Monday, November 22, 2010
When I did finally meet someone who made me crazy, ecstatic, furious and head-over-heels, all at once, I felt those pangs of jealousy creeping in. It was something I'd never really expected. Every female he came into contact with, friend, ex or otherwise earned a sideways glance from me. Who the heck was she? And why was she calling him? And how often did they talk? And why hadn't I heard stories about her?
Over time I settled down a lot and realized that he loved me and was devoted to me. That's all well and good, but I also realized that he wasn't a jealous person. Not even a little bit. I could tell him I had plans to fly to Johnny Depp's private island for the weekend and act as his personal masseuse and his response would be, "OK, babe. Have a good time. Oh, while you're there could you see if he has any Hunter S. Thompson stuff lying around. Cool. Thanks." The only thing that's more off-putting than a jealous rage is...the absence of a jealous rage. I have to admit that it bugged me. He didn't feel threatened by anyone. It was mystifying.
But this weekend, after having a tense couple of days (we're still working through things, having decided to keep living together for the time being) during which I angrily told him that I would go elsewhere to find a satisfying relationship if he was not able to provide it, something finally got under his skin. A painfully old friend of mine called on Saturday to talk about a project he's working on. He was looking for advice. Now, I've known this guy since we were bitty babies. We went to nursery school together. He poses no threat, and I barely ever talk to him unless we run into one another in the neighborhood. It really rubbed my boyfriend the wrong way and later on, without my knowledge, he called this friend and asked him to steer clear. My friend assured him that there was absolutely nothing going on, as I did when my boyfriend let me know he had done it. It was certainly an unnecessary move on his part (and now I have to call this guy and apologize, which annoys me) but I have to say that I wasn't really mad.*
I was almost...reassured.
*I'm even less mad now that my boyfriend told me that he never actually called this guy, but was just messing with me. Sigh...
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
We knew things were crumbling a little over a month ago; we were fighting all the time, and making promises to each other that neither had any intention of keeping. We just weren't connecting the way we used to. When the pressure on us became too much to bear, things blew up, my boyfriend went and stayed at a friend's house for a few days, and we ended our relationship. Since then it's been uncharted territory, because we still share a home, and are doing our best to coexist until the end of our lease.
Obviously this isn't the ideal situation for anyone. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him, and truly expected that we'd be together for the duration. We had started talking about buying a house together. Even though neither of us is particularly marriage-minded, we were planning on taking our relationship to a new level of commitment. You'll remember we went and bought rings symbolizing that.
So now we're faced with the daunting task of dismantling, "our life," together. Since the breakup we've been able to be pretty civil, and have continued spending time together (because, well, we still enjoy each other's company) and things have been generally OK. It's nice to know that I can still lean on him for certain things, and neither of us has gone down the vindictive path (yet) so we're able to continue to pay the bills and share a space. Still, the time will come when we'll have to cut all ties and really move on, and that's not something I'm looking forward to after three years together.
I'll do my best to keep writing, even though I am technically now a Girlfriend in Regress.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Change is pretty much the only thing you can be sure of in life. People will change right before your eyes if you're paying close enough attention. When you aren't evolving then you stagnate and nobody likes the smell of stagnation, especially curled up in bed next to them. Relationships change, and if they don't, they die. I never want to look back at my life or my relationships and realize that I've been in the same place, fighting the same battles and making the same mistakes for years on end.
If we get back to the quote, though, does it suggest that women are committed to evolution, while men favor stagnation? Maybe it's not entirely that black and white, but it sure seems like it sometimes. I think men find a cute, young, wide-eyed thing and want to put it under glass and keep it just so. Women want a fixer-upper that can continually be taken to the next level. But the reality is that you're both going to change, together and independent of each other. And that's not a bad thing.
The struggles come when your evolution or lack thereof makes your significant other feel uncomfortable or unsupported. To be perfectly honest, in my personal life, we've been feeling a lot of this tension lately and I'm not sure what the end result will be. I'm looking forward to a lot of things that maybe my boyfriend isn't quite ready for but as long as we're honest with ourselves and each other, things will work out the way that they're supposed to. We'll evolve and survive or stagnate and die, but no matter what, I'm rooting for change.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
So after a wonderful brunch with friends, we trotted over to a neighborhood gift shop in search of adoration rings. My boyfriend had his mind set on a claddagh style and I had mine set on...sparkle. Naturally. Romeo's Gifts did not disappoint; he spotted "his" ring right off the bat and after some hemming and hawing and cursing my chubby fingers I found one that suits me perfectly. It's yellow quartz, which I love for the color and the local connection (there are quartz mines in New York State, right?) And even better than that, it is sparkle city. I can practically hear the bling sound effects when I look down at it.
