TIME Parenting

Surviving That Mad Max Road to High School Graduation

Rear view of female family members walking through field
Getty Images

Susanna Schrobsdorff is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME. Previously, she was the Editorial Director for Newsweek Digital. She is the winner of a New York Press Club award for Outstanding Web Coverage and three Front Page Awards for cultural commentary and interactive journalism.

I’m starting to suspect that I was covertly enrolled in some sort of secret government stress test to see what happens when you put a woman of a certain age and two teenage daughters in a small Brooklyn apartment with a disgruntled cat and no central air-conditioning.

It’s the perfect hormonal storm: all the angst of middle school, a high-stakes dose of college-application hell, plus a trip through the Bermuda Triangle of women’s health–what doctors so poetically call perimenopause, a condition they blame for everything from ankle acne to homicide–and the irrational urge to get yoga-teacher certification.

Let’s just say there are moments when I think anyone who visits our house should be issued an estrogen dart gun. We run high on laughter but low on impulse control, mood regulation and common ground when it comes to room-temperature preferences and body piercings.

Nonetheless, we have not only survived the past four years, but both daughters will be getting diplomas this month. This was not a given. The usual maladies of puberty are magnified by our frantic digital ecosystem–even the toughest kids can be knocked off track.

Then there are the unexpected tragedies. For us, it was when the girls lost their beloved stepmother in a freak accident. At the time, my eldest had just finished a rocky entry into high school and her sister was in fifth grade navigating the maddening rules of tween cliques. The fragile bridge they were building to adulthood crumbled in a day.

Grief seemed to reshape my girls at a molecular level. One held tight to the tangible evidence of loss, cycling through photos and calling her stepmom’s cell phone just to hear her gentle voice until the account was shut down. The other turned inside herself, shutting out school, shielding herself from the outside pressures to counteract what was going on inside. It was a dark summer.

I wonder, are young hearts more resilient? Do they heal better than an adult’s? Do they become stronger or just accumulate scar tissue? All we can do is wait and see, and that might be the hardest part of being a parent. But for now, for us, the world is back in focus, if in a new, more tenuous way. Every college acceptance letter or drama performance that seemed unlikely or impossible three years ago brings a sweet kind of gratitude.

This week we will get new dresses for graduation, in all new sizes (good news for them, bad news for me). You’ll see us on Facebook looking as if we floated into the frame effortlessly. But know this: if our clothes reflected the reality of our journey, we’d look like extras from a Mad Max movie, sweaty, proud and buttressed by homemade armor.

Come graduation day, I know I won’t be the only parent with invisible armor who worried that a diploma might be knocked out of reach or rendered irrelevant by bigger issues. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety in our schools–and I suspect we’re only documenting a fraction of the problem. So while there will be tall young women, cool and confident in their caps and gowns, some will have spent eight weeks at grueling wilderness camps foraging for food because they stopped eating at home. There will be brilliant boys who cut themselves, a tangible reflection of wounds they get in the social-media Thunderdome. There will be kids who don’t have safe homes, or homes at all, and others who have everything but a purpose.

And the school auditorium will be filled with the parents who’ve soldiered on, mortgaged houses to pay for substance rehab, spent more time in emergency sessions with teachers than on vacation, who turned the city upside down to get their son a place at that last-chance school. They know about the impossible choices and disappointments that aren’t in any parenting book. And they include some of the people you think have done everything right. Sometimes what looks like indulgent, competitive helicopter parenting is really a desperate fight to be ordinary. For all of them, this rite of passage is anything but ordinary, but you wouldn’t know it.

Sometimes it feels like a secret society. Kid trouble is the last taboo, after all. We confess to infidelity or Botox or grownup mental-health battles, but we cover up or downplay our most visceral fears about our children even when we’re talking to our oldest friends. It’s the topic that makes us most vulnerable. Which is all the more reason to celebrate a diploma.

Plus we’re at the cusp of June, and everything is a few tender days away from full bloom. By August, my family will be back on the Mad Max highway. But until then, the three of us get to argue about tattoos over dinner. One of us will leave the room sobbing (probably me). We’ll take turns turning the air conditioner on and off in our ongoing climate war. No one will clean the cat box unless I yell. And we will all know that this is the good stuff.

This appears in the May 25, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

The Grandparent Deficit: Fertility Isn’t the Only Biological Clock

Grandmother and granddaughter walk
Getty Images

There's often one forgotten variable in the decision about having kids later in life

A few months ago I was sitting in the vast dining room of an assisted-living home in Washington, D.C., watching my 5-year-old niece bounce like a pinball between tables of seniors. It was a startling sight–that small, smooth blond blur amid a hundred crinkly faces. Her audience, mostly women in their 80s and 90s, grinned as she navigated all the parked walkers, canes and wheelchairs as if it were a playground.

Sahar is a bit of a celebrity here. Far younger than most of the other grandchildren who visit, she is a rare burst of kindergarten energy in a place where even the elevators move very slowly. She comes frequently to have meals with my dad, her grandfather. He’s 81, and she doesn’t know what he was like before dementia took hold. Nor does she remember her grandmother who died four years ago, except in the funny stories my sister tells so often that Sahar refers to them as if they were her own memories.

