualized. Maybe the playroom’s staff just didn’t want to subject anyone to non-consensual voyeurism. But if that man’s engagement in public sex in the playroom didn’t mean he was consenting to be stared at, why did my public nudity give men license to stare at me?

Hedonism grid

Leethan Grandison (Hedonism II)

A space can’t be “safe,” as the PR rep described Hedo, unless it lets us determine how our bodies are seen, including whether or not they’re sexualized. Creating such an environment is possible. I would know: In college, I modeled for a figure-drawing class where every single student was an older man. No one looked at or spoke to me in a sexual manner. After years spent learning women’s bodies are asking to be objectified, I realized I could be naked in a room full of men and remain a human being. This sunk in when a straight man told me he preferred drawing men because the lines were more challenging. That was the moment I felt liberated.

Still, I can see why sexual attention might feel liberating for others, particularly those routinely taught their bodies don’t deserve to be seen. One older couple at Hedo told me they cherished the freedom to be sexual without anyone thinking “ew.” An overweight woman was glad to feel for once like her body was accepted. Hedo’s brand of objectification as liberation can work if it focuses on people with bodies that aren’t traditionally desired. But their liberation and my discomfort are two sides of the same coin. Both are products of a society that tells us only some bodies should be sexualized. It makes sense that fit women in their twenties are “unicorns” there, as one guest put it. When your body’s constantly sexualized, such a place doesn’t provide an escape. It just provides more opportunities for men to evaluate your appearance. Even if these evaluations are positive, they constrict us to gender roles rather than liberate us from them.

To me, liberation doesn’t mean gaining validation from men that I have a hot body. It means nobody caring how hot my body is. It means men looking into my eyes, no matter what I’m wearing, and letting me look back.

The 5-Step Guide to Heidi Klum’s Nude Lip, Smoky Eye Combo

Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. For May, Heidi Klum and her beauty team break down how to get some of her most memorable hair and makeup looks, with minimal effort, to boot. Here, Klum and her makeup artist, Linda Hay, revisit one of Klum’s most flawless looks of late: the smoky eye/nude lip combo she wore to the Grammys in February.

For the 2017 Grammy Awards, Heidi Klum went rock glam with sultry, smoky eyes and an ultra-mini quicksilver dress. She’d do this look for a fun date night, too—the subtle lip keeps makeouts lipstick-worry free. Heidi loves the look, because as she explains, she likes to accentuate her eyes rather than her lips: “I don’t have luscious Angelina Jolie lips, so I do a big Bambi eye: lots of lashes, top and bottom. And a lot of shading, to make the eye really big.” Here, Linda Hay, Heidi’s makeup artist, explains how she get it done:

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Step 1

As always, I began with Mario Badescu Buttermilk Lotion, it’s light and easy and sits nicely under makeup.

Step 2

Next I corrected with my favorite Kevyn Aucoin concealer, it’s a heavy coverage concealer but is easily feathered when used with the moisturizer… I love that it gives me the choice. Then I applied Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation, for some light coverage but keeping the skin fresh.

Step 3

Next the bronzer, Nars “Laguna” and “Casino” duo, using a large brush I gently apply under the cheek bone, the jaw line, and at the temples. Then I apply Tom Ford’s Illuminating Powder “Moonlight” using a smaller blush brush to the tops of the cheek bone, the bridge of the nose. Don’t want to overdo either of these, the eyes should be the star here.

Step 4

For a classic smoky eye I use a mix of black pencil with various shades of browns, this way you achieve a smoky eye, not a raccoon. I begin by lining the top eye lid and inside the entire water line with Charlotte Tilbury “Rock n Kohl” pencil (this is one of the few pencils I’ve used down to a nib, you have time to smudge it but it will set and stay put later, very cool).

Then line the bottom lash line with a lighter brown pencil, “Teddy” from MAC. Smudge and feather both top and bottom with a dark brown, Dior’s “Cuir Cannage.” Take a medium brown into the crease and the lightest brown to the lid, the highlighter to the inner corner and under the bow.

Next I added two layers of mascara to the top and bottom lashes (don’t be shy). After which you can tweak.. maybe you need to reapply the black pencil to the waterline? Maybe the darker shadow could be extended out to give a more cat like look? Perhaps the bottom eye shadow line could be softened and thickened by feathering with a light brown. I always hold back until after the lashes are in place to do finals, best to add than subtract.

