Strings Attached


10/10/14 - We answer your burning questions about annoying coworkers, when to confront a long distance bestie who’s let you down, and tips for surviving high school. Can women still love football? Can pulling out be sexy? What if it's a tampon? Plus, Chanel “empowertising” on the runway and why Karl Lagerfeld is evil.

Transcript below.

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Producer: Gina Delvac

Hosts: Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman

Theme song: Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Roxane Polvin - I’m Too Sexy

Caribou - Silver

Lorde - Team (Autograf remix)

Clean Bandit ft Jess Gwynne - Rather Be

The Chainsmokers - KANYE (Kasum remix)

Call Your Girlfriend (Hannah Rad edit)




Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman and we are long-distance besties. [Laughter]

Aminatou: One day we'll do this intro and it'll sound the same across the board.

Ann: Just like clawing towards some kind of professionalism. We need to do a survey of NPR hosts about how they found their announcer voice.

Aminatou: Definitely not dr inking as much wine as I am right now.

Ann: Oh my god, I'm so jealous. I am sober and just off an airplane, a.k.a. living my worst life.

Aminatou: That's crazy. So I guess this means we don't really have an agenda today because I'm too much wine and you just got off a plane so maybe let's just answer a lot of mail that we've gotten.

[Theme Song]


Ann: The only thing that I really felt we should discuss on-air was this Karl Lagerfeld recreating a feminist protest on the runway.

Aminatou: Ugh. Yes, sure, let's talk about it. What is there to talk about except that Karl is a monster and that people who don't understand how femfertizing works or whatever their . . .

Ann: Empowertizing?

Aminatou: Yeah, like empower -- so I mean I will confess this: I like fashion, I like Chanel, I even like Karl Lagerfeld. I thought the runway show was actually really funny because it was this take on the 1968 student riots in France and obviously it's fresh off of the heels of Emma -- not Emma Stone, other Emma.

Ann: Watson.

Aminatou: Emma Watson, that one. Hermione. You know, her feminist speech. And so everybody's having a moment right now with empowering women. But it was so . . . the show was really tacky and some of the signs in French were actually really offensive. You know, there was one that said "Feminist but feminine." You're like what does that mean?

Ann: I mean I just kind of love talking about how simultaneously terrible and wonderful Karl Lagerfeld is. I have a feeling about him the way I think some people feel about whatever classes they take for exercise -- god, I don't even know what they're called -- like a spin class instructor? Where I'm like I hate you.

Aminatou: You're like I don't know, work out. Vocabulary. [Laughs]

Ann: I don't. I actually do not even have a vocabulary for this. But, you know, he's like, you know . . .

Aminatou: Like the ultimate villain?

Ann: Yes! Oh my god yes, thank you. Like stroking a hairless cat while cackling. Well his cat isn't hairless.

Aminatou: I mean, you know, we've seen the documentary. He's definitely a villain.

Ann: Oh my god, I love the documentary. Also that quote about showing everyone else how useless they are by working ten times harder, that's how I console myself when I feel I've been working too much.


Aminatou: No, right? So I really -- I really identify with that, like the strong work ethos, right? But also never forget Karl Lagerfeld, the person who called Adele fat and said she's not beautiful, the person who always says problematic things about women's bodies, don't buy the fact that he has staged a fake feminist moment.

Ann: Yeah. Basically this is peak empowertizing. Like there's nowhere to go. [Laughs]

Aminatou: But it's not even good, right? Like Dove is peak empowertizing and it makes you feel really good and you're like wait, but how does shampoo solve my problems, you know? Like soap or whatever. But I just felt like this was not very well-done and I was really surprised that people fell for it like hook, line, sinker.

Ann: There was a part of me that actually thought it was like parodying empowertizing because we're so far beyond being over faux feminism. Yeah.

Aminatou: Ooh, good theory. I like that theory better.

Ann: It also holds with the evil villain thing.

Aminatou: I don't know. My favorite part of the whole thing is that Kendall Jenner was like front and center, and you know how I love the Kardashian-Jenners. I think it's fantastic that Kendall actually has a real modeling career. All her other sisters catalog at best and Kendall's like international runways. That made me really happy.


