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When the Honeymoon is Over: The Difficult Art of Emotional Intimacy

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

Perhaps this will seem an odd subject matter for a divorced woman who has failed to turn at least three non-married, long-term relationships into marriage; nevermind all the two- and three-month dating scenarios that ultimately went nowhere…or the first dates that made me want to run into the restroom and try and crawl out of a window…(and yeah, I actually know a man who did this on a first date with a woman; he is now happily married to a dear friend of mine).

But given my experience with “endings,” I’d say there is no one more qualified to comment on what makes the “honeymoon” phase of a romantic relationship die.  I am an expert in relationship death.  In fact, more often than not, I’ve been the one calling for the coffin lid to close. (There is, after all, nothing more grotesque than an open coffin following death by train wreck.)

After 24 years of romantic interaction with the opposite sex (yes, folks, I have thus far bucked the current trend of changing my gender and/or sexual orientation for the sake of publicity), I actually do know a few things about what inspires romantic attachment in the first place and why even the best of relationships frequently die.

It’s all about expectation.

A friend of mine said his latest divorce occurred when his wife proclaimed their marriage “wasn’t fun anymore.”

News flash: love isn’t fun.

In fact, it can be downright painful at times. What’s the best way to avoid pain? Avoid vulnerability, of course. But if you avoid vulnerability, you will also avoid love…the kind of love that lasts anyway.

So plenty of us try to avoid vulnerability (and the potential for pain) altogether by settling into the traditional American marriage stalemate: Okay, so we’re married, and damn it, we’re going to stay married, even if it means we have sex only twice a year and relish every waking moment we don’t have to be anywhere near each other. Let’s suck it up and survive…for the kids.

Trust me, I’ve been there.

I’ve also been in the fuck this relationship crap—I’m done with men (or women) phase where I feel like life would be a whole lot easier without romance. And yes, it would be. But easy gets, well, boring. I’ve never been able to successfully replace a good-looking, intelligent man with a Manhattan or a gin and tonic.

So what’s the secret? How do you get love to last past the proverbial “honeymoon phase?”

You’re probably not going to like the answer. Because it’s be yourself.  Be yourself in all your annoying, beautiful, vulnerable, terrifying, hopeless, wonderful, imperfect way.

Sure, authenticity has become the buzz word of content marketers everywhere, but there’s a reason for that. Nothing beats it. If you want your marriage to last past the honeymoon in Aruba or you want your romance to transcend those first few months of furious sex and exhilarating uncertainty, then you’ve got to be real.

Women tend to be a lot better at this authenticity thing than guys.  Most of us grow up sharing secrets with one another, crying in each other’s arms, calling on one another for help in times of need.  But plenty of us will lock all that stuff up when it comes to the guys in our lives.  We’ve heard all the horror stories—men run from women who cry, share their problems, or show interest in anything other than sex. So, more often than not, we’ll be just as locked up and cut off as the man we’re trying to woo or who is trying to woo us.

The excitement of new love will carry a relationship like that for awhile…but eventually you’ve got nothing. There’s nothing more to talk about without getting into why you hate your mother or why he finds it hard to say “I love you.” So you’re bored, frustrated, and empty…. You break up.  Or…if you foolishly got married before you hit that phase, you enter into a grumpy truce to stick it out as long as you can stand it.

Once upon a time, I got uber brave with a man, decided I had nothing to lose and determined to be my authentic self. I cried in front of him when I was sad. I told him my core fears.  I admitted I suffered from anxiety.  I told him I loved him, and I said it first. And then something started to happen. He started doing the same. He admitted all the guilt he suffered in his life, the way his mother had unintentionally shut down his soul, the fact that he had never really believed in love and thought the sonnets of Shakespeare and Neruda were BS…until he met me.

And let me tell you. The sparks in that relationship kept on flying…for years.  There was no end to what we could talk about, no end to the learning we acquired from one another. In fact, had circumstances beyond my control not tragically intervened, we might easily have kept that honeymoon phase going till death.

That’s how I know there is love beyond the butterflies.  And if you feel some of your truest bliss when your arms are wrapped around the woman you married, then you may be one of the fortunate few who learned the secret to making “in love” last.

