Waxing or Sugaring for a Hairy Situation

I have two questions regarding “sugaring.”: Is it true that hair growth is slower and finer after sugaring or waxing? Is it true that the sugar scrub helps prevent ingrown hairs? And is it beneficial or unnecessary? Thank you.

— N. Tran

[Have a question about women’s health? Ask Dr. Gunter yourself.]

Short Take

There are no studies comparing sugaring to waxing, but as they are both epilation methods (ways of removing the hair shaft and root), the hair should grow back the same after either process.

Tell Me More

Waxing and sugaring are both epilation methods for hair removal. This means they remove both the hair shaft and root. And women use both for the removal of hair all over their bodies: eyebrows, armpits, arms, legs, pubic area, etc. For waxing, hot or cold wax is applied to the hair, while sugaring involves applying hot caramelized sugar. The wax or sugar is applied to the skin, adheres to the hair, and when pulled off with enough force, the hair shaft and root come with it. Removing the hair shaft and root prevents hair regrowth for 6 to 8 weeks, but there is a wide range of individual experiences.

Proponents of sugaring claim it is a more “gentle” method, but this is an unsupported claim. Both waxing and sugaring involve pulling the hair root out of the follicle, so they are both traumatic. Wax may be more adhesive, so the wax can typically be pulled in any direction. There is less adhesion to the hair shaft with sugaring and so the pull must be in the direction of hair growth to minimize shaft breakage (a cause of ingrown hairs). Whether the less adhesive nature of sugaring makes this method less traumatic to the skin surface is unknown, however, if sugaring is adhesive enough to pull out hair, one should assume it is also traumatic to the skin unless studies are performed to suggest otherwise.

Hair does not grow back differently — either finer or thicker — after temporary removal. This is true whether the method is depilation (removing hair at or below the skin surface either with shaving or chemical depilatories) or epilation. However, with age, pubic hair does become more sparse, so it is possible some women may erroneously assume that natural change is related to hair removal.

Ingrown hairs happen when the regrowing hair is trapped under the skin or curls back into the skin. Inflammation and trauma to the area increase the risk of ingrown hairs, as does breaking or cutting the hair shaft beneath the surface of the skin. Exfoliating your skin before waxing or sugaring could possibly help the wax or sugar adhere better to the skin, which may reduce shaft breakage, but this has not been studied.

What about exfoliating afterward? The theory is that removing dead skin cells and sebum (an oily substance produced by the skin) may reduce blockage of the hair follicle and prevent ingrown hairs, but exfoliating could also be damaging to the skin and result in inflammation that could contribute to ingrown hairs. Again, there are no studies. You could try using a facial cleanser on the skin (one with a pH close to 5) to remove sebum without any risk of microscopic trauma. Whether this helps prevent ingrown hairs is unknown, but it is a less traumatic option for your skin.

The best option for preventing ingrown hairs appears to be minimizing trauma, inflammation and breakage of the hair shaft. If one method of hair removal causes ingrown hairs then switching to another method may be worthwhile. Another option is to remove hair less often. A trimmer can be used in between depilation or epilation to keep the hair short without trauma to the skin or hair follicle.

Personal Note

I was unable to find any quality studies on pubic hair removal techniques while researching my upcoming book, “The Vagina Bible,” although we do have some data on complications of pubic hair removal. There is some data on hair removal techniques for men with very curly beards to minimize pseudofollicultis barbae, a rash caused by inflamed hair follicles, so much of the information that I provide to women is abstracted from that data and almost 30 years of experience in caring for vulvar conditions.

Dr. Jen Gunter, often called Twitter’s resident gynecologist, is teaming up with our editors to answer your questions about all things women’s health. From what’s normal for your anatomy to healthy sex and clearing up the truth behind strange wellness claims, Dr. Gunter, who also writes a column called The Cycle, promises to handle your questions with respect, forthrightness and honesty.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/well/waxing-or-sugaring-for-a-hairy-situation.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Dutch Railway Will Pay Millions to Holocaust Survivors

LONDON — At the height of World War II, the Dutch railway ran special trains to transit camps where Jews and other minorities awaited deportation to Nazi death camps.

The trains were commissioned by Germany, which had invaded the Netherlands in 1940, ignoring a Dutch proclamation of neutrality, and the Dutch railway, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, complied. By the summer of 1943, most Jews in the Netherlands had been deported.