Step 5

For a nude lip, Charlotte Tilbury’s Nude Kate is delish!

My Wife and Unborn Daughter Died Two Months Ago. This Mother’s Day, I’m Celebrating Differently

I first met Meg years ago—a chance encounter at Yankee Stadium—but we lost each other in the rush to get on the subway. I checked every single subway car, but she wasn’t there. An hour later, as luck would have it, we bumped into each other again in midtown. This time I made sure to get her number. We were married 3 years later.

We had a baby. We moved to the suburbs. Meg was pregnant with our second daughter and when we saw her on the ultrasound this past February, she looked at us and blinked, clear as day. It was wild. Meg was due on May 18, the week after Mother’s Day, and we couldn’t wait for our little family of three—Meg, me and our Thomas the Train loving toddler Isabelle —to grow.

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But everything changed unexpectedly the morning of March 3, 2017, when Meg was six and a half months pregnant. Meg left before I did—I was in the shower—so she said goodbye and we said “I love you.” And when I headed to work a little later, I noticed the street was closed near our house, just by the bus stop where Meg and her brother Derek catch the bus to New York City. A little while later, Meg’s mom called me and told me Derek had been in an accident and they couldn’t get in touch with Meg. Soon my father called and told me to come home, and immediately, right then, I knew exactly what happened.

The first time I said my daughter Addy’s name out loud was when the coroner called. Meg and I had traded a bunch of emails and texts about names, and Adaline was the one we would have picked, even if we both hadn’t admitted that yet. It felt so weird to make a decision like this without her. I still look at the emails and texts she’s sent me, or listen to her voice on a voicemail. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s comforting. But I’m glad I have them.

I still look at the emails and texts she’s sent me, or listen to her voice on a voicemail. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s comforting. But I’m glad I have them.

Meg was special. She was beautiful and smart, an amazing softball player and the kind of person who loved impromptu dance parties in the kitchen. She went to church on Sundays, even if we had been out on Saturday night. She loved her parents. She was patient and kind, the kind of person you thanked God for every single day. I still do. I was lucky to have 10 years with Meg, and I know that. And sometimes when I look at Izzy, I see Meg. Like her mother, Izzy has possibly the worst poker face on the planet. If she’s excited, it’s all right there; she’s bursting. And if she’s mad, well, good luck. There’s no hiding that either. It would always make me laugh with Meg, because she could never pretend to like a gift, or a meal at a restaurant. The words might say one thing—she was always so gracious and lovely—but her face said another.

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Telling Izzy that Meg had passed was one of the hardest parts of all of this. She was so little, just a month before her 2nd birthday. And it’s hard for me to accept that she will grow up without a mother. I mean, maybe I’ll have some perspective over time, but the world is not a better place without her. I talked to a lot of experts to make sure I said the right things to Izzy—I used the word “died,” not “sleeping,” because I didn’t want her to think Meg would wake up. I didn’t tell her she was with Jesus, because she associates going to church on Sundays with visiting Jesus. Truth is, I didn’t want to give her more than she needs, but I also wanted to make sure she understood that Meg wasn’t coming back, even though some days I have trouble understanding that.

The hardest parts are the little things, like going to bed at night. Multiple times a day I think: “I can’t wait to tell Meg this story.” It might be something that happened at work or a teacher says something about Isabelle at daycare and I just want to share it with Meg. That’s the most difficult stuff, where for a split moment you forget she’s not there anymore. In those moments I kind of just shake my head and try to smile and look up.

But I can’t always muster a smile, there are many times where I am enraged and frustrated, always keeping those emotions from Izzy, knowing that it could have been different for us. Izzy and I talk about Meg all the time—if we’re talking about favorite colors, we’ll do daddy’s, Izzy’s and mommy’s—and there are pictures everywhere in our house. I used to buy Meg flowers every week and I still do. When I bring them home, Izzy says they are for mommy and we put them in the familiar places. When Izzy brings Meg up, just recently she said, “Mommy, mommy, I miss mommy,” I tell her it’s OK to miss her and I miss her too. I have to remind her we won’t see her again, but I also reassure her that I am not going anywhere.

The hardest parts are the little things, like going to bed at night. Multiple times a day I think: “I can’t wait to tell Meg this story.”

