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Rim to River and Back…and Why You Need to Say YES

Posted by Deborah Huso on Aug 20, 2015 in Fathers and Daughters, Musings, Travel Archives
The beginning of the Bright Angel Trail

The beginning of the Bright Angel Trail

When I hiked to the base of the Grand Canyon and back up to the South Rim in April at age 39, it wasn’t supposed to be about me. It was about my dad, recently turned 74, and his lifelong dream to descend to the Colorado River and back up again before he died…and while he was still physically able to do it.  Against my mother’s protests, I took it upon myself to make sure he got his wish.

While my mother remained convinced the 20+ mile arduous overnight hike would set off the heart attack that would finally kill him, my whole attitude was “well, damn it, let him die happy.”

Don’t think me callous. I adore my dad, always have. He has been the sole, relentless, indefatigable cheerleader of every outrageous and stupid life plan I’ve ever had. And I have always believed he deserved better than to end his life suffering in a hospital bed.

Live large, die large. That is what he taught me.

However, if you’ve never entered a landscape (figurative, literal, or both) that has brought you in the closest possible proximity to the depth of your weaknesses and the heights of your strengths, you might find this entire blog post a little hard to grasp….

The strange lushness of Indian Garden

The strange lushness of Indian Garden

Here’s the thing: I started that two-day trek to the canyon’s base and up again about 9 a.m. on a cold spring morning, exhilarated and a little bit hesitant.  Had I trained enough?  I knew I could do a two- dozen-mile hike but with a pack weighing over 30 pounds while descending and then ascending over 4,400 feet?  Carrying all my stuff and a good chunk of Dad’s?  In an environment that I knew would range from close to freezing to possibly into the 90s in the span of a single day?

Dad and I spent the first six or seven miles walking together.  By late afternoon, I was well ahead (but within sight distance of him), nursing screaming knees from hours and hours of relentless downhill, creeping down the unforgiving red rock of Devil’s Corkscrew, tears forming in my eyes, first from the pain in my knees…then from the pain in my heart.

Devil's Corkscrew

Devil’s Corkscrew

Because this wonder of the world landscape doesn’t just pull at your heartstrings; it rips them.  Rips them till you’re stuck in your own head, limping down a steep trail, your eyes riveted by the ever shifting rugged and unforgiving beauty of the surrounding canyon walls, the sheer marvel of a tree and grass laden oasis bisected by a cool stream, rock formations squatting like compressed biscuits cradling Indian Creek, then the vista opening again to views of miles and miles across rusty red mountains with cascading waterfalls, sun-catching desert blooms, and the promise of a first look at the mighty Colorado River that helped shape this canyon over the course of millennia.

You just have to see it.

Like life.

You have to see it, live it, endure it.

And by the time I’d finally traversed Devil’s Corkscrew onto relatively flat ground, given half my water to an idiot, dehydrated hiker who thought she could go rim-to-rim in a single day with no food and one water bottle, I was deep inside my head, at least a quarter mile ahead of Dad, my brain marauding into the no man’s land of life’s relentless disappointments, lost loves, unwillingly discarded dreams, and then those brief and fleeting moments of joy.

I had laughed when park rangers said this hike would change me.

They knew their shit.

It did.

Because there were points along the hike, my clothes soaked with sweat, hiking shoes disintegrating at the seams, and filling my toes with dry sand, that I wondered why I had thought this was a good idea.  Wouldn’t I rather, especially when in the midst of that final four-mile push up a near vertical trail at the end of day two, be nursing a Manhattan while watching Mad Men?

And damn it, yes, I would!

But then I remembered the oft-repeated words of friend and fellow contributor Susannah Herrada, who says, “life isn’t supposed to be fun,” and “true love does not exist without sacrifice.”

Desert blooms at the top of Devil's Corkscrew

Desert blooms at the top of Devil’s Corkscrew

Before you go and get all bummed out, think for a moment how much of human grief, particularly in Western culture, comes from the misguided belief that life is about the pursuit of happiness, that love is supposed to bring us happily ever after and eternal joy.

I didn’t initiate this Grand Canyon hike hoping for fun or for joy. I initiated it to make my father’s life richer…and my own as well.

It was, like so many things I have done, part of my relentless effort to say “yes” as much as possible. And to try to inspire others to do the same. Plenty of my life’s “yeses” have resulted in suffering, anxiety, fear…but also in walking through pain, surviving panic, and facing terror head-on.

