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People who are bicultural and speak two languages may actually shift their personalities when they switch from one language to another, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"Language can be a cue that activates different culture-specific frames," write David Luna (Baruch College), Torsten Ringberg, and Laura A. Peracchio (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).
The authors studied groups of Hispanic women, all of whom were bilingual, but with varying degrees of cultural identification. They found significant levels of "frame-shifting" (changes in self perception) in bicultural participants-those who participate in both Latino and Anglo culture. While frame-shifting has been studied before, the new research found that biculturals switched frames more quickly and easily than bilingual monoculturals.
The authors found that the women classified themselves as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English. They also had significantly different perceptions of women in ads when the ads were in Spanish versus English. "In the Spanish-language sessions, informants perceived females as more self-sufficient and extroverted," write the authors.
In one of the studies, a group of bilingual U.S. Hispanic women viewed ads that featured women in different scenarios. The participants saw the ads in one language (English or Spanish) and then, six months later, they viewed the same ads in the other language. Their perceptions of themselves and the women in the ads shifted depending on the language. "One respondent, for example, saw an ad's main character as a risk-taking, independent woman in the Spanish version of the ad, but as a hopeless, lonely, confused woman in the English version," write the authors.
The shift in perception seems to happen unconsciously, and may have broad implications for consumer behavior and political choices among biculturals.
David Luna, Torsten Ringberg, and Laura A. Peracchio. "One Individual, Two Identities: Frame-Switching Among Biculturals" Journal of Consumer Research: August 2008.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the University of Chicago Press Journals
We all need help to be happy. From the age of 16, my little helper has been a battered blue book in which I have written poems and aphorisms that express simple or complex truths in a beautiful way. With careful rounded letters in my teens, scrawling writing in my busy thirties, it is an autobiography written in the words of other people, always there to jolt me out of moments of self-pity.
On the top of one much-thumbed page is David Campbell’s Praise Life:
“Men and boughs break,
Praise life while you walk and wake,
It is only lent.”
As I’ve grown older, the words in my little blue book have been the building blocks to a sturdier self. After all, when the going gets tough why not cut out the middlemen, the therapists and counsellors, and go straight to the great wordsmiths for help? Shakespeare, Laurie Lee, Winston Churchill, Ian McEwan and Gerard Manley Hopkins are always ready to explore the shaky, extraordinary moments of human existence with quiet lines to help your troubled heart.
Purists would say that literature is there to enlarge the imagination and to be admired as, well, literature. The idea that good poetry or prose should primarily be used as an emotional crutch is considered far too practical. I say let’s grab literature to us like a comforting pillow. Let’s pillage it for help.
I have burrowed through literature for poems and prose that actively comfort or inspire for my three anthologies about the great family turning points: love, death and birth, and have come out immeasurably more cheerful. I look for writing that helps life to be lived with more meaning and understanding. The latest anthology, on birth, New Life, An Anthology for Parenthood, is the most joyful.
New mothers and fathers are knocked sideways by the unexpected emotions of parenthood, and it takes writing of genius to capture the complex balance of wonder and fear. Anne Stevenson, describes in Poem for a Daughter how a baby’s first “razor-sharp cry” delivers a mother to her baby . . .
tiny and alone, creates the mother”.
Peter Redgrove, another 20th-century poet, brilliantly expresses in Early Morning Feed how a new baby taps into the most powerful and primitive of emotions. After an early morning feed the father
“returns to bed
And feels like something, with the door ajar,
Crouched in the bracken, alert, with big eyes
For the hunger, death, disaster”.
For any parent struggling with the peculiar emotions of new parenthood it is reassuring to know that you’re not crazy, but actually quite normal.
You need inspiration, too, to cope with that puzzling contradiction of parenthood: that you love your children so much that when they are old enough you want them to leave. In Walking Away, the Irish poet C. Day-Lewis has just watched his son play his first game of football and then walk away with his friends. He describes the pain as
“the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute day”.
He goes on to explain in this fierce and powerful poem how
“selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go”.
It is hard to imagine a professional counsellor leaning over and saying: “That is the human condition, and what is most painful often enriches you most.” A poem such as Walking Away, with the beauty of the language and the distress fighting within the lines, leans over and tells you that the significance of your life lies as much in the twists of pain as the pleasure.