And if you’ve never felt that kind of deep safety and joy with another human being…and you want it, then you might have to consider unbuttoning your soul a little bit and setting the example for the one you love to do the same. The glue that binds two people together isn’t love per se; it’s emotional intimacy. And the only way to have it is to be brave…before the honeymoon is over.

 

 
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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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I Like Big Butts; I Cannot Lie: Dating Outside Your Size Class

Posted by Ben Weaver on Sep 27, 2015 in Men, Relationships

I’ve never been a person who valued conventional beauty. I never had a crush on a cheerleader or anyone who was a candidate for homecoming queen. In my dating history, I’ve demonstrated tolerance for poochy bellies and big asses; it’s true. I’ve been much more keen on ladies with good taste in music and bad taste in jokes than ones with the “right” dress size or perfect hair and nails.

This proclivity has not escaped the attention of my friends; by the time I hit my mid-twenties, I had earned the nickname “Buffalo Soldier” among certain circles. As one of my (female) friends said, “The girls Ben dates are nice and have pretty faces, but they do tend to have, well, uh, you know…” (as she makes the universal gesture for “big in the ass”). Guilty as charged. I guess it’s just never mattered that much to me. Hell, maybe I even like it that way.

Speaking only for myself, though, I have a pretty high self-monitor when it comes to my body, borne from a childhood of shopping in the husky section and having a father who weighed around 400 pounds at his biggest.

When one summer I was turned down for participation in not one but TWO games of spin-the-bottle, I vowed to shape up and keep myself in check, an endeavor I’ve honored with varying degrees of success (not always easy when your two favorite digestible items in the world are fried chicken and beer). Like many people, I have some neurotic thinking about food and body image, but I don’t generally let that stop me from eating what I want and still mowing the lawn without a shirt on.

I propose to you a couple of admittedly leading questions: Ladies, have you ever dated someone who was shorter than you? Conversely, gentlemen, have you ever gone out with someone taller?

I can personally speak to the latter. As a guy who hits 5’8” in shoes and has dated plenty of ladies bigger than myself in most regards, I can tell you, people will give you looks. Your “friends” will comment. My former wife had standard retorts for the number of times she was asked, “Isn’t it weird being with a guy who’s shorter than you? Can you not wear heels when you go out?” (A: “Short guys are better in the sack” & “He likes it when I wear heels. He calls me his Amazon bride!”)

How about a man dating a woman who is taller and weighs more ? Lord knows that I’ve taken my fair share of ribbing . When I was younger, my friends made up names for my girlfriends like Brawny, ‘Squatch, and The Original Tatonka. Not cool, guys.

Here’s my point of contention: there exists an odd duality in society’s rules concerning size, weight, and relationships.

On one hand, love is supposed to be blind; it is considered shallow to be preoccupied with external characteristics of others, and we romanticize sapiosexual relationships in books and film. On the other hand, these epic love interests are portrayed in the modern media by people with bodies so sculpted that one has to wonder how they salvage time for a relationship in the first place, given their gym and protein smoothie schedules.

We all know reality rarely looks like a glistening Fabio on the cover of a novel with a title like The Gentle Rogue or an airbrushed Amy Adams in some role requiring her to don a princess get-up. Reality, more often, resembles a film about the infiltration of a bondage and domination resort starring Rosie O’Donnell and Dan Aykroyd.

Each and every one of us is destined for a future of saggy asses and arm flaps if we’re lucky enough to live that long. Have you seen a picture of Keith Richards lately? He’s not even doing that bad for a chain smoking 71-year-old. Might as well get over it already: you’re heading for the realm of people nobody wants to see naked.

(If you’re reading this, Amy Adams, I don’t think you need the airbrush. I was just trying to be funny. You are beautiful just the way you are. Call me.)

Age really is the great equalizer. The older I get, the less physical characteristics matter compared to, say, the way they treat people who work in the service industry or their propensity to laugh at a fart. I see these attitudes more in the friends I keep, too, as life rolls on. What good is it spending time with someone who’s “model hot” if you can’t stand her half the time or she treats you like shit?

Even worse, what if her taste in music sucks? The absurdity of imposing those kinds of concessions on one’s intimate personal life confounds me. People who want to make them can have their spoils. As for myself, as I enter the back half of my lifespan, it seems as important as ever that I round it out with people whose beauty I may still be able to recognize as I squint upward through my bifocals at their wrinkled, bejowled faces.

 
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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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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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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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