In which we suddenly become a juvenile diabetes family

Yesterday, we took our ten-year-old to the ER because she couldn’t stop throwing up. Within a few hours, they diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes. That night, they transported her to a bigger hospital and hour away (the same one where my dad had his bypass surgery recently), and that’s where we are now.

She is okay, thanks be to God. It is a good hospital. Things are going to change for our family. I know almost nothing about diabetes, so now we start to learn. She is resting now, and we are waiting to meet with a team of doctors at some point this morning. Got very little sleep last night, and Damien and several of the other kids have a bad stomach bug, SO THAT’S GOOD.

We ask for your prayers to get through the next few days and whatever comes next. From today’s Magnificat reading for the Feast of St. Joseph:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

So raise a glass of spite, boys!

As we all know, drinking yourself stupid is no way to honor St. Patrick. Also, it’s offensive to actual Irish people when Americans perpetuate the stereotype of heavy drinking as characteristic of this noble people who happen to be heavy drinkers.

And green beer is for losers. Do not drink green beer. Beer is not green, begorrah. Beer is not green.

Isn’t it time that we, as a sensitive and responsive people, find some way to recalibrate our alcohol consumption so that nobody’s widdle feelings get hurt? Begorrah?

Here’s what I propose: don’t drink because it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Drink despite St. Patrick’s day.  What, you don’t have any other reason to get a medium-sized load on, assuming you can find a glass that your lousy kids haven’t filled with sand and glue and left in the driveway?

1. Drink because it’s almost spring. Hooray, spring! Have a drink. What other reasons? Let’s see . . .

2. Even though you’re not Irish, your teeth are like that because of heredity, and you’re doomed to carry flossers around in your purse, to become intimately familiar with that faded oil painting of irises on the oral surgeon’s wall, and to occasionally experience the disquieting sensation of tiny shards of bone working their way through the wall of your gum. Yes, that would be pieces of your skull coming out of your mouth. That seems fine. Have a drink.  It’s a kind of oral care.

3. You keep finding what looks like a really perfect college for your kids, and then it keeps turning out they’re yet another one of those “please let us know if your roommate isn’t following the underwear folding guidelines. You know, for her soul” colleges. Bottoms up.

4. 43 years old; still don’t know how to use eyeliner. Glug glug.

5. They’re going to clone a T-rex, I guess. Honest to goodness, I feel like death by imprudently reconstituted savage dinosaur is the best kind of future we can hope for right now. Cheers!

6. I guess we’re still talking about thigh gap, still? (I unlinked the link because of bad effing language, but really, all you need to know is that they’re still talking about thigh gap, still.)

7. A Michigan candidate for US Senate has proposed arming homeless people with pump-action shotguns in an effort to reduce crime.

Maybe he’s making a statement? Or maybe he’s just a libertarian. O dinosaurs, do not delay.

8. Begorrah, I got up at 4 a.m. because my head was killing me, and then right before it was time to get up, I threw up for no reason. No, I’m not pregnant.  I just thought about what kind of day it was going to be, and throwing up felt right. And now I need to start boiling the traditional repulsive slab of red fat strings, in honor of St. Patrick. First person to play Clancy Brothers at me is going to get a wedge of hot cabbage served up in the worst way.

9. You know what, the Clancy Brothers deserve their own number. Those sweaters. Gevalt.

10. I don’t mean to be a hideous racist or whatever, but having married into a supremely Irish family, it occurs to me that doing something just to spite someone else, whether it’s drinking or not drinking or taking a breath, is probably the most Irish thing you can possibly do. Unless maybe it’s doing something you do enjoy doing, but pretending you don’t enjoy it and that you’re doing it just to spite someone else, because that’s not crazy at all, you crazy Irish person.

So I’ll leave you to sort that one out. I’ll be over by the bar, by which I mean the driveway, digging glue out of my glass. These fragments I have shored against my ruins. Shantih, shantih, shantih and have I mentioned, begorrah.

A version of this post originally ran at Aleteia, if you can believe it, in 2016.
Image: William Murphy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 123: I got the no bo ssam blues.