She and my two daughters are among a growing number of kids who will see their grandparents primarily as people in need of care rather than as caretakers. They are the leading edge of a generation whose mothers and fathers had children later in life. They’ve seen us juggle our jobs, their school schedules and their grandparents’ needs simultaneously–one day missing work to be at the bedside of a parent who’s had a bad fall, another day trying to call an elder-care aide from the back row of a dance recital.

It seems naive to say this tripart balancing act came as a surprise to me and my sister, but it did. Somehow, while we were worrying about our biological clocks and our careers, it didn’t occur to us that another biological clock was ticking down: that of our parents’ health. And while medical science keeps coming up with new ways to prolong fertility, thwarting the frailties of old age is harder.

Our parents seemed so vibrant, so capable in their 60s that we couldn’t imagine how fast things would change. We knew that three or four years could make a huge difference in our fertility, but it turned out that three or four years could also mean the difference between a grandmother who can take a toddler to the beach and one who can’t lift her newest grandbaby out of a kiddie pool because of arthritis.

My daughters may face an even greater grandparent gap. I was almost 39 when I had my second child. If she has a child at the same age, I’ll be over 80 when that grandchild enters pre-K. And I’m not alone here: about six times as many children were born to women 35 and older in 2012 as they were 40 years ago.

I’m aiming to stay spry, but by the time I become a grandmother, I’ll likely be past the age that my daughter can drop her kids off at my house for a weekend. Will I be one of those exceptional octogenarians who jogs every day? Will I be able to babysit, or will I need my daughter to find me a babysitter? I don’t know. But with about half a million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s each year, plus the usual maladies of age, there’s a fair chance I’ll need some kind of help.

If I had thought about all that, I might have gotten pregnant a few years earlier, just to give my kids that little bit of extra time with my parents in their prime. Of course, it’s not as if my sister and I could have chosen exactly when we met the men who became our children’s fathers. Nor do I regret spending my 20s and part of my 30s living in different countries, doing all kinds of jobs, soaking up the world. It was glorious, and it made me a better mother. But I do know I’d give anything if my kids could have one more weekend at the beach with my parents in peak grandparenting mode–full of silly jokes and poetry and wry observations from extraordinary lives lived fully.

And now, amid the ongoing debate over when to lean into a job or a relationship or children, my take has changed. I want to tell my daughters, “Don’t forget grandparents in the high-pressure calculus of modern life. I would like to make it easier for you if you want to lean in and have babies at the same time. I’d also like to know your children.” Who knows if I’ll get that chance, given the million variables at play, but I want them to know it’s an option.

In the meantime, I’m leaning into this new phase, one ripe with gratitude even as my father fades, losing more of himself every day. My children are discovering that they are not always the center of the world. And while my little niece may never know what my dad was like when he used to hide Easter eggs or swim after us pretending to be a shark, his white hair pluming like sea foam, she’s learning something beautiful from her mother. She sees my sister visiting him daily, feeding him, talking to him. Sahar is seeing kindness firsthand. And she understands that the thin, confused man in the bed is someone worth loving. That he is family.

Schrobsdorff is an assistant managing editor at TIME

This appears in the March 30, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME Parenting

Why It’s So Hard to Talk to Our Daughters About Campus Rape

Susanna Schrobsdorff is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME. Previously, she was the Editorial Director for Newsweek Digital. She is the winner of a New York Press Club award for Outstanding Web Coverage and three Front Page Awards for cultural commentary and interactive journalism.

We tell our girls that they can do anything boys can. But what if that's not exactly true?

I have two teenage daughters, which means I live in a household of head-snapping contradictions. Everything you’ve heard about adolescent girls is true, and not true. They are in equal parts infuriating and beguiling, full of arrogance and certainty one minute, crumpled by insecurity the next. And just when you think you’ve accidentally raised judgmental mean girls, they do something so kind, so empathetic (like help you change their demented grandfather’s sheets without a word of complaint), that the memory of it sustains you through a whole month of snark.

One day they go into their bedrooms all gangly and tweeny and come out looking like women. This is to be expected, yet we are not prepared for the way the world looks at them in the wake of that transformation. After one daughter’s middle-school graduation, she strode down the street in her new heels and with her new curves, plowing ahead of us without looking back. It was all I could do not to follow her waving my arms yelling, “I know she doesn’t look it, but she’s only 14!”

Now she’s 17 and applying to college. I have to let her disappear around that corner on her own. This is never easy for parents, but perhaps it’s even less so these days. She’s busy imagining who she’ll be when she’s living among her peers, on a campus somewhere that is not here. Meanwhile, I’m unable to stop reading the headlines about sexual assault and bungled rape investigations at some of the best universities in the country.

In late January, I couldn’t escape the accusations that a group of football players had raped an unconscious neuroscience major at Vanderbilt University. At a trial for two of them, the lawyer for one of the accused said his client’s judgment was distorted by a campus culture in which drunken sex was prevalent.