More than seven decades later, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, known as NS, has said it will set aside tens of millions of euros in compensation for victims and their direct descendants. In what the company called a “moral gesture,” payouts of 5,000 euros to 15,000 euros, or about $5,700 to $17,000, will be made to Jews and to members of the Roma and Sinti communities, NS said in a statement on Wednesday.

In making the decision, NS was following advice from a committee it set up last year to establish the company’s historical responsibility, the statement said. The committee was charged with identifying the groups entitled to compensation and setting the amounts to be paid out. It will also ensure that the program is enacted.

The payouts are the latest compensation offer by companies in Germany and other countries occupied by the Nazis for their roles in the Holocaust.

In 2011, S.N.C.F., the French state railway company, apologized to victims of the Holocaust after lawmakers in the United States moved to block it from winning contracts there if the firm did not acknowledge its role in the shipping of Jews to death camps. In 2014, France set up a $60 million fund to compensate victims.

According to NS, several thousand people could be eligible for the payments, including about 500 survivors and their direct descendants.

Nonetheless, the committee set up by the company acknowledged that “there is no reasonable or appropriate amount of money that can compensate in any way for the suffering inflicted on the persons covered by the scheme.”

When considering the amounts to be paid, the committee said, it noted that “although NS was an essential link in the transport to the concentration and extermination camps, it cannot be held responsible for the existence of these camps and the crimes that were committed there.”

The committee said it saw the payments as “a moral gesture by which NS wishes to express the recognition of its share in the individual suffering inflicted by the occupying forces on those involved and their direct surviving relatives.”

The move was prompted by an activist and Holocaust survivor, Salo Muller, whose parents died in the camps. Mr. Muller has campaigned for years for NS to recognize the role played by its transports and the suffering they caused.

A paper trail that documented the work done by NS existed because the company invoiced the Nazi regime for the transports to the Dutch transit camps, in Westerbork, Vught and Amersfoort, where deportees were sent before being shipped on to the death camps. Last year, NS opened up its archives to researchers and said it would continue to provide assistance to any further investigations.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/world/europe/ns-dutch-railway-holocaust.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Letter of Recommendation: Nike Air Force 1s

Harold Rudo, whose family founded the legendary Baltimore sneaker store Charley Rudo Sports, was getting them delivered by the truckload when he heard that Nike planned to discontinue the shoe. This was in the days before the internet, so businesses like Rudo’s weren’t as focused on what the rest of the world was doing. The local market was everything — and locally, we wanted Airs. “The shoes were blowing out of my store,” Rudo said in a 2007 article in The Baltimore Sun. He flew out to Nike’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and “met with the second-in-command.” Airs were one of the most popular shoes in both Rudo’s East and West Baltimore stores. “After a time, Nike decided to send AF1s to the chopping block,” Rochelle Rudo, Harold’s sister, told the Sun. “Harold wouldn’t let that happen.”

The Foot Locker manager shook my hand. “You’ll be hearing from me, kid,” he said. “Real talk.” I headed home to let my cousin know that I smashed the interview, and that we had big discounts in our future. On the way, I got a #911 page, so I stopped at a pay phone and hit the number back: It was Nay Nay, asking for a date.

When I picked up my cousin, he cut me off before I could tell him about my winning streak. “No time!” he replied, jumping in my car: Two friends wanted to play us in basketball for money, like $300, right now.

I looked down at my feet. My fresh white Airs were about to get as crumpled and brown at the seams as my dad’s. We won the game, and I wiped them down as best I could before my date with Nay Nay, which led to multiple dates, which led to nothing, because she was using high school me to make her 20-something-year-old boyfriend jealous. I never got that Foot Locker job, or any other job in a shoe store, either. But I discovered my connection with Airs, just as my dad, big brother and older guys in the neighborhood did before me. I’m from a place where nothing is permanent — not housing, not family, not freedom — and yet these shoes have always been there: the one sneaker I can hoop in, wear on a date or to a job interview. Twenty years later, and they’re still a part of my uniform.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/25/magazine/nike-air-force-1s-baltimore.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

The Year the Mets Jumped Over the Moon

On July 20, 1969, men walked on the moon in what became the centerpiece of one of the more indelible years in American history.