Rest assured, I do not believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; in fact, it can often make you weaker—less prone to take future risks, less likely to give in to vulnerability, less inclined to sacrifice for love.

There were many instances on that hike that I would have liked to just quit.  But, as all the T-shirts in the Grand Canyon gift shops say, “going in is optional; coming out isn’t.”

So really the only decision you have to make in this life is “yes, I’ll go in.”  And that’s the decision over which so many of us (myself included) waver.

Dad taking a break on our final ascent up the canyon

Dad taking a break on our final ascent up the canyon

I remember as the sun approached its setting when Dad and I made our final ascent on day two to the top of the South Rim, 24 miles of hiking behind us, tired to the bone and thinking of nothing but hot showers and sleep in real beds, I definitely said to myself, “Well, I’m glad I did it, but I’ll never do that again.”

But the fact is, four months later, when I returned to the Grand Canyon, this time on the North Rim, with my seven-year-old daughter, and stood with hundreds of other tourists looking down from Bright Angel Point to the squarish cliff behind which the interpretive sign told us was Bright Angel Campground (where Dad and I had pitched a tent just north of the Colorado River), I regretted I was standing there, nothing more than an observer of a vast landscape.  An observer, not a doer.

And suddenly, my mind was filled with ideas of heading down into the depths of that brutal and marvelous landscape again, for days, to wander the trails not yet taken, to see all the places one can only see on foot, with courage, with endurance, with a willingness not necessarily to find happiness, or joy…but grace.

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Wait, This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen So Fast! Confessions of a reluctant father

Posted by Ben Weaver on Aug 17, 2015 in Fatherhood, Men

One night, when I was four or five, I was watching a National Geographic special about great blue whales with my parents. At one point in the program, there was a feature about their mating rituals and I asked Mom and Dad, “What are those whales doing?” My parents, being the young hippies they were, gave me an honest answer employing the words “penis” and “vagina.”

I was appalled. My mom still recalls with glee my reply: “Gross! I might get married, but I’ll never do that!”

At some point about 20 years later, that turned into, “I might do that… but I’ll never get married!” Then around 30, it turned to, “Okay, I can do that and get married and it’s probably okay… as long as we don’t have kids.” You can probably see where this is going.

I think it’s fair to say that I entered into fatherhood reluctantly (possibly an understatement). Yes, I am aware it probably makes me sound like a bad person. Here’s the thing:

I liked my little life the way it was. I liked playing in a band; I liked going out and enjoying meals unencumbered by screaming (usually); I liked having a beer with breakfast on Sundays after sleeping as late as I cared to; and I didn’t really want any of that to change.

When I and my now-former wife first met, we were both on the same page: between don’t want or unsure if wanting to have a kid. After a while, the reproductive urge set in, and she became dead set on having a baby, preferably many of them. Through no small amount of convincing, I agreed to try.

After trips to the OBGYN, the general consensus of our prospects for a successful pregnancy reminded me of a monologue from the Coen brothers’ classic, Raising Arizona: “Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase…”

The actual doctor’s response was, “Well, stranger things have happened.” Upon hearing this, I was a little more encouraged. My little reptilian brain started churning, and I realized that we could be trying for months before it might happen. Months, possibly years, of babymaking sex were all but a guarantee!

When she started ovulating the next week, we went for it. Twice, actually. A few days later, when her monthly visitor failed to promptly show, she went to the Rite-Aid and confirmed with a 3 pack of EPTs that she was indeed with child.

I was blown away! What about “stranger things have happened,” not to mention the months, possibly even years, of coitus non-interruptus?!? Also, we’re having a kid! Holy shit!

In my mind, this all registered, and I was proud and happy, but, at the same time, it seemed surreal: I was going to be a dad, bearing the responsibility for not just the survival of another human being but also making sure he or she didn’t grow up to be an asshole.

Like everything else in my life, I felt like I would have to experience it in order to wrap my head around it and failed to find much use for advice books and the sage wisdom of the Internet regarding fatherhood. This was a point of contention. My future ex-wife was cool about things during the pregnancy for the most part, but she considered my approach to be head-in-the-sand. Regardless of the number of books I did or didn’t read, I was poised to confront fatherhood head on… as soon as the kid actually arrived.

