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Ellen Goodman

  • My friend Cassie is the sort of trendsetter they ought to hire over at People. ... She had a Cuisinart and a schefflera when everyone else had a crèpe pan and a philodendron.

  • The last boat to the middle classs was leaving and we'd better get on it.

  • I don't know exactly why the notion of homeownership has such a grasp on the American imagination. Perhaps as descendants of landless immigrants we turn our plots into symbols of stability.

  • The things we hate about ourselves ... aren't more real than things we like about ourselves.

  • Alternative Lifestyles, the emotional fly-drive packages of our times, come equipped with a set of clothes, a choice of authors, a limited menu of sports and a discount coupon book of clichés.

  • When you live alone, you can be sure that the person who squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle wasn't committing a hostile act.

  • We have become a nation of Kodachrome, Nikon, Instamatic addicts. But we haven't yet developed a clear idea of the ethics of picture-taking. ... Where do we get the right to bring other people home in a canister? Where did we lose the right to control our image?

  • Saving time, it seems, has a primacy that's too rarely examined.

  • It has begun to occur to me that life is a stage I'm going through.

  • I am a member of a small, nearly extinct minority group, a kind of urban lost tribe who insist, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, on the sanctity of being on time. Which is to say that we On-timers are compulsively, unfashionably prompt, that there are only handfuls of us in any given city and, unfortunately, we never seem to have appointments with each other.

  • Most people do not consider dawn to be an attractive experience — unless they are still up.

  • Statistically speaking, the Cheerful Early Riser is rejected more completely than a member of any other subculture, save those with boot odor.

  • Even if every program were educational and every advertisement bore the seal of approval of the American Dental Association, we would still have a critical problem. It's not just the programs but the act of watching television hour after hour after hour that's destructive.

  • We each have a litany of holiday rituals and everyday habits that we hold on to, and we often greet radical innovation with the enthusiasm of a baby meeting a new sitter. We defend against it and — not always, but often enough — reject it. Slowly we adjust, but only if we have to.

  • Traditions are the guideposts driven deep into our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can't even describe, aren't even aware of.

  • The truth is that we can overhaul our surroundings, renovate our environment, talk a new game, join a new club, far more easily than we can change the way we respond emotionally. It is easier to change behavior than feelings about that behavior.

  • If women can sleep their way to the top, how come they aren't there?

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in Working Woman ()
  • ... he was the sort of man who looked like he was wearing a tie even in a sports shirt. He could be rigid in a hammock.

  • When we describe what the other person is really like, I suppose we often picture what we want. We look through the prism of our need.

  • I suppose we make kids the repository of our highest ideals because children are powerless. In that way we can have ideals and ignore them at the same time.

  • How many of the people I know — sons and daughters — have intricate abstract expressionist paintings of their mothers, created out of their own emotions, attitudes, hands. And how many have only Polaroid pictures of their fathers.

  • It is not that fathers are better or worse, not that they are more loved or criticized, but rather that they are viewed with far less intensity. There is no Philip Roth or Woody Allen or Nancy Friday who writes about fathers with a runaway excess of humor, horror ... feeling. Most of us let our fathers off the hook.

  • We criticize mothers for closeness. We criticize fathers for distance. How many of us have expected less from our fathers and appreciated what they gave us more? How many of us always let them off the hook?

  • Forty is ... an age at which people have histories and options. At thirty, they had perhaps less history. At fifty, perhaps fewer options.

  • If there's a single message passed down from each generation of American parents to their children, it is a two-word line: Better Yourself. And if there's a temple of self-betterment in each town, it is the local school. We have worshipped there for some time.

  • Today Washington is our Hollywood, the Senate our Warner Bros., the White House our Beverly Hills. People who never read a line of a movie magazine deal with the lives of leaders as if they were Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

  • We continually want to unmask our heroes as if there were more to be learned from their nakedness than from their choice of clothing.

  • ... for ninety-one years, he did something remarkable. He stayed interested.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • on Picasso, At Large ()
  • The same people who tell us that smoking doesn't cause cancer are now telling us that advertising cigarettes doesn't cause smoking.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • We want our children to fit in and to stand out. We rarely address the conflict between these goals.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • "Admission Tests to Adulthood," in The Washington Post ()
  • ... our 'mistakes' become crucial parts, sometimes the best parts, of the lives we have made.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • "Reunion of the Ungeneration," in Washington Post ()
  • ... women who once aspired to the image of superwoman now worry about becoming superdrudge. Those who wanted to have it all now ask whether they have to do it all.

  • Without even knowing it, we are assaulted by a high note of urgency all the time. We end up pacing ourselves to the city rhythm whether or not it's our own. In time we even grow hard of hearing to the rest of the world. Like a violinist stuck next to the timpani, we may lose the ability to hear our own instrument.

