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Archive for August, 2010

In June, I wrote a blog post about my friend Kim who resolved to change her wanton ways in order to better attract the loving, committed relationship she craves.  Kim has spent most of her thirty-plus years supplementing her life as a brilliant, professionally successful dynamo with moments being a horny, somewhat debauched wild child.  Kim finally realized the romantic patterns in which she has entangled herself keep her from the life she wants.  Now, she’s ready to change.

A few days after posting the blog, I got a comment from a reader who thinks Kim’s desires to evolve are doomed.  According to him, “how a person has lived his or her life is the only indicator we have to predict how they will live the rest of it.”

Ouch.

The letter got me thinking about all the people I know who’ve either changed successfully, or wanted to change but failed miserably.  A gal pal of mine used to be a directionless, pot smoking drunk whose greatest ambition in life was to wake up before noon.  She called me one morning having just snorted a mound of coke with a complete stranger she’d also had sex with.  Exactly the kind of wake up call my friend needed.  Today, she’s a sober, married mom with a good job.  Another friend stayed in the same dead-end career for nearly fifteen years and had barely eked out a social life.  Almost forty, she hadn’t had a romantic relationship since college.  Last year, she got a new job, a new boyfriend and a new lease on life.

Being a person who thrives on change, and who’s apt to stir some up when there isn’t enough coming, I can’t understand people who are afraid of the stuff.  However, I’ve known plenty of people who can’t seem to recognize the bad behaviors that keep them spiraling into endless voids of misery and disappointment.

The worst are those of us who regularly fall for emotionally stunted men.  Guys who drink too much, treat the women who love them like afterthoughts or invest in video game collections rather than relationships.  Friends tell us, “give up, he’ll never change.”  But who wants to believe the person you’re crazy about will always have the same weaknesses that stop him or her from being the partner you need.

Sometimes I guess it’s true certain folks will never change.  But is it always?

What say you?

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This week, I was a guest on a fantastic NPR segment about race and dating.  A woman had written into a local paper’s advice column worrying she would always remain single because she’s black.  A few years ago, if someone would’ve suggested race had anything to do with a woman’s marital status, I would’ve said he or she were full of hooey.  Now, I’m not so sure.

In the last year, there have been countless articles suggesting black women, especially successful, educated ones, are the least apt to get married.  A 2010 OKCupid study revealed black women get the fewest replies from potential online suitors.  A 2009 CNN.com post quoted a census bureau survey indicating 45 percent of American black women have never been married compared to only 23 percent of white women.  The same year, MSNBC placed the percentage at thirty-eight, suggesting, “African-American females do not fetch as much ‘value’ in the marriage market.”  Then, of course, there was David Duke-dicked John Mayer.

All single women do battle with the tiny, media-born demon on their shoulder screaming, “Men don’t like smart women.  Men don’t like women who are too successful.  Your fertility is weakening.  You have a better chance of being eaten by a walrus than finding love after thirty.”  And now we’re hit with the fact that, in the dating market, skin color makes some of us as valuable as rotten plums in the produce aisle at Whole Foods.  Maybe we should just bag it and become nuns.

So what gives?  Supposedly, black men aren’t as interested in marriage, and when they are, they prefer women of other races.  Meanwhile, many black females are told by men from other cultures how “exotic” they are rather than “pretty,” or how “wild” they think they would be in the sack.  Maybe black women are sexual detours on certain guys’ road to pursuing Ms. Right, or worse, an opportunity to dabble in taboos.  Some say certain men are put off by the stereotype of black women as domineering monsters who intimidate the hell out of everybody, including black men.  There’s also the assumption that all black women are xenophobes who would never date outside their race.

Then there’s the more painful possibility that black women simply aren’t considered as “attractive” in American culture.  We have the occasional Beyonce and Halle, but for the most part, black beauty isn’t prized.  After the release of 2005’s  Wedding Crashers, in which Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan crash a bunch of weddings to hook up with cute bachelorettes, black writer Debra Dickerson wrote a piece about how the film contributed to her overarching feeling of invisibility.

“The crashers seduced their way through every culture and every ethnicity but mine,” Dickerson wrote.  “Why don’t Owen and Vince want to seduce me, too?”

Of course, it could be Ms. Dickerson and all my black friends are just a bunch of maladjusted weirdoes who, like millions of white women across the country, are too something-or-other to be considered marriage material.  Certainly, there could be a whole hill of reasons why so many black women find themselves alone.

But the marriageless-ness of black women is more than an interesting trend to ponder.  It’s deeply personal.  Agonizing.  Every single woman must feel a sting when the culture tells her, “You’re too smart to find a man.”  But imagine being told, “You’re just not desirable enough and never will be.”

Rather than shoving bad news down our throats, I wish the culture would do something about it.  Don’t keep breaking our hearts.  Don’t abandon us.  It’s aggravating how often America’s single women are told their intelligence, their desire for public recognition, their sexual confidence and economic self-sufficiency are reasons they’ll never have companionship and love.  These articles and so-called studies give us all the reasons we can’t have what we need, but offer no advice on what to do about it, let alone offer condolences.  And now black women are told we’ve lost the race before we’ve even left the gate.