The day came and, after 9+ months of anticipation, I was ready for it. The thing is, though, is that it scared the hell out of me when I held him, when I bathed him, when I took him to the store… I was so acutely aware of how fragile his existence was and how very much it was in my hands.

I also never knew my gag reflex was so strong until I changed a diaper. A couple of times I narrowly missed vomiting on my infant son, opting to catch it in the clean diaper instead. If you have ever had to bear the expense of disposable diapers, you know that was a tough call. Like, “How much does a bath cost?”

Here’s the part that makes me sound like an asshole: his mother was (understandably) obsessive about him and didn’t want to let him leave her side ever, and, generally, I was just fine with that arrangement. When she started classes a few months after he was born and I had him by myself for a few nights while she was in class, I was completely freaked out the first few times–my mind jumping from whether or not I would do something to jeopardize his well being to wondering if I could get him to stop crying if he started up, or ohmygod what if he just stops breathing!!!???  

I thought it would just come naturally, like so many other things, and I was a parental mess.

It was a hard first year. It wasn’t until he was about six months old that I began to feel at ease with him, and it wasn’t until he developed something of a personality shortly thereafter that I truly bonded with him. Not that I didn’t love the kid and wasn’t willing to lay down my life for him from birth, but, honestly, he was a puzzle to me. As I learned how to understand him, how to make him laugh, how to play with him, I began to see the beauty of the whole fatherhood thing and derived joy from it. My time with him became pleasurable rather than a fulfillment of responsibility.

When Henry turned 3, my wife became my ex-wife. She moved to a friend’s house and later to an apartment of her own, and we agreed to a split 50/50 custody. Though the dissolution of a marriage is one of the more difficult life events I can imagine enduring, it had its upside in that my relationship with my boy has grown immeasurably.

Maybe it was the closeness fostered by the, “Looks like it’s just you and me now, kid” talk (as I cried fat, sorrowful tears blubbering to someone who couldn’t be bothered to look away from his Elmo phone) or the emergence of communicative faculties which have allowed us to develop a personal relationship or our mutual love of pho and southern fried chicken. Whatever it was, I’m deeply grateful.

Finally, I understand all the clichés and platitudes people employ when describing the experience of fatherhood. It IS the hardest, best thing I’ve ever done; I DO see so much of myself in him; and, now five years in, I can’t imagine a life worth living without him in it.

 
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Don’t Be Premature: One Man’s Thoughts on Sending Unsolicited Photos of Your Hardware

Posted by Ben Weaver on Jun 12, 2015 in Men, Relationships

As a 39-year-old guy who’s crammed a lot of living into his years, I’ve been party to more than my fair share of embarrassing faux pas and given plenty of women dating horror stories to one-up their friends whenever the topic of “worst dates ever” should arise. Some that come to mind:

– my first date ever when I ate a half dozen Vivarin beforehand and proceeded to babble incoherently and dance like a sweaty idiot for the better part of its short duration

– a second date when I hoisted up a girthy cucumber and yelled from across the produce department, “Hey, honey, is this about the right size? Do you think it’ll fit?”

– another first date when we saw one of my exes out at the bar, I argued with her in front of my date and poured a beer on her head from the second floor (soooo classy)

Clearly, I am far from having an untarnished record regarding loutish, even ungentlemanly, behavior. I cringe at the recollection.

Finding myself back out in the dating world after the dissolution of a 10-year relationship, I have had to confront a whole new paradigm of courtship brought on by the ubiquity of communicative devices. As great as it is to be able to find the closest Thai restaurant on the fly or to shut down bullshitters with a quick wiki check, the influence of technology seems to have done polite society no great favors.

I’ll qualify the following by admitting that my views might be influenced by the fact that most of my guy friends are married or in long-term monogamous relationships, so mine is effectively the only male dating perspective I entertain. In addition to being settled down for the most part, they are also not mouth breathing, macho bros, which only serves to compound my social isolation from the kind of people whom I will later address.

My female friends, see, are mostly single, among them an even split of divorced and never married. As we commiserate over beers about our dating experiences, I find myself playing the apologist for my gender more often than I’d like. I am regaled with tales of cluelessness, oafishness, and utter lack of emotional intelligence on the part of my fellow men, which leaves me questioning our prospects of reproductive success as a species.

