Good Bones by Maggie Smith


Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Last week I spent a good chunk of time searching for images to use in the new books in Nomad Press’s Girls in Science series.

This is always a bittersweet task. I love doing image searches, because there are amazing things to find: teenagers doing real science with a diverse array of mentors, kids designing solutions to problems adults haven’t even discovered yet, and people of all ages, genders, and races excited about scientific discovery.

I also hate doing images searches for this particular series, because any time the search bar contains the words “girl” or “women” (remember, this is a series of books for readers ages 9 to 12 about GIRLS and WOMEN who are interested in scientific careers), it only takes a few rows of scrolling before I’m looking at women bent over lab equipment in suggestive ways. And a few more rows brings me to pornography. Yup. Naked women, doing stuff.

And this is exactly what kids see when they search for the same keywords. A fourth-grade girl who’s interested in animals and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up might just try and see pictures of other women who have become veterinarians and that’s what she’ll find: a woman in skin-tight clothes lying on a horse gazing out at the world with a look that’s all about submission.

Maybe it’s the timing, but for me, finding pornography when searching for scientists is all wrapped up in the results of last night’s election.

My youngest son is home sick today and it’s been a really good day. We’ve talked a lot about recognizing opportunities for compassion and making kindness our default. We’ve listened to the pony song by Lyle Lovett four times. We have NOT listened to the news, and I have stayed away from social media, mostly. We’ve been quiet.

Maybe this is a time to be loud, but right now, I’m feeling quiet. I just want to gather some energy for a moment. I just want to feel like only me. I don’t want to feel like a woman who was excited to see so many female names on her ballot, who recognized that voting for a woman for president for the first time ever was momentous, who watched the real-time election map until I understood:


Tomorrow, B will go to school and I will go to work and we’ll both be on the lookout for things we can do better. And I’ll do a little more searching for images of women being professional and successful in their chosen field.

They’re out there. We just have to work so hard to find them.


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