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Archive for June, 2009

MichaelThe whole planet was dancing this weekend.  One humongous, gyrating mass of human beings grooving together with Billie Jean, with Dirty Diana, with Ben.  Fifty of the most triumphant and simultaneously excruciating years one human being can spend on this earth, ended in an instant on June 25th.  Our beloved Michael Jackson is gone.  We are shocked, we are heartbroken, but we ain’t gonna cry. 

When John Lennon passed, I was young so had to ask my stepdad what the big deal was.  He said, “it would be like if Michael Jackson died.”  Back then, I didn’t know how death made you see in a flash the moments between a person first coming into your world and when they leave forever, condensing those moments into an irretrievable period that reminds you of the brevity of life.  I didn’t understand how the death of a young person snips away what could have been a glorious future, leaving you to mourn both what you’ve lost and what you’ll never have.  All I knew was that Michael Jackson being removed from the planet would be one of the worst things to happen.

Decades later, I’m an adult forced to process the death of a person who was both a stranger and a constant presence.  Michael Jackson was a mess of contradictions.  He wasn’t only talented, but genius.  He wasn’t merely eccentric, he was bizarre.  More than just strange-looking, he became extraterrestrial.  He was as astonishingly asocial as he was loving. 

But he was also an unearthly creature who could move like an acrobat, a ballerina and a machine gun all at once.  A singer who sounded like an angel and a sprite.  A supernova brilliant enough to have the entire planet follow his every move, yet generous enough to try and heal it.  A being who crossed every bridge humanity has built to keep us from each other – racially, economically, artistically, even sexually.  Michael Jackson was too big to die.    

Alas, our hero was mortal and the man is gone.  But his extraordinary work is eternal.  And really, what Michael’s life was all about during this half-century love affair was his art.  With his passing, the world forgot about the monster the media and the man himself worked to create, and got back the Michael Jackson we adored.  Seeing once more the smiling boy singing “I Want You Back” on Ed Sullivan still makes our hearts skip a beat.  The opening of “Billie Jean” is as miraculous as the first time we heard it.  The moonwalk is as jaw-dropping as the day we watched as kids. 

The Saturday following his death was gorgeous in Boston.  As a friend and I walked through the streets, the news about Michael was on everyone’s lips, his songs were on every radio station in boutiques and coming at us through the rolled down windows of every passing car.  A Latino man blasted “Thriller” from his radio, my black friend and I danced on the street and were waved at by an older white woman shimmying her hips across the way.  In the evening, we went to the greatest dance party ever, where Michael and his brothers dominated the playlist.  The entire day was a reminder of what was special about the man.  No matter who you were, when Michael Jackson was on, you had to move, there was no choice, dancing was imperative.  And when his music played, you couldn’t stop smiling.  This is what Michael Jackson gave to us.  Joy, love, connection and music.  And so we celebrate not only his life, but our own.

In an interview, Michael admitted to feeling at ease only on stage.  Around other people, not so much.  All he wanted was to entertain, to be loved by us in a way he never seemed to be loved by another person.  But his eccentricities and crimes pushed his audience away.  Understandably, we made him a freak and an exile.  We branded him irrelevant, the truest way to kill an artist. 

But if you’ve been around long enough, you know people don’t do bad things because they’re evil, but because they’ve got a lot of pain.  Of course, your allegiances lie with the victims, but one can’t help but feel for someone whose life has been horrific.  And so, part of this celebratory funeral for Michael Jackson is about forgiveness.  

I don’t want to be sad, in part, because I believe Michael Jackson sought in life the kind of release he now knows in death.  I’m sad for the people in his life who truly loved him, and hope there were many.  I’m sad he never had the chance to redeem himself.  But I’m thankful he was with us.

I have trouble with the concept of an afterlife and am still struggling to decide what happens to the spirit when it leaves the body.  But right now, I hope there is a Heaven and that this phenomenally gifted, phenomenally generous, phenomenally tortured person can see us down here singing and grooving to his music. 

Yes, you meant something to us, Michael.  We were moved by your story and your work.  We do love you.  And will never stop dancing.

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dominatrix_2Cosmopolitan has a secret to share.  Men are like exotic animals.  Primitive, wild and astonishingly trainable.  No longer must women put up with males who treat relationships like antelope carcasses and the world like a cave.  The key is to handle them like the beasts they are.  

In an article entitled “Six Ways to Train Your Boyfriend,” a group of psychologists demonstrated how to apply techniques used to train exotic animals on men. 

If your man doesn’t do chores, treat him like trainers do chimpanzees.  “Get on their level and play with them for five or ten minutes.” In other words, indulge his pinheaded mischief-making side, perhaps while wearing a cap with a propeller on top, then ask him to do the dishes. 

If he avoids arguments it’s because he’s like a horse, a skittish creature who doesn’t respond to assertiveness.  Rather than running a blitzkrieg on him, use a soothing voice to tell him what he did wrong.  A guy who embarrasses you in public has a lot in common with your dog.  Rather than punishing his bad behavior, ignore it, but give him a Scooby snack when he does something right.  