The thing you need to understand about this week is that, for no good reason, I was up until 1, 2, or even 2:30 a.m. most nights, and got stupider and stupider as the week went on. We had multiple snow days, multiple storms, and my car was in the shop having all its brakes worked on. Then we ran out of sugar. I put it on the list, and then proceeded to visit no fewer then four stores that sold sugar, without buying any, and then two more stores the next day, also stores with sugar, also with me no getting any.

It was downhill from there.

Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chips

You can picture this, surely. It looked like sandwiches.

Chicken and chickpeas with tzatziki; grapes; cheesecake with fudge sauce and strawberries

It was supposed to be bo ssam Sunday. Bo ssam Sunday! I’ve been led to believe that bo ssam is one of those miraculous recipes where you spend mere pocket change on ingredients and make some casual nodding gestures toward the kitchen while putting your feet up. Then, just a short time later, you pass around chopsticks and wasabi, and the local news is pounding at your door, wanting an exclusive interview with you, the greatest cook of the century.

But when I opened up the recipe in the early afternoon, it started out all “So, having marinated the meat overnight, you will then cook it for three days in a low, low oven” deals.

So fine, we can have bo ssam later. Instead, we had the chicken and chickpea thing, which is a very fine Sunday meal.

The recipe is a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT), and serves 10- 12 people.

Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Take half a large tub of full fat Greek yogurt and mix it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. I had about eight pounds of chicken, and started marinating it about five hours before dinner.

About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
-Chop up some cilantro.
-Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
-Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

I like serving this meal with pomegranates, but I guess the season is over, so we had red grapes, which was almost as good. I completely lose my mind over that chicken skin. It’s just stupidly good.


And now dessert! The child whose shopping turn it was decided she wanted cheese cake in a graham cracker crust with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce. It being still the weekend and me being not dead yet, I agreed.

I bought readymade graham cracker pie crusts, and so should you. I used this recipe from My Cultured Palate, which is What’s For Supper? for the Upside Down. Good cheesecake, though, and not too sweet. I made a double recipe, which was enough to fill three pie shells plus some batter left over, which we certainly didn’t eat, as it is full of raw eggs. We certainly did not.

Nice simple recipe, and they came out pretty, but you do have to bake them, then leave them in the oven for an hour, and then refrigerate overnight. I must have made these Saturday night, come to think of it.

On Sunday, we sliced up about three pounds of strawberries and put them in a bowl with some sugar. I cautioned everyone to give that fruit some privacy, as it would be macerating. And that’s my cultured kitchen!

And that was the frickin’ last of the sugar, and I had already run out to the store sixty-three more times that day, each time returning triumphantly without sugar. Why? Because I am stupid! So I found a chocolate sauce recipe that’s just condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Melt a stick of butter, stir in 6 Tbs cocoa powder, add a can of condensed milk, stir it up. It’s the consistency of hot fudge sauce, and if you let it harden in the fridge, you can soften it again by heating it up.

Ham, mashed potatoes

One of my ham lovers has been campaigning hard for ham and mashed potatoes. And let me tell you, this pig lived a life of leisure. The damn thing was 3/4 fat. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was fluffy. You don’t want your ham to be fluffy.

The mashed potatoes, though, were of sterner stock, and were trim and worthy specimens. I ran out and bought three potato peelers (I don’t want to talk about it) and we got the job done.

I thought for a moment that, since supper was so easy, I could start marinating bo ssam for tomorrow, until I discovered that the same sugar we were still out of that morning, when we wanted it for coffee? Is the same sugar we were out of for making bo ssam marinade. So.

Beef stew

Kinda mad about this. Beef stew is one of the things you should be able to make in the Instant Pot very easily, but I always screw it up.

