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Archive for October, 2009

Pretty Sad WomanTime magazine says I’m unhappy.  And if you’re a woman, according to them, so are you.  

Sometimes, I think I ought to chuck the whole writing thing and become a researcher investigating the myriad reasons women’s lives are so shitty.  Magazines and universities seem to be working around the clock to inform us dames how depressed we are.  How infertile we become each day.  How gaining too much weight during pregnancy will make us fat for the rest of our lives.  How men don’t like smart chicks and are intimidated by successful ones. 

How females are more likely to die by violence in the home.  How we need to behave like men to be taken seriously in the work place.  And if you’re a black woman, sorry, but you’re more apt to be single all your life and get breast cancer.   

Good times.  And they wonder why we get a bit crabby.  

In “The State of American Women,” Time lists poll results showing the great strides women have made in education, business and government, and the mostly encouraging numbers of men and women who are glad about it.  Still, we’ve never been more miserable and Time can’t figure out why.  

In search of an answer, I propose researchers attempt to prove one of the following theses:  

– women have discovered how much it blows to work seventy hours a week for a company that’d lay you off at the drop of a hat, steal your retirement and buy their CEO a jet, or 

– trying to fit a family, fulfilling career and happy marriage into a 24-hour day is actually quite challenging, or 

– good luck actualizing your true self and relating healthily to a man in a culture that values competition, emotional distance and unbridled self-interest, or 

– forced to look at a relentless stream of American Apparel ads, women feel bad about their bums, or 

– being in a loveless marriage or remaining single when you don’t want to be is isolating and heartbreaking, no matter how often people tell you to “embrace your aloneness,”  

or simply  

– life, turns out, is hard.   

My first response to the article, after reading similar reports in other magazines, was “screw you, Time!  I’m so happy, I’ve got blue birds flying out of my ears!”  But then I reconsidered.  Am I unhappy?  Actually, kinda…maybe?

See, I don’t think happiness means every moment of your life is free of difficulty and everything you want falls at your feet.  And I believe people who say, “I’ll be happy when I have a partner, a snazzier office, a six-figure paycheck,” etc., might achieve their goals then still want to take a flying leap off the Sears Tower.    

About five years ago, I was sitting in bed crying my eyes out over a love affair going through a rough patch.  At the time, I was living in Europe and so enjoying lots of adventure and self-discovery, I had a job I found energizing because it used every corner of my brain and connected me with cool people, I had great friends and was jazzed by a book I was writing.   

Thus, in the midst of my agonized cries, I was only slightly surprised to hear myself say, “I am so happy.”  I was in love and feeling intensely.  My work fulfilled me and left time to enjoy the rest of life.  I was nurturing loving friendships and savoring my own creative juices.  Though I still hoped certain things would evolve in certain directions, nothing I had any control over would I have changed.  I was walking the path I wanted to be on.  

But life changes, things happen and, well, I don’t know if I can say that anymore.  But really, how many people can?  No matter how educated we are, how financially stable we try to be, no matter how many ladies are in our government, why is it so hard to stay on the path?  

Rather than wondering if we’re happy, I wonder if we might want to ask whether the lives we’ve created for ourselves are even conducive to happiness.  How is it possible to feel connected or cared about by a culture that’s often so heartless?  How can we experience love when it’s considered something to pin down rather than work at?  Where do we find the time to get to know who we really are?  And how are we supposed to even afford life nowadays, let alone enjoy it?  These are the questions I want Harvard researchers to answer.  

Man, we haven’t made things easy.  Mere survival is expensive enough.  But happiness?  Truly priceless.

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strippersI didn’t want to be a stripper.

Really, I have no idea what I wanted from the exotic dance class I’d enrolled in at an adult education center.  I didn’t know whether the course catalog’s promise to help “create a full repertoire of floor-routine and chair moves you can use in enticing performances” was an achievable or even worthwhile goal.  But there I was in a leotard and stilettos, undulating my hips against an inert and perfectly innocent chair.

The first order of business on day one was to pick our stripper names.  The gaggle of married lady friends in matching pink leotards seemed to be in a geographical mood, seeing as how they chose names like Savannah, Sierra and Asia.  The mousy woman recently dumped by her boyfriend chose Sexy Sadie because it was her ex’s favorite Beatles song.  The pretty but uptight Indian woman apparently didn’t grasp the smutty aspect of the renaming process because she replaced her stripper-ready real name, Shiva, with Diane.  I went for Cinnamon, possibly the most clichéd stripper name in the history of the universe, but which impressed my classmates nonetheless.

Our second task was to learn the basics, namely, the sexy walk, grinding against a wall and “butt circles.”  Circling the hips whilst jutting the posterior outward is how one performs the indispensable “butt circle,” the centerpiece of any striptease worth its weight.  In fact, said our instructor, Candi Apple, the move makes up ninety percent of any performance and is always a good fallback during lulls.  When in doubt, do butt circles.  An apt piece of advice for much of life, no?