I needed to be direct and honest with her, which was difficult, but I needed her to hear it from me. She is surrounded by love—me, my parents, Meg’s parents, Meg’s brother Derek, and my siblings—and that means everything. (Our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and strangers have all been so incredibly supportive, and while I haven’t had the chance to thank them all, it’s really so appreciated.) Now when Izzy cries—she’s a 2-year-old, it’s part of the toddler experience—she says daddy, but every now and again she says “mommy,” although she catches herself. I know she misses her.

I know Meg isn’t coming back, but I still feel like we’re raising Isabelle together. For Mother’s Day, while most of the kids made cards for their moms, Izzy made them for her grandmothers. They both went to her mommy and me event at school, too. I know that she will look for female role models —I can see it already. And while no one will replace Meg, we’re so lucky to have my mother-in-law, my mom, my sister, my brother’s girlfriend and my brother’s wife around. If I have to make a decision, I often think, ‘what would Meg do?’. That doesn’t mean I do exactly what she would have done, but I play it out—what I would have said, what she would have said, and where we would have ended up. I still tag Meg in everything on Facebook, too. She has friends that I’m not friends with and I want them to see Izzy and still be a part of our life.

This Mother’s Day, and every other day, I want Izzy to know how loved she is by me, how much Meg loved her and how important she was to Meg. I want her to know the compassionate, loving, and brilliant woman her mother was, the foods she loved and the songs she liked. I want her to know that she has a mother, someone who loved the title of ‘Izzy’s mommy’ above all else.I don’t ever feel alone and I don’t want Izzy too either. Meg and I are raising our child together and the three of us are still a family.

5 Writers Who are Also Moms Apologize to Their Own Moms

Sasha Bonét is a writer whose work has appeared in Guernica and The Village Voice.


Jessica Grose: For Refusing to Wear Pants

As the mother of two girls, I’m sure that as they get older, there are going to be an endless number of things I feel bad about putting my own mother through. For now, I would like to apologize to my mom for refusing to wear pants for the entirety of preschool. My mother still talks about how she even had to shove my skirt into snow pants, because I was so insistent that pants were the devil.

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My 4-year-old has a LOT of opinions about what she wears, and prefers what I would like to call seasonally inappropriate power clashing. The baby can’t talk yet but I’m sure she’s gonna have a lot of feelings about her clothes as soon as she can express herself beyond waving. So let me reiterate: I’m so sorry, mommy. If I could go back and wear some long johns on that cold winter day, I would in a heartbeat.

Jessica Grose is the editor of Lenny Letter and the author of Soulmates.


Abbi Waxman: For…Pretty Much Everything

Abbi Waxman and her daughters

Leanna Creel

My refusal to eat anything green from the ages of 1 to 14. My obsession with Siouxsie and the Banshees and my insistence that you listen to their music and totally appreciate their genius. My tendency to sit in the dark and moodily smoke cigarettes while listening repeatedly to “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran—just loud enough that you could hear it down the hall. My persuading you that henna would color my hair a “natural yet striking” shade of red but do nothing permanent to the bathroom towels. Or floor. Or walls.

Everything to do with that guy you described as a “clump of hair with a boy hanging from it.” The whole blue eyeliner period. The little piles of tangerine peels I used to leave everywhere. My inability to return a cup to the kitchen once I had removed it. Those jeans with the zippers in the ankles that were so tight I got urinary tract infections that made me look like I had denim parsnips for legs, but which you still told me “looked super.” My distractedness when it came to conversations you were in the middle of, lack of awareness when you looked tired, and tastelessness in Mother’s Day jewelry choices (giant rhinestone peacock pin, anyone?).

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And finally, for all the times I said “Dad’s so much more fun than you are,” because he got to throw down the occasional permissive cameo while you did the constant, unrewarding work of actual parenting. Now that I look back, that was such a dick move it takes my breath away. But really, those super-tight zipper jeans were probably the worst thing.

Abbi Waxman is the author of The Garden of Small Beginnings.


Raakhee Mirchandani: For Pushing All Your Buttons

My mom just couldn’t get it right.

Her accent was too thick. And when she called my teachers—she always called my teachers to see how I was doing and what else I could be doing—I cringed thinking about the way she would pronounce geometry as “GEO-METRY,” wood shop as “VOOD SHOP.” (Full disclosure: I sucked at wood shop. And I’ve never needed a single shelf-building skill in my life, including sawing, sanding and staining.)

She always packed my lunch. Most days it was a sandwich and some carrot or celery sticks, never chips, cookies or chocolate. But it was always homemade, which means I never once got to stand in the school lunch line.

