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The Culture of No One’s to Blame…Except You, Of Course

Posted by Deborah Huso on Oct 12, 2015 in Motherhood, Mothers and Daughters, Musings, Relationships

Last school year, as my daughter navigated first grade in a new elementary school at least six to seven times the size of the one she had attended since preschool, she encountered, for the first time, a bully. This angry little boy, whom I’ll call Robert, was a pestilence to her happiness on a regular basis, pushing her in the schoolyard, calling her names, all the usual stuff.

And while I frequently encouraged Heidi to clock the kid (noting I would stand fully behind her when she’d undoubtedly go to the principal’s office for defending her right to exist without persistent harassment), she declined to settle the drama in this way after being inculcated at school with the idea that hitting someone else, no matter what, is always wrong.

Those among you who are my age or older know this is false wisdom.

One day my daughter got off the bus and mentioned she’d had a session with the school guidance counselor that afternoon. I paused on our daily trek up the driveway and asked, “Whatever for?”

“I’ve been going every week to learn how to cope with Robert’s bullying,” Heidi replied.

Rage is not a normal feature of my character, but I must admit feeling it at that moment. How was it that a little boy who pushed and hit his fellow classmates, teased and insulted them relentlessly, and proclaimed almost daily that he hated his parents had somehow become “the victim,” while my daughter was being advised to assume the role of caterer to his victimization and adjust her behavior to accommodate his youthful rage against the world?

The tale gets better, however. A few days after this revelation from within the walls of modern public education came a phone call from Heidi’s teacher, advising me my seven-year-old had used the “F word” in the school lunch line that day. My minor relief that my daughter had admitted to picking up this new addition to her vocabulary from her father quickly dissipated when she came home and explained the circumstances in response to my questions about why she was cursing at school.

“Robert told me I was stupid and ugly,” Heidi remarked.

Now with things in context, I could not help but concede that her apparent response of “fuck you” was entirely appropriate. But again, it was my daughter who bore all the punishment while the bully received no reprimand because apparently it is far worse to curse at someone who is trying to make your life miserable than it is to shake the foundations of another human being’s self-worth.

Robert, you see, was not to blame for his awful behavior toward his fellow humans. Rather, he was to be pitied—no doubt the victim of bad parents, degraded socioeconomic status, a poor gene pool, mental illness, or some other and perhaps multiple maladies.

Needless to say, for this and other reasons, I have pulled my daughter out of the public education system.

But the situation with Robert is reflective of a larger social ill—the idea that abnormal, malfunctioning, or just downright wrong behavior in our culture now comes with a litany of “excuses” ranging from borderline personality disorder to sexual addiction (though I recognize the latter has not yet been coded in the DSM-5; Tiger Woods found it useful nevertheless).

Don’t get me wrong. You will find few people as respectful of the wisdom of modern psychology as myself. Apart from having had a number of friends educated in and working in the field, one cannot help but see and exercise its usefulness in the art of journalism.

But let popular culture get a hold of a good thing…and watch it promptly twisted into something it wasn’t meant to be….

Remember the days when it was wrong to hurt the feelings of others, whether done deliberately or unintentionally? Remember when it was okay to say to another human being: You make me sad or you make me angry?

Not so anymore. Today the individual committing the wrong is actually not responsible for the pain of others. Rather, the one suffering is.

How deeply has this idea permeated our culture? Well, apart from the very obvious sense of entitlement that a not insignificant portion of the American population now feels, get a load of what I heard the other day…from a friend I never would have dreamed would say such a thing….

I’d had my feelings hurt, and I said so, expecting, at the very least, some kind of apology. Nope. In response to “you make me sad,” I received, “I don’t make you sad; you choose your reaction to what I say.”

Um, yeah, okay, I get it.  I did indeed choose to feel sadness. Had I a different personality, I might have chosen to say, as Heidi did in the lunch line, “fuck you.” The bottom line, however, is that whatever my feeling or reaction to a hurtful statement by my friend, the fact remains he made a hurtful statement. Since when did it become okay to say or do anything with the full protection of “it’s not my fault; it’s your reaction” backing it all up?