Here’s how I did:
Cube the beef, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, dust it heavily with flour.
Heat oil in the pot, add the floured beef, and brown it slightly.
Add a bunch of beef broth, some red wine, and some baby carrots, a few diced onions, several cubed potatoes, some sliced mushrooms, a can of tomato paste, and some thyme. I think it was thyme. I think I added some brown sugar and soy sauce. Look, I was following a recipe.
Then I closed the lid and set it for something or other, I forget.  I was following several recipes by this point, to be honest.
So the damn thing cooks forever, and then it starts screaming that it’s burning, oh, mother, mother, it’s burning! I vent it, which takes forever, and open the lid. It’s nowhere near burning, and the carrots are still raw. There’s tons of liquid.
So I stir it a bit to placate it, then close the lid and reset it. Same thing happens. What burning? What? Vent forever, open the lid, and it’s cooked.

It tasted pretty good, but I was mad. You really take the edge off convenience when you don’t know what the hell is going on. I’ll show you burning!

We also had rolls. And I bought some sugar.

Chicken nuggets, fries, leftover stew, leftover ham

So remember how I gave up sleeping for Lent? We also got eleven feet of snow in twelve hours, and my husband had to be gone for three days and two overnights in a row and I’m not making that last part up. I really missed him. I wanted to be kept awake by him snoring,* instead of being kept awake by him not being there. Humph. Finally having sugar in the house just did not make up for that.

Pork carnitas, rice

So I had to face that enormous pork butt. In the fridge! I was still telling myself that, now that there was sugar in the house, I could easily whip up a sherry ginger sauce, and maybe a peanut lime slaw for sides, and bo ssam would happen. This is what I told myself, up until about 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Then I interiorly took myself firmly by the shoulders, administered a few bracing shakes and maybe a remedial smeck or two, and said, “You are not making bo ssam this week. Nobody is making bo ssam this week!”

So sulked a little, then trimmed the fat, cut the pork into hunks, and put it in the slow cooker with a can of UFO beer, a tablespoon or more of adobe adobo powder [yes, that is the whitest typo I’ve ever made], and about 3/4 cup of pickled jalapeno slices with the juice. I let it cook for about six hours, took the meat out of the juice, and shredded it.

Then I spread it in a thin layer in a flat, greased pan and put it under a hot broiler until it was a little browned up.

I served the meat with some of the ten thousand tortillas I’ve diligently collected over the last few months, plus sour cream, chopped cilantro, salsa, and fresh limes. And rice.

It was no bo ssam, but it was good.

Sleepover! Make your own pizza!

I have tons of dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings, and disposable foil pans, and those boys can just make their own pizzas.

The boy is making his own chocolate birthday cake, which he would like to be frosted with chocolate frosting, and then covered with Oreos. I think I can manage this. Especially since we now have sugar in the house. And three potato peelers.

*I also snore.

THE KING OF THE SHATTERED GLASS is a great exploration of confession for kids

Like a dummy, I misplaced our copy of The King of the Shattered Glass (Marian Press, 2017; affiliate link), but I want to tell you about it now anyway. It would be a great book to read during Lent, and would make a nice Easter present, too.

It’s a picture book appropriate for ages six and up, written by Susan Joy Bellavance and illustrated by Sarah Tang. Basic story: An orphan girl named Marguerite works in the scullery of a medieval king’s castle, when glass is an astonishing novelty. It’s so valuable that the king insists that anyone who breaks his glass must gather up the pieces and bring them to him personally.

Marguerite, an orphan, is a pretty good kid, but on three occasions, she breaks the precious glass — as the blurb says, “through temper, the pride of a dare, and selfishness.” Each time, she has to gather her courage and own up to what she did. It’s not easy, because she’s ashamed, and because she’s afraid of punishment; and eventually, once she comes to actually know the king, and just feels bad that she broke his stuff.

Catholics, you can see where this is headed! The book is a thoughtful allegory for confession; but it works well as a satisfying little story, too.

Marguerite has some penance and growth to do, and eventually the king reveals that he is using all the glass she has shattered to make a gorgeous stained glass window showing himself putting a crown on Marguerite’s head. He then adopts her as his own daughter, and there is rejoicing.

The king, to my great relief, is truly appealing, gentle but strong, and the illustrations successfully suggest divinity (especially Christ as the source of Divine Mercy) without being too heavy-handed. Some of the pictures are more skillful than others, but all are lively and bright, some in black and white, some with deep, saturated colors.