Ann: Okay, I feel like that's enough news and now we can answer mail.

Aminatou: Yes, let's answer mail. I actually haven't read any of these so it's going to be really funny.

Ann: I just pasted a bunch in an email too so I think you should just randomly pick one.


Aminatou: Okay, our first caller -- caller, reader, person says . . .

Ann: Listener.

Aminatou: Listener! Listener. I always forget this word. Ugh. "I was wondering if you have any opinion/thought/cautionary tale/etc. about a man removing your tampon for you." [Laughs] Oh my god, I was not prepared for that. "As in you're both so caught up in the moment that he sees a dangling string and says don't worry, I'll take care of this."

Ann: Wow, we are zero to This Week in Menstruation. Like do not pass go.

Aminatou: Oh my god, you did not ease me into this. So isn't there . . . who is that lady who dated some beat neck who wrote a book about this?

Ann: I have no idea what you're talking about.

Aminatou: I don't know. I may be making this up. I feel like there is a very iconic scene of this happening with like a writer or somebody.

Ann: And it was super sexy or . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, I don't know. It's supposed to be super sexy, right? So it's like Jack Kerouac. Hold on, I'm Googling Jack Kerouac tampon.

Ann: Jack Kerouac tampon string? One of the top Google searches of all time.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Hold on.

Ann: Please, that man was too busy being self-involved on mescaline to even notice anyone else is wearing a tampon.

Aminatou: I don't know. Jack Kerouac definitely was boning some lady and then took her tampon out. Okay, moving on past this here's what I think: I don't have any cautionary tales about this but I think if it's sexy to you then it's sexy.

Ann: Right, and if you were like "Actually I would prefer to do that myself in another room" then that's what you should advocate for. I don't actually know how we can advise someone about this.

Aminatou: I don't know. Also I'm just like if you can find another human, like not even a dude, that is down with pulling your tampon, then it's a wrap.

Ann: Okay, I'm just going to stop because we already went there last episode and just move on directly from that.


Aminatou: Okay, so we're moratorium on period sex. [Laughs]

Ann: Yeah, we're just going to consider this topic closed, plugged, Diva Cupped, stopped for the week.

Aminatou: Diva Cup. Okay.



Aminatou: Next listener question. "Wondering if you have any advice for a female software engineer," aww, my core demo.

Ann: Love you.

Aminatou: "Who's graduating college this year and looking for a job. I'm both excited for the future and grossed out by the people and values of my field. How do I find a place to work that makes me feel good? This summer I had an engineering internship which was supposed to be 'perfect' but I felt like crap most of the time. I like coding but being in that room made me spent the whole time wishing I was reading the novel hidden in my purse."

Ann: Aww.

Aminatou: Aww!

Ann: First of all I'm really sorry you had a bad experience at your internship because you seem very competent and wonderful.

Aminatou: Yeah, you're like a female software . . . the software belongs to you. What?

Ann: It is true.

Aminatou: It's true. So here -- you know how I love fresh out of college people and I'm going to say something maybe you're not supposed to say but here's the deal: the first couple of years after you get out of college, like frankly your job is going to suck. It's going to suck in the sense that you don't have power to make a lot of change, you know? Or that you have to take jobs for resume-building things. But it doesn't mean that you have to be miserable.

Ann: I mean I 100% agree with that but I think that there's a difference between I'm dissatisfied in my entry-level job, I know I could be doing things that are more challenging or I could have a role that grants me more . . . I don't know, I could have bosses that listen to me. That's different than sort of like oh, this environment is actually shitty or I'm not respected at all even for the menial or lowly job that I do here.


Aminatou: So this is -- okay, that's fair.

Ann: I just think there's a difference between sort of dissatisfaction with the role or place you're at right out of school and then like . . . because I think about what was my first, not my first job out of college, but my first journalism job was one where I definitely felt uncomfortable in the work environment. And it wasn't because of anything related to the job description.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Ann: You know, it was definitely because it was a sexually harassing workplace.

Aminatou: How long did you stay there?

Ann: Two months. [Laughs]

Aminatou: What was the breaking point?

