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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Can We Get An "A" Up In Here?

So, unless you've been living under a rock, or manage to avoid all things pop culture, you are aware of these two stars of the "Twilight" movies, and real-life couple. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

Up until last week we mostly heard of this duo in reference to their hit movie series and in are they or aren't they a real couple gossip items.

That was before. Before Kristen Stewart was labeled an Adultress a la Hester Prynne for having an affair with the director of her most recent film, "Snow White and The Huntsman,"Rupert Sanders, a man almost twice her age.

I am fascinated by relationships - why they work, why they don't, monogamy and the lack thereof It's actually the topic of my next novel.

What I've witnessed in what has gone on in the press is not surprising, but nonetheless disappointing. Of course there would be interest - they're celebrities, but the venom with which many have attacked the 22-year-old has been painful to watch. 

Did she make a good choice? No, but she doesn't deserve to be pilloried in the 2012 equivalent of the town square - the Internet.

I probably think a little differently about infidelity than some. I don't believe another person can wreck someone else's relationship and I don't think everyone who strays is a criminal.

I was going to not draw any more attention to this topic, but I felt compelled to write something after I read this post on Huffington Post by Bonnie Fuller accusing Stewart of defaulting on her apparent pledge to moral perfection one unwillingly takes when they become an actor.

This is what I believe: I believe Ms. Stewart is a young woman who has been in the spotlight since she was a teen and has done a pretty good job of not being a train wreck. Her awkward personality aside, she seems like a good kid.  I believe that no one knows what goes on inside another's relationship. Ms. Fuller speculates about what an amazingly awesome boyfriend Pattinson was to Stewart, (me thinks Ms. Fuller perhaps has a crush on  a certain sparkly vampire herself) but we have no way of knowing the truth. I believe that what goes on in a relationship is no one else's business. I believe no one can break up another relationship. I believe infidelity is a symptom not a cause of relationships breaking up. And I believe we are all human. We're full of faults and weaknesses and we screw up.

It's never acceptable or all right to hurt someone. Especially someone we love.I'm pretty sure Kristen Stewart feels pretty darn bad about her choices. Actually I'm pretty sure she feels terrible. But the thing is she owes none of us a thing. All she's done is prove once again that we are all just doing the best we can, and even on our best day we sometimes really screw it up. Life does go on. We make mistakes, we learn, we grow. I think that's kind of the reason we're here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Accepting and Loving Our Bodies Ourselves

This young woman, Julia Bluhm, saw a problem and did something about it. At 14, and a reader of Seventeen magazine, she was struck but the way all the models looked in the magazine - perfect.Knowing this does not necessarily exist in nature she set out on a campaign to get the magazine - aimed at tweens and teens, to stoop Photoshopping the young models, and show the readers what they really look like.

And the amazing thing is - she won! I came across this story today and felt so inspired by her passion for showing young girls that no one, not even models are perfect.

My own love/hate affair with my body began at about 12. And it's continued on throughout my life. Hair too fine, breasts too small, stretch marks, cellulite, you name it, I've got it. I obsess over my body and face like a forensics specialist critiquing every square inch, hopefully finding a spot or two to feel good about.

Granted this has gotten better as I've gotten older, I no longer completely define myself by what I look like, but the vestiges are there causing me to be self-conscious about being naked in front of a lover (unless lying down - everything looks better lying down - and by candlelight) and causing me angst.

Every single morning I wake up and one of the first things I do is ease my hand down over my stomach and hips. While doing this I do a mental inventory of what I ate the night before and decide how bad to feel about myself in that moment. Stomach sunken in? Hip bones protruding? That is the best feeling. Don't pretend you haven't felt that too.

Food guilt. A friend told me I suffered from it. I'm not anorexic nor bulimic, but yes, what I eat matters and what I look like matters even more. Maybe it's shallow but it's a condition brought on by years of Cosmo, Glamour, Marie Claire, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, Vogue and Playboy. Because you know, we're not just supposed to be skinny, we're supposed to have huge breasts as well.

Yes of course there are men who also suffer from body image issues, but in general, men are much more forgiving of their not-so-hot spots. I've never, ever been with a man who dissects his body part by part (well, maybe just one part) the way women do. I guarantee they do not feel the same pressure we do to be perfect. And smart. And successful. No wonder we eat in secret and hide it from everyone. Too.Much.Guilt.

I am with someone who thinks I am stunning, even when my scale registers three pounds up. My hope is that with young women like Julia Bluhm leading the way we'll all have a chance to see a lot more of what real women look like, and love that and ourselves a whole lot more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Biggest Lie

Women have been selling each other a big pack of lies for a long time and it's time to stop.

In an effort to be kind we do just the opposite by not telling each or ourselves the truth. Yeah yeah yeah... we all read the book or saw the movie, we all know the dreaded words... "He's Just Not That Into You." But the thing is we don't hear them and can't say them.

A friend told me today that she had been quite blunt in a conversation with another friend telling her what she'd wanted to say for a while - he doesn't love you.

We lie to our friends and tell them things to comfort them - he's probably working a lot, he lost your number, he's scared because he likes you so much... All lies. It's really not that complicated - if a guy wants to be with you he will be.

I have spun myself many a tale of fear of getting close, fear of commitment, being stressed and confused. All because I couldn't face the fact that the guy I wanted to be with didn't want to be with me. At least not as much as I wanted to be with him.

I used it as a theme in my book, "The Best Worst Year," my protagonist struggles with the guy who won't let her in. She wastes a lot of time and tears by denying the truth. A guy who loves you introduces you to friends, takes you places and includes you in their life.

Bottom line - if a guy wants to be with you, if he loves you, there's no doubt about it. It's time we stop lying to ourselves and each other and face the truth. It's really pretty simple.




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nora Ephron: My Writing Heroine

Long before I became a writer by profession I was obsessed with the words of others. I would watch movies like "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," and my all-time favorite, "When Harry Met Sally," over and over, until I was able to recite the snappy, clever dialogue.

