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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.