Ann: Well the breaking point was more fortuitously getting another job which I know is not a luxury most people have but the real got to get out of here point was when I had a lunch with my boss after my first month, like a check-in how are things going, and he's someone who sort of . . . [Sighs] how do I put this? It wasn't like he was groping me or anything but he was always asking questions about my love life and what was happening with me in these personal ways that were definitely like creepy old manish, not like I'm trying to be your friendly coworker.

Aminatou: Ugh. Yeah.

Ann: And after I kind of shut down a lot of those questions at this one-month check-in lunch he was like "Yeah, all your performance is fine. The headlines you're writing are fine. Whatever else." And then was sort of like "But you know, your behavior in the office, you know Ann, most new employees try to please the boss."

Aminatou: Oh my god. It's like Ann, sorry you're not pliable enough for this job.

Ann: It's true. And I was like "Is there a problem with my performance?" Like fresh out of college, empowered baby feminist. I was like bring it back to the job description.

Aminatou: I know, right? Always bring it back to the job description.

Ann: Yeah.


Aminatou: Well, okay, there's another thing I kind of want to address in this question, right, is the idea of the values and the people in technology. I know that we are at this really critical moment in our culture where we're hearing all these just insane stories, you know, coming out of this field in particular. And I don't think that that should discourage anyone. Tech is amazing. There are some awful, awful, awful people to be fair but there's also awful bankers, there are awful librarians, there are terrible doctors. If you're a lady good luck finding a work environment that is super-posi all the time. But I do think there is something in taking a leap of faith and really just trying to build a network of people that think like you and that are awesome like you. I would think back to what kinds of problems are you trying to solve, right? Are you trying to do some dumb Uber for cash or Uber for pillows company? Or are there things you actually want to change and you have the skill set that will help you do that?

I think especially, you know, in civic tech and just some really cool shit that's happening in our field right now it would be really sad to see somebody turn away because some people are awful.

Ann: I also love this listener's question because she asked "How do I find a place to work that makes me feel good?" It's a proactive question.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Ann: She doesn't say all of tech seems terrible which maybe is sort of implied but definitely not the case as you point out. I was going to mention actually I have always felt that you learn a lot about what it's like to work somewhere by going through the process to get there. So places that have, you know, a lot of hierarchy will often have sort of an arduous interview process or places that are kind of disorganized, you're like what are you doing? I don't hear back from you. 

Aminatou: Nope, totally.

Ann: Or places that sort of ask you about what you're like outside of work and genuinely seem to care about the answers maybe value your work/life balance a little more. I think paying attention to how you feel in the interview will probably be some indication of how you feel working there full-time.


Aminatou: Totally. Interviewing, just like dating, right? It's not a one-way street. You want to ask some really pointed questions and you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you.

Ann: Yeah, I love asking because a lot of workplaces now will have not just your potential boss interview you but a couple of people in different roles and I always love asking what is the best and the worst thing about working here. Because I found that people will be pretty honest.

Aminatou: Oh yeah.

Ann: Especially if you get them solo.

Aminatou: Or especially the people who are disgruntled in interviews are always the most honest people.

Ann: Find someone who's on the way out.

Aminatou: Yeah, someone who's on the way out. If someone's like "Oh my god, we just need to hire somebody in this position," those people will give you so much real talk that it's scary but also I find that it's super helpful. So all of that said, you know, to this lady you're a coder, you're amazing, listen to your gut and you're going to be just fine.

Ann: Yeah. Especially because you have a skill that is very much in demand. It's a lot harder out there for baby journos who are having a hard time finding a job or other professions so you're actually in an awesome power position to kind of pick and choose where you want to end up.

Aminatou: Right? Ugh. Whenever I walk into a job interview all I'm thinking is I'm the captain now. [Laughs]

Ann: Tonight I will not let you be the captain.


Ann: Okay, next one maybe?

Aminatou: Tell me. Tell me. You tell me.

Ann: All right. Next listener writes "The last time I saw my long-distance bestie she said some things to me that were kind of slut shamey and really hurt my feelings."

Aminatou: No!