You can download a free pdf of a teacher’s guide, which takes you through the book’s themes:

1. Relationship with God as Father, King and Friend
2. Conscience, a gift to be developed
3. Penance, which brings healing to ourselves and others
4. Jesus, who carries our burdens
5. Adoption and family life; Baptism and Reconciliation.

The King of the Shattered Glass is not the most polished book you will ever encounter in your life, but it works very well, and it’s full of heart and theologically tight as a drum.  Kids will find it memorable and appealing. Recommended!

Bellavance and Tang are collaborating on a second book, to be titled Will You Come to Mass?


6 Life lessons from cooking for kids

1. Sometimes, when you open a package of pork, it stinks like rotten eggs. You will think at first that it’s gone bad, but just let it sit for several minutes while the gas dissipates, and then smell it again. If it smells fine, then you’ve just witnessed “off-gassing,” which you get when pork is vacuum packed. You can also rinse the pork off, and that should get rid of the smell so you can go ahead and cook your dinner.

Lesson: Sometimes, all it takes for a crisis to become manageable is a little time …

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Podcast #54: Faulknersauce!

In honor of FINALLY GETTING AROUND TO RECORDING A PODCAST FOR ONCE, we’re making this one free to all comers. (Normally, podcasts are for closers, I mean patrons.) Sorry it’s been so long! Or, you’re welcome! You’re welcome!

This evening, we snickered our way around hybrid wolves, Vienna sausages, the town with no bootstraps, cellulite, egg salad, William Faulkner and his sauce, the difference between boys and girls, and of course a poem by Wislawa Szymborska.

Additional audio “provided” by “Damien.”

Image via Wikimedia Commons

What’s for supper? Vol. 122: Why is Walmart garlic powder taking over the world?

The theme this week was “very basic ingredients.” The most exotic seasoning to pass through my hands all week was garlic powder. Part of the New Three Sisters: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. And you know what? We ate really well. We had some snow days, so I even baked!

Roast beef sandwiches, chips, strawberries

Chuck roast was as cheap as it ever gets around here, so I got a five-pound hunk. Damien coated it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and browned it in a heavy pot in oil until it was crisp on all sides, then put it in the oven at 350 for about an hour. We like it rare, as you see.

We had it on rolls with horseradish sauce and slices of provolone, and I put mine in the oven to melt dat cheese.

Man. Pork is great, chicken is swell, but there is nothing like a slice of rare beef. It’s just what meat is supposed to taste like.


Salmon burgers, asparagus, fries

I wrestled with my conscience for a while, then graciously conceded and  bought a crap ton of salmon filets that were on sale because it’s “the Lenten holiday.”

Here’s the cooking technique: Dry the filets and salt them lightly. Heat up a pan like crazy, coat the bottom with oil, and lay the filets down, skin side down. Let them cook more than halfway up, then carefully turn them over, and cook for a few more minutes. Serve sizzling hot.

I served them on soft, sweet little brioche rolls, because they too were on sale. A good companion to the tender fish, with pesto mayonnaise (my recipe: put pesto in mayonnaise) and some lettuce.

Veddy good.

Hot dogs, cheezy weezies, broccoli

I forget what happened Monday, but it wasn’t pretty.

Meatball subs, salad

Birthday! Like fresh meat needs salt, a fourteen-year-old boy needs meatball subs on his birthday. I took seven pounds of ground beef and added seven beaten eggs, about four cups of breadcrumbs, and tons garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano, and minced onion.

I bake them at 350 for about forty minutes or more on a pan with drainage. See how much fat gets drained away? So easy.

Then I layer them in a glass pan with sauce, cover, and keep them warm for several hours, so the sauce has a chance to soak in a bit. Pass the parmesan.

Roman egg drop soup, roast chicken, salad, challah

We had yet another storm, and for other complicated and boring reasons were homebound all day; so I decided to make challah. I am a terrible baker, but challah is easy, as long as you have lots of time and a warm spot in your house.