Sleepless nights, postnatal depression, dealing with grandparents, coping with the poignancy of a second child eagerly following his adored sister down “babyhood’s brief corridor”, all these need processing. Robert Hayden’s moving Those Winter Sundays describes how he took his father for granted as a child:
“Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?”
How helpful this is to others who took their parents for granted. As the Victorian writer Edmund Vance Cooke points out: “Children do not know how their parents love them, and they never will till the grave closes over those parents, or till they have children of their own.”
Similarly, compiling an anthology about death was a turning point in my own life. I lost the grey net curtain of fear which I realise must have clouded my days, and since then life has seemed quite miraculous. Dear friends had died, my parents were getting older, I had no iota of belief in God or an afterlife, I needed help. No clumpy self-help book could have done it. I needed the greatest writers to assist with this one. And they did.
In the first section of In Loving Memory: An Anthology for Memorial Services, Funerals and Just Getting By, Dylan Thomas demands that his father does not go gentle into that good night. W. H. Auden cries out his Funeral Blues, insisting that all the clocks stop. But, if you know where to look, the great authors can take a reader through anger and grief to a sense of resolution. To Churchill’s calming and direct letter to his wife in the event of his death, for example: “Do not grieve me too much . . . death is only an incident, and not the most important which happens to us in this state of being. On the whole, and since I have met you my darling, I have been happy . . . If there is anywhere else, I shall be on the lookout for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in Life.”
After the death of my grandmother when I was 17 I went through a strange, disconnected period, and curiously a poem by Emily Dickinson, After Great Pain, helped me to recover because it defined my state of mind. Knowing what you feel and why is half the battletowards recovering your spirits:
“After great pain, a formal feeling comes . . .
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs —
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore
And Yesterday, or Centuries before.”
We live in a visual age but the shape and weight and sound of words have a great capacity to uplift. The right words in the right order can transform lives. When you are fretting about the future or tormenting yourself about the past, try remembering this Sanskrit proverb: “Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life. For yesterday is but a dream. And tomorrow is only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness. And tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day!” It may sound rather pat, but it works for me.
One of the greatest therapies, of course, is to know that you are not alone in your distress. The ceremonies that accompany the turning points of birth, love and death (christenings, weddings, funerals) of course honour the potency of words. These ceremonies are a kind of group therapy, a way of marking the transition from one state to another; a baby coming into the world and being given a name, a couple marrying, a person leaving the world. But what are these ceremonies without the words of great writers to quote?The greatest self-help is love — feverish romantic love, long-lasting romantic love, love for children, love of friends, love of parents. It soothes like honey, filling in cracks, raising spirits. It is the magic elixir. But it also causes nervous breakdowns galore, in part because we don’t understand it. Poetry is especially good at encapsulating the paradoxes of love and expressing complex emotions in a few lines. As Catullus wrote in the 1st century BC:
“I hate and love. And if you ask me why
I do not know. I only feel it, and it is agony”.
Robert Graves wrote that
“Love is a universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason”.
Unrequited love? Read Beatrice de Die, a 12th-century female troubadour deserted by her lover. Bogged down in self-analysis? Writing in the 1800s Honoré de Balzac chides: “There are no little events with the heart. It magnifies everything; it places in the same scales the fall of an empire of fourteen years and the dropping of a woman’s glove, and almost always the glove weighs more than the empire.”
At different times, different words will come forward to comfort. I love the sense of gratitude just for being alive conveyed by Wendell Berry’s low-key poem The Peace of Wild Things. In despair about the world and its future, the poet goes to where the wood drake and the heron feed on the water.
“I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
The essential reading list
The moment you discover that you’re pregnant:
Knocked Up: Confessions of a hip mother to be, by Rebecca Eckler (2004). Eckler is a Canadian author and journalist who became pregnant on the night of her engagement party and has written numerous articles, books and columns about motherhood.
“27 Jan. How could I have been so stupid? I have ruined my life. I am never having sex again. I mean, I am never having unprotected sex again. Unprotected sex, like that black dress I wore the other night, is a bad idea. Ten minutes of great sex and my life is over. But another life has just begun. Life apparently does not happen when you’re busy making other plans. Life is what happens when there is an open bar . . .
28 Feb. I am never studying another pregnancy book again until I absolutely have no choice. It will be just like high school. When I start having contractions, I’ll cram.”
