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What Women Want: 10 Tips to Get You Started

Posted by Deborah Huso on Mar 22, 2015 in Men, Relationships

What do women want?” I can’t tell you how many times male friends and acquaintances (and even a couple of prospective boyfriends) have asked me this question. Maybe they think I can provide some expertise because I write a blog on relationships. (Little do they know I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog if I had the slightest clue about anything.)

Nevertheless, I’ll do my best to provide some insight. However, I must make several disclaimers. First, I haven’t a clue what 20-something women want. I’m too far removed from that arena, and even when I did occupy it, I occupied it without much wisdom. Secondly, I also cannot comment on what women who reside at Twin Oaks or other commune-like facilities want nor can I comment on what women who are desperately seeking a man for the purpose of obtaining financial relief, acquiring a salve for mental illness, or seeking some boost to their self-esteem want.

My “tips” below are based on the wants of 30 to 40-something, relatively financially and professionally secure women with a few brains in their head. If you’re looking for something other than this, then these tips may be of no use to you….

  • You have confidence. And I’m talking genuine confidence, not the swaggering, in-your-face confidence of a man who is actually suffering from a severe case of low self-esteem or, even worse, self-loathing. I’m talking about the unassuming confidence of a man who is comfortable in his own skin, tolerant of others because he feels no threats from other people’s opinions or judgments, and who doesn’t need a woman to complete him. Rather he wants one, a very specific one who appreciates who he is and isn’t going to settle until he finds her. I cannot emphasize enough the power of confidence—it is sexy as hell, and the number one trait women are seeking in a male partner.
  • You’re courageous. No self-respecting woman wants to date a man who is not at least as brave is she is. And braver is better.  No, this doesn’t mean you need to bungee jump off the New River Bridge or sky dive necessarily, but it does mean you need to be open to experiencing life. If you’re not willing to try just about anything once, you’ll have a hard time landing a woman who is.  Sitting on the sidelines and watching life happen is not going to endear you to any woman worth her salt.
  • You’re Uninhibited. And I’m not just talking about in the bedroom. You’re not scared to twirl her around the dance floor even when you have two left feet because you really don’t give a shit what other people think and her smile drives you wild. You’re adventurous at work, at play, and between the sheets because you know novelty is the spice of life…and long lasting love.
  • You’re emotionally brave. And no, this doesn’t mean you need to be like a woman and be comfortable divulging your heart and soul to a circle of intimates. But you should be willing to divulge them to her. If you can’t muster the courage to say, “I really like you,” or, when the time is right, “I love you,” you don’t have any business dating a high-caliber female. Vulnerability is courageous. If you’re not brave enough to be yourself in front of the woman you love, you will lose her. No self-respecting female is going to hang around waiting for you to find the courage to be real.
  • You’re monogamous. Far too many men confuse the “M” word with the “C” word and give up some truly remarkable women because of it. Let me set the record straight on behalf of single women who own their own homes, raise their children largely alone, manhandle their careers, and manage reality without a partner: marriage is probably not all that high on their list of “life goals.” They’ve already proved to themselves that they can handle life without you moving in or putting a ring on their finger. Dating and sexual exclusivity are reasonable requests from a woman if you want a long-term engagement with her. Monogamy does not translate directly into long-term commitment (i.e. marriage or some equally scary scenario). If you can’t keep it in your pants, then you break up. You don’t sneak around behind her back.  That’s just plain disrespectful and the practice of a coward. Go find a girlfriend (or two or three) at a commune and practice open and honest polyamorism.
  • You’ve got your shit together. Sure, we’re all tormented souls by the time we reach our mid-30s (unless we’ve led incredibly boring and sheltered lives), but we still hold down a job, pay our bills on time, take care of our families, and try to do the right thing. Don’t even think about dating if you can’t master the basics of reality.
  • You can step outside your comfort zone. And yes, this means you’re willing to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia with her, but it also means you’ll let her cry in your arms. It may make you as uncomfortable as hell because every bone in your body is screaming “fix it!!!” but you do what you know you’ve got to do, and you hold her, tell her it’s going to be okay, and wait till her tears are dry before you let her go. If you can do this, you will occupy “God” status in her eyes.
  • You challenge her. The best relationships, romantic or otherwise, are those in which we learn something from the other person. If you don’t have depth, intellect, and wit…plus a willingness to share your knowledge and accept hers with careful consideration, forget it. No one wants to date a numbskull or someone who is not open to the ideas of others. Intellectual curiosity is at the core of a meaningful life.
  • You protect her. I’m not talking the Victorian era of protection in which women were carefully cloistered in the home. I’m talking about the fact that you care whether or not she arrives home safely, feels at peace in your arms, or believes you would ride in like Prince Charming if she had a flat tire. If you think women don’t still need this, you’re severely misinformed. And while it may feel burdensome at times to be her knight in shining armor, the rewards are pretty damn grand. Just ask any man who has given a woman in a power suit the opportunity to let go and be taken care of for once.
  • You know how to drive her wild. Seriously, If you’re mid-30s or older, and you don’t know how to drive a woman crazy in bed, forget it. Go find a 22-year-old with low expectations. If you want a chance at a sexual Goddess, then you better know how to make her crazy…because I guarantee she knows how to drive you to the edge….