We decided to wear them on our left-hand ring fingers. I know, I can hear half of you out there gasping, but, in my mind, the ring finger is reserved for things that say, "Hey, I'm in a relationship." Sure, it's a pretty modern attitude, and I have a feeling that my mom isn't going to like it very much, but this here ring finger belongs to my sweetie and if he wants to put something on it, that's his right. No arguments from me. :)
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I read and read and by the end of the narrative was depressed, and pitied the heroine for being so lovesick and foolish. She was head-over-heels. She was making emotional mix CDs at a rate never before seen. She was hanging on every text, call, and glance from him. She was, quite frankly, a little bit pathetic. When I finished reading, it took me a moment to snap back into reality and realize, "That awful creature was me." *barf*
It took even longer to remember that I had ultimately gotten what I'd wanted so badly years ago. There's not much comfort to be taken in that, though, because that lame girl is still in there somewhere, just waiting to pop out. When she does I'm going to remind her that one CD is plenty.
Update: Just did a little research into what kind of gifts are traditional for a three year anniversary and apparently it is the 'Leather Anniversary.' So, what does that mean? Like, shoes? Or whips and ball gags and things? Fair enough...
A few nights ago I caught a new (I think) episode featuring a couple who seemed to be so ridiculously in love. When they were shown at their wedding, the bride asked the groom if she liked her dress and he said:
Even if it's not entirely true, I'd suggest learning this line and pulling it out in the future. It'll probably get you a, "Yesssss."
Thursday, August 19, 2010
In the first chapter, Gladwell recounts an experiment performed to determine if the success of a marriage can be predicted. They filmed couples discussing their marital issues and analyzed the emotions they displayed. Turns out the designers of the study were able to guess with about 90% accuracy whether the relationships were doomed or not, just based on the ratio of negative interactions to positive. Is that not amazing?
Apparently the number one indicator of a relationship that isn't going to last is the presence of contempt during those conversations. Feeling contempt from the person you love doesn't just affect your heart, but it can lead to more frequent illnesses (!) and less happiness in all areas of life. To me, this makes so much sense. If my boyfriend is upset with me; if we get to the point that we're being mean or calling names, it guts me and makes it nearly impossible to focus on anything other than those negative emotions.
So if you're approaching the point in a conversation or conflict where contempt may enter the equation, step back. They say, "Sticks and stones," and all that, but unkind words from your SO can physically hurt you. And, at the very least, they point toward a predictably grim future for you, as a couple.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I'm going to write a little open letter to the guys right now, because I look at you and I see the confusion and helplessness in your eyes. You're trying so hard to figure out what's happening in these crazy, feminine heads of ours. You're nervous and desperate and kind of want to bolt, like a startled animal. I see all this, and I want to help, so I'm going to let you in on a little secret that I promise will serve you well in your relationships. In this case, we're talking about romance, which is a word that scares the hell out of you guys, but it really shouldn't, because...
Friday, May 28, 2010
I need new jeans. The problem is that I've been wearing little girls' jeans for most of my adult life. More specifically, jeans from the popular tween money sink, Delia's. But those days are coming to an end, I fear, thanks to my advancing age (are 27 year-olds even allowed to wear clothes from Delia's? No? I didn't think so) and, lately, my expanding rear end. I've always been curvy but for some reason (sigh...probably that advancing age, again) just this year my hips have decided that things aren't working out between them, and they need some time far, far apart.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Reduce stress and conflict. Your partner is the person closest to you and, incidentally, the person who will bear the brunt of your stress in life. It’s easy to take your frustrations out on them just because they’re there, but that can lead to a lot of unnecessary strain on your relationship. Don’t use your SO as a dumping ground. Sure, they understand you and can be a good sounding board but don’t be relentless when venting your spleen.
Reuse compliments and affirmations. No one gets sick of hearing that they’re beautiful and clever and successful, so keep on saying it, even if you have to dig down deep to find it. A few minutes spent admiring each other can make both of your days. It’s almost as nice to give a compliment as it is to get one.
Recycle yourselves. We’re all constantly changing and evolving as people. Make sure your relationship is evolving along with you. What worked a year ago may not work today and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to be conscious of it. Become a better version of your relationship, like an Us 2.0.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Kidding, kidding. (No really, I'm not kidding. I've had uncles advise me that it would only take one phone call, should I be messed with. Do not dance with me.)
Anyway, it's funny because I've learned that people from different areas of the world totally fight differently. My boyfriend is half Scottish and his idea of a fight is to act indignant for a good reason, then for no reason, then get emotional and make up over a double shot of whiskey. I, on the other hand, tend to start yelling and keep yelling until one or both of us is beat into submission. It's usually me. While one half of me is Italian and one half of him is Scottish, one half of both of us is Irish, which throws a whole other passive-aggressive monkey wrench into the equation. The Irish are not historically skilled at expressing themselves in appropriate ways and they also rely on dark liquors to get through life.
Fighting may be relationship poison, or it may be what keeps a relationship evolving. Either way, you have to be in tune with your inner fight. Let's talk fighting cliches that may or may not be true.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
"Your taste in coffee signifies your need to drag your ass to work after a long night of drinking. By the way, where is that coffee?"
