Tag Archives: archaeology

Turkey Basters and Infanticide Part III

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We Catholics are an odd lot of people.

For one, we sing songs in a language we can’t understand. A renegade priest could declare that Pater noster qui es in coelis actually means “Nancy Pelosi fisted a donkey” and the only reason some of us would know that it doesn’t is because Nancy and Pater, for the most part, have different letters.

Every Sunday loads of us get together for an hour-long celebration of magic cannibalism. Of course, it’s only proper to participate if you’ve confessed to a mysterious figure behind a screen that you masturbated to your daughter’s One Direction calendar while she was at school, and no Father, you won’t do it again, can you go to the magic cannibalism festival now? Finally, we think that the only way to get a baby into Heaven is to hand it over to an old man so that he can dip its head into a pool of water and fecal matter. Presumably this is okay because infants spend much of their time covered in fecal matter anyway, though usually not on their heads.

In fact, it was only recently that Catholic babies were allowed into Heaven at all. If they died in infancy, many of them were sentenced to Purgatory, because they were tainted with both Original Sin, and the sin of their very conception. After all, you need to have sex to make a baby, and sex is dirty. That’s why all those Catholic husbands are in the confessionals on Saturdays explaining what really happened to that One Direction calendar. Why do you think they have to sell so many of them?

For much of Irish history, Irish children who died in infancy were not able to be buried in the same cemeteries as those who had lived to be baptized. That’s not to say they weren’t cared for though, because they clearly were. Many of these children were buried in cemeteries, or on the outskirts of cemeteries, that had gone into official disuse. Technically it wasn’t a church cemetery, but the ground had still been consecrated, possibly providing the infants at least with an easier time in Purgatory. There are loads of examples of these sites all over Ireland, and the Blackfriary is one such example. Buried at various locations around the cemetery, but largely above the pre-existing monastic context, are dozens of infants. It seems that these children were too young to be baptized when they died, and by burying them on sacred ground, their parents or caregivers were doing their best to ensure them a fulfilling afterlife. Interestingly, even while caregivers were burying their children in sacred spaces, infanticide was not uncommon, and the two were not mutually exclusive. That is, you could kill your child and still bury it in consecrated ground.

During the 2013 field season at the Blackfriary, a group of students excavated the skeletal remains of a newborn baby. It’s always a time-consuming processing to excavate a burial, and it’s particularly difficult when it’s an infant. The bones are tiny and difficult to identify, and they can only be excavated properly under ideal weather conditions. But eventually, the form of the baby began to appear from the soil as they exposed its tiny arms and legs, and finally, its little head. The skeleton was almost completely intact, but the side of the cranium was completely shattered. Nested inside its little head was a small lead sphere about two centimeters in diameter, perfectly situated in the center of the mass of shattered bone. The baby who had been buried with monks had been shot in the head.

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Turkey Basters and Infanticide (Part II)

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(Sorry this is going to be in several small parts because time management isn’t a thing anymore.)

Like the six-month-old whose head had been glued back together, the sub-adult I have been assigned for the semester’s skeletal report has a habit of messing with my mothering instincts.

The remains are from a Medieval English cemetery and are largely intact, save for the cranium, which, quite frankly, looks like it was shattered in some sort of Acme-style explosion. Disarticulated and sorted neatly into their labeled plastic bags, the remains look like any other skeleton. But when I lay out all the tiny unfused bones, the skeleton became a child, estimated to be about five-years-old at time of death. It still had all of its baby teeth. As I completed the skeletal inventory, my lonely uterus and its instincts started talking over the logic of my aspiring-scientist brain. The lab is dark at night; were medieval children afraid of the dark? Where are its mother and father? Were they excavated too? Shouldn’t the child at least be in a box with its mother?

Suddenly I was gripped by an overwhelming desire to scoop the child up in my arms and take it away from its plastic bags and cardboard box and bubble wrap. I wanted to hold the child and let it know I cared for it, but I could only hold it one bone at a time.

How brave you must have been, to face death at only five-years-old. People more than ten times your age are terrified to die, but here you are.

When I finished the skeletal inventory, I gently placed the bones back into the plastic bags, the bags into the cardboard box, and the box back onto the shelf.

The benefit of working alone in the lab is that you can apologize to the skeletons when you leave, and nobody will judge you for it, unless of course you confess to this bizarre habit on a blog, which fortunately is only read by about twenty people. When I placed the box back on its shelf, I whispered an apology to the child because, after all, I had just spent the last hour poking and prodding at its remains, and now I was going to leave it in an unlit lab in a box without its mother without even knowing if medieval children were afraid of the dark.