 

 

 
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The Five Types of Women Men Should Avoid

Posted by Deborah Huso on Mar 16, 2015 in Men, Relationships

My women friends and I often joke about the fact that every conversation we have will ultimately turn to men. We can’t help it. There’s just something wonderfully titillating about discussing the latest antics of men we shouldn’t date or, in some cases, shouldn’t have married.

But despite our vexatious exchanges on the inappropriate and often downright unethical behavior of guys, only the most self-righteous among us would ever admit that women can’t be jerks and hot messes, too. In acknowledgement of the fact that 50 percent or more of my readers and followers are men, this blog post is for you.

Read it and run…where necessary.

1) The Avenger: This gal has had one experience after another of bad men. It may have started with an evil stepfather or perhaps with an abusive boyfriend in high school. And then the trouble just kept on coming: men who couldn’t keep their pants zipped, commitment-phobes, players…. Eventually, this woman decided that the masculine gender had very little to offer in terms of kindness and ethics, and now she wants revenge. Or at least she feels fully justified in breaking your heart and soul into a million pieces. After all, you’re a guy. You couldn’t be good. And even if you are, consider yourself a sacrificial lamb for all those who aren’t.

How to recognize an Avenger: She’s usually smoking hot for the purpose of luring you in. More often than not, she expresses a brutal attitude of power and carelessness, will have sex on a dime (perhaps while already dating someone else), and then will discard you and never call or perhaps lead you on through texts for weeks on end only to drop you cold at the end with no explanation. While her actions look suspiciously like those of a male player, there is a difference: she will not compliment you, rave about you, or stroke your ego. Though she’ll do plenty to stroke her own….

How to Handle Her: Extricate yourself as quickly as possible. Ironically enough, she doesn’t handle rejection well, so the longer you persist in a relationship with her, the more likely she’ll do nightmarish things like show up on your front lawn drunk and throw rocks at your windows while screaming.

2) The Desperate Clinger: While the origins of this type are myriad, she’s easily spotted. She will hang on your every word, remark on how handsome, smart, and witty you are quite incessantly. She’ll clean your house, cook you dinner, maybe even buy you extravagant gifts, all on very short acquaintance. When it comes down to brass tacks, she doesn’t care who you are on the inside. She doesn’t feel complete without a guy, whoever he is. And if you’re financially secure and can “take care of her” for life, all the better in her book.

How to recognize a Desperate Clinger: First off, she’s likely posting provocative photos on social media of herself in skimpy bathing suits (never mind the cellulite and tattoos), exceedingly low cut blouses, and poses that have her draped across various pieces of furniture and/or alongside swimming pools. Her social media posts also frequently include laments about her inability to find a man. On a first date, she’ll already be leaning into you, trying to hold your hand, and will maybe even suggest how to arrange your weekends to accommodate her staying at your house. If you’re reasonably financially secure, all the better. More often than not, she’s grateful for a Sugar Daddy. After all, she wouldn’t be quite so desperate if she was in charge of her own gravy train.

How to Handle Her: Extricating yourself from this one can be tricky. She might threaten suicide or trash your house. Have friends (and potentially police officers) at the ready before you break up with this one.

3) The Casual Cheater: She is, by and large, a woman who would appear to devote herself to one man. The problem is she is always on the lookout for greener pastures. And she’s not brave enough to dump boyfriend number one before investigating boyfriend number two, or, even worse, continuing a relationship with an ex-beau “just in case” things don’t work out with you. Ultimately, she is a woman living in a place of fear. She’s scared of being ultimately alone, so she keeps more than one door propped open at a time with a male back-up plan almost constantly in place.

How to recognize the Casual Cheater: It can be tricky, as she can come across as a highly devoted girlfriend or, in some cases, wife. But she commonly maintains more than friendly relations with old boyfriends or new male acquaintances. She flirts with them on Facebook to keep them interested. And if she has cause to fly out of town by herself, she’ll more than likely hook up with one or more of their number in a one-night stand scenario just to keep that particular door open. In her head, it’s all okay because she’s mainly devoted to you with a few occasional exceptions.

How to Handle Her: Get tested for STDs and run.

4) The Desperate 30-Something: Mentioning this one seems almost brutal on my part, but I’ve had far too many male friends and acquaintances who have run into her not to mention her. Chances are, she’s never been married and feels her biological clock ticking…FAST. While she likely won’t admit it, she’s less interested in you than in your genetic make-up and willingness to settle down and have a family pretty fast. She’s looking for a baby maker, not a husband.

How to recognize the Desperate 30-Something: She doesn’t have children, and by date two or three is already feeling you out on the subject of having babies in one way or another. Unfortunately, her biological desperation could override an incredibly worthwhile life partner, but while she’s in full baby-making mode, you probably want to avoid her. She’s going to put you in a high pressure relationship focused more on outcomes than on mutual compatibility.

How to Handle Her: Tell her to call you once she’s visited a sperm bank and has a healthy toddler on her hands.

5) The Equally Desperate About to Exit Middle Age Woman: This is the saddest among the five. While there are plenty of confident, lovely, and happy single women in their late 40s and 50s who don’t need a man to make them complete, there are a fair number who feel like failures if they’re entering the second phase of life without one. Unfortunately, many of these women maintain the highly unrealistic idea that they can still nab a man in their own age range. The sad reality is, they usually can’t. Once men pass age 40, they tend to be seeking younger romantic companions…at least until they start running into too many of the No. 4 variety.

