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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...