Here’s the recipe I used. I doubled it to make two giant loaves:

In a bowl, I mixed together:
6 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt

Then I added:
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup canola oil

In a small bowl, I put
1-1/2 cups warm water
and dissolved into it one envelope of fast-acting yeast.
Then I mixed this into the other ingredients.

I tried kneading it in my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook, but it was just too much dough (remember, I made a double recipe. If you make a single, this method should work fine), so I had to knead it by hand. I hate kneading dough, and always give up too soon. The dough should be smooth, but very thick and not sticky at all. You may have to add more water or more flour. My dough was still kind of knotty when I got tired of kneading.

I put plastic wrap (you can also use a damp cloth) on the bowl of dough and put it in the oven to rise. (I have a cold kitchen, so to let dough rise, I turn the oven on for a few minutes, then turn it off, let it cool a bit with the door open, and then put the dough in.)

I let it rise for maybe an hour, then punched it down and formed the loaves. For each loaf, I divided the dough into four balls which we rolled into long snakes. We braided three of the snakes, pinching the ends together, and then divided the fourth one into three again, braiding those, and laying the smaller braid on top of the larger one.

Then I laid the loaves on a buttered, floured pan (I prefer corn meal to flour, but we were out), covered them again, and let them rise again for another hour or so.

Then I took the loaves out, preheated the oven to 350, and prepared an egg wash with a few egg yolks and a little water beaten up in a cup. We brushed that over the dough.

We were out of poppy seeds, or we would have sprinkled those over the top. And yes, I made Corrie put a shirt on just for the picture.

Then I baked the loaves in the middle of the oven for maybe half an hour, until the top was all golden.

Isn’t it lovely, hmmmm?

The insides were a little dense,

I suppose because I got lazy with kneading; but it was still soft and delicious. Sweet and eggy, and so fragrant. Coziest bread in the world.

The egg drop soup is a new recipe to me. Basically you take chicken broth, add some spinach, and then mix together raw egg and shredded cheese, and then whisk that briskly into the broth. It’s very cheap and simple, so I hoped it would become a miraculous new family favorite.

Instead, I got what looked remarkably like a warm pot o’ vomit.

The eggs are supposed to turn into delicate, wispy shreds when you whisk them into the broth. Mine clumped. Also, I used frozen spinach, which turned out to be in shreds. Then I overheated it, and the egg mixture kind of boiled up to the surface and got clotty.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my soup non-clotty. Just one of my peculiarities.

It did look better in individual bowls.

The taste was actually pleasant, if not thrilling. It reminded me of quiche, or of my grandmother’s noodle kugel. If anyone has any tips on how to make them eggs shred, I may even make it again. It certainly is fast, easy, and cheap. JUST LIKE ME. Womp.

The chickens, I just slathered with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and, you’ll never guess, garlic powder. I cooked them in a 375 oven, breast down, for forty minutes, then flipped them over, seasoned the other side, and kept cooking them until they were done. You get more tasty skin this way.

I hate cooking whole chickens, and I don’t even know why. Oh shucks, the challah got into the picture again! That keeps happening. Hello, lovely! I see you!

Pork ribs, risotto, Brussels sprouts

Sometimes, it’s nice to just let pork be pork. You put the ribs on a pan with drainage, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper (but not garlic powder. Let’s not be silly), and slide them under a hot broiler, turning once, until they are sizzling. So good.

The Brussels sprouts were just boiled from frozen, so not the greatest, but on the other hand, vegetable.

I’ve decided 2018 is officially a good year because I can now make Instant Pot risotto without checking the recipe. Here’s how (and this serves about 10. You can halve it):

Press the “sauté” button and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add a diced onions and a few teaspoons of minced garlic, plus a bunch of salt, pepper, and sage. Brown the onions.

Add four cups of raw rice, still on “sauté.” Keep stirring the rice with a wooden spoon until it’s all opaque, about five minutes. Then add eight cups of chicken broth, stir it up, put on the lid, close the valve, and set it to “pressure cook” on “high” for seven minutes.