How to recognize the Desperate About to Exit Middle Age Woman: Nine times out of 10, she has dyed her hair bleach blond, which has a tendency to look exceedingly ridiculous alongside crow’s feet and laugh lines; thus, she may have also sought some help from Botox. The more extremist among them have sought breast implants that give them a somewhat scary post-menopause perkiness that screams desperate more than confidence. In her efforts to avoid the mid-life “spread,” she can eat nothing but iceberg lettuce, which makes her a rather unexciting dinner companion.

How to Handle Her: Introduce her to one of your friends who is 10 years older and won’t require her to sacrifice so much for male companionship.

If you really want to avoid the above, gentlemen, my advice to you is the same as my advice to women: look for companions who are obviously comfortable in their own skin, capable of being alone (even if their long-term goals tend toward romantic companionship), and who make you feel liked (and hopefully loved) for who you are, faults and all.

 
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The Realities of My Media Dream Job: Yikes, Watch Out for That Cow Pie!

Posted by Claire Vath on Mar 11, 2015 in Success Guide, Writer Rants

Once upon a time, my vision of becoming a writer involved jetting off to white sugar beaches and surveying the Paris skyline from the vantage point of the Eiffel Tower. Then I became an editor at a farm magazine. While I spent a good portion of my career there tanning from the glare of my computer screen, I did get to do some travel. And, well, let’s just say my expectations were managed.

Expectation: Jetting off to places like New York, Paris, or some exotic island.
Reality: Paris, Texas; Texarkana, Ark.; and backroads Mississippi.

Expectation: Wearing fancy dresses and business suits while traveling.
Reality: Wearing jeans that can get mud on the butt or cow spit on the legs.

Expectation: Going to parties, perhaps on the beach, sipping champagne cocktails as the breeze blows through my hair.
Reality: Conferences where we eat barbecue or cheap Mexican food while learning the perils of being sucked into a grain bin. If the event is outside, bug spray is optional.

Expectation: Nice cars to escort me around.
Reality: Old trucks that smell like dirt, bumping through pastures and down gravel roads.

Expectation: Writing a story about the locals in a quaint city like Charleston.
Reality: Writing about some farmer taking me to the “bottomlands by the river.”

Expectation: High heels (which I did wear in the office.)
Reality: Ten-year-old Doc Martens that have seen their fair share of cow manure and hay—often mushed together.

Expectation: Well-groomed dogs lying at the entrance of some charming shop.
Reality: A farm dog with blood running down his face because he got in a fight with a neighboring farm dog.

Expectation: Manicured hands.
Reality: Hand licks from the sandpapery tongues of cows.

Expectation: Press releases from four-star resorts and spas.
Reality: E-mailed photos of a mobile semen lab for cows.

Expectation: Samples of new products in shops.
Reality: Sample patches of jeans from Dickies, along with the offer of a desk-side workshop tool demonstration.

Expectation: Coffee table books on architecture.
Reality: Farm office books on the joys of keeping farm animals and growing oats.

Expectation: Travel impediments like hurricanes or snowstorms.
Reality: Electric fences, unruly cattle, and machinery that can eat you to pieces.

Expectation: Flight itineraries to exciting locations.
Reality: A cow’s flight zone (basically how to herd them through a corral using their line of vision).

Expectation: Touring a family’s home and writing about the décor.
Reality: Touring a milking barn and commenting on the farm hands who are artificially inseminating cows. Said workers also are riding around on a golf cart painted like a cow, with semen tanks on it.

Expectation: Well-groomed business people.
Reality: Farmers wearing their names on their shirts.

Expectation: Interviewees waxing poetic about their homes.
Reality: Interviewees complaining about commodity payments and corn prices.

Expectation: Walking down a cobblestone-lined street having just drunk a cup of coffee.
Reality: Sweating off the morning’s caffeine while wandering down a row of corn, trying not to get a paper cut on the leaves, and watching out for frogs.

Expectation: The latest products to review.
Reality: The latest herbicides and fertilizer brands.

Expectation: Gift boxes full of gourmet food.
Reality: A 50-pound bag of specialty horse feed.

So it’s not all wine and roses (okay, not even close), but I’ve perched on the viewing deck of the Eiffel Tower before (unrelated to work), camera aimed at the city below. And while trips like that are indeed a dream, walking through a pasture matching strides with a farmer responsible for nourishing the country is a different kind of dream. And listening to their stories while overlooking a sun-baked field of fluttering cornstalks, it’s easy to forget about that sandy beach. It’s a different job, sure, but a reality and a privilege I wouldn’t trade for anything.

 
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10 Dating Red Flags We Love To Ignore

Posted by Deborah Huso on Mar 8, 2015 in Men, Relationships

Okay, so I admit I’m culpable here and have fallen for the romance of “the player” more than once.  With age and heartache comes wisdom.  Before you leap into the fire, bedazzled by romance, take note of these red flags:

1) “You are the most beautiful and intriguing woman I’ve ever met. I’ve never known anyone like you.” Ninety-nine times out of a 100, this is a line. I know; it’s hard to acknowledge it as such.  Who doesn’t love to be admired?  And true, you are beautiful and intriguing, but trust me, the guy who feeds you this line, most likely between dates 1 and 3, hasn’t a clue just how intriguing you are.  He just wants the intrigue between your legs. If he can say the above a year into the relationship, then maybe you’ve got a gem on your hands…

2) “I’m thinking of introducing you to my family.” Note the word “thinking.” Men claim to be clueless, but they totally understand semantics. If he isn’t offering you a solid invitation to meet his mom or hang with his brother, then he’s just blowing smoke up your ass. Sorry.  It’s true.  For women, “the fam” is the proverbial carrot, and players know it.