Turkey Basters and Infanticide (Part I)

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One of the defining characteristics of my generation is that on average, the age of reproduction is increasing. Many of us are waiting to have children, if we intend on having them at all. Now there are a number of reasons for this, other than questioning if it’s really safe to push something the size of a spaghetti squash out of your vagina. For one, millennials make up the most educated generation in American history. We’re spending more time earning college and graduate degrees than any generation before us. That shit takes time. The average age of a college graduate in the U.S. is twenty-four. If you go for a doctorate, you can expect to finish when you’re about thirty-years-old.

Second, children are expensive. They need to eat, wear clothes, and go to school. How can I think of saving for another person’s college fund when I’m still can’t fathom how I’m going to pay back my student loans?

Finally, who is supposed to help you make the child? It’s hard enough for you to finish school and achieve something resembling financial stability, but then to find a second person that’s done the same? That’s like scratching off two winning lottery cards while bumping into Miley Cyrus in a 7/11 during a tornado in January.

For some women, this isn’t a problem. They don’t want children, and that’s fine. What you do or don’t do with your body is nobody’s business, and the ability to procreate shouldn’t define you if you aren’t into that.

But I am not one of those women.

My uterus is a lonely place. It is not now, nor has it ever been, a member of the Pregnancy Party.

Logically, this is fine. I’m only twenty-four.

BUT IT’S SO LONELY.

There are a lot of things about being a woman that suck. People cat call you, throw things at your head, and touch you in airport terminals. But the one part about being a woman that I like is that I am biologically equipped with everything I need to produce, carry, and feed a child. I let this, in part, define my womanhood because the ability to lactate is pretty fucking cool.

The problem with allowing my gender identity to be partly defined by procreation is that it’s unachievable, at least for the foreseeable future. Like many millennials, I haven’t finished school, I don’t have any money, I don’t know where I’m going to live, and the only people who have offered to help me make babies are creepy toothless men in airports. To cope, I’ve started coming up with alternative plans. How hard can it be to stuff some junk in a turkey baster and shove it up there?

As a student in an osteology program of millennials, I rarely get to interact with children. In fact, to be brutally honest, all of my interaction is with dead children.

There are certain rules for holding skulls in our lab. You must hold them with two hands, away from your body, over a bubble-wrapped table.

I am a terrible anthropologist. Last week when examining infant crania, I found this skull-holding procedure to be torture for my empty uterus.

The offending cranium was from a six-month-old child. Most of its cranial vault was unfused and had been glued together. The orbits, or the space for the eyes, were disproportionately large, like in a living baby. The parietals, or the bones at the top-sides of the head were rounded, again like in a living baby. None of the teeth had erupted.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but I gently brought the cranium to my chest and cradled the head in my elbow, my left hand securing it in place. I looked around to make sure my advisor wasn’t around, and once I had made sure she was across the room, I stroked the baby’s face.

Because that’s how a baby should be held, even a dead one.

White Walker the Horse and the Gates of Hell

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White Walker the Horse and the Gates of Hell

Nothing interesting ever happens in Trim.

The proof of this is the entertainment value placed on archaeologists. I’m sure that if you stuck a bunch of us on a stage with microphones and a couple trowels, together we’d equal the value of one iTunes purchase.

I feel about Trim how I imagine a mother might feel after having just given birth to a child that looks like a root vegetable. Other people might not understand the overwhelming joy that I experience when I return to Trim; most of them just see an ugly baby. For me, however, Trim olds a special place on my heart-globe. It’s where I first learned how to excavate, and it’s where I get to work with some of my favorite people in the whole world.

Trim, or Baile Átha Troim in Irish, is located on the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland, about half an hour northwest of Dublin. Its largest landmark is Trim Castle, which was founded by the Anglo-Norman Lord of Meath Hugh de Lacy in 1173 under England’s King Henry II (Encyclopedia Brittanica). The town itself, though, is thought to have been occupied since 500 AD (Meath County Council). Hugh de Lacy’s son Walter eventually inherited the castle, then passed it down to his granddaughter, Mathilda, who was married to a French lord named Geoffrey de Geneville. Mathilda died in 1304, de Geneville became a monk. Since monks can’t have castles, it went to his daughter Joan, who was married to Roger Mortimer. His family had the castle until 1425, by which time everybody had died. It then went to Richard of York, and then to his son Edward IV when Richard died in 1460 (Potterton 2003). The castle was left to deteriorate by 1599 (Meath County Council).

