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Archive for July, 2009

untitledMy German friend Sandra recently met a man who she’s seen twice in three months.  After their first date, she was certain he was the one.  When the guy didn’t follow up after the second date with an invitation for a third, she texted him incessantly.  She showed up at the school where he works.  She drove from Hamburg to Berlin, a four-hour journey, allegedly to visit her sister.  After the man said he wasn’t in town when she phoned to tell him she was there, she rode her sister’s bike around his neighborhood for an hour hoping to run into him.  The guy finally gave her the boot when his roommate claimed to have seen Sandra peeking through their curtains, an accusation she firmly denies. 

When she called me in the States to ask my opinion of the situation, I said, “Sandra, dollface.  You do realize you’re stalking him, right?”

My friend was shocked.  Sandra is prettier than Heidi Klum on a good day.  She went to the Sorbonne.  She teaches at the best university in Germany.  She is a leader in her field and brings home serious bank.  Sandra is not the stalker type.  Surely, good-looking, smart, successful folk can be off their rockers just as dumpy, dopey slackers can be.  But Sandra has always been the epitome of emotional calm and psychological might.

Until five years ago, when the guy she considered the cat’s meow dumped her right around the time she thought she’d be getting an engagement ring.  The year following was tough, but eventually Sandra enjoyed singlehood, as did all the German fellas who’d been hot for her form. 

But soon days passed, weeks passed, months and then years without Sandra finding herself in a romantic situation that stuck.  More often than not, she spent weekends alone, went to restaurants by herself and slept in a giant, cold bed.  Eventually, she started suffering separation anxiety, clinging to friends at the end of parties and nights on the town because she didn’t want to go home to an empty apartment.  She fell for men who were fantastically undeserving of her attention and had her heart shattered when they were too dip-shitted to return her affections.  The willfulness which gave her the gumption to achieve so much in life had become contorted into a neurotic and inappropriately forceful desperation. 

Sandra became, what many men would call, a psycho.  A clingy mess.  Danger.  Ultimately, love interests quickly withdrew, assuming her biological clock was ticking like a metronome out of whack. 

But Sandra isn’t a psycho.  Far from it.

Years ago, I saw a documentary about a man who was making a solo trip around the world on a sailboat.  The filmmakers wanted to study his reaction to this extended period of solitude.  On the first leg of his tour, the man was fresh-faced, self-possessed, a sailor courageously staring down the vast sea.  A bit later, he wore a disheveled beard and hummed to himself off-key.  Even later, he’d developed weird tics and was maniacally talking to himself.  Finally, he was slobbering into his soiled shirt, beating himself in the head, pulling his hair out and screaming incoherently at what must have been hallucinatory phantoms sliding across the surface of the ocean.  I feared another month and the poor bastard would be painting the side of the boat with his own blood.

Thus, the documentary successfully demonstrated how loneliness can make a person flippin’ nuts.

When you’re on the other side of a person’s moment of madness, it’s challenging to be tolerant.  After someone has shown up unannounced at your pad or brought you a bouquet of roses on your second date, giving them another chance may not be such a tantalizing option.  Of course, some people really are stalkers.  And when they are, damn straight you best run. 

However, lots of people on the planet have been alone so long they go into places as scary for them as it is for their love objects.  It’s easy to call someone crazy, but it’s a lot nicer to remember how loneliness can make a person do things they wouldn’t normally do. 

I hope Sandra moves past this desperation so the next man to come along sees what a spectacular catch she is.  And I hope he has lots of patience.

Or thicker curtains.

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RichThe Tall Ships have arrived in our city, meaning beautiful sailing vessels from all over the world have docked in Boston harbor so people can stare at sexy sailors.  Oh, isn’t that the point?  Tall Ships is supposed to be a trans-Atlantic race in which participants drop anchor in ports along the route.  Ideally, tourists will explore the boats and learn about maritime history.  But all I hear people talking about is how studly the sailors are.   

My girlfriend Liz wanted to meet a sailor this weekend.  She’s one of those gals who says she “just wants someone to take care of” her.  And she’s always loved a man in uniform.  But when I imagine a man in “uniform,” I usually think paper hat and nametag.  Plus, I’m a big ol’ pacifist.  Though my heart holds tight to those in the armed services, military men aren’t really my thing romance-wise.  I prefer brooding, artsy, tortured manliness over clean-cut, hard-hitting manliness.  Moody artists rarely tuck in their shirts much less wear uniforms. 

So perhaps I wasn’t the best person to come along on Liz’s quest.  When she and I headed downtown in search of a Top Gun for her to take home, I considered myself above it all.  I like men for the complexity of their minds, the weight of their hearts, the sound of their marvelously bruised souls crying out.  Indeed, I was only there to check out the ships. 

Then I saw some sailors.  And all I can say is…damn.   

The square jaws.  The sun-kissed noses.  The hard bodies lined perfectly within those crisp uniforms.  The way the guys call you “miss” and act all wholesome when you know they’re buzzing with more hormones than a rutting pit bull in a cage.  Along with the navy men, there were professional sailors, those pirate-y wanderers of the sea, those mavericks of the ocean with wild manes of hair and deep lines around their eyes.  They wink and reduce you to a puddle.   