I mean, what kind of life experience leads a guy to believe that asking a girl if she’s “into butt stuff” 10 minutes into a first interaction is going to yield positive results? How is it one comes to think that sending a picture of his hardware in the same timeframe is going to get him in the door (no pun intended)?

No, Seriously. The unsolicited prick pics. Why?

Has a woman ever been confronted with a picture of a semi-erect five-incher surrounded by a jungle of hair against the backdrop of a dirty bathroom rug and thought, “You know, it’s been too long since I’ve had short, unsatisfying sex with a stranger. Let’s do this!”? (Note: this is merely a case in point, not intended to imply that the better man-scaped or more well-endowed premature phallic image senders among us are any less reprehensible in their acts.)

I have tried to wrap my head (again, no pun intended) around this apparently common practice. Taking it at face value as a strategy to impress a potential mate, basic armchair psychology would dictate that it must be influenced by a belief that it will achieve the desired end. Surely someone, somewhere must have had success with this method of wooing, and the rumors of his conquest must have circulated far and wide to foster this false sense of efficacy.

Dare I suggest that the blame is shared for this phenomenon? There are the peter pic senders, but then there are also women who have not shut them down in reaction, even those who condescended to sleep with the perpetrators. Ugh, why? Don’t they know they’re reinforcing bad behavior? The men, then emboldened by the payoff on their gambit, go on to disseminate their phallic likeness to the next 10 ladies they court on e-Harmony, thinking, “Well, it worked that one time”.

My pondering on the matter has led me to two advisory conclusions:

Guys- Before you go sending a girl photographic evidence that you are, in fact, a male in possession of a real live dong attached to your person, you’d better be damn sure that it’s something she’s interested in seeing. Maybe wait for her to send you a picture of her lady bits first. Or at least her boobs. Or if she says, “Can you give me a visual of what you’re working with in the pants department?” At that point, you’re probably in the clear (be sure to include a banana for scale). Otherwise, better hold off until you know for sure.

Gals- Not that I’m suggesting that any of my fair readers would do such a thing, but maybe you know someone who does: don’t reward the schlong senders! Exemplify the change you want to see in the modern dating world; shut that shit down! I’ve crafted some ready-made replies to aid in this endeavor:

  • “Looks like a penis, only smaller.”
  • “Does it come in a different size?”
  • Or even a simple “No thanks.”

Not to be Marxist, but together, single men and women of the world, we can make the dating landscape more fruitful for one another, thus increasing the chances of those male members being employed for their intended use instead of as awkward conversation starters (or enders).

 
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The Ironic Joy of Suffering…and the Path to True Bliss

Posted by Deborah Huso on May 11, 2015 in Motherhood, Musings, Relationships

Originally published May 28, 2014.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” –Viktor Frankel

A perfect day with my late grandfather

A perfect day with my late grandfather

Tonight I am sick with the flu, sitting near my sleeping daughter, who has been asking questions all evening about the MRI she will get tomorrow. “Will it hurt? Will I be scared? Can I take Shaky Bear with me? Will you sing to me, Mommy, while I’m in the machine?”

I am looking at my online calendar, rife with deadlines on complicated feature articles, thinking how this is the worst possible time to be sick, the worst possible time for me to successfully navigate the waters of motherhood when my little girl is frightened.

But a couple hundred miles away, the step-sister of my childhood best friend lies in a hospital bed, much of her body riddled with cancer. Tomorrow she will undergo a long and frightening surgery. She is younger than I—a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister.

And I wonder if she is scared, scared her happy young life will be cut short by life’s cruel unfairness?

Is she asking questions? Did I take enough risks? Did I live hard enough? Did I tell everyone who is important to me I love them in a thousand ways a thousand times and then some? What if this is all, and tomorrow I am no more?

These are questions we should all be asking every day. My father taught me to ask them, to live by them, and I have tried.

But who does not have regrets? Dreams not yet lived? Because life is not a Norman Rockwell painting, much though I often wish it was and wish I had a place in it. As my friend Sarah says, “Life is relentless.”

And short.

And there is no time for waffling on the big stuff. There is no time not to take a risk, not to bare your soul, not to embrace it all, pain and joy, and live it with wild abandon.