Once upon a time, we didn’t have all these layers of excuses. If you stole, it was wrong; if you cheated, it was wrong; if you treated others poorly, it was wrong.

Now, however, the victims of pain, theft, lies, whatever are frequently asked to consider the degraded socioeconomic status of the thief before rushing to judgment or charges. If your partner cheats, then you may be encouraged to understanding and forgiveness because there are just way too many outlets in the modern world for him to possibly resist stepping out, nevermind his need to feel admired universally because of some developmental lack in his childhood. If someone fails to show empathy to those who suffer, then it’s because she has an avoidant attachment style from having had a bad mother.

And yes, all these things may be true to some degree…but there’s another truth called self-responsibility.

But perhaps in this age of Facebook and selfie sticks, we are all far too narcissistic to notice our own failings much less take responsibility for them. It is far easier, I suppose, to say, “It’s my mother’s fault,” and end the sentence there. We follow pop psychology instead of the fully Monty, which requires you to not only see the root of what has set you on the wrong path but to right the wrong, transcend the destiny of your genes, your upbringing, your circumstances or life experiences…to stand in your own two shoes and take ownership of your actions and how they may impact others.

Because, as William Shakespeare, wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Yet how far we have strayed from that recognition….

 
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Where Are the Men? A Culture of Emasculation

Posted by Deborah Huso on Oct 2, 2015 in Fathers and Daughters, Men, Musings, Relationships

Last winter I started dating a gentleman who had been in his chosen profession about two decades, was quite successful, financially solid, well-educated and well-spoken, courteous to a fault. He refused to permit me to pay for a single dinner out, not even once we’d gone on a few dates. Perfect, right?

Well, no….

I guess the first thing that struck me was when he gave me a tour of the new home he had purchased. When I inquired as to the residence’s heating and cooling system, he presented a blank look. “Is it a heat pump?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“How efficient? This is a pretty big house,” I continued.

He smiled a little nervously.  “I’m not sure.”

Before I embarrassed him further, I declined to ask about SEER ratings. I mean, what was the point?  He wouldn’t know the answer.

Granted, I’m a builder’s daughter and a sometime home and commercial construction writer as well as being an only child raised with all the practical skills one might typically think of a father bestowing on a son. And yes, I grew up outside a small southern mountain town where…you know…men were men.  There was no such thing as a man who didn’t know how to drive a stick shift or a tractor (and plenty of women, myself included, counted these among our skills as well).

I could dismiss the above as a case of encountering a city-bred gentlemen of means who had grown up in a family of means where men’s hands remained soft and delicate as a painter’s or a pianist’s.

Only…my dad was a bank president’s son who grew up in town.  And I honestly can’t think of anyone on the planet with a more practical set of skills and problem-solving ability than my father. He can repair a backhoe, build a house, and split firewood with gusto in the company of men less than half his age. He can also do trigonometry with a pencil on a block of wood and multiply fractions in his head.

I knew a lot of men like this growing up—my maternal grandfather, my great uncles, neighbors, friends’ fathers. You wouldn’t catch any of them not knowing how to change a flat tire or fix a broken fence…or apologizing for their outlook on the world. So I grew up with the idea that men should be strong, brave, practical, and smart… because I came of age surrounded by men who were teachers, mentors, fixers, and servants to others.

I know I’m going to get serious flak for saying this, but heck, I’m going to say it anyway—the emasculation of men is becoming the norm in our culture (and not just because there are a fair number now who not only wouldn’t deign to change a tire but don’t really know how anyway).  And, well-educated, tolerant, capable feminist that I am, I don’t like it, not one bit.

Forgive me, but I think men should behave like men—they should know how to handle life’s basic troubles without blinking or blushing, have a sense of duty toward those they love, be capable of rationally defending themselves and their views, exhibit some emotional courage, and avoid being wishy-washy in the face of conflict or discomfort.