Just the fact that this case wasn’t swept under the rug is encouraging. New federal mandates that aim to reform the way universities handle sexual-assault cases represent huge progress. And sure, the stats on how pervasive the problem is are still being debated, but the awful stories keep coming. So while I might have worried more about pregnancy, now the specter of assault looms larger. How do I talk to my college-bound daughter about that?

The irony is that while we’ve always warned our little girls about strangers, the numbers say that if our college-age daughters are assaulted, it will likely be by someone they know. And like a lot of mothers, I’ve spent years telling my girls that they can do anything a boy can, that they can rely on their smarts above all and that they should never be ashamed of their bodies. But that’s not exactly true. No, girls can’t get drunk like guys can at a party, not without compromising their safety. And yes, girls are more vulnerable, physically and in other ways. Accusations of promiscuity can still damage a woman to an extent that many men can hardly fathom. Just ask that Vanderbilt student, now a Ph.D. candidate. Her alleged assailants took humiliating photos of her during the attack.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality. I realize that I need to have some version of the talk that so many African-American parents have with their sons about being careful of what they wear and how they behave so as not to put themselves in danger. To our girls we say, be brave, take risks. But internally we want them to do whatever it takes to stay safe. We say, be proud of your beauty. Yet we fear that showing it off will make them a target.

It’s a thicket of contradictions and hypocrisy–as my daughters are quick to inform me when I dare suggest maybe they put on a jacket over that strappy top. But I can’t help offering some advice as I watch one prepare to walk out the door:

Nourish your female friendships. You want women in your life who will have your back at parties and will speak up when you’re about to do something you shouldn’t. And you’ll have their back too. Being a part of this kind of posse is a lifelong gift.

When it comes to guys, look for kindness over cool. And trust your gut. If it feels wrong, leave. Say no. Say no. Say no.

I would defend your right to wear what you want and have just-for-fun sex if you want. But as your mother, I wish you so much more. I hope you take any chance you can to know someone truly and intimately. It is the best perk of being human.

If the inequities get you down, know that you are part of a revolutionary generation that is insisting on change. Just look at the women in a new documentary debuting at Sundance called The Hunting Ground. It’s the story of student assault survivors who cleverly used Title IX (the legislation forbidding gender discrimination) to force the Department of Education to investigate sexual-assault accusations at schools across the country. They transformed their vulnerability into something powerful.

And if you need me, I’m still here.

This appears in the February 09, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

The Inevitable Rehabilitation of Ray Rice

From left: Janay and Ray Rice arrive for a hearing on Nov. 5, 2014 in New York City.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images From left: Janay and Ray Rice arrive for a hearing on Nov. 5, 2014 in New York City.

Susanna Schrobsdorff is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME. Previously, she was the Editorial Director for Newsweek Digital. She is the winner of a New York Press Club award for Outstanding Web Coverage and three Front Page Awards for cultural commentary and interactive journalism.

Any NFL team that hires Ray Rice in the next few months will get a little flack. But don’t be surprised if Rice makes a full comeback on the field and off.

Consider that just a few weeks ago, Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist and self-confessed wife batterer, was making small talk on the late night circuit about his sold-out one-man show, directed by Spike Lee. The show is based on his memoir, Undisputed Truth, which has lines like: “How do you rape someone when they come to your hotel at two in the morning? There’s nothing open that late but legs.” There was the fun game he played on Jimmy Fallon called “Punch Out.” And last year, there was much mirth with Chelsea Handler about his three years in prison, drug tests and conjugal visits. Tyson has also joked about “socking” his ex-wife Robin Givens. According to a biography by his former friend Jose Torres, Tyson said the “best punch” he ever threw was at Givens–it was so hard she “bounced off two different walls” and was knocked out cold. (It’s worth noting that the New York Times‘ Michiko Kakutani glossed over that abusive relationship, calling it a “tumultuous marriage,” in her review of Tyson’s book.)

The one journalist to refer to the fighter as a “convicted rapist” in a TV interview got a long profanity laced rant from Tyson who called him “negative” and “a piece of sh-t.” That reporter, a Canadian broadcaster, later apologized for hurting Tyson’s feelings. Undisputed truth indeed.

The moral calculus of who we shun and for how long is nothing short of perplexing. Let’s not forget that a decade of happy Jello salesmanship intervened since the last time Bill Cosby was caught up in a maelstrom of rape accusations. And what about Chris Brown who was convicted in 2009 for felony assault of his then-girlfriend Rihanna? Or actor Josh Brolin who was charged with spousal battery in in 2004? (His wife Diane Lane declined to press charges.) Neither man’s career seemed to lose much public momentum after those incidents. And there’s Sean Penn, who was charged with assault during his marriage to Madonna in 1988 and later pled to a lesser offense. Yes, there’s a huge difference between allegations, arrests and convictions, but those distinctions don’t seem to matter much when it comes to the vicissitudes of public opinion.

In Rice’s case, the main thing keeping him from total rehabilitation now that he’s been reinstated will likely be his recent lackluster playing record. Never mind the fact that half the planet has watched a video of him punching his then-fiance so hard he knocked her unconscious, then dragging her limp body, face down, out of an elevator.