Nora Ephron became a screenwriter and director at a time when there weren't many women let into that club. But it's no surprise, as a graduate of the stalwart women's college, Wellesley, (my daughter's alma mater!) she was a trail blazer.

She began in the mail room at Newsweek and eventually became a very accomplished journalist penning stories and columns, the latter of which punctuated with her signature wit.

It's not easy being a writer. It's lonely, isolating and filled with rejection. Unless you have a writing partner it means hours and hours of being alone. It's a bit of an odd career to choose. Somehow you are fine with being somewhat anti-social, but crave to share what you have to say with others. We are a strange breed. But writers are amongst my absolute favorite people to be with.

As a journalist, and novelist I always dreamed of getting to interview Ms. Ephron. I write about pop culture and entertainment and to me she was the pinnacle of success as a woman writer. It is because of her that we have the likes of Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling now.

When I was working on my first novel, I would write scenes and as crazy as it sounds, as I wrote dialogue I would think, "What would Nora say?" I wanted my own voice of course, but I aspired to capture the wit, wisdom and realness of what she was able to achieve. I long to create lines people, like me, will remember and recite.

I find it so sad that Nora is now gone and the world will have to rely on what's already been captured on film and the writen page. Women like her, like Dorothy Parker are rare and to be relished. I thank her for giving me a very high bar to aspire to reach, I can only hope to have one one thousandth of the success she had.

You make me want to be a better writer, Nora. And you inspire me to keep going against all odds. Something tells me I'm not alone.Thank you.






Thursday, June 14, 2012

Do Women Need to Be Taught How To Pick A Good Man?


I read a piece today about how women need to be taught the fine art of finding a supportive partner. that got me thinking. What I posit is that for many of us, while the roles and opportunities have changed and expanded, we're still stuck in an old paradigm of what we look for in a man.

I'm a big fan of women, and men too, I just think when it comes to vetting partners we can all be bad choosers. I know I have been.

What this article declares is that choosing the right partner makes a huge difference in your lifestyle - both in your home life and career. The right partner, one who is a cheerleader, not a wet blanket, can make all the difference. If you have a partner who is willing to be supportive and  encouraging you will mostly likely go further in your career, have more help at home, and well, probably have a better life!

Sadly, many women (ahem, I cop to this) don't make conscious choices, they wait to get picked and do a lot of forcing their round selves into the square holes of relationships that just aren't as wonderful as they should be. I however, finally (!) am making more conscious choices and deciding whether or not I want someone, not just do they want me. There are some clubs you just don't want to be a member of.

We have a lot of really bad role models out there - celebrities who choose fancy weddings over actually choosing a spouse, women vying for a rose and wanting some schmuck to pick them (never wondering if they really like him!) and a plethora of "Housewives" and "Jersey Shore" residents who don't look far below the surface when picking a boyfriend or husband. And of course the sad and pathetic Gigi in "He's Just Not That Into You," the girl who is yoked to her cell phone waiting for a guy, any guy to pick her, Ugh!

I bristled at first blush at the concept of teaching women to choose a good husband, but the more I thought about it I'm thinking it's not such a bad idea. After years of indoctrination leading us to think if a guy likes you he doesn't treat you well,,, maybe we do need a course, And a good, stiff backbone. 

Stop thinking the guy who makes you feel insecure, off-balance and worried is "the one" because he deigns to call  you once in a while. Do me a favor - the next time you meet a guy don't sit there wondering if he likes you, will call again or doodle his name on a legal pad. Think hard, very hard...and ask yourself, What do I think? What do I want? You might find you come up with a much different scenario.




Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What Would Be on Your Boyfriend Application?

A friend was telling me about a song he heard called, "Boyfriend Application." He came into my house singing this punk rock song, "Do you wanna be my boyfriend? Fill out an application!" It was funny, but it got me thinking... what would I put on an application for someone to be my boyfriend? This is a brief version:
Name:
DOB:
Height:
Weight:
Are you employed?
What was the last thing you read? (I'm a writer - this matters!)
What is your all-time favorite book?
Movie?
Album?
Do you ever get bored? If so what so you do?
How do you deal with things that bother you? Do you get mad? Do you self-medicate? Do you shut down?
Are you impatient?
Are you honest?
What is your idea of the perfect day? The perfect night out?
Are you a planner when you travel or are you more laid back and like to see what comes up?
Can you be my champion?
Can you let me be yours?
Do you like animals?
What's your relationship like with alcohol and/or drugs?
Is there something you absolutely love to do? A passion?
How's your follow-through?
Are you a talker?
If I was sick, would you:
a. ignore me at the risk of getting sick yourself
b. bring me soup, ginger ale and magazines
Are you witty? Smart?
Politics - left/right? Blue/red?
Can you put someone else first - at least sometimes?

I could go on and on... but for now I'm going to leave it here. I don't think I could ever ask a guy to fill out an actual application, but maybe just knowing what I might ask, could make things a whole lot clearer, and help me make a lot fewer mistakes.





Thursday, May 24, 2012

From Writer to Author - My "Best Worst Year"

About seven years ago I started writing a novel. It was my second one. The first was a bitter diatribe about the dissolution of a marriage that happened to coincide with the end of my own.

In the meantime I began writing for a couple of different newspapers and magazines, became a life coach, fell in love, a couple of times, got my heart broken,,, a couple of times, probably broke a couple of hearts myself. And I kept writing.

I am not the most practical person in the world. I rarely wear footwear that is appropriate for the situation I'm in, I sometimes eat cookies for dinner, and I believe in doing what you love to do. Even if it seems a little crazy.

I got a late start. I married young and divorced when I was 41.It was scary, but it was also like a giant do-over, granted one that involved three children I was a responsible parent to. But it was a chance to figure out who I wanted to be. On my own. No husband, no boyfriend... just me.

And that is where we find our heroine, Cassie Keaton when "The Best Worst Year" opens. An empty nest, a rocky relationship, a tenuous job situation, and no idea of who she is when not defined by caring for others.  It's a place many women find themselves, and it can be terrifying.