  • Who's counting? It was, of course, the minority who were counting. It always is. Most of the women I know today would dearly like to use their fingers and toes for some activity more enthralling than counting. They have been counting for so long. But the peculiar problem of the new math is that every time we stop adding, somebody starts subtracting. At the very least (the advanced students will understand this) the rate of increase slows. ... The minority members of any group or profession have two answers: They can keep score or they can lose.

  • There is so much more information about the scientific world than there was a generation ago that we have all increased our opportunities for ignorance. There are more things not to know. ... The machinery that we deal with is so much more complex that it is possible to become dysfunctional at a much higher level of performance.

  • The great myth of our work-intense era is 'quality time.' We believe we can make up for the loss of days or hours, especially with each other, by concentrated minutes. But ultimately there is no way to do one-minute mothering. There is no way to pay attention in a hurry.

  • My generation is the first in my species to have put fitness next to godliness on the scale of things. Keeping in shape has become the imperative of our middle age. The heaviest burden of guilt we carry into our forties is flab. Our sense of failure is measured by the grade on a stress test.

  • Every thing, even the so-called timesaving device and energy-efficient machine, comes these days with an elaborate set of instructions for its care and feeding. Buying a machine has become more and more like buying a pet. ... We are time-crunched. Not just by the number of things we have to do, but the number of things we have. In the late twentieth century, things have become our new dependents.

  • Women have gained access to the institutions, but not enough power to overhaul them.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • Welfare is ... the victim of national compassion fatigue.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • ... I wonder whether our adoption of Shrink-ese as a second language, the move from religious phrases of judgment to secular words of acceptance, hasn't also produced a moral lobotomy. In the reluctance, the aversion to being judgmental, are we disabled from making any judgments at all?

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • ... we have made an extraordinary transition. From moral absolutes to moral relativism. ... Moral problems become medical ones and yesterday's sinners become today's patients.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • On television, journalists now routinely appear on talk-shows-with-an-attitude where they are encouraged to say what they think about something they may not have finished thinking about.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • "Not So Fast," in The Washington Post ()
  • ... instant opinion is an oxymoron. You don't get real opinions in an instant. You get reactions.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • In journalism there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • In today's amphetamine world of news junkies, speed trumps thoughtfulness too often.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • Taboos are falling across our culture like dominoes. What was unspeakable yesterday dominates talk shows today.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • "A Part of the Penalty," in The Baltimore Sun ()
  • I am a political recidivist. An incorrigible, repeat voter. A career lever-pusher. My electoral rap sheet is as long as your arm. Over the course of three decades, I have voted for presidents and school board members. I have voted in high hopes and high dudgeon. I have voted in favor of candidates and merely against their opponents. I have voted for propositions written with such complexity that I needed Noam Chomsky to deconstruct their meaning. I have been a single-issue voter and a marginal voter. I have even voted for people who ran unopposed. Hold an election and I'll be there.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • I vote because even the lesser of two evils is the lesser of two evils.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • ... I vote because it's what small-d democracy is about. Because there are places where people fight for generations and stand for hours to cast a ballot knowing what we ought to remember: that it makes a difference. Not always a big difference. Not always an immediate difference. But a difference.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • You can believe in women's rights without believing that every woman is right.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • [On Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson:] What better spokesmen for the Taliban? Our fundamentalists agree with theirs. God is on their side. America's sins are to blame. What better allies for the men who call America the Great Satan?

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • syndicated column ()
  • It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a lifestage, a relationship, is over — and let it go. It involves a sense of the future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on, rather than out.

  • People have been writing premature obituaries on the women's movement since its beginning.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • "Women's Lib Obit Is a Bit Premature," in The Milwaukee Sentinel ()
  • I think most of us become self-critical as soon as we become self-conscious.

    • Ellen Goodman
  • Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for — in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.

    • Ellen Goodman
  • The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.

    • Ellen Goodman
  • Pro-choice supporters are often heard using the cool language of the courts and the vocabulary of rights. Americans who are deeply ambivalent about abortion often miss the sound of caring.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • "Whose Common Ground?" in The Boston Globe ()
  • There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over — and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives.

    • Ellen Goodman,
    • in The Boston Globe ()
  • Adolescence isn't a training ground for adulthood now; it is a holding pattern for aging youth.

  • You can fire your secretary, divorce your spouse, abandon your children. But they remain your co-authors forever.

    • Ellen Goodman

Ellen Goodman, U.S. journalist, columnist, feminist, Pulitzer Prize winner


Full name: Ellen Holtz Goodman.