America loves a good comeback.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Alan Cumming’s Boyhood Was No Cabaret

Alan Cumming attends the HRC Marriage for Equality USA celebration at the Calvin Klein Boutique on April 17, 2013 in New York City.
Andrew H. Walker—Getty Images Alan Cumming attends the HRC Marriage for Equality USA celebration at the Calvin Klein Boutique on April 17, 2013 in New York City.

The actor's funny, heartbreaking new memoir recalls his struggles with an abusive father and his journey from the Scottish Highlands to Broadway

When Alan Cumming arrives for brunch at a café not far from his apartment in Manhattan’s East Village, he’s wearing a blue baseball cap with a big white yes on the front. It’s been almost two weeks since Scotland voted no to separating from the United Kingdom, but Cumming, a Scot who campaigned heavily for the yes side from New York, hasn’t quite gotten over the loss. He heard the results in his dressing room after a performance of Cabaret, a revival of the 1966 musical that brought him a Tony for his electrifying performance as the androgynous Emcee when it returned to Broadway in 1998. “I just cried,” he says. “I felt like it was the difference between choosing imagination and hope and positivity or being cowed and doffing your cap and letting the establishment tell you what to do.”

Scotland still defines the effervescent 49-year-old Cumming in a way that nothing else does. He grew up there on a vast estate called Panmure where his father was the head forester. The men who worked the 21 sq. mi. (54 sq km) of woodland addressed the authoritarian elder Cumming as “the maister.” Alan and his brother Tom might as well have called him that too. Doing grueling chores under his unforgiving eye, they were always fearful of paternal rages that often ended with a beating. Cumming once wound up with a vicious haircut administered with sheep shears that left the 12-year-old bleeding and half bald.

How Cumming finally freed himself from the grip of that painful past is the subject of his new memoir, Not My Father’s Son. “I wrote the book partly to say that this kind of abuse is not normal,” he explains. “Abusers make you feel like it’s acceptable. And for the world who knows me one way, now they’ll know me in a different way, and I’m glad, because it’s all a part of me.”

It’s hard to fathom how the terrorized little boy grew up to be the slender, joyful man who can’t stop cackling as he shows off photos of the pink neon sign saying “Club Cumming” that he had made for his dressing room at Cabaret. Reading the book, you understand how he got so enmeshed in the Scottish campaign. Self-determination and liberation–of himself and others–from old conventions, gender restrictions or just boredom have been Cumming’s quest since he left home at 17 to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

He began writing his memoir after his father’s death in 2010 while working his day job as the Emmy-nominated co-star of CBS’s The Good Wife, now in its sixth season. On that show, Cumming plays Eli Gold, the tightly wound, manipulative political adviser to Chris Noth’s Governor Peter Florrick and his wife, played by Julianna Margulies. His book takes us from his primary school in the Scottish Highlands to London, where he played Hamlet in a cast that included his then wife Hilary Lyon as Ophelia in 1993. His father came back into his life a few years later when a British tabloid wrongly reported that Cumming had been sexually abused in childhood. (Harking back to his father’s beatings, Cumming had told another publication that he had been “abused,” a quote the tabloid misinterpreted.)

Cumming weaves into this story his 2010 turn on the British version of the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? which researches the family histories of celebrities. The program’s producers focused on Cumming’s maternal grandfather Thomas Darling, a much decorated World War II vet who died mysteriously in Malaysia. The effort to unearth the truth about his death sparks a crazy journey that sends Cumming around the world, from the former battlefields of France to a graveyard in Asia. It turns out that his grandfather died in a fatal game of Russian roulette. To complicate things, Cumming’s father hears of the family research and announces that Alan is not his son but the product of an extramarital affair of Alan’s mother’s. DNA tests eventually prove the father’s claim is false, but the episode leads Alan and his brother to confront their dad about his lifetime of cruelties toward them–after which, they never see him again.

Cumming leaves off a few years after his 2007 marriage to Grant Shaffer, an illustrator. (His first marriage ended in the mid-1990s, and soon after, he declared himself bisexual.) Now happy, settled and extraordinarily busy, Cumming suspects that not really getting to be a child when he was young might be what keeps him so preternaturally youthful now. (Holding his own in a Cabaret kick line of 22-year-olds is no easy trick.) A friend, British theater director John Tiffany, jokes that there must be a Dorian Gray–style portrait of Cumming in an attic somewhere. He just doesn’t age. “J.M. Barrie could have written him,” says Tiffany. “Alan’s got an incredibly impish, Peter Pan sense of humor. In fact, he’s a gorgeous combination of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Mrs. Darling.” (Let it be noted that Cumming’s mother’s name is Mary Darling.)

The ongoing tension in his nature between dark and light, so evident in the book, is part of what gives Cumming’s work such breadth. It allowed Tiffany to cast him at various times as both Macbeth and Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy. Cumming can slip from playing a movie Smurf to the übersexual host of Cabaret’s Kit Kat Club and then host Masterpiece Mystery on PBS without dropping a sequin. He combines a Calvinist work ethic with an eternal party-boy vibe. And the party is almost always on. Not only do legions of friends show up nightly at Club Cumming after the show, but he even has a kind of Camp Cumming–a second home in upstate New York where the landscape reminds him of Scotland. He often invites the entire cast of whatever show he’s in for weekends.