In all seriousness, though, the article was interesting even though it's not entirely scientific to analyze how coffee choices reflect different personality traits. According to the author, as someone who allows her coffee to cool I am the type of person who, "refuses to be driven or pressurised [sic] knows what they like, and is prepared to wait for it. They may be "fussy" in their tastes, but they don't make demands on others." That's complete BS. I make lots of demands on others.
The article closes with a paragraph that both dates the material, and terrifies this reader. It asserts, "Finally, it is revealed the millennium will see the current coffee sensation heightening. Donna predicts: "As we approach the millennium we will be reaching out more to other people and engage in more conversation. There will also be more thought and emotion - sharing and coffee will help us do this."
This guy obviously never saw Twitter coming.
It got me thinking, though, whether there is anything to be said for, "coffee compatibility." Since we're talking junk science, anyway, we may as well have a little fun. Can a black drinker ever be happy with someone who likes hers light and sweet? Can a hazelnut ever love a French vanilla? All I know is that I take mine with 1/2 a Splenda and soy milk while my boyfriend prefers tea and we've never had any philosophical debates on the topic.
I wonder what the new millennium will bring.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
After a year and a half of cohabitation, I can say that there are only a handful of, "boundaries," that remain. I will certainly sneak in for a quick pee while my boyfriend is in the shower, and will lounge around in various states of undress. No biggie. But I can definitely rattle off a few things that I'd be loathe to do in front of him, and they include:
- The opposite of peeing. And I don't mean drinking.
- Exercising. For some reason, I can't work out while he's in the room. I've been able to do so with former roommates and other boyfriends, but not with him. Especially not yoga. It could be the fact that I know he'll say something like, "You're going to get stuck like that," or, "Do they call that pose the flailing goddess? If so, you're doing it right." Under normal circumstances, I'd find those comments both hilarious and timely. Not so much when I'm channeling a pretzel, and trying to be at peace.
- Vocal warm-ups. I'm a singer, by trade. Well, not really by trade, but I did go to school for it, which makes me think it should be my trade. Anyway, warming up your voice is probably the least attractive preview of your abilities you could possibly come up with. Arpeggios, trills, whooping, lip buzzing, mouth stretching, these are things that should be reserved for the bedroom.
- Picking out an outfit. When I'm figuring out what to wear it's like I'm in some sort of zone where my peripheral vision shuts down. I can't talk or think about anything other than finding that one shirt. Yesterday my boyfriend joined me in the bedroom while I rifled through clothes in an attempt to change so we could go get dirty martinis. He barely even spoke, but it still put me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My inner voice was screaming, "I just need to concentrate!!!!"
- "Personal" grooming. I don't think I need to explain this one.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Dusty's one of those artists who make you say, once you start delving into her catalog, "Oh my god, that was her," about a dozen times. She had fabulous hair, was openly bisexual (in 1970!!!) and pretty much defined the, "mod," sound. She's like a musical Union jack mini-skirt.
So mix up a Manhattan, throw on some Dusty in Memphis, and twist it out with your man (or your lady. Or one of each!)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Now I find myself mentally identifying aspects of our relationship that make us, "weird," or, "normal." This is all admittedly very silly because, who sets the standards of normalcy for couples, anyway? I can think of some pairings that are way odder than we are and it's usually they who stand the test of time. Like, you know, that guy and his wife...or...that couple from the show. OK, so maybe I can't think of any weirder couples. Speidi, maybe. (They're positively made for each other. They'll probably go over a cliff together one day. And they seem deliriously happy, unless that's just the angel dust talking.)
Monday, April 26, 2010
In Five Years, I Anticipate:
- Us owning our own home. We currently rent but as we get more and more invested in our living space and our relationship, it only makes sense that soon we'll think about buying. It's a good investment and it's something that we'll have to tackle together.
- Hearing the pitter patter of little feet. Those feet will be furry and padded, if I have anything to say about it. I've been feeling a little dog-crazy these days. Want.
- Opening a joint savings account. I'm not a big advocate for combining finances, in general, but I think it's a great idea to have one joint savings account. You can both toss $20 per pay period in there and, after a bit, take a nice vacation. Which leads us to my last point.
- Taking a major vacation. We go here and there on short trips, but have never gone all out. Last week we were watching a program featuring the Italian countryside and I expressed the desire to go someday. My boyfriend's response was, "Oh, we're going. Soon."
Call me closed-minded, but I've just never done well dating sports fans. No matter how many times a guy has tried to explain to me what a first down is, it never sinks in. The next time I watch a football game I'll inevitably wonder, "What the heck is going on here?"
Sports fans also have a tendency to get fanatical, which is incredibly unattractive to me. If you have to wear the same boxers every Sunday a game is on so your team won't break their winning, "streak," then there is something wrong with you. Sorry. There just is.