When you suddenly notice it’s been done for a while while you were gooning around on Facebook, do a quick release, and then dump in as much parmesan cheese as your conscience will allow. I find it’s helpful to say to oneself, “This is the last time I will ever eat parmesan cheese. I wonder how much I should add?” and then see what happens.

Stir in the cheese carefully and serve immediately. Then, if your rotten, no-good son ever gets around to sending you the picture you took with his phone, you can post a picture of it.

EDIT: Oh, what a good boy.

About the risotto: Someone asked if I use regular rice instead of arborio. I do! Just plain old white rice. It doesn’t turn out as good as arborio rice, but it’s still very, very good. And food you actually make always tastes better than food you can’t afford to buy.



What is women’s responsibility to men while breastfeeding?

Today, on International Women’s Day, a conservative Catholic Twitter personality retweeted a story about a gubernatorial candidate who breastfed her baby in an election ad. He added this comment:

“Lady, cover that up. Breast feeding in public is fine but cover up. No one needs to have to avert their eyes uncomfortably.” (I’ve taken out his name because it’s not about him. His sentiment is very common among conservative Catholics.)


Curious, I looked up the ad in question to see how flagrant a bit of lactivism it was.

Now, a disclaimer: I’m rare among my friends in that I have some sympathy for men who find public breastfeeding distracting. Men like boobs, and I’m okay with that. I do believe women should be aware at the effect their exposed breasts can have on men.

Of course, it’s not always possible for women to be completely discreet, and lots of babies won’t tolerate covers, and of course there is often a flash of skin that shows while you position the hungry baby, and the most important thing is that a baby get fed when he’s hungry; but it does kind of bug me when moms go out of their way to turn breastfeeding into some kind of exhibitionist statement, hanging out at Starbucks with their entire titty on display like some kind of–


Watch the ad. Here’s the footage that made this Catholic conservative fellow’s eyeballs feel so uncomfortable.


Did you even see anything? I didn’t. Just a hungry baby getting fed.

This video is almost miraculous for how unboobful it is. Margaret Thatcher showed more skin on any given day than the woman in this commercial. She’s far more modest than I ever manage to be. (For the record, my own public nursing technique was to remove my glasses. Then everything got all blurry, and no one could see us.)

So . . . what’s the deal, here? Why does this Tweeter, and so many other men (and women, too), find even the idea of public breastfeeding so disconcerting? Because that’s all there was here: An idea. We saw a woman; we saw a baby; we knew what was going on, but we sure didn’t see anything. And yet merely knowing it happened caused the fellow discomfort.

Long have I pondered over this puzzle. I can easily understand how secular men can find breastfeeding off-putting. Many men are so warped by porn that they prefer videos to living women. Actual, real, in-the-room women are unappealing to them. They only want to see women who’ve been artfully separated into parts, like a cow at the hands of a butcher.

But how is it that conservative, Catholic men tremble with consternation if they must be in the same room with a woman using her breasts as if they are some kind of, ugh, mammary glands or something? They say they are concerned with modesty and decency, but how can that be so? They’re happy to partner with Fox News, which has a “cleavage” tag on its page, and whose female news anchors routinely show abundant skin. Conservative men don’t demand draconian modesty from their political idols, male or female. Only from nursing mothers.

Truly, I believe them when they say public breastfeeding causes them discomfort. But I don’t believe it has anything to do with the woman offending their sense of modesty, decency, or chastity.

The discomfort they feel is the discomfort of being excluded. The discomfort they feel is in seeing a woman’s body in a context that has nothing to with them. It makes them uncomfortable to see a woman in a context that even temporarily excludes them.

When a woman shows half her boobs in a skin-tight dress at a gala, men feel that this display is for them (and be honest, it probably is). They understand the situation, and they are in control of it. They feel themselves to be the central actor: I am a man with eyeballs and a penis, and look! Here comes a set of breasts for me. 

But if those breasts are in use for feeding a baby, where does the man fit in? He’s excluded. He feels weird and itchy and unhappy. He feels he has to look away, but it’s breasts, so he doesn’t want to look away, but when he does look, he sees something that doesn’t have anything to do with him. And he doesn’t like that, at all.