Cumming’s brother also thinks that in his offstage and offscreen life, his famous sibling may be re-creating a childhood he didn’t have. As evidence, you could point to the big trampoline that Cumming installed at the house. When guests ask about it, he’ll insist they try it. “‘It’s really great,’ I tell them. They say, ‘No, no, that’s not for me.’ People are so afraid of being judged. But as the weekend goes on, you look, and there they are, bouncing away. I love seeing that. It makes my heart swell.”

This appears in the October 13, 2014 issue of TIME.
TIME Media

German Tabloid Brings Kim and Kate Together With Some Bum Photos

Getty Images (2)

By positioning pictures of the posteriors of Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton next to each other, Bild has made us realize how much the two paparazzi fixtures have in common

The German magazine Bild broke all kinds of global monarchy protocol this week when they dared to publish photos of Kate Middleton’s royal bottom just as it was exposed by a fierce breeze in Australia.

But that’s not all the intrepid magazine did: they also published their opportunistic photos of Britain’s second-most coveted bum right next to a bottom-focused shot of America’s tabloid royalty and international newlywed, Kim Kardashian.

And then, in a move that will probably disturb the time space continuum for the rest of the month, both backside images were displayed next to each other under a truly tasteless headline containing a single German phrase that somehow combines a host of vulgar concepts involving bottoms, sexual feelings, gratitude and happy, happy weekends.

But the thing is, Bild has done something far more profound than just saying “here are two sets of totally different but equally famous ladies’ bums, aren’t we amusing?” What they’ve really done is broken the thin tabloid membrane that separated these two women whom we thought were opposites.

Think about it: Both had royal weddings. Both were due with their first babies the same month. Both wear clothes that half the women on the planet want (not the same half, mind you, but still). Neither can survive without their paparazzi. Both are married to famous men who look incredibly awkward when they have to pose next to their more-popular wives.

And finally, the one quality that helps us understand that humanity has far more in common that we knew…both women seem to favor sheer hosiery.

TIME Books

My Father Went To Jail For Dealing Weed… and I Would Keep Him There

Random House

Tony Dokoupil, whose new memoir The Last Pirate recounts his father's life as a drug baron, tells TIME that dealers like his Dad should not be freed from prison. He also explains his skepticism of marijuana legalization

In The Last Pirate author Tony Dokoupil writes about growing up with a father who was part of the largest pot ring of the Reagan era. The “Old Man” as his father was called, graduated to transporting ten and twenty thousand pounds of marijuana up and down the East coast right around the time he decided to have kids.

Naturally, Dokoupil’s early childhood wasn’t exactly ordinary. It was a hedonistic life of beach resorts, yachts and private schools paid for with drug money–a million of it stored in coolers and buried in backyards around the country. The Old Man, who became a kind of “Wolf of Miami” drug baron, eventually gets caught and the business of pot turns into a far more technical and far less glamorous enterprise.

The younger Dokoupil, now in his thirties with two children of his own, mines his father’s memories and his own to produce a funny, beautifully written and sometimes unsettling personal narrative that is entwined with the story of marijuana’s dramatic ascent in the United States over the last three decades. Because this book is hitting shelves in the middle of a national debate about pot laws, Dokoupil says he’s asked constantly what he thinks about legalization. He answers those questions here and talks about what he’ll tell his kids about their grandfather when they are older.

Your father and his friends see themselves as heroes—”the Rosa Parks of legalization.” Do you feel the same way?

Not at all. I don’t think marijuana smokers should face criminal charges. I think the number of arrests for pot possession in this country could fall from 750,000 a year to zero and there’d be no great harm to public health. But while I’ve got no beef with smokers, I don’t think we need to set the dealers free—and I certainly don’t think we should create a wide-open Coca-Cola-style free market for pot. That does strike me as a public health concern and for the very same reasons we already consider sugar, fat and salt to be a public health concern. Very big businesses have a way of using people’s freedoms against them.

In other words, you agree with war on drugs?

No. Look, I keep a New York Times clipping from 1982, a reminder of how ridiculous the war on drugs really got. It’s a news brief that says, a small scale pot smugglers boat ‘eluded two coast guard cutters, a Navy destroyer, and four jet fighters for 27 hours.’ Jet fighters! It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy. But the only alternative isn’t big business. So, yeah, it’s funny. My father went to jail for dealing weed and, to my surprise, I would keep him there.

If the marijuana smugglers of yore were pirates, how do their now-legal descendants see themselves in Colorado and Washington?

That’s a work in progress but one thing is certain: today’s pot barons are a hell of lot less interesting than the old timers. In general I think this country is suffers a criminal awe-deficit. It’s all hackers and leakers, who are massively influential and sometimes heroic, but rarely romantic and almost never sexy. I think this awe-deficit is greatest in the weed business, where yachtsmen and beach bums like my father have been replaced by botanists and above board business types. It’s a snore.