Then there were the clothes. The hand-me-downs from cousins, the sneakers from Payless and the random items we’d get from India that clearly had no place in a suburban New Jersey middle school.

And let’s not even get in to the grooming, please, because there was no makeup allowed. Ever. As for my unruly curls? They were never straightened, always out in full force. My mom maintained that school was for learning, so my nails were un-manicured, my arms covered in the fuzz that comes from being blessed with thick Indian hair.

And on the days when I got feisty, she would always say the same thing: “One day I hope you have a daughter. And I hope she’s just like you.”

Courtesy

Today I do have a little lady of my own. A precocious, clever and infinitely curious little thing who loves happy hour, impromptu dance parties and Wonder Woman. Satya is sassy and strident, a master negotiator and a button pusher, although I swear, it’s only my buttons she’s interested in pushing.

When I pick her up from school, I talk to her teachers about how she’s doing, looking for ways I can help her love to learn. On the days I pack her lunch, it’s almost always the same thing, a comforting reminder that someone loves her. I love getting her dressed, sometimes in items we’ve inherited from friends, the things I buy comically large so she can wear them for multiple seasons. Kids clothes can be so expensive. She likes to stick a bindi on her forehead and, much to the amusement of the people who ask, insists that it’s her “magical third eye.” When she became obsessed with my favorite gold nail polish, I switched to a clear coat. When she asked about why her arms had hair and mine didn’t, I stopped getting them waxed. I don’t want her to ever think she’s not perfect exactly the way she is—and to make sure that’s clear, I know I have to walk the walk. As for my hair, well, is always curly, it’s my signature.

Oh, wait…

I could apologize to my mother, but I hope her wish all those years ago really does come true. I hope that my daughter loves me the way I love my mama. I hope that what she find annoying now, she find empowering later. And, above all else, I hope she knows how lucky she is to have a Nani (grandmother) as gracious, forgiving and kind as my mother.

Raakhee Mirchandani is a writer and the editor of Moneyish.

I Have a Sugar Daddy to Pay for Things for My Kid — SeekingArrangement.com

When I first heard about SeekingArrangement.com, a website that helps men and women connect with sugar babies (people who are paid to provide some sort of relationship service) and sugar daddies (people who pay to receive the relationship service), I was skeptical. A girlfriend of mine was already on the site as a sugar baby, and she was getting all these lavish gifts — extravagant dinners with a $1,000+ bill, exotic getaways, designer handbags — but I had no idea what she, or other girls on the site, were doing in exchange for these things. Plus, who were these people that she was meeting? Were they nice guys? Creeps? Were they even who they said they were?

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The gifts obviously seemed nice, but when I heard that she was making money on top of that, that’s what really persuaded me. Because I didn’t care about the material things I could have — I just wanted to provide for my son.

I’m a single mom to six-year-old Carter*, who lost his dad when he died from a heart attack five years ago. We obviously weren’t expecting it, and losing a second income, especially in Los Angeles — one of the most expensive cities to live in — made it very difficult for me to provide for Carter. I could afford the basics on my salary working as a customer service representative, but I was never really able to give him the things I thought he should have — a nicer backpack for school, a fun day at the amusement park, or the latest video game that all his friends were playing. I would do anything for my son, and I want him to be happy. That doesn’t mean he needs material things to be happy, of course. But there’s a lot of pressure, especially on social media, to have a picture-perfect life. And at the end of the day, I just couldn’t provide in the way that I wanted to.

So with my friend’s encouragement, I decided to give this sugar baby business a try. Most people assume that everyone who’s a sugar baby has sex with their clients, but that’s not true. You can set whatever ground rules you’d like, decide who you see, and how often you want to “work” with them. When I signed up, I went in knowing that I wasn’t going to have sex with anyone. That’s just not me, and it isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I was here to provide for my child, yes, but I wasn’t at the point that I felt the need to sell my body to do so.

When I first set up my page, I thought letting guys know right away that I wouldn’t be offering sex, and that I had a child, was the best course of action. I figured, ‘Tell them right up front because if that’s what they want, they know to not waste their time.’ So I literally had that information on my page. And, of course, I heard crickets those first few weeks. I barely heard from any sugar daddies, and when I did, as soon as I started talking about my son I wouldn’t hear from them anymore. It started to get frustrating — I wasn’t in this for anything but to provide for my son, but if they knew about him, I got shut down. I thought, ‘Do I really have to keep him a secret?’

