Aunt Pythia’s advice
Readers, Aunt Pythia is a bit sad and a pinch exhausted today. On Thursday, Aunt Pythia’s sweetiepie 7-year-old had an accident at school and broke his tibia bone. And it really caused him such excruciating pain, readers, that it was terrible to behold. You all would have been crying alongside Aunt Pythia if you’d been there.
Now he’s got a good cast on, thank goodness, and a waterproof one at that, which means he can take showers and even baths with it, and things are normalizing, but it isn’t great, and bathroom visits are a real ordeal.
The moral of that story is, thank goodness for casts.
For that matter, can we take a moment to just appreciate penicillin too? And our present-day understanding of hygiene? And surgical techniques and such? That stuff is amazing, and I’m glad I’m alive today to enjoy it all. Who’s with me?
After meditating on modern medicine, and digesting the questionable content below, please don’t forget to:
ask Aunt Pythia any question at all at the bottom of the page!
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I need your help! I am a (relatively) young womanly person of late 20’s who is striving to become more conscientious about where to ethically invest my earnings. When researching how much I need to have prepared for retirement, all of the online calculators and financial advisers I’ve consulted have thrown a figure my way in the ballpark of $2-3 million assuming a retirement age of mid to late 60s and a 4% gradually increasing annual withdrawal rate.
While I make a decent income (70K), there is not much of a chance that I can save that much in the next 35 years without falling into the trappings of Wall Street investment returns. I can’t do much about the restrictions my employer has placed on my 401K investment options, but I do have control over my IRA and general savings/investment practices.
What micro-level advice do you have for people starting out in ethical retirement planning/investing? Any resources or must reads? Much obliged.
Confused And Tentative
First, let me just say that you are way ahead of your peers in planning this stuff. I really haven’t started planning myself, because kids cost so much and so on, and I’m figuring I’ll just work until I die.
Second, there’s really no way every person can have $2-3 million in retirement savings. I just don’t think it’s reasonable or realistic. Think about that as a social policy: hey everyone, I know you’re still paying off your student loans, and that the cost of renting is sky high, and homes are already overpriced and poised not to rise, and daycare costs more than ever, but please save $2 million on top of everything else. WTF.
Not a viable expectation for the average household. Politically speaking, retirement in this country is going to have to change as the post-Boomer population gets old and continues to be broke.
Also, you’re right, there are few options for ethical investing that aren’t risky. I mean by that that you can always sponsor your friend’s ethical business, but most businesses fail, so it is super risky. More generally, if you’re interested in avoiding fossil fuel investments, take a look at this, and if that catches your fancy, check out this website.
But my general advice is to do your best, and stay healthy, and not worry too much about money. If you have retirement investments, great, and think of putting some in an ETF that tracks the market just as a hedge against political manipulation more than anything else.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I love your column. It feels like a community of warm hugs. I have gone back and forth on sending this embarrassing question so many times, but I finally decided that I need your honest insight.
As a minority grad student in STEM, I routinely come across mean, patronizing jerks. I have learnt to survive my interactions with them with my sanity somewhat intact. However, what catches me off guard is my reaction when someone decides to take an interest in me and mentor me academically and personally. I end up developing a crush almost every time.
I want to make it very clear that I don’t want a physical connection with them at all. But, I do fantasize about an emotional and intellectual bond with them. Some of these relationships have actually led to some wonderful (strictly platonic) mentoring relationships.
Grad school and academia can be very isolating, so it’s so nice to have someone to talk. And if this someone has been in your field doing the work that you dream of doing one day, that’s even better. Still, I can’t help feeling guilty for feeling so vulnerable that even the slightest bit of attention or praise from them makes me feel so exhilarated.
I have friends outside of my field and am a somewhat social person with a fairly fulfilling personal life. So, what is it about charming, passionate, and kind STEM people that brings out these intense feelings in me? How do I avoid developing these silly crushes?
Lastly, (I’m not even sure that I am prepared to hear an honest answer to this), do you think my feelings are obvious to them? I am always respectful and deferential to them, but I wonder if they might have an inkling anyway. I love what I do and I don’t want my work to be undermined by these stupid feelings that I can’t seem to be able to control right now.
Great Regrets About Pining Heart
Oh my god, I am so glad you wrote. I am the same way. Seriously. And the crushes can be quite intense, sometimes, right? I remember when one of my sons (I won’t name his name because he’ll hate me for it) went through his first crush when he was about 6 and he said to me, “I love her so so much, it’s getting worser and worser!” and he looked positively anxious about what would happen to the explosion happening in his little heart. Well, I got him at that moment, and I get you now.