In the second class, I realized something most people don’t understand about the tease: it’s damn hard.  Easing your back onto the seat of a chair then spreading your legs in the air?  You can’t just do it, the move takes vast amounts of coordination.  Crawling across the floor like a lascivious feline?  Without hours of practice, you look like an out-of-control slinky.

Candi Apple wasn’t thrilled with my sexy walk.  The point was to strut to the beat of the music, but unlike the rest of the class, I was catching the backbeat, if you consider Pour Some Sugar on Me as having a backbeat.  Once the crappy ‘80s-era hair bands were replaced with Beyoncé, all hell broke loose in my hips.

“Don’t dance, Cinnamon,” Candi Apple shouted as I shimmied across the floor.  “Stop being funky!”

Certainly, there was something compelling about the whole scenario.  The gaggle of married gals seemed smack dab in the middle of a sexual renaissance, rediscovering their bodies after decades of matrimonial monotony.  Sexy Sadie had retrieved some confidence and the Indian woman had added some voluptuousness to her willowy charm.

Yet, something rubbed me the wrong way.  Stripteases are hot.  But if you’re counting steps and making sure your walk isn’t too funky, how much energy are you putting toward seduction?

Needing another pair of stilettos, I went into a store days later called Wet Seal, which anyone who’s been knows should really be called “Ho Clothes.”  Thigh-high patent leather boots and crotch-length mini skirts are only some of Wet Seal’s offerings to its core demographic of 15 to 25-year old girls.  At the register was a rack of Sour Patch Kids, Pixie Sticks and other candies for sale.  I wondered if anyone else was bothered by the fact that they’re selling red latex thongs to people who might also want to buy Pop Rocks.

I also wondered, since when was it cool to be a stripper?  As if they have fantastic lives.  We’re bombarded with stripper exercise videos and adult ed classes, while dippy celebs brag about the stripper poles in their bedrooms.  I’m just waiting for “hooker aerobics:” Lose weight without leaving your bed!

In class number three, I watched as the Married Gaggle, Sexy Sadie and Shiva/Diane performed a synchronized sexy walk across the studio.  They looked confident yet indistinguishable.  Like slutty Stepford wives.  I feared the legion of women who’d graduated from the class, seducing men across the city with the same walk, same shimmy, same butt circle.

I’m glad my classmates were gaining confidence, but strip class wasn’t for me.  I dropped after the third session.  I prefer to see how a body moves to its own natural rhythms, I like sexuality that comes from instinct.  Y’know, like how I’d rather see a lion in the wild than in a circus.

I don’t need a training manual for my body.  My name ain’t Cinnamon.  My hips catch the backbeat.  And the last thing I want to grind when I’m feelin’ frisky is a wall.

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Biracial couple loveA guy sitting next to me on the bus the other day kept looking over my shoulder to check out the book on my lap.  When I stuffed it in my bag, he asked, “what are you reading?”

Slightly embarrassed, I told him, “it’s called, Love, an Inner Connection.”

“What’s it about?”

Self-help books and pseudo-spiritual tomes I’ve always considered hokey.  Human beings are fantastically complicated, a lifetime isn’t long enough to discover all the nooks and crannies in one person’s psyche.  Merge two of these creatures in a relationship and they’d need at least a couple centuries to figure one another out.  For every self-help “rule” about relating, you’ll find a thousand situations that break it.

So, when a friend suggested Love, an Inner Connection, my first reaction was to gag.  But since the book’s based in Jungian psychology and ancient Chinese philosophy, I gave it a whirl.

Here’s the gist: there’s the “essential” self and the ego.  The essential self is our identity in its purest form, untouched by social conditioning.  The ego is an insecure bully who concocts a social role and avoids challenging situations to keep the self from harm.  When two people fall in love, their essential selves recognize each other and connect.  In a real love connection, two people can manifest their essential selves, savor intimacy’s bliss and fulfill their lives’ purposes together.

But along comes the ego shouting things like, “you’re too ugly and stupid for someone to love,” or “yo, the last time this happened, your heart got trampled.”  The beginning of love is always a battle between one or both partners’ egos and essential selves.  Thus, the journey to love means silencing the ego, withdrawing when your partner’s ego is actin’ a fool and having the patience to endure the initial difficulties.

When I described the book to the guy on the bus, he nodded and said, “see, my problem is whenever love comes, I push it away.”

The fact that most of my acquaintances and even strangers on the bus (swear to God, it happened) are voicing romantic concern suggests lots of people are struggling.

Having allowed his “issues” to get the best of him, my friend Jay cheated on the girlfriend he’s crazy about and has been fighting ever since to get her back.  My girl Diane caves into the whims of a guy she loves but who sucks at the teat of non-commitment like a baby to a pacifier.  Jack’s in love for the first time but won’t make the changes that would allow a new person into his world.  Irene drives away every man who shows affection because she won’t take the time to let feelings evolve.  Everyone’s selfish, terrified egos are running amok.

Years back, a recently divorced guy I’d been dating admitted to some anxiety about the intensity of our fledgling romance.  He wanted to keep seeing one another, but a small part of him was tempted to back out.

I went ape shit.