Ann: "I didn't tell her about it at the time because I was kind of stunned. It seemed to come out of nowhere. She also introduced me to her local friends with stories that embarrassed me." Yeah, this is a long-distance bestie scenario. "She and I still talk on the phone and email but I haven't brought it up that -- I haven't brought up that incident with her even though it's still kind of weighing on me and making me feel shitty. Should I wait until I see her next, who knows when, or bring it up on the phone, Skype, whatever, even though that might be awkward? What do you do when you need to get real with your long-distance bestie but your only method of communication is through fiber optics?"

Aminatou: So real man.

Ann: Too real. Ugh, I don't know.

Aminatou: [Laughs] I think that we can't say I don't know. Like we're contractually and legally obligated to not say I don't know.

Ann: We say this after every question. As long-distance friendship experts we have no idea.

Aminatou: Well I think that the crux of it is if you don't know when you're going to see somebody next and something is really bothering you you should say something because the awkwardness will be there whether you do it on the phone, but trust, it's also awkward if you do it in person. It is especially more awkward when it's been like weeks or months.

Ann: Yes.

Aminatou: And you're like "Hey! Seven months ago you did this one thing that really hurt my feelings." You know, I think that's always like a . . .

Ann: And then the other person is like "So you didn't reply to my email about Karl Lagerfeld orchestrating a fashion protest because I said something that hurt your feelings seven months ago? Is that what's going on here?"

Aminatou: No, right? Yeah, it's so tough but I really think that, you know, fiber optics aside that friendship is really an exercise in how to love people and how to receive love from people. And people feel differently about this, right? Like I'm very much if there's something wrong you need to tell me right now because if you wait months to tell me it will -- one, it will hurt my feelings, but also I'm a jerk so it will kind of diminish how serious I think it is because you waited so long, right? And that's not necessarily fair but everybody deals with conflict in their own way so I think this is a rip off the band-aid situation. Especially because you are hurt and you want to fight for your friendship. It's not like you're hurt and you're like "Ugh, I never want to speak to you again."


Ann: Also the truth is long-distance is kind of the default of your friendship at this point. It's not like you're mostly in the same place and you're both just on vacation and then you're going to talk about this when you're together again. You kind of have to figure out how to do both the fun stuff and the difficult stuff with friendship long-distance if you're really going to maintain.

Aminatou: Totally, you know? And I think that the things that this person is upset about are really valid like feeling slut shamed by your friend, that's something that's crazy. But also, you know, feeling that the other person's local friends think you're kind of a bananas person. That also is something that is really hurtful but it's also something that is easily rectifiable. I'm sorry to say you're going to have to address it head-on.

Ann: Head-on. Only way.

Aminatou: Ugh. I hate giving advice because then I'm like ugh, I've got to do all this stuff.

Ann: I feel like we need to be better at doing the Cheryl Strayed let's tell a touching story about us and then reassure that we love you and then hit you with the hard truth.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: But I think we just say we don't know a lot then hit you with the hard truth which doesn't instill confidence.

Aminatou: I know, there's no love. I don't know. I have been through this particular scenario and I feel like I'm also kind of going through it right now and I think that it is really hard and it's really awkward and it makes you feel super petty. You're like ugh, why am I so upset at somebody who's so far away? But I think if you want to stay friends with somebody you really have to put all that aside and you have to put yourself in those hard positions sometimes.


Ann: I also have to say I've been on the other side of this where as someone without a stunning level of emotional intelligence I have been the one to tell a story about someone and later they have said "Oh, you know, why did you tell everyone my baggage?" and I was like I thought I was telling a great story about how well you weather adversity or some shit like that. [Laughs]

Aminatou: We all have.

Ann: And yeah, so I think that if she is a true long-distance bestie she really wants to know too.

Aminatou: Yay! Good luck listener.

Ann: Good luck.

Aminatou: But let us know.



Aminatou: Whew. So real.

Ann: All right, next one. I think this next one is lighter.

Aminatou: Okay, awesome. Okay.

Ann: All right, go.