My mother calls my taste in men “fussy.” Fine, whatever. She’s married to my dad after all. She has it pretty good.

What I don’t like is a fussy man. Yeah, so I also recently dated a guy who spent more time styling his hair in the morning than I did, and along with that perfect coif came the most finely pressed and expensive clothes—clothes you’d never dream of wearing while changing a flat tire or having a spontaneous picnic on the grass.  And while we regularly received compliments while about town on what a handsome pair we made, I couldn’t help but find something problematic in dating a man I could not possibly imagine ever setting foot in the woods or starting a campfire.

I’ll take the “post-kegger” look any day over activity-inhibiting wardrobe drama.

Perhaps even worse are the men who are so polite and agreeable, fearful of ruffling anyone’s feathers, that they’ll smile and nod at anything, no matter how inane, just to prevent anything remotely looking like conflict…or remotely looking like lively repartee either.  And so I order a Manhattan in hopes that doing so will enliven the far too pleasant conversation and then get a look like I’ve just fallen off the moon.

Did I mention a man also ought to know how to drink a frigging cocktail that doesn’t contain pomegranate?

But if I am to be completely frank, these complaints only scratch the surface because modern life seems, if not to favor, at least to tolerate men who fail to support the children they helped bring into the world (does anyone remember the days when such a man would have been shamed into doing his duty?), who feel no particular obligation to do the things they said they were going to do (hence, why I don’t follow politics), and who don’t mean, or regularly deny, the words they speak (though this becomes increasingly harder to do in the age of instant-recording smartphones).

I’m not sure when parental responsibility, keeping one’s word, and telling the truth became optional, but it must have been sometime about 20 or so years ago. Either that or I grew up in a time warp where a kid wouldn’t be able to sit comfortably for a week if he was caught lying. Or maybe, as was the case with me, he or she would just hide in the woods for hours until Dad hopefully “forgot” the lie or the lack of follow-through on a commitment.

There was no shirking responsibility, hard work, or honesty in the world where I was raised, and men were expected to toe that line particularly hard. And to know how to fix shit (by which I mean tangible shit, not the tears of women). And to stand up for themselves. And to sacrifice when the need arose for family, for friends, and for principles.

These days “sacrifice” is no longer part of the language of love, and we fling the word “hero” around so much, it has become virtually meaningless.

Before you suggest I was raised on a steady diet of fairytales, let me point out a few things: Winston Churchill was known to walk the streets of London during the Blitz; the Little Rock Nine endured confrontation by National Guardsmen, taunts and spitting by angry whites, and death threats in their commitment to attend Arkansas’ all-white Central High School in 1957; over 400 emergency services personnel sacrificed their lives trying to rescue victims of the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001.

These people were heroes who also knew a thing or two about sacrifice. People who undergo a sex change are not heroes; they are just people undergoing a sex change. NFL players are not heroes; they are just guys who play ball really well and make a lot of money.

But as a culture, we are so quick to make everyone feel good that we toss the word “hero” and “winner” around into a million situations where it’s unwarranted.

And then we demand apologies from anyone who says anything another person or segment of society might find offensive, as if we as a culture no longer honor diversity of viewpoint or freedom of speech. Our insistence that everyone is a hero and that we all pretend to get along by at least talking the same talk not only emasculates men (who tend to be the ones doing most of the apologizing); it emasculates American culture; it castrates the ideals of individuality and freedom of expression upon which our country was founded.

Is it any wonder so many boys today never grow into men? They are coming of age in a culture of low expectations, of minimal hardship. In this context, it should be no surprise young combat soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. What’s it like to watch your friends blown to bits by IEDs and then return home to a place where young men are so glued to their smartphones they can’t even make sure their kids are safe and sound on the playground much less have any concept of what it’s like to save someone’s life or watch someone die.

Courage, conviction, and commitment are in short supply because we lack the outlets to exercise them.  This is particularly the case for men, many of whom are no longer raised to see themselves as future providers and protectors. (And I’m not saying women can’t be providers and protectors, too, but mainstream American culture isn’t interfering with the social imperatives that encourage female valor.)