My hope is that others will find Cassie's journey inspiring. Along the way I have had many mentors and guides who helped me. If in some small way my story and the one I've created can help inspire someone to live their dream I will be thrilled.

Life is full of endless possibility. So often the only thing that stops us is our own fear. I've worked through a lot of mine, though it still crops up quite often, and in "The Best Worst Year," Cassie falls apart but eventually pulls herself together.

Falling into the depths of despair happens to all of us. It's what happens on the way to pulling ourselves out that makes life and ourselves really juicy and interesting. I hope that perhaps reading about Cassie's ups and downs will help readers to realize they're far from alone, and despite us, things almost always get better.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Can You Have Love With No Drama?

I was talking to a good friend last night about relationships and that feeling of angst that often accompanies many relationship. Well at least that's what I've experienced. What I ventured was - if there's no drama, no stomach flipping anxiety, is it love? Aren't you supposed to feel...edgy?

Bottom line, what does it mean when it's easy, comfortable, when someone follows through and does what they say they will do? Is on time? Is there for you when you need them? It's good right? It should be, but if you're crazy like me you might wonder - what's wrong?

My friend reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of "Sex and the City," from Season 3, "Drama Queens." After years of drama with Big, when Carrie finds things going easily with Aidan she thinks something is wrong.
It feels odd. I'm used to the hunt.
This is... effortless. It's freaking me out.
I totally understand. You're not getting the stomach flip.
Which is just a fear of losing the guy.
Maybe I'm not used to being with someone
who doesn't do the seductive withholding dance.
 
Hmmm...The idea that love doesn't have to be hard and filled self-doubt, pain and wondering what is wrong with you is a revelation for many of us. I know I'm not alone. 

I still haven't figured out how much angst is excitement and how much is the biggest signal ever to run, run as fast and as far away as you can. What we sometimes respond to in another may not be a healthy zing. Sometimes the zing comes from a familiarity with something painful - the guy who ignores you, who doesn't show up on time, who keeps you at an arm's length may just get to you because it all feel very familiar. And not in a good way.

I'm not sure if I'll ever sort this all out. But I'm asking the questions and trying to figure it all out. I always hated the whole, "Love means never having to say you're sorry," lie, but maybe love does mean not having to feel insecure, alone and worried. If anything maybe love means loving yourself enough to ask the questions, to accept and expect nothing but the best, and knowing you are worthy of all good things.
 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Lessons We All Should Have Gotten As Girls

This is not just an opportunity to shamelessly exploit the awesomeness of Jon Hamm. Not completely anyway. In this short video Hamm addresses the questions and concerns of a few teen girls about everything from passing gas in front of a boy (something I STILL hate to do!) and what's up with the guy who doesn't want to take things further faster, "Slow your roll" he advises the girl.

The thing is, for too many of us how we feel about ourselves is based on how boys/men (for some that moniker of boy never changes) feel about us. What I love about this is Hamm is encouraging girls to be cool with who you are. All on your own.

Why is this message so muddied and so hard to learn? I am a grown woman, I own a home, I have a career I love, I am attractive, kind, have lots of friends...by all accounts a successful life. I have many friends in the same boat. So, why is it so much of how we feel is based on a guy liking us????

Why should the temperature of our self esteem go up or down depending on what some guy thinks? Maybe if we had more guys in our lives who, like Hamm, giving us the message during those impressionable years telling us, "The world is your oyster." Who cares is Johnny in seventh period chemistry doesn't think you're all that, screw Johnny, love yourself, sister.

It's taken me until well into mid-life to finally begin to get that message - how wonderful and lovable I am is not based on a guy's opinion. It's a message I wish I had gotten sooner.

I came across a picture of me taken the summer before I turned 15, and when I saw it I remembered thinking I was fat and ugly. I was not.

How I wish I could have seen what I see in her now - a pretty, sweet, and lovely girl, who sadly had many years of battling her demons ahead of her. How I wish I could tell her not to waste her time worrying about what guys thought and to spend that precious time figuring out who she is and what makes her happy.

For girls like me who did not have a dad, it's especially crucial to make sure that message gets received. When Hamm says at the end. "I'm a 41-year-old guy, you don't have to listen to me, but it might be in your best interest to," he's right. Girls can learn from words like his. The thing is, the guy worth your time and love is the guy for whom you are perfect. Just as you are. But you have to decide you're perfect first. No one else can give you that. Know you are a catch and you are the decider. Don't focus on a guy picking you, figure out if he's worthy.

Someone very special to me with whom I had a relationship helped me get that. He told me I had to decide if someone was worthy of getting to be a contestant in the game of getting to date me. Be that decider. Don't settle, don't compromise.

I'm finally getting it. Accepting being loved for myself - not a thinner, prettier, less angsty version on me. It's taken me all this time to realize I am enough. Just as I am. And so are you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What Does Loving Someone Mean?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about love lately. Hey, I'm a single woman. This is what we do. It's part of the job description. I'm sure it was in the brochure that is issued to you. We think about guys, we talk about guys with our friends, and well, if you're a writer you write about it.

I married at a very young age, barely 20, was married for a long time, and then I wasn't. I did not date until my divorce became final, about a year and a half after we'd separated. I didn't care about boys, I was having a love affair with myself.

Now, many years, and a few relationships later I'm asking myself lots of questions - like, what does a good relationship look like? What does it take to make it work? Is there such a thing as "forever" or is this just for now?

After years of being brainwashed by Hollywood that love means never having to say your sorry, and "you complete me," oh, being told all the ways "he's just not that into you," it's hard to know what to think. But that doesn't stop me from trying to figure it out.

I was reading this interview with Debra Messing, who recently got divorced, and she said forever was one thing when we died at 37, 200 years ago, but now is it realistic? Granted, my cred on this topic may be questionable, but I've learned a few things in my years of dating and singledom post divorce. Here are a few...

For the most part people are who they are. Don't think that if you love someone enough, care for them enough they'll change. Unless they want to, they wont.

Be your own person. Don't define yourself through a relationship. "You complete me" is bullshit. Complete yourself.