I was here to provide for my child, yes, but I wasn’t at the point that I felt the need to sell my body to do so

I started looking at other girls’ pages, including my friend’s, and one thing was clear: Regardless of what services they were or weren’t wiling to provide, their pages were more inviting than mine. I realized that laying it all out there like that wasn’t doing anyone any favors — it was too harsh; kind of like when you go on a first date and someone word vomits their entire life story and outlines their marriage checklist. It’s an immediate red flag and turns most people off. It’s the same thing here — nobody was looking for a relationship or marriage, per se, but that didn’t mean I needed to be so abrupt about it. ‘Guys like the chase,’ I reminded myself.

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I edited my page so that I seemed like a nicer girl to talk to, and shortly after I did, I met O*. Other men had messaged me as well, and while we talked a bit online, I never wanted to meet up in person. But there was something about O that intrigued me. He was handsome, kind, and had a gentle demeanor that came off as very attractive. And he was older — in his late 60s, while I’m in my 30s. I had never dated a man that much older than me before, but I reminded myself that this wasn’t dating. So why shouldn’t I explore the opportunity?

I decided to go for it, and I’m so glad I did. O and I got together for dinner a few times, and he was a complete gentleman — never pressuring me for sexual favors and always respecting my boundaries. I slowly became more comfortable around him, and as I did, I stopped talked to other potential sugar daddies online. When I told him I had a son — news that made other potential suitors drop me before I could blink — he didn’t bat an eyelash. He asked questions about Carter, but didn’t ask to meet him. And when I told him one of my hard rules was that this would be a completely separate part of my life, O respected that. I didn’t feel like I was putting myself or my son in danger.

Parents With Physical Disabilities Discuss Pregnancy and Childbirth

Shortly after Nikki Villavicencio gave birth via C-section, there was a complication. Her daughter, Alexandria, was coughing up blood, and Alley’s stomach was swelling. Nikki’s doctors wanted to transfer Alley to the children’s hospital across town. Already afraid for their baby, Nikki and her partner, Darrell Paulsen, panicked. Both parents have significant physical disabilities: Nikki, then 27, has arthrogryposis, a condition that immobilizes some of her joints. She uses her feet for almost all functions people typically perform with their hands, from texting to handling utensils to applying makeup. Darrell, then 42, has cerebral palsy, which affects muscle tone and movement. Because they both use wheelchairs, they couldn’t ride with Alley in the ambulance.

Nikki and Darrell with newborn Alley.

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“At this point, we didn’t know what the heck was going on with Alley — if she was dying or what,” says Nikki. Darrell’s brother shuttled Nikki and Darrell to the children’s hospital one at a time — and when they arrived, they said they encountered a very different reception than the warm support at the hospital where Nikki delivered. The staff at the children’s hospital complained that their wheelchairs took up too much space in the exam room, and a social worker told them the staff were only there to care for Alley, not her parents. The nurses also made it clear they would not help Nikki breastfeed. (Nikki remembers thinking, We didn’t want you to, but OK.) They even suggested Darrell wait in a separate room, down the hall.

“We said, ‘No, he’s her parent,'” Nikki says, “‘he has every right to be here.'” (The hospital did not return request for comment.)

Although doctors would ultimately find that Alley was completely fine, the experience was a reminder of a reality that many mothers with disabilities face. “As a person with a disability and as a woman, I always felt the world didn’t see me as a caretaker,” Nikki says, but rather, “someone who needs to be taken care of.”

Nikki and Darrell outside their home in Minnesota.

CAROLINE YANG


Nikki and Darrell, both longtime activists, met in 2009 at a rally for the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities. Nikki was all bundled up in the March cold except for her exposed feet, which she was using to pass out brochures. Darrell pestered someone to give him their gloves, which he persuaded Nikki to wear over her feet, and then asked for her phone number. He called every day for a month and later repeatedly sent flowers until she agreed to go out.

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By 2011, they were committed to each other but never thought having kids was possible. “My parents were told when I was born that I would never have a child,” Nikki says. Growing up, when her cousins would play house, Nikki would hang off to the side, sure that being a mommy wasn’t in her future. When she moved to Minnesota from Wisconsin at 22 and went to a gynecologist to request a pap smear and contraception, she recalls the physician asking her, “Is it even possible for you to have intercourse?” (Most people with disabilities can, as trained doctors should already know.)