A few years ago, when a friend of mine was considering marriage to her then boyfriend, a second friend of mine asked her pointedly, “Do you feel womanly in his arms?” And in case you’re a man reading this and wondering what that means, it basically translates into, “Do you trust him? Do you feel safe and cared for? Do you feel like he’d protect you?”

It’s a valid question for women to ask before they tie themselves to a man in this brave new world. Because who wants an untrustworthy, unmotivated coward for a mate?  A solid bank account and soft hands don’t cut it in the grand scheme of things. Life is hard, and one shouldn’t make it harder by dragging someone into it who requires a lot of take and has very little give other than cash.

And in this country, we’re supposed to give. We have historically been the nation that steps in when no one else will.  Our men (and women, beginning in World War II) have repeatedly answered the call to arms on behalf of beleaguered republics and social democracies as well as on behalf of the disenfranchised and tormented.

But it’s easy to let the disenfranchised here at home carry the burden of sacrifice. Service is no longer a rite of passage in this country; it is less and less a value passed from parent to child, teacher to student. Fewer and fewer of us will know men who keep old uniforms tucked in the backs of closets, who will carry the groceries of old women, or give up the materialism of American holidays to work in a soup kitchen.

In our uber prosperous American culture, too many young men come of age without any awareness that everything could change in an instant…and zero practical preparation for it, much less any preparation for being good fathers, husbands, and citizens.

 

 
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Life Without Someone to Carry My Bags…and Why It’s Better Than Regret

Posted by Deborah Huso on Sep 17, 2015 in Mothers and Daughters, Success Guide, Travel Archives
Kayaking in the Tetons

Kayaking in the Tetons

Every once in awhile my “aloneness” in the world hits me.  Okay, so I’ll be honest—it’s not every once in awhile; it’s pretty much every other day.

The last hit occurred when I was on assignment in the Grand Tetons, working my way through a three-day kayaking, rafting, and camping trip on Jackson Lake and then the Snake River.  Joining me on this journey were two couples—one fairly young and recently wed, transplants to the west who had moved from Chicago; the other was a couple in their 70s from West Virginia who had shared a long and adventurous life together.

As we were unloading our camping gear that last night of the trip to set up camp on a desolate but beautiful peninsula beneath the gray shadow of Mt. Moran, I happened to notice the male half of the young couple carrying the bulk of his and his new bride’s gear up from the bouldered beach to a camp site at the edge of the woods. When he was finished, pitying me a little apparently, as I hoisted a heavy dry bag onto my back and then prepared to follow it with a sleeping pad on my head, he came to my aid without speaking, taking the heaviest items from me.

I was astounded. Most of the time, I can’t even entice a man to help me get a large suitcase out of the overhead compartment on an airplane even when wearing a wrist brace, trying to hang onto a small child, and obviously struggling.  Yet this young man helped me without being asked and obviously with no expectation of the reward he might receive for carrying out such labor for his young wife.

Camping on Spaulding Bay

Camping on Spaulding Bay

After thanking him profusely, I began to set up my tent for the evening. I wasn’t struggling really. The task was relatively easy, just a bit awkward for two hands as opposed to four. The 70-year-old gentlemen camped near me soon came over to help and even directed me as if I was a an untried Girl Scout, which was fine. It was rather sweet actually. When he was done, he returned to his own campsite to exchange relaxing foot rubs with his wife—a phenomenon rarely seen among newlyweds much less among partners who have lived together for decades.

Once my campsite was in order, I settled down to rest behind the tent, staring off into the now glass-smooth surface of the lake, granite mountains with glaciers tucked into their crevices facing me across Spaulding Bay.

And I began to feel the aching absence I have known so much of my life.

“What is it like to have someone carry your bags for you?” 

My women friends are all married, the smallest handful happily, a few miserably, and most of them in a stalemate of resigned acceptance.  So far as I have seen, however, their husbands all carry their bags. Some may groan and gripe over the task, but they do it, dutifully, sometimes robotically, but sure enough, the bags end up properly placed in the trunk, in the overhead compartment, locked safely away from bears in a steel box, whatever.