“If you find yourself in love with two people, choose the second one, because if you really loved the first one you wouldn't have fallen for the second” Wise words from Johnny Depp of all people. I might not have believed this years ago, but I've come to see it's true. Another person doesn't breakup a relationship, if it was intact another person would never be a threat. This lesson has meant me letting go of my own blaming for the end of my marriage. And it's liberating.

I am still working on that balance of loving someone, needing someone, but not losing myself. I think it's possible, but losing myself  in love still scares the crap out of me. You work hard to become independent, strong and happy all on your own, and then you fall in love, and someone falls in love with that vital, independent person, and then as you meld, the lines get a little blurrier. It's challenging.

Loving someone who doesn't love themselves and isn't happy probably won't go well. If they're not happy without you they won't be happy with you.

Clever, fun banter is great over dinner, but is this someone who will bring you soup when you're sick? Call you just because you seemed a little down and they wanted to make sure you were okay? Think about you and not just themselves? That's what makes someone worthy of your time. Rob Gordon from "High Fidelity" is a fun character to read about, but being in a relationship with him is frustratingly empty.

Throw out your preconceptions of what the "perfect" partner looks like. He/she may show up in a very different outfit than you expected. Don't slam the door just because they aren't what you expected.

Look out for yourself. Only you know what is right for you. It's just that simple. And that hard. If you crack the code, let me know, I'm still confused as hell.












Monday, April 23, 2012

Marriage Advice From a Divorcee? You Bet!

It may seem I am the absolute wrong person to be dispensing marital advice, but actually, I may be one of the best! There's nothing like failing to teach you. And while technically, my marriage did fail, it also lasted 20 years and produced three amazing children. Not exactly an epic fail.

The thing is, having had it not work out in the happily-ever-after way, has taught me a lot.I think we often learn more from the things that don't work out than do.

As a singleton I watch the interaction of couples all the time. Of course, just like being the perfect parent when you don't have kids, the fact that I'm not married, and not currently co-habitating with a guy it's probably a bit easy to think I've got some insights. But I think I really do!

Yesterday I woke up and jotted down the following list on my iPhone. Take what you like, ignore or mock the rest, but maybe, just maybe it will get you thinking about what's important and what's not.

Don't be anyone but yourself
Don't try to control anyone else
Do have your own life and passion
Do treat your partner with the same kindness and respect you do your other close friends
Do listen
Do talk - but listen!
Do show up - literally and metaphorically
Don't take everything personally -  it's not always all about you
Do have a sense of humor
Don't shame or scold

Do be thoughtful
Do allow yourself to need someone
Do have sex - the more you have the more you want and the closer you are.
Do catch your partner doing something right - and tell them!
Don't expect someone else to make you complete or happy
Do come from a place of gratitude
Do be clear about what you need - no "oh, never mind..." talk
Don't shut down or freeze out
Do give each other space
Do be each others' champion
Don't let yourself go- fit, healthy people are happier and have more sex which equals happiness!
Don't hold grudges. Let things go.
Do choose to be happy yourself. Unhappy people have unhappy relationships.


That's all I got. The rest is up to you. I don't necessarily believe all relationships are supposed to last forever, but as long as you're together, be kind and remember this is someone you love. Or once loved. So be nice.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Toxic Side of Rom Coms

 I have a love/hate relationship with romantic comedies. The girly part of me loves love and the inevitable happy ending. Who doesn't love a happy ending????

The thing is, the dynamic is often so unhealthy - as Chloe Angyal writes:

"Scholars of the romantic comedy call this kind of story a "cold-hearted redemption plot," a story about a person – usually a man – whose cold, hard exterior is melted by the love of one special woman. Barbot de Villeneuve isn't the only one to blame for this idea, of course, because you could just as easily call it "The Mr. Darcy Myth." Many of the stories we tell ourselves, as a culture, perpetuate this idea that if a man treats you badly, the correct course of action is to stick around, love him, and wait for the power of your love to change him."

My life has been so screwed up by this paradigm - believing the man who treats you badly really really loves you, and if you just love him enough you will change his chilly ways and you will glide into the land of happily ever after with your newly reformed bad boy.

The thing is, if someone really loves you they don't hurt you. They care about your feelings and don't need to be changed. These movies continue to perpetuate the myth that you can tell how much a man likes you by how badly he treats you. The it hurts so good thing has got to end.

The lie begins in childhood when the boy who allegedly likes you knocks you down on the playground, makes you cry, and some one plants the seed... he did that because he likes you! And so it begins...

I know I am not alone in being infinitely patient waiting for a guy to treat me the way I know I deserve to be treated. Like many women I excuse bad behavior rationalizing it with tales of bad childhoods, broken hearts, stress and confusion. But the thing is, love shouldn't hurt. If someone loves you they show up when you're sick, when you've had a car accident, (a friend recently told me the guy she's been seeing didn't offer to come get her after an accident) they are kind and communicate with you - even when it's hard.

It's time to stop the madness and stop equating love with being ignored and confused. I am determined to be a writer who writes love stories that don't put women into the role of patient life changer just waiting for the guy to wake up and finally treat them well. Because that's what we've seen on film and playgrounds for years.

My hope is that not only will Hollywood start changing  how love stories play out, but even more than that, I want us to stop thinking that love is something we have to work for rather than something that is generously given. We deserve it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville

This may seem like a very odd post, but it is famed photographer Robert Doisneau's 100th birthday. This famous photograph is one of my all-time favorites.

Why? Well hello, who doesn't like kissing?! Second, it's taken in Paris, again, who doesn't love Paris? And finally, it's the sweetest photo I've ever seen. It's romantic, it's pretty and it's in black and white - something I love.

I have nothing particularly impressive to say, except, sometimes it's really nice to take a moment to appreciate something beautiful like a photograph. I know I get awfully busy and have to remind myself to take the time to notice the pretty all around me. And it is all around.

And, you never know, maybe seeing a kiss like this (I didn't mean to rhyme) will inspire you to share a kiss of your own.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Vulnerability - Cringe-Worthy Or Empowering?