Aminatou: "I was talking with some friends today about sharing an office or cubicle space," Ugh, I'm already like ugh. "With a coworker who won't leave you alone." No! "How do you deal with someone at work who is so chatty that it's affecting your work?

Ann: I have a really easy answer. Sorry.

Aminatou: Me too. Tell me the answer. This is . . .

Ann: My answer is headphones. Large, prominent headphones. I have a pair that are bright red that I use frequently in a co-working setting. What is yours?


Aminatou: So here's the deal. I'm going to tell you two things. There is a real backlash against headphones that's happening in American offices right now.

Ann: Wait, what?

Aminatou: I know that you work in your own space. Some places it's not okay to wear headphones.

Ann: Oh my god, what is happening?

Aminatou: And I was also the kind of manager where on some days it was not okay to wear headphones for people that I managed.

Ann: I'm exhaling deeply here.

Aminatou: But here's the thing: also I have had coworkers that are so chatty that the headphone trick doesn't work because when I'm wearing headphones nine out of ten times there's actually no music in them; it's just my signal for I'm going inside, I can't talk right now.

Ann: Me too. Me too.

Aminatou: But I've had people that don't respect the headphone space and I really think that if this person is your coworker and it's not a person that's a peer to you it's totally okay to pull the "Hey, I'm really trying to get this done. Let's set some time for chatting." It sounds like a dick move but I have found that it stuns both parties.

Ann: Is that the workplace equivalent of scheduling sex?

Aminatou: Yeah, no, totally. It's like hey, some time is for talking and some other time is for working. Or the other thing that you do is you try to redirect all the conversation to chat if you have an office that has various kinds of chat rooms and then you don't necessarily have to answer that person.

Ann: So it's basically like office recess. You're like "Can we chat about that at recess?"

Aminatou: No, totally. It's like listen, I can feel who this chatty coworker is, I've had them, and it is really distracting because everybody has a different work style. I don't like talking to people when I'm getting shit done.

Ann: It is really good that you work in an actual office when people send us questions like this. I am now like who is exposing the office backlash against headphones? I need to be the one to expose this.

Aminatou: No, this is a real thing. Headphones -- some places will not let you wear headphones ever at all because why would you be listening to music at work? That is disrespectful.


Ann: I'm going to do some investigative reporting about this.

Aminatou: Check it out. Maybe you need to get into an office for about a week.

Ann: Like a cultural exchange program?

Aminatou: That's crazy. Okay, good luck with your chatty coworker. Oof. Or another thing you can do too sometimes is just be an asshole and go up to your manager and say "Hey, working conditions are really hard in this open cube situation. How can we solve that?" Because guess what? Some people get paid more money than you do to figure out productivity issues.

Ann: Ugh, fantastic.



Ann: The next email came addressed to Annminatou.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: Like is that our celebrity couple name?

Aminatou: Is it? Let's workshop it.

Ann: This listener writes "Would you speak . . ." Oh my god. "Would you speak as to your high school experience?"

Aminatou: Ooh.

Ann: "Maybe some lessons/tips from the other side. How did you personally find your focus, your jam, your arrow?"

Aminatou: Ugh, so good. Follow your arrow.

Ann: Oh my god, tell us about baby Amina.

Aminatou: So my experience is a little bit different because I grew up going to French school and then when I was a sophomore I was like I want to speak English and I want to move to America one day so I transferred to an American high school but it was an American high school overseas, in Nigeria to be precise. So I think that my high school experience, it's a little different, right? Because it's still your weird American high school situation but there's the added benefit of it's not in America. Oh also my high school was deeply religious. It was run by like 13 mission boards. But baby Amina was a fucking champ.

Ann: [Laughs]


Aminatou: Here's my deal about high school: I had a blast in high school. I think I was the funnest person at my high school. I didn't have a lot of friends and I was so aware that it had an expiration date, you know? I was like I just need to do . . . so since I started the American school as a sophomore I was like I have three years here. I want to be top of my class because all of these kids are idiots but also I want to have a good time. So the problem for me that presented itself is as a sophomore all my friends were seniors so my junior year I had no friends. [Laughs] 

Ann: I was one of those as well, like an older friends kid.