In my early twenties, a guy I was dating took me to task for saying I would never enjoy football. He said that it was selfish to close oneself off from something one's SO enjoys. Maybe so. He even suggested that it was a girl's duty to feign interest in her boyfriend's hobbies; that she should take one for the team by suffering through endless, mind-numbing hours just to make him happy. That she should devote time and energy to learning about the ins and outs of the game so she could intelligently discuss it. I'd just like to point out that years later that guy is long gone and my dislike for football remains.
What does that tell you?
This morning I watched three squirrels, "interacting," all over a tree in my backyard. They scooted and spiraled up and down, taunting each other and pretending to try to get away. Every few minutes they'd stop and...co-mingle for a bit before getting back to their game. It was adorable in a primal kind of way, and it stirred up all sorts of Spring-type feelings in me.
Doesn't the change in seasons just make you feel fundamentally good? Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, the sun comes back. The first really nice day of the year makes me want to strip down to my skivvies and run around outside, preferably with the boyfriend in tow. You feel driven to reconnect with yourself in a physical way, and it's undeniable that Spring will make you amorous. Just like the squirrels.
What about the warming weather inspires you?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Right off the bat I'm going to make an inflammatory statement. I truly believe that having (some) secrets is a good thing in a relationship. No, really, I do. No. Really. I'm not talking about keeping mean-spirited secrets, or ones that may threaten your longevity as a couple but rather little, inconsequential things you omit, just for the sake of keeping the peace.
Both of you obviously have a history before one another and hopefully, when you got together you shared the ups and downs, the successes and failures of past loves. Your SO's romantic history is a road map of what brought him to you and ignoring it is like saying, "I'm happy to be American, and all...but who cares about the Civil War?" That's just silly.
BUT - and this is a big but -
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
It isn't like the idea of handling his used knickers turns me off. It doesn't exactly turn me on, but I don't have any opposition to it on sanitary grounds. We spend a significant portion of our lives within a foot of each other so there's no reason to be squeamish. If some particularly intrepid microscopic invader wants to make the trek from him to me (or vice versa) it will find a way to do so, regardless of any safeguards put in place to deter it. So my laundry aversion isn't a matter of germophobia. And it has nothing to do with not wanting to spoil him; heck, I'll go to the mall, pick out and purchase some underpants. If a seam comes loose I'll stitch it up, and if I happen to find them on the bathroom floor I'll happily scoop them up and toss them onto the dirty pile, but if you ask me to pour detergent on them and punch a few buttons, you will be heartily rebuffed.
I guess the bottom line is that I don't know why I won't do this one chore, but I won't. It's like the last holdout on the way to being a maid rather than a girlfriend and lord knows I am not a maid. I'll wear the outfit if he asks nicely (or brusquely, really,) but it won't be for doing laundry.
Is there anything you wouldn't do for your guy? What motivates that?
Monday, April 12, 2010
Silence is a restorative thing on many levels. It's relaxing and allows to be inside your own head, for one, but it also forces you to read your partner's non-verbal cues. Frankly, I need silence to better appreciate the lack thereof. For some, a moment of quiet is uncomfortable and they feel the need to fill it with nervous talk but I encourage people to fight against that, especially when you're with your partner.
One of the grievances we hear regarding long term relationships is that the couple has, "run out of things to talk about." I have three ways to solve this problem:
- Stop being boring. (I'm only half-kidding on this. If you never stop learning and experiencing, you'll always have something to talk about.)
- Speak with restraint. Sure, it's tempting to want to tell him all of your funny stories at once, and explain your entire family dynamic before your first Christmas together, but please don't. All it takes is a few, "Yeah, you already told me that,"s to make you feel exhausted.
- Embrace a few moments of silence during the day.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Thing is, I hardly ever think about the stuff that I miss because it's all so far outweighed by the wonderful aspects of being one half of a couple. You have an automatic date for any night of the week, don't have to face anything alone if you don't want to, and, well, regular sex sells itself. There's always someone willing to get up on the ladder and fix things (guess who...) and guys are just so much better at certain things. Like getting up on ladders. And fixing things. I on the other hand would allow a bum light bulb to remain in its socket, sad and useless, for, say, all of eternity. If it was just me, living alone, a fuse could blow in the basement and I'd shrug my shoulders, grab a candle and get on with my life.
So, for me, the pros of being attached outnumber the cons and the pros of living together are almost innumerable. I'm certainly not going to go so far as to say, "Oh, I never lived when I was single. I was just a lost soul, drifting aimlessly." No. But it was kind of dark back then, and cold, and I was spending way too much money on candles.
I think it's important to share this information with your significant other pretty early on, just to be fair. Ostensibly, in a new relationship, you want to give each other the best possible shot at success and knowing the other's deal breakers at least lets you know what might send you to Jail without passing Go.