I am not ashamed to admit I have listened to this talk by Dr.Brene Brown about a half dozen times. Since Tuesday. Yeah, it seems I have some issues.

I am fascinated by how hard it is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to truly show ourselves to others. I like to think I'm pretty open and what-you-see-is-what-you-get and all, but in actuality, I'm a real wall builder.

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change," she posits. And I believe she is right. There is nothing more vulnerable than daring to risk. Daring to risk saying, "I love you," or "I'm not happy," or "I am going to follow my heart and leave this job I hate and start my own business." It's scary, and for the most part, most of us are pretty risk-averse. I know I am. Mostly...

I say mostly because for a control freak I am a pretty big risk taker. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. I am a writer at a time when print journalism is dying, I'm a novelist about to debut my first book at a time when book stores are closing and the only people getting great book deals are cast members of "The Jersey Shore," and former child stars sharing their sordid tales of woe. Freelance journalists who have a modest following in a regional area do not get big bucks. But somehow, I've written a book, secured a great agent at a big literary agency, and together we are putting my book out there. And this is where the vulnerability and inevitable shame comes in.

That voice that says. "Who do you think you are? What makes you so darn special?" comes to roost on my shoulders several times a week. No one ever said to me, "Who do you think you are?" but it's there, this ugly, heavy cloak that robs me of sleep and peace of mind. That ugly voice that tells me I will fail. Yet, something keeps me going. A combination of love of what I do, and a stubbornness to make it work. I would bet that stubbornness has a lot to do with overcoming fear.

What I love about Dr.Brown's assertions is that far from being a sign a weakness, being vulnerable takes great strength.

I think about how hard it is as a woman to show my vulnerability, and realize it is exponentially harder for men. Perhaps as women we need to show the men we love that they can come down off those white horses and be vulnerable with us and we will support them. And maybe we can then allow ourselves to show that we can't do it all, and be it all every day. None of us can.

Being vulnerable is the gateway to greatness. It can be pretty scary, but the life you get to live on the other side is more than worth it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Is Beauty a Burden? And Should We Say So if it Is?


Yesterday the Internet was abuzz about a column written by British writer, Samantha Brick about how hard her life has been because she's so beautiful.

The inevitable backlash was swift and harsh. And I admit being amongst the bashers. I looked at Brick's photos and immediately thought, "Oh, honey, you are not all that." And felt it was immodest, narcissistic and vain.

But then I began to think about it... There is nothing less tolerated in our culture than daring to think you're attractive. When given a compliment we're supposed to deflect it immediately and point to the giver some flaw. I was reminded of this little classic scene from "Mean Girls."


 It seems that in general women suffer more from this disease than men. Most guys I know pretty much accept a compliment at face value. With women there's always subtext - on both sides. A woman may tell another woman she looks pretty, she likes her dress, her hair or whatever... but sometimes beneath that is jealously and resentment.

I was raised to never think I was all that gorgeous. "Handsome is as handsome does," my mom always said. Never quite sure what it meant, I did get the message - don't think you're anything special. So I didn't. And I am one of those women that deflects compliments with a disclaimer - "Oh, thank you for thinking my hair is pretty but look at my roots!" Or, if talking about myself I often say, "I know I'm not completely unfortunate looking," because heaven forbid I say, yeah, there are some days I think I look pretty.

So in 24 hours I kind of came full circle on Miss Brick's assertion. Her lack of humility still doesn't set quite right with me, but it begs the question - do we dislike her for her looks, or because she dared to say she's aware of the gifts that come with attractiveness? In that latter sense she's far braver than I've ever been.

Is it so wrong to be aware of your own beauty? I'm not sure. For now I'm just going to keep working really hard on just saying "Thank you," when I get a compliment. It's a long way from blogging about the perks of gorgeousness. but it's a start.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Mad Men" - 50 Shades of Don Draper?

There's something afoot lately in popular culture. Sex, always a popular topic, has taken an interesting turn of late.

The "50 Shades of Grey" trilogy has highlighted a predilection with domination and submission that isn't often discussed on morning television and the mainstream blogosphere. In those books the relationship between 21-year-old Anastasia and 27-year-old Christian, is one that is  extremely steamy and has turned the publishing world (and now the film world) on its ear. Their relationship is not the type we usually talk about. It's also not the kind of book mainstream moms are usually lined up to read. But they are, in droves. Downloading it and sharing it with the men in their lives, much to their delight I am sure.

Sex as control can happen on many levels. It's just interesting that right now there seems to be a theme happening. My theory is that these are just a new generation of bodice rippers, taken farther than books in the past. But it's not just these books, last night on "Mad Men" we witnessed a similar... proclivity dealing with power and sex.

When Megan Draper, upset by husband Don, begins cleaning her apartment in sexy lingerie and sets out to punish and control him, we see a side of a relationship we aren't not usually privy to. She chides him that he doesn't get to have her, but of course he does, taking her (albeit willingly on her part) by force.

But this power play started much earlier. Her provocative dance (below) at his birthday party, and her teasingly rebuffing his advances at their office set the tone. It may seem that Don, the older, powerful man is in control, but is he really?

Is it that as women come into their own more and more they want "men to be men"? Or is it in a way, women who are wielding the power?

It's an interesting question to ponder. But no matter what, it points out, more clearly than ever, sex is power - no matter who's on top.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stop Blaming Yourself When It Doesn't Work Out

I follow a lot of various people on Facebook and Twitter, and last night was struck by this piece by author and radio personality, Jennifer Koppleman Hutt.

In her post she openly talks about having an opportunity to co-host a talk show for a day fall through right before it was supposed to happen. She likened it to dating and wondering what you did wrong to have someone not call you for a second date, breakup with you or just not like you the way you liked them.

I've often looked at dating as auditioning. It really is. You're auditioning for the role of girlfriend. That's the way it is. And sadly, even if you don't want the role, often you are STILL disappointed that you didn't get picked. Well, I think that's just plain wrong.