Aminatou: Because all of my friends had graduated, and our classes were really small. My class was 29 people. You know, and that was like the biggest class we'd had in a long time. But also because it's missionaries everybody's a sibling, you know? Because it's like a Quiverfull situation. They're all having like ten kids a pop. [Laughs] So really 29 people, there were like four personalities. You know, I'm not going to lie to you. It was really hard to not be a Christian at the Christian school for once because a lot of those Christian kids are huge hypocrites. I kept getting in trouble for everything and I realized it's because I wasn't on the religious in-circle, right? So somebody would do something bad then it would be like "It must be that Amina girl." So I kept getting called up to the superintendent's office and people would pray for me and literally the only thing I think that saved me in high school is I actually had a good relationship with my parents. And because I thought the other kids at high school were so lame -- it's a boarding school -- I went home on weekends because my family only lived about four hours away. And my parents were always like "Nope, there's no way Amina was responsible for this pot at this party. She was at our house." It's like you people are crazy.


And I was also . . . I kind of, I didn't care. Like I think I was definitely a popular person just because I had this, you know, I don't care bravado going on. But also I was friendly to everyone. Like there was not a kind of person that I couldn't see myself being friendly with or at least giving a chance to and I think that that for me opened a lot of doors in high school. Like I didn't have weird social hierarchies that high school kids have. Maybe this is crazy but I think American kids take high school way too seriously.

Ann: Yeah, I mean . . .

Aminatou: I've gathered this from my experience there but also pop culture. I was like this is not that serious. [Laughs] Where I've talked to people our age now and they still have high school wounds. You know, it's like "Then this thing happened at prom and . . ." I'm like are you serious? You're 30. Grow the fuck up. Nobody cares about your weird high school wound. But that's a very culturally American thing where it's this huge rite of passage and there's so much that's attached to it.

I don't know. The way that I found my focus, I guess, is I read a lot and I -- this was like a thing I think that for me was also really helpful in college, I went to college in Austin, is I just liked being friends with people that were not necessarily people that I knew through school. I don't know how the other people felt about me but I had a great time.

Ann: That's how you know you had a great time when you're like "I don't know how anybody else felt about me. I had a good time." That's just how you know you did it right basically in any context.

Aminatou: [Laughs]


Ann: Like high school or whatever. Yeah, let me . . . I mean I'm a way better person now than I was in high school. I can just say that totally objectively.

Aminatou: Were you like one of those broody like listen to the Smiths too cool for school kids?

Ann: No. So here's the thing: I am from a town of about 60,000 people in Iowa and I went to a Catholic school that was pretty small. I was very into communicating to everyone that I was not Catholic and not . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs] How does one communicate that?

Ann: Well, and not into like . . . I was very testing the baby alt waters. I was from a small enough town that there was no venue to go see music or there was no way to sort of be like "I'm different" so you had to find ways. I mean look, this is so passe already. I remember listening to the long-form podcast interview with Tavi where she's like "People don't really care about categories. There aren't jocks and alts and stoners."

Aminatou: Hallelujah.

Ann: All of that is totally a hallmark that you're an old person, that you have categories like that.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: But when I was in high school it was very important for me to communicate to people that I was not going to live in Iowa when I was older, that I did not enjoy Leonardo DiCaprio or the Backstreet Boys. I'm very much dating where I was.

Aminatou: I know, this is pop culture carbon dating.

Ann: I was not into the mainstream. Right, culture carbon dating. So in the dinosaur era when I was in high school. Yeah, it was very important to me to distinguish myself I think because I had to convince myself that I was going to leave. It was all about me in a different way than it was all about you.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Yeah.

Ann: And so I don't think that I was . . . I didn't really have a beef with anyone. I don't think I didn't get along with anyone but I definitely was clear I don't like the same stuff you guys like. I was not into going to school dances. I was not into school athletics. I was editor of the high school newspaper.

Aminatou: Oh Ann, we all had to play sports. Private school.

Ann: What?


Aminatou: Yeah, private -- I mean there's 29 people and we have . . . it's basically a requirement. You can't not play a sport.