I really only have one, and that is: cheating. (I want to put that in bold italics but that would give the word more power, and, wow, it is powerful enough on its own. It already has creepy organ music and thundercracks accompanying it in my head.) Cheating is like six kinds of offensive. There's the lying, of course, but worse than a web of lies is the realization that your partner doesn't want to share something with you. And worse than that is the realization that your partner doesn't want to sleep with you.
My main goal in life, as you might imagine, is to stay alive. When your significant other cheats, your health is directly threatened. Of course there's the very real, frightening possibility of contracting an STD but I'd worry more about my health being threatened by winding up on death row after murdering someone. See, nobody wants that.
One of the many things that my boyfriend and I have worked really hard on is unflinching - and sometimes brutal - honesty, and our secrets from one another are few and far between. (The secrets we do have are necessary and important to us. That's a topic for another day.) Someday he may sit me down and tell me something I don't want to hear, but I wouldn't have it any other way. He knows that he can tell me just about whatever's on his mind, and that we'll face it together. Unless, of course, what's on his mind is, "I cheated on you." In that case, would someone please gather up some bail money and get my lawyer on the phone.
My deal breaker is probably pretty common. I'm interested to hear what transgressions are on your list.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
OK, so how many of us are living in a perfect world? That's what I thought.
In reality we do the best with what we get in life; if you're very lucky you will find someone whose quirks complement yours and who doesn't mind your shortcomings. (Lord knows I have quite a few, and some of them are pretty off-putting, if I do say so myself.) If you're super-duper-mega lucky, that person will also be someone you find attractive and who finds you attractive in return. Be lucky enough to get to this point and you may as well forget about buying that fistful of lottery tickets, because you've already hit the jackpot.
It's so easy, in life and in relationships, to focus on what's lacking rather than what's there. She never rinses her dishes. He refuses to clip his nails in the bathroom. Make a list of all of the things your SO does that annoy you or gross you out. Go ahead, write everything down, and don't hold back. Once you've finished the list, write this title on the top of the paper, "List of Things I Happily Accept Because Any List Made About Me Would Be About Eighty Times Longer."
People aren't puzzle pieces. You can't use force to jam someone into an empty space in your make-up. The edges never align perfectly and, gosh, it just takes so much effort that would be better spent on loving each other, incomplete and imperfect as you both are.
Monday, April 5, 2010
We tend to believe that whatever reality we're living in is the real reality. Yesterday I asked my grandmother how a distant cousin is faring after college and what she's been doing with her life. Her telling reply was, "Oh...she's off finding herself somewhere." I could only nod in approval. My reality for the past ten years has been, "finding myself," I suppose. I've never felt any sort of internal pressure to settle down; quite the contrary, my goal has been to have as much fun as is humanly possible before life forces me to settle down. There's this nagging feeling that's been in the pit of my stomach for a long time. It says: There's so much more to be done.
Friday, April 2, 2010
And, yet, it still bugs the crap out of me.
When I'm dragging myself out of bed in the morning, he's peacefully enjoying another few hours of sleep. When I'm dragging myself to bed at night, he's enjoying all the late night TV I love, but can no longer stay up for. It's so unfair. Of course, from his perspective, I'm the one who has it good, working standard hours and being able to live it up with just about everyone else during off-hours. When most of our friends are partying he's stuck at work. Also unfair.
One way we've dealt with the differing schedules is to designate one day out of the week as, "Our Day." It's usually Sunday. We make it a point to spend a whole day just enjoying each other's company, cooking, relaxing and getting reacquainted. It's absolutely essential, in my opinion, to reserve at least a little time for just the two of you, even if it's as simple as a quiet day at home.
Readers, how do you make time for your SO?
Who doesn't need a relationship refresher every once in a while? It's so easy to fall into the rut of a comfortable routine when you've been together for a long time, and we all know that, "comfortable," is the arch nemesis of, "passionate." So every Friday - just in time for the weekend - I'll share a product, bright idea, or time-tested trick; something to get you out of that rut (and those ratty old sweatpants.)
Today's Powder Room feature is...
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Think about how gender roles have shifted, even in just the last 30 years.
Women are in the workforce, empowered to do, "everything a man can do," and are spending less time at home. It's not just that women are now doing "men's" work, but also that men are now expected to do their share of the traditionally "women's" work, too. We expect them to do their own laundry and dishes (um, damn straight) and split the cooking and cleaning 50/50. Sometimes we even expect them to be stay-at-home dads. I think all of this is great; the redistribution of power between men and women was inevitable and we women should thank our lucky stars that we have opportunities that our grandmothers never had, and never dreamed of having.
BUT (and there's a big but, here) I think some gender roles aren't so bad at all. There's a reason why our male ancestors hunted and women took care of the house and kids, and these biological imperatives still exist within us and our DNA, no matter how much we fight against them by being, "modern," and, "evolved." These are things we should be embracing, lest we risk losing them. The difficult part is striking a balance between honoring our gifts as human women, and those that society has given us just because we are lucky enough to be born into a more equal world.