3) “Let’s open a winery together.” Okay, so aside from the practical reality that there are wineries exploding all over the landscape and it’s probably not just a sound investment idea anymore, realize the true translation of this statement is “you actually are a really cool woman, and inside my head, I fantasize about happily ever after with you, but this is just fantasizing. I’m not a reality kind of guy. Wow, did you see the rack on that woman who just walked by?”

4) “I love you. Let’s have beautiful babies together.” If this isn’t self-explanatory, then you shouldn’t even be on the dating circuit.

5) “My ex was a psychopath.” Okay, so maybe she was, but the mature adults among us are willing to admit their share in the psychopathy. If you’re dating a guy who is convinced his ex is the devil incarnate, run fast and hard. He has about as much self-awareness as a tree stump.

6) “We’ll go to Bora Bora…someday.” If he’s not booking tickets, he doesn’t mean it. It’s a carrot along the lines of no. 2. Book your flight to Bora Bora yourself, and leave this guy at home.

7) His kids don’t respect him. Our children are the easiest people on the planet to awe, and it’s completely natural for them to see Mom and Dad as Goddess and God. If his kids think he’s a dick, then he’s probably worse than a dick…because, for better or worse, it takes a lot of effort for us to completely disillusion our children. Steer clear.

8) “I think you’re amazing, but I want to see other people (i.e. have sex with other women)…while continuing to see you.” Unless you live in a commune, a harem, or certain Mormon communities in Utah, this is unacceptable. You are amazing. Find someone who is willing to sacrifice to be a part of your amazingness.

9) Everyone finds him charming and loveable. Reality check, ladies: the man who is loved by all is the man who stands for nothing.  People with principles and courage make some enemies along the way. Trust me, you want a guy who has the balls to be disliked.

10) He texts you or “chats” with you more than he calls. This is a man who wants to keep his human interactions at arm’s length. Chances are he has a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. Trust me, you really don’t want John Wayne or James Bond for your boyfriend or husband…unless, of course, you really enjoy being in the dark about how a man feels for you and whether or not he’s going to be there for the long haul.  My advice? Buy a puppy. They may pee on the floor, but they’re far more reliable.

 
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10 Things Women Need to Let Go Of…Starting Now

Posted by Deborah Huso on Feb 8, 2015 in Men, Relationships

Valentine’s Day.  Is there any more dreaded holiday among the fairer sex? Okay, so maybe Mother’s Day.  I think the two run neck-in-neck for title to “Most Disappointing Holidays for Women.” (Thank you, Hallmark.  You could have just left us alone, and we’d be happier.)

I have some good news though. I’ve got it figured out, intellectually speaking anyway. Eliminate all your expectations of what you think these holidays should be, V-Day in particular, and it’ll be okay. Heck, why don’t we just eliminate all expectations, at least all our expectations of men, namely boyfriends and husbands?  Here’s my list to get you started….

1) He’s not going to buy or bring you flowers, at least not after the first five dates, unless he’s done something that makes him feel horribly guilty, or unless he’s married (and we’re not talking about to you).

2) He will bring flowers if you give him a Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversary, whatever guilt trip, starting about a month in advance, but do you really want those red roses on your desk to say, “Look, babe, I remembered after you told me 1,532 times!?”

3) If you want reservations at that swanky restaurant where he’s been promising to take you for the last two years, make them yourself. You’re the one who cares, not him. Start caring about yourself. If you’re forgiving, you can invite him instead of your best girlfriend.

4) The same applies to that romantic mountain inn with the fireplace and the hot tub. Advice for no. 3 applies. (How cozy you get in the hot tub with your chosen guest—if you’ve chosen the girlfriend—is entirely up to you.)

5) You can’t compete with football and his favorite bourbon. Stop trying. You’re only going to hurt yourself. And let’s be honest, those stilettos and what you’re wearing under that dress are really uncomfortable anyway. No, seriously, he will tell you you’re blocking the television. Go put on those flannel PJs, and curl up with a book.

6) Don’t waste your money on expensive, sexy lingerie unless you’re buying it because you like it. He really doesn’t notice that anymore than he does you in stilettos on game night. In fact, he’d just as soon you eliminated the trouble of him having to remove any articles of attire, period.

7) He’s not going to give you a massage, not even after he promises, not even after you spend 30 minutes giving him one. Nope, not even a foot rub. Stop thinking about it. That’s why God made day spas. But do make him pay for Yin Yang to walk on your back, please

8) He’s not going to remember to call you to let you know he arrived safely on the other side of the earth for his business meeting. Nor is he going to inquire after your well-being when you’re the one flying to Kuala Lumpar (even if you’re on Malaysia Airlines). Do what he does, and assume everything is fine until newscasters start talking about the missing black box on television.

