Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meeting the Parents

One of the few relationship milestones that I know I have in the bag is meeting the parents. Parents have always been my specialty, for some reason. It's so seldom that I can actually give advice on something rather than just speculating so I put together a list of parent-friendly pointers. A few 'Do's and 'Don't's:

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

Love of My Life

Until I met my current boyfriend I'd never had anyone refer to me as, "the love of his life." Well, one time a guy I was seeing mentioned my name in the same sentence as the phrase, "love of my life," but it was more like, "I can't be with you anymore because I've met the love of my life." (This actually happened to me. Ouch. It's cool, though, because the love of his life now has an order of restraint against him.)

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.

Career Day

As a child of the 80s and 90s I was taught by my parents, teachers and Barbie that we girls could do anything. You could be an astronaut or a cardiologist or, if you're living in a pathetic fantasy world, sure, you could also be a housewife. Wait a minute. But my mom was a housewife (most of the time) as was her mom and her mother before her. Why, suddenly, was the future of gender equality squarely on my shoulders?

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

If You Liked It Then You Shoulda At Least Offered to Put a Ring On It

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.

Lingerie: Yea or Nay? a way?

I have about half a dozen lacy little slippy things from Victoria's Secret (and, well, Burlington
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.

Knock Down, Drag Out

'"Every week," said Arthur, "we have knock-down-drag out sex and then a tender and passionate fight.'
-Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday, right? So many of us have, at some point in a serious relationship, fallen victim to this self-perpetuating cycle of fighting, making up; fighting, making up. There's something delightfully sadomasochistic about the process; you get to vent your spleen, ball-up your fists and stomp your feet, then your partner returns the favor (rinse and repeat) until you're ready to find some common ground (or, realistically, because we're all about being realistic, agree to disagree and get right on to the make-up sex) and move on.

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

From Zero to Bitch in Under 5 Seconds

At any given time, I am, "working," on a random personal issue. Sometimes it's exclusively personal (like my ill-fated attempt to clean up my gd sailor mouth) but more often it's something that affects others in my life, usually the boyfriend. These days I am trying to adjust my reactions. I can seriously go from zero to bitch in the blink of an eye and it's enough to drive anyone nuts. When this happens I can practically see the terror flash in my boyfriend's eyes and if facial expressions could talk, his would say, "Holy SHIT! Where'd you come from? ESCAPE! ESCAPE!" Every once in a while it's justified. Certainly not often, but once in a while.

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.

I (Still) Love You

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.

Read That Back, Louise.

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."

Get to Bed

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

Good Day, Good Girlfriends

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.