That same day, 50 years ago, the New York Mets split a doubleheader with the Montreal Expos. You could say, so what? But the Mets, until then a baseball punch line, had suddenly become a team to reckon with in the eighth year of their existence. The two games against the Expos gave them a 53-39 record, which meant they were a big, fat 14 games over .500. Considering everything that had come before for the Mets — the initial buffoonery, the occasional lunacy, the lopsided losing records — it seemed that they, too, were now defying gravity.

A month later, on the same weekend as the Woodstock music festival, the Mets really took flight. They swept four games from the San Diego Padres and began a surge that carried them into first place in September and all the way to the World Series in October — which they proceeded to win, in five games, against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.

When it was over, after the Mets had been drenched in ticker tape in a parade up Broadway — a feat that had been unimaginable when the season started — it took a while for people to regain their senses.

Just how had this happened? Yes, the Mets had excellent pitching, solid defense at key positions and some very good young players, but their lineup was hardly overwhelming. And yet, that didn’t matter in the regular season, when the Mets won a whopping 100 games and, in the process, beat out a Chicago Cubs team that played three future Hall of Famers every day.

Nor did it matter in the National League Championship Series, when the Mets swept an Atlanta Braves club led by Henry Aaron, one of the best players in the sport’s history. Or in the World Series, when the Mets went up against a mighty Orioles team anchored by the two Robinsons, Frank and Brooks. The Orioles, winners of 109 games in the regular season, seemed unbeatable until the Mets quickly proved otherwise.

Making this all the more remarkable is that the 1969 Mets did not represent the beginning of a dynasty. In the seasons that followed, the Mets won considerably fewer games and while they did make it back to the World Series in 1973, they did so almost by accident, having finished the regular season with a thoroughly mediocre 82-79 record.

But none of that diminishes what occurred in 1969. Here was a group of players who stumbled all over the place in 1962, with fans who embraced them almost in defiance. A team that slowly improved in the years that followed, but only slowly. And yet a team that proceeded to figure it all out for one intensely memorable season.

It is not easy to explain, but 50 years later, it is worth revisiting. Time has taken its toll on this team; a half-dozen players who had significant roles have died, and others, including Tom Seaver, are now struggling with serious health issues. But what endures through all the bittersweetness is what they accomplished together. From the depths of the standings they soared right into space.

NEXT UP: 1962: The Bumbling Beginning

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/sports/baseball/mets-1969-season-new-york.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

A Shrimp Roll Inspired by Ikea

I still briefly flounder when I meet someone — at the dog run, at the laundry or in line at the bodega — and as the conversation turns to work and I say I have a restaurant, they ask: What kind of restaurant is it?

The question strikes me as anachronistic, like when you have to fill out those forms at the doctor’s office and they ask you for your three phone numbers: daytime, evening, office.

And my answer even more so, given that we now have restaurants of such micro-specificity as “Isan cooking of northeastern Thailand.” “Creative American?” I offer with a wobbly question mark, falling back on the neatly supplied category it was given by the Zagat guide after we opened in 1999; 20 years ago that was a statement meant to distinguish you in a landscape of Italian or French.

We serve a pretty straightforward shrimp roll at lunch right now, but we are not by any stretch a seafood restaurant. It comes with a side of French fries, but we are as far away from a Maine-inflected lobster shack as you can get. Still, “creative American” feels vague and inadequate. Other times, more confidently, I’ve said, “It’s tiny, very small.” Hoping to sum it up, I’ve also tried: “I’m a salt-and-pepper cook. It’s all olive oil, parsley and lemon.”

I’ve found it helps a lot to just name the actual menu items: “Sometimes we run a whole grilled fish with toasted fennel oil, and in the winter, braised lamb shoulder with preserved lemons. When we can get it, monkfish liver on buttered toast. Same with the rabbit kidneys.”

If there’s time and the conversation gets going, I have sometimes explained: “It’s a personal restaurant. The food reflects a lot of my own experiences and appetites.” But I take extreme care with that, since lately the “narrative” aspect of eating out in a restaurant can often take an absurd turn, with the waiter standing there explaining the menu to you. “So, every dish here tells a story,” he begins, taking you hostage, and you immediately start looking for a magic getaway taxi to pull up in front honking for you. As Anton Chekhov said: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on the broken glass.

Take that shrimp roll, for instance. We use rock shrimp — a kind of “poor man’s lobster” — and there’s a sliced hard-boiled egg shingled on top with crosswise sliced coins of bitter endive. I love the clean crunch of that endive so much. The bun is griddled, not just on the outside but split and griddled on the inside too — getting the most possible surface area of the best part of the bun: the warm, sweet, buttery part. We pile the salad — plenty of mayonnaise, plenty of rock shrimp, very little onion and celery — onto the bun so generously that this could be a fork-and-knife deal.