I say screw it.  The answer is probably, ‘yes,’ if you’re a black woman, finding a life partner won’t be easy.  But the same is true if you’re over 35, a single mother or obsessed with vampire novels.  It’s harder, but not impossible.  Really, you’re only going to meet one or two people in your lifetime you’ll want to take the plunge with anyway.

Even if you look like Donna Reed.

**Check out the segment on interracial dating on 90.9 WBUR’s Radio Boston program at http://www.wbur.org/2010/08/19/love-letters-3.

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Generally speaking, I like watching chick flicks about as much as I like getting hives.  I can’t stand the Disney-ified perspective on relationships or cheesy, girl power soundtracks.  I imagined Eat, Pray, Love would be particularly loathsome, mostly because I have trouble feeling much empathy for a perfect, blonde, fabulously successful writer who has the financial means to decide life lacks color, and thus travel the world eating pasta, meditating with gurus and making love with Javier Bardem.

When I high-tailed it to Spain after my own divorce, I had five hundred dollars in my pocket.  Rather than doing yoga and discovering Neapolitan pizza, I busted my backside running around Madrid teaching English.  And I had no guru to turn to when the pain of life hit.  I had sangria.

When my girlfriends forced me to watch Eat, Pray this past weekend, I was ready to do some serious hatin’ on Julia and her mawkish little film.  But then something happened.  I got inspired.  Weepy.  I kinda liked the damn thing.

Lots of it was ridiculous – the hokey self-help dialogue, the silly flashbacks, the fact that Javier Bardem didn’t take his shirt off enough.  But if you want to know what the big whoop is about this book and film, allow me to summarize.

Life Requires a Sense of Wonder

Our heroine took her trip because she wanted to “marvel” at existence, a feeling many people share.  Everyone I know right now feels they’re trudging through life.  Their jobs, relationships, or lack thereof, have them asking “is this all there is?  Am I not destined for greater things?”  As a starving artist in Europe, I experienced a near constant sense of wonder brought on by the newness of my surroundings and challenge to define myself in them.  This was the essence of life: enchantment, meaning, but also hard work.

I tell my friends, “this isn’t all there is, and yes, you are destined for greater things.”  Still, how do you get those things if you aren’t a New Yorker writer with a giantass bank account?

You are Not Your Work

My mom suggests I go back to school to become a teacher, a friend tells me about a crummy desk job available and my whiny response is always, “but I’m a writer,” the implication being I’m incapable of doing or being anything else.

So it was kinda weird to hear the protagonist in the movie sob, “but I’m a writer” then have her friend insist that’s not “who” she is.  In the US, whether we’re artists, academics or CEOs, we let our work define us.  What if we’re wrong?  If my identity is not “writer,” what is it?

Goddamn, Julia Roberts.

The Sweetness of Doing Nothing

Eat, Pray introduced an Italian concept called “the sweetness of doing nothing.”  I think we should import it.  Life is filled with too much.  Some slowness and nothingness would be grand.

Italians are the kind of folks who take two hours to eat lunch everyday.  When I first moved to Europe, I felt this agonizing sense of futility sitting at a table trying to find a way to make lunch interesting and productive for two hours.  But then I got the hang of it and enjoyed every bite of food, every sip of wine, every lull in the conversation.

I personally can’t stand getting to the end of the work week and looking back at the blur.  This is my life, for cripe’s sake.  I want to experience every second.

Don’t Be Afraid of Love

The reason I despise chick flicks is because the people in them who are afraid of love always have some dumb epiphany, run manically through the streets to their beloved, then make some saccharine statement about the importance of love before dashing off into the sunset.

That shit never happens in real life.

Most people with love fears don’t arrive on their beloved’s doorstep, bouquet in hand, saying, “I’m ready to love again.”  But if there’s any truth to take from this flick, it’s that love, despite everything that blows about it, is what makes all the trials, tribulations and triumphs of life’s journey worth it.

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At a party weeks back, my friend Angela fell for a handsome Brit named Al after he charmed her with tales of his off-the-beaten track existence traveling the world. The next evening, they talked life and politics over a steak dinner then agreed to meet again.

Al charmed Angela even more the next afternoon when he canceled plans with his buddies to join her on a trip to Verizon to get her phone fixed. After spending the afternoon and subsequent evening together, Angela thought she’d finally met a mature, baggage-less man with whom she could have a relationship. If only she knew.

During a dinner party the following Friday night, Angela reached for her phone to discover Al had called. Six times. Though a bit ruffled, she decided to make her way to the bar where he was drinking with friends. When she arrived, Al was completely hammered, saying things like, “I shouldn’t have called you, are you angry? It’s just I couldn’t get through and I thought maybe you were avoiding me. You don’t like me, do you? I know you don’t, why would you? You’re too pretty for me and I’m shit as a boyfriend, absolute shit. I don’t want to mess this up with you. I won’t get attached, I won’t get attached!”

