How I Got Radicalized

An illustration of a Beanie Baby with a star print and the U.S. flag on its chest. Behind the beanie baby is a generic stock market image.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Welcome to How I Got Radicalized, a series from GEN that tells the story of a cultural moment that made you drastically rethink how society works.

We laughed about the Beanie Babies. There were hundreds of them, piled onto shelves in my little sisters’ bedroom. The shelves were high up, but there were just a few Beanies truly off-limits, the Princess Diana bear, a platypus, Weenie the dachshund. The rare babies had plastic covers over their tags. Princess Diana Bear was supposed to stay in a plastic case, but was often found lollygagging with the commoners. My siblings and I…

A photo of my dad and his family visiting Hillsboro, Ohio, in 1964. My dad is the little boy rubbing his eye, leaning on his grandpa’s knee.

There are no stars or skyscrapers in the suburbs. Even as a child, it felt like an in-between place to me. Suburbs were built for commuters — they leave them to work and come back to them to sleep. Maybe that’s why garages are the focal point of most suburban homes: They’re the portal for a morning exit and evening reentry. In the movies, suburban streets are always full of children playing. That might be true in other places. I lived on six suburban streets in California and kids never played on the streets. The sidewalks were always empty.


Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

It took me a full decade to realize I was part of a multilevel marketing scheme. I should have seen the signs: the business model was unclear, my participation was so costly I fell into debt, and when I needed help meeting quotas, I was forced to rely on family members and recruit other women. It didn’t feel like multilevel marketing (MLM) at first; I never had to sit in an arena and listen to Rachel Hollis tell me to clean my face. I wasn’t selling “butter-soft leggings” or shilling Amway — I was a part of Motherhood in America.

My family moved from Oakland, California to Denver, Colorado in 2019. We moved to Park Hill because people told us it was a nice neighborhood. They were right. It is nice. Park Hill is divided into three sections, North Park Hill, Northeast Park Hill and South Park Hill. My family lives in South Park Hill. We are a short walk away from the Denver Zoo and Natural History Museum. We can also stroll to coffee shops, Denver’s oldest non-profit bookstore, and a little market with shelves full of cans of imported Italian tomatoes. The library a few streets up from…

The day our third daughter was blessed at church. 2018.

Murder Among the Mormons is a new documentary about the crimes of Mark Hofmann. Mark Hofmann is considered the best known American forger. His known forgeries include a poem in Emily Dickinson’s hand and signatures by George Washington, Francis Scott Key and Mark Twain. He was also a murderer. In 1985, he killed two people in an effort to hide his fraud. In addition to the forgery and the murdering, Hofmann was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sometimes people are surprised Hofmann was Mormon. I’m not. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus…

Photo: Apexphotos/Getty Images

Last Wednesday, the snow started to fall thick and fast in Denver, Colorado. My kids went to bed hoping for a snow day. They’ve spent most of their childhood in California, and sometimes we had smoke days there. These days were ominous and choking, ash fell from the sky and got stuck in our eyelashes. But snow days? Snow days are sleds and snowmen. My daughter heard that if she wore her pajamas to bed inside out on a snowy night, she’d wake up to a snow day. That night, we all went to bed wearing our pajamas inside out.

This Is Us

Eight years old. I begged my parents to let me go to cheer camp because the other girls were doing it.

I read a lot as a kid. I didn’t speak out of turn. People liked me.

Sure, I never knew where my school worksheets were. I was rarely able to turn in my homework on time. And, yes, my elementary school desk was always a disaster. I used to flatten myself across it, so people couldn’t see inside. Paper, crayons, pencils, and books spilled out onto the floor. It was embarrassing.

I lost things I couldn’t remember picking up in the first place. I couldn’t keep track of time; yesterday’s moments fusing to tomorrow’s expectations. I was bright. I drew…

House spider illustration from, Who Were the First Weavers? A children’s book, 1874

Did you know that some house spiders can live up to seven years?

I didn’t know.

Whenever I’ve seen a spider crawl across my wall, move the tips of its spindled legs out of my shower drain or scuttle beneath a cabinet I’ve….well, I’ve killed it. I mean, when my creature-loving daughter is in the room, I carefully catch them and put them outside. But when I am alone? When there are no witnesses? I am moved to murder.

I kill spiders, generally speaking, with one of two methods. The first is catch and kill. Best deployed in kitchens and…

Photo: Westend61/Getty

My 9-year-old daughter is having a hard time. It’s the kind of hard time most kids have at her age, made worse by the pandemic. Sometimes people call her quirky. This makes her nervous. She wants to be normal. When I tell her there’s no such thing as “normal” she scoffs. She just wants to unobtrusively line up with the girlhood formulated by Disney tween sitcoms and the common consent of an apathetic society. When she’s at school, she bends her mind and spirit in half, frustrated that each corner of herself doesn’t meet the others. She’s pretending to no…

Photo: Drew Angerer/Stringer/Getty Images

On Thursday, Senator Mitt Romney proposed the Family Security Act, a monthly cash benefit for children. The proposal, tucked inside the Biden administration’s pending $1.9 trillion stimulus package, is pretty simple: It eliminates the child tax credit, a government assistance program for income earners. The tax credit would be replaced with cash. Parents receive payments based on each child’s age — infants and children up to five years old get a $350 monthly payment; children ages six to 17 get $250 a month. …

Meg Conley

✒️Women’s work, economic justice and the home. Work in Slate, GEN, Medium + my newsletter, homeculture. Subscribe at

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