What’s the biggest difference between old pot and the new stuff?

The new stuff is stronger, of course, but that’s not all. It’s also gorgeous and explicitly commercial, a perfectly shaped chandelier of THC and electric sunshine. The old stuff was never less gnarly and shaggy and unpredictably weird than nature itself. Every item on the High Times Top 40 list from 1977, for example, looks like a piece of animal scat or something scraped off a lawnmower on a wet morning.

Do you think legalization as we’ve seen it so far will go national?

For a while, yes, but I expect a backlash eventually. It’s inevitable. Marijuana’s mostly left-leaning backers don’t usually support a genetically modified commercial product that’s getting play on the cover of Fortune and the Wall Street Journal weekend section. They do for now, but they won’t forever. It’s a delicate support, I think. A lot of people who vote for legal weed are really voting against the status quo, against prohibition. They don’t want a third major vice industry.

When did you turn against pot legalization?

I don’t know that I have. If legal marijuana stays small and out of sight, fine. But I started worrying about the big business part of this when I had kids of my own. My son is 5. He loves the kind of dance hits that are in all the kid’s movies these days. Ok, fine. But when we started watching the music videos online, what’s the 30-second ad we have to sit through? Beer. And the next morning when we open up the computer again—it’s all banner ads for beer. The internet wants my kid to drink. I want him to learn to read first.

Will you tell your kids about their grandfather?

Yes, eventually. I talked with my father about this the other day. He said, ‘Can’t you tell them that I imported tropical plants if they ever ask?’ Yes, Dad, I said. Tropical plants it is.

TIME Careers

Arianna Huffington on the Key to Finding Success (Without Burning Out)

With her new book, Thrive, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post aims to redefine what we call success

In her new book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes the case for upending our culture of overwork and 24-hour connectivity. TIME spoke to Huffington about her mission to change corporate priorities and what we should be giving up to get more sleep.

TIME: You have a lot in Thrive about the importance of sleep. And I know a decent night’s sleep is the holy grail for many of us. So why is that so difficult to achieve?

We are now moving to the point where people know they need more sleep, but actually doing it is the key. That’s why I’ve included baby steps at the end of each section of the book, about three little things we can start doing, like making your bedroom dark and keeping it cool. You can start by giving yourself 30 minutes more a day, or at least taking a nap. I went from 4-5 hours sleep a night, to 7 hours a night. It was a gradual changing of habits over a period of weeks. But then you begin to feel better and it’s such a reward and that makes it easier to prioritize.

What do you say when people tell you it’s impossible for them to get enough sleep?

People say they don’t have time, but if you actually look at what they’re doing, at their day and their night, they do. You don’t need to stay up to watch Jon Stewart. The key for me has been saying no to good things. Now I know that if I get enough sleep, my life is going to be much happier and more creative. In my pre-awakened state I would drag myself through the day. I would look under my desk and wish I could crawl down there and rest.

So it’s about changing our priorities?

I was looking at my phone and saw that it was 95% charged and I thought, we are so much more conscious about how charged our phones are versus how charged we are. It’s too bad we don’t have the same kind of indicator to show how depleted we are. We have a million ways to recharge our phones, portable chargers, cables, extra battery packs, but look at how we treat ourselves. Our own energy has to be below 5% before we figure out that we need to sleep, to recharge, to take a break. That has to change.

In the wake of the recent recession, a lot of people are afraid to set limits with their employers that would help them combat burnout. Do you have advice for them?

I feel very strongly that we’re going to be better at work when we’re taking care of ourselves. We are able to see the one red flag that others are missing or be more creative and more productive. We’re moving to this new era, the second machine age, where a lot of tasks are being done by robots and machines, and increasingly, creativity is going to our most valuable asset.

Let’s be realistic though, there are situations where you might have a terrible boss and horrible working conditions. Let’s imagine all those conditions are true, but even then we still have the opportunity to take care of ourselves outside of work. Our choices do not end with the boundaries of work. You may be struggling to put food on the table, for example, but you still can choose your attitude, however terrible your working conditions. Choosing your attitude has a deep impact on how you feel.

There are lots of new books with advice for young women. How do you think young women should navigate that push and pull between starting a family and ramping up their careers?

I think a lot of young women look at my generation and say we don’t want to do it this way. They say, ‘we don’t want to burn out in the process of climbing the career ladder. We don’t want to make those sacrifices in our health and happiness. They’re prioritizing giving.’ But I have a bigger dream and wish for all women where we lead a third women’s revolution. We don’t just want to be at the top of the world, we want to change the world because it’s not working. I think it’s a stunning statistic, that women in stressful jobs have 40% increased risk of heart disease.

What role does media play in our culture of overwork? After all, we’re still seeing movies like The Wolf of Wall Street in which money and power are glamorized.

We are living in a split-screen world. On one side of the screen you have the old paradigm in full force with people running around the clock thinking that they can’t stop pushing to get more, like the rats in the Skinner experiment who keep pulling the lever even after there’s no cheese. There are billionaires who keep pushing the lever even though more money won’t add anything to their life. And then, on the other side of the screen, you have the 35% of corporations that have incorporated some form of stress-reduction practices in their workplace and a number of CEOs coming out about their own meditation practices. And of course all the scientific data supporting the benefits of slowing down.