I think we need a re-fashioning of our thought process. If some guy doesn't choose you it does not mean there is anything remotely wrong with you. It doesn't.

Earlier today I was talking about this with a friend as I recounted the number of teary backseat-of-a-limo exits I've witnessed on "The\Bachelor." I don't think I've ever heard a woman say. "You know, that's kind of a relief. I wasn't sure how into him I was. It wasn't the right fit." No, every single woman cries and laments, "Why didn't he like me? What is wrong with me? I will never be loved."

Granted, these may lamentations best left to a therapist, but clearly, something isn't right. So often we get wrapped up in being chosen that we forget, hey, we get to choose too!

Just because a guy deigns that you are not the right person for them does not mean there is anything wrong with you, or him.

Listen, I am the poster girl for getting dumped. Sometimes multiple times by the same person. The fact that it didn't work out does not mean there is something horribly flawed within me, or that the other person is any number of expletives my girlfriends have cared to anoint him with. Sometimes, quite often to be honest, love ends or doesn't even get off the ground. It hurts, it's no fun, but it does not mean you are flawed.

As I think about "The Bachelor," and shows of its ilk which bank on the heavy flow of alcohol and tears, I wish that when people go through being rejected they perhaps learned from it, but didn't use that loss to beat themselves with. Maybe you just dodged a really big bullet. Maybe there is something you're destined for that you aren't even aware of yet. Have faith that you are wonderful, Just as you are.

Stop thinking every time a man doesn't call that there is something wrong with you. Just be you. And realize, maybe you should be doing the choosing for yourself and stop waiting for him to choose you.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

There's Nothing Like a Girlfriend

I have always considered myself a woman's woman. I have always had good friends who are women, and they mean the world to me.

Since I've been single I've found I enjoy talking to guys too, though being friends with guys is often fraught with a little bit of tension and that underlying possibility of it becoming something more, so I'm more cautious. That tension isn't there with my female friends.

Being close to my women friends is not something I think a lot about, but I recently received a compliment from a guy that took me by surprise. He told me one of the things he admired about me is that I have several close female friends. My initial reaction was, there are women who don't? Well, it's pretty evident there are some - like I don't picture Angelina Jolie hanging out with girlfriends over coffee kibitzing about her relationship with Brad, how tired she is being a mother to six, and how she just can't find a good pair of jeans.

I get something very vital from my girlfriends. I get support, and a chance to just say how I feel without someone trying to fix me or the situation. Men are fixers. This can come in very handy sometimes, but other times we just want to vent about our bad day, how we feel lost or fat and don't want a laundry list of solutions. We just need to say how we feel., and be listened too. That's all. I don't want or need anyone to fix my life, I just sometimes need some validation.

During my life I have only had a couple of friendships end badly. One in particular was devastating. After over fifteen years of close friendship it was like this person didn't know who I was at all. Accused of being selfish and being a bad friend I was crushed and walked away. Another friendship I ended when the person had a very toxic resentment of me and I got tired of defending myself.

It can be complicated with other women. I don't think there's a woman alive who hasn't met at least one mean girl in their travels, but I find the older I get the better I get at sussing those ladies out and don't let them close.

For those women with whom I've very close there is nothing I wouldn't do for them. Having not had a husband or consistent boyfriend for many years, I count on my friends in a way I probably didn't when I was married. My friends have been there through sadness over breakups, bad bouts of the flu, and a crushingly empty nest when my last child left for college. They held me up when my parents both died and the grief felt overwhelming. I could not have survived without them.

They have also been my biggest cheerleaders and believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I'm blessed to have added some amazing women over the last few years and feel incredibly grateful for the amazing women who are in my life.

I think my friend was right when he said he is a bit suspect of people who don't have friends of their gender. I love guys, and love having them in my life, but when the chips are really down, I always call one of my ladies.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Does Living Alone Make You Quirky?

There was a piece in the New York Times recently, titled, "One is the Quirkiest Number," that got me, someone who is single, thinking.

Until I was in my 40s I had never lived alone. Off to college at 17, married at 20, a mother at 21, and divorced at 40, I always had someone I was living with. Until my youngest left for college.

The fear of this was so great, it spurred me to write a novel based on what it's like to find yourself alone when you've spent your whole life surrounded by others. "The Best Worst Year" will be published soon, and I'm hoping many women will be able to relate to my beloved Cassie.

In the beginning I never thought I would adjust to living alone. For the first school year my daughter was gone I tried to be home as little as possible. I joined a writer's group, went back to college to take some journalism classes, started an internship at the newspaper I freelance for, and almost never ate a meal sitting down. I hated it.

 My house was deafeningly quiet after years of music and chaos wafting through the halls. Even my cat was gone having become a meal for a hungry coyote.

Over time though, I did adjust. Rather than fighting against it I became friends with my solitude. I was always someone who needed a certain amount of time alone, I'm a writer, it's part of the gig, but to become comfortable, and truly at home with aloneness was something new.

My daughter graduated four years ago from college so it's been a stretch of time that I have been on my own. Now I can say I'm very much all right with it. I'm so all right with it I've sometimes wondered if I could once again live with someone all the time.

See, the thing is, after so many years of being a wife and mother, I am able to do what I want, when I want. I can have some steamed broccoli and carrots for dinner, as I did tonight, and I can blast Britney Spears and dance in my bedroom as I did this morning. I can also just.be.quiet.

I don't want to spend the rest of my life living alone, that is not my goal. I want to share my home and my heart with someone I love. The wonderful difference now though is that I know I can be alone and be okay, More than okay, I can be happy. Yes I dream of having a beloved to share my day and bed with once again, but the confidence I have gained will allow me to make sure I'm doing it out of love and choice, not fear of being alone.

I may be a little quirky after having lived alone for a while, but I also think I am a better person for it. It may not have been my choice, but I'm glad I've gotten to see who I am on my own. It's not always pretty or perfect, but it's my life, and I'm living it for me.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Love and Other Mini-Disasters

Love. It's a very small, very loaded word. And the older I get the more complicated it seems.The longer we've been around, the more relationships we've had, the more baggage we carry and the more complicated it becomes.