The rock shrimp — so called as their shells are rock-hard, unlike the brown, pink and tiger varieties, whose shells more closely resemble flimsy plastic — have sweet meats and a texture that resembles uncannily the tail meat of lobsters. Farmed in Florida, they come from deep cold waters, the harvest practices are monitored — no coral damage, no overfishing — and the shrimp are happily affordable.

If there’s one sure way I’ve always described the restaurant, if there’s one constant through line to the story here, it’s about being thrifty. The restaurant has always had expensive tastes but modest means. I’ve spent my career making excellent use of the low cuts, the discards, the crumbs, the castoffs. Our roasted marrow bones used to be sent by the butcher free — for our dogs, he thought! Now they are $3.95 a pound.

While the negroni we serve comes from that late-afternoon piazza in Rome, with all the Italians sitting around in their cashmere sweaters and suede loafers, and the Calvados omelet on our dessert menu comes from a summer trip to France, this rock-shrimp roll comes, in a way, from the Ikea in Brooklyn. There’s a bike ride I loved to take all the way out to the maritime wonder that is Red Hook, Brooklyn — not for a bookcase or a bed frame or a stylish affordable pendant lamp — but just to go to the cafeteria and get the open-faced shrimp-salad sandwich on rye bread and then to sit on a bench just past the parking lot, looking out at the industrial mouth of New York Harbor, those mesmerizing colossal ocean liners and oil tankers and cargo ships being tugged in and out. But that back story need never make its way to the table. The piled-up rock-shrimp roll speaks for itself.

Recipe: Rock-shrimp roll

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/magazine/shrimp-roll-recipe-ikea.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Beyond the Beach: Rosés with Character and Dimensions

In contrast to the other two, the Sancerre rosé, made from pinot noir grapes, is darker, more deep salmon than pale copper. It’s fruitier, too, though it smells like a bouquet of flowers. It is richer and rounder, and rather high in alcohol at 14 percent, yet it is dry and refreshing as well. with red fruit and mineral flavors.

Each of these bottles can perform the transporting trick at which rosé excels. Yet they each have distinctive character and depth, which ought to satisfy wine lovers seeking something beyond escapism. Such multidimensional capabilities are fine things in a wine.

Many readers responded by suggesting favorite rosés of their own, including some from Italy, Austria, Malta, Spain, Oregon, Michigan, even the Okanagan region of British Columbia. I wish I could find those Canadian wines in New York.

Joseph from Île-de-France mentioned the dark rosé from Domaine Illaria in Irouléguy, in French Basque Country. This, I think, is one of the great rosés of the world. It ages well — Joseph drank a 2016 — and develops complexity.

Several readers complained that these wines, at $24 to $30, were too expensive. It’s easy to find plenty of rosés that are cheaper. Many are under $10. It all depends on what you want from a wine. If a pale pink color is enough, why spend more?

These three bottles, however, demonstrate how much more rosé can offer. Not everybody is interested in those qualities, which is fine. But if you are among those who regard rosés as inoffensive at best, these wines prove otherwise.

Chief among their strong points, these wines will not evaporate at the end of the summer, like so many mass-market rosés, whose life span can be measured in months. These will continue to satisfy long after the summer clothes are put away and the woolens come out. All would make superb Thanksgiving wines.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/dining/drinks/wine-school-rose.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

He Was a Famed Novelist of America’s Underclass. What Happened?

The first biography of Algren was published in 1989 — too soon after his death for reconsideration of a novelist whose emphasis on the unfortunate was then deeply at odds with American culture. Another biography, published in October 2016, appeared in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president. The timing of Asher’s book, by contrast, is fortuitous, because many Americans are now preoccupied by economic and class disparities in ways not seen since the Depression. Asher also obtained access to a virtually unredacted copy of Algren’s lengthy F.B.I. file.

Asher claims that Algren was a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s; certainly he was involved in causes and organizations supported by the party. In 1950, the F.B.I. stepped up its surveillance of Algren after Louis Budenz, a former managing editor of The Daily Worker who had renounced communism, told an agent he had heard that Algren was a “loyal member of the Communist Party.” Asher chronicles meticulously the kind of government intrusions whose petty cruelty can still shock. Phone calls were made to his mother, Goldie, who on one occasion, assuming that the agent on the other end of the line was a friend of Algren’s, “bragged about her son’s accomplishments at length.”