During the 15th century, Trim was relatively prosperous, bringing in more revenue for the English government than the surrounding towns. By 1541, however, it had decreased fairly substantially (Potterton 2003). In 1541 it was decided that Meath would be divided into two counties, Meath and Westmeath (Potterton 2003).

In 1204 Walter de Lacy was granted permission to hold an annual fair in Trim. Items traded included wheat, corn, cereal, wine, wool, cloth, hide, iron, flour, salt, butter, cheese, garlic, oats, onion, meat, honey, fish, livestock, wood, cauldrons, millstones, charcoal, and metals (Potterton 2003), among a thousand other things that would take me all night to list and cite. If these had all been local items, that would have been one thing. But a lot of these things were brought into Trim from other areas including Kilkenny, Waterford, Dublin, and Drogheda, meaning that Trim was a sort of hotspot for Medieval consumerism, or at the very least, a good trade location.

In addition to the yearly fair, weekly markets were also held in Medieval Trim on Market Street, which still stands today (Potterton 2003). Individual shops were open even more frequently (Potterton 2003). Items traded in markets and shops included fish, meat, corn, flour, shoes, cloth, leather, and wine (Potterton 2003).

Total economic devastation throughout Ireland resulted from the Cromwellian Wars in 1641-1652 (O’Carroll 2011). Because Trim had been militarily significant, it was particularly affected (O’Carroll 2011). In the time since, Trim has not been able to become again the commercial powerhouse it was in the middle ages.

Consequently, as I said before, nothing interesting ever happens in Trim. Unless, of course, you are really into Medieval history. There are none of those things that developmentally normal social youths use for entertainment (shopping malls? clubs? I missed some milestones and genuinely don’t know). Secondly, while Trim does have a promising tourism industry, it is largely a rural farming community, and as such, it has a lot to teach us about the versatility of empty fields.

Empty fields, like the one located behind the local SuperValu, can be archaeology sites such as the Blackfriary. They can be playgrounds. They can be build-it-yourself private landfills. They can be gardens, places to drink underage, light shit on fire, and graze your horses, and they can be most of these things at one time.

There is one exception; an empty field cannot be both an archaeology site and a horse pasture at the same time because horses are jerks.

If you don’t mind working in a giant bovid-toilet, keeping a bunch of herbivores on site is a wonderfully cheap and eco-friendly alternative to regular lawn care, and if you’ve ever waded through a forest of nettles, you know how important it is to control vegetation on an archaeology site. So, after what I presume were a long series of clandestine meetings between local farmers and Blackfriary site directors and staff, the Blackfriary found itself with three oversized Satanic lawnmowers.

The largest horse, whom the students called White Walker, was the leader of the Evil Equus posse. He was a white and brown horse with pale blue eyes, and he was an asshole. He kept the other two members at his beck and call, the smaller of which appeared to be some sort of fat horse-pony hybrid, or possibly even two men in a horse costume. White Walker was the instigator, and Medium Horse and Fat Horse Pony followed.

I am not a particularly large woman, and White Walker knew this. I’m five-foot three on a good day, and I haven’t been to a gym in six years. White Walker is fucking huge because he’s a horse.

Every day the routine was the same- and White Walker studied it. The site director would pull the van up to the gate, we would open the gate, she would drive into site, and we would close the gate.

On the morning in question, for reasons I still do not understand, I could not close the gate. It is heavy and awkward, yes, but I have closed that gate more times than I close my bathroom door to pee.

In my moment of weakness, White Walker acted. He bolted through the opening, and his spineless horse minions followed.

First, if you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t chase the horses. It doesn’t work.

I approached White Walker. He stared, daring me with his soulless blue eyes. I drew closer. He stared harder. Then he ran.

Second, as an archaeologist, there are few moments more terrifying than the one where you have to tell the site director that you just released three devil-worshipping quadrupeds into the public. And unless you’re an orphan who’s never watched television and you’ve never been exposed to any sort of parental figure at all, you know that a few words are worse than a lot of words. I was dismissed with an, “Oh,” as the director calmly ventured out on foot to track down the escapees. Ten minutes into the workday, and I had already resigned myself to death, either from the site director herself, or from the health and safety director whom I was convinced would come all the way from Dublin to murder me because you don’t just let a bunch of horses escape from site.