I've been in love only a handful of times in my life. Frankly, I'd be doubtful of someone who claimed to have loved tens of people. To me love is rare and special, and not something handed out like gumballs from a dispenser.

The thing is, we all want to be loved. Even if we say we don't. We're bonding creatures we humans, we're like heat seeking missiles, drawn to those who we feel good around and we feel get us. That's the best any of us can hope for - to be loved and appreciated for who you are is rare find, and should be treasured.

It's always a risk to open your heart and allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone. Is there anything riskier? I don't think so. There's always a pretty good chance you'll get hurt, that you'll hurt someone else,
and that it might not work out. So why oh why do we do this to ourselves?

Well, I think it's part just DNA, and part because to love someone, to really love them is the most overwhelming, delicious feeling in the world. Even when it hurts, it's still the most alive you will ever feel.

So my friends, I am unabashedly pro-love. I am pro following your heart and not always your head, pro taking a leap of faith and seeing where it goes, and pro risking looking like a fool.

Because I'd rather be a fool for love than a genius without it. My heart may get a bit bruised at times, but it's worth it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

"50 Shades of Grey" Has Opened Up a Whole New World for Women, But is it Good?"

I feel tremendously out of the loop that I hadn't heard of these books until today. And what I've been missing apparently! Since I don't own a Kindle or Nook (yet) I have to go on excerpts and reviews.I apologize for that.

First, hat's off to author, E.L.James on creating something so buzz-worthy. This young British woman has clearly touched a nerve.

Okay, a little warning here - these books are about sex. Mostly domination and submission sex, so be warned. If you find frank discussions about sex distasteful, move along and come back when I write about Hello Kitty.

In these books, a young woman, 21-year-old Anastasia Steele, meets multi-millionaire, Christian Grey and after much pursuing on his part, they begin a relationship.

Steele has an unhappy past and because of some childhood issues he has some sexual proclivities involving being dominant and wanting his partners to be submissive. Since I haven't read the books I can't go into too much detail, but what's fascinating to me is the way these books have impacted the women who are reading them, And can't stop reading them.

James has apparently tapped into a universal fantasy of many women - to be dominated in bed. After being in charge of so much, women are apparently happy to relinquish control when it comes to sex. Women have been interviewed saying they can't put the books down, and say their own sex lives are definitely impacted for the better because of these books.

There is much debate about the positivity of this message of women being submissive. Which I understand. In my mind there has to be a trust and understanding between consenting adults anytime there is sex involved. When it moves into an area that some might consider a little "grayer" no pun intended, it's important that everyone is on the same page.

In my mind these are basically bodice rippers 2.0. I am of the belief that what two people choose to do in the privacy of their bedroom is no one's business. It is a bond (oh, another pun) that is sacred and private.

These books are clearly for adults and I think that if people are exploring their sexuality in new and interesting ways because of some steamy books, more power to them. It's kind of a nice contrast to all the spouting of religious rhetoric in the news.

I have to admit after reading all the reviews I'm kind of wishing I had a Kindle...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In Defense of Men

First let me say that for the most part men probably don't need  me to defend them. They're quite capable of defending themselves I am sure. But that said, it's something I feel compelled to write about.

I often feel like I'm in the minority as a woman who truly likes men. It seems so often I'm surrounded by women who blame and bash men, and frankly, I'm not on board with that. I have listened to women talk about men as if they are one step up from dragging their knuckles on the ground, and lest for us civilizing them, they'd still be eating raw meat off a dirt floor. This is far from true.

During breakups it's especially easy to blame and point fingers. When my marriage ended I had a story that at face value I could have traded on for years as the "wronged" woman. For a short while I found some solace in that. It felt validating that people viewed me as a victim of a mean man and felt sorry for me. But as time went on I realized that wasn't the whole story.

While it was easy to paint one person as the Snidley Whiplash of the scenario the truth was, I too was responsible for the breakdown of my marriage, I had to let go of thinking some interloper had ruined my perfectly happy life and realize if it had been perfectly happy it wouldn't have ended. Our relationship, like so many, had played itself out, but we were both too afraid to let it go, until we had to. Obligation, habit and fear are not enough to make a happy marriage, It was that realization that enabled me to let go of blaming and create my own happy, post-divorce life. I'm not of victim of anyone.

What I've witnessed over and over is women making themselves the victims in relationships instead of taking responsibility for their part in a relationship's failure or success. Of course there will  always be extenuating circumstances, but I think in general we can't assign white and black hats based on gender. I've known as many women who are just as unkind and thoughtless as I do guys. We are all ultimately responsible for our choices.

I think if women truly want to be equals we need to stop the double standard of wanting equality yet roll over and play victim in our relationships with men. Yes there are times when someone is a dick and that is unfair. What I posit is that we realize we all do the casting in the movie of our life. We are not magnets for "bad boys" or "bitches" (depending on your gender and sexual preference). We CHOOSE the people we let into our lives.

The majority of men are not creeps just laying in wait to take advantage of us. Just like women they have their issues, their limiatations and pasts to overcome. I think it's less about gender and more about choosing well. Perhaps instead of crying about how badly a guy treated you, you should look in the mirror and ask yourself why you picked him.

I've had my ups and downs in relationships with men, but I would not trade any of them. I have been disappointed, hurt and cried a river of tears, but  I have learned from every single one.

 I unabashedly love men. I have no desire to be with someone who thinks just like me. I love the differences and will always stand up for guys when women generalize about their failings. I just hope that the guys will do the same thing right back.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The All-time Top Ten Reasons George Clooney Should Date Me

I have long joked about how I am the perfect woman for George Clooney. And he, perhaps the perfect man for me. Oft referred to as my "make-believe boyfriend" in my newspaper column, he has been both a fun writing device and an aspiration.

Not that things have always run smoothly with my love for George. At one point I ended my make-believe relationship with him because I felt he was going in a direction, dating a 20something waitress, that I felt was not really aligned, as the mother of a 20 something daughter,with my life.

