No Longer Apologetic for Being a Woman

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In middle school, I loved a good romance. I used to secretly read books like the Sweet Valley High series, and any story that had a love story was appealing to me. Until now, I never told that I read those voraciously.

Then when I got older, I found out it was taboo. “Chick lit.” Any film focusing on the female condition was dismissed as a “chick flick.” Only appealing to women, not the higher society of men.

I say that sarcastically because I am tired of stories being dismissed because they tell a woman’s tale. Today is Jane Austen’s 239th birthday. She is my favorite author of all time, right up there with J.K. Rowling (Shannon Hale is slowly, but quickly, joining these two literary giants in my high estimation). However, tell someone you are a Janeite, especially a man, and then comes the flow of “Oh, that’s chick lit,” “I read her stuff in high school, it was boring.”

Before I entered the world of librarianship, I was very much a literary snob, but I always kept my “guilty pleasures” secret. If I liked a book that wasn’t of high literary caliber to a man, I kept my mouth shut.

Not anymore! I want to read everything I want to read. I want to read the young adult literature that I’ve been putting off because I am afraid of what others will think when they see me reading a book with a teenage girl on the cover. I am throwing away the idea of “boy books” and “girl books.” Instead, I am calling them children’s books, young adult books, or adult books.

And as far as the stories I like, I may be a “natural born cynic” (to quote last year’s Newbery Award winning-book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo), as far as romance is concerned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good story.

You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite films of all time. I also loved Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron is the Jane Austen of films – she portrays real women doing real things. Real women, and men, fall in love. Real women, and men, have emotional needs that must be met or that person feels depressed or incomplete. Why must emotions be exclusively a woman’s territory and why must we as women apologize for wanting to meet those emotional needs? Why should our stories, our successes, our failures, our hopes and dreams be of lower culture than those of our menfolk?

I’ll tell you something – they are not lower culture. WE as women are not lower culture. Whether we are writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, librarians, stay-at-home moms, single with no family, or wives with no children, all of our stories are important. We are all people in the eyes of God. Men, I want to hear your stories. Women, I want to hear yours.

Tell me.

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My Favorite Museums

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Some things never change. Especially dinosaur skeletons that are millions of years old.

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When I was in second grade, I had this vision of becoming a paleontologist (clearly that never happened), so my aunt and uncle took me to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as a birthday present. After that, my parents bought a museum membership and we went several times over the years. And nothing ever thrilled me quite like the dinosaurs.

The dinosaur exhibit has certainly changed since my childhood days. It’s more interactive, easier to navigate, and more visually appealing. But I still turn into a little seven-year-old again staring up at the dinosaurs that are taller than I could ever hope to be (and mind you, I am not terribly tall).

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And then there are the Halls of North American and African Wildlife. I still greet those taxidermy like old friends. The giraffe, the zebras, the mountain goats, they all still look at me the exact same way, and I still see them through wide child-eyes.

The Egyptian exhibit used to have a mummy tomb that kids could climb through and explore. I’m still really sad it’s since been closed up. That was a fun time. But since I’ve been reading the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, I have more appreciation for the relics inside the tomb, as well as the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Funny what growing up can do for you.

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Look at that architecture. Isn’t that beautiful? Is it any wonder why I adore this museum so much?

I never explored the Art Museum much when I was a child, but now that I’m older, I appreciate it far more than I would have at age seven. Due to my love of Greek mythology, is it any surprise that my favorite works are sculptures of Greek gods and goddesses? I can recognize any sculpture of Athena because she always wears Medusa’s head on her cloak.

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You can see it there.

The room holding this particular statue is based on the Parthenon in Athens.

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I was tempted to buy a museum membership for myself. Honestly, I could come back here every day just to stare in wonder at these masterpieces, both natural and created. I didn’t buy a membership because I don’t have $70 to spend on something like that. BUT Thursday nights after 5 are half-priced admission. That would be a fun evening. Hang out at the library for a couple hours and then go to the museum. Oh, yeah, did I mention that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Oakland branch shares a building with the museums? It’s all my dreams coming true at once!

Oh, and did I mention the guardians of the museum, watching over Forbes Avenue like gentle gargoyles? Why, just the Muses, the patronesses of the arts! We also get the word “museum” from the Muses, in case you wondered.

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Don’t be surprised if this is one of many posts about these museums, and the library. If I can’t find anything else to love about Pittsburgh, you can bet that these museums will redeem Pittsburgh for me.