9) He doesn’t want to hear your troubles. I’m sorry. It’s true. If he can’t fix it with a power tool or a phone call, he doesn’t want to know about it. Call your girlfriends or your dad.

10) He’s not going to tell you you’re beautiful, or sexy, or smart, or that he’s downright crazy about you after about date 5 (about the same time the random flowers stop). It’s not because you’re not all of those things. It’s because he thinks, after date 5, you might actually be serious about him. And at that point, he doesn’t want you to know how great you are…because, by guy logic anyway, if all that were true, why the hell would you be with him?

 
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Ten Things I’d Never Do If I Weren’t a Parent

Posted by Claire Vath on Feb 4, 2015 in Motherhood

My children started school this year. A few mornings a week only, but still. It’s something. So naturally, the end of week No. 1 of school brought with it a cold that spread—like the lice the school has been warning us about, except less gross—first to my daughter, then to my son, to my husband, and, of course, to me.

It’s 4 p.m. on a Monday. Both my kids are in last night’s pajama tops and underwear. I’m still in pajamas and a robe. Kleenex litters every surface of my house, and dishes are piling up. I have a laundry list of things that need to be done (and a mountain of laundry on my sofa), but between my cold and the constant wiping of little runny noses, my energy is zapped.

It’s all incredibly glamorous, this life of being a parent. And it’s a lot of work. All this illness (and my lack of sleep) has me compiling a list of things I never anticipated I’d have to do when I decided to have children.

Here are my top 10. As usual, many involve bodily fluids because, as it turns out, parenting babies and toddlers is like 50% bodily fluids.

1) Pick boogers out of other people’s noses. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes once you dislodge something dried to the size of a raisin.

2) Suck snot out of a nose with a tube. Even my husband can’t quite stomach this one. It’s immensely gross, but also immensely gratifying.

3) Sleep on sheets that have been a little peed on. Because sometimes you’re just too tired to do the sheets right that second. Especially if the pee landed on your husband’s side of the bed.

4) Lift a baby’s diaper up to my nose. So I don’t have to bend down, of course, to determine its contents.

5) Stick a linty pacifier dug from the bottom of my purse in my mouth. Sometimes sanitizing wipes won’t do the trick.

6) Bribe waist-high people to be good in stores. I always assumed I was above bribery… until I had to take two children grocery shopping.

7) Reason with a toddler. It’s a losing battle, but I continue to wage useless wars … just in case.

8) Use the TV to babysit the kids. Because sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I need to work. Sometimes they just. won’t. leave. me. alone.

9) Catch vomit in my bra. Yeah, that’s all I have to say.

10) Lose more sleep than I could possibly imagine. Three-and-a-half years and two children have made me lose more years of sleep than I ever knew was possible.

 

 
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10 Reasons Why I Wish I Was a Man…or Could at Least Think Like One

Posted by Deborah Huso on Feb 2, 2015 in Men, Relationships

1)      He doesn’t have a clue how to multitask. And if you think this is a liability, think again.  Just exactly how much do you enjoy propping the phone between your cheek and shoulder while breast pumping and typing an article at the same time?  Let’s not even talk about the times I breast pumped while driving.  Thank heaven those days are over….  Handling one thing at a time has its benefits—like producing writing that isn’t full of typos and speaking to a client with some degree of intelligence (and none of that weird sucking sound in the background).

2)      He can disconnect from reality effortlessly. Yeah, so you’re totally pissed that he’s absorbed in some Netflix sci-fi thriller or cruising Facebook while you’re still trying to shop for baby shower presents online or writing copy for a Fortune 500 company web site.  It’s not that he doesn’t have equally pressing things to do; he’s just way better than you are at saying “fuck this shit; I need to relax.”

3)      He doesn’t need a social network, just a beer or a shot of bourbon. While you’re calling your girlfriends to commiserate over your latest crisis, he has shut down his brain, poured himself some hard liquor, and decided to forget about it.

4)      He knows how to compartmentalize to the degree he can completely avoid pain, anger, distress, and worry.  Men’s brains are like a closet full of closed shoe boxes, and they only open one at a time; whereas, women’s brains look like a Dagwood closet full of mismatched Manalo Blahniks.  If one box is out of control, all the boxes are out of control.  He’s much better at keeping a lid on things.  Is his girlfriend pissed at him and on the verge of dumping him? No big deal. Shut the lid on her box, and open up the box that involves a game of poker with the guys. Problem solved.

5)      He can turn off his heart. Because he’s been trained to since birth.  Real men don’t cry. Real men don’t say “I love you.” Real men don’t feel.  Whereas women are socialized to risk vulnerability and pain for the sake of connecting with others, he’s been socialized to keep his shit together no matter what…and that means not allowing himself to get close enough to anyone that he or she can hurt him too much.

6)      He has the strength to get the lug nuts off a tire. Yeah, I can stand on a wrench, and they still won’t budge.  Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable and stupid than standing by the side of the road with a flat tire I can’t fix.

7)      People still think he’s sexy when he’s 60. Why are gray hair and laugh lines hot on a guy yet signs of impending death on a woman? I don’t know, but it sure makes me slather on the expensive skin cream while he parades around like Denzel Washington or George Clooney.

8)      He can date people a decade or more younger without raising an eyebrow. If I hit the town with someone two years my junior, I’m a cougar, even if the skin cream has worked and bartenders are asking for my i.d. Psychologically, I feel like an idiot.