Sometimes we err in living too much for joy, forgetting that pain provides, as Viktor Frankel so eloquently noted in Man’s Search for Meaning, “no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

Because that suffering makes the perfect days more perfect. Like the afternoon I spent sipping wine in a vineyard with the man to whom I had not yet spoken my love, watching two small boys play catch with their father, a small white church with delicate steeple rising softly in the distance beyond green hills. Or the day I curled up on the floor under sunny windows with my daughter, snuggled under blankets reading books by Richard Scarry and Jan Brett.

I would not have experienced the full bliss of these moments had I not walked through fire for love and failed, had I not wept rivers over death, had I not known abandonment and fear.

As that sweet young mother drifts off to sleep tonight, may her mind be filled with the “soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering, in the faith that looks through death,” as William Wordsworth noted in one of his most famous poems.

He also said, “Thanks to the human heart by which we live, / Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, / To me the meanest flower that blows can give / Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

For that is the only way to live—fully, openly, courageously, vulnerably.

 
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Online Dating and How It Emasculates Men

Posted by Deborah Huso on Apr 30, 2015 in Men, Relationships

I recently decided I am done with online dating…if you can even call what happens on sites ranging from Match.com to OKCupid.com “dating.”  I have tried it here and there (which for me means activating a profile for about three weeks until the whole process makes me depressed and then quitting until I can develop the emotional stamina to endure it again).

They say this is how people meet these days.

Maybe it works for Millennials who have known nothing else. And maybe it works if one has low expectations for a romantic relationship.

But, as far as I can see, online dating has pretty much robbed us of the sparks, tension, and exuberance that really get a relationship going and keep it interesting. I can’t speak for the male experience with online dating, but for women, it is mainly exposure to one cowardly man after another.

You see, I’m 40. I came of age in a time when couples met “in the wild,” as I’ve heard it called.  My married friends met at dance bars, parties, at school, at work, while volunteering.  They met as real people, not as virtual people hiding behind a profile showcasing their skills at surfing and showing a selfie of rock hard abs taken in front of a bathroom mirror.

And they talked on the phone. They had immediate give and take with one another, you know, that old thing call “conversation.”

But in the world of online dating, texting and “chatting” have become the norm. Please tell me how you can have an in-depth enough exchange typing on the world’s tiniest keypad to actually get to know the heart, soul, and mind of another person.

Men are all over this shit now. No longer do they have to endure the possibility of an embarrassing public rejection when approaching a girl surrounded by her friends in a bar. You see, the girl has already agreed, virtually, to accept a drink with the guy when they meet at the bar (that is if they even meet—it seems a lot of men use online dating to “get off” without actually having to endure a woman face-to-face).

With online dating, if you get rejected, no one else needs to know.

And if you’re communicating via text or chat, you sure as heck don’t have to deal with emotions. Or you can choose to ignore them. “Sorry, I guess I didn’t see that text” or “I haven’t been online all day.”  Or the classic, “my iPhone battery died.”

This brave new world of dating removes a lot of the responsibility that used to be associated with being in a relationship or, heck, even just casually dating.

As a woman who has hoped for some gem to show up in this dating desert, I have to say that this new concept of virtual dating emasculates men…or perhaps it attracts men who are already emasculated. Either way, as a girl who grew up in the 80s, I still want men to be men. I expect men to be men.

And that means being willing to take some risks, for God’s sake. So you ask that smart and pretty woman at work out on a date and she declines. Yeah, so it’s water cooler conversation for a day or two. Big deal. That used to be the norm. No real woman wants a man unwilling to put himself out there, especially the little bit that’s required to make the first move.

Today’s “virtual” men need to be chased and expect to be chased. Sorry, guys, call me old-fashioned, but if you can’t ask a woman out on that first date, or ask her at the end of the first if you can have a second, if you can’t make the move for the first kiss…heck, you really probably don’t deserve the title of a man at all.

Yeah, I know that hurt. Sorry.

Modern, self-respecting women don’t have time for this crap. Pick up the phone. Show up at her house with flowers. Make the first move. Dare to get hurt.

You’re supposed to be the sex that risks life and limb on the battlefield, who defends the elderly, the young, and the weak from harm, who takes his hat off in a restaurant, and walks on the street side of the sidewalk.

But wait, those are the other guys. Those are the ones who have eschewed virtual reality, at least when it comes to human relationships. I’m guessing they’re a dying breed, but that’s why I’m throwing the towel in on online dating.  Because I don’t think I’m going to meet the brave men on my iPHone screen….

 

 
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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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