So how do we do that? The truth of the matter is that in relationships these days, men usually follow our lead. We have to be willing to give up that lead once in a while, to soften our approach and relinquish a little bit of that control we've claimed. I have a major problem with this: letting men be men. Just because we can take care of ourselves without help from anyone doesn't mean we always should. I'm working on, well, being a woman.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Do Ask your SO a ton of questions ahead of time. There's no better way to figure out where your boundaries lie. Is his mother crazy about raising exotic ferns or is she allergic to everything containing chlorophyll? What's Dad's favorite sports team? Or is Dad more interested in model airplanes (in which case...honey, I haven't seen any actual model airplanes anywhere in your parents house. I think your dad is just huffing glue in the garage.)
Don't overshare. These people are parents, not your girl friends and they probably aren't going to be won over by that story about how you had one too many dirty martinis last weekend, snapped a heel off on a crack in the sidewalk and had to walk home with one shoe on. (I love that story, though. You can always tell me again.)
Do bring a little something. Two of the most important things in my life are drinking and baking and that's very lucky, because everyone loves wine and cookies. Together, obviously. If you aren't skilled at channeling Betty Crocker, it can be tempting to want to just grab a store-bought pie but I'd advise against it. Play to your strengths, whatever they may be.
Don't step on anyone's toes. Ask if there's something you can do to help out, but only once or twice. If Mom consistently says no then, well, she means no (and, possibly, "You're getting in the way.") Sit down and enjoy yourself.
Do your best to charm their pants off. Tell them how great their son is and how lucky you are to have found him. Point out evidence of their excellent parenting. They will glow and coo and be deliriously happy. This is where you can overdo it a little, within reason.
Don't compare them to your own family!! I can't put enough exclamation points after that one. Every family is quirky, dysfunctional, damaged, and awesome in its own way. Take comfort in the ways that his is more supportive or social, or how yours never argues on holidays. The words, "Well, we don't do it that way," should never cross your lips. You're on vacation in a foreign family. Don't ever be a rude American.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
That's a pretty heavy thing to say to someone: You are the love of my life. Dramatic, and oh-so effective. Guys, I suggest you use it sparingly, as it has the tendency to turn a woman into a quivering, blubbering fool. You'll also open a window of about an hour after uttering it where she will do whatever you want her to do. Please, use this power for good rather than evil.
I was convinced I'd met the love of my life within about six seconds of seeing my boyfriend. It was confirmed when he told me he'd kiss me, even if I had terrible garlic breath. That, my friends, is love.
P.S. After publishing this post I cracked open the fortune cookie that accompanied my sushi lunch. The fortune: You are demonstrative with those you love. Aw, that's nice.
If you were around back in 1992 and asked the ten year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said with some confidence I was going to be a writer. I had just received my first electric typewriter (my parents thought word processors were too high-falutin', apparently) and was convinced that someday I would be studying philosophy at Columbia while living in a pied a terre and writing the great American novel.
Still working on that. If you have any contacts at Columbia, please put in a good word for me.
At fifteen I had grown out of dreams to write (how silly I'd been) and was ready to give up all my worldly possessions and go tie myself to a tree somewhere. I wanted to be an activist. Or maybe an actress-slash-activist because, well, we all need a little glamor in our lives, and I had to find some way to make that hundred million dollars I'd be donating to hip charities. Marriage and family were about the last priority I could possibly imagine. I didn't want kids, I wanted chaos.
Now I've come full circle (or, 180 degrees, maybe?) I write for fun, not to change the world, and would pretty much be content if my profession was keeping house. What I want to be when I grow up now is a housewife. I'd like to wear pearls and a party dress while I whip up a gelatin salad and a five-layer coconut cake. I don't want to be oppressed or anything (and you can keep the kids, thank you very much) but who says you have to be an astrophysicist to be satisfied?
I'd still like the pied a terre, though. And maybe someday I'll ask the boyfriend to tie me to a tree, just for fun.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
All my attached but not married ladies, put your hands up. Show me those sparklers! Wait, you don't have one?
Well aren't we modern. We gotta stop that.
As you get to know me, you'll realize that I am ambivalent towards marriage. It seems antiquated, based in a time where women were more possessions than partners, and, let's face it, not too many marriages last. In general, my attitude is, "Meh. Why bother?" Its symbolism (the big flowery day, the big flowery dress, the big flowery bill) is kind of lost on me. A symbol that I do love, however, is the ring.
I know what you're thinking. 'Sigh...a gold digger like all the rest.' Hold up, there, Kanye. Let me finish.
Just because you don't plan to walk down the aisle doesn't mean you aren't 100% dedicated to your significant other. Classier than a t-shirt that says, "I'm This Guy's Bitch," and less ostentatious than a billboard in Times Square, a ring is great middle ground. And when I say, "ring," I mean a simple, tasteful band that whispers, "I'm taken," rather than shouting, "I'M ENGAGED, DAMN IT! I'M ENGAGED AND MY FIANCE BOUGHT THIS FOR ME!" That's not very ladylike. You're on notice.
