Overcoming Disconnection and Loneliness


This column was originally posted on MariaShriver.com last year. I’m re-posting it since it’s been a year since I adopted CC.

During the past year, I have been hit with a feeling I was previously unfamiliar with: loneliness. I have no doubt that I’ve been legitimately lonely in the past; it’s just that up until last year, I had a busy career in politics. So, even if I was truly lonely, I was surrounded by so many people and so many activities that their noise gave me the illusion that I wasn’t lonely.

After leaving the political world, I transitioned into working as a writer. My new career choice was exciting and fulfilling, but one that essentially eliminated all that noise that was in my life before. As a writer, I appreciate the self-reflection part that comes with being more solitary; it is helpful for my craft and is cathartic for me. However, I found that I began dreading the evenings. I used to love nighttime: being quiet, listening to music, reading. But now, I couldn’t wait for the morning, which meant there would be some “noise.”

Four months ago, my feelings of loneliness became almost unbearable, but I suspected that my loneliness wasn’t actually about being alone. I had no lack of friends with whom to surround myself. I could have filled my schedule with social activities to mitigate what felt like an empty space in my life, but even when I was with my closest friends, I still felt a deep sense of loneliness.

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I Love Feminist Warren Buffett

I’ve always loved and admired Warren Buffett and one of the greatest pleasures in my life is having had the opportunity to meet him a few times. In an exclusive essay for Fortune magazine that just came out he explains why women are the key to America’s prosperity (and of course the world’s prosperity). I think it’s brilliant and I hope you read it. Side note: it does depress me that it takes a man to do this…I wish that weren’t the case.

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Love and Loss: Honoring Your Friends in Everyday Life

Last June, writer and director Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71. What was remarkable to me was the immediate and public response to her passing. Within hours her friends had composed heartwarming, heartbreaking tributes to Nora. Most of these friends didn’t have any preparation time to write these obituaries: In classic Nora Ephron style, very few people—not even her closest friends—knew she was sick.

What stood out to me in particular was that the bulk of these accolades didn’t focus on her tremendous talents as a writer or director. Rather, the tributes relayed stories about how Nora was an incredible friend. Everyone spoke of how she attended to the details of a friendship, recognizing the little moments as well at the big ones. She was aware of the ebb and flow, the nuance of friendship—and it all came naturally to her.
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Is It Dangerous To Date Men?

Trigger warning: discussion and exploration of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The title of this column has probably led some of you to think that I’ve finally lost it. I have just
given the ultimate fuel to the men’s rights groups that love to troll my posts and attack me.
(I look forward to receiving the usual emails accusing me of being a self-hating man, blah, blah,

This column is not about dividing the sexes or fear mongering. It’s about calling attention to the
fact that our culture is shamefully behind in addressing violence against women. Despite the
staggering statistics indicating the very real danger women face in relationships and dating, we
have marginalized the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Why Are We Referring to Women as Girls?

I hope you’ll take a look at our inaugural Q and A Column, in which I discuss the dilemma of referring to women as “girls,” as well as explore the definition of feminism and the origins of my own activism.

Question: I am the only woman in an office of 12 employees. The men in my office have an irritating habit of referring to women as “girls.” Like when a new customer lead comes in, “We should call this girl at XYZ company back” or “The girl at XYZ company emailed me” or “The girl at the coffee shop.”

This irks me in a huge way. I don’t call them “boys,” so they shouldn’t refer to members of my gender as “girls.” Right? My friends and family have mixed opinions on whether or not this is discriminatory.

So what do you think, is “girl” sexist or not?



Dear Julia:

I think it is unquestionably offensive when anyone refers to women as “girls” in the workplace.
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Trapped: An Apology To Men

The title of this column may seem misleading to my regular readers. So, let me be clear from the beginning: this column is not my attempt to apologize to men for their difficult, horrible lives. I have said this before in many columns and I’ll say it again: it is a great privilege to be a man in our culture. Male privilege is alive and well. And as a man, I can tell you that on paper, it’s fantastic.

But male privilege is something I am not happy about nor proud of.

Because the patriarchy within which we all live ultimately comes with incredibly high costs for women. And it also comes, ultimately, with high costs for men, costs that may not be readily apparent, and yet, are only compounding the plague of the patriarchy. So while we may have an easier road at work, in moving about in our day, while we don’t have to deal with the direct and subtle sexism women face on a daily, hourly basis, the old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” certainly rings true.

So what’s price we directly pay as a result of patriarchy?
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Stuff We Should Stop Doing: Calling Women Cougars

I remember my first real exposure to seeing a woman referred to as a “cougar.” It happened when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher went public with their relationship. Gossip magazines and talk shows were breathless with excitement about the pairing, and you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing some magazine or TV show dubbing Moore as a cougar.

(For those of you who don’t know, a “cougar” is slang for a woman who is over 40 and dates or sleeps with younger men. For those women who like to be called cougars, by all means, choose what you want to be called. However, I’m not supporting the term on a broader level).

Cougar is one of those words that is sold and packaged as being something of a liberation for women: “Oh look! We’re celebrating a sexually active and liberated woman! Go get em’ Demi, lasso that young buck!”

Oh gee, a woman over 40 can be attractive!? Aren’t we revolutionary.

Nope. Calling a woman a cougar is neither progressive nor supportive.
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We Know This Story: It’s Her Fault

It’s impossible to ignore the media coverage over the last several days about General David Petraeus resigning from his job heading the CIA. We invited Lisa McIntire to offer some insight into how the media has portrayed women in this very public affair.

We know this story: the powerful man felled by the scheming seductress. So when news started to break about General David Petraeus’s affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, reports of the scandal immediately adhered to familiar lines about the hot home wrecker and her hapless victim.
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Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies

For this week, we would like to introduce Yolo Akili’s brilliant article: “Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies, in which he looks at how gay men treat women and their bodies in a way that problematically reinforces male sexism and male privilege.

At a recent presentation, I asked all of the gay male students in the room to raise their hand if in the past week they touched a woman’s body without her consent. After a moment of hesitation, all of the hands of the gay men in the room went up. I then asked the same gay men to raise their hand if in the past week they offered a woman unsolicited advice about how to “improve” her body or her fashion. Once again, after a moment of hesitation, all of the hands in the room went up.

These questions came after a brief exploration of gay men’s relationship to American fashion and women’s bodies. That dialogue included recognizing that gay men in the United States are often hailed as the experts of women’s fashion and by proxy women’s bodies. In addition to this there is a dominant logic that suggests that because gay men have no conscious desire to be sexually intimate with women, our uninvited touching and groping (physical assault) is benign.
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Why Mitt Romney Lost: Empathy

Last night, Barack Obama won re-election because of one big reason: empathy. More specifically, he and the Democratic Party were more successful at expressing empathy than Mitt Romney and the Republicans.

In the election post-mortem, one number stuck out to me more than any other. If we put aside which candidate the voters thought would be a better steward of our economy, what people thought about the multitude of issues, there was plurality of voters (by a margin of 10 percent) who felt that Barack Obama understood what they were facing, or to be more exact, that he was “in touch” with their problems.
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