My goal is to invite readers to think along with me and draw their own conclusions.
Few targets of ridicule are as easy to hit as owners and handlers of competitive show dogs.
If something good happens to you, and no one knows it, did it really happen? Moreover, if you don't publicize your accomplishments and good fortune, are you essentially saying you don't care about them?
When there's so much choice, it can get overwhelming and it's hard to make a choice.
Each year, in my quaint efforts to send out paper holiday cards with personal messages, I probably discard one for every three I actually manage to put in the mail. The reason is that my handwriting is now less legible than it was when I was in the second grade.
I've always been interested in this notion of what is authentic and how we define that and why our culture imposes certain emotions and emotional constraints onto experiences.
Not everyone in Santa Monica is a well-heeled, juice-cleansing, Prius-driving yogini, but for better or worse, that is the city's dominant chord.
To be honored by success is to take your life seriously. To humble-talk about it is to take yourself seriously.
There's this tradition of women's magazines - which have been my bread and butter as a freelancer - where the paradigm is that the writing is about relationships, body image, lessons, and it's always redemptive.
This whole notion that it's somehow easy and simpler to live in the country is such a fallacy.
It may take a village to raise a child, but not every villager needs to be a mom or dad. Some of us just need to be who we are.
The irony of the media and people in big cities is that they're charged with defining the entire culture, when in reality they don't even live in that culture. They live in such a rarified, tiny world.
Just as I never liked bumper stickers - even though I do brake for animals, and if I had a kid, she would definitely be an honor student - I don't like the idea of expressing my views through social-media-controlled rainbow-or-anything-else-ification.
The search for happiness has long been a dominant feature of American life. It's a byproduct of prosperity, not to mention the most famous line in the Declaration of Independence.
I don't confess in my work because to me, that implies that you're dumping all your guilt and sins on the page and asking the reader to forgive you.
I think whatever generation you're in has a nostalgia for the generations past and the generations you weren't in.
As a mentor and an advocate, I've seen no end to the ways that childless people can contribute to the lives and well-being of kids - and adults, for that matter.
If anything, 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is a generic romance cynically engineered to appeal to the lowest common denominator of female fantasy.
When I talk to students or young writers about the importance of being unafraid to take controversial positions, I'm struck by the degree to which they can't entertain a thought, much less commit one to paper, without imagining the cacophony of snark they'll get in response.
As humans with egos and feelings, none of us wants to be pilloried. But as thinkers and writers, it's our job to express opinions forthrightly and without qualifying them out of existence.
I loved 'About Schmidt'. I like Alexander Payne's work a lot.
Checking email every 45 seconds is not only compulsive, it's presumptuous. It suggests a belief that anyone who sends us a message needs us to read it immediately, even if the message is from SkyMall telling us our Bigfoot Garden Yeti statue has shipped.
If you must know, my parents came from pretty hardscrabble backgrounds in the southern Midwest. I certainly didn't grow up poor, but I did spend my 20s and early 30s juggling temp jobs and choking on massive student-loan debt.
The reason it was so bruising when someone said I was from a rich family is that, like many of us, I'm deeply invested - probably overly so - in the myth of my own self-creation. I like to believe that I got where I am, such as it is, by working hard and charting my own course.
I love writing essays and articles, so it's hard for me to resist taking assignments that inevitably pull me away from larger projects.
As with 'feminism,' not to mention 'liberalism' and 'conservatism,' 'political correctness' tends to mean what you want it to mean, which also pretty much amounts to utter meaninglessness.
Opinion is dominating, which is absolutely ridiculous - there wouldn't be anything for people to have opinions about if there weren't people out there gathering facts on the ground.
For a kid, self-esteem can be as close at hand as a sports victory or a sense of belonging in a peer group. It's a much more complicated and elusive proposition for adults, subject to the responsibilities and vicissitudes of grown-up life.
The point of essays is the point of writing anything. It's not to tell people what they already think or to give them more of what they already believe; it's to challenge people, and it's to suggest alternate ways of thinking about things.
Becoming a parent is always going to be a default setting. I truly believe there will always be more people who want to have children than who don't.
In a world of oversharing, we don't want to be unknown or unseen. We don't want to be left out.
I loved Woody Allen's short pieces. I was equally influenced by Woody Allen and Norman Mailer. I was very into this idea of being high-low, of being serious and intellectual but also making really broad jokes.
There's a particular kind of single woman whose relationship with her dog has a level of intensity and affection that may be both the cause and the result of her singleness. For a long time, I was that woman.
People have always taken photos of themselves, either with camera timers or by handing their Nikons over to strangers in foreign countries and then paying large sums to get them back.
I started off doing fiction in 1993. It didn't occur to me to do nonfiction because it wasn't a thing yet. So I was bumbling around, writing short stories, and then I took a nonfiction workshop, and I realized that this was what I was supposed to do.
We use our gadgets for distraction and entertainment. We use them to avoid work while giving the impression that we're actually working hard.
Being taken down a few pegs is humbling. Knowing that life is not easy or fair is humbling. Receiving a great honor - well, that would be called an honor.
We're not handed situations based on our established likes and dislikes; we get what's available.
Handwriting challenges aside, I love paper cards. I love the endless stewing involved in picking them out at the store. I love buying holiday stamps at the post office, and I love that 'whoosh' sound the cards make when I drop them into the mail slot.
Let's face it: every campus has its share of students who can't quite comprehend that extreme political correctness is often born of the same intolerance and anti-intellectualism as standard-issue bigotry.
I never sit down to write anything personal unless I know the subject is going to go beyond my own experience and address something larger and more universal.
I don't think anyone's ever accused me of too much self-love.
Because of social media, we have a lot of personal essays floating around; you see them on Facebook: everyone's either reading them or writing them. Some of them are great; some of them are diary entries put forth as essays.
In about an 18-month period, my mother got sick and died, and then I had a freak illness less than a year later and almost died myself. And I found in both of those situations that there was this expectation to have a kind of transformative experience.
It's great that Time is moving in the direction of validating those who, by choice or circumstance, will never be parents. But the point is not simply that society should stop judging those of us who don't have children. It's that society actually needs us. Children need us.
Mother's Day, like motherhood itself, is fraught with peril. There are so many ways to get it wrong, so many opportunities to disappoint and be disappointed.
For me, writing essays is very much about processing ideas and offering them up to the reader so that they are fully cooked.
I think people seem to want to read pieces that are shorter but not as short as the pieces they can read in small bites on the Internet. It may be that the sort of long essays are hitting a sweet spot between the tiny morsels online and the full-length book.
Self-righteousness, when you think about it, is a contra-indicator of self-esteem. It's what sets in when genuine righteousness eludes us.