A headstrong man should be approached like a cougar you can “bend to your will” with a non-threatening stance.  Like a lion, a lazy man should be pounced on during his “productive mood.”  And like elephants, unromantic guys learn by example, so demonstrate to him what a fancy candlelit dinner looks like.  Then perhaps, feed him a peanut.  

I see women all the time who care about shit like this.  Gals with pre-written scripts in their heads about how relationships ought to play out, their boyfriends acting as male leads who should simply read their lines.  If the guy improvises, he’s up crap creek without a paddle.  When he buys candy instead of the flowers she expects, he gets read the riot act.  He doesn’t notice how pretty she looks in a new dress, World War Three breaks out.  

These women drag their boyfriends around, make them try on dumb-looking clothes, fix their hair, eye them when they speak to make sure they don’t slip up.  I hear them complain to friends about how their dude doesn’t call when he’s out with friends, never considering that if they were having a more enjoyable evening themselves they might not notice.  

I feel sorry for these guys like I do kids whose parents make them perform show tunes during family reunions.  I also wonder why men choose such monsters.  

Then I think of all the lonely women I know who only want men to reveal their true identities and allow themselves to be loved.  Women who could look past a man’s clumsy courting style and domestic habits as long as he’s making an effort.  Women who realize human beings are complicated, and that understanding rather than manipulation evolves souls.  Women who are still, alas, alone.

But thank goodness Cosmo has reminded us we are all highly sophisticated wives-in-training who must go into the jungle of maleness and choose some swine to domesticate.  No longer are we expected to bring kinship, empathy or even great passion into our romantic lives.  Now, the love bond exists to shore up our egos, rather than the bad old days when we were expected to shed our egos and try to merge souls.  All we need to have satisfying partnerships is to make sure the men in our lives fold laundry and tuck in their shirts. 

Maybe I’m weird.  Sure, I like a guy who takes the time to wipe the Cheez Whiz from his necktie.  Men who don’t pull their own weight around the house annoy me, and anyone who backs down from a fight is certainly a child.  But I prefer love with all its chaos, I want men who are complex, I like relationships with sharp edges. 

A man who makes a bad joke in public, I don’t consider a terrible partner.  A guy wearing an ugly shirt, I won’t send home.  If he’s trying his damndest to understand who I am and make the thing work, he can wear a pineapple on his head for all I care.  He can take a piss on the floor as long as he’s loving and has something to say.  I don’t want to train anyone and hardly want to bend anyone to my will.  I have no preconceived notions of what I want.  I only hope he’s authentic and surprises me. 

Let him be messy.  As if I don’t have anything myself to fix.

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cell phoneNot so long ago, the most resolute act you could carry out in order to assert your commitment to ending a bad relationship was to throw the guy out and change the locks.  If you were really brazen, you could toss his clothes into the mulberry bush beneath your window.  The truly disturbed might sleep with his best friend or pour sugar into the gas tank of his souped-up Ford Escort.  In this modern age, the most threatening, and perhaps only way to put a period at the end of a liaison headed toward Splitsville is one simple, though potent act: erase the guy’s number from your cell phone.  

My friend Rebecca is the queen of “The Phone Number Delete.”  When affairs are smooth, she gleefully adds her latest suitor to the list of people to whom she sends an endless stream of inconsequential text messages – “Is it me, or is it goddamn freezing” or “What was the name of Arnold’s best friend on Diff’rent Strokes” or “I just made shrimp tacos and, man, are they awesome.”

However, once texts aren’t being responded to, once dates are cancelled without explanation, the guy gets erased.  I always know when her latest fling is on the rocks because she’ll send a text message with the same three unambiguous words: “I’m deleting him.”  I know things are really bad when she is “sooo deleting him.” 

I guess the logic is simple: if the guy’s number isn’t in her phone she’ll be able to save face and wean herself off him because she won’t be tempted to assail him with desperate texts.  Another more mysterious upshot is that, somehow, she won’t be expecting his call because he’s no longer “in” her phone.  Of course, if the guy does call, regardless of how well he makes up for the previous slight, she immediately saves the number and loves him again.

My dear Rebecca has a tendency to attract guys who have no intention of even committing to a choice on a dinner menu let alone a relationship.  After having deleted the third playboy drummer she’d dated in a year, she called this past weekend to have me talk her down from accepting a dinner date with a DJ with two girlfriends and a wife.   

Thus was born the ‘List of Off-Limits Men,’ a list of guys Rebecca promised herself never to get involved with in any way, shape or sexual position.  No one was perfect, she knew.  Some types just had history.

“Bike messengers,” Rebecca started as I played secretary.  “Skateboarders.  Oh, guys who work at gyms.”

“Man, you’ve really gotta upgrade.”