9)      He can make babies in his 90s, which means he experiences a sense of virility that allows him to do no. 8 without feeling like a fool, regardless of what his adult children say.

10)   His brain has zero communication with his genitals. So if work completely sucks, the car just broke down, and he found out his best friend is sleeping with his wife, he can still get turned on by just about anyone with hips and cleavage. Meanwhile your libido is in depressing sync with the experiences of your life….

 
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I Will Pay For This When I Get Home: Unpacking the Guilt Trip

Posted by Deborah Huso on Jan 3, 2015 in Girlfriends, Men, Relationships

Society teaches us that guilt trips are the purview of women. I’d like to suggest, however, that there is no gender specificity when it comes to guilt. And while I grew up seeing a lot of guilt exercised by women who felt “powerless,” I must say that my more recent life experience shows a good deal more emotional blackmailing by men than women.

Is this a sea change?  Perhaps.  Perhaps given the fact I tend to associate with professionally and financially successful females, I see a lot more “powerless” feeling men–men who, because their partners and lovers don’t need them as breadwinners and protectors, worry about being ultimately insignificant.

The result, I think, is a strange reversal where women who wish to exercise independence from male partners find themselves in the crosshairs of guilt trips that would even make the proverbial “Jewish mother” blush.

I have enough cases in point to fill a self-help book.

One evening, a girlfriend who had joined me for a night out, advised me her husband would make her “pay for this.”  “It’s totally worth it though!” she exclaimed, reveling in a few hours’ freedom from the burdens of marriage and motherhood.

This is not the first time I’ve heard such proclamations.  How many times have I watched female friends “watch the clock” on lunch and shopping outings, worried their husbands would give them the third degree later for enjoying themselves outside the family unit?

And these are not pathetic, submissive, and dependent women.  They are women who have chosen to be with their male partners out of love, not necessity.

Nevermind that their husbands gleefully go on weekend hunting trips, spend hours watching football with the guys, or spend evenings alone absorbed by their computer screens.  For women, this kind of “independent of partner” behavior still remains unconscionable.

And honestly, I don’t get it.

For all the failings in my own marriage, one thing where my ex-husband and I excelled as partners was in giving each other space to be ourselves and experience life outside the confines of “the relationship.” I never chastised him for weekends spent racing anymore than he begrudged me my wanderlust gene that led me to travel to distant places, often without him, exercising my passion for new experiences.

I am not alone in this experience, though sometimes I feel nearly so.  I have a girlfriend whose husband has actually thanked me for taking her on “girlfriend getaways” because he says it so lightens her spirit at home when she returns.  But this kind of thing is rare.

Plenty of men complain about the resentment they feel from the women in their lives—their spouses’ lack of interest in sex with them, their lovers’ increasing disinterest in spending time with them. As a friend of mine pointed out recently to male colleagues complaining because they’d not had sex with their wives in more than six months but then proclaiming themselves to be such superb lovers, “If you were good in bed, you wouldn’t be having this problem!”

And it’s simple but true.

No one wants to be hen-pecked, male or female. No one wants to be persistently criticized and put down. No one wants to be guilted instead of romantically seduced into sex. No one wants to be made to feel guilty for wanting more than the family unit provides. This is true regardless of gender.  And there are few quicker ways to kill romance than to nag, criticize, and guilt trip.

We first fall in love because another human being sees the beauty inside us, remarks on it, tries to access it, grow it. Love drifts into nothingness when that interest turns to jealous gatekeeping, where we think we can protect our turf by making the beloved feel like less than he or she really is.

I’ve seen it many times, in my own life and in the lives of others.

It is perhaps why, when an older gentleman remarked to me one evening at a restaurant I frequent with my daughter, “I’ve watched the two of you interact.  You are so loving with her.  It is a beautiful thing to behold.”

His comment literally knocked the air right out of me.  No man had ever said anything like that to me.  All I’ve ever known from men is criticism of my failings as a mother, and this has not been reserved to my ex-husband, mind you. Even the handful of men I’ve dated seriously enough to introduce them to my daughter have remarked repeatedly on my so-called failings.

Meanwhile the women in my life repeatedly cheer me on, empathize with the difficulties of being a parent while balancing a demanding career as well.  Is it any wonder I seek their consolation first when faced with the trials of life?

Is it any wonder so many of the women I love do the same?  Going to girlfriends, mothers, and sisters—sources of support and understanding who will gently remind them they are incredible mothers, amazing professionals, grand organizers of life’s mayhem.

And yet so many husbands and lovers begrudge their retreat into the arms of this network of unconditional love, somehow failing to realize that if they could acknowledge these women in their lives as beautiful, dedicated, smart, and nurturing and feed them the easy romance of seeing and speaking these things, no guilt trips would be necessary. Wives would come home without dread.  They would love without duty but with true longing. They would return to that sacred place they once occupied before the men in their lives became hopelessly scared of losing them.

 
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True Love…and Why I Think Mark Twain Never Knew It

Posted by Deborah Huso on Jan 2, 2015 in Men, Musings, Relationships

Originally published January 23, 2013.

One of Mark Twain’s most famous and often quoted lines is “Familiarity breeds contempt…and children.” How well many of us identify with this quip, especially the first part, which actually isn’t exactly funny. Only last week, I was chatting with a colleague who said, “I’ve been married 40 years, and I’m just grateful my wife still speaks to me.”

