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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, Seriously. The unsolicited prick pics. Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published May 28, 2014.

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

A perfect day with my late grandfather

A perfect day with my late grandfather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And short.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Online Dating and How It Emasculates Men

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

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

They say this is how people meet these days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I know that hurt. Sorry.

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

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

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

 

 
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What Women Want: 10 Tips to Get You Started

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 
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The Five Types of Women Men Should Avoid

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

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

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

Read it and run…where necessary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And honestly, I don’t get it.

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

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

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

And it’s simple but true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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