I’ve never seen women act more girlishly smitten, more flirtatious and just plain ridiculous than the ladies at Tall Ships.  Forget rock stars and billionaires.  If you’re a man and want lots of action, totally become a sailor.   

True, these men do have an aura of confidence, bravery and strength guys without a uniform must have to work much harder to project.  And yeah, they’re darn hot.  But why?  Is it the whole “females choose mates who will provide robust genes and defend her and her offspring” thing?  Does the desire to be safe and protected which alpha men stir touch the most primal, most erotic, and maybe even weakest part of the feminine psyche?   

I guess I’m one of those women who hasn’t wanted to admit how titillating it is to have some brawn around.  But I do like a man who towers over me, I like a deep voice and hair on the chest.  If he scooped me up in his arms like Richard Gere did Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman, I’d definitely go knock-kneed.  If he placed himself in front of an oncoming car headed straight for me, I’d probably be his forever.    

However, I seek another kind of courage.  A man who goes boldly into life, beating down enemies to his soul’s evolution, slaying inner demons and the dragons of fear, risking his ego to manifest who he really is, then dropping his defenses when life calls for loving.  And a man who can love a woman for her own strength, this is my knight in shining armor.  Of course, there are men in uniform who possess this kind of courage.  But really, he could wear a potato sack for all I care.   

Ultimately, Liz didn’t find her Hercules in battledress and was forced to return to the world of mortal men.  Though she regretted having to give up the fantasy, she knew the uniform was only a symbol.  What she really wanted was a man to protect her dear, little heart, and allow her to do the same in return.  Living is hard.  Only loving each other keeps us safe.   

Too bad they don’t give medals for that.

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SpitzerIf the man I loved told me he’d slept with a prostitute, or some random woman he met on the road but whom he cared nothing about, I’d be crushed.  But with some emotional work shared between us and loads of time to heal, I might be able to get over it.

If the man I loved was a politician, a famous athlete, a movie star or anyone who has access to more than, say, thirty sexy women on any given day, I’d almost expect him to be sleeping around.  Smart, handsome, charismatic men working at your local Denny’s have cute gals buzzing around them like bees.  Add a couple mil to the guy’s wallet and some paparazzi flash bulbs and he’s got a swarm.  I would want my famous man to be faithful, just as I would be to him.  I’d expect him to try, but wouldn’t be shocked if he slipped.

Now, if my man was traveling all the way to goddamn Argentina to be with a woman with whom he was sharing “a love story,” well, Houston, we’ve got a flippin’ problem.  If he slept with several prostitutes, got busted by the Feds then made me stand next to him on national television while he apologized for his indiscretions?  Aw, hell no.  Ain’t happenin’.

The first lesson to take from the latest ongoing political sex scandal brought to us by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, is never, ever marry a politician.  Not only may you have to endure his affairs and attempts to get pleasured by cops in bathroom stalls, you’ll have to publicly stroke his back as he begs forgiveness from your country and your Lord.  At least if you marry a rock star who cheats, you get your own reality show.

I’ve always assumed most political and celebrity marriages have agreements, in which Hubby gets to do who he wants as long as Wifey gets to keep his heart and his house.  My guess is these arrangements center around three rules: Don’t get caught.  Don’t embarrass me.  Don’t fall in love.  Break the rules, and I’m out.

Which is why I dig Mrs. Sanford.  She was nowhere in sight when the Governor fessed up to his affair.  The Governor broke the rules.  Not only did he get caught, but he’s currently embarrassing the bejesus out of her by admitting to loving his mistress and not loving his wife, while airing their dirty laundry on a daily basis to the press.

About time one of these women save themselves and their families before their husband’s egos and careers.  If ever my heart was broken by a woman’s public appearance, it was when poor Eliot Spitzer’s beautiful and accomplished wife stood by the putz during his confession, her face drawn and robbed of color as if everything in her soul had collapsed and died.  I didn’t despise Spitzer for screwing hookers.  I despised him for making his wife prop him up.

The second lesson to take from the scandal is something those of us who don’t marry famous people can take to heart.  We all know love and marriage won’t survive if we go hopping into the sack with anyone other than our partners.  We know falling in love with someone else threatens a partnership more than anything.

But part of commitment also means being able to say to each other, ‘there are parts of me that are ugly and stupid, selfish and cruel and weak.  I’ll share them with you so we can understand and heal each other, and I will do my best to keep them in check.  But if they do emerge, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you don’t suffer.’

I saw it in Mrs. Spitzer’s face.  ‘You were supposed to protect me from this,’ she seemed to be thinking.  ‘You were supposed to protect us.’  Maybe Mrs. Sanford wasn’t ready to publicly defend her marriage since her husband hasn’t done it himself.

Fortunately, most normal folk will never be asked to stand before their peers to announce their spouses’ affairs:

‘Friends, we’ve asked you to this pool party to tell you Judy’s been sleeping with a guy in accounting.  But we’ve asked God’s help in healing our marriage, and request that you give us our privacy as we face this difficult challenge.’

Still, these political scandals are an extreme though significant reminder.  Love isn’t only about protecting your partnership from other potential lovers.  It’s about protecting it from yourself.

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