I suspect many of us who are married (or have been) have asked ourselves if this is just the way things are. We marry, as a friend of mine says he did, as a result of drinking too much alcohol (wife no.1) or “a momentary lapse of reason” (wife no. 2) and hope for the best, thinking if we get lucky our lives might look a little something like a fairytale.

Cautionary fable might be more like it, however.

A friend of mine told me the other night after I found my brain rattled by yet another run-in with love gone awry, “Your life reads like a movie.”  The comment was uttered partly in admiration and partly in an “it’s entertaining to hear about, but I sure wouldn’t want to live it” manner of speaking. You see, I’ve been proposed to six times. That I turned down four of those offers would make me appear wise. The problem is I accepted two. I only wish I had the excuse that I was drunk at the time.

I’m not sure marriage is the problem though.  My friends and I often talk about the poisonous metals present in wedding rings that make the wearer turn into a creature no longer recognizable—a beast who has become demanding, critical, resentful, and likely to take advantage of all his or her partner’s weaknesses. I do not necessarily excuse myself from having been poisoned by 14 karat gold rings. Maybe next time I’ll try platinum.

My ex-husband says marriage sets up expectations where there were none before, and that’s the downfall of us all.

I have to disagree (no surprise there—the poisonous wedding band metals are likely still in my system).

I’m not exactly a hopeless romantic either. I’ve never subscribed to the idea of “soul mates.” I remain unconvinced there is one man out there destined to fulfill all of my romantic desires. That being said, however, I do believe in true love.

What is true love?

Well, I’ll tell you…it’s certainly not what you think.  It’s not love at first sight.  It’s not the passion you feel when the devastatingly handsome man with the sparkly brown eyes kisses you for the first time. It’s not the chest flutters you get when you think of him.  All of that, my dears, is infatuation. And infatuation is fleeting.  Even love is fleeting.

But true love: that is something else entirely, and I guarantee it is not something the father of American colloquial letters ever experienced.

How do I know?

I know because familiarity makes true love grow.  Whereas the love most of us experience and marry into begins as a bright flame that gradually sputters and often even goes out completely, true love can begin tentatively (though not always) and then widens and deepens with time and familiarity.

It does not retreat over time. It builds.

I’ve heard psychologists say the average person experiences true love only once a lifetime, twice if he or she is lucky.  Those statistics are pretty sad. It means when you find it (if you’re smart enough to recognize it and, even more importantly, nurture it) you better damn well hang onto it.

Unfortunately, most of us never find it, or, if we do, we kill it as promptly as we can or maybe even deter it from growing in the first place. That’s because true love is scary as hell.

I should know. I’ve experienced it at least once, a fact which terrifies me to no small degree at the tender age of 37 given that true love experience number one didn’t work out so well. If psychologists are to be believed, I’m on my last chance at this gig.

I had my first experience of true love quite accidentally.  It was one of those “I have nothing to lose” relationships I thought would never last that makes one go full out on vulnerability, risk, and “reckless honesty,” as fellow contributor Susannah Herrada likes to call it. The interesting side effect of throwing all caution to wind is that it connects you with another human being on levels the average romantic relationship never experiences.

I have frequently tried to explain this to people who have never experienced it, and usually, at best, I receive blank looks.  Other times, I find my sanity questioned.  So I’ll make an effort here to tell you what I’m talking about, to tell you what true love looks like.  Maybe you’ve seen it, experienced it. Maybe it’s right there in front of you waiting to happen if only you will let go of all your inhibitions, fears, and resentments.

You know you have a case of true love on your hands, friends, when you not only experience all the usual characteristics of love (or infatuation) like persistent thinking about that beautiful man with the sky blue eyes and persistent longing for him but also the ability to feel that persistent longing (and find it deepening) with time.  And I don’t mean the growth of infatuation over a few months. I mean that two or three years into the relationship you love that person more than you did after six months’ acquaintance, and you find that love deepening with each passing day.  It’s that rare kind of love you might see once in a blue moon when a couple who has been married 50 years is still holding hands and kissing on the front porch at sunset.

Where true love is concerned, you not only love your beloved’s finest qualities but you love his weaknesses, too.  You don’t just accept those weaknesses, you love them.  And you long to protect them, not use them to manipulate and harm.  This is a person whose eyes you can gaze into for hours, maybe days, without boredom.  And again, you still feel this desire after years and years.  There is nothing he can do to deter you from loving him. You may feel anger against him, but it does not diminish your love, no matter how much you may wish it would.

You see, true love is not all wine and roses. In fact, it can hurt to the core, even when it is good. Because when you love someone to the depth that you reveal all of yourself, every last shred of your vulnerability, you make that person a part of you. It’s not living on tenterhooks, mind you. True love is a deeply secure feeling, but it is deeply painful when the beloved is outside your reach. It is the kind of love Pablo Neruda describes in Sonnet XVII when he says it is a love “where I does not exist, nor you / so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, / so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”

True love is the kind of love that risks all without hesitation.  It says, “I trust you. Take all that I have, and I lose nothing.”