“Nooo,” I wailed.  “It’s too soon to freak, you can’t do this, give it a chance.”  And so on.

Dude disappeared.  Shortly thereafter, I picked up Love, an Inner Connection. And by gum, the book changed my life.

Instead of pushing my own romantic agenda, what if I’d taken into consideration what the other person wanted?  We like to think love is all about tying someone down and eliminating whatever in their life threatens our attachment to them – a busy social calendar, autonomous behaviors, emotional hang-ups.  But love is about freedom.  Someone chooses to love you and to be loved.  You shouldn’t have to convince or force people to be with you.  They should want to be with you.  And if they need time to work through some stuff, well, you best chill.

Jay’s ego didn’t want him to admit his mistake, while his essential self was pining for the woman he betrayed.  After he read Love, An Inner, he snubbed his ego and told the girl he missed her.  She came back.  Consequently, the book is making the rounds and guiding my friends to softer places in their souls.

It’s hard to be patient.  Hard to put someone else’s needs on par with your own.  Hard to know whether you’ve got a true love connection or whether you’re a fool.

But as I told my friend on the bus, if there’s one tried-and-tested rule about love, it’s that it’s worth the risk.

**Love, an Inner Connection is by Carol K. Anthony

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jamesbondThe other night, I met a real-life womanizer.  A handsome attorney named Steven sidled up to me at a bar during a political fundraiser.  As he flirted over conversation about the local senate race, he was charming and complimentary of all my lady loveliness.  Because he hung on my every word and got a kick out of my jokes, I felt deliciously clever and sexy.

When Steven asked for my number, I wasn’t sure whether to be more dazzled by his wit, his smile…or the light shining across the gold band on his left hand.

Among oversexed men, womanizers are a unique breed.  They’re not the same as players.  Like the sleezeball, predatory exploits in Tucker Max’s “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” player activity is all about putting whatever power these boys wield toward conquest and busting a nut.  Tuck made a small fortune and gets laid beyond his wildest dreams but, like most players, he obviously doesn’t really like women, at least not smart, together ones.

Meanwhile, commitment-phobes buzz around avoiding confrontation with their fears.  A Frenchman I knew had a monstrous reputation for bed-hopping, but admitted, “Women scare me a bit” after we became friends.  Still, players and commitment-phobes often have a long line of tail available to them for accidental reasons like good looks, undeserved fame or the huge population of insecure girls who dig chumps.

But womanizers love women and ain’t one bit afraid of them.  I became fully aware of the power of these men when I briefly met the King of Womanizers, Bill Clinton, at an event years ago.  Slick Willie, I never considered attractive.  But darn it, if I didn’t feel like the only woman on the planet when he said hello.  When he gave me the Clinton handshake – holding my hand while simultaneously squeezing my elbow – my knees weren’t the only thing knocking.

Womanizers are Kennedys, the James Bonds and Don Drapers of the world, men whose promiscuity is met with a giddy roll of the eyes because they’re charismatic and apparently so generous sexually.  Womanizers are smart, successful and tantalizingly out of reach.  Connoisseurs of the ladies, they make us feel intriguing because they are truly intrigued by every gal they meet.  They especially like women with mystery and pluck, females who’ll join them in a bit of sexual gamesmanship and allow themselves to be seduced.

So what’s the appeal?  Clinton was still loved by his female supporters even when he pulled a Lewinsky.  Draper is a complete hound dog but no female Mad Men fan can deny feeling fire in her loins when Don gets frisky.  Like he said last season, Kennedy’s womanizing only made him more appealing to female voters.  And it’s not just famous or powerful womanizers who get our motors runnin’.

Is it women’s alleged biological urge toward the alpha-male?  Is being chosen by a man with so much sexual expertise like being officially branded desirable?  How can a guy be a bulbous-nosed chub monster like Bill Clinton and women still wanna do him?

I can’t speak for the whole of my gender, but I may have an idea what the appeal is for me.  I think, well, maybe I’d like to be a womanizer.  But, y’know, a female version.  A Manizer.

Most interesting women I know would love to rule a country or a company, be the magnetic center of every party and sleep with the best-looking people in the room.  These women might like to flirt with everything in a jock strap yet receive a forgiving turn of the cheek when they get caught “dipping their wick” in the wrong pot of ink.  They might like to be compelling, self-directed, sexually explosive supernovas without being labeled bitches or easy.  And who wouldn’t want the kind of freedom that allows one to be a self-indulgent scoundrel like David Letterman or a fat, old, mole-covered Jack Nicholson yet still get loads of success and booty?

So maybe it’s Freudian.  We don’t envy the penis but the privilege attached to it.

When I’m hooked on a guy, the rest of the male population disappears.  Someone could offer to slip me inside a Clooney/Denzel Man Sandwich and I’d say, “no thanks, boys, I’m in loooove.”  Really, I’m not interested in sleeping around and am too faithful to be a Manizer.  But I wouldn’t mind the other advantages.

In the end, I didn’t give Steven my number.  But the interaction left me asking a question that’s baffled women for ages – how to reap the benefits of life as a womanizer, without having to sleep with one.

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