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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...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Day Isn't Always Love-ly

I will preface this tale by saying I love Valentine’s Day. I always have. To me it doesn’t matter if you’re in love, single or something in between. It’s about love, and that’s a very good thing. One of my favorite things in life is giving gifts and doing things for other people. And I love hearts, so there you go, it’s a match made in heaven.

My tale starts with a realization, one that often comes too late for me – don’t they all  - that there is  a point in many relationships where you realize you are not having the same relationship your partner is. Sadly, I had that realization on a Valentine’s Day.

I had been dating my then-boyfriend for about seven months, for the third or fourth time. We had a bit of …history. But this time, I determined, was different. So Valentine’s Day was going to be special.

As a writer, dating another writer, there was sure to be some literary influence. A mutual favorite author was Nick Hornby of “High Fidelity” and “About A Boy,” fame. I had written a story about his latest book, thereby knowing his PR person and managed to score my beloved, whom for privacy purposes I will refer to as…Bolt, a signed copy of “Juliet Naked.”

Oh, but the gifts didn’t end there. We both also loved the Cameron Crowe cult classic movie, “Singles.” Now, if you’ve seen the movie, you know it’s about a group of friends in grunge-centric Seattle, and that garage door openers play a big part in symbolizing letting someone into your life. So, on top of the book, I also got an opener to my garage – sweet, thoughtful and symbolic. I was psyched.

I love to cook so I decided to make us a wonderful candlelight dinner. I decided on Asian. I shopped, chopped and stir fried. The dinner was wonderful, but the crowning glory was dessert.

I decided to make homemade fortune cookies. Yes, I am insane. Making these thin, momentarily flexible cookies, placing a fortune inside and folding them before they shatter like your romantic dreams isn’t as easy as you might think.

Staying thematic I had made long thin strips of lines from Nick Hornby books as the fortunes, lines like, “People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands-- literally thousands-- of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.” And “It's no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn't even speak to each other if they met at a party.” In retrospect, maybe I should have picked Jane Austen, or even Erich Segal, not the poster child for man/children everywhere, Hornby.

Nonetheless I could not wait to give him my heartfelt gifts and dinner.
I dressed up in my best fancy finery, meaning yes, I was wearing extremely uncomfortable lingerie under my dress, and waited. And waited. Yes, he was late, but as I waited I pondered what he’d be bringing me – roses in my favorite color – the palest pink, or maybe some clothes, fancy chocolates… my mind reeled at the possibilities.

When he finally arrived he came in bearing a bunch of slightly limp, cellphone wrapped supermarket flowers, and a card. I opened the card hoping for that elusive never uttered word… love, but there was no love, only an “XO, Bolt.”   

Okay. So gifts aren’t everything, just because I loved going all out didn’t mean everyone did. I would rally, it was all good.

He loved the book, but when he opened the garage door opener I couldn’t help but notice a look of slight discomfort, some might even say, panic cross his face. It was in this moment, the realization hit. I was moving this train forward and he was looking for the nearest exit. We were having different relationships.

Three weeks later we had an uncomfortable conversation that started with, “We need to talk,” never a good sign. Bolt had decided, for the third or fourth time, that this wasn’t working for him, and after eight months, we split once again.

I was sitting in my kitchen after he’d gone, crying, trying to decide if 10 a.m. was too early for ice cream, when he walked back in. He placed the garage remote on the counter. “I thought I should give you this back,” he said. I wanted to throw it at him, or dramatically crush it with my heel, but I didn’t, that thing cost like $20!

“We spent all those years talking about stuff we had in common, and the last few months noticing all the ways we were different and it broke both of our hearts.”  Maybe Nick Hornby is a relationship guru after all…

It's all good now. We're friends. You can't blame someone for not loving you. It's always better to have loved and lost, but hopefully you figure out if they love you back before you go handing out those garage door remotes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Being Positively Happy

Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about the topic of happiness. What makes us happy? What keeps us happy? How do we get there? I have interviewed authors, therapists, gurus and teachers. I find I can grasp it for a while, and then, inexplicably, just as easily as I found it, it slips through my fingers and I'm on the hunt again.

This morning I listened to a TED talk that is amazing. And funny. I feel like maybe he's cracked the code.

In this talk he posits exactly what keeps me, and possibly many of you from being able to have sustained happiness. Are you ready?

