Happy Birthday Est.: Kelley’s Editor Picks

Tomorrow The Establishment will celebrate its one-year birthday. In honor of the milestone, we’re popping the champagne . . . and sharing our favorite stories so far. Today, our delightful and brilliant News Director, Kelley Calkins*, weighs in with her picks.

Read Ijeoma Oluo’s picks here, Jessica Sutherland’s picks here, Ruchika Tulshyan’s here, Katie Tandy’s picks here, and Nikki Gloudeman’s (excessive number of) picks here.


What’s In A Name: The Surprising Rise And Fall (And Rise) Of ‘Kevin’
By Erin Crouch

kevin bacon lead

If you take away nothing else from my list of editor picks — or even The Establishment writ large — please take away this: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.

Why? Because this piece is [expletive] glorious: Through a one-of-a-kind, Kevin-tastic, microcosmic lens, it captures the gloriously weird ebbs and flows of our pop culture; how such ebbs and flows unexpectedly interact with the international community in our evolving, globalized world; and what a 19th-century sociologist from Berlin has to do with the current naming preferences of Estonians — and it does it all while rocking an indisputably glorious lead photo of Kevin Bacon to boot.

More concretely: Did you know that there’s a disease called “Kevinismus” in Germany? Did you know that at one time rumors swirled on the interwebz that the name Kevin was made illegal in Mexico because it leads to “teasing and ridicule”? Did you know that Kevin Misener, resident of Toronto, was thrilled with the finding that people harbored anti-Kevin beliefs because it meant that his romantic failings could be the result of his name and not necessarily his personhood? No, you probably didn’t.

But now you do — all because we’re committed to talking about Kevin.


Happiness Sounds A Lot Like A Like
By Kamala Puligandla


God I love this piece.

As a writer, I’m in awe of Kamala’s ability to make such a gorgeous, cohesive, profound essay look so easy and feel so seamless. As a human, I’m grateful she’s woven together the words I’ve never had the wherewithal or chutzpah to name. You see, I, too, have a beloved kitten T-shirt that I don for TV-viewing purposes. I, too, am widely considered “incredibly fun” (that or am widely lied to — which is a distinct possibility! But it’s definitely one or the other, and either way, I live the truth that I am fun — and perception is reality . . . ?). And I, too, grapple with my ability to dispense with my “private property,” the truths of my inner world, the contours of the fragile beauty I construct within myself when I’m alone. I still don’t know if or how I should dole it out, but I certainly feel less alone in my grappling because of this piece. That it mentions my beloved homeland of Vermont (heyo Ben and Jerry!) is just icing on the cake.


See Me: Fighting The Invisibility Of Mental Illness
By Danielle Vintschger


This straightforward, no-hold-bars discussion of mental illness, hospitalizations, stigma, and psych ward stays is as compelling as it is imperative. Mental health issues render millions of us invisible; Vintschger’s commitment to being seen, to taking up space in a world inhumanely bent on hiding her from view, is the pinnacle of courage.


Does Every New Mother Have Secret Homicidal Thoughts?
By Dana Norris

screaming baby lead 3

I remember reading this piece as I walked to my car in the parking garage of my building, finishing it bent over my iPhone from the driver’s seat. I texted Nikki, whom I’d known had edited the essay, before starting the engine: “I really love the piece about harboring homicidal urges toward your newborn. Is that weird?” Nikki would know — did know — that I’d find my love of the piece somewhat incongruent as I’m neither a mother, nor someone who’s in the market for procreating anytime soon, if ever. But this essay charmingly captures a universal truth known to mother-humans and non-mother-humans alike: Sometimes — often, in fact — life can be simultaneously both exquisite and brutal, uglier and more painful than we ever admit aloud.

Not only is there usually room for humor amidst the darkness, however, but honesty allows us to see who else is floundering around in the pitch blackness. As Norris realizes when she admits her ugliest thoughts to her husband — and he replies with one of the most disorientingly sweet lines I’ve ever read: “Honey. Me too. I think about putting the baby’s head in water, too” — we’re often less alone than we realize.


White People, You Have A Lying Problem
By TaLynn Kel

liar lead new 2

TaLynn’s writing always packs a much-needed punch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this piece, where she details not just how white people shroud themselves in the pseudo-comfort of our nationwide revisionist histories, but where we may find hope and healing: in holding ourselves accountable for our lies and participation in white supremacy. She sees beyond our insecurities, the crumbling foundations upon which many of us attempt to build ourselves, and she wants more for us, for her, and for the world; it’s white people’s job to look in the mirror and save ourselves.

The author has chosen not to show responses on this story. You can still respond by clicking the response bubble.