Yosano Akiko (1878-1942) was the pen name of a Japanese author, poet, pioneering feminist, pacifist and social reformer. Her poem Labour Pains evokes the fear of childbirth.
“There is only one truth.
I shall give birth to a child, truth driving outward from my inwardness.
Neither good nor bad; real, no sham about it.
With the first labour pains, suddenly the sun goes pale.
The indifferent world goes strangely calm.
I am alone.
It is alone I am.”
Rachel Cusk (1967-) is a Canadian novelist. Her novel A Life’s Work contains “a valediction to sleep”.
“I remember the night sleep left me. It happened in hospital. I had suspected nothing. Several hours earlier I had had a baby; people had come and gone, flowers had been brought. Darkness fell. Presently it was half past ten or so, time to go to sleep. I wrapped the baby up in blankets like a new purchase, a present that I would unwrap and look at again in the morning. I slept. When I woke again some time later, it was to realise with real surprise that the terrible, persistent wailing racketing through the ward was ‘me’, as people now say of their mobile phones. My new purchase had gone off in the dead of night like some alarm I didn’t know how to disconnect.”
Night feeding Laurie Lee (1914-97) was an English novelist and poet. Here in an extract from Two Women, a tribute to his wife and daughter written in 1983, he describes bonding with a new baby at midnight:
“She was of course an ordinary miracle, but was also the particular late wonder of my life. So almost every night, at first, I’d take her to bed like a book and lie close and study her. Her dark blue eyes would stare straight into mine, but off-centre, not seeing me.
Such moments could have been the best we would ever know, those midnights of mutual blindness, while I was safe from her first recognitions, and she’d stared idly through me, at the pillow, at the bedhead, at the light on the wall, and each was a shadow of indifferent importance.
Here she was then, my daughter, here, alive, the one I must possess and guard. A year before this space had been empty, not even a hope of her was in it. Now she was here, brand new, with our name upon her, and no one could call in the night to reclaim her.”
When a father feels neglected by the arrival of a new baby:
Sally Emerson’s novel, Separation, (1993, Abacus) charts what happens when neither a cosmologist nor his management consultant wife is prepared for the momentous effect their new baby has on their lives:
“Lovers — beware of babies. The baby wants the mother all to itself. It doesn’t want the father with their bristly chin. Go away father. Go back to your work. I shall wake my mother at night. I shall stare searchingly into her eyes. I will need her so much she will forget all about you. And you will be left alone in your bed. She will cease to buy clothes for herself. She will buy them only for me.”
On growing up too fast:
Alexander Herzen (1812-70), was a writer and thinker, known as the father of Russian socialism:
“We think the purpose of a child is to grow up because it does grow up. But its purpose is to play, to enjoy itself, to be a child. If we merely look to the end of the process, the purpose of life is death.”
When you can’t afford the latest trainers:
Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) was an Italian poet and philosopher:
“Children find everything in nothing, men find nothing in everything.”
In the 1950s, babies named Linda and Bobby came home from the hospital in Studebakers with Fats Domino on the radio. Many were given a new score a minute after birth to assess how well they made the transition from womb to room. Today, the Apgar score is still given to nearly every baby born in a hospital world-wide.
Many parents know Apgar as an acronym for what it measures: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. But the score was first named for Virginia Apgar, the gutsy anesthesiologist who, in 1949, scribbled it on the back of a card in a hospital cafeteria that read "Please Bus Your Trays."
The score laid the foundation for the field of neonatology, and Dr. Apgar became a legendary figure in medicine. She died in 1974. She would have been 100 years old next month. She was also my friend.
The score came about, indirectly, because of the sexism long rampant in medicine. The cash-strapped graduate of Mount Holyoke waited tables and caught stray cats to sell to the lab while earning her medical degree from Columbia University in 1933. She excelled at surgery, but a mentor convinced her she'd never make a living that way. "Even women won't go to a woman surgeon," Dr. Apgar said.
She went into anesthesiology and helped build it into a medical specialty. But she was passed over for a man to head the new department at Columbia. So she threw herself into teaching and patient care, becoming the first woman full professor at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons. She was particularly drawn to obstetrical anesthesia, and was increasingly concerned about what she saw.