Aside from the obvious symbolism of being committed, rings have all sorts of fun historical significance, my favorite being their representation of the infinite. An unending circle. I think that's just so lovely and simple. That infinite love can be romantic or fraternal (think class rings or the broken heart 'Best Friend' monstrosities we all wore as schoolgirls) or even nerdtacular ("One ring to [whatever] them all." I can never remember how that goes...) How cool is it that one symbol can represent so many different types of love?
No matter what your views on traditional marriage vs. modern partnerships, the fact remains that most ladies like jewelry, and we like what it represents, especially when it comes from you.
Coat Factory, because sometimes they have a pretty good selection of underthings.) They're all adorable; some simple black numbers, some adorned with bows and ribbons and sheer panels. Guaranteed to drive any man wild (or, back into the arms of his hot boyfriend. One or the other.) The problem is that I just so very rarely wear the things. They aren't uncomfortable, or anything. When I do wear them it's usually to sleep in because they are comfortable, not because there's anything brewing in the romance department.
One thing I can give myself and my boyfriend is that we are spontaneous when it comes to having sex. We don't need to be in a candlelit honeymoon suite carpeted with rose petals to be inspired. This means that it's usually clothes coming off, rather than lingerie. So what becomes of those sweet little slippies, just languishing in the dresser drawer? I'm thinking they need to become more of a priority. In fact, I may go out and buy a few more, just to get the ball rolling (hehehe. Ball.)
Intimacy goal for the week: Get into my lingerie more often, even if it isn't going to stay on for too long.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
It takes a giant leap of faith to decide to cohabitate before marriage. For some couples it is a great trial run for a more serious commitment. For others it is the more serious commitment. You consciously decide to take HisLife and HerLife and smash them together and hopefully your LifeBaby looks more Gerber than Churchill. Just like making a baby the old fashioned way, you never really know what you're going to get...until it pops out.
We decided to, "consolidate," about a year and a half ago and began moving my boyfriend's belongings into my (now our) apartment. So much of it was surprisingly simple: we share a retro, kitschy design aesthetic and just about all of his stuff matched or complemented mine. It was so much fun learning more about him through what he collected and loved. And there seemed to be a place for everything.
The fun part didn't last too long, though. Suddenly decisions were being made by two parties rather than just one. For me, it was (and continues to be) really difficult to relinquish control of my life. I'd lived with another man for a grand total of four months, and that situation had been incredibly tenuous; neither one of us was dedicated to building a LifeBaby. So to go from 100% in-control, a modern woman makin' it on her own to 1/2 of a living, opinionated entity was (and continues to be) one of the toughest things I've ever had to do. But it is sooo worth it.
So we work to raise and improve the LifeBaby we built together. It's uniquely ours and I'm a proud mama, even on its less-than-cute days.
-Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Believe it or not, I've come to the conclusion that this is not necessarily a negative thing. My boyfriend and I have had our share of Hindenburg-level blow-outs but we always seem to come out okay on the other end. Stronger, even. So does that justify the cruel words and wasted energy of a marathon fight? For us it does. A long time ago we (even though we aren't married and don't see it on the nearby horizon) made a promise to stick it out, for better or worse. We vowed to each other that we'd always work on our relationship. Sometimes that work takes the form of making sure to schedule a date night, sometimes it's way more dramatic, but it's all part of the bigger project of partnership.
I'm sure other couples have incredibly divergent ways of dealing with conflict. We're obviously big on the slash-and-burn technique, where the entire village gets razed and its inhabitants flee, screaming, into the forest. It works for us. What works for you?
Monday, March 22, 2010
Even during those times when it is justified, it's still probably not the best idea to go full-tilt into a fit of bitchiness. First of all, I'll tell you right now that no straight man knows how to deal with a woman who has whipped herself into a bitch-fit. They immediately get defensive and will only rise to your level of frustration. That's not a productive way to deal with a disagreement.
Instead, as self-explanatory as it may be, take a deep breath. Count to five. Recognize the line between upset and whirling dervish and don't cross it. Speak calmly and quietly and don't jump to conclusions. Now, I'm not saying I've mastered this concept. Quite the opposite. Just this morning I went off all half-cocked, but I've pledged to work on it. Like I said...Girlfriend-in-progress.
We are big on the, "I love you,"s around our house. Or, should I say, I'm big on the, "I love you,"s and my boyfriend is just along for the ride. He, like most men, prefers to emote physically rather than verbally. He opens a door or gives me a peck on the cheek and that, in his mind, is what says he loves me. I'd rather beat it in to the ground with multiple declarations throughout the day and am not ashamed to admit that. I love him at the end of phone conversations (even texts get a requisite, "xoxo,") and as I cook dinner. I love him before bed and in the morning and if I could train a parrot to say, "Squawk! I love you!" I would make him carry it around on his shoulder as a constant reminder of my undying love.