How do you change corporate culture in companies that might not have a CEO who has discovered meditation or any other healthy living measures.

The way you do it is to expose leaders to thee facts and the data we have showing the benefits of stress-reduction programs, like yoga, acupuncture and meditation. After CEO Mark Bertolini made these changes at Aetna he brought in Duke University to look at whether there were cost savings. They found a 7% reduction of health care costs (in 2012 for Aetna employees who participated), and these employees had 69 additional minutes per day in productivity. Those numbers are the way to convince leaders that this matters.

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. You can find more about Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder here.


In Defense of Smart Women Who Fall For Jerks

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is mobbed by reporters while attempting to collect signatures to run for comptroller of New York City on July 8, 2013 in New York City.
Andrew Burton / Getty Images Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer is mobbed by reporters while attempting to collect signatures to run for comptroller of New York City on July 8, 2013, in New York City

What we can learn about men, women and dumb choices from the latest Eliot Spitzer scandal

Women usually know when they’re falling for a jerk. In fact, there was a study published in the journal Biology Letters recently showing how most women can spot a cheater just by looking at his picture without knowing anything else about him. Sixty-two percent of women picked out the guys who’d told researchers separately about their less-than-faithful romantic history.

Of course sometimes women have more than just looks to go on. Sometimes, a guy is universally known as a jerk. And in some cases, his jerkiness has even been documented in the national press. Nonetheless, brilliant, accomplished, women with lots of choices still date, hook up with, marry and even have children with men whose behavior has humiliated or otherwise compromised other women. And sometimes, they’ll stick with these guys even after they themselves have been betrayed.

Start with Huma Abedin, who is still married to the disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner whose pornographic selfies and dalliances with women online were tabloid fodder for months last year, and go all the way back to the marital travails of Abedin’s former boss, Hillary Clinton. The story is the same. Smart women with high-profile careers are called hypocrites, traitors to the sisterhood, or at very least deluded because of their loyalty to men who are not good to women and for putting their own careers at risk as a result.

The latest in this line is Lis Smith, a talented political strategist who ran the Obama campaign’s rapid response team and was most recently New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top campaign spokesperson. Thanks to the New York Post, she’s now better known as the 31-year-old who supposedly frolicked topless in a Caribbean hot tub with Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York and failed comptroller candidate who famously humiliated his wife and his supporters by frequenting prostitutes. (The Post’s hot tub reporting has just been called suspect by rival tabloid, the Daily News, but the couple’s relationship promises to be endless gossip fodder.)

The choice to date Spitzer has cost Smith—at least in the short term. After her relationship with the still-married-but-separated Spitzer became public, de Blasio’s team announced that she would not be kept on as communications director in his new administration. The New York Post ran front page photos of Smith next to the words “Ho Ho Ho” echoing their famous 2008 “Ho No” cover published after Spitzer was discovered to be “Client 9” at a prostitution ring. Post columnists have gone on to accuse Smith of dating to get ahead, stealing other women’s boyfriends, and of “scheming to dominate the halls of power” since she was a child. Never mind that Smith would actually have been in the halls of power if she were still working for the mayor of New York instead of populating the front pages of the New York press as Spitzer’s official “gal pal.”

Sure, as Vanity Fair’s Juli Weiner notes, the 54-year-old ex-gov is rich and some consider him hot. Even so, Spitzer seems like a dubious choice for the attractive Dartmouth grad, who’s been described by colleagues as tough, smart and ambitious. After all, dating a tabloid-target like Spitzer would make a job as spokesperson for any high-profile candidate difficult to get.

More importantly, how could a woman who’s spent her working life dedicated to progressive candidates and causes risk her career for guy who has treated women’s bodies like commodity? Or, in the words of Post’s Tara Palmeri, “Is this what the first wave (or for that matter second wave or third wave) feminists were fighting for? The ability for smart women to make stupid romantic choices?”

If you asked one of this generation’s most famous feminists, Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s “Girls,” the answer would probably be yes. Dunham has gotten flack for allowing herself to be photographed by Terry Richardson who has been accused of sexually harassing models. Richardson was dating Dunham’s best friend, Audrey Gelman, a former political spokesperson herself and the woman on whom Dunham based one of her “Girls” characters. Gelman explained the seeming contradiction in principles by tweeting that Dunham was only trying “to see the good i saw in someone & we both have regrets.” Not surprisingly, Gelman stood up for Smith writing: “The least feminist thing one can do is savage another woman based on [her] personal romantic choices.”

But getting judgey about another women’s romantic choices has always been irresistible and that impulse is only accelerated now that we all live in 24-hour hail of social media commentary. It’s something that high-profile women will have to contend with and overcome. The good news is, falling for a jerk and being criticized for it hasn’t kept smart, tough women from success, whatever the emotional cost. Just ask Hillary. So we don’t expect that “gal pal” will be the last title Lis Smith ever has and this surely isn’t the last we’ve seen of Huma Abedin. Just give them time.