As late as the 1940s, delivery-room doctors focused on mothers and paid little attention to babies. Those who were small or struggling were often left to die, since doctors assumed little could be done for them. "It was considered better not to be aggressive. You dried them, you shook them, and some doctors patted them on the backside and that was it," says Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes.
In the cafeteria one morning, a med student asked Dr. Apgar how a newborn might be evaluated. "That's easy, you'd do it like this," she said, dashing down heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, color and reflexes. Then she rushed off to try it, according to Selma Calmes, a retired anesthesiologist who has written about her. After testing the score on more than 1,000 newborns, Dr. Apgar presented it at a conference in 1952 and it caught on quickly.
As simple as it was, the score transformed deliveries by requiring staffers to carefully observe and assess each baby, assigning a score of 0, 1 or 2 to each of the five categories. Then, as now, few babies get a perfect 10 one minute after birth, since most have bluish toes and fingers until oxygenated blood starts circulating fully. Some doctors became competitive about the scores, and many hospitals began repeating the test at five or 10 minutes to measure whether newborns had improved.
Most importantly, babies who needed care started to get it, gradually spurring the development of newborn-size resuscitation tools, infant heart-rate monitors and neonatal intensive-care units. Thanks to all those efforts, and the philosophy that came with them, U.S. infant mortality dropped from 58 per 1,000 in the 1930s to 7 per 1,000 today. By the 1970s, it was said, "every baby born in a hospital around the world is looked at first through the eyes of Virginia Apgar."
Dr. Apgar, who never made any money from the test, moved on to become a senior medical official at the March of Dimes in 1959, devoting the rest of her life to preventing birth defects and other conditions that caused newborns to have low Apgar scores. She was among the first to recognize and warn pregnant women about the dangers that infections, viruses, RH incompatibility and certain medications could pose to unborn babies. After a rubella outbreak in 1964 caused 20,000 birth defects and 30,000 fetal deaths, she helped win funding for widespread vaccinations. Dr. Apgar was also one of the first at the March of Dimes to look for ways to prevent preterm birth, the organization's current focus, and coined the slogan, "Be good to your baby before it's born."
I knew Dr. Apgar because she co-authored a book to help would-be parents avoid birth defects, entitled "Is My Baby All Right?," with my mother, Joan Beck. Dr. Apgar was in her 60s then, with a corona of white hair, a wicked sense of humor and more energy than anybody I've ever met. This eminent physician sometimes met me at the school bus. She would regale us with tales of resuscitating collapsed strangers; she carried a pen knife and an airway tube just in case. "Nobody, but nobody, is going to stop breathing on me," she'd say.
Another of her favorite sayings was, "Do what is right, and do it now."
Dr. Apgar took up flying in her 50s, and also played -- and made -- stringed instruments. One night, she and a colleague famously snuck into Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital and stole a maple shelf from a phone booth that she thought would make a splendid violin. She died in 1974, having never married. "I never found a man who could cook," she often said.
These days, there are many high-tech ways to evaluate newborns, and some doctors say they would assign more importance to heart rate than the other conditions if the score were being designed today. But much of its genius was its simplicity: the Apgar score can be taught quickly and administered almost anywhere, from a remote hospital to a mobile emergency van. And despite other innovations, The New England Journal of Medicine concluded in 2001 that the Apgar score "remains as relevant for the prediction of neonatal survival today as it was almost 50 years ago."
Apgar scores are also listed on birth certificates, used in epidemiological studies, and bragged about, so they have taken on social as well as medical value. "Moms want a good grade. Doctors want a good grade, too," says the March of Dimes's Dr. Fleischman. That's just what Dr. Apgar would have wanted.
1. Many, many mornings at 5:30 a.m., you will spend inordinate amounts of time bargaining with God for just one more hour of sleep.
2. There is no painless way to extract a baby from a womb. You will spend lots of time arguing with other mothers about which is less painful, a C-section or a vaginal birth. In reality, they both hurt more than any other hurt you’ve ever experienced in your entire life. But it’s the kind of pain that’s worth it, for the most part.
3. You will become so used to touching your child’s bodily fluids-snot, urine, poop, spit, and blood-that they will no longer gross you out.
4. You will become an expert at the art of “poop reading,” which is the ability to tell whether your child is sick based on the size, color, shape and frequency of his or her bowel movements.