“Married men,” she went on.  “Restaurant owners.”

“Oh, that’s gonna be a loss.”

“Have you ever dated one?”  She asked.  “They get to hire cute waitresses and always have an excuse for coming home at six in the morning.”

Rebecca added DJs, musicians and bartenders to the list, on account of their hotness and endless supply of tail, while I suggested adding university professors.

“Really?”  She asked.

“Professors are rock stars for the ivy league set.”

In the end, we came up with twenty-five types of men Rebecca could no longer date.  Though I wasn’t positive this was the best way to cure my friend’s romantic woes, I promised to type up the list and send her a laminated copy.

Obviously, I could create my own list of off-limits men, just as I’m sure my male friends could create a list of off-limits women.  But I can’t imagine there really are “types” anyone looking for love should steer clear of.  There must be just as many faithful, loving bartenders in the world as there are, say, slutty, scamming accountants. 

In this modern world, people come in and out of our lives so frequently, it may seem a time saver to put checks and minuses on people before bothering to get to know them.  Still, it seems like we’re doing everyone a disservice by not taking the time.  And of course, if you meet someone and they do turn out to be a perfect example of someone who should be on your “off limits” list, you can employ that other cruel but time-saving tool of modern American life. 

Just delete them.

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Jolie“Do you love him?”  My Spanish friend asked. 

I was in Madrid, talking to my friend about a man I’d gone out with a couple times and was crushing on. 

“Love him?”  I answered.  “I barely know him.”

“Madre mia,” my friend said.  “I’ve been in love with a woman for years and I’ve never even spoken to her.” 

Life is different in Europe, as is love.  There, you take two hours to savor every meal.  Lounge in cafés until dawn contemplating the universe.  Open your heart to the beam of light coming from another person’s soul and know you love them instantly.  Maybe you know immediately, maybe you know in a year, but no clock ticks to let you know when it’s “appropriate” to feel it.  Love shows up when it feels like showing up. 

Europeans know there is no escape from the senses, you don’t choose when feelings come.  Life brings suffering you can’t protect yourself from, just as it brings ecstasy.  So just live it.

Thus, it’s been challenging being back in my beloved US where life is lived in crash helmets and knee pads.  Where social interactions are conducted like business meetings, everyone polite, polished and putting their best foot forward.  Where a woman can’t fall too soon and a man can’t call before three days without appearing psychotic.  Where relationship is treated like a medical procedure conducted with steely detachment, rather than a gift.

My friend Kim is madly in love and ashamed of herself for it.  She’s got a guy she’s lukewarm about and another she’s feisty for, but is avoiding the latter because she thinks it’s unhealthy to be so enamored.  Meanwhile, she’s lost five pounds missing him.  Apparently, I’m the only one she can discuss him with because I won’t judge her for feeling so “crazy.” 

In Europe, if you tell someone you’re crazy about a person, they grin and welcome you to the ride.  The last time I told my American friends, “all I can think about is him,” I was immediately diagnosed.  The cure was to distract myself with work and exercise.  Apparently, my friends didn’t see the smile on my lips.  I wanted to feel this way.  I liked it. 

Have you not heard a love song, I wanted to ask my friends, have you not read a poem?  This is what the first blush of love is like.  Chaos and nausea and losing control.  Seeing the world in only pastel colors and walking around with stars pouring from your eyes.  The rest of life fading into oblivion as your gaze lands on one extraordinary person.  When simply thinking about him is the most satisfying thing you could do with your day.

Like so many people, Kim is trying to manage.  I see her walking the edge of her own immense feelings and reigning herself in, as if taking the plunge guarantees her drowning.  She thinks she needs something simpler, less intense.  She doesn’t believe enchantment might actually lead to something concrete and nourishing, so detaches from the magic to focus on practicalities.  It seems Lukewarm will be her choice in the end. 

“If you feel something,” I told her.  “It means you’re alive.”

“And if it doesn’t work out?”  She asked.  “If we stop feeling something, does it mean we’re dead?  Sorry, I don’t know if I can take that chance.”

My girl is afraid and if there’s anything we’ve done to ourselves in modern America, it’s cocoon ourselves in fear.

Who wants buttoned-up, hands-folded-in-your-lap kind of love?  I prefer shoot-me-out-of-a-cannon, eat-you-for-lunch kind of love.  I’ll take the delirium and the euphoria, the bedlam along with the soul-shattering bliss.  Maybe it’s a fantasy and maybe I’m a fool.  But I’d rather have one day of real feeling than a lifetime of dull.

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PleasestandbyMy computer crashed, my IPod died and I lost control of my cell phone text pad this weekend and made a fool of myself to several unsuspecting friends. Technology has bit me in the behind. Hopefully, my computer will be fixed by next week and I can return to the weekly blog.

Until then, I’ll ask a question and hope for some responses. I’m helping a friend get over a woman he’s obsessed with and need good advice to give him.

So, how does someone get over an obsession?

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