I watch from the sidelines, envious at times….

You see, I have rarely had a man carry my bags.  Even when I was married, my husband was in the U.S. Navy and more away from me than near, so I lived the life of a single woman, seeing him on occasional weekends or sometimes not at all for months on end.

Galapagos 1069

Wandering the Malecon in Guayaquil, Ecuador

I carried my own bags, mowed my own grass, fixed my own fence, and repaired my own plumbing. I flattened myself into narrow, dirty crawlspaces to troubleshoot furnace issues, test drove and purchased my own cars, carried heavy children in my arms through amusement parks, and found my way alone through foreign airports in strange cities.

I was (and am) the mistress of self-sufficiency…just as my parents intended me to be. All my life they prepared me for a cruel world where I should “trust no one.”

Under this hardline, Scandinavian tutelage, I grew into a woman who could pretty much do anything necessary to handle the basics (and the mishaps) of everyday living. I taught single girlfriends how to change rusty and clogged water filters, repaired my own crotchety lawn equipment, and figured out how to grease stubborn, tight windows so I could close and open them with ease.

I’ve had no need for a man in my life. I am my immensely practical builder father’s daughter….

This last week, however, my seven-year-old daughter has been working on a curious project at school involving trust and team building. I can recall, in school and college, how I dreaded group projects because I knew I would not only always be the lead, but I would also always be the one carrying the bulk of the workload. I trusted, generally with reason, no one.

But Heidi’s project encouraged these things called trust and teamwork.  Her class spent a morning at her teacher’s farm, learning to trust one another—closing their eyes and falling off picnic tables with the solid belief classmates would catch them.

And I could not stifle the doubtful Midwesterner in me who wondered, “Should Heidi be learning this? Won’t it harm her in the long run to believe others will be there for her?  Besides me, of course?  Would it not be better to prepare her, as I have long tried, for solid self-sufficiency?”

For I have, perhaps even more doggedly than my parents before me, adopted a hard line with my daughter, refusing to carry her luggage in airports, encouraging her to find bravery within her soul, nurturing her fearlessness—all in preparation for the day when she will have no mommy to carry her bags, wipe her tears, hold her close in the dark hours of the night when the whole world seems stacked against her.

It is no cruelty on my part. It is an act of love.

I don’t want tears welling in her eyes when she watches a man carry his wife’s luggage, kiss away her tears, or hold her when tragedy strikes. I want her to know she can carry her own burdens and survive.

As I have carried mine…across two decades, across four continents.

Camping at the base of the Grand Canyon along Bright Angel Creek

Camping at the base of the Grand Canyon along Bright Angel Creek

People often ask me why I take these journeys—backcountry treks into the Tetons, the Grand Canyon, the Smokies. Less than prudent rambles through dicey South American cities, into dusty and hardscrabble Mexican towns, into sad shops populated more by stray dogs than people in Puerto Rico.

It is partly about character building but mostly about facing fear and uncertainty. Walking through it…alone…and knowing I can do it and come out the other side.  And sure, life should be about more than survival and fear facing, but those are two things you must conquer first…before you can conquer anything else.

Would that I did not have to conquer these things alone.

But there is ample reason for why I carry my own bags.  It is not just my upbringing.  It is not just my independent nature. Part of it is an unwillingness to settle for just any Sherpa.

I want someone who will lie on his back in the woods and name the stars for me, who will race me in his kayak across Glacier Bay and laugh and paddle backwards as icebergs crash into water.  Such men are few and far between…. Men of my age have been too burned by the demands of young and foolish women, and most have retreated into a safe sort of nothingness far removed from the rambling of Grizzly bears in the woods and the pressing crowds of St. Petersburg in summer.

They do not seek the land of the midnight sun.