In 1953, Algren was denied a passport to visit France — a common tactic used against those suspected of communist leanings at the time. He was not able to travel abroad again until 1959. The long period when he could not visit Beauvoir in France certainly did their relationship no good, but she was never going to leave Paris and her stifling relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, and Algren was not going to leave the United States. After making a trip to Paris in 1959 to reconnect with Beauvoir, Algren never saw her again. Nevertheless, when she was buried in Montmartre Cemetery in 1986 (alongside Sartre, of course) Beauvoir was wearing a ring Algren had given her.

The literary gossip in this biography, much of it drawn from letters, is intriguing, witty and sometimes acidic. After “Golden Arm,” Ernest Hemingway wrote Algren a letter comparing him favorably to “the fading Faulkner” and “that overgrown Lil Abner Thomas Wolfe.” Against this backdrop, Hemingway wrote, Algren “comes like a corvette or even a big destroyer when one of those things is what you need and need it badly and at once and for keeps.”

Asher never quite arrives — this is a compliment, not a criticism — at a persuasive explanation for Algren’s long literary decline, before his death in Sag Harbor (he had finally left Chicago), on Long Island. The F.B.I. pressure of the 1950s is insufficient to explain why, in the 1960s and ’70s, Algren did not practice his craft with his earlier diligence. Asher may be right to speculate that the verdicts of the Cold War critics, frequently dismissing Algren as a semi-educated lunkhead (who just happened to worship Dostoyevsky and Chekhov), have had an outsize influence on his reputation.

But when a great writer stops writing, something internal as well as external is always in play. We are currently experiencing a revival of interest in writers — white and black, male and female — shaped by the uncertainties of the 1930s in ways that resonate strongly today. This biography provides an invaluable introduction to one of the best of them.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/books/review/colin-asher-never-a-lovely-so-real.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Do Brain Injuries Affect Women Differently?

In 1994, the National Football League formed a Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury to study an alarming trend: Players were retiring early because of what seemed to be concussion-related problems, including persistent headaches, vertigo, cognitive impairment, personality changes, fatigue and difficulty performing ordinary daily activities. Around the same time, Eve Valera, then a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois, began to volunteer in a domestic-violence shelter and wondered how many of the women there might be experiencing comparable post-concussive symptoms as a result of head injuries inflicted by their partners.

When Valera could not find any published studies on brain trauma related to such violence, she decided to conduct one herself, by interviewing the women where she volunteered. She published the results in 2003 — two years before Bennet Omalu, then a pathologist at the University of Pittsburgh, reported the first known case in a deceased N.F.L. player of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by some of the same symptoms plaguing the retired players. Three-quarters of the women, Valera found, had received at least one traumatic brain injury (T.B.I.); half had sustained multiple mild traumatic brain injuries.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three women over the age of 15 has experienced what it categorizes as “intimate partner violence.” When Valera extends her sample to the overall population, she gets estimates that as many as 31 million women might have had a T.B.I. and 21 million might have had multiple mild ones. “Using annual estimates of severe physical violence,” Valera notes in a study published last fall in the Journal of Neurotrauma, “1.6 million women can be estimated to sustain repetitive T.B.I.s in comparison to the total annual numbers of T.B.I.s reported for the military and N.F.L. at 18,000 and 281 respectively.”

Yet most of what scientists know about the potential prevalence and consequences of mild traumatic brain injury has come from studying contact sports, especially football — so, mostly men and boys — over the past 15 years. It’s a vivid illustration of a broad and pernicious problem in medical research, which is that some groups of people get far more attention than others — often leading to important gaps in medical understanding, even around conditions that the public regards as “widely studied.”

For her study in the Journal of Neurotrauma, Valera, now a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, imaged areas of white matter thought to be involved in learning and memory in the brains of 20 women subjected to partner violence. The brain injuries were associated with what she believes reflects abnormalities in these brain regions. But she says that the study had significant limitations because of meager funding: a small sample size and no control group of women who were assaulted by partners but did not have head trauma. Understanding the effect of such changes over time would require expensive long-term studies. Yet, the news that thousands of women might be dealing with undiagnosed brain damage did not garner much attention: According to Altmetric, which tracks the online activity generated by scientific studies, Valera’s findings were tweeted four times.