Y’know, the kinds of things some guys think but neeeeeeever actually say.

After some reassurance from Angela, Al nixed the heart-on-sleeve talk and continued to enjoy the IV of pilsner stuck into his veins. End of the night at his place, Angela’s attempts at being intimate were interrupted when Al declared, “you’re too sexy. I’m shit in bed, absolute shit,” then passed out. Angela fell asleep beside him and was getting some good REM sleep when the bed started shaking. She woke up, looked across the mattress and…

Al was picking his nose…and eating it…in his sleep.

Unfortunately, Angela was stuck since it was 5 am and she was on the other side of town. The next morning, she made a lame excuse then bolted to my place to tell me the whole story and see if there was any reason to salvage things. Together, we broke it down to what worked and what didn’t. Pros: when he’s sober, he’s smart, funny and kind. Cons: he eats his own snot.

In the midst of our analysis, Al called and said, “I thought maybe you’d like to come over.”

“I’m with my friend,” Angela told him.

“But I thought it’d be nice if you came over.”

“My friend’s not feeling well,” Angela lied. “I should stay with her.”

“Look,” he said angrily. “Are we seeing each other or not?”

But before she could answer, the call dropped.

“Okay,” Angela told me. “This is sooo finished.”

But she didn’t even get the chance to end things. Angela was the dumpee. Sunday morning, Al left a message saying, “hi, um, yesterday’s conversation was discouraging relationship-wise, but you know, it’s hard to find good conversation, so maybe we could stay friends, go for coffee and talk about bollocks, and you know, that would be nice, and, well I’m shit on answering machines, so I’m just going to say goodbye now, so, okay, well, take care.”

The worst part for Angela was getting dumped by a neurotic booze hound who ate his own bodily fluids. The best part was she no longer had to date a neurotic booze hound who ate his own bodily fluids.

In the end, we hoped that Al, as friendly as he was, as funny and generous, wasn’t as much of a neurotic nosepicker as he seemed. In fact, we imagined it was all a game, a bet he made with friends to see who could self-sabotage himself out of a decent relationship in the shortest amount of time:

He’s an illustrator from London who enjoys hiking and badminton, his hobbies include using his inner demons to back himself out of relationships with pretty women and eating boogers. He’s got enough intimacy issues to sink a Russian sea liner, he’s Al, ladies and gentlemen, give him a hand.

Anyway, I’m fairly certain he won.

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Man, I should’ve been a stripper.

Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter, popped into the news the other day after having given birth to a healthy baby boy.  Along with attaining gobs of wealth, publishing success and Hollywood kudos, the former stripper is also happily married now with child.

No longer are sex workers the downtrodden, drug-addled outcasts of yore, at least not the ones who can string a sentence together.  Memoirs penned by former pole dancers and call girls flow through the publishing landscape like dollar bills at a Vegas strip joint.  Since Xaviera Hollander’s Happy Hooker in the ‘70s, it seems everyone from Harvard post-docs to failed Hollywood starlets have slept their way onto the bestseller list, having picked the locks on their sex industry diaries for all the world to see.

Years back, a woman named Jessica Cutler hit pay dirt with a fictionalized account of her years Monica Lewinsky-ing her way through half of DC as a congressional intern, even accepting money for sexual favors.  The intro to Jess’ old blog reads, “I could not care less about government or politics, but working for a senator looks good on my resume.  And these marble hallways are such great places for meeting boys and showing off my outfits!”  You know if Virginia Woolf had a blog she would’ve been saying the same damn thing.

This year’s big sex publishing success is Some Girls: My Life in a Harem about the eighteen months a budding actress/stripper spent in the harem of the Sultan of Brunei’s youngest brother; a harrowing ordeal made up of lavish parties, ungodly amounts of jewelry and loads of sex.  Now she’s married to a dude from Weezer.  Poor thing.

In fact, all the aforementioned females are married with families, further proof of society’s greatest deception; sex work is not performed by dumb women with low self-esteem who inevitably end up smoking crack alone on Hollywood Boulevard.  Stripping and hooking not only guarantee literary success, they also get you Academy Awards and hot musician husbands with whom you can make cute babies with faux hawks.  All you’ve got to do is redeem your wanton self with a half-decent book.

This “graduate from college, hone your craft, pay your dues” business was so not the way for me to go.  Originally, I was thinking of writing my next novel about vampires or obnoxious strangers living in a house together, anything in which Kristen Stewart or Snooki can star when the book becomes a movie.  But now I’m thinking of flexing my literary muscle in a harem or trying to get a couple governors to pay me for some late-night trysts.

We women always complain about the limits society places on us as we attempt to get ahead, when really, there are so many opportunities for us to shine.

If you hear of any sultans looking for a lap dance, send them my way.

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