So instead of settling, I carry my own bags, bear my own baggage, and venture into the wilds of life alone, choosing experience over safety, and hardship (at times) over comfort.  Because this is life, lived only once, with or without love, with or without someone to carry my bags, with or without the safety of someone’s arms to collapse into in the darkest hours of the night…but never without living and never without the sometimes hard to summon courage that drives one steadily to an existence without the base ugliness of regret.

I may die holding the baggage of my life in two arthritic hands, but I will not die without knowing I have lived.

 
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Even the Dog Has Anxiety: The Newest American Epidemic

Posted by Deborah Huso on Sep 1, 2015 in Motherhood, Musings, Relationships

The very first time I had an anxiety attack, I didn’t know what was happening.  It was early morning, my newborn daughter had just woken up crying, I knew I had deadlines demanding attention in the office, I’d had no sleep (having lain awake all night waiting for her cry), and all of the sudden my heart was pounding as if it would burst right out of my chest, and I felt cold sweats racing up and down my spine, my arms, my hands.

“Am I having a heart attack?” I wondered.

And no small part of me almost hoped I was: visions of a hospital bed where I could lie and do nothing all day while people brought me bland food I would not want to eat. Relaxation and weight loss coming right up!

And then I wondered, is this really what my life has come to? Having a heart attack is now a vacation plan?

But it wasn’t a heart attack, though in the years since that first incident, I have more than once wished I was experiencing some real physical calamity as opposed to anxiety. As a friend of mine, also a sufferer from anxiety, told me recently, “Physical pain is so much easier to bear.”

I agree. Doctors can fix a heart attack, or you die…either way, the trauma ends.

Anxiety has no endpoint, no pacemaker, no magic bullet to knock it out, so you can go home a new and improved person who can breathe again without hyperventilating.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety.  That’s about 18 percent of the population. Most of them are women.

I’d wager the degree of suffering is much greater. Way more than half of my female friends and acquaintances suffer from it, and those are just the ones who admit it. Or maybe I just hang out with really high-strung, Type A folks who don’t know how to tramp down stress and trauma with a shot of bourbon and Netflix.

I sure as hell don’t.

I prefer to lie awake in bed, not wanting to get out, while my heart races at the speed of light and I’m encompassed by a pressing sense of dread. Eek, is that a laundry basket over there filled with dirty clothes? Damn it. Cold sweats. iPhone bleeps at me. I hunker down a little lower.

The anxiety in this house is so pervasive, even the dog has it.  Though I acknowledge, he’s a pound puppy, so I have to forgive him for howling every time I leave the house and then hiding under the dining room table whenever I lose my shit with my daughter, which is more frequent than I’d like to admit. Pooping in my walk-in closet? Um no, not excused.

They make anxiety meds for dogs, you know.

I remain skeptical.  I am not giving my dog Xanax.

But the fact that I could is a little alarming. The fact that nearly 30 percent of Americans will suffer anxiety at some point in their lives is also alarming, especially given that is the highest rate of anxiety disorder in the developed world. Again, I expect it’s more.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like an epidemic. And I have to wonder why….

I once believed anxiety was the body’s physical response to a situation that isn’t right.  Do you get anxiety every time your husband walks in the door? Time to get a divorce.  Do you have panic attacks in the bathroom at work? Time to get a new job.

But it’s really not that simple. As the mother of one of my best friends (who was a practicing psychologist for 30+ years told me once), “anxiety is fear that you cannot handle what life throws at you.”

Or rather what we throw at ourselves….

I admit I am a culprit in my own suffering.  In the course of the last year alone, I moved my entire household from a community where I had spent the vast majority of my adult life, put my daughter in a new school, then put her in another new school this fall, fell in love and got serious about a man who couldn’t commit, attempted to paint an entire house all by myself in the wee hours of the morning for weeks on end, expanded my business times three, garnered nearly 20 new clients as a result, and then decided it would be a good idea to bring an anxiety-ridden dog into my life because, you know, a single working mother could always use another dependent to look after….

Did I mention I’m about to give up on having a clean house, folded laundry, and weed-free flowerbeds?

I cannot do it.

And that is the hardest thing for us anxiety sufferers to admit.