5. You will develop a condition known as “momnesia” at the moment of conception. Experts say it lifts about a year or two into parenthood, but any honest mother will tell you that it lasts a full 20 years, at which time you will develop senility instead.
6. During pregnancy, you will find all sorts of crud in your underwear, crud that makes your worst yeast infection ever seem very, very, very tame.
7. After you give birth, you will begin to hate your spouse and wish he or she would just drop dead.
8. Your child will embarrass you on a deeper level than you’ve ever been embarrassed in your life, especially when you are standing in line at a store and your 3 year old exclaims, “Whoo-wee Mommy, you farted! It stinks in here!”
9. Your boobs will look Pam Anderson fantastic during breast-feeding. Love it while it lasts. As soon as your child weans, your boobs will deflate faster than a balloon with a hole in it. And they will get saggy, too. This is the single most common reason why many women decide to have more than one child.
10. Not long into parenthood, you will trade off your goal of being the “perfect parent” for the goal of “just help me survive this experience.”
11. There will be a day at some point after parenthood when you find yourself out in public and realize any or all of the following: a) your shirt is inside out b) there is food on your shirt c) you forgot to brush your teeth… and your hair d) you forgot to put on your pants.
12. All of those expressions you learned from your parents that you swore you would never repeat? You will say them to your child, and you will say them many, many times.
13. If you did not curse before parenthood, you will afterward. If you cursed before parenthood, you will curse even more.
14. Your child will start to manipulate you starting around 4 months, a process that will last until your funeral. You will learn to see this for what it is: how your child displays his or her love for you.
15. You will find yourself Googling all sorts of oddities, from, “How to teach a kid to poop on the potty” to “I have a crush on my pediatrician. Is this normal?”
16. You will ask yourself, “Is this normal?” many, many, many times, and you will never really know the answer to that question. For instance, while eating dinner at a restaurant, your child might slip his or her hands up your shirt and exclaim, “I’m touching your nipples!” Is that normal? I’m still not sure.
17. You will realize just how much you really do not know, especially when your child asks you, “Whose head is on the quarter?” and “Why do Zebras have stripes?” and “Why can’t I put my hands up your shirt when we are out in public?”
18. You will constantly worry that someone will call Child Protective Services on you, even though you are truly a good parent. Your child is just clumsy.
19. Time will become your most precious commodity, and you will haggle with your spouse over it as if it were gold.
20. You will learn to fear birthday invitations.
21. Grocery shopping will never quite be the same experience again.
22. If you had extra money before you became a parent, you won’t have it afterward.
23. Diapers cost more than you would ever imagine. Daycare costs even more, and don’t even think about the cost of a college education. If you do, you will probably decide not to have children.
24. The expression, “All shit stinks” is inaccurate. The poop of newborn breast fed babies doesn’t stink. Poop only starts to stink once babies start eating solids, and some solids make it stink more than others. You will soon become an expert at sniffing poop and knowing exactly what food led to that precise odor.
25. You will find yourself throwing away all sorts of things that make you feel guilty, such as your child’s artwork.
26. The day you give birth, your hair will start to gray and you will start to grow a mustache. It happens to the best of mothers. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheap hair removal products, not to mention dye.
Giving birth at 67 (...) has its problems, but the reason people are so up in arms may not have to do with an altruistic concern for the children. Belkin posted the NPR interview on her New York Times blog, and a commenter responded thus:
I think that if women gain the ability to bear children in their later years (thus truly retaining youth and vitality), society in general will find it much harder to brush older women off as irrelevant and unneeded. Older males will have fewer excuses for sniffing around skirts of women half their age, and will no longer be seen as logical opportunities, but rather selfish perverts. If women can still have babies in their 50s and 60s as men do, we'll have taken a giant step toward closing one of the most significant gender gaps that exists. True equality is the real fear.
In conversations about gender inequality, especially regarding relationships and age, people frequently throw up their hands and cite "biological realities." These realities are why women are supposed to consider their "market value" and settle down young, while men can do whatever they want. But if technology allows us to change biology, extending women's fertility, it will become less tenable to assert that a woman's "value" is tied up with her youth. The paradigm that women lose worth just as they become wiser, more experienced, and better able to speak up for themselves, may be subverted. And that, for many people, may be a scary thought.