Ann: I mean that sounds like my nightmare, my high school nightmare.

Aminatou: There was one girl who didn't do sports and honestly she was a jerk and I think that if she had done the sport she would've been better adjusted.

Ann: Wow, way to speak to my high school self.

Aminatou: It's true. She was always like "I don't have any friends. Why is everybody so mean?" And I was like maybe you're an asshole? I don't know, throw a shot putt. I don't know.

Ann: I mean I was definitely an asshole but I wasn't dark. I was definitely sad that I wasn't darker. Like I remember my friends being into Nine Inch Nails and I was into Belle and Sebastian and was like "I like it because it's happy!"

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: I was alt but not dark.

Aminatou: That's so funny. I fell asleep to some sort . . . god, what's that one Iowa dark metal band?

Ann: Slipknot?

Aminatou: Yes, Slipknot. So some boy in high school snuggled a Slipknot CD to Christian boarding school and was like "Hey, this is great music." Like he was back from the States that year and we had a weird "Could this happen? Could this not happen?" thing. And nothing happened but he gave me all this music, right? So I fell asleep listening to Slipknot which Slipknot is terrible. I did not know this at the time. But my house parents were very concerned and very upset at the kind of music I was listening to and how it was not edifying to God.

Ann: The devil's music.

Aminatou: So we had to have a conversation about that. But you want to know the funniest thing? That same boy is the boy who got me to listen to Coldplay for the first time. I was like your range of interests is fascinating to me.

Ann: I mean people trying to find themselves like a whole range of things. That's one of the great things about teenagers.


Aminatou: It's true. Oh, you know one thing I forgot that I think was so real for me in high school, so my sophomore year and my first year at the school, all of the girls in my class were really mean to me and I didn't understand why.

Ann: Aww.

Aminatou: It was like a movie, like Mean Girls mean, and I was really good friends with all of the bad boys at this point which I think also made them feel a little intimidated. So it probably wasn't until, yeah, the tail end of my junior year where I'm like "Hey, why are you guys being assholes?" And some of them are still assholes but I have two good friends from that era so it's not bad. But yeah, I think that's also why when I got to college I was so into having women friends because my high school -- I tried having women friends in high school and they were just not chill, you know?

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: Yeah, that was really weird. I felt like it was straight out of a movie so it was really comical. Like I didn't feel bullied or hurt by it. I was like you look ridiculous.

Ann: I mean again the most adult reaction. I would've been like "I hate all these people." I mean junior high was a very rough time for me where I was explicitly locked and ostracized and had my "Oh my god, that thing that happened to me at the prom."

Aminatou: Aww.

Ann: But maybe that's why I was in high school like fuck everyone, I'm biding my time because I'm going to leave and never look back.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Ann: And by the time, especially the latter years of high school, it wasn't cool to be mean anymore. You know what I mean?

Aminatou: The backlash against bullying? It was like not cool.

Ann: I mean kind of.

Aminatou: Yeah, no, that's really interesting. Yeah, I just never understood people who were mean in high school for no reason. But also I think that thing at international school -- and maybe this is true in American schools, unclear to me -- is really the reason there's not . . . nobody cares if you're a jock or whatever, but what actually sets you apart, like the real cache, is getting good grades.

Ann: Oh, interesting.


Aminatou: And I was a top-performing student so I was like you can't tell me nothing as far as I was concerned. That's how you manipulate your parents if you're a high schooler. You just get good . . .

Ann: My parents would not be manipulated by good grades. They were convinced I was out getting stoned all the time.

Aminatou: I mean I think my parents thought that even though I did not get stoned once in high school. Anybody from high school, if you're listening to this, yes, that's true. I drank very little except for my senior year. But I think everybody just thought, you know, like I was like a bad girl and I was like this is so interesting. Literally all I'm doing is reading by myself.

Ann: The dream.

Aminatou: The dream. High school, just read a lot, meet your own people, build your power. And it's over in four years.

Ann: And I also think that like your Slipknot to Coldplay transitioning suitor . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Ann: The best thing about crazy teenage years is doing lots of different things. This week I'm goth; next week I'm not. That's the only find your arrow tip for high school. It gets more serious later, but . . .