White Walker and his posse, however, had a much more pleasant experience, as did the locals, who all emerged from their homes in their bathrobes, cups of tea in hand, to see the fugitive horses gallivanting through town and pooping in people’s gardens.

Because the people of Trim never leave their homes unprepared, the site director, while in pursuit of the horses, came across a man who happened to carry a horse lead in his pocket, and White Walker and his posse were led back to site one at a time.

To that man I say, you sir, deserve a medal.

References

Meath County Council. 2010. Trim Development Plan 2008-2014 Progress Report.

O’Carroll F. 2011. Interim Report: Archaeological Research Excavations at the Blackfriary, Trim, Co. Meath. Irish Archaeology Field School

Potterton M. 2003. The Archaeology and History of Trim, County Meath. Dissertation. National University of Ireland, Maynooth

How Big is Your Trowel (Part IV)

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I am by no means a cultural anthropologist. I study bones, I play in dirt, and I offend people all the time, usually without meaning to. I am therefore completely professionally unqualified to argue that middle-aged Croatian men fetishize women with shovels. I have, however, met enough middle-aged Croatian men to feel comfortable making this assertion. How big was my sample size, you ask? First of all, you don’t need a sample size for anecdotal evidence. And it was five, which was plenty big enough.

To be fair, I have to give them credit for being so boldly confident in their sexuality at a point in their lives when most of their peers and their peckers are falling to erectile dysfunction, and a lot of credit is due to the forest workers in particular. Slaving away in a forest of enormous, erect phallic objects while your own wanker slowly withers away like an overdone noodle must be most disheartening.

So when a group of young foreign women appeared in the Phallic Forest, it must have seemed as though we had been beamed down from the heavens, our shovels our mighty staffs that could open a portal to a world of vaginas and manual labor.

The Men of the Phallic Forest did not hesitate to make their feelings known.

“You see that man there?” asked Mirko in his thickly accented English. It should be said that Mirko, in addition to sharing a name with a close friend’s beloved cat, Mirko is a wonderfully honorable man whose pores leak integrity when he sweats. He, like the other Croatian archeologists on our team, does not fetishize women with shovels. This could be because they see vagina-wielding-shovel-holders all the time, but I suspect it has more to do with their upstanding character.

“Yes,” I answered, glancing at the individual in question. He stood at the edge of a trench with another one of our team members, gesturing madly and chatting away in what sounded like a mix of distinguished authority and a Balkan speech impediment.

“He wants to marry you,” said Mirko.

“That’s disgusting.”

“Yes. But do not worry. I told him you are vegetarian, and now he does not want to marry you. He is worried that if you are his wife, he will have to go into the fields every morning and cut down grass to feed you.” Mirko paused, then added, “He would not be a good husband. He has only one hand and a big tongue. He would not be able to please you, and he would talk too much.”

First of all, Eastern Europe, I don’t know what you’ve heard about American vaginas, but they’re not the fucking Mammoth Caves. One hand is more than enough. Second, vegetarians don’t eat grass. Those are cows you’re thinking of.

It turns out that my long time vegetarianism did not deter my middle-aged, one-handed, garrulous Croatian suitor. Throughout the next several weeks, he and his posse of forest workers brought countless gifts including chocolates, cookies, pretzels, mosquito repellant, and apples they stole from someone’s yard, and I only had to get my butt touched twice.

Why accept gifts from men if I didn’t want attention, some of you might be wondering. For one, I’m a grad student, so almost by definition, I can’t afford to feed myself. Seventy-five percent of my diet is comprised of the Easy Mac my grandma sends me in the mail and the food professors use to bribe us to go to department events. For another, not accepting food from Croatian people is not something that one does. It’s a lot like littering in the States. You just don’t do it. If you litter in the U.S., everyone will think you also butcher baby whales for fun and hang their carcasses in your living room, and you won’t have any friends. Similarly, if you don’t accept food from a Croatian person, you won’t have any friends, and you probably also butcher baby whales. You might even also butcher Croatian children; you’re just that bad of a person.

On the last working day on site, my one-handed suitor showed up with three huge boxes of burek, rakija, coffee, and two liters of goats’ milk. The burek, rakija, and coffee were for us all to share, but he handed me the goats’ milk and said that it was for me, because that “is what vegetarians drink.”

If you’ve ever had goats’ milk and apple burek, you know it’s definitely worth any subsequent butt-touching. This was a fair trade. Balanced reciprocity or whatever.