But wait, and here comes what will become my tag line, what’s the problem here? You haven’t actually told me why this is a bad thing except for how you sometimes get embarrassed by them.
To answer your question: do people notice your crushes? Maybe, probably not in an exact way, but even if they did it would be super flattering. And since it’s platonic, and you’re looking for an emotional bond, I’m thinking that’s exactly appropriate, and probably also what they want.
Finally, I’d say you are controlling yourself with respect to these feelings, in spite of your sense that you’re not. In other words, you can’t control your feelings directly, but you can control what you do in response to them. And since you haven’t actually done anything super impulsive, and stuff hasn’t developed beyond intellectual and emotional realm, I am not only proud to say I get you, I’m proud to say you’ve done great.
You know what? I feel sorry for people who aren’t like us, and for whom it takes weeks if not years to develop strong emotions for people and things. They don’t get to experience the intensities that we do! And yes, it means they spend less time lying on couches crying about broken hearts to dear friends who have heard it all before many times, but whatever, we always eventually pick ourselves up again and go find a new person to love. Plus we buy our friends beer and they merrily forgive us.
Many warm hugs,
p.s. there really is no way to avoid this, it’s part of you, like your arm. I’ve tried. Just buckle up and try to enjoy the ride.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I’m in my early thirties. I have a newborn, my first child, and I find it so damn hard to take care of him. He’s now 8 weeks old, and I’m on maternity leave for 6 months (luckily I’m in Europe, can’t imagine what I would have done in the States).
Both my husband and me live abroad and have no family around to help. I consider myself a pretty capable person, and I keep thinking how the hell do other people manage. There are so many babies, children, people in this world. How do all millions of moms manage, when I’m barely surviving?
I have figured out how to be highly successful academically and professionally. I have learned to have good relationships and a pretty good life. But I am probably average at taking care of a newborn. I find it so hard.
Dear Aunt Pythia, did you have a hard time too when you had your first baby (and second and third)? What helped? Any tips? Ideas? Strategies? What would you do differently if you had your first one again?
Maybe Overthinking Motherhood
Thanks for asking. I tell this to everyone I know with a newborn, especially if it’s their second.
Namely, the first 4 months of a baby’s life, and especially the first 6 weeks, is really really hard. In fact the way to survive it is to try to quantify how difficult yesterday was, and compare it to today, and take note of the minute differences. Give yourself a break, and a chance to cry, every time there’s been a regression, and give yourself a party every time there’s even the smallest amount of progress. In other words, keep your head down, in a day-to-day sense, and you will slowly begin to see how certain things have gotten easier (breastfeeding, putting them down to nap, walking around without pain) even as other stuff is momentarily harder (sleep deprivation, never getting a chance to take a shower, running out of groceries). It’s super painful, and surprisingly difficult, but after a few weeks you begin to see things improving, and then by the time they’re 6 months old, you almost feel human again.
Oh, and the moment they try to keep themselves up to say up with you when they’re tired is the moment when you can train them to sleep through the night. This usually happens at 5 months or so. And the trick there is, if you notice a bunch of fussing with an 8pm bedtime, then put the baby down at 7:30 the next night. And if they’re fussy at 7:30, try for 7pm the next night. Sounds counter-intuitive but it works.
Finally, the only moment where I really felt truly desperate was when I had a newborn and a 2-year-old and my husband went away for a math conference for a week, and I was working. Please kill me now, I thought, and I meant it. But even that ended, and now those two kids are like, almost adults, and they are my favorite people to hang out with. The younger one just explained fission to me the other day.
In the words of my wise mother, sometimes you just have to muddle through. Also, good babysitting is worth it. Go into debt temporarily if necessary, it’s still cheaper than therapy.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I want to fuck an aunt.
Thanks for the note. It reminds me that, as a WordPress Premium member, I get to look at all kinds of statistics with respect to how people got to my blog, what they looked at and when, and which links they click on while they’re here. It’s interesting, and I look at such statistics daily.
One of the categories is a list of search terms that people used to get to my blog, and by far one of the most common ones has been, over the years, something about aunts and sex, so a kind of incest fetish thing. For example, here’s a screenshot of today’s search terms:
So, what can I say? Aunt Pythia constitutes – possibly defines – her own bizarre porn fetish category. It’s somewhere in between flattering and repulsive.
So Manoj: thanks, I think.
Readers? Aunt Pythia loves you so much. She wants to hear from you – she needs to hear from you – and then tell you what for in a most indulgent way. Will you help her do that?
Please, pleeeeease ask her a question. She will take it seriously and answer it if she can.
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