Aminatou: Totally. And, you know, also just don't be that person that you peaked, I don't know, prom night 1999. Don't be that person.

Ann: I mean anybody who's going to hear that advice/already be listening to this podcast is peaking post-high school. Like I don't think we . . .

Aminatou: Right? It's like cut the fat. Those people are not with us.


Ann: Okay. Next question.

Aminatou: Crazy. Tell me, tell me, tell me.

Ann: All right. A listener writes "I still can't stop watching and supporting the Niners and I feel extremely guilty about it."

Aminatou: Is that a football team?


Ann: I mean, hang on, punchline's coming. "What do you guys think? Can you be pro-woman and still support football?"

Aminatou: Okay, this is a football question.

Ann: I'm just . . .

Aminatou: This is when somebody tells me a team name that I don't know and I send the football or baseball emoji and I'm like "Which one?"

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: I mean, listen, you can be pro-woman and support anything you want. You just have to live with your choices. I watched that PBS special on concussions, the Frontline on Concussions, earlier this year I believe and it was shocking to me. It's like I came away watching it just thinking that basically it's going to be like big tobacco, you know? The backlash is coming. And also parents are just not going to let their kids play football anymore with the research and data that's there. That's what's going to sink football, only poor black kids . . .

Ann: I think it's going to take a long time though.

Aminatou: No, it is a long time. It'll be like boxing, like only poor people will go into it right? Because of money.

Ann: I agree but I think that's like 40 years in the future.

Aminatou: We know a lot of women that watch football. The reason that I don't watch football is I don't care. I like college football, I'm a Texas Longhorns fan, but yeah, I don't really follow. I don't follow football. Obviously this conversation is happening right now, right? Like are you an evolved person if you watch football? I don't know.

Ann: I actually think that football fans who care about women or who care about . . . I mean the repetitive injury thing is a little different because you actually cannot play football without injuring brains. That's different than the idea of how does the NFL respond to things.

Aminatou: Oh, this is like a domestic violence and women thing?

Ann: Right, right. So setting aside the concussion issue which came up because of the documentary or whatever. If we just talk about the NFL's response to various types of assault and violence and I'm going to throw in racist team names as well. Like I actually think people who are supporters and fans have the most leverage to change some of those things. Like the NFL doesn't care if I object to the way they handle players who have been convicted of assault or accused of assault. The league doesn't care if I object to racist team names. I'm like I spend zero dollars. I feel like there has to be some sort of coalition of fans, people who are the constituency for this massive money-making operation, to say "Look, I love football and this team. I hate these things that you do and we together the fans want you to stop it."


Aminatou: I wonder if there's anybody that's actually doing that because any time I encounter woman football it's like pink jerseys and I'm like why? Why?

Ann: Well maybe there needs to be a coalition of pro-woman NFL fans who demand this sort of shit because I would happily cosign but my opinion means absolutely nothing to the NFL.

Aminatou: Yeah, my Monday nights are really important to me. No. Sorry. Yeah, I guess you can be pro-woman and I guess you can watch football but whomp-whomp.

Ann: I mean, yeah, totally. Be the founder of the fan association to make the NFL get serious about abuse and assault. That's my advice to you.

Aminatou: I'll leave it at that because I was thinking about that Cover Girl partnership that the NFL has and all of these just ridiculous not happening things. But also I do wonder this, right? Obviously everybody is focused on the NFL and domestic violence but I would be really curious to see what the NBA does about domestic violence, you know?

Ann: Totally.


Aminatou: It's not just football players that hit their wives and girlfriends.

Ann: Yeah.

Aminatou: Hey, that was a lot of mail.

Ann: Oh my gosh, so many issues.

Aminatou: Yeah, keep writing us. You can write us at or you can tweet at us at @callyrgf or find us on the website

Ann: Thanks so much for listening and writing and all of that because -- and putting up with our "I don't knows."

Aminatou: Yeah, there are people who are way better. Let's never write a self-help anything.

Ann: Done. Packed. All right. See you on the Internet.

Aminatou: See you on the Internet, boo.