5 Women on Telling Their Moms They Don’t Want Kids

Having a child is a deeply personal decision. It’s also one that is complicated by societal (read: patriarchal) pressures–women are socialized to be caretakers, to believe that motherhood is an inherent part of womanhood. (There’s an entire slogan on Etsy saying that “only the best moms get promoted to grandmas,” as if a child’s choice to have children is a comment on one’s parenting.) Still, can you really tell your own mother to stay out of it?

Bea Arthur, a therapist and psychologist, says it’s important to understand where parents are coming from. “Being from Ghana, family is really important in our culture,” she says of her own parents, “so if you have kids, your kids take care of you because there’s no social security. So my mom is like, ‘I just want someone to take care of you.’ I know where they’re coming from, but that’s the only way they understand emotional support.”

She cautions not to confuse the goal of acceptance with validation. “This generation was encouraged to be very expressive, and they feel like ‘you need to hear me and validate me,” she said. “And parents are from different generations, different worlds it can feel like. So you need to see how you can talk to each other and relate to each other beyond these conditions. Can you still love each other, even if you don’t agree with what the other one wants?”

Some moms will recognize that having children is a personal choice. For Jill, 30, who is single and genderqueer, the conversation has been relatively easy. “She’s always been very understanding and accepting of my position about having kids, even though I know she’d love to have a grandchild. But she always reiterates that it’s 100% my choice, and has told me that it’s better to regret not having kids than it is to regret having them.”

Kat’s mom was also supportive, even though “there might have been some surprise, because I enjoy kids generally.” But she advises spinning the news as a positive choice you’ve made about your own life, rather than an experience you’ll be deprived of. “Moms like knowing their kids are happy. If you can show her you’ve made a choice that makes you feel excited about your future and content in the present, she’s likely to get on board.” Arthur agrees, saying if you “lead with why it’s about for you, and why it’s not about them,” and that you’re telling them this because you value honesty in your relationship. They may not take it as personally.

“It would probably help if we all worked a little harder to keep each others’ context in mind.”

But for moms who do take the choice personally, it’s important to remember that their reaction is Not About You. When Haley brings up her and her partner’s disinterest in parenthood to their mothers, she says it’s usually met with an eye roll or anxiety about not having grandkids. But she says firm, hoping her mother will realize that “no one is out here choosing to not have kids because they want to spite or victimize their parents, or because they don’t like children. Children are expensive, heart-wrenching, lovely, fulfilling nightmares. They aren’t for everyone, even perfect adjusted adults who generally like children.”

In general, though, understand that you may not agree. “It would probably help if we all worked a little harder to keep each others’ context in mind. The world that I’m in is very different than what my mom was navigating when she had my sister and I,” said Alison. And it’s possible to help your mother deal with her disappointment or shock without succumbing to pressure. “You may not be able to keep your mom from guilting you over your choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one for you,” says Haley. “Be gentle with moms, and yourself—everyone’s lives look different.”

Americans Are More Okay With Cloning Humans Than Cheating on a Spouse

According to a new Gallup poll, Americans are more liberal than they’ve ever been. Things like birth control, having a baby outside of marriage, and even doctor-assisted suicide are considered more morally acceptable than ever. However, only 9% of Americans think extramarital affairs are acceptable, so don’t even think about it, Jerry.

Literally everything is more popular than extramarital affairs. Polygamy is more popular than extramarital affairs, presumably because at least everyone in a plural marriage has signed up for it. Cloning humans is even more popular than extramarital affairs, though there’s no data yet on what Americans think of extramarital affairs with a human clone, which is basically the premise of Westworld (ok fine, they’re robots, but you get it).

Gallup poll

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“Of the 19 issues included in this year’s poll, 13 show meaningful change in a liberal direction over time, regardless of whether they are currently at their high point in Gallup’s trend,” according to the survey. “No issues show meaningful change toward more traditionally conservative positions compared with when Gallup first measured them.”

This is the way things tend to go. However, it’s easy to rely on the long arc of history bending in the favor of liberal ideology rather than doing any work to make sure public policy reflects these values. Currently, though 43% of Americans say abortion is morally acceptable, and nearly 70% say abortion should be legal, states keep enacting restrictive abortion laws. Public opinion doesn’t automatically mean those values are reflected in culture.

But also, if you’re going to have an affair, perhaps just talk to your partner about non-monogamy first.