But something has happened in the last couple of years. Maybe George has changed, and maybe I have too. I have once again fallen for not just his obvious charms, but for the depth of talent and heart that is behind the quick-witted retorts and million-dollar smile.
 
In this article in the Hollywood Reporter Clooney opens up in a way I've not seen before, and show a side that is deeper and richer than we've ever seen. He struggles with insomnia, loneliness, chronic pain and surprisingly, hasn't ruled getting married again out.

After I read this I thought, I would be an asset to Clooney's life, damn it He just doesn't know it yet. So here, dear George, are the top ten reasons you should date me.

1. I don't drink. You said you struggle with whether you're drinking too much at times and gave it up recently.Well I'm your teetotaler girl.

2. I think the reason you feel lonely sometimes is you're a thinker, a writer and a doer. I'm sure this cadre of young women you've dated are lovely, fine people, but perhaps someone closer to your own age might provide something deeper to explore.

3. You never wanted to have kids. Well I've got three and they're all grown up! Poof! Instant family to be a part of without the drool or teaching them to drive.

4. We could write together! Of course, yes, this would be much more to my advantage than yours, you're career is pretty well set, but I'm a good writer!

5. Marriage? Kids? I've done it. My biological clock has no need to be rewound. There will be no pressure from me.

6. I can cook. Yes of course you can hire someone to do this for you, but I'm betting they don't make my awesome oatmeal, chocolate chip and Craisin cookies!

7. All right, I'm not 30. Or even 40. But neither are you, Kimosobe. There's a lot to be said for confidence and experience. I'll just leave it at that,

8. I'm an active liberal Democrat and Obama supporter.

9. I am smart, quick witted, kind, thoughtful and caring. I am generally happy and upbeat, and compared to a Hollywood actress? Incredibly low-maintenance.

10. On a scale of 1-10 I'm a solid 7, on a good day, maybe 7 1/2. On Cape Cod in the winter, maybe an 8. I am not a super model, but I am also not unfortunate looking. You would not have to hide me under the red carpet.

I'm thinking George, as you continue on in your 5th decade, that perhaps all the surface trappings of your 30s and 40s might be feeling a little less...satisfying.  Hence the loneliness and inability to sleep. Maybe it's time to take your life in a new direction. Like east.

Cape Cod is a marvelous place to visit in February (shh, don't any of you  locals tell him otherwise!) I will bake some cookies, we can have some tea and you can be wowed by how completely awesome I am. After all, I wrote the book, or at least the blog post, on how to be awesome at life.

But I'm thinking you could probably teach me a thing or two about that as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Think I'll Always Be a Little Bit in Love With Lloyd Dobler

If you've never seen "Say Anything," first, what are you waiting for... go get it! If you have seen it you know what a great guy Lloyd Dobler is. Yes, in the movie he is 19-years-old, but at 19 he is more of a man than many men with lots more years on them who do not hold a candle to Lloyd.

As an homage to John Cusack who plays Lloyd, and also plays Rob Gordon in "High Fidelity," I am going to give you my all-time top-five reasons why Lloyd is the man all men should aspire to be.

1. He is verbal. Boy is he verbal. I love a man who talks. And talks, but also listens. Listening is very good.

2. He's himself. He doesn't adhere to convention. He's a bit of a geek. Lloyd thinks outside the box. I do too. He is creative, he's willing to see where life takes him and open.

3. He wears his feelings on his sleeve. He's bold, he stands outside her house with a boombox for God's sake! He's sensitive and sweet, but he's protective too. Remember him pushing the broken glass in the street out of the way so Diane doesn't step on it?

4. He's smart, funny and kind of intense. A trifecta in my book. Smart is number one, and funny is one and a half, and intense - I'm not talking crazy, I'm talking someone who is passionate and not a passive person letting life pass them by.

5. He makes love and the girl he loves a priority in his life. He gets on a plane and leave his life behind to be with Diane Court. A man who gives up something just to get to be with you is pretty damn seductive.

Of course no man can be all these things. Just as no woman can be Brigitte Bardot and June Cleaver (though I try very hard!). Chuck Klosterman famously wrote about the "Lloyd Dobler Effect" is his book, "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs - A Low-Culture Manifesto" and how Crowe created a man women love, and no man can ever be. He apparently ruined it for every guy. And conversely, kind of for every woman too.

I don't plan that a guy will ever stand outside my house, boombox raised over his head trying to win me back, but a girl can hope. Sure Lloyd isn't real, but I'll never give up hope that there's someone out there with a bit of Dobler in him.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex...

This morning I went to church and heard about sex. And how great it is. Shocked? I wasn't. This is reason number 743 why I love being a UU.

The minsters gave two wonderful sermons quoting folks like Sister Wendy Beckett, who in reference to our bodies and sexuality shockingly said, "God wouldn't give you a toy and then not let you play with it."

Somehow our culture has become obsessed yet incredibly shamed about sex. I even debated whether or not to write about it. But then I decided, to hell with it. if anyone is offended, they don't have to read this.

The thing is, sex is wonderful. It's actually beyond wonderful. It's transcendent. It's a way to bond with someone and truly become one.It's one time (hopefully) in our overly busy, always-in-our-heads lives that we put down our iPhones, Razors, and Blackberrys and just focus on the person we're with. The bond created by being so intimate with another is unlike any other.To love someone enough to allow yourself to be that vulnerable is extraordinary. And it's fun!

With Valentine's Day around the corner I've been thinking a lot about love, and hearts and flowers. But sex is a big part of love. When it's good or if you're lucky, blissfully great, there's nothing like it. And when it's bad, or virtually non-existent there's nothing lonelier.

I think it's time to take the shame out of sex. Our bodies are a great gift, and to not take good care of ourselves - from eating well, exercising and yes, enjoying our sexuality, is just wrong.

Take off that shroud of shame and embrace yourself. All of you. And while you're at it, embrace someone else. I'm thinking it would make Sister Wendy proud.

And if you need a little motivation, well, Kevin Costner says it pretty well...