Saturday, December 14, 2013

Around Town: There are ways to model good behavior

After Dr. Melissa Johnson gave a program on girls and cliques for the La Cañada Unified School District last year, I invited her to speak to the La Cañada Thursday Club.

Even though I am a past president of the Thursday Club, doing a swan song as the club's current vice president, bringing in a psychologist to discuss relationships is slightly out of character. I've practiced law for nearly 40 years, with a focus on trial work. My law school class was less than 7% female. Cliques? Hand-wringing? Oprah? Not my cup of tea.

Teamwork. Collaboration. Getting the job done. Whiskers on kittens. These are a few of my favorite things.

Readers who crave “yin” are better served by my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Puglia, who, like many Marine Corps combat veterans, is mostly from Venus. His column does relationships and philosophy. My column does dogs and murder.

Actually, I'm exaggerating. Dr. Joe is tough. Mea culpa, but back to Johnson. She is a licensed psychologist with bachelor's and master's degrees in education, and a doctorate in psychology from USC. She runs the Institute for Girls Development in Pasadena (

Johnson told us that back in the day, studies concluded that little boys were aggressive and little girls were not. The current literature recognizes that girls are equally aggressive but use social interaction, not physical fighting, to make their case. She said that effective assertiveness should be viewed as a way of teaching others how you want to be treated and of modeling good behavior for our daughters.

Johnson's approach is good medicine not only for the Thursday Club, but for what ails us as a nation. There have always been rough times, but it feels as if we live in a dominant national culture of rude behavior. The phrase “you're welcome” has been replaced by “no problem.” Elected officials engage in name calling. When grown men and women call one another “communists” and “terrorists,” it's time for a reality check. It got so bad that even Anthony Weiner thought he could run for mayor.

Snap! Weiner put-downs are a snide form of social aggression. My bad.

Meanwhile, the La Cañada Thursday Club, founded in 1912 by a collaborative group of women, kicked off the 2013-2014 club year. It's not your mama's Thursday Club. Some club programs, like last Sunday's earthquake forum, are open to the community, but the luncheons and teas are limited to members and their guests. Not to worry — there is a process for local women who wish to join. Interested? Call me.

This week's Thursday luncheon speaker is screenwriter/girl wonder Chelsea Steiner, a New Orleans native and a Stanford grad. Steiner is a member of a local roller derby team. Next month, Zucky Zeidner and Caltech's director of bands, Bill Bing, will bring their troupe to perform.

La Cañada is home to dozens of worthwhile clubs and nonprofits. If the Thursday Club is not your cup of tea, you have lots of choices. From Trails Council to Tournament of Roses, from Kiwanis to Rotary, joining one of these groups is a great way to contribute to our local community. We can all model some good behavior.

Plus, it's a lot more fun than CNN.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER can be reached at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

Valley Sun

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