In contrast, a 2015 study of football players’ white matter, conducted by researchers at Boston University and published in the same journal, was tweeted 50 times and received more widespread notice. (“Are You Ready for Some Football Brain Damage?” a USA Today headline asked.) It compared the white matter in areas of the brain of 20 former N.F.L. players who began playing football before age 12 with that of 20 who were the same age and started at or after age 12 and found many more abnormalities in the brains of the younger group, suggesting for the first time that the age a person is first exposed to football may influence his later susceptibility to brain injuries. It, too, acknowledged the limits of its sample (small and specific) and called for further research, much more of which has now been done, including on youth players who never reach elite levels. “We’ve shown over and over that it isn’t just concussions,” Ann McKee, who is the director of Boston University’s C.T.E. Center, told me. “It’s number of playing years.” She adds: “It’s the lower-level hits, what we call subconcussions, that are asymptomatic, that the player plays right through without even recognizing that he’s had an injury. Those are the low-level hits that we’ve shown increase the risk and severity of C.T.E.”

The media has raised alarm about these findings — so much so that other experts worry that the media is overstating the absolute risk of developing C.T.E. and understating the substantial health benefits that team sports, including football, offer. In a 2017 editorial in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Alan Carson, a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, points to a 2012 study of 3,439 former N.F.L. players. It found that they died from neurodegenerative diseases at three times the rate of the general population, but were half as likely to die of any other cause.

The trouble with comparing N.F.L. players with the general population, however, is that people who go on to become elite athletes may be a healthier cohort to begin with. Their superior health may lead them to play football, rather than it being the case that playing football improves their health. Last month, a new study by researchers at Harvard sought to control for this bias by comparing N.F.L. players with Major League Baseball players. It found that the football players had higher levels of mortality from all causes, including cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, than the baseball players did, which could indicate that football itself was detrimental.

All available evidence suggests that reducing exposure to tackle football would reduce the incidence of C.T.E., which meets the criteria of a public health concern, the authors of a paper last year in the journal Human and Ecological Risk Assessment wrote. It is hard to say how much of the lingering debate over the risks of tackle football are a result of the N.F.L. becoming a major donor to concussion research; in the past, the league has attempted to defund researchers whose work shows that the accumulation of lesser hits may be even more detrimental. “In many ways, it’s to their advantage if the debate continues,” Philip M. Rosoff, of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine at Duke University, told me. But the paper also noted a “large and growing disconnect” between how public health scientists read the data and how clinicians do: a pediatrician whose young patients suffer from obesity, for example, may see football as a risk worth taking.

But if these risks are important to understand and mitigate for the million-plus boys playing tackle football — clearly they are — then why have we not put equal resources into studying them in women, a potentially vast number of whom could have been exposed to head trauma? The implications could be profound. For example, researchers hope that learning how C.T.E. works could help them diagnose and treat other neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, in which abnormal proteins in the brain may appear decades before they eventually damage tissue and lead to symptoms; unlike Alzheimer’s, which has no known cause, C.T.E. now appears to have a clear starting point in head trauma, which makes it possible to study its progression over time. (Researchers are still searching for a way to definitively test for both diseases in a living brain.) This progression, however, may be different in men and women. In fact, the little research on head injuries in female athletes and service members suggests that their brains may be more susceptible to trauma than men’s are. Two-thirds of those who get Alzheimer’s diagnoses are women.

Unfortunately, they may never benefit from adequate research. Part of the problem is that women hurt by intimate partners tend to hide that fact, making them hard to identify and study. But the bigger issue is that public outrage and advocacy play a major role in determining what research gets funded. In the case of head trauma, almost all the attention is going to football — and so, by extension, to only one gender.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/magazine/do-brain-injuries-affect-women-differently-than-men.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Can an Outsider Tell the Story of Post-Revolution Egypt?

In the fall of 2011, when protesters returned to Tahrir Square to demonstrate against the transitional rule of the military, Hessler told the story through a mosque — Omar Makram — on the perimeter of the square. It had slowly turned from just a place of prayer to something of a hub — a place for the injured (a medical station was set up inside); a tech point (people could come in to charge their phones); the only open place with public toilets at that time; and as well, something of a bastion of the revolutionary spirit (where leaders dispensed lessons on morality, ethics and more). And in the summer of 2013, following the violent clashes and military crackdown on Islamists after the ouster of the first freely elected post-2011 president, Mohamed Morsi, Hessler captured that moment of immense political and religious divide by analyzing the sermons of three preachers who had to individually negotiate it.