As I said, I have sympathy for men who struggle with public breastfeeding. It’s not wrong or bad or disgusting of men to be sexually aroused by the sight of a breast.

But here’s the thing: We feel what we feel, but we’re in control of what we do next. Normal, healthy, decent men can be aroused by a breast, but then immediately tell themselves, “Okay, that’s enough, now” if they find themselves acting or thinking like a creep. Men must earn the title of “man” by training themselves to get used to the idea that breasts are not always there to turn them on.

And that is a man’s responsibility, not a woman’s.

It’s a man’s responsibility to always remember that women are whole people, and not just body parts. This is true whether a woman is breastfeeding discreetly or openly, whether she’s dressed like Daisy Duke or draped like a dowager, whether she’s starring in a National Geographic special or if she’s a woman clothed with the sun. She’s a whole person, and it’s a man’s job to remember that.

It’s his responsibility to remember she is a whole person if she’s topless because he’s currently having sex with her. She’s still a whole person, always a whole person. It is his job to train himself never to forget this, and to act accordingly, even on Twitter.

It’s his job to train himself never to forget this even if, when confronted by a woman feeding her child, he has to “avert his eyes uncomfortably.” The man who whines about having to avert his eyes?  Barely a man. If shifting his eyeballs is the hardest thing he’s is ever required to do, this is a soft age indeed.

And so I’ve changed my mind, in recent years, about women’s responsibility to breastfeed discreetly. I used to think she should do everything she can to cover up as much as possible, out of charity for men who struggle with chastity. But now I see that behavior as potentially propping up a culture of pornography.

As I said above, I do believe women should be aware at the effect their exposed breasts can have on men. But I’ve come to understand that that effect may very well be to help restore our culture to sexual health. Public, uncovered breastfeeding reminds everyone that women are not isolated parts. They are whole. They have a context of their own, and that context sometimes has nothing at all to do with men’s desires.

My friend Kate Cousino said it well: “I firmly believe public breastfeeding is a blow against pornography culture. Context is precisely what porn omits. And the context of sex and breasts is real human beings with lives–and babies.”

As I said in my conversation with Claire Swinarski, extreme modesty culture is just the flip side of pornography culture. Both are obscenely reductive. Both rob women of their personhood. Both say that women are valuable only insofar as they do what men want them to do.

And men say the same thing, when they rage and sneer at women who breastfeed in public. It’s especially scandalous for Catholic, conservative, family men to behave this way, making a huge show of huffily leaving the room if their daughter-in-law begins to nurse at a family gathering, or complaining bitterly to the pastor when women dare to feed their infants in the pew without a cover.

When men do these things, they’re saying, “It’s more important for you to protect me from passing hormonal inconvenience than it is for you, who haven’t slept in four months, to just sit down and feed your baby. My obligation to exercise self-control is too hard for me. All the obligation is on you, breast-haver. Because I’m a man, you must make my world easier by caring for me, too, as you care for your new baby.”

It’s International Women’s Day. A very good day to be a man by taking responsibility for your own eyes, your own brain, your own hormones. A very good day to start your training. Women are whole people. If you work at it, you can learn to see them that way, even if they’re feeding babies.


Maria Lactans image By Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Today I’m on The Catholic Feminist Podcast

The delightful Claire Swinarski graciously invited me to be on her podcast, The Catholic Feminist. My episode, #50, is up today. It was so refreshing to talk to a young Catholic woman who both loves the Faith and isn’t allergic to the word “feminist.”

Among other topics, we talked about “#metoo,” about why Damien and I covered the Christendom story, how virginity culture objectifies people, how to teach consent so it dovetails with a Catholic understanding of human dignity, and how to come back to Christ after the Church has failed you. You can hear the podcast on The Catholic Feminist Podcast site, or listen to it right here:

The Weight of Bells

It is an honor to be there, inside the church, under the steeple. But not all honors are easy to bear.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Photo via Maxpixel (Public Domain)