After what felt like the millionth meal break of the day, however, I started to wonder if these men also had a thing for feeding women, like in that weird episode of CSI. Maybe they all shared a peculiar and highly specific fetish for foreign women with shovels backfilling trenches while eating.

“Zašto puno ti radiš i ne jediš?” asked one of the Forest Posse members, inquiring why I worked all the time and didn’t eat. I didn’t have the vocabulary or audacity to tell him that this was the third meal break of the day, and it was only two in the afternoon, or that I was so full that I was chewing my precious anti-nausea ginger gum normally reserved for motion sickness so that I wouldn’t throw up all the burek I had already eaten.

“Jela sam,” I answered. I did eat.

“Ni si.” No you didn’t.

“Da, jesam.” Yes, I did.

“Kad?” When?

“Jebi ga.” Fuck. I told him I ate burek at the dig house for breakfast. Then I came to site and had more burek for second breakfast. Then we had grilled vegetables for lunch. Now he was offering me bread and cheese.

He held up his hand and said that I am like a pinky finger. A woman should be like a thumb.

The Forest Posse spent the rest of the afternoon using their cell phones to take pictures of us backfilling a trench.

I still can’t decide if I’m satisfied that I’m a pinky finger, or disturbed to have been involved what seems to have been a bizarre plot to reenact the story of Hansel and Grettle, but I have some great new ideas for a calendar fundraiser.

How Big is Your Trowel (Part III)

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There are some places where you would think that until we arrived, the locals had never seen a woman hold a shovel. This could be reasonably inferred from the reactions of said locals upon seeing a woman hold a shovel.

But I’m here to tell you that this is a lie.

I have seen a Croatian woman hold a shovel, and she is a force to be reckoned with.

Gospođa Fruk is the owner and landlady of Fruk, a self-catered accommodation of sorts, frequented by our team of archaeologists, and, as far as I know, anyone else who might be hopelessly lost in rural Eastern Croatia. Located on one of the two main roads in Vrbanja, Fruk welcomes its visitors with a warm peach-colored exterior and flower garden with enough gnomes to take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a death match.

A stout older woman with short white shiny hair, Gospođa Fruk is the embodiment of the dictionary definition for “matriarch.” She is a shrewd businesswoman and attentive mother, grandmother, and wife. One day I asked her if she ever sleeps. Of course, she said. What a strange question. I don’t think it’s a strange question at all, and frankly, I don’t believe her.

Normal literary custom suggests that it is conventional to say that one rises when the rooster crows. I haven’t been on many farms, but every rooster that I’ve encountered in Croatia appears to suffer from chronic insomnia. One time Andreja even showed me a rooster that crowed all night long while wandering in front of traffic. To say that Gospođa Fruk woke with the roosters would be inaccurate because the roosters just seem to stay awake forever making as much noise as possible until they die of exhaustion. I’m sure the roosters are certainly a contributing factor, but more than likely it’s her military-grade worth ethic that compels her to be awake at dawn, known in America as “that-small-period-of-time-during-which-it’s-socially-acceptable-to-eat-at-a-Denny’s.”

It is quite possible that Gospođa Fruk is not a human, but rather some sort of bionic woman crafted from high-efficiency biomechanics, computers, and synthetic skin in a top-secret research laboratory with a grant to design a superhuman.

During my time at Fruk this summer, every morning after hitting the snooze button on my alarm fifty-three times, the fifty-fourth sound I would hear was always Gospođa Fruk sweeping the floor, her long calico dress swishing along with the motion of the broom. After that, she would feed the geese, water the plants, wash the laundry, hang the laundry, change the beds, work in the office, and on occasion when we’d return, we’d find her planting new flowers in places we didn’t even realize could accommodate more flowers. I don’t know about you, but if I water a plant, that’s enough chores for a week.

And these are just the things that we saw her do outside. I’m not sure what she was doing inside, but I’m sure she wasn’t lounging on the couch reading O Magazine.

You will not be surprised then to know that Gospođa Fruk, despite being a woman, is well practiced in the handling of shovels. She is so well practiced, in fact, that she wields it like a wizard and wields a wand, making others gasp in awe at the versatility of such a seemingly simple tool.

To be fair, I was not present when the following events took place. That said, the story has been told to me so many dozens of times, that I am comfortable enough to retell it.