Not everything from his New Yorker pieces makes it into the book, but much seems to, including a recent profile of his translator, Manu, a gay Egyptian man who ends up seeking asylum in Cologne, Germany. The response to that piece from some here in Cairo was vehement — friends who have struggled with similar issues and threats around their sexual identities suggested that it felt facile, scratching the surface of something but not getting to the core of what it means to be gay in Egypt. The difficulty of dealing not just with the state, friends and family, but before all that, of simply coming to terms with oneself, to overcome internalized, culturally indoctrinated homophobia: Hessler didn’t reach that level. The debate about the piece brought back the much-contested profile of Sayyid, the garbage collector, which was denounced by some as exploitive, and sensational for its emphasis on sex.

In some ways, it’s understandable where such criticism and reaction comes from. It is impossible, even after five years, to be of any part of Egypt in the way that a local is. This seems to be what lifelong residents of any place demand when they approach chronicles and depictions of the country and city where they live. But even as one of those lifelong residents, I myself grappled with writing a nonfiction book about Egypt. After some eight or nine drafts, I pronounced it dead and turned to fiction. The challenge, in my case, was that everything felt too close — too personal or intimate either to me, or to people I know. Privacy was an issue — family networks in Egypt are sprawling, and it felt as if every story I wanted to tell might implicate someone related to someone who was a friend or relative of someone near to me. I felt responsible, to people I knew as well as those I didn’t. Across several hundred pages of a manuscript, I hadn’t included a single name.

In reading “The Buried,” which I admit is the kind of book I might have criticized in the past, I find myself changing my mind. What Hessler offers is something that no Egyptian could ever really write, and in that way, he adds alternate dimensions to a story, or the stories, of this place we call home, with all the good intentions of simply his own singular viewpoint and experience.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/books/review/theburied-peterhessler.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

When Your House Won’t Let You Go

I never expected to be a house flipper. But I turned into one when we had to gut and renovate our 1920s house after an epic flood last summer while we were in the middle of selling it.

One sunny afternoon last July, I opened the back door to discover it was raining inside. Water was pouring out of light fixtures, cascading down freshly painted walls, pooling on the brand-new carpet in the basement playroom.

We had just accepted an offer on the house, and now it looked like a crime scene.

We had painted almost every room, replaced part of the kitchen, put in new flooring and more to get the house on the market, and all that work was ruined. Strangely, this was the second time we had nearly sold the house, and we had the sense that it was clinging to us, like a boyfriend you keep breaking up with who begs you to take him back — and then self-destructs so horrifyingly that you cannot dump him.

Selling a house, dealing with a disaster and going through a whole-house renovation can all be stressful. We signed up for only the first, but quickly found ourselves swept into all three at once.

In the spring of 2018, our third child was about to graduate from high school, and my husband, Joe, and I decided to downsize from our four-bedroom house in Montclair, N.J. When our neighbors sold theirs for over $900,000, we asked their broker to work her magic on our house.

New boiler, new deck, a swimming pool — we thought she’d love it.

But she took a quick tour and listed the reasons our house was inferior to the one that had just sold: Our kitchen was dated; there was no first-floor powder room; we didn’t have central air-conditioning. Probably a few hundred thousand dollars inferior.

Fix it, we said. When we were younger, we had moved six times in eight years, and I had convinced myself that a home is about the people in it, not the physical space. We had loved watching our children grow into themselves in this comfortable but unassuming house for the last 16 years, holding countless scout meetings, pool parties, holiday dinners and raging fights over unfinished social studies projects here. We understood its creaks and quirks, like the pass-through for milk bottles at the back door, from the days when a milkman made daily deliveries.

But maybe the dining room should have been repainted sometime in the last two decades, and had that dark green laminate kitchen counter ever been in style?

The race was on: We had a month to replace the kitchen floor, counters, cooktop and basement carpeting, and to paint almost every room. We handed off the whole project to a trusted contractor and hoped we would make enough on the sale to pay for it all.

A pair of interior designers swept through to stage the house, turning our sunroom into a jungle with animal skin rugs, zebra pillows and fake plants. We got white comforters and shaggy fur pillows, like giant pets that had to be groomed every time we made the beds.