We're always changing the goal line of the "I'll be happy when..." story. "I'll be happy when this article is written," "I'll be happy when I'm earning more money," "I'll be happy when I have a boyfriend (or girlfriend)." We set ourselves up for a never ending race for which there is no end. Oh my God!
Somehow, I thought it was just me. I am notoriously hard on myself, and i thought it was just my own secret shame of never feeling like I've done enough, or am enough. Little did I realize I am far from alone.
But there is hope! Shawn Achor gives us several things we can do that are proven to help raise the level of happiness. Among them are writing down three things you are grateful for that day. Journaling about one thing in particular that brought you happiness. And exercise and meditation.

I don't know if this is the holy grail I've been seeking or not. The thing is, no one is happy ALL the time, life is full of ups and downs, but if we can find ways to make those dips less severe we may well be on to something.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Life Rarely Goes As Planned, So Plan To Be Surprised

My life has been a series of unplanned events. Where my life is today is not at all where I expected it to be. I planned on staying married until the end, I planned that all my children would glide through life and somehow magically escape drugs, alcohol and strife. Well, I got divorced, and as a parent experienced everything from eating disorders to drug addiction.

When I was 16, I was in love with a boy three years older.than me. He went to Germany to study guitar making, and I was spending my spare time perfecting weaving and other various artistic endeavors. My plan was for us to eventually marry and live in a crunchy-granola world of perpetual bliss. We broke up when I was 17 and I have never seen or heard from him again.I eventually married someone else. The first of many changes of plans to come my way.

I was a stay-at-home mom for most of my marriage, but I always loved to write. I thought eventually I'd write a book and it would become a best-seller. That part of my plan I haven't given up on, but I never, ever thought I would end up writing for newspapers and magazines, or how hard writing and publishing a book would be. The hurdles were not part of the plan.

What I have discovered is we can make plans, try our best to adhere to them, but sometimes life has other plans for us. There's an old saying that goes, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

We don't know what life has in store, and it's perhaps a good thing we don't because we might not want to get out of bed in the morning if we knew the challenges that lay ahead.

But the thing is, some of the best things that have happened to me are the things I hadn't planned on. I've created a new career, made new friends, fallen in love and had a myriad of experiences I would never have had if my life gone according to Plan A. Not every detour has worked out as I thought it might, but I'm the better for each one.

So perhaps the best thing to do is make your plans, but be aware that life probably isn't going to go according to them,

I think the best way to survive is to plan to be surprised and realize that what you didn't plan on may turn out to be the the perfect plan after all.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"The Bachelor" - A Dirty Little Secret For Many Women

 On Monday nights around the country, women are gathering to watch what could be one of the worst shows on television, "The Bachelor."

I've had a love/hate relationship with this show from the get-go. I hate seeing women compete for a man's affections, the way they treat each other, and how they are more in love with the idea of being in love than the man himself. Tears and alcohol flow liberally and emotions run high. It's a clustercuss of bad, and it's something that I pop in on from time to time, sucked in by the sheer incredulity of it all.

It's not something I ever talk to my fellow "Downton Abbey" watching friends about. I write about pop culture for the Cape Cod Times, but heaven forbid I out myself as a sometime "Bachelor" viewer. It was only after reading this piece on the Huffington Post.that I decided to write this. Bolstered by the fact that other self-proclaimed smart women were watching, I felt less terrible about outting myself.

There is much that is very disturbing about "The Bachelor." Mostly the amount of self-doubt these women are afflicted with. Why does every woman who has been dismissed ask, "What did I do wrong?" Why don't any of them ever feel relieved to not be with someone who doesn't want to be with them? They dissolve into a puddle of mascara stained tears and feel they are somehow broken because some floppy-haired winemaker didn't choose them.

Perhaps we watch because we're trying to crack the complex code of mating. Whether you're just starting out, or an experienced dater, it's kind of nice to not alone in how much it just sucks.

Or maybe, as Emma Gray points out in her piece, part of the appeal is while we watch these young women collapse into a weepy messes, we feel better about our own love lives.. No matter how lackluster or empty your romantic life may be, at least you're not sucking face with a guy you don't really care about in questionably clean hot tub in Cabo. As my friend Laura's mom used to say, "It's better to be alone than wish you were."

I'm probably going to see this season through to the end, mostly because I want to see that uber bitch Courtney self-destruct and melt like the Wicked Witch of the West..

And I kind of want to see who wins Ben Flagnik's heart. and vows to spend the rest of his life with. Those will be some magical  five minutes.