One thing that a respectable landlady and businesswoman will not have in her guest rooms is a snake. This is wonderful for anyone who, again, happens to get hopelessly lost in rural Croatia because there are a lot of them and they’re huge. The last thing most normal people with well-functioning brains would want is to wake up next to a snake the length of your entire arm span. This season, the snakes had been doing particularly well because of the floods, so there were even more of them than usual. Wonderful if you’re a snake, not so great if you’re an archaeologist whose trench walls keep falling down because they’ve been undermined by snake holes. Is it just me or is the wall hissing again? This ain’t no Chamber of Secrets, Beady Eyes. Move on out.

As long as you aren’t the Crocodile Hunter, and you aren’t because he’s dead, chasing snakes out of the trench all day only to come home and find one in your reptile-free-sanctuary would be at least a little bit annoying.

Skippy, the site director’s dog, felt the same way. After a busy day of eating mice and frogs in the hot sun, Skippy was in no mood to be dealing with intruders and made her feelings known to Lisa, Andreja, and Gospođa Fruk. Gospođa Fruk’s husband emerged from inside to see what sort of problems the archaeologists and their reprobate dog were causing this time (the previous commotion had been caused by Skippy killing one of their chickens, so his concern was not unfounded).

Gospođa Fruk bent down and looked under the bed in the outdoor room. She stood up, nodded, and said something to her husband in Croatian, who returned with a pitchfork. Gospođa Fruk looked at the pitchfork and then looked at her husband with an expression that clearly said, “The hell do you expect me to do with this?” Shaking her head, she walked past her husband, into the tool shed, and returned with a shovel. Using the shovel, she then pulled the snake out from under the bed, decapitated it, then calmly picked up both pieces and put them in the trash bin.

And that’s the story of the time the Gospođa Fruk killed the snake under the bed.

How Big is Your Trowel (Part II)

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Last night Amy Poehler came to me in a dream.

She appeared as I was running through the streets of Clintonville, Ohio to meet my new stepdad who would only talk to me if I was bound securely in aluminum foil and plastic cling-wrap and wearing a pink tutu and little baby shoes on my fingers, but she appeared to me, nonetheless.

You might be thinking, “That’s ridiculous. Mrs. Clark would never get married again,” and that’s correct.

As any respectable feminist knows, a Poehler dream is a blessed event, one in which the Great Amy Almighty graces the sleeper with her presence to bestow unto the dreamer her wisdom, comedic essence, and female empowerment.

I have therefore awoken slightly less disheartened, albeit a little tired from running with that giant box of foil and cling-wrap.

Through her divine visitation, I believe that the Holy Mother of Comedy guided me toward the realization that there is another reason I prefer that my mentors are female.

I want someone I can look up to.

Some might be wondering why a grown-ass adult woman needs a role model. After all, role models are those people you write about in middle school. I always wrote about the women on the show Animal Precinct because they were lady cops who saved animals, and that was super cool. In sixth grade, I would only wear blue hair scrunchies because that’s what Special Agent Lucas wore. I also wore an oversized cat sweatshirt from the ASPCA website and haven’t eaten a chicken nugget in eleven years.

But why does an adult need a role model? Is it because we millennials are stuck in some sort of prolonged period of infancy exacerbated by parental coddling, unrealistically high student loan debt, and economic recession, but really due mainly to our own laziness and ineptitude, as many of our older critics argue?

Contrary to the beliefs of Confrontational Baby Boomers (see God-Vaginas), we millennials are not looking for new mommies and daddies the second we leave the nest. In fact, at this point in our lives, many of us are actually quite capable of handling ourselves both emotionally and practically. I, for one, could balance a checkbook and operate a washer and dryer before I could menstruate. And no, puberty was not late. I hit it on time, thank you very much.

But if we can survive on our own, why do we need role models? And why do women in particular need role models?

Now, I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve been to plenty, and I feel like I can almost work this one out.

I think adult women need role models because we’re looking for reassurance. Obviously in academia it’s a good idea to have a mentor for practical advice so you don’t admit to being an avid collector of fingernail clippings on your CV. But it is just as important that mentors know we need them for reassurance and solidarity.

By the time we’re in graduate school, women are already tired. At least I am. We’ve clawed our way to the top since that practice SAT test you started taking in seventh grade. In grade school, we competed against each other to get the highest test scores. In high school, we competed against each other to get into college. We competed against each other in college, and then again to get into graduate school. Soon we’ll be competing against each other for jobs because, as we’re told, the job market is “highly competitive.”

Instead of always competing against each other, why don’t we start helping each other? We won’t be able to fix everything, but we can begin by being each other’s role models and supporting our colleagues as they become the Amy Poehlers of academia.