We tiptoed through the rooms as if we were in a museum, afraid to sit on the fragile chairs and stashing the coffee maker in the basement after we used it each morning, to keep the new countertops pristine. We had given away a lot of our furniture and were able to move some of the things we planned to keep into an apartment we had rented as a transitional space while we figured out our next chapter.

After a draining month of packing and painting and primping, we put the house on the market. The open houses were on the weekend of Mother’s Day, and by Tuesday night we had three offers.

That’s when we got the first sign that the house wasn’t ready to let us go. The prospective buyers had a baby soon after they made their offer and asked to extend the inspection period. Then they presented a list of items that were nearly impossible to fix, like the fact that part of the garage wall touched the ground.

Thank you, next.

We fixed the reasonable things the inspection had raised and held a second open house at the end of June, and again we got multiple offers. The closing was planned for mid-August, and we moved into the airy two-bedroom apartment a few minutes away.

All set, until our lawyer noticed one mundane detail: an outstanding town permit for sealing up a hole in the basement wall for a chimney liner that had been installed when we replaced our boiler the previous year.

The chimney contractor came back one morning to patch the hole with cement and resolve it. As the contractor was leaving, he mentioned that he’d had to squeeze behind the boiler and had bumped a valve and spilled some water. He had cleaned it up, but told my husband to check the water level in the boiler. Fixed. Or so we thought.

The next afternoon, I popped by to water the plants and feed the fish.

That was when I opened the door to the horror show of destruction. Water spewed from pipes on the third floor like fountains, pouring down through every room in the house. The newly carpeted basement was ankle-deep in dirty water. The floorboards were waterlogged and would swell and buckle within days. Water streamed through all of the appliances. The stagers’ fluffy pillows looked like puppies after a bath.

For some reason, the boiler had overfilled and had sent water through all the radiators around the house, probably for more than 24 hours straight.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, and irreplaceable items like computers and family photos were safe at our new apartment. But for the second time, the house seemed to be trying to tell us something. The deal was off.

Within hours, we would learn that the Chubb homeowners’ insurance we had been dutifully paying for years was the best investment of our lives. Chubb immediately sent a flood damage remediation company to tear out drenched carpet and soaked walls, and bring in industrial-strength dehumidifiers. All the building materials that had been carted into the house to primp it for sale were carted back out and thrown away.

It took more than a month to dry out the house and then a few more weeks until the town’s inspectors could issue permits to begin the renovation.

Don’t worry, everyone assured us, it can be rebuilt exactly as it was.

Years ago, we had installed a big window at the back of the kitchen overlooking the pool, but cabinets had partially blocked the view. With the kitchen gutted, though, you could see straight through the house. It had a certain ruined beauty.

Instead of rebuilding it as it had been, could we make it better? If we could stay within the insurance company’s renovation budget, the answer was yes.

We met with a kitchen designer who made a radical suggestion: Close up the window over the kitchen sink. It was brilliant. The stove went where the window used to be, with its gleaming hood becoming what she called “the hearth of the room.”

The designers who had staged the house helped make choices intended to appeal to the market — mainly young couples — and we kept it clean and simple, with a few unexpected touches like a plummy paint color in the sunroom.

And Chubb suggested that we install a leak detection system called Leak Defense that would shut off all the water in the house if anything went wrong again.

While the four-month restoration was underway, I stopped by every few days to rake leaves and pick up fallen branches, so the house wouldn’t look abandoned. But going inside felt like revisiting a trauma site. I knew it was irrational, but the house felt fragile; I was terrified that some misstep could set off another cascade and destroy everything all over again.

On New Year’s Day, we admired the new kitchen, sunlight streaming in at angles it never had before, flashing off surfaces that had never been there.

But weeks later, as I drove to the broker’s office to sign the papers to put the house back on the market, Joe called to say that the leak detection alarm had gone off. Could I stop by to see if the house was flooding?

I tried not to hyperventilate. False alarm: It turned out that the third floor toilet had been running, which triggered the system to perceive a leak and shut off the water in the house. But the system had worked, and the house felt less fragile.

We put our transformed house back on the market, and sure enough, there were again multiple bids within days. The best, for around $1 million, was from a couple who wrote a letter saying they had recently learned they were expecting their first child.

And by the time we sold it in March, the house that had seemed cursed had flipped in our minds: Now it made two families feel lucky.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/25/realestate/when-your-house-wont-let-you-go.html?emc=rss&partner=rss