Besides, women certainly aren’t the only ones with legendarily bad judgment when it comes to the opposite sex. Men may even be worse off. Just look at all the responses that a fake dating profile got recently from more than 150 men who seemed to be undeterred by the prospect of hooking up with a woman who, while gorgeous, admitted to having an STD, lying to men about pregnancies for cash, lying a lot in general and being a racist. And then there were the men in that Biology Letters study on infidelity. They utterly failed when it came to picking out the women who were cheaters just by looking at their photos. Most of them assumed wrongly that the more attractive women were likely to be unfaithful. The researchers noted that there are all kinds of biological theories about why women have evolved to be better able to spot cheaters than men. Alas, there aren’t so many explanations for why they ignore their instincts.

TIME the backstory

Best Magazine Assignment Ever: Neil Leifer’s 1984 Olympic Odyssey Around the World

Neil Leifer spent a year traversing the globe to photograph athletes for TIME's 1984 Olympics special issue. From the plains of Kenya to Russia's Red Square to The Great Wall of China, Leifer used grand backdrops to photograph the athletic stars of the day.

In honor of this year’s London Games, LightBox has retrieved one of TIME’s most-prized portfolios: Neil Leifer’s timeless portraits of athletes created during a year-long project for which the photographer traveled to 13 different countries to create a groundbreaking collection of images that would appear in TIME’s preview of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

It’s hard for modern viewers, accustomed as we are to photo-shopped composite images, to appreciate the effort it took to create the photographs in this essay. Just the logistics of transporting the athletes from their training areas to the picture postcard locations, whether it was the Great Wall of China or the plains of Africa was a challenge. “I proposed photographing athletes around the world in front of the picture postcard image of their nation—an Egyptian at the Pyramids, a Russian at Red Square, Indian athletes at the Taj Mahal,” Leifer said. “[Then-managing editor] Ray Cave just looked at me like I was crazy. He said, ‘do you know how much that’s going to cost me?’”

(For daily coverage of the 2012 Games, visit TIME’s Olympics blog)

But a few days later, Cave gave the go ahead for Leifer to spend a year traveling from continent to continent for this unprecedented photographic quest. “It could have been done at a fraction of the cost,” says Leifer. “We could have had TIME’s bureaus get the best athlete in each country and then have good local photographers do this. But you don’t get a continuity of approach that you’d get with one photographer.”

So with as much secrecy as possible to prevent the competition from catching on, Leifer and his assistant Anthony Suarez, started their journey. In those pre-internet, pre-email days, the magazine had a vast global network of more than two dozen bureaus to help wrangle athletes in each country and to cope with visas—no easy feat in a period when there were inherent political sensitivities in negotiating with countries like the Soviet Union or East Germany while an Olympic boycott brewing.

“It took weeks to set up each shoot,” says Leifer. “And there’s not a single one of these pictures where I use any artificial lighting.” Leifer says he spent days at the Parthenon figuring out how to get the best light to get the image ofworld champion in javelin, Sophia Sakorafa of Greece standing on a broken column, javelin raised in front of the ancient ruins. “I wanted her to look like she was on a Greek urn.” And so she did—without a bit of digital help.

“Today you could do half this thing on the computer,” Leifer explains. “You would take a Japanese gymnast and get rid of the background and put Mount Fuji there.” Instead, to get the shot of gymnast Koji Gushiken in front of that famous white peak, Leifer had bring a cherry picker to the perfect spot and get a crew to hang the rings from the top. And finally, convince a nationally-prized athlete to mount that unusual apparatus and pose.

For the cover photo of American track star Carl Lewis jumping in front of the Statue of Liberty, Leifer hired a tugboat to take Lewis out into New York harbor. “Sure, maybe you could have photographed Carl on a trampoline in a studio and maybe it would have been more perfect, but the fun was doing it live and being there,” he says. And it is true that there is some unquantifiable about seeing these athletes actually in front of landmarks that so define their nation. It’s something a studio shot can’t match.

The most resounding no he got as far locations were concerned was from the then-communist government of East Germany which refused to let him photograph swimmer Kristin Otto in front of the Berlin Wall—a sore subject in 1983, just four years before president Ronald Reagan demanded that Russian leader Gorbachev “tear down this wall.” So instead, we see Otto in front of the soot-covered columns of Germany’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The result of Leifer’s efforts is a time capsule, not just because of all that has happened in the nearly 30 years since these images were taken—from the fall of the Soviet Bloc to the rise of China as a global superpower—but because projects of this scope, time frame and cost are even more rare than they were then.

Leifer, who will be 70-years-old in December, pivoted away from still photography in the late 90s (after racking up more than 200 cover images for TIME and Sports Illustrated), and is now focused on documentary filmmaking. But he will be back on the Olympic beat at the 2012 games in London with an on-site studio fromwhich he’ll make portraits of this year’s Olympians for NBC and Sports Illustrated.

Neil Leifer was a staff photographer with TIME, Life and Sports Illustrated. See more of his work, both in film and photography, on his website.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com