But before you jump up and raise your hand, and say, “Yes! Yes! I’ve seen that! I’ve known that!” examine your love.  I once loved a man so deeply and fully and accepted and adored all that he was, even the qualities others saw as liabilities, that I offered, if need be, to sacrifice all that I knew to occupy a space beside him till death.  I waited for him “like a lonely house,” windows aching, and when he would not come of his own volition, I gave him a hard shove, an ultimatum.

And still he would not take that final leap into space that says, “I will expend the last full measure of my devotion for love of you.”

I found myself facing the hard reality that I felt true love for him, but he did not feel it for me. As a friend of mine once said to me, “Real love does not need shoving.”

The object of my affection, you see, had given doubt a foothold and allowed it to fester until he was overcome with fear, as most of us are, of giving way to full-on vulnerability, the vulnerability that says “be willing to give up all that you know to get something better.”

It’s the same kind of fear, you see, that makes people miserable in their jobs fail to leave them to start the business they’ve always dreamed of owning or that prevents a grand move to another continent when a delightfully tantalizing (if frightening) opportunity beckons.

You have to give up to get. It is a law of nature. Death of one thing is necessary to create life in another.

You may be wondering how I have fared in this grand scheme of true love gone awry.  Well, I can say I have fared better than the man who let me go.  At least I will never need ask “what if?”  I threw my heart into the ring and risked its pulverization, found it pulverized, in fact.  And when the dust had settled, I picked up the pieces, poured them into my pocket, and set about the long, slow process of putting them all back together for round two.

Because yes, there will be a round 2.

That is how life goes.  The lessons keep coming until we learn them.

I often wonder if the man I believed to be the love of my life will ever learn his own. In the aftermath of the end of that relationship, he said to me, “I am a fool.  I will regret this all my life.”

It may be so.

But only if when his round 2 comes, he commits the same error a second time.

I wish I knew the secret to finding true love. I still am not certain if it requires a certain mix of two people.  I am not certain if you can have it with one person but not another. I do know, however, that it’s worth trying on for size.  That person who is in your life right now, that sometimes makes your heart skip a beat, consider taking the frightening risk of being real with him and see where it leads.

Because one thing I do know is that you will never find true love by being anything other than who you are and loving someone else for any other reason than that he is being exactly the same—the person he is and wants to be.

 
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Internet Privacy: Um, No Such Thing….

Posted by Claire Vath on Dec 16, 2014 in Mothers and Daughters, Musings

Physical safety is something we talk a lot about. All too often there are the Hannah Grahams of the world that flash across our news screens. That physical safety—walking through a parking lot alone at night, accepting drinks from a stranger at a bar—those are things we know to be unsafe, unwise.

A more uncharted area is Internet safety.

Do a Google search on yourself. What pops up?

Do a Google search on your children. Or a Facebook search. Now what comes up?

I grew up in an age where scrawled-on cassette tapes were stacked near my boom box. An age where phones had actual dials. And where, if you wanted to record a song, you sat, waiting for it to play on the radio so you could press a button.

But technology has come a long way from see-through phones. It’s zipped past us more than we might ever have imagined.

Forget remembering when cell phones first became widely used. My children will never remember a time when there weren’t iPads and iPhones.

And all these invasions of privacy are right at your fingertips.

Everything is there, in big brother, in the cloud—wherever.

Love letters, passive aggressive Facebook statuses, “sexts,” embarrassing photos, major life announcements—all of these play out in the broader arena of a very powerful technology.

And the ramifications will be huge. If you don’t believe that—if you don’t accept that the technology has gotten away from us, leaving even the policy makers to scratch their heads—look at the hacking, constantly—of naked photos, of classified FBI information, of credit cards at Target, Home Depot, etc., etc. It’s slipping through our grasp faster than we’re able to hold on.

We carry cameras in our pockets. Super powered cameras that, with the click of a button, can broadcast a picture to millions of people. Most of those people are good people. Some aren’t. It’s a powerful weapon we yield, and we often yield it without much thought. We’ve become a society that craves recognition. Through likes. Through shares. The more people who “like” or star something, the more we feel a strange sort of validation, whether conscious or not.

But when it comes to our children, we haven’t asked them what’s OK to post. Haven’t consulted with them as to whether the picture we posted of them sitting on the potty for the first time or going to their first dance with their first high school boyfriend is acceptable. A cute picture of a child splashing in the tub? On Facebook. A child-shaming picture with a kid whose bad behavior is showcased to garner likes? We create a Tumblr about it. We add pictures of our kids, with their school logos emblazoned on their sweatshirts, with our location in our profile. Mommy bloggers pimp out their apple-cheeked kids posing for selfies in a pumpkin patch and garner ad clicks and fan girls.

We don’t feel we need their consent. They’re our children, after all—our creation—so, naturally, we know what’s best. But we leave a trail of breadcrumbs—digital files in our wake. Files that can be shared over and over for ours and others’ purposes—good or bad. We have yet to fully realize the effects of how a life exposed online can shape a person.

The Internet is still a relatively new frontier—a Wild West where things that you’d never let happen in reality may play out virtually.

You wouldn’t let your 6-year-old walk down a road alone at night. Or publicly share the location of your kids’  school with a convicted sex offender you meet in the mall.

But the reality is we live in a world of virtual reality, unwilling to fully realize the effects beyond our computer screen. So before you hit the “post” button, think about how far that information can be shared. It may mean the difference between safe or unsafe, life or death.

 

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