A few years ago, one of my best friends and I were riding a trolley in a historic southern city when a young woman seated across from us leaned over and said to me, “I’m having an anxiety attack.  Can you help me? I need to get off this thing.”

Well, heck yeah. I’m old hat at this shit. My girlfriend got the trolley driver to stop, and the three of us got off and walked at least a couple dozen blocks back to our inn, where we poured our new friend lots of complimentary sherry while talking about this phenomenon called anxiety. Our new friend was in her late 20s, newly married, a successful writer, and well, should she not be in seventh heaven?

And there it is—the dreaded “should” word with which anxiety sufferers pelt themselves daily as if in penance for not having sharp, ironed curtains and cats that religiously use the litterbox.

Almost all my anxiety attacks, which I regret to report have worsened with age (or perhaps with the additional “I should do” duties that come with age), are the result of “I shoulds”:

  • I should not be “overdue” on so many projects at work
  • I should empty my inbox and be more on top of things
  • I should delete the 40 “unheard” voice mail messages on my cell phone
  • I should be a more involved and present mom
  • I should play with my daughter more
  • I should help my parents more
  • I should be in an emotionally mature relationship with a man who has his shit together
  • I should exercise more
  • I should actually eat breakfast
  • I should have a cleaner house
  • I should not let laundry sit in the basket for so long
  • I should weed my flowerbeds more frequently
  • I should get new tires on the car
  • I should clean out the garage
  • I should call my friends more

And the “shoulds” wear on me until I can do no more than hit “snooze” on the alarm, crawl deeper under the covers, and avoid this thing called life for 10 minutes more. “Snooze” again. So 20 minutes more.

What’s even worse?  Sometimes I will try to stay up all night just so I don’t have to wake up and feel anxious as soon as I open my eyes in the morning.  I’m sure you can imagine how much sleep deprivation helps with the anxiety business.

I long ago gave up on thinking I will ever outrun anxiety. I really have tried everything—even had a couple of doctors try to kill me (unintentionally, of course) with drugs that made me want to climb the walls.  The result is I’m now terrified to take any medication short of aspirin.

And try deep breathing and meditating right after someone has given you what feels like, at that moment, the most devastating news of your life. Sorry, panic coaches, my brain is far too sophisticated for your tricks. It can and will have an anxiety attack anywhere anytime just from hearing “that song” on the radio in the grocery store.

Yet supposedly anxiety sufferers are truly awesome people—hard workers with higher than average IQs, deeply analytical minds; they are more empathic, good team players.  In fact, if you want a high-achieving employee who will go the extra mile, break the EOE rules and ask that interviewee if she suffers from anxiety. If the answer is “yes,” you can be sure she’ll do a bang-up job!

That’s just how we roll.

And maybe that’s the problem.

Why do we care so much?

You have no idea how we stand like dejected animals in a cage looking out at all those people who don’t have anxiety, have never known it in their lives. You know the ones.  They’re totally okay with a sink full of dirty dishes.  Fuck it. I’m going to have a beer and go watch TV, they say without a moment’s guilt. Meanwhile I can’t sit still in a chair unless I know everything is done, and how often do you suppose everything is done in the life of a writer always on deadline?

I get tired of being told that I should embrace my anxiety, that I should be grateful I feel deeply, that I’m capable of the great depths of love, joy, pain…all those things that make us human and make life rich…if far from easy.  Heck, if you read my blog posts with any regularity, you know I spout out all these things myself. In my heart, I know their truth. In the here and now, heart racing, I just want to feel like I’m not losing my mind.  And I understand how addictions start, why people run from risk, why the emotionally wounded will often close the door on human connection, why people lose themselves in TV, on social media, in emotional eating.

I get it.

But that’s just my extra special compassion because I have anxiety, right?

What I don’t have, however, is an answer, a way to tie this all up neatly with a bow, and say something pithy you can carry with you to call upon the next time anxiety hits you in your gut.  It’s epidemic, and I am among the walking survivors.

 

 
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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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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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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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