Photo: David Morgan
Photo: David Morgan

Women We Read This Week

Sharon Harrigan’s “A Single Mom Escapes the Friend Zone, One Non-Date at a Time” in the New York Times’ Modern Love column

What I like about Sharon Harrigan’s contribution to the New York Times’ Modern Love column is that when she begins the piece by talking about her future husband, it is unclear if her singledom is before or after the marriage. I won’t spoil it.

Harrigan writes about single parenthood with humor and grace, omitting the more common, “Parenting is hard” narrative. Her dates are pretentious, with the exception of one man, a researcher she met through an ad in the New Yorker. Although he states upfront that dating a single parent is complicated, they form a strong, albeit complicated friendship. The end result is a cliffhanger of a love story, down to an ultimatum, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat.

For our third non-date, I suggested attending a concert on a barge docked near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Our knees touched in our cozy seats two rows from the string quartet.

Harrigan’s story gives a glimmer of hope to any other single parents out there you may know. Pass it along.

Ariel Henley’s “My Family’s House Burned Down…Twice. Then The Bank Took It Away” in Narratively

Ariel Henley’s family lost their family home to a fire for the second time, while she was in undergrad, all the way across the country. She now writes about her parents’ marriage, the cost of losing her childhood home for the second time, and the complicated feeling of leaving home for the first time.

My first week of college in Vermont, I spent my days begging my mother to let me come home and my nights sobbing into my pillow. There was a bet going within my group of friends back home in California that I wouldn’t last more than a month. But after my first week of college, the option to return home vanished in the fire, along with all of my belongings.

Having recently accomplished a similar move in the opposite direction, I can most certainly relate. Her memories of the house are fresh and clear, since she is writing from the position of a 25-year-old. But knowing Henley’s age actually makes the nuances of her observations of her parents’ relationship even more special.

The question we all ask our selves, “In case of a fire, what would we take?” wasn’t an option for Henley, who learned of the fire after the fact. One token, a small heart-shaped glass dish she inherited from her mother who inherited it from her mother, is lost. But I would argue that to Henley’s future children, she will be able to pass along this lovely essay.

Amanda P.

Joy Osmanski’s “When an Adoptee Adopts” in Catapult

In this emotional essay, Joy Osmanski shares the joys and challenges of an open adoption of a newborn. She walks us through a year and a half of failed fertility treatments, culminating in a failed IVF procedure, which “felt like a cosmic tablecloth yanked out from under carefully laid heirloom china—capsizing glasses and dishes, a crashing mess.” And she exquisitely defines the pain of infertility: “Grief for something that has never been is a slow, dull ache.”

After she and her husband decide to switch gears and pursue adoption, we hear about all the research they did on which type of adoption was best for the child: open or closed. She pulls from her own experience of not knowing anything about her birth mother to show that large gaps in one’s personal history can prove disconcerting. But it seems while open adoptions may be better for children, in some ways they can be more difficult for the parents. Once you open the door to wanting to get to know the birth mother—wanting them to be some part of the child’s life—is to know her pain.

…as she described events from her life, memories of her family and friends, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. Everything that was good for us meant heartbreak for her. In her face, full of tenderness as she bent over her baby, I saw for the first time what it could mean for a woman to separate from her child. It was devastating.

One of my favorite things about this piece is how Osmanski includes and portrays her husband. I feel like infertility or adoption essays rarely mention partners, or only have them flit in the story on occasion so the reader is at least aware of their existence. In this piece, Osmanski’s husband Corey is a fully-fledged character, a welcome source of supportive steadiness and comic relief. It’s comforting to see the strength of their marriage as they go through such emotionally tumultuous times.

Olivia

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