Is that overkill?
Only if one's self-worth hinges on a response. If you're an over-lover, you had better get used to, every once in a while, being left hanging, especially if your SO is a typical guy. My boyfriend once said, "God, I love you, OK? I love you! Enough!" to which I responded by bursting into tears. Neither of us understood the other's position, and that left us both upset. A loooong conversation ensued where I conceded that, sure, I took the I love yous a little too far. He didn't need to be peppered with love all day long, and felt like a response on his part had become obligatory rather than genuine. I pointed out that sometimes I just felt like saying it. It had less to do with reciprocation from him, and more my need to express my feelings. Once we talked it out it made perfect sense from both angles and since then we've been more considerate of one another. Loving in balance, a very important lesson.
Did you ever wish that you had your own personal stenographer to follow you around and take notes? God, that would be such an awesome relationship tool. All of the passionate fights that stalled at, "I didn't say that!" "Oh, YES YOU DID!" would be solved beyond dispute. No Marriage Ref required, just a quick-fingered, non-biased marm-type who would be there should you find yourself in a sticky situation. "Hmmm, what were we just talking about? Read that back, Louise."
My boyfriend suggests this all the time, but more in the, I-am-going-to-start-carrying-around-a-tape-recorder-to-capture-all-your-CRAZY-TALK kinda way. It is a suggestion I support, seeing as, in my opinion he's usually the one talking crazy. As much as I like the idea of him being proven wrong, the flip side of the coin is a little frightening. Just how often am I wrong? Not just wrong but super-hyper-mega wrong. Probably more often that I'd care to admit.
"Destroy those records, Louise."
Pretty early on in my current relationship I noticed a troubling trend. I'd wake up in the morning, roll over to kiss my boyfriend, and get a face full of cold, unused pillow. My first instinct used to be panic. Where was he? Did he go out last night and never come home? Was he eaten by wolves? Cannibals? Or, dear god, could he have run into an ex-girlfriend and decided to run away to French Guyana with her?!?!?! *SCREAM OF RAGE.*
Invariably, though, I'd truck out to the living room and find him, slack-jawed on the sofa, remote in hand, the same episode of The Office repeating itself to infinity on the DVR. *Sigh of relief.* The boyfriend was not missing or dead or cheating (obviously his death would be preferable to that) but the fact remained that, for whatever reason, he had not come to bed.
His explanations were always completely valid: he'd fallen asleep in front of the television, was restless and didn't want to toss and turn and wake me up, needed some space. As valid as they were, it rubbed me the wrong way.
In general, I think physically sleeping together is crucial to keeping your relationship fresh. A few solid nights of boy-on-couch tends to put a cramp in the sex department. After all, you can't have sex with someone who's in a different room (unless you're into short-distance Skype-sex, in which case, you go, girl.) Aside from that aspect, I know that I need the affirmation of feeling someone next to me. Maybe, "need," isn't the right word. Want. I want to feel someone next to me. More specifically, I want to feel the person I love next to me.
My father and his girlfriend no longer sleep in the same room. She is a light sleeper, waking at the drop of a hat and long ago they decided to go it alone, for her sake. I don't think my dad really cares one way or the other, as long as he can have a beer with dinner he's a happy camper. But, to me, that really signals a relationship's decline. First you move one room away, then it's that much easier to move one house away, one town away, one state away. I know, I know, that's slightly dramatic, but that's where my mind goes. I don't want to be the type of couple who lead separate lives and wash separate bedclothes. Some of that, I'm sure, comes from being frightened as a child by my father's situation. Most of it is because I need (want) that physical closeness.
I need it, even though my boyfriend (and lots of other people who claim that sleeping separately has improved their marriages) may not. It's something we've talked over, fought over, and still haven't, "fixed." Do any of my gorgeous Girlfriends-in-Progress have words of wisdom on this? How can you encourage your SO to get to bed!
Picture courtesy of http://www.momlogic.com.
Welcome to Girlfriend-in-Progress! This is something I've been brainstorming for a long time: a totally anonymous, no-punches-pulled perspective on modern girlfriending. I'm in my late 20s living in upstate New York and am in a serious, live-in relationship. It's a CONSTANT work-in-progress, let me tell you, and it isn't all rainbows and unicorns. (Well, maybe 30% rainbows and unicorns. If I'm being generous.)
We women know that we are all far from perfect and make plenty of mistakes. This will be a (for lack of a better term,) "safe space," for me to share those mistakes and how I am working towards not making them twice. Sometimes it's going to get a bit personal, which is why I'm choosing to go the anonymous route rather than blogging under my own name. In return for my secrecy I promise to blog with abandon; to give you the nitty-grittiest details possible and to always